Starting out, entrepreneurs have many things to worry about and try to wear as many hats as possible. As your business grows in scale, the inevitable “letting go” must begin so that you can focus on growth. You’ve been a “do-it-yourself” person for so long, it may seem counter-intuitive to contract out services that you
As a blog marketing consultant and blogger, it’s my job to stay on top of solutions that save time and money for clients. When I spotted the news about InboundWriter from EightFold Logic, my interest as a blogger was peaked and I installed the free version of the plug-in to my WordPress blog to take
In writing about the current status of financing available to middle market companies. I will highlight some of my recent experience with financing such companies seeking capital in the range of $3MM – $100MM+. Before we start, you should ask yourself a few basic questions: What growth “stage” is my company? What is my growth
Starting out, entrepreneurs have many things to worry about and try to wear as many hats as possible. As your business grows in scale, the inevitable “letting go” must begin so that you can focus on growth. You’ve been a “do-it-yourself” person for so long, it may seem counter-intuitive to contract out services that you know how to do well enough to get by. Accounting and digital marketing are two technical areas, where you will eventually shop for services.
As a small business owner myself, I am guilty of hanging on to accounting for too long. My accountants paid for themselves within the first months – a classic case of believing that I was on top of a discipline in which I had no formal training. Live and learn, right?
At some point in their growth, small business owners have to cross a potentially dangerous abyss. You can’t wait until you can ‘afford’ a full-time marketing staffer and you’ve always been smart enough to know what you don’t know – in this case it’s digital marketing.
You know the time to outsource is here, but you are not sure that your business is right for it. Here are some tips from the other side of the table; here are the 5 things that tell me, the digital marketer sitting opposite you, whether or not your business has potential to be a good client for me.
Five Signs You’re Ready to Hire a Digital Marketing Expert:
- Your business has over $300K in revenue,
- You are a business-to-consumer (B2C) company,
- Your average (sales) ticket is $700+ (per transaction),
- You are already investing money in marketing, and
- Your website is not mobile friendly
I thought that this perspective might help you, the small business owner, understand in what situations digital marketing consultants can offer the greatest value.
Some quick thoughts on the list:
#1 If your business is bringing in less than $300K per year, an SEO/SEM program is a likely ‘first order of business’. These run an average of $800 per month and it’s likely you will perceive this as very expensive. If your business is in a crowded marketplace (i.e., major metro), it will be more difficult to stand out in organic search without a good local search or social media program as well.
#2 B2C companies stand to gain the greatest benefit from digital marketing, which is not to say B2B companies don’t. Every company situation is different. This is why the best digital marketing professionals will want to learn more about your business before making recommendations.
#3 The average ticket is not as important as the profit dollars from each sale. Part of the profit from incremental sales will be used for the ROI model justifying the incremental marketing investment.
#4 If you are already investing in marketing, you see the value in marketing. Your consultant doesn’t need to explain the value and necessity of marketing to you.
#5 If your business does not have a mobile-friendly website, a digital marketing expert can perhaps double your organic traffic by implementing mobile friendliness.
As an entrepreneur, there are people in line outside your door ready to steal or take your hard-earned money for things you don’t need. Just ask my friend David Rogenmoser, Founder & CEO of Market Results and Author of Beyond the Grind about ‘ruts’. He will also tell you to ‘vet’ the consultants that you DO let in the door.
One often hears that “perception is reality,” but how in B2B marketing does one measure and monitor perceptions about their company, brand, products and services?
Thou Shalt Realize That Perception is Reality
Earlier this year, Advertising Age (April 9, 2012) presented the “10 Commandments of Marketing” in an article penned by Jack Trout. He writes:
The only reality that counts is what’s already in the prospect’s mind. It’s what “positioning” is about. Do not create something new and different, but manipulate what’s already in the mind and retie the connections that already exist. Retying those connections must result in a point of differentiation vs. your competitors.
Marketers and non-marketers alike understand this ‘commandment’ intuitively. The difficulty arises in the practical implementation of the measurement and monitoring of marketing positioning. This post will demonstrate that with a little foresight and perseverance, you can easily measure and track the perceptions of customers and prospects, and use that information for marketing positioning.
This important research can be completed on a budget using MS Excel and a third-party survey tool. We recommend ConstantContact or Zoomerang, because of the ability to introduce some ‘logic’ that helps skip irrelevant questions and to increase the ‘usability’ of your survey.
The Value Proposition and Business Value Frameworks
B2B marketing requires an understanding of what customers and prospects find important or relevant. In B2B marketing, you will have anecdotal evidence of what your industry participants consider important. Formal measurement will help rank the relative importance of product/service attributes, such as price, features, benefits, performance elements, availability, etc. By formally ranking the top 10 “dimensions” or attributes, you can discredit the ‘red herrings’, such as price, that are usually principal negotiation points, but are less important within customers’ value frameworks than anecdotal evidence would suggest.
The Effectiveness of Your Marketing Positioning
We supplement the ranking or rating of primary dimensions (or attributes) by insisting that the survey participant select one (and only one) attribute as the one that “they could not live without.” Most clients are surprised to learn that while price is usually thought to be “the one,” its importance may be overshadowed by another dimension.
In the example above, the reputation of the company edged out total cost as ‘the one’, most important dimension. Today, both marketing and sales overcome objections to total cost by emphasizing the excellent reputation that their company has earned in the market.
B2B Marketing Positioning: Response vs Behavior
No matter what the survey results, you need to ensure that the survey data is consistent with the actual behaviors in the marketplace. You will receive answers to precisely the questions that you have asked. Survey results from frequent customers may be biased in favor of any question that you ask, so be sure to do a sanity check, before breaking down any boardroom doors.
In B2B marketing, the perceptions of your product/service are reality. If your customers don’t recognize that your company’s order fill rate IS 100% for the past three years, talk about it more often – the message isn’t getting through. Your marketing communications should take credit for the work you have done.
Above all, ensure that your measurements capture market perceptions accurately and take into account behavior as well, because in the end, that is what marketers seek to change. Use surveys to improve the ways in which B2B marketing communications delivers value to your company.
More about Peter Muiznieks on Google.
Developing sales channels with independent manufacturer’s representatives present opportunities and challenges. Your channel partners need (and deserve) marketing communications that are a higher priority than your markets. Don’t let communications with any of your channel partners lapse.
To market, To market, I Need a Smooth Launch
In haste to launch new products and services, many companies are so focused on internal deadlines that marketing communications with channel partners becomes a secondary concern. If your sales strategy relies on manufacturers representatives, they deserve to be very high on your priority list of audiences to whom to sell early.
Large companies with extensive product lines that contribute a large percentage of commissions for their manufacturer’s representatives should not take for granted that their reps will devote the time and resources to promoting a new product or service. Small companies that find themselves fighting for their reps’ attention should invest in the additional resources to ensure that their product/service has a fighting chance on the front lines.
Who, What, When, Where, Why and How
Your marketing communications plan needs your channel partners, including your manufacturer’s representatives, to know how fine-tuned your product/service roll-out is going to be. You have spent weeks,months, perhaps years preparing tor the day when you will go-to-market and must communicate the details to your channel partners in…
The Infamous Sales Bulletin
Whether your distribution relies on wholesale or retail channels, the sales bulletin is still the industry standard for marketing communications with Reps. The importance and impact of a sales bulletin is what is written and described on paper itself as well as what accompanies the paper document. A sales bulletin should be a collection of information that may include:
- The sales bulletin itself, which should be authoritative and complete in answering who, what, when, where, why and how your product and/or service will be introduced;
- Product samples – for agency Reps on the street to bring to meetings with potential customers;
- Brochures and specifications – the printed collateral to “leave behind.” Even if all the information is available on your website, there is no substitute for printed collateral for a Rep on the move;
- Price sheets with new pricing, terms and conditions.
- Anything else that will help your manufacturers representatives answer questions from customers, such as video, data CD’s, etc.
Stand Out in the Crowd
Contrecoup suggests that you experiment with ‘unconventional’ methods to support your bulletin. Experiment with some of the following ideas:
- Pre-record a video demonstrating your product and upload to YouTube. It’s not as good as hands-on product knowledge training, but it will reinforce the ideas that you’ve outlined in your bulletin.
- Schedule a video conference to a) discuss and demonstrate and b) allow for questions from your reps. You can use a ‘webinar’ format to create an interactive event that allows for sharing of documents and other collateral.
- Schedule a Google+ “Hangout” to deliver your message to Reps and allow for Q&A in a group setting. Since Google+ is free, you can schedule several sessions to accommodate your Reps’ busy schedules.
- Create ‘mobile-friendly’ programs that allow Reps to present with iPads or other tablets. Format collateral to allow “text-to-join” or “scan-to-join” from a portable device that “auto-responds” to the prospect or customer in question.
Ensure your Message is Heard
Take the time to properly communicate with your channel partners. While researching this topic, I was offered this advice to share:
“In order to get the most out of your channel partners and Manufactures Reps it is critically important to treat them as an extension of your direct sales team and company. In order to properly do that, transparent communication of sales strategy, product rollouts, company goals and collateral needs to be inherently woven in the standard work of your business.”
~Nate Olds, Vice President, Sales & Services, Honeywell Analytics
Your marketing message will have a greater chance of breaking through the noise if your manufacturers reps, wholesalers and retailers are delivering the same message each and every time.
I was walking the AHR Expo at McCormick Place in Chicago earlier this week. The show was in the North AND South Pavilions of McCormick Place, and it was packed. A client and I were having a hard time wrapping up our conversation as we walked to our next stop. And there it was…
Salesperson: “Hey buddy, wanna buy some ventilation covers?”
I did a double take. Dressed in a blazer, I CLEARLY was not one of the 17,000 air-conditioning, heating, ventilation and refrigeration pros on their annual walk-about.
Me: “I’m a marketing consultant. I want to hear your value proposition first.”
Salesperson: “Alright…well…we sell ventilation covers and we can match anyone’s price even though it’s a better product.”
The body language of the salesperson must have caught the sales manager’s attention. He quickly joins us
Sales manager: “Hi. I’m Joe. Welcome to our booth. What’s going on?”
Me: “He’s trying to sell me vent covers, but I wanted to hear your value proposition first.”
Sales manager: “Yeah, I heard what he said – he failed. Let me try…”
I reach for my business cards.
Sales manager: “OK – we sell the best ventilation cover on the market…” (He ad libs about 4 sentences. Low price comes up twice and there is one reference to 17 patents.) “How’d I do?”
Me, while handing him a business card: “Let’s work on that.”
The Alignment of Sales and Marketing Strategy
One of the biggest challenges faced by companies is the alignment of their B2B sales and B2B marketing organizations. Salespeople are focused on quotas and the marketing folks are faced with a different set of deadlines. No matter what your role, everyone in the organization is tasked with satisfying customers.
The exchange that I had with the sales staff at a trade show happens hundreds of times every day. Employees disagree among themselves or are unsure of the value and/or benefits of the products and services.
B2B Manufacturing Sales Strategy
A practical B2B marketing approach can help align other organizations within your company, including sales, by implementing the following:
- Increase internal ‘branding’: in a way, company employees should be considered the first target segment of your marketing strategy. Use company newsletter, signage, whatever means that you have at your disposal to influence everone from the CEO to the sales manager to hourly employees.
- Research: Gather data to support your claims. A solid marketing strategy relies on the voice of the customer. The sales manager and his team are the eyes and ears of the organization…in the field. B2B marketing strategy must include a research component if you are to succeed.
- Pricing: Too often, sales strategy permits price concessions to create value for the customer. Help your sales team by clearly articulating value (in terms other than price) and invest in training.
- Adapt marketing strategy: B2B marketing is thought by some to be immune from rapid change. Not so. Market segmentation will reveal that many segments and their influencers are adopting different media from which to gather purchasing information.
“Hey buddy, want to be an industry leader?”
In B2B marketing, your customer needs to hear about your company 12 or more times before they are willing to do business with you. Ensure that they hear the same message each time that they hear about your company. You have a great opportunity to control that message through your employees. Your sales strategy has a better chance of getting to the close if marketing can influence the marketing message to customers. If you want your customers to consider your company an industry leader, make sure that your sales team is ‘on point’ when they are in the field.