From the category archives:

Marketing

Don’t you just love opening those emails with sales pitches and special offers inside?  Doesn’t it make you eager to get the next email from the same vendor?  No?

Obviously not.  Yet many companies use their email newsletter to barrage their customers and prospects with offers and promotions.  Maybe if the email is from RueLaLa, addressed at eager fashionistas, it will get a decent open rate.   After all, RueLaLa is all about special offers to begin with.  If you’re selling complex B2B products, repeated offers and promotions will result in  a very high “always ignore” rate.   That’s the proportion of subscribers who got sick of your email offers long ago, but don’t want to bother to open one and scroll down and find the fine print to unsubscribe. So they just ignore you. Every time.

Stop sending offers. Resist the urge to add a promotion to every missive.  Remember that the call to action does not need to be “buy now,” and not even “try now.”  Send them something valuable instead.   So valuable, that they’ll be more likely to open the next email.   Here are 10 ideas of valuable things to send.

  1. Short (15-20 minute) webinar by one or more of your clients about how they solved a problem your other customers are likely to face
  2. Your own webinars that inform about a common topics of interest to your audience (Hint: your product is NOT a common topic of interest)
  3. Invitation and discount to attend an event where you will be present
  4. Summary of big takeaways from a conference that someone in your organization attended
  5. 3rd party articles that are relevant to your prospects
  6. White papers (your own or 3rd parties) that actually inform rather than advertise
  7. Video interview with one of your execs sharing their ideas, views, insights (but NOT promoting your company)
  8. Blog entries by your executives, employees, or 3rd parties that are relevant to your audiences
  9. Explanation of something happening in the market and about which there may be confusion
  10. New ideas or best practices gleaned from your customers and other internal and external subject matter experts.

There are countless others, of course.  Please share ones you’ve sent or received that have been particularly valuable.

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freepuppy_cropped

Better than "Please Don't Touch"

Pam Fox Rollin, Executive and Leadership Coach extroadinnaire,  shared this photo recently.   Its a perfect example of using insight about your audience’s complete context to make your message more relevant and notable.

The owners of this store didn’t just state what was important to them (i.e. “Don’t touch” or “Watch your children”)  They thought about what would make the request really stand out to busy parents.  They thought about the reality of the lives of those busy parents, and came up with great, catchy, and funny sign instead.

Are you thinking about your customers’ real life when you design your messages?

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Great discussion last night at the SVAMA event about how B2B marketers can leverage social media to generate leads.  Check out the summary by Kirsty Scott of SD Design.

A few points I thought were esp. interesting, insightful, or controversial.

1. Create LOTS of interesting, relevant content.  But how, given limited resources?  The panelists suggested:

  • One person can generate a lot of content and a lot of buzz – it doesn’t take an army
  • You don’t have to be a professional writer. Just get your ideas across.
  • Give your community a forum for creating content. WD40 fan club is a great example of community-generated content.

2. “The internet is a great medium for experimentation,” Mike Linton.

  • Its easy to try out different tactics, different language, and different social media hubs.  You quickly can learn a lot about what works and what doesn’t.
  • Its easy to overcome resistance inside your company by suggesting, “Let’s just run it as a test.”

3. The community is there. Deal with it.

  • If your company thinks its not “doing social media,” its wrong. Users, customers, and probably employees are talking about you, whether you’re there or not.  Best to join the conversation than to be ignorant. (Sounds like parenting advice!)
  • Communities take on a life of their own. Don’t expect to control or even guide the conversation.  Instead find an employee most like your audience and ask them to participate in the dialogue.
  • Develop a thick skin.  Even within communities you create, someone will find something negative to say, and chance are, it will get disseminated.  Don’t be taken by surprise, and don’t panic.

4. Lead Gen is a process, not an event.

  • Include calls to action – SUBTLE ones – in your content.
  • Give people the opportunity to “self identify” as interested though their actions and responses to many different forms of interactions (Blogs, tweets, webinars, emails, facebook fan clubs, LinkedIn group participation, etc.)
  • Track participation and score interest level based on those interactions.  It takes time and experimentation to find the most promising patterns.

5. Traditional PR is in trouble, and reporting is dead (or at least, in the re-animation ward).

  • If everyone if writing about the latest events, for free, what’s a reporter left to do?
  • PR’s traditional emphasis on providing access to reporters and providing reporters with story no longer provides the value it once did.

Were you there?  Tell us about other great insights from the evening.

Do you agree or are these suggestions off the mark?  Share your B2B Lead Gen experiences via Social Media.

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Let’s face it.  Sales can generate revenue without Marketing.   Not so in reverse.   The true purpose of marketing – of the messages, and the programs, and the collateral, and the PR –  is to accelerate and amplify sales efforts.  When that’s forgotten, sales-marketing misalignment follows.

Companies focus lots of attention on understanding customer needs, designing messages and programs for them, and gathering feedback to improve products and go-to-market efforts.  Unfortunately, when Marketers forget what marketing is for, they often neglect their other, one might even argue primary, audience: Sales.   (To clarify, by “Sales” I mean both direct and indirect channels, so partners are definitely included in this discussion.)

You probably have a process in place to measure customer satisfaction and gather customer input.  Whether via survey, customer advisory board, or support call analysis, some form of customer feedback is influencing your business.  What feedback mechanism do you have in place for the Sales team?

Here are five simple ideas to help understand Sales’ needs and align Sales and Marketing:

1. Conduct an annual sales survey.  Just like a customer satisfaction survey, this tool can assess current perceptions, determine needs, and prioritize their importance.  Use a survey to find out what tools, information, and skills will improve sales productivity, and to assess how well various marketing organizations are supporting and collaborating with Sales.

2. Gather input through your sales and partner portals. Create a visible and easily accessible request form and encourage Sales to ask for tools, training, content, information, or other changes that will help them accelerate and close deals.   Then use your existing sales and partner communications to highlight requests that have been implemented.

3. Create sales and partner advisory boards. Be sure to select a diverse set of members.  This group can be a sounding board for new initiatives or programs such as Sales Kickoff agendas, improvements to product launches, or training curricula.

4. Place Marketing and Sales in the same room. The most effective marketing people are those that spend time out in the field, accompanying reps to sales meetings and listening to partners.  You can’t regularly send everyone in marketing out into the field, but you can provide opportunities for greater interaction.  Send marketing people to sales training, where they can see what sales is learning, and build relationships and hear feedback directly from their classmates.   Have marketing folks who are involved in lead-gen and sales enablement activities participate in sales meetings and calls, so they can hear the issues and challenges Sales faces, and play a more direct role in helping overcome them.

5.  Plan together. During your annual planning process, ask Sales and Marketing executives to identify specific dependencies on each other.   The leadership team should then acknowledge  each dependency, and jointly make decisions about whether and how each organization will fulfill their obligations to the other groups that depend on them.  They should also agree on changes to the plan if the obligations can’t be met.  Such collaboration early and at the highest levels of leadership permeates through both groups.  (Of course, the same process should be used for the entire executive staff, not only the Sales and Marketing leaders.)

Marketers and Sales and Channel managers: Please share how your marketing organization gets feedback from your sales channels.

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3 Musts of BtoB Messaging

by Lilia Shirman on June 26, 2009

in Marketing

Relevance – to your buyer’s context for making the purchase: company, industry, role, current business objectives and challenges, and personal interests.

Value – tangible, provable value that specifically and directly links what you’re selling to what the customer wants.  Value is the intersection of results you have proved you can deliver (according to existing customers), and the results the customer is looking for.

Uniqueness – Your secret sauce. That thing that only you can deliver, or for which you are known as the best or the vanguard.

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More ideas on cultivating customer contribution and creating opportunities for interaction by turning traditional marketing into Marketing 2.0

6. In-person events – These are expensive to put on, so why spend the entire time lecturing on information that’s already in your collateral? Third party presenters can be more interesting, but any lecture can get dreary fast. Give attendees lots of time to interact with you and with each other, while you listens and takes notes. Consider a workshop rather than presentation format so that the entire event is interactive.

7.   Trade Shows – This seems like a highly interactive event, but most booth staffers are so focused on doing the demos and spewing the spiel, that the opportunity to listen is lost.  (I adore alliteration.)   To change the mindset, make it clear you’re at the show to interact with and listen to customers, not just to be seen and heard.  Set objectives of specific information you want to gather from booth visitors or people attending your sessions.  Ask a few questions or give a short (5 questions max) survey before handing out the tchachkis, or organize mixers and events that have information gathering as an explicit objective.

If a widely open a conversation seems too much of leap, try these by first letting a small group of customers you know well contribute and participate, then open further when you’re comfortable managing a broader conversation.

Have you tried these or other ways to engage customers in conversations?  Share them in your comment!

Read More
Turning Marketing into Conversations – Part 2
Turning Marketing into Conversations – Part 1

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Sales 2.0 conference – day 1

by Lilia Shirman on March 5, 2009

in Marketing 2.0,Sales 2.0

Spent the day at the Sales 2.0 conference in San Francisco.  Lots of insightful speakers including Judy Fick of Unisys, Jeremy Cooper of Salesforce.com, my friend Gail Ennis of Ominture, and David Satterwhite of newScale.

A few noteworthy quotes:

  • To find the buyer, “find out who will get fired if the problem isn’t solved.”
  • “If you’re following up on the leads that already have a budget and a time line, you’re too late”
  • “Never confuse activity with results” – Judy Fick
  • On the importance of metrics in a recession: “When the tide goes out you know who’s been swimming naked.” – Warren Buffet quoted

The big themes:

  • Instant information about customer behavior, and instant response
  • Sales and marketing alignment and collaboration
  • Value creation as part of the sales and marketing processes  (see solutions marketing post that touched on this same topic)
  • Technology helps create unprecedented visibility and responsiveness – and you need a collection of vendors to cover the entire customer life-cycle. Average # of sales / marketing 2.0 software products shown on presenters’ slides was 8.

A few dozen exhibitors showing all manner of cool software and services for deeper, more detailed, more responsive insight into customers and their behavior.   Spoke to some very happy customers of Genius.com, LucidEra, and ConnectAndSell.

More info and some conclusions tomorrow after Day 2.

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More ideas about how to transform traditional marketing tools into Marketing 2.0 vehicles.

3.    Websites – Don’t hide customer feedback and support in a corner of your site. Place feature request and comment links right on product pages, so that customers can respond immediately to the content they see. Asking a question gets the customer more engaged than downloading a white paper. Involve product management and engineering in responding to the queries. It’s a great way to for them to touch the customers they otherwise rarely or never see. Post the most interesting questions and answers or turn them into additional content.

4.    Press releases – What if your PR people became your customers’ and partners PR people? Lots of stories would best be told by someone other than a vendor. (And would be more likely to get picked up for coverage.)  Build relationships with your customers’ and partners PR departments to understand how and where they want to be seen, and how talking about your relationship can help with that.  Have your PR staff assist partners and customer with replying to PR opportunities.

5.   Webinars – Yes, by now, this is a “traditional” marketing tool. But many companies tend to make webinars too one-directional.  Use all the interactive tools (and the many webinar hosting services that offer them). Polls, chat, and Q&A are the common set. Use surveys both before and after your webinar. And don’t limit the surveys to questions about the webinar like the all too familiar “Did you find this useful?” Instead, ask questions that help you understand customers or that customers will be interested in too. The latter gives you an excuse for a follow-up contact that actually delivers value.

Have you tried these or other ways to engage customers in conversations? Share them in your comment!

Read More
Turn Marketing into Conversations – Part 1
Turn Marketing into Conversations – Part 3

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