Posts tagged ‘customers’

“Me too” marketing – develop your own Unique Selling Proposition

I’ve seen it happen a million times. A company sees their competition do something that’s different, and they immediately jump on the bandwagon. After all, if our competitors are doing it, they must know something we don’t, so we better get in on the action before it’s too late! Sigh… alas, copycatting is not a strategy. And the sad thing is that your competition probably doesn’t know any more than you do. Congratulations – you’ve just fallen for the oldest, least disciplined trick in the book and turned into a “me too” marketer.

You can see this happening everywhere you turn. Do the terms green, whole grain, sirloin, organic, and hand-crafted sound overly familiar? They should, because they’re everywhere, used for products ranging from food to shampoo to cars. If words or phrases or overused, they (and their associated products) suffer from commoditization. In other words, the message loses its meaning, and all the products in a certain category are perceived by the audience as being the same. Once this happens, customers no longer have brand loyalty, and the only differentiator they care about is price. A great example of this phenomenon is gasoline. How often do you choose gasoline based on additives? Or the ability to eliminate knocks and pings? Chances are you buy your gas based solely on its price. This is commoditization as its worst.

How do you avoid this pitfall? The best thing you can do is create your own Unique Selling Propositions (USP). Every company has strengths and weaknesses. Capitalize on your strengths by developing a messaging strategy that separates you from your competitors. Determine how your products and services can be presented to your audience in a unique, informative, entertaining, and compelling manner. Make sure that you’re clear, concise, and consistent in your application of the message. And above all, take the time to let your USPs develop. Like a flower, marketing is a process that needs a lot attention, a lot of love, and the patience to allow it to come to fruition.

Follow this advice and you’ll be amazed how quickly you can separate yourself from the “me too” herd!

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June 23, 2009 at 12:50 am Leave a comment

Your business’ secret to success: do one thing and do it right

Colonel Sanders was a master of business. He took a product that virtually everyone in the south made for themselves — fried chicken — and decided to sell his own version. The Kentucky Colonel outfit, the secret recipe, the bucket, and his self-promotion all contributed to his uniqueness and aura. However, his true secret to success was a simple philosophy: do one thing and do it right. He made better fried chicken than anyone else, and he focused all his efforts on building the business around his flagship product. His plan was to start small, gain a reputation, and establish a toehold in his local Kentucky community. From there, he wanted to conquer the fried chicken world, and use his market dominance as a springboard for other complementary products. Of course, we all know the rest of the story; his plan worked to perfection and the chicken industry has never been the same.

What’s the lesson that other companies can learn from the Colonel? Determine what your biggest strength is and focus your efforts on that. Perfect your product/service, establish a great reputation, use your revenues to invest in the company, and build your empire. Many companies try to become jacks-of-all-trades, but instead become masters-of-none. This mistake goes back to a previous discussion about market sizing vs. market segementation. It’s better to dominate a small market and branch out into other markets in time, rather than become a bit player in a larger, more competitive market. This approach will focus your internal resources in the places that maximize your profit potential, put your marketing communications plan on a path towards great success, and send a message to competitors that you have your priorities straight.

Don’t let the goatee fool you… Colonel Sanders was a brilliant businessman and a master marketer. Now go out there, focus on the one thing at which you’re best, and fry the competition!

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June 22, 2009 at 12:23 am 1 comment

Boost your customer base by lowering, not raising, prices

This is a tough time for most business. Many companies are losing a lot of customers and having trouble meeting revenue commitments outlined in their 2009 budgets, which are usually created in the previous fall season. This is happening, of course, because most people did not realize that the economy would fall into recession in 2009. Executive management teams are meeting in their boardrooms every single day, trying to figure out what to do to stabilize customer retention. Chances are good that two prevailing schools of thought are being bandied about:

  • School Of Thought #1: Since we are currently losing customers very quickly, we need to make up for that shortfall by reducing costs (which has probably already been done), while at the same time increasing our prices in order to achieve more revenue per customer. If we have lost 10% of our customers, and raise our prices 10%, we could probably close the revenue gap.
  • School Of Thought #2: We’ve lost several customers during the first half of the year, and we need to focus on keeping those customers while obtaining a few new ones. Along with reducing our costs (which has probably already been done) we need to reduce our prices, providing an incentive for current customers to stay with us and encouraging prospects to become customers.

As a marketer and ardent capitalist, I believe in School Of Thought #2. It looks at the marketplace as a non-finite tub of potential revenue, even during recessionary times. It also views an increase in price as a form of taxation on current customers, which is a bad idea during good economic times and an even worse idea now. I’ve seen many struggling companies adopt School Of Thought #1, only to see them descend into a business death sprial. As customers balk at higher prices and bail out, this leaves an even smaller customer base to provide the revenue stream necessary to maintain operations. The cycle of higher prices and fewer customers seals a company’s fate and failure becomes inevitable.

From a marketing perspective, it’s an even tougher sell. We’re always looking for unique selling propositions (USPs) and differentiators, and I’ve found that raising prices kills off great marketing each and every time. It poisons the fragile relationship with the customer, leaving them bitter and resentful. Another aspect to consider is the fact that, nowadays, customers don’t go away quietly. They use social networking and forums to voice their displeasure, and most of the time it ain’t pretty.

Before you pull the pricing lever, be sure you’ve fully analyzed your pricing model and exhausted other options. After all, if you make the wrong decision, it may be you that ends up paying the price.

(If you need help with pricing, or you have other marketing needs, contact me at Aximum Marketing. I’ll be happy to help.)

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June 17, 2009 at 11:19 pm 2 comments

Advertising 101: Know Your Audience

idhititEver seen this ad before? If you can believe it, it’s a McDonalds ad from a few years ago. In their effort to be really hip and cool, they accidentally offended and annoyed the very audience they were trying to impress. Unbeknownst to the out-of-touch marketing department, they were encouraging young men to copulate with hamburgers. Based on the guy’s expression, it appears that he was actually considering it. Those double cheeseburgers must be really good.

What’s the lesson here? There are far too many to list, but these are the ones that come to mind:

  1. Know your audience. If you’re speaking to a young, urban demographic, have some sort of knowledge regarding slang terms. Corollary: don’t encourage sex with your products.
  2. Know yourself. If you don’t have all the answers, it’s ok. Just don’t fake it, or you might end up looking foolish (and, in McDonalds’ case, creepy as hell).

Obviously, this was a big blunder, but McDonalds is so huge they were able to absorb the impact and not skip a beat. A smaller company, however, might not be so lucky, so unless you’re a behemoth like Ronald McDonald you should avoid these types of mistakes at all costs.

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June 17, 2009 at 12:56 am Leave a comment

Capitalize on your brand equity to gain market share

Frank Sinatra had a Vegas-inspired song called “Luck Be A Lady.” One of the lines in the song is:

“Stick with me, baby, I’m the guy that you came in with.”

In many ways, marketing is like Lady Luck that ol’ Blue Eyes is singing about, especially when it comes to branding. This is one of the trickier subjects to explain to someone new to marketing. In a nutshell, branding is the sum total of experiences and perceptions that a company has with its customers, competitors, and marketplace. The tactical elements of marketing — websites, brochures, advertising, etc. — are physical manifestations of branding. There’s also something called brand equity, which is not only a perceived value of a brand, but it can also be a tangible value. In fact, many organizations carry their brand as an asset on their balance sheets, with an actual dollar amount attached to it. Google has the highest brand value in the world, which is estimated to be worth more than $100 Billion. Software giant Microsoft has the second highest rated brand in the world, worth over $76 Billion.

There’s a reason why I mention these two examples together. You’ve undoubtedly noticed the “Bing” logo at the top of the entry. You may also be asking yourself, “what the hell is Bing?” As it turns out, Bing is the newest incarnation of Microsoft’s search engine, renamed from Windows Live Search. In my opinion, Microsoft made a big mistake and squandered a golden opportunity. They took one of the most high-profile aspects of the Internet (search engines), went up against the 800-pound gorilla, and didn’t take advantage of the Microsoft brand equity. Even worse, when you go to the Bing home page, the Microsoft name is nowhere to be found, so they can’t springboard their new brand off the established Microsoft name. How can you realistically pit a $100 Billion brand against a brand with zero equity? Frankly, you can’t. Microsoft doomed Bing to the ash heap of history before it even launched, just like another one of their infamous failures. The rest is just an exercise in futility.

What’s the lesson here? The Microsoft branding team should have told the Bing team, “stick with me, baby, I’m the guy that you came in with.” The only thing left is a roll of the dice and the hope that Lady Luck is on their side. I wouldn’t bet on it.

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June 15, 2009 at 11:30 pm Leave a comment

Get the most out of your trade shows

If your company participates in trade shows, you know there are many differing opinions about whether or not you should be there. There are probably even more opinions about how to define “success” when you are there. I’ve managed, attended, and participated in more trade shows than I care to mention, and I’ve discovered there are some undeniable truths when it comes right down to it:

  1. If your upper management is either undecided or split regarding whether to attend, you have no chance of making your participation as successful as it should be.
  2. Anything less that complete support from your senior management team spells doom. If their heart isn’t in it, if they’re just going through the motions because “that’s what we’ve always done,” others in the organization will recognize this lack of enthusiasm and follow suit. Given the fact that you’re probably spending a good chunk of change, it’s in the best interests of upper management to buy in and embrace it.

  3. If you have not created a specific set of goals that are clearly identified, communicated, and understood, you can guarantee yourself a below-average experience.
  4. What do you hope to accomplish by attending the trade show? Why are you going to this particular show rather than another one? Is success measured in revenue, leads, news articles, brand awareness, internal perception, or something else? You can’t provide an answer without first knowing the question, so lay this all out beforehand, solicit feedback, engage all groups within your organization, and use all means at your disposal to promote your attendance.

  5. If the management and participation of your trade shows is solely in the hands of your marketing team, whether by autocracy or by disinclination from other teams, you will not achieve the buy-in or participation required to succeed.
  6. Marketing people are great… heck, I’m one of them. But I also know they are single-minded when it comes to execution. Without participation by other teams, marketing will invariably defer to marketing-specific goals, which most of the time are functions of larger goals. Consequently, they may not achieve everything that other teams, like sales or product management, would have hoped for. If you are one of these other teams, I suggest that you get involved early and often so that you’re not disappointed.

  7. If you focus more on number of leads, rather than quality of leads, you are destined to waste massive amounts of time chasing people that will never generate a dime of revenue.
  8. In an earlier blog entry I discuss how to identify and focus on hot leads instead of sheer quantity. Just remember that all leads are not created equal. The best rule of thumb is to focus on your target audience, develop good incentives to encourage continued conversations, use best practices to qualify your leads, and create programs that will fill, but not overwhelm, your sales pipeline.

  9. If you do not have a strong events manager firmly in charge, your salespeople will spend more time on their Blackberries than on the trade show floor.
  10. I love salespeople. I really do. But I know they have a tendency to be a bit, um, ornery. Let’s be honest… without a strong personality keeping them on a short leash, most salespeople will walk into the trade show booth, zoom over to the first empty chair, and start answering emails on their Blackberries. They tend to view trade shows as a waste of time that’s cutting into their ‘face time’ with customers. The truth is that they can engage more customers spending 3 hours in a trade show booth than they can if they spent a week on the road. A strong-willed events manager can help them remember this and keep them on-task. Remember, the booth is there for the benefit of sales more than any other team, so they should learn to take advantage of it.

  11. If you do not reserve a meeting room, you will lose out on many important opportunities.
  12. The noise of the show and the buzz in the booth can make it difficult to engage in deeper conversations, the kind that close deals. Your solution is to reserve a meeting room when you purchase your booth location. The meeting room can be used for prospects, interviews, PR functions, and a variety of other high-quality activities. The booth brings ’em in, but the quiet meeting room helps to keep ’em.

  13. If you don’t choose your booth location carefully, you might as well not even be there.
  14. Whenever possible, do an on-location reconnaissance as early as possible to determine the best location for your booth. If you can’t do this, or if you don’t have enough budget to get into the highest traffic areas, don’t worry. The next best places are: near the meeting rooms, next to the bathrooms, near the concession stands, and close to the sitting areas. Another trick… if your booth has a place to sit down and/or offers food & drink, you will probably double your traffic.

You’ve spend a lot of money on registrations, booth design, marketing, and T&E, so follow these tips to maximize your ROI. Happy hunting!

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June 14, 2009 at 11:48 pm Leave a comment

Promote your products with case studies and success stories

Quick… name your most effective salesperson. Nope, it’s not your high-performing outside rep who’s made quota for the past five years. Guess again…

It’s your customers.

Your sales and marketing teams can talk about your products and value propositions until they’re blue in the face, but a company’s spokespeople talking about themselves will always lack a certain amount of credibility. A customer, however, is an independent organization that has chosen you over your competitors, and carries genuine credibility and legitimacy. Their word-of-mouth endorsement can easily land a sale. How can you capitalize on this loyal group of enthusiastic supporters? By asking them to participate in a case study or success story. There are benefits for everyone:

  • For your company – you can promote big name customers and add instant recognition via case studies, success stories, YouTube videos, and press releases
  • For your customers – gives them a great opportunity to co-brand with your company. In addition, references and links to their website will help increase their organic search results.
  • For your salespeople – provides fantastic sales tools to further build your company’s customer base
  • For your future customers – takes the guesswork out of purchasing and enables them to confidently make a decision based on the results of current customers

But you don’t have to take my word for it… you can read my success stories and see what I mean. Don’t blow your own horn, let your customers do it for you. Toot toot.

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June 11, 2009 at 1:34 am Leave a comment

Secrets to a great webinar – Part 3

Here’s the third and final segment to running a successful webinar. In the first two parts, we discussed some helpful hints and best practices for preparing and presenting your webinar. Today we’ll discuss what you should do after your webinar to help you achieve your desired goals.

  1. Always have a post-webinar discussion. In Part 2, I discuss the fact that you always want to make your webinars one hour long. However, many times you’ll find several attendees that want to talk beyond the stopping time. No problem. Invite those folks to stay on the line for a post-webinar discussion, which can last as long as they want. You have a motivated, interested, and invested audience just sitting there, waiting for the next step, so take advantage of it.
  2. Have a demo, sample, download, and trial ready to go before the webinar starts. Assume that every attendee will want to take the next step (“Call To Action“) and be prepared to share/send your customary giveaway, whether it’s a demo, product sample, software download, online catalog, etc. Webinars are all about capitalizing on the buzz of the moment, so be sure to accommodate the needs of your attendees without making them work for it or making them wait.
  3. Measure. This goes all the way back to the first point I made in Part 1: Determine your goals. Keep track of attendees in your sales management system, and actively track their activity over time. Depending on your products and sales cycles, the realization of your goals may either be immediately known, or it may take some time to determine. Either way, be diligent and keep accurate records of interactions, activities, and purchases.

I hope you found this series to be helpful, interesting, and entertaining. If done correctly, webinars can be tremendously beneficial for lead & revenue generation, and can set you apart as an industry thought leader. With proper planning, goal-setting, and execution, you may find yourself taking your company to the next level faster than you thought possible. If you’d like more information, or would like to utilize a consulting firm to help you with your webinar needs, please contact me directly or though our web form.

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June 10, 2009 at 12:58 am Leave a comment

Secrets to a great webinar – Part 1

Several of you have asked me about webinars: what they are, how to conduct them, how to attract an audience, and how to generate revenue from them. Every industry is a bit different, which means there’s no magic answer, but there are some fundamentals you should follow to maximize the effectiveness of your efforts. There are plenty of places to go online that explain the nuts and bolts of webinars, so I’d like to focus on best practices and tricks of the trade I’ve obtained through years of experience.

This is a pretty lengthy topic, so I’m going to break it up into three parts: what to do before, during, and after your webinar. Today we’re going to focus on what to do before.

  1. Determine your goals and define “success. The importance of this activity cannot be overemphasized. Without goals, there’s no way to determine whether you’re doing the right thing or the wrong thing. Goals can be as concrete as website visits and revenue, or as abstract as brand awareness, lead generation, and industry leadership. Either way, predetermine your goals and define “success” as the attainment of those goals.
  2. Give attendees a month to get it in their calendars. Everybody’s busy, so the longer lead time you give people, the more likely they’ll attend. Let me put it another way… if you want to guarantee your failure, send out an invitation three days before the webinar.
  3. Invite a friend. Whichever webinar technology you use, be sure that it has a “invite a friend” function. You can expect 1/3 to 1/2 of your attendees to be invited friends, who will in turn invite their own friends. Set the viral marketing beast loose.
  4. Utilize Webinar Central or another webinar aggregator / directory to help promote your event. Let the web do the work for you. Along with inviting your colleagues, prospects, and customers, open the webinar to anyone that wants to attend (unless, of course, you’re presenting proprietary information). After all, the name of the game is ‘butts in the seats,’ so do everything you can to ensure this.
  5. If at all possible, use someone with a good radio voice. Monotone and mushmouth presenters can make an hour feel like an eternity, and all value in your message can be lost. You don’t need to hire Ryan Seacrest, but your presenter should have the ability to change tone, alter pitch, understand the value of pauses, and be engaging and conversational.
  6. Practice. I know that practice takes time and it’s no fun. But listening to a presentation that’s never been rehearsed beforehand is one of the more painful experiences one can endure. It gives attendees the impression that you’re unprofessional, unprepared, even uncaring. On the other hand, a well-rehearsed presentation sounds great, looks great, and puts the presenter and his/her company in the very best light. The question you have to ask yourself: if I were a potential customer listening to me, what would be my impression, and would I feel confident to buy from this person?

Tomorrow, Part 2: What you should do during your webinar.

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June 7, 2009 at 10:43 pm 1 comment

Leads and prospects and customers, oh my!

(Sung to “If I only had a brain” from the Wizard of Oz)
I’d could use my time much better, create a great newsletter
And plant some prospect seeds,
I could share our comp’ny vision
Help them make a ‘buy’ decision
If I only had some leads.

Yes, it’s another original adaption from yours truly. I’m willing to take full credit because, heck, nobody else wants to claim that crap as their own.

I’ve noticed a lot of people using the terms lead, prospect, and customer interchangeably, so I thought I’d take today to explain the differences between them. Once you speak the language, and understand the differences, it makes a lot more sense. It is also another way for me to build the kumbaya bridge between sales and marketing. Here we go:

  • Suspect – not a generally used term, but a suspect is defined as a person that may be in the market for the types of products and services your company (and your competition) produces. Is is essentially a superset of all your potential customers. You may not know who they are, and they may not know who you are, but they are out there, waiting to be discovered. You need to connect with suspects, or have them connect with you, in order to convert them into leads.
  • Lead – this is someone who is in the market for the types of products and services your company produces. They may specifically know about your company, you may know who they are, or both. They have expressed either a specific or general interest, and have provided contact information about themselves. Depending on their needs, budgets, and timelines, leads are traditionally classified as cold, warm, and hot.
  • Prospect – defined as a lead who has passed the initial qualification (in other words, they are a real person who exists) and is currently being engaged in some way, depending on their needs. In sales/CRM terms, if an ‘estimate’ or ‘opportunity’ is created for a lead, the lead becomes a prospect. The level of contact a prospect receives ranges from an occasional email or phone call to an in-person demo or pilot project.
  • Customer – occurs when a prospect makes a purchase decision. Once a company receives money (or, in sales/CRM terms, a ‘sales transaction’) from prospects for their products and services, those prospects are officially converted into customers. Bring the money, honey.

I’m taking some badly needed vacation time this week, so I won’t be writing any blog entries until next Monday. Until then, have a great week, thank you for your continued support and comments, and we’ll start fresh on Monday. Hasta luego.

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May 31, 2009 at 11:30 pm Leave a comment

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