Want Your Content to Succeed? Begin with Strategy

Strategy-ImageSales leads. It’s the holy grail of your marketing efforts. You likely use a host of implements to get them.

You have a website. Maybe you’re using a mix of digital marketing tools, like e-mails, social media, a blog, and possibly, some online display or pay-per-click ads.

Is it all working? Maybe. And maybe not.

Back up a minute.

  • Have you created a measurable objective?
  • Are you executing a defined strategy against that objective?
  • Have you built a strong enough sales story to make your efforts successful?

At face value, the sheer number of digital tools seems to make marketing easier than ever before. Sure, you have more channels at your fingertips, but you still must have a strategy — and strong messaging — from which all marketing tactics should flow.

As SMB marketers, many companies still throw a variety of tactics against the wall, hoping something will stick. Usually, they’re trying to do too much on too many different platforms, with no real ‘what’ or ‘how’ behind it.

What’s Missing?

Strategy – Strategy is a given for larger companies and experienced marketers but seems to be a missing component that is MIA at many smaller firms.

Assuming you have created a very specific objective (like growing your sales in one market by 10%), you then need to determine your strategy or strategies — how you plan to get there.

A strategy is NOT the same as a tactic. A good definition of strategy is: “a plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim.” An easy way to understand the difference between objectives, strategies, and tactics is with an analogy to travel:

Your objective: Vacation in New York

Your strategy for how to get there: Take a plane

Your tactic: Fly out Friday at 10 a.m.

Strategy forces you to map out how you will reach your objective. Lacking a coherent strategy, companies often jump right to tactics – doing a little of this, a little of that. Haphazard tactics without a true focus don’t have the desired impact.

“We need to be active on Facebook.”

That may be true, but, does it fit your strategy?

 Work the tools that fit your strategy.

In short, don’t work the tools just because they’re available. This is especially important for SMBs. There is a limited budget and no room for waste. Instead, work the tools that fit your strategy.

Tactics should flow from strategy, and there is where you detail exactly what you will do.

Let’s look a few sample strategies against a growth objective, and a few of the possible tactics that would naturally flow from them:

Strategy: Better leverage our website so visitors take some kind of action.

 Tactics:

  • Add lead capture and ongoing lead nurturing using content of value
  • Make sure there are calls to action throughout your site – give visitors a reason to contact you
  • Use and apply site analytics regularly (this shouldn’t need to be said, but needs to be said)
  • Make sure prospects have a reason to go to your site by keeping content fresh
  • Add content that speaks more directly to a vertical market, or your campaign
  • Feature and link to the most educational parts of your site on your Home page

StrategyReach target through thought leadership via online content marketing.

 Tactics:

  • Regular and relevant (to your market and your message) content for social channels
  • Ditto above for blog posts
  • Ebook, webinar, video, presentation, etc. showcasing your subject matter expertise
  • Email campaign to share your content in complete or shortened form

Strategy: Leverage the sales team and their interactions with customers and prospects; equip them to better sell what you’re offering.

Tactics: Before you determine tactics here, this is a golden opportunity to engage the sales team in your gameplan:

  • Is there sales support you can provide?
  • A comparison with competitors you can compile?
  • A more persuasive way to tell your story?
  • A different way to approach current customers versus prospects?

You get the idea. Listen, and reap the benefits of their direct interactions with the market, in the form of new tactics, or maybe even new strategies.

By plotting your strategy before your plot your tactics, you will have a cohesive program. Everything you do tactically – emails, blog posts, content and social media marketing – will then be working cohesively against the same goal, in varying ways.

Many companies neglect creating a hard-hitting positioning statement. 

Messaging – You know your product or service is different. Better. Your customers believe in it, and so do you.

How you capture this in your marketing?

Many companies have a mission statement, but neglect creating a useful, hard-hitting positioning statement. While a mission statement typically describes the company’s goals and values, positioning is an externally-facing statement that should directly compare your offering to competitors, and explain why it’s different and of course better. It should also describe, very specifically, its ultimate value to customers.

Positioning is a science and an art with too many nuances to discuss here. But even this simple straw-man model can help:

Who: Who are you?

What: What business are you in?

For whom: What people do you serve?

What need: What are the special needs of the people you serve?

Against whom: With whom are you competing?

What’s different: What makes you different from those competitors?

So what: What’s the benefit? What unique benefit does a client derive from your service?

And the statement model:

  • [Company name] is a (business description) for (audience served) seeking to (special needs of those served). 
  • Unlike competitors, [company name] (what makes us different from competitors).
  • This gives clients (unique benefits clients derive from the service).

Usually, in composing your positioning statement, you find you can’t fit it all in. There’s simply much more you want to say. From a marketing perspective, that’s a good problem to have. So attack it – list out all of the key points you want to make, and below each one, expand upon and capture all of your differentiators and supporting points, one at a time.

Once these are laid out, your marketing team can then easily select and use those points in your marketing, across a variety of tactics, in creative and compelling ways.

A critically important point here: It is crucial that you create your your positioning from the outside in. Not necessarily what you think is important, but what your customers think is important.

If you don’t have insight into that, speak to several customers and prospects regarding what they care about when it comes to your product or service, why they chose you, what they value most about your offering, and so on.

Listen to your customers

To gather this input, you simply MUST have conversations – you should not rely on a written survey sent over email. Nor should you just add a few questions to the end of your company’s annual customer survey. There is simply no substitute for the back-and-forth exchange made possible by a real, live conversation. Like any good interview, you never know where it will lead. Very often, you will gain feedback you would never, EVER get through a written survey. (And also very often, the customer will appreciate being involved in your research, because it shows you value their opinion.)

In addition to talking with customers and prospects, get feedback from your salesforce on what prospects are saying, and from employees outside of sales about what they’re hearing from customers.

After you’ve gathered the raw input from all of these sources, hold a messaging session with a group of your co-workers from various departments. Take the time to brainstorm further, categorize, flesh out, add to and eventually, prioritize those points that are most compelling. Then use them to create a new set of differentiators, a new positioning statement and a new, full set of key messages.

Now, you’re ready to market. You have messaging that is relevant to your prospects, and that clearly sets you apart from competitors.

The perspectives revealed from customer interviews as well as group brainstorming are guaranteed to enhance and improve what a handful of marketing people can come up with alone.

So before you embark on your next marketing tactic, outline the following:

  • Who do you want to reach, and what you want them to do? (Your objective)
  • How will you reach them? (Your strategy)
  • What does your target care about, and how does your company uniquely meet their interests? (Your messaging)
  • What exactly will you do during the next three, six or 12 months to accomplish your goal? (Your tactics)

Taking the time to think through strategy and create and apply strong messaging will help you orchestrate your marketing against specific goals, apply concentrated energy against one or more strategies, and give you multiple selling points to use across tactics, enabling you to reach your target with messages that matter to them.

You’ll greatly enhance the likelihood of achieving your goals – or even exceed them.

 

 

Creative Destruction, a Close Shave and Social Media

Yes, you can compete with large, established competitors if you’re a small company or start up.

Yes, you can use a more human approach to attract attention to your sales messages.

Yes, social media works. (Despite being a B2C example, this story holds lessons for all marketers).

Dollar Shave Club (a start up) is proof of all three – its YouTube video attracted 12,000 customers within its first 48 hours online.

How?

With a very human and humorous approach that address a pain point in the market: the high cost of razors.

Dollar Shave has a solid business premise:

  • Basic razors at low prices.  As Michael Dubin, founder and chief executive, points out in the video, do you really need the latest razor with a vibrating handle?  Because the only way the big players can increase price is by adding features, they keep adding them.
  • A new way to sell a consumable — by monthly subscription, delivered by mail.

 

The company tells a story in a very human, personal way.  The founder just plain tells it like it is:

… In simple language (likely not professionally scripted)

… With passion

… With personality and humor (btw, the CEO was trained in improv comedy)

Viewers can relate!  For the same reason people like Super Bowl commercials – they’re creative, and fun to watch.

Taking a cue from zappos.com, diapers.com, and now even soap.com, Dollar Shave is giving consumers a new and attractive option.  It saves them money.  It’s more convenient.

Investors are noticing – willing to fund companies that are shaking things up.  And so are the traditional media.  The story has been covered in Fast Company, Forbes, Business Week, the Wall Street Journal, and more.

And big competitors?  They seem to have no fear of “just another low-cost provider.”  With views to its video at 4 million and counting, perhaps they should.

And one more lesson for B2B marketers: with social media, you don’t need a huge marketing budget to build a following.

Pointing again to the crucial nature of YOUR MESSAGE –not just its guts, but how it’s presented.

And, pointing to the opportunity represented when you can find a hole in a staid, competitive market.  Consider your own industry.  Can you find a new option for designing, packaging or delivering your product or service?

Creative destruction like this can happen in the B2B world.  If you’re looking for new or better ways to compete, or an impetus for making your marketing more creative, make this story the basis for a team brainstorm, and let the ideas flow.

Google Search Changes and the Importance of Content

Continuing our recent discussion about ensuring your company’s visibility in Google searches: at the end of April, Google made changes to its search algorithm – and those changes are affecting many websites, but both positively and negatively.

Fortunately, Google provides ongoing tips in its Webmaster Central blog to help companies put forth “the best user experience” – especially useful for those who can’t invest in regular, professional oversight of their websites (Google makes an estimated 500 changes annually to its search algorithm to combat those attempting to ‘trick’ the search engine into giving their sites higher organic rankings, via keyword stuffing, paying for links, and an assortment of other shady practices).

Google: “Focus on Building Useful Sites with Compelling Content”

The algorithm change is further reinforcement for the advice B2B marketing and PR firms like ours have been hammering home with clients for a while now: the gains that can be made by generating and sharing content.

Content on your site should be useful and educational versus commercial.

Content should be fresh and original, and, generated and posted continuously.

Blogs are one of the most expedient ways to keep website content fresh, given that much of the content on most sites is evergreen (for a reason).

Original content enhances your organic rankings – but that’s not the only reason to create it.  The same information you develop for your site surely has multiple other uses – for existing customers, as sales support material, as the basis for a webinar, published article or white paper, or e-mail blast, etc.

To keep your site ranked as high as possible, Google offers these further tips:

  •  Keep track of algorithm changes on the Webmaster Central blog.
  •  Make sure you’re aware of your top keywords and keyword phrases – how people search for your product or service – and how these may change over time.

 

If you’ve never generated a list of potential keywords and run a traffic report, do so.  Now! Google makes this relatively easy to do yourself with its traffic tool.  And make a point to rerun the report at least quarterly, to stay abreast of and leverage those search terms in your online marketing.

Knowledge of keywords can be incorporated back into your standing site content (content optimization being one step of the SEO process) and can be a springboard for new marketing ideas.

While you’re at it, set up a Google Alerts for your key terms, seek and follow the online conversation and get involved in pertinent blogs, forums, etc.

Doing so will set you up for interaction with members of your industry and prospective customers — those people searching for and talking about your area of expertise.

  • Use social media.  Share links to your site content on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, SlideShare, etc.  Get professional help to at least get you started on these platforms (if you’re not there already).  Learn how other B2B companies are using social media.
  • Google advises companies to go beyond the search engine requirements and drive traffic to your site in other ways, such as through ads special promotions and the like.  Many B2B companies have no trouble with this tip – but may not be using “drive site traffic” as a clear objective.

 

With so many tools available at the touch of a button, there’s no reason your company can’t step up its online visibility even in small increments.

Abana1pc

SEO Secret: Use Paid Search Ads When Full SEO is Out of Reach

It’s no secret that performing search engine optimization (SEO) for a website is a significant investment when done professionally and thoroughly.

Aside from the cost, the sheer number of tasks involved in SEO — keyword research, content optimization, formulating page titles and meta-tags, starting a blog, tweeting, adding links and more – can seem overwhelming.

Still, every company wants their websites to be visible on the first few pages of relevant searches.

There is, however, a far less costly alternative to SEO: paid search ads.

These can accomplish the goal of creating visibility on page one (an achievement that even full SEO can’t guarantee) at less cost, and in less time – with very positive results. 

Yes, it’s “advertising.”  So, no, it’s not as good as being on page one through organic ranking.  But paid ads DO get attention.

Paid search is a viable option that offers 100% control: you decide your budget (as low or high as you like), you change the content of the ad whenever you like, you pay only for clicks, and you can immediately see the results of your ads.  If they’re not pulling in the kinds of leads that you want, you can stop the campaign at any time.

We have had success with several clients who spent as little as $200 to $300 monthly on the campaigns.

Ads can be designed to support almost any marketing endeavor (such as driving traffic to your website or a special landing page featuring one of your products or services, to building awareness of a special promotion, to reach more people with your content).  If the ads are well thought out and well-written, you will get clicks. 

Make Your Ads “Smart”

Content is king in all sorts of marketing outreach, and it’s no different for paid search ads.

The limitation on Google ads is that you have only about 30 characters and three lines of text to get your message across.  How will you make your ad stand out?  Content.

I call ads that link to useful content for the prospect “Smart” ads. Rather than creating a set (five- seven typical for any program) of plain-vanilla ads that are straightforward, bland or just try to expose your message, instead exploit and tie your ad to educational content – direct them to download something that’s useful.

You could for example:

  • Destroy common myths about your product or service
  • Provide information or tips about selecting your product or service
  • Help them compare between competitive offerings
  • Answer questions or common sales objections
  • Share your company’s perspective about an industry issue or problem

 

Your educational content needn’t be long.  White papers make perfect downloads – but here again, some companies may not have any readily available. The alternative is a single landing page on your website (or a downloadable written document) that contains the educational information you have convey.

It makes sense to be where your customers are searching – online.  If your company is not already highly visible, paid ads are worth at least a test run, serving a supporting or even starring role in your ongoing marketing efforts.

Want to Serve More Clients? Serve Up More Content

“Marketing is the lifelong process of educating your customers about why they should buy from you.”

This quip by marketing star Jay Abraham was penned almost two decades ago, and couldn’t be more true today.

It’s one of my favorites because it makes simple, yet very revealing, points:

1.  Marketing is a lifelong process

2.  Educating your market attracts sales

3.  Customers are just as important as prospects

It’s a concept not many marketers followed 20 years ago (thus, Jay’s urging), and one that B2B companies are beginning to get a grip on today, with the advent of digital marketing and especially, social media.

Educating your customer is important not only as a method of or framework for communicating — but also because competition is everywhere.

Consider the current plight of the Big-Box stores. Years ago, you had mom-and-pop appliance stores, and Sears was about the only department store around.  The smaller stores relied heavily on service and knowledge to secure and maintain loyal customers.

Then came the Big-Box stores, with their vast selection, low prices, and suburban ubiquity.  Customers migrated there in droves, and the smaller shops — lamenting that price trumps the personal touch — ended up closing their doors.

Now, it’s the Big-Box stores lamenting.  They’re fighting “showrooming” (buyers researching their options at the stores, but making their purchases from one of the many resources on the Internet).  And are they ever feeling the pinch.

Because your customers also find you (and your competitors) on the Internet … because they are actively seeking information and ‘comparison shopping’ before they make a purchase …because they rely on referrals from friends and colleagues … because they trust objective information – the degree to which you educate can mean the difference in sales, and, lifetime customers.

Educating your market – if you’re not already doing so – is an opportunity worthy of your marketing investment

So companies must ask: how well are we doing the basics of explaining the value our products or services provide? And, on what topics can we offer educational information?

The old standards for educating your market: Published articles, white papers, speaking engagements, just plain relationships, these still apply.  These were the means for offering knowledge.  What does not apply is the mindset of talking at the customer.

Today, we have the unprecedented opportunity to talk with the customer.  Author Dan Pink describes the fundamental shift in the customer/company relationship as the difference between the “information asymmetry” of the past, when companies had all the information, and the “information symmetry” we now experience, in which the customer has all the information. The customer is (sigh) no longer ignorant.

The digital age has allowed companies to become their own media. To be seen as thought leaders. To have their educational content (not just their websites) found online.  Between your own website, blog, Facebook page, LinkedIn activities, Twitter, industry, online forums, associations, blogs, etc., your educational messages have more places to be seen.

Beyond educating customers about your product or service’s unique advantages, you can offer insights about your field in general.  You can share value from others, industry wide; you can share best practices thinking to help them run their business, address a difficult sales issue, etc. – virtually any topic that you know would be of interest and helpful to them.

Information equals trust. Use it, or be prepared to be out-marketed by competitors that do.

 

 

 

 

 

Social Media Lessons from Chicago’s Top 10 Social Corporations

In the spirit of our new blog feature, the SMB/B2B Social Spotlight, we decided to share some important takeaways from the 10 Chicago-area companies said to be doing the best job of leveraging social media. The companies’ programs were detailed in Crain’s Chicago Business earlier this year. 

I found the comments in bold instructive. We focus on B2B, but these tips from several consumer companies may inspire something new for your own social media programs.

1. Kraft Foods Inc.

“When they want recipes, they go to the website.  When they want to share their passion, they go to Facebook,” says the senior director of consumer relationship marketing at Kraft.

Takeaway: Companies often struggle when it comes to posting to their Facebook pages.  Encouraging and/or finding new ways to help your customers share their passion is useful. For example, Kraft launched a “Share Your Latin Flavor” campaign featuring a celebrity chef’s recipes to get customers involved in the conversation – and increased traffic in the process.

2. McDonald’s Corp.

Our Facebook fans want entertainment.  They want information, but they want to see interesting videos, play games and participate in polls,” says the company’s director of social media.

Takeaway: How can you inject fun or entertainment into your Facebook pages?  Your posts can go beyond just talking about topics directly related to the company.  Find and post interesting or fun articles related to your industry (these are easy to find by just running a Google alert or setting up a listening dashboard on Google Reader on your product or service. You’re bound to find something of the right flavor there.).  Think about customers as people – what might they be interested in?

3. Sears Holding Corp.

“We want to stop problems quickly and act on customer feedback,” says Sears’ president of online marketing and financial services.  The company is using social media – Facebook and Twitter – as well as a customer review site called MySears.com.

Takeaway: Creation of a customer comment website shows the power of sites like Yelp.com that allow people to talk about their experience with a product or service.  (Why have customers broadcast their comments only on external sites, when you’re the best resource to respond to them?)  Sears also lets customers vote for which products they want to see discounted, and then runs the sale shortly thereafter — a nice way of generating interaction with customers.

4. Motorola Mobility Holdings

Succeeding at building awareness and sales, Motorola promoted its new photon 4G phone with a contest using promotional videos on Facebook, running them during random times every day. Customers who watched all the videos had a chance to win a new phone.

Takeaway: Giveaways, contests, polls all are great vehicles to use whenever you want to spice things up.  As always, giving people a good reason to get involved and respond increases interest.

5. Walgreen Company

“Two social networks are better than one,” says Walgreen’s director of social media.  The company used Foursquare and Facebook Places in a “Check-In’s that Make a Difference” campaign to distribute $6 million in flu shot vouchers to selected charities.  Whenever someone ‘checked in’ at a store, Walgreens donated a voucher.  Those who participated then took a Facebook vote on how to distribute the vouchers to the charities.

Takeaway: Good example of using the social toolkit in a creative and socially responsible way.  There are so many ways to connect to a customer on social media.  You just need to give it a little thought.  Start by understanding how they’re using social media – check-in’s being one way.

6. Deere and Company

An unlikely social media player, the farm equipment manufacturer has a large following after just one year of using social tools. “People want to touch the brand in social media,” says Deere’s manager of Internet research and information services.  They’ve succeeded by getting involved in industries in which Deere has an authoritative voice.

Takeaway: Yes, people WANT to touch your brand. To generate content for social platforms, your company can capitalize on this pointer:  In what areas, industries or perspectives does your company have an authoritative voice?  This one should be easy, because most companies consider themselves leaders.  Act like one with your social media content.

7.  Boeing Company

“It doesn’t benefit us to be jumping around to every tool or possibility that’s out there,” says the communication director.  “We want to make sure that the tools were using are the ones we can use effectively to serve our communications purposes.”

Takeaway: Sage words from Boeing. Social media is a tool, and while hip and still new to some companies, it’s not the only right answer to reach your audience, or your objectives.

8.  Allstate Corp.

Describing its “Mayhem” advertising character that personifies what can go wrong behind the wheel, director of consumer engagement says, “In social media, you want to be as relevant as you can to the audience.  The videos have really resonated with consumers.”  The campaign has gone viral with millions of hits on social platforms.

Takeaway: How can you increase your company’s relevance through social media?  Know thy customer!  Think creatively about how you can present your wisdom.  Involve staff outside of marketing.  Get help from professionals that know how to craft a compelling story.

9.  Abbott Labs

Individual products can be more popular on social platforms than the companies themselves. Abbott’s EAS Sports Nutrition line is marketed to fitness buffs, reaching many thousands of followers on Twitter and Facebook, far fewer than its corporate pages.

Takeaway:  This advice probably rings true for many types of companies that offer a flagship product or service.  While promoting an entire company can seem a daunting task, you can really hone in with your content (and concentrate your time) around a single product/service or product line. 

10.  Discover Financial Services

Discover’s goal is immediate response time, measured in seconds, not hours or days, says the company’s vice president of e-business.  “The medium makes it possible for customers to comment, so you better have your best game on.”

Takeaway: As you already know: you must be ready and willing to respond quickly.  This is the age of real-time marketing and pr. Remember that every comment is a potential conversation between you and your valued customers, visitors or readers.  You never know what kind of great ideas might come out of the conversation, negative or positive. Expect to be changed!

 

 

Appealing to Your Next-Generation Customer

Last summer I had a new business meeting with two twenty-something’s wearing shorts and T-shirts.  As an agency owner with more than 20 years in the business, I’ve had to adjust to the fact that now my clients will be younger than I am.

Not that I’ll start wearing shorts to meetings.  But it raises the question: will younger people want to do business with me?

It clearly goes beyond business attire.  So, companies 20 years old and older, take note.

What younger customers respond to is different than your current loyal base.

Why do I raise this issue?  Because we’re finding so many B2B companies still have no social media presence. There are misconceptions — based on a lack of understanding — in the B2B world about the value of social media.

It’s not just social media.  It’s corporate responsibility.  The concept of sharing information.  Giving to receive.  These are new paradigms, especially for older, successful companies.

Yes, you can rely on your traditional communications/marketing methods, up until your current customer base retires.  But if you’re not by now at least looking into some of the more ‘hip’ tools, in three to five years, you will be sorely behind the marketing curve.  And that will be the least of your worries.

More problematic will be having lost the opportunity to forge new relationships with younger customers.

Making a Customer for Life

Many of our clients (and well as Element-R) have long-standing relationships with customers who are uber-loyal.

I learned while doing PR in the medical field (where most standard PR tactics don’t work) the value of forging relationships early on, even at the college, graduate or medical school level.  By simply providing training materials and an expert speaker, we were able to have impact before the medical students became product specifiers.

So start now in reaching out to your customers to establish that loyalty.  Understand them.  How they are different.  How they want to be communicated with.  What they respond to.  Get out of your marketing box.

Case in point:

Last week the Wall Street Journal’s story, “Super Size Me Generation Takes Over at McDonald’s,” tells the story of Travis Heriaud, the 30-year-old son of a McDonald’s franchisee trying some new tactics with his own new restaurant, at a cost of $50,000.

As part of the grand opening, he incorporated a book giveaway for children, and a parade of zoo animals.

The father was skeptical.  But in just one year, the new McDonald’s (which has continued its unusual tactics) has exceeded corporate sales projections by 50 percent.

Needless to say, those ideas and others from next-generation owners are taking hold at other McDonald’s, with things like later evening hours, recycling bins, bringing in junk food critic mommy-bloggers for a tour of the kitchen, visiting schools to talk to kids, reading programs and back-to-school give-aways.

Heriaud wanted to demonstrate from day one that his restaurant “aimed to be part of the community,” noting, “we have a responsibility to be good corporate citizens.”

Customers are noticing.  Make sure yours will, too.

 

How Getting Personal Can Synch You With Your Customers

Talk about getting personal.

Here’s a fun story about getting and giving attention on a one-to-one level.

As reported on CBS TV Chicago in early February, local high school student Keenan Cahill found out just how much attention he could get by simply having fun.  He could’ve never expected the outcome.

Affected by a life-threatening disease called MPS-6 that stunts his growth — and dreaming about one day being an actor or singer — the outgoing teenager began videotaping his lip-synching routines to various hit songs, and posting them online.

His antics attracted the attention of Katy Perry, who recognized his fun video via Twitter, and sent out a link to the video.  The results?  The video went viral, and Cahill became an “Internet sensation.”

Even better, he began getting personal visits from 50 Cent, Tyra Banks and others who went so far as to join him in his Elmhurst, Illinois bedroom so they could ‘co-star’ with the lip-syncher.

Imagine a famous singer knocking on your front door!

Can we find lessons here for business?  Indeed.

The music stars recognized:

  • A fan’s interaction with their content (in this case, music)
  • The chance to further expose what this young man was doing to their other fans – since it benefited them from a pure publicity perspective
  • An opportunity to do good by:

– Showing up at his home to share in his excitement and fun takes on their songs
– Showing their humanity and support of a disabled teenager, leading to a thrilling outcome   that surely has changed his life.

This can no doubt be an inspiration for the B2B world.

  • What if … You and your staff found more (and more interesting) ways to connect with how your customers use your products or services, on a one-to-one level?
  • How can you go the extra mile to recognize their success, or help them achieve greater success?
  •  How can you SURPRISE your customers in a similar way (even one, two or three customers a year)?

Every company wants its videos to go viral.  While most business products and services don’t have a Hollywood aura, often we’re all too stuck in the boring business world to find (or put) the humanity into our stories.

This is the beauty of the connected world; the social media world we live in … The opportunity to be human, to speak and interact one-to-one with customers.

So start showing up for your customers.  Get involved.  Get personal.  Share in their excitement.  Recognize.  Act!

Challenge your team to do something out of the ordinary. Give!

Your customers will thank you for it.

Personal interaction is the new era in brand and reputation building.  B2B companies that apply it are succeeding in ways they never expected – proving the old adage: “give, and you shall receive.”

 

The One Step to One-Up Your Competition

Every business asks itself: how can I better compete?  My products or services are competitive – heck, they’re better than competitors!  They are priced right.  Customers are happy.  What more can we do to attract customers?

Even breakthrough products face this challenge.

A recent editorial in The Wall Street Journal addressed this succinctly, talking about AOL.com as the first to market with a social network – a service which is now, of course, failing in the social network department due to Facebook’s prominence.

If AOL had millions of members back in the late-90s, long before Facebook launched in in 2004, what went wrong?

Ignorance of the value of the communities its members were creating.  “Not using the service the ways its customers did,” according to the author, a former AOL employee.  Instead, AOL put the emphasis on attracting advertisers to its content.  They didn’t “get it.”

This is a lesson that translates to marketing.

    • How deep is your grasp of your customers’ use of, and experience with, your product or service? (Be honest!)
    • Do you understand the business value/implications of their purchases of your product, versus others?
    • Are you ignoring the potential community that could be built for your customers?

As we’ve seen with the wild success of Facebook, people want to belong, for personal and business purposes.  This was proven in business long ago by IT companies who have vital user communities.

The overall takeaway is that engagement with a product or service is not about what the company thinks, but what the customer thinks.

Exploit that in all of your marketing efforts (as previously discussed in this blog) – even if you aren’t ready to develop a community – and give yourself a competitive edge.

Arimidex

Fight B.A.D.D. (Business Attention Deficit Disorder) with A Five-Point Approach to Tying PR Strategy to Business Goals – Part II

Part II of II

When fighting Business Attention Deficit Disorder or B.A.D.D., (see part one) use the following five-point approach to better tie your business objectives to PR strategy:

1.  Subject matter – The subjects or topics of your PR campaign can be broad, narrow, or anything in between. PR can be used in many different ways to support and achieve your overall business and communications objectives.  Some examples (but certainly not exhaustive) will shed light:

Strategy: To inform and educate:

Tactics: Basic guide to selecting your product/service; answers to questions customers commonly ask

Strategy: Introduce a product or service

Tactic: Intro package to editors/bloggers; press release; tailored pitch for editorial coverage; messages as premise for videos and other social media

Strategy: Support sales

Tactic: Content for sales presentations and leave-behinds (re-use of intro materials, educational pieces, industry issues and statistics); content for content and inbound marketing and social media; content for whitepapers and other downloads;           customer success stories; testimonials for website

Strategy: Establish visibility

Tactics: Proactive content placement; thought leadership pieces; blog and other social media comments; establish a blog on topic and other content marketing; one-on-one interviews with editors at trade shows

Strategy: Enter new markets

Tactics: Speak on platform at national conference; sponsor a published roundtable; content for creative introduction to prospects/media

Strategy: Play up staff or staff knowledge

Tactics: Educational pieces addressing sales issues, business problems related to your product or service; published Q&A interview with company executive

Strategy: Showcase thought leadership

Tactics: Position pieces on industry trends; articles incorporating commentary from other industry members; educational and opinion pieces

2.  Tone.  While there still a place for formal writing in any published content, companies need to get away from corporate/industry speak, a heavy commercial message, and strive to truly be informative — and importantly, more personal in tone.  (Think about Southwest, and how different flying is because the attendants inject personality into the ho-hum recitation of standard safety instructions.)

– What kind of company personality do you want to convey in your communications? Does your industry     necessitate a strictly business approach?
– How can you show how your company is different?
– Can you convey what your customers like most about your company in your content?
– What do your prospects most need to hear, and what is the most effective way to
  present that information?

 

You can even go as far as creating a company persona, and have some fun with it.  Your ultimate approach will be dictated at least in part by the final form of your content… Will it be a feature article, a staff written piece, a blog, a sales support document on your website?

3.  Placement strategy and campaign length.  Ideally companies should be prepared for an ongoing, monthly outreach program to capture all the opportunities available in print and online.  Like advertising, you can’t just do one PR piece and expect the world to knock on your door.

Your objectives should guide you on how long and how active your PR program should be. If you’re trying to achieve growth via maximum exposure, for example, you’ll need a year-long effort. If you have something especially timely to announce, a shorter burst campaign is workable. We announced an award for health-related company that had zero media exposure prior to the campaign. Through a very aggressive media relations effort, we achieved print, online and radio coverage to 60 million people within a matter of a few months.

In terms of placement strategy, with all the digital media you simply must go beyond your trusty trade publications and their websites. There are a wealth of outlets for your message.  All your selections should be based on a thorough understanding of where your prospects are finding the information they rely upon.  Newer tools like Slide Share and YouTube, as well as the old-fashioned advertorial, should not be overlooked for re-use of any of your PR content.

4. The public part of public relations. PR goes beyond media. While I’m personally not particularly fond of PR stunts, they can be effective at attracting attention. The real question here is, how and where can you interact with customers and the marketplace?

A great forum for this line of thinking is trade shows. Instead of just having an exhibit, plan a year ahead to pitch your talk at national conferences. Or give a live presentation at your exhibit. Hold an event of your own, and involve the industry in a relevant way, as we did with an “Innovation Gallery” for USG’s introduction of Fortacrete.

5.  Investment versus other marketing strategies. How much you invest versus other tactics again goes back to your communication objectives, and how you’ve planned as a whole to attack them.  PR can work alone, but ideally you want true integration across all of your communications tools.  Since connecting with the prospect takes multiple touches, it makes sense that you’d want to reach them not only with PR, but through direct sales and marketing, interactive/digital/social outlets, e-mail marketing, advertising, etc. PR can be the backbone of your communications program, or a smaller piece, again depending on how you’ve decided will be the most effective ways to reach your target.

In our experience, many companies don’t exploit their PR strategy or toolkit to their fullest potential. A skilled practitioner can guide you from the easy steps, to the more sophisticated (like hosting roundtables, or using a PR topic as the basis for an integrated educational campaign). With the online and social media worlds’ voracious appetite for content, PR can be taken to a whole new level – helping you achieve your business goals faster than ever.