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.


The Power of Two: Three Reasons Why Sales and Marketing Can (And Must) Communicate

One of the greatest failings of a business is not listening to its customers. The next is when marketing doesn’t, or won’t, listen to its sales people.

While far from a new problem, in the era of social marketing, such a weakness is potentially disruptive and costly. When so many companies acknowledge that developing targeted, relevant content can help attract customers, some companies still refuse to tap the one source that knows what’s actually happening on the ground.

Attention Marketers: You Don’t Know EVERYTHING

Here’s the thing. Marketing serves a vitally important function, but it does not have all the answers. Far from it. And, honestly, how can it? Its inputs derive from the company leadership, product development, competitive analysis and customer and industry trends.

Anyone who thinks that all the solutions to a company’s marketing strategy can be constantly cooked up in a lone office is either overworked, over confident or overlooking the obvious.

Here are three reasons why an ongoing marketing /sales dialogue is crucial.

Deeper Insights. There might be an issue your customers are thinking and talking about right now that is crucial to their sales and revenue. The good thing is that your sales people know about it. The bad thing is that you don’t. Imagine the rewards you could reap if you were addressing that issue that went to the core of your customers’ pain and that your company understood it and shared insights on how to solve it?  How much long term good will and potential revenue are you missing out on?

Info Alignment. Marketers are generally measured on producing deliverables –brochures, white papers, ads, and so forth – even if none of that activity results in measurable financial impact. Aligning what “stuff” works for what stage the prospect is in the sales funnel does two things:

1. It puts a microscope on the kinds of support and sales materials that will help move the prospect to a customer, cutting down on useless and costly materials; and

2. it arms sales people with the right piece of information at the right time to supply useful and relevant information to drive the process forward.

Working From The Same Page. A perennial rant from sales is that it believes marketing doesn’t listen to what it needs and delivers materials and messages it doesn’t want. Message to marketing: don’t ignore sales, involve them.

Sales knows what resonates with customers, and how to best communicate it, so what better way to improve your marketing and messaging by routinely bringing them into the process of coming up with ideas/angles? Marketing will get valuable inputs and sales will get useful, valuable and timely “stuff” they really want.

So many channels and mechanisms exist, from email to Twitter, to communicate mission critical information rapidly and regularly. Developing two-way access between sales and marketing will not only promote better communication, but ongoing trust. This cultural shift, while not easy, is essential.

Marketing and sales shouldn’t be treated like two separate operations; they are simply two parts of a bigger process. When you connect the two, good things happen for the entire organization.

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.”


Why I Value Strategic Planning: The Story of a PR “Dirty Harry”

Strategic planning. You can’t avoid, ignore, or gloss over it. It’s elemental to what we as marketing professionals do for our clients.

Our firm values planning and presents its approach on our website, and discusses it with our prospects. But something happened last week that compelled me to write about it.

It began with a movie.

When I was younger, I was much more of an avid movie watcher. Kids changed that. Heading out to catch a dinner and flick with my wife was not a regular event. Frankly, sometimes paying the babysitter was almost as expensive as the ticket and the meal.

Now, my kids are older and I’m catching up on a few films that I missed during their first runs. Last week, with a few hours to myself, Michael Clayton caught my eye. Something to do with shady lawyers and unscrupulous global corporations. So much for escapism.

The flick was great. The ending was delicious. But it unexpectedly delivered a glimpse back to my early PR agency career that earned me the nickname of “Dirty Harry.”  As Harry Callahan said in the movie, “Every dirty job that comes along.”

The lead character, Michael Clayton, is a bagman. A fixer. His sole purpose is to clean up the dirt made by clients and family of clients to grease the skids for the firm to retain its big corporate retainers. My dirty jobs moniker didn’t go to that extreme. But I proved myself adept cleaning up other people’s account messes.

Because I went from a corporate background to an agency (note to younger PR pros: best do it the other way around), I had to work harder to prove to a skeptical V.P. and the account supervisor who championed me that I had agency mettle.

The first assignment was to re-pitch a pitch gone wrong. Not the best circumstances when you’re presenting the same information from the same agency to the same contacts but with a different voice. I nailed it. And it got me noticed. What else can this guy do?

From there, it was on to handling more difficult media relations issues, poor project management and understanding clients expectations. All this prepped me for the biggest dirty job: Propping up an alcoholic senior account executive, whose boss took a vacation, right before a high profile client event in New York. The entire project, from the strategy to tactical, on-the-ground details, was a complete disaster. And that’s when it struck me: where was the planning? Where was the collaboration? Where was the leadership?

The project was rudderless, from a clueless client, right down to the agency where no one could make a decision.  And the event was only three days away. So, I started making decisions.

“Do you think that’s the right decision,” the team would ask?  “I have no idea,” I responded, “but it’s the decision we’re making today.”  As the quote says, “Done is better than perfect.”

After three days of hurried, non-stop activity, the event came and went off without a hitch. I was thanked with an on-the-spot bonus. But I found myself mystified about how the situation arose in the first place.

Seeing so many weak links, I came away with a greater appreciation for planning. After this experience, I started asking questions that were more pointed, about goals and objectives and what the client was really out to achieve. That was met with the higher-ups responding with, “Don’t worry about those details; they’re above your pay grade.”

True, the people who work at agencies and clients are only human. Mistakes will be made. But with thought-through strategy and tactics, everyone will know which way everyone is shooting. And when you’re working in the clutch, you’re more likely to know the answer to this question:

“…Did he fire six shots or only five?”




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 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.


Blocked From Blogging? Create a “Non-blog” Blog Instead

There’s a lot B2B companies should like about blogging when it comes to raising awareness of their companies and delivering customers.

Consider the following eye-opening stats courtesy of HubSpot’s “State of Inbound Marketing” report for 2011:

  • 57% of companies using blogs reported that they acquired customers from leads generated directly from their blog.
  • Businesses are increasingly aware their blog is highly valuable: 85% of businesses rated their company blogs as useful, important or critical. 27% rated their company blog as critical to their business.
  • Businesses are now in the minority if they do not blog. From 2009 to 2011, the percentage of businesses with a blog grew from 48% to 65%.


The writing on the wall as to how blogging could serve your business is so big that Mr. Magoo couldn’t miss it.

To be sure, not all companies need a blog nor should they if they can’t marshal the time and resources to make it good.

But then there are those enterprises that understand enough about social media to go as far as to create social media policies to ensure everyone understands that engagement isn’t allowed.

They have their reasons, some real, some imagined. Compared to many other industries, social media engagement for highly regulated industries, such as financial, pharmaceutical and law, is more of an involved undertaking.

If you work in one of these segments, is developing and sharing content out of bounds for you? The answer, thankfully, is no.

One of the huge benefits of blogging is increased traffic. Search engines rank more highly those websites that offer users regularly updated content. Consistent updating brings search engine spiders to your website frequently, resulting in an increased number of crawls, which in turn increases the number of citations on Google, which means more people could find your business.

But you don’t automatically need a proper blog to deliver targeted, helpful and educational content to your prospects. Blogging platforms make this regular addition of new content easy. They’re designed for it. But even with outreach limitations, you can still build better organic search results with a simple alternative: a non-blog blog.

A non-blog blog is single page of a website altered every week to include a new piece of content, along with an additional page to archive previous weeks’ posts. Here’s what you need to get started.

      • Gain permission to post previously corporate-approved and publically available content. There is nothing controversial about sharing what has already been approved by your legal department
      • Take stock of available content, such as white papers, reports, educational materials, videos, podcasts, etc.  Also, ferret out all related stories occurring within your industry.
      • Revise the page’s layout to include copy that explains what visitors will see on the page and why you are providing it. If you have a rationale, share it.
      • Set up your weekly content portion of the page so it is easily distinguishable from the rest of the page’s content.


Now, for a quick note of caution about limitations. First, don’t get too fancy with the page and don’t work to alter the primary navigation. That won’t go over well with the corporate Webmaster. What is limiting about this approach is that it will take the Webmaster time to update the page.  He or she is likely stretched thin.

Now, I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re thinking, “Just how effective could this be?”


For one of our clients, we altered its portion of a huge large corporate site to mimic a blog using this very approach, encompassing a piece of new content every two weeks (yep, busy Webmaster), such as existing articles, podcasts and curated information. You can read how that turned out here.

Spreading your content, while adhering to company policy and without running afoul of industry regulations, is possible with some imagination and a little hustle. Obstacles to social engagement can be overcome. After all, bureaucracy is the art of making the possible, impossible.





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.



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

Part I of II

So many businesses suffer from Business Attention Deficit Disorder (B.A.D.D.), a condition that can strike any part of a company when inattention, poor planning, indifference or taking on too much at one time takes focus away from mission critical operations and initiatives.

One of the bigger victims of B.A.D.D. is marketing and PR. With all that those words encompass today, many businesses wrestle with the wide range of PR and content marketing strategies that can enhance their brand and visibility via traditional, online and social media platforms.

The tools at your disposal to engage your audiences have grown precipitously: social media press releases; on-the-fly video; tweeting, liking, and linking via social media; blogging; and converting via landing pages offering advice and free content. The uses and combinations are astounding.

For some businesses afflicted by B.A.D.D., PR and marketing could indeed be more than just window dressing … more than “just send out a monthly press release” … more than that thing you or your agency does by rote without much regard to “why” or “what’s next.” To effectively capture customers and the media – and make your marketing department look good in the process – you need a game plan.

Don’t we all face more “business objectives” than we can work against in 24 hours?  I know I do. I find that organizing a plan complete with objectives, strategies and specific tactics grounds my work, putting me on the right path of knowing what we’re producing  is true progress against our client’s goal.

It’s not doing for the sake of doing – it’s doing with purpose. Taking the time to think your communications strategies through can also lead to some fun, new creative ideas for getting your message out there (but that’s a whole other topic).

PR with Purpose

To deliver value, you have to know what you’re trying to accomplish (starting with the business plan) and you have to think through all the possible strategies.

Begin with your set of business goals. Most companies’ number one business objective is growth.

E.g., Business Objective: Grow business by 10% in 2012.

Business goals then translate into marketing/communication/PR goals. How can PR affect that growth? What exactly should it accomplish (the more specific, the better), and how should be measured (in website/social media visits; leads; other metrics)?

E.g., Communications Objectives: Generate greater exposure among targets with goal of 20% increase in leads.  Support sales outreach to direct prospects and influencers.

PR strategy (as well as strategies for using other communications tools) can then be built.

E.g., PR Strategies: Examine/expand on messaging to sales targets.  Establish stronger voice in the industry with proactive outreach to traditional, social and digital outlets with contributed articles, participation in ongoing editorial coverage, guest columns, blog and LlinkedIn posts, white papers, etc. 

Exposure is relatively easy to achieve via publicity, if you are committed to being proactive and available to participate in editorial coverage.  And of course, the right content is king. The kind or flavor of exposure you plan depends on your objectives and PR strategies.

Next week, see Part II for the Five PR Variables you need to consider to better tie PR to your business objectives.

Keeping your Child’s Eye Open for Greater Creativity

“How sad if we pass through life and never see it with the eyes of a child…When we start off in life, we look at reality with wonder, but it isn’t the intelligent wonder of the mystics; it’s the formless wonder of the child.  Then wonder dies and is replaced by boredom, as we develop language, words, and concepts.  Then hopefully, if we’re lucky, we’ll return to wonder again.” – Anthony de Mello

One of the disadvantages of growing up is the loss of your “child’s eye”, that simple accepting, sense of wonder of first time-experiences unmarked by skepticism or cynicism.

After reading a comment from Sean McGinnis on a SpinSucks post about developing social content for B2B companies, I began looking for resources on how we might lighten up the reality-based shades we adults wear and so we can better see and appreciate what our businesses have to offer our clients.

Naturally, we have to create programs that deliver a business outcome, whatever that may be, but staying open to those creative possibilities could help us deliver the right ideas.

I came up with short list of resources (some of which themselves are expansive) to help keep the child-like wonder alive.

1. One Man’s Wonder, by writer, traveler and marcom agency owner Jeffery Willus, is about looking further, paying attention, making time for discovery, celebrating little things, and being open to wonder. Check out his “How To Be in the Moment – 101 Tips” series.

2. 50 Ways to Lighten Up & Become Child Like Again. Many of these seem elemental, but they resonated with me. When my son was much younger and yanking open our kitchen cabinet doors (and subsequently baby-proofing the place) I decided to make one small cabinet completely his.  I called it “The Discovery Vault”.  Each day I’d place something new for him to discover and play with. It got to the point that if I’d forgotten to put something new, he’d show disappointment. He wanted to keep the vault fresh. Reminds me of fresh content.

3. From my recent online acquaintance, Kaarina Dillabough defends (and rightly so) the many times we believe we’re not creative. She delivers a simple list of 10 creativity starters.

4. If these don’t resonate, take the adult path of negative/positive reinforcement with “How to stifle your creativity in 10 easy steps”.  Number one on the list goes to the heart of thinking like an adult versus a kid.

So what did I get out of these? It came through loud and clear. As adults running businesses, we have to act realistically, sensibly and rationally… most of the time.  When we can free ourselves, dreaming, curiosity, and wishful thinking — all of the traits a child would have – keep us open to endless possibilities.

How do you keep you child’s eye open and alive?



Dig Within Your Organization for a Stronger Sales Story

The credit crunch is real, but according to one company recently quoted in The Wall Street Journal, “We don’t need loans, we need sales!”

Typically, marketing budgets are often reduced in a downturn.  But the need for sales – to generate demand – remains.  What to do? Take stock of your marketing messages.

Some companies are so busy trying to sell (with or without marketing support), they’re not taking the time to uncover value that might be buried within the company. The New Year is the perfect time to do some head-down thinking about how you are presenting your company.

Initially, talk to your best customers about why they buy from you. What makes them tick when it comes to your offering?  Do a deep dive to uncover all aspects that are relevant to them. Their answers may surprise you.

Also, engage your front line, the sales team. What are they communicating that resonates best with prospects? Think of several ways to get those messages out to the market.

There’s a simple Q&A exercise we often use with our clients to expand their thinking about how they market themselves.  Some of the questions include:

What value do you provide to customers outside of the product and service itself?  Do you educate and supply resources relevant to their industry?

What else are you really selling?  Are you selling trust?  Teamwork?  Faster delivery?  Excellent services?  Cost-savings? Expertise?  Make a list.  Why should customers keep buying from you?

What results are you helping them deliver to their customers? Is what you’re delivering having an impact? Are there internal results, like greater efficiencies, labor-savings, and the like?

What about their larger business environment — their problems and goals? Ask what business problems are you helping the customer solve.  Again, think about what goes beyond the product or service itself.

If any part of the value you deliver is related to real expertise, your advice and knowledge is worth just as much as your product or service.

What tips that can be shared about choosing or using your product/service?  Use proof points (read hard numbers) about your product and its users.

What staff member knowledge be tapped and shared?  Your employees are your brand extensions.  What they know can extend your firm’s visibility.

In what specific areas could education of the market be helpful?  Give your prospects a walk-through, an introductory session, or a demo on video, and capture the same content in writing for your website, social media and PR programs.

This line of thinking and brainstorming leads easily to a path of new promotional ideas you can use in any medium: online, social, PR, events and trade shows, webinars, ads, blogs, email and direct marketing, etc. And once you have your new idea(s), share them with your customers for feedback. They’re sure to make improvements.

With limited dollars, it’s more important than ever to analyze what you say, and how you say it, in all the ways you face the customer.