4 Tips on How to Get Your Company the “Right” Kind of Customers

May 14, 2014

Most of us try not to be all things to all people, especially in the B-to-B world. For those of you who are, I feel bad for you.

If part of your criteria for new business is “anyone with money” or “I hope to get paid,” I have to believe you’re not running a growing or profitable business.

We’re in the competitive niche of marketing and have taken the position of not being all things to all people. We have defined our niche as helping manufacturers who want to reach the professional tradesman and promote it appropriately.

Here are some tips that have helped us grow and prosper in our competitive space:

  1. Hire us to be effective, not efficient.
  2. We help clients become profit leaders, not market leaders.
  3. Category knowledge – intellectual capital.
  4. Don’t be afraid to focus - be afraid of mediocrity.

Make your value proposition clear because relevance and differentiation do matter.

You and your company only have so much time. Why not spend it on clients you choose? Remember, bad clients can drive out good ones! If you stay true to your positioning, new clients will find you.


A Framework for Writing a Good Post

May 6, 2014

I’ve been blogging for over three years and learned from the best, Michael Gass. Michael is a consultant who helps agencies like ours get into social media. And he’s very good at what he does. Here’s a guest post from him on best practices when you’re writing a post. Enjoy!

Guest post from Michael Gass.

Inverted pyramid style of writing

The inverted pyramid style of writing works as a guide to consistently produce appealing online content that creates new business leads.

A framework for writing meaningful, properly constructed and search engine optimized posts will allow you to write faster and more effectively.

Over the past seven years, I’ve worked with over 170 agency owners to help them create a niche blog and write meaningful content. I ask every client to write a post a day, thirty posts over a thirty-day period. The tight time-frame for writing an initial “base of content” helps them develop a custom writing process. Once they have a process, it’s easier to write on a realistic schedule of one to two posts per week and remain consistent, even when the agency is at its busiest.

I’ve developed a template for writing an effective blog post from my experience training and coaching others.

My blog post template consists of eight parts:

1. Blog Post Title

You need to think about search. Clever titles can create interest, but not at the expense of search-ability.

Fuel Lines has been ranked among the top 150 marketing blogs in the world according to Ad Age’s Power 150. Search engines provide the most traffic to my site. I own the first position in organic search for “ad agency new business.”

When I first started writing for Fuel Lines back in 2007, I didn’t know a lot about SEO. All I knew was Google wanted people to be able to find what they were searching for. That’s why they periodically change their search algorithms to offset those who try to use “black hat” tactics to game their system.

I created a niche blog that was written to a very specific target audience. It was naturally optimized for search. Consistently using “ad agency new business” in almost every post title helped accelerate my ranking in organic search. I discovered this practice also works well when repurposing content through social media channels such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Including my key words provided targeted traffic to my blog because it identified to the intended audience.

I also recommend concise titles of less than 40–50 characters. This helps when posts are re-shared in Twitter that limits a tweet to 140 characters, including the URL.

2. Lead with the Conclusion

Attention spans are very short online. Most people tend to scan rather than read word-for-word. I always lead with the conclusion. In a single sentence, I tell my readers what their benefit or takeaway will be if they commit the time to read my posts. The practice of creating a summary sentence also provides focus for writing a post.

3. Introductory Paragraph

An introductory paragraph is essential in preparing your readers for the information they’ll gain from your article. You shouldn’t begin your main points without properly setting them up in an introductory paragraph. My readers also prefer that I get to the point quickly instead of using a lengthy story or example that takes too much time.

4. The Main Body

I’ve found the “reader’s digest” or executive summary type content is always appealing to my readers. They enjoy bullet points and numbered lists. It’s proven through my post analytics.

When I write, I always imagine how busy my readers must be. I try to do a lot of work on their behalf and to be as concise as possible. The shorter the post, the more work that goes into it.

I recommend to clients that they keep their initial content between 400 to 500 words. From my experience, they will get the most return on their time investment if they stay within this range. You can always link posts together, create a white paper or an eBook by combining individual posts around the same subject for a more comprehensive piece.

Also create short paragraphs of only 3–4 sentences. If it’s more than this, the content looks too daunting and you’ll lose your readers.

You should use simple words when creating your content. Readers are not impressed by your use of complex words. Your choice of words should be based on what will be clearer. The use of complex words and jargon will frustrate your readers because it slows them down and interferes with their comprehension.

Newspaper reporters are trained in writing in the inverted pyramid style, a metaphor used by journalists to illustrate how information should be prioritized and structured in a text such as a news report. The most important information is always located at the top of the article. This style works extremely well when writing online content.

I’ve found that Copywriters tend to have the most difficulty making the transition from writing for print to creating content for the web. They tend to forget search-ability, scan-ability and brevity.

6. Use Images

The use of an image or photo will help to pull in readers to your content. I either use my own photos and screenshots or use Photo Pin as an image resource library of Common Licensed images. I’ll also embed video, infographics or a SlideShare presentation.

Be sure to make your images searchable by taking the time to include an Alt tag. It’s generally recommended to be concise when creating alt tags. Keep them around 150 characters, and written in the context of your post.

7. Make it Personal

I always write my own content. It provides my professional enrichment, my own customized continuing educational program.

Writing also helps me to make an emotional connection with my audience. Readers get to know me, warts and all. I’ve found the more transparent I can be greatly improves the appeal of my content.

My writing accelerates “relationship building” with my readers and provides a steady stream of new business opportunities because people want to work with other people that they know trust and like.

8. Before You Publish

Here are a few things that I consistently do before publishing a post:

  • Add internal links: I don’t try to say everything in a single post. I take the time to add internal links of relevant content that I’ve written to the bottom of almost every post. This practice has greatly increased my page views and the amount of time readers stay on my site.
  • Include Tags and Categories: Content management systems like WordPress use tags and categories to help readers find the information that they are looking for. I try to be selective in the tags and categories that I add to a post and not overuse them. Categories is the primary way that readers will navigate my content so I have a drop-down category list in my sidebar at the top of the fold.
  • Disperse Content: To give a new post a jump-start, I will either automatically or manually post it to my Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google +, Pinterest and StumbleUpon accounts. I will also use HootsuitePro to re-post it several times a day for the first week in Twitter. This practice also helps boost a new post’s ranking in search.


Have Your Videos Gone Viral?

April 30, 2014

I guess in a perfect world, all videos would go viral and thousands of people would be flocking to your website. Don’t get me wrong, that would be nice, but that’s not my strategy.

I guess I take a different approach. I’d rather have hundreds of the right people see my videos and act on them as opposed to millions who may see them and do nothing. The purpose, in my mind, is to get people to notice and then engage with us because of what we said (content). In other words, bigger is not always better.

In my opinion, you’re better off making a series of very short videos (keep each to one thought or idea). Ideally under 2 minutes is what I tell folks to shoot at.


Here are some thoughts on content.

  • Focus on a problem your customer might have from their perspective (what happened if the problem isn’t resolved?)
  • Provide tips to solve it.
  • Utilize the video medium to show examples or illustrate a solution. Here’s your chance to be creative.
  • Make sure they know your company has the solution to solve their problem.

So don’t worry about becoming famous with a video that goes viral. Set your sights on videos that reach your target audience and addresses a solution to one of their problems.

If you like this post, you may want to read:

Why Videos are Such an Important Way to Reach the Professional Tradesman

B-to-B Marketers: Are you Taking Advantage of Online Videos?

Trade Shows: Are You Telling a Compelling Story?

April 29, 2014

I don’t know about you, but we go to lots of trade shows during the course of a year, and I sometimes scratch my head as I walk by some of the booths and say,“What were they thinking?”

Either they haven’t had a new message in years or they are talking so much about me, me, me that I wonder why anyone would walk into their booth. I’m not talking about small companies either. I’m sure some of them have seven-figure trade show budgets. I always wonder what kind of metric they use (or are forced to report to management to justify ROI)?

Trade show booth exampleSo let’s step back for a minute and assume that you have a great product, customer service to die for and a sales staff that understands and can articulate your value proposition. My question is, “Does your trade show booth tell a compelling story of why folks should be doing business with you?” If that value proposition doesn’t stick out and scream at potentials, then you may be wasting valuable time, talent and resources that can be put to use elsewhere.

Your pre-show checklist should include:

  • Defining the show objective based on the target audience that is attending the show. Highlight what’s in it for me, the customer.
  • Defining the types of leads you want to come out of the show with. (Remember, quality over quantity.)
  • Defining how to qualify them as to where they are in the sales funnel.
  • Communicating your trade show objectives with the folks that will be working the booth. Let them know what is expected of them.
  • Have post-show follow-up all ready to go before you go to the show so it can be implemented as soon as you get back. Thank you note, phone scripts and who’s doing what.
  • Review the content you’re sending out after the show so it corresponds with what the prospect is looking for (product info, distributor, local contractor).
  • When sending something, make it be something of value – a copy of your latest e-book, a competitive crossover chart. Something that will help them do their job better and make them feel good about you. Sales will follow.

Trade shows are so expensive, and to make the most out of them, you need a plan.

What kinds of things are you doing to maximize your trade shows?

40% of Salespeople Aren’t Making Their Numbers. Can Marketing Help?

April 22, 2014

I recently read an article in eMarketer.com that dealt with sales stats in 2013, and that almost 40% of the sales forces weren’t making their numbers and it floored me. I sure wouldn’t want to be running a company based on sales of XXX and then the sales force under-delivers by that large of a difference-Yikes!

2013 wasn’t a bad year for the economy (we’ve seen a lot worse), and I can’t help but wonder what their issues were in closing the sale. One of the biggest reasons given was the sale ended in a “no decision.” What does that mean?

Here’s an interesting graphic:

It sounds to me like either the leads weren’t qualified correctly or the salesman didn’t do his homework in determining where the prospect was in the sales funnel. It also sounds like there were multiple decision makers in the process and possibly they all were not included in the sales pitch. A few other things bother me as well:

  • What I can’t understand in this report is that 31% were unable to effectively communicate value to a prospect - yes, you heard me right.
  • 26% had content that wasn’t aligned with the buyer
  • 20% didn’t have the necessary content or resources for selling

This sounds like a great opportunity for marketing to step in and help fill the content voids they are talking about. It also begs the question of whether these results were from a traditional selling model versus that of one using social media as part of the mix.

If you had good content that was searchable on the internet, chances are the right people will find that info long before they identify themselves to you as a prospect and get a lot of their basic homework done first. You’d be able to show your expertise in a market segment so they think of you as an industry expert, which will help set you apart (value of your brand) when they finally decide to contact you. Marketing can help answer those questions ahead of time if we know the different stages of the selling cycle and what’s important to address at each level.

Am I missing the boat here or do you agree?

8 Tips for Media Interviews

April 17, 2014

Today we have a blog post from Rosemarie Ascherl, PR Foreman at Sonnhalter, discussing tips for successful media interviews.


Do you ever pick up an industry trade journal and wonder why your company’s perspective hasn’t been included? Editors often rely on “round-up” articles, which entail interviewing several manufacturers’ spokespeople to develop an industry trend story. The trick to getting your company included in these stories is to portray your company as a thought leader.

Proactively developing and leveraging relationships with the media to make sure your company is included in round-up articles is fairly easy to do. Your marketing communications firm has these relationships and can facilitate the media interviews with your company spokesperson.

Once an interview is scheduled, what do you need to do?

  1. If you don’t know the editor, familiarize yourself with the editor by reviewing past issues of the publication and checking out the editor’s LinkedIn profile.
  2. Make sure your calendar is blocked for the interview and you are in a quiet office where you will not be interrupted. Most interviews are conducted in a simple 15- to 30-minute phone conversation. Editors are always working against deadlines, so cancelling or postponing an interview could mean you’re not included in the article – or worse, your competitor gets included instead!
  3. Request questions prior to the interview. Editors sometimes provide you with questions to guide the conversation. Make sure you review the questions before the interview and give them some thought. It doesn’t hurt to talk them through with a colleague that may have additional input.
  4. Sometimes the conversation will veer from the questions, but know what you want to tell the editor. The editor should be able to walk away with three to four main points regarding the subject.
  5. Follow up, or have your public relations representative follow up, with appropriate press materials or graphics that you reference in your conversation.
  6. Do not tell the media anything you don’t want to see in print. Be honest. If the editor asks you a question you aren’t prepared to answer, tell him or her you’ll get back to them with an answer [and then be sure to follow up].
  7. Do not expect to see the article before it is published. Some editors will provide you with a chance to review your comments; however, this is merely a courtesy and should not be presumed. If given the opportunity to review the article, stick to checking the facts you provided and don’t attempt to alter the editor’s writing style.
  8. Thank the editor for the coverage. And of course, offer your assistance and time for future articles that the editor might need help with.

Once the editor knows you’re a well-prepared, reliable source, they will be inclined to request your opinions for future articles—resulting in more valuable editorial content for your company!

Do You Have a Strategy for Negative Social Media Posts?

April 16, 2014

I’m amazed by the stats that more than half of those on social media don’t have a plan to respond to negative social media posts.  Social media isn’t new, isn’t going away, and if you’ve followed or read anything about this space, you know there have been numerous posts about the subject.

The February 2014 research from Social Media Marketing University substantiates the notion that people still aren’t taking this seriously.

Negative issues need to be addressed and what better way to hear about issues than on social platforms. Don’t you want to know what customers are saying about you? You’d better be monitoring them and jump in with a plan to respond. There are several monitoring options out there will help you. Here are some free ones – Social mention, Google alerts, Hootsuite and Tweetdeck.

I recently had an experience with a major faucet manufacturer about a replacement. We had to get a new tub at home and my wife wanted to update the faucets, which we did. The manufacturer sent the wrong spout and it took our plumber almost 2 months to get the replacement for it. They weren’t good at customer service, just making excuses. I made mention (by brand name) on a tweet what my frustration was, and true to form, heard nothing back.

In the short run, ignoring me may not be a big deal to them since I had already purchased the tub set, but in the long run, my wife is planning to replace all the faucets in our 3 bathrooms. Guess who isn’t going to be considered for that purchase?

In a world where we have alternative plans for everything, don’t overlook social responses to negative posts. It’s better to address them straight on or they will fester and come back to bite you when you least expect it. Have a plan in place.

Are You Using Influencers in Your New Product Launch to Professional Tradesmen?

April 15, 2014

When you’re planning your next new product launch beyond your traditional media lists that you send to, are you utilizing the Influencers in the market you’re going after?

Most times you don’t think about those bloggers out there that have big followings in the markets that you’re trying to reach.

An Influencer is someone who is able to mobilize options and create reactions when talking about a specific market or topic. They are the kinds of folks you want talking about you and your products. For example, if your target is mechanical contractors, you should be talking with John Mesenbrink from mechanical-hub. His blog is known throughout the industry and he’s a respected source of information.

Beyond getting them samples to try, they are looking for material you can provide so they can produce their own content. If possible, some exclusive little tidbits are always helpful. They can spread the word to a large number of your target audience in a short period of time…that’s the good news. The  potential bad news is you can’t send them a press release and expect them to run it as is. Influencers make and have opinions, and we always run the risk that they may not be as kind as you would in evaluating the product. They will always be fair, but to some marketers, that’s a relative term.

Long-term strategy would be to identify and start-up a conversation long before you launch that new product. Get to know them and they you. Again, it’s about relationships.

Are You Getting Your Sales Force Involved in Social Media?

April 9, 2014

No, I’m not trying to delegate the social media tactics and implementations to the sales force, they’re too busy selling. But if you aren’t getting them involved to a degree, you could be missing some opportunities for prospecting, research, networking and branding.

Let’s face it, your sales forces are in the trenches every day solving customer’s problems. Chances are other folks are having similar problems. Why shouldn’t you share those solutions with other customers and potential new ones?

Don’t Overlook One of Your Best Resources for Great Content – Your Sales Force

Here are four things salespeople can do that will help marketing by using social media:

  1. LinkedIn - Make sure all your folks are on LinkedIn and their profiles include a uniform and concise description of the company. The marketing department can help with the wordsmithing. Messaging should be on your business and the solutions your company offers. Don’t forget to include links to appropriate videos and websites. Have your salespeople join and be active in LinkedIn groups. Chances are that one of your trade associations or users have groups already set up. Have them monitor and participate when appropriate, but make sure they aren’t selling. Have them put on their problem-solving hat and offer solutions.
  2. Social media training - We’re not trying to make them experts, but to give them an overview of what social media is and how you are using it as another tool. Once they understand the why and how, they can be a great resource for you. The training could be a 30-45 minute “go-to meeting” with refreshers possibly at the annual sales meeting. This could pay off big time with the next two items.
  3. Company blog - If your company doesn’t have one, maybe you should consider doing one. The biggest challenge is writing good content, and if you train your sales force, they will give you plenty to write about. Make sure they know you have a blog. Make them read it and make suggestions on future topics. First ask them for ideas on articles that would benefit the users. Once you get a list, identify those within the sales force that has the most experience/expertise in that product or market. In some cases, they might want to take a stab at writing it, but I’d suggest someone in marketing interview them, write a draft and get it back to them for approval. It would be ideal, when possible, to get an actual customer involved and quoted in the post.
  4. Content Generation - Your sales force is or should be the experts in the field. Are you taking advantage of their problem-solving expertise? Why not have them write down the problem and solution. Then they could do several things with it.
  • Get it to marketing to be put on a FAQ section of the web, and it also could be used for other social content down the road.
  • Share it with the other salespeople who may have customers with similar problems.
  • Share it with other clients/prospects of theirs via email that might benefit from the outcome.


Direct Mail – A Targeted Way to Reach Tradesmen

April 1, 2014

bullseyeSometimes we’re so focused on the digital and social options out there that we forget about what we used to use before these new ones were available. Direct mail is and has been a tried and true method of generating leads and business from contractors.

Yes, I know direct mail is expensive compared to email and e-blast types of tactics. I’m not saying to do mass mailings, but rather targeted ones. Think about what I call the noise on the electronic side of things. How many emails do you get a day? The answer is plenty, and if you’re anything like me, you delete far more than you open.

Here’s something to try. On your next new product introduction, send out  the same amount of direct mails as you would an e-blast to the same list criteria. Send them both to a landing page so you can track results. I think you may be surprised that the old fashioned direct mail campaign will outperform the electronic one.

Here are three tips on delivering a successful direct mail program:

  1. Target Audience - Quantity isn’t important; quality of a list is. Ideally you start with an internal list of prospects. If you’re going to purchase a list, make sure it’s from a reliable source. I usually prefer to get one from a trade publication that serves the industry I’m targeting. They usually have several select options that will help you define and refine who you are looking for.
  2. Targeted Message - Keep the mailer focused on one subject and don’t try to squeeze 10 pounds into a 5-pound bag. Mailers don’t always have to be about selling something, but they always have to achieve something. Put yourself in your potential customer’s shoe and come up with messaging that will help him, not you. Are you addressing a possible concern and giving them an alternative solution?
  3. Targeted Offer Define your call-to-action based on the message. This could be a link to a technical piece on how to do something or an offer for a demo or sample of a product. The objective is to stop and engage the potential, and if the message is on target, get them to do something.

If your message is on target to the right audience, you will get measurable results.


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