This is part two of my conversation with Jim Scott, Managing Director of the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (KBIS) for Nielsen Expositions to gain insights on trade show marketing opportunities from an exhibition company’s perspective. You can read Part One here. PM: Do you feel that KBIS exhibitors set realistic exhibition objectives? Have you
Trade shows are still an important component of industrial and B2B marketing. In the third installment of our B2B trade show marketing series, I will cover activity during the trade show. Pre-flight meeting and checklist Before the trade show, the team should meet while everyone is still at the office. ‘Road warriors’ should be directed
Market fragmentation is making the hiring of the right marketing more important. The review process should not be left to chance. Outlined below are some steps that will help prevent you from getting into the wrong relationship. The Choice between Formal and Fast-Track You have the choice of two approaches: issuing a formal RFP to
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.
Whether you need help from an advertising agency for a marketing campaign or are recruiting a marketing agency for outside help, a creative brief is a document that can save you and your potential vendors significant time. Inspired by a column in Communications Arts by T. Stone, this post will discuss the essential elements of a creative brief.
What is the Creative Brief and Why Is It Important?
A creative brief is a summary document that outlines your requirements for your creative team. It helps define the scope of a project, much like a statement of work, but discusses the parameters of a project in terms of:
- What is this assignment?
- For whom is this assignment?
- What are the objectives of the assignment?
- What tasks are expected of your outsourced creative team?
- What tasks/support will be provided by your internal team?
- What are the deadlines?
- Where and how will creative materials be used?
- What is the total budget for the project?
You may have already spoken with potential advertising and marketing agency partners who have provided you with ideas for your creative brief. In the best case, these discussions will have led to clear goals that will be simple to articulate in the brief, and the contract if required.
Elements of an Effective Creative Brief
Your creative brief should be similar to a contract between the client and the agency. I recommend that it include the following elements:
- Executive Summary - Who is the client, and what is the product or service? Are there business plans, research or data that will help the marketing agency understand your objectives in a larger, competitive context? Is this a entire marketing campaign? or a smaller piece?
- Project summary and budget- What are your expectations? What is the result? Why is this required? How much has your company budgeted to achieve that result.
- Objectives and success metrics - What are the objectives of the project and how will success be measured? Are there current metrics that are available against which to judge performance?
- Target segments – Who is the audience? What (if anything) do they think of your company/product/service? Got research?
- Principal competitors: Who are the competitors that provide the same/substitute products? What are their go-to-market strategies? and how can we engage your audience better than they can?
- Marketing persona – in what voice should the marketing vehicles engage target segments? Is there another marketing campaign with which a segue is required?
- Value proposition and copy: Do you have existing marketing copy that is to be woven into messaging? or is new copy to be developed?
- Graphics and video: Do you have graphics, photography and video that is expected to be used? Or do new marketing assets need to be created? Specify whether illustration, photography and videography is expected from the marketing agency.
- Deliverables and timelines: When is your deadline? What are the significant milestones along the way? Is there a marketing campaign before/after this one of which the marketing agency needs to be aware?
- Roles and responsibilities: Who are the internal contacts? Who will have the authority to approve progress? Will key internal personnel be ‘available’ to assist the marketing agency?
It will take some time to develop consensus with your internal stakeholders on the final creative brief, particularly the first few times, but it will be a valuable investment of your time and energy. A well-written brief will save your company money and will save you time during the engagement. Clearly defined deliverables with realistic completion dates will help you better manage the project, improve your marketing dashboard metrics, and serve as the road map to success.
Once you have mastered the development of effective creative briefs, you can unleash a marketing campaign against your competitors so quickly that your their heads will spin.
Marketing communications invests tremendous amounts of time and energy into writing company mission statements and defining the company vision. From a sales and marketing perspective, the importance of these statements pales in comparison to the value proposition.
What is a Value Proposition?
The short answer is that a value proposition answers the customers’ question: “Why should I buy that from you?” Countless books, theses and web pages have been written by the marketing intelligentsia on the proper way to articulate a value proposition. The fundamental function of a value proposition is the same as the infamous elevator pitch – a concise summary of value presented when time is very limited.
A well-written value proposition for a company, a product line, product or service is the keystone for all other marketing copy writing. A value proposition should be pervasive in marketing communications for the business:
- Throughout marketing communications: corporate, public relations, social media, print and online collateral.
- Cross-functionally: from sales to customer service, from Reps to resellers.
Elements of an Effective Value Proposition
In order to maximize the effectiveness of the value proposition, you should consider the following elements:
- Target customer (or segment),
- Need served (or problem solved) by solution,
- Product or service offered as solution,
- Quantification of benefit(s),
- How solution is ‘delivered’, and
- Proof of claim.
These elements will be word-smithed by the marketing communications professional into an effective value proposition that should be unique, compelling and credible to everyone who works for or has dealt with your company.
Copy writing is always a process that requires a journey through the chaos of creativity, but I will provide you with a structure that may help to start your effort. Use the grid below to create the first version of your value proposition. I have populated the center column with first pass ‘ideas’ for the Contrecoup value proposition.
|For||businesses||Target customer (or segment)|
|That need||to meet and exceed their sales goals||The problem solved|
|Our||marketing consulting services||The product or service|
|Provide||vertically integrated methods/systems to generate and convert more business leads||Quantified benefit|
|We do this by||automating the marketing process to reach the individuals who control purchasing decisions for you products and services||How we do it|
|As demonstrated by||past clients who have achieved their goals by following our recommendations||Proof|
As you can see, it doesn’t read very easily, but with a little imagination and perspiration, marketing communications pros can edit the above into something more coherent:
For business that need sales growth, our sales and marketing consulting services provide data driven methods to convert more business for less money. We can align the sales and marketing campaigns used to reach individuals who make or influence purchasing decisions. Contrecoup will improve your sales and marketing metrics with Inbound Marketing.
I think that ideally, your value proposition should be around 50 words, but this depends on your business. I have captured the essence of what my company does in 3 sentences using 51 words (349 characters). Think outside the box and don’t make claims that you can’t support in every instance. If you found this advice useful, please subscribe to our blog!