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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Utilize Webinar Centralor 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.
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.
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.
We all have our favorite websites. But what actually makes a website great? Here are my criteria – I’d love to hear your ideas as well:
Visual appeal. The web can act as the great equalizer. Small companies can look big and legitimate with a quality website. Conversely, large companies that have lousy websites can appear distracted and amateur. There’s no substitute for giving a good first impression.
Powerful messages that speak to your customer’s needs. Nobody likes a long-winded talker. Unless you have an information-based website (like Amazon, which provides full reviews of products, etc.), resist the temptation of generating massive amounts of information, especially on the home page. Keep it short, sharp, and targeted, with a predefined objective (see “Lily pad” marketing for more information on objective-based marketing strategies).
Success stories. Providing case studies of your accomplishments have several benefits. You can demonstrate how effectively your company works with customers, provide concrete examples of success using metrics, share experiences with prominent customers to gain legitimacy and credibility, and strengthen the persuasion process through the use of similar customers in similar industries.
Social Networking. Whether it’s a blog (like this WordPress blog), Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, or social bookmarking, you cannot deny the impact of social networking on today’s marketing strategies. Customers now have an expectation of two-way communication, and social networking facilitates symbiotic connections between a company and its audience.
Logical lead generation paths. It’s frustrating when you have to bounce all over a website to find what you want. A well-designed site understands its target audience and develops well-defined, clearly stated communication paths with the proper Calls To Action (CTA). Typical CTAs are filling out a form, downloading a white paper, signing up for a webinar, contacting a salesperson, and purchasing a product through your ecommerce function.
Just the right amount of “wow” for your audience. Know they audience. If your products and services cater to accountants, don’t use bells and whistles that you’d use for, say, a teenage gamer audience. It’ll just turn them off and make them think you don’t understand them. I bet those accountants would love a virtual Dilbert experience, or a flash-based GAAP search tool.
Web 2.0 look and feel. This means many things to many people. To me, Web 2.0 means dimensional or reflective graphics, modest use of Flash, “push button” navigation (like the simplicity of Redbox’s navigation), and the use of negative (white) space to add airiness.
What do you think? Are there other characteristics that are important for creating a great website?
Quick… when someone is trying to find out about your company’s products and services, what’s the first thing they do? Grab the newspaper? Ask a friend? Pick up the phone?
Nope. Chances are they either Google you, or go directly to your website (which is basically the same thing, if you’re engaging in good Search Engine Optimization practices). Your website is without a doubt the most recognizable and most tangible manifestation of your company’s value. Is it sending the type of message and image that you want it to?
For those that have been reading my posts for a while, you know that I’m a marketing consultant. I focus my consultancy efforts on branding, messaging, lead generation, social networking, and public relations. I designed my website with a specific audience in mind, providing a clean, colorful, sharp, Web 2.0-ish experience. Can you imagine if my website, which is supposed to be a shining example of what I can provide prospective clients, looked like this (yikes!) instead of this? All my credibility would fly out the window, with good reason.
Take a look at your current website and ask yourself these questions:
Is our website sending the right message to our future customers?
Was our target audience the main motivation for its current design?
When was the last time we redesigned our website? (Hint: if it’s been longer than 3 or 4 years, it’s time for a redesign.)
What is our website supposed to do: provide information, sell products, generate leads, develop communities, something else?
If I asked 10 prospects to assess our website, what would they say?
Make your website your strongest sales tool and it will make your life a whole lot easier. If you think it’s time to do something about it, contact us and we’ll be happy to help.
Sure, you’ve heard a lot about social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and, yes, even WordPress (I’m being ironic). But there haven’t been a lot of success stories attached to those ‘new marketing’ tools, mostly because a lot of marketers aren’t clear how to measure success. Simply put, success is defined as the achievement of pre-determined goals based on actual, real-life business needs and objectives.
Here’s a great social media success story from my company, Aximum Marketing. One of our clients was trying to elevate his company above the competition during a downtime, while his rivals were scaling back on marketing and overall customer communication. The goals were focused on lead generation, website visits, ecommerce revenue, and industry leadership. By developing a number of different social media programs, we were able to get some amazing results for them. And the real kicker: the initial execution on these initiatives cost only about $5K, and had a ROI of 350:1 after 4 months. Read all the details, as well as my other success stories, and contact me if you’d like to incorporate social media into your company.