B-to-B Marketers: Are You Utilizing SlideShare?

July 23, 2014

slideshareWhen we think of utilizing social media in the marketing mix, SlideShare is probably the most overlooked and underutilized tool. There are over 60 million unique visitors a month to SlideShare sites with over 215 million page views.

Users are not only looking for good content, but also shared insights and SlideShare gives you a platform for both. Plus, you get the added bonus of using the other social media tools to promote your Power Points.

Lots of marketing departments, even if you tell them how great a tool it is, their push back very often is we don’t have time to develop one. My position is that between sales, marketing and the C suite, there are plenty of Power Points already existing that highlight and focus on issues that help differentiate you and help set you up as an industry expert. Here are some places to look:

  • Industry or association speeches that a C suite executive have given regarding an important issue or trend and their position on it.
  • Presentations to key customers on ways you can help solve their problems.
  • General positioning  Power Point on what makes you different.
  • Distributor-focused Power Point that talk about ways you support them.
  • Contractor-focused Power Point of the tools available to them from you to help them do their job.
  • New products with features and benefits.

I recently read an article by David Waring in Social Media Examiner -7 Ways to Use SlideShare for Your Business, that I found to be very  useful. He gives tips and examples on things as basic as creating well-designed slides, to how to work to get high rankings with key words and phrases by using key words in the file name and tag names. He also gives you tips on  how to grab attention using  how-to guides and  list titles.

The long and short of it is if you haven’t tried it, you have nothing to lose. You may be surprised what kind of views and leads you may get. I’d like to know your thoughts after you’ve tried it.


Why Content Curation is an Important Marketing Tool to Reach the Professional Tradesman

July 16, 2014

What is Content Curation?

Content curation is the process of sorting through the vast amounts of content on the web and presenting it in a meaningful and organized way around a specific theme. The work involves sifting, sorting, arranging and publishing information.

Why is it important to Manufacturers who want to reach the Professional Tradesman?

Chances are you have lots of bits and pieces of information on your products/services. They are scattered all over from catalog, tech sheets installations sheets, presentations, etc. We as marketers are so focused on creating content, and in most cases, your first priority is to consolidate all relevant info on a product or service in one place. Once you see what you have, it will be easier to identify the pieces that are missing and need to be created.

Professional tradesman are always looking for help in solving problems, and it benefits both you and them if they can go to one source and get all their questions answered.

Wouldn’t it make sense for a potential customer who is interested in left-handed widgets to find one source that could:

  • help evaluate your situation and options available
  • give you an independent industry perspective on possible solutions
  • give you guidelines on what products to consider for the project at hand
  • give you tips on installation
  • give you troubleshooting suggestions
  • give you tips on maintenance

So if the number-one challenge to marketers is lack of time, doesn’t it make sense to organize first, then prioritize how you’re going to fill the holes?

Heidi Cohen wrote an interesting article recently, The Top 10 Reasons You Need Content Curation in Your Content Marketing Mix where she outlines her reasons to use content curation.

Here are a few that caught my attention:

  • it provides a variety of perspectives which helps increase its credibility
  • positions you as a thought leader in your field
  • good content will be shared leveraging other people’s audiences
  • builds your brand
  • content can be segmented for social media and drive folks to your curated site with more information that they requested

So don’t take the ready-fire-aim approach to developing content.  Take an inventory of current assets before developing new ones. Also don’t try to do everything at once. If you have products that serve several markets, pick one, do it well, document results and then plan the next one.

 

 


Are Your Sales and Marketing Departments on the Same Page?

July 9, 2014

Sales and marketing must work together to define the ideal client and determine how and what to get in front of them.

Social media and the internet in general has changed the way people buy. Today, research is done online long before the potential customer identifies themselves to a prospective vendor. So what can you do to ensure that when the buyer is ready, you’re on the list to talk to?

This is an issue that continues to frustrate marketers and sales across the board. Both disciplines have insights to offer and neither should be working in a vacuum.

I read an interesting article recently by John Jantsch from Duct Tape Marketing that addresses this very problem. He states: “My take is that for organizations to take full advantage of the dramatic shift in the way people and organizations buy today they must intentionally blend inbound marketing, outbound marketing and inbound selling a way that mirrors today’s customer journey.”

He offers some suggestions on how they can work together. Here are some highlights of shared responsibilities:

  • Planning - When marketing is creating a plan, involve sales. They have insights that marketing doesn’t. Their insights are invaluable in helping define the customer journey.
  • Editorial - Even if sales people aren’t great writers, they certainly can identify pain points along the way and possible solutions for marketing to write about.
  • Social - Make sales aware of social opportunities, whether it’s LinkedIn or participating in an industry forum that social is a good networking tool.
  • Engagement - Have sales and marketing make calls together or write a proposal.
  • Measurement - Forget quantity and focus on quality of lead and how you can take them down the sales funnel. Focus on creating a profitable customer.

If you liked this post you might like:

Are You Getting Your Sales Force Involved in Social Media? 

How Does Social Media Impact a B-to-B Purchase?

 


B-to-B Marketers: Are you Using Referral Marketing as Part of Your Overall Strategy?

June 17, 2014

I don’t know about you, but referrals are a great source of leads and customers for us.

It takes you down the sale funnel much more quickly if someone says something nice about you and recommends they talk with you.

Now we may all do this in person by networking and asking for referrals from people who now like and trust us. But have you taken that to the next level with your online contacts?

Referral marketing engages people online through daily interactions on the web. By recruiting customers to help drive new business using online is more relevant because you share the same interests and values as your existing customers.

Extole has an ePaper out, Fact vs Fiction: 5 Referral Marketing Myths. They give examples of what companies are doing and focus on:

  • Referral marketing as a high impact strategy for driving new customer acquisition.
  • Referral marketing reaches audiences SEO and SEM don’t.
  • New customers acquired by referral marketing have high retention rates and stronger loyalty.
  • Referral marketing is cost effective.

The paper is an easy read and you can download it here.


What are you doing to create demand for your content?

May 27, 2014

hourglass

We all are working hard to create content in various forms, but what can we do to create the demand for it? If we build it, it will come philosophy won’t work.

In the b-to-b space where selling cycles can be long with numerous folks involved, you need to address several different issues along the way down the sales funnel, but do you know what they are?

I’ve long been a proponent of sales and marketing working closely together. After all, the objective of both is to sell more stuff.

I’m amazed that folks in the marketing department spend little or no time in the field talking with customers. I always recommend marketing folks spend time with the salesmen in the field, and I don’t mean a day or two. Spend a week or so and you’ll see customers in various stages of the buying process.

More importantly, you as a marketer have the unique opportunity, while in front of a prospect, to ask some really relevant questions that the salesman might not ask.

Questions like:

  • What other types of info would be helpful in your decision-making process?
  • What triggers a buyer to start the process?
  • What kinds of concerns do your colleagues have that we might address?
  • Focus on customers needs and concerns.

Why do I keep harping on getting in front of the customer? Let’s be honest. Most companies don’t know their customers well enough. They don’t know or understand the buying process well enough. They don’t have content framework to communicate with the potential buyer.

I read an interesting article recently by Jay Hidalgo in the Chief Content Officer magazine that outlines 3 steps to create a process to create demand for your content.

His User’s Guide consists of 3 things:

  • Developing a buyer’s persona (know your customer)
  • Define their buying process
  • Developing a content framework  for communicating with a buyer

He takes you through a process that engaged the combined efforts of sales and marketing resulting in a well-thought-out strategy, and content that will be on target that users will want to pass it on. You can read his entire article here.

 

 


Closing the Loop on Sales Leads

May 21, 2014

broken chainDon’t have a plan to follow or nurture leads?

When was the last time you responded to an ad, e-blast or other form of communications about a new product and never heard from the company after they got you what you requested? Or if you did hear from them, it was weeks or months after the original inquiry.

I bet it’s more the rule than the exception, especially in the B-to-B world. What I can’t figure out is why. Unless your product is so unique, wouldn’t you want to let the prospect know why dealing with you is better?

Yet I see many manufacturers still today that have no formal plan to follow and nurture leads. If they are not going to follow-up the lead, then why are they promoting the product in the first place? It’s a waste of time and money.

Many pass the lead on to their distribution network before qualifying them as to what stage in the selling cycle they are.

Wouldn’t it make sense to follow-up with the prospect…

  • to see if they got the info they requested?
  • to see if you can answer any questions?
  • to direct them to a local distributor?
  • to possibly offer them some other help or info once you determine where they are in the sales cycle?

A lead that has been qualified and then passed on to either rep or distributor gives them a little better feel for what the prospect is looking for and the application. The lead doesn’t stop there; it’s only the starting point.

There are several CRM programs out there that can help you manage, track and nurture the leads. What I don’t understand is why folks are using them. One reason I found is that lots of sales folks don’t like lead tracking and nurturing programs because it identifies some weak links in the selling cycle. In the world of ROI, I would think Sales and Marketing would want to know where new business is coming from so you can do more of the same.

It makes sense if you qualify the lead before giving it out to follow-up with.  You’ll get better results and salespeople might even call on them.

The sales cycle is only as good as its weakest link.


Multi-Channel and Marketing Automation for Manufacturers: Are You Using?

May 20, 2014

Today we have a guest post from Jason Schultz, Director of Marketing for Great Lakes Integrated, a strategic  partner of ours.

Multi-channel marketing coupled with marketing automation is a powerful approach for manufacturing companies. Manufacturers have a unique opportunity to create interest and trust for their products by communicating with their customers and prospects through different types of media and employing automated responses to actions they take.

With manufacturer’s customers and prospects being both in the business to business world and also the business to consumer world messaging and responses need to be different. The automated responses need to be different as well.

Using multiple-channels has proven to increase response and desired actions being taken. Consider using any combination of print, mobile, email and landing pages to engage your customers in meaningful ways. The key is to link all messaging to personalized or static landing pages.

Using landing pages then allows you to gather additional information on the customer or prospects, solicit feedback, allow for registration, set meetings or start a conversation just to name a few. By utilizing a digital engagement you can gather information, analytics and automate the marketing process.

An automated response can come in the form of an email, physical collateral or product being sent, a text message or even an automated phone call. The automated response takes the initial follow ups off of sales and marketing and is a way to ensure your company is responding to the actions of customers or prospects in a timely manner.

Taking this process further, you can implement lead scoring to pre-qualify customers and prospects based on business rules and point values determined by their interactions with certain parts of your communication. Then, only the customers or prospects with the most potential get contacted by sales people to garner new or additional business. Time is not spent on those customers or prospects that have not shown an interest in what you are promoting.

Key takeaways are:

  • to utilize multiple channels to increase the likelihood that customers and prospects will take the desired actions you want. 
  • design and messaging need to be appropriate, relevant and meaningful.
  • digital components also need to be in place that allow customers and prospects to interact; allowing you to track those interactions to determine what is working, what is not and ultimately ROI.
  • use marketing automation to efficiently and effectively respond to customers and prospects; increasing the likelihood of your ultimate success in adding or increasing new business.

The notion that a multi-channel approach with automation is difficult to execute and maintain is just the opposite. Today’s technology allows marketing support partners to take your campaign and feed it into the system. The system/technology then handles the deployment and execution of the different types of media and the automatic responses to customers and prospects (not to mention the gathering of all data and analytics). If you are new to this method of marketing, try a small test campaign and compare it with current efforts. Then make the determination for yourself.


The Secret to Going Viral

May 15, 2014

By Rachel Kerstetter, PR Engineer, Sonnhalter

You’ve probably heard the word “viral” in relation to online marketing before. If you’re not quite sure what it means, here’s a very brief definition:

Vi-ral:

Adjective

: becoming very popular by circulating from person to person, specifically on the internet.

If something “goes viral” that means it has been shared a great number of times; there is no threshold number of shares to be reached before something can be considered viral, but in general you know when something has gone viral by the way it is talked about.

So here’s the secret to going viral:

The one aspect that every viral thing has in common is that it is a quality piece of content that resonates with your audience. Content that goes viral is often in the form of blog posts, pictures or videos.

Content can resonate with your audience in many ways, most of the time viral content resonates through humor. Content that is controversial or sparks a debate, as well as timely, helpful information will also resonate.

In our industry, content doesn’t often achieve viral status, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t resonated, sparked conversation or been effective.

As marketers, we cannot make content become viral. Content can only be made viral by your audience(s) – they have the power. Marketers and brands do not have the power to make anything viral.

Image via Scott Cresswell

Image via Scott Cresswell

If you’re disappointed that you know the secret to viral but can’t do anything about it, don’t lose heart!

The goal in any marketing initiative should not be creating viral content; it should be on creating quality content.

Marketers and brands have the power to create quality content that will resonate with audiences. If that content goes viral, then that is just a happy side effect.


Are Full Line Print Catalogs Dead?

May 13, 2014

Catalogs

Interesting question, isn’t it? Back when I started in the ad business (back in the stone ages), the full line catalog was not only your bible, but one of your largest marketing expenses. It would take months to develop, and as soon as it was printed, some items were either added or deleted from the line thus making the catalog obsolete. Sound familiar?

Of course the web changes all that, and with the advent of databases, it’s easy to keep your catalog current and for users to search for the products they need. I’d say that over the years, as companies added a digital catalog, print runs started to decrease on average of 25-30%.

Recently though (last 7-10 years), printed catalogs have been declining even more. Think of all the trees we’ve saved and the number of printers we’ve put out of business.

I recently read an article in Industrial Distribution magazine’s online edition that cited a study done by United Stationers that shows that end users preferences have changed to online.

Now you may ask what does a study by an office products company have to do with the industrial and construction market. Well let’s not forget that they also own ORS NASCO in the industrial sector and Lagasse Sweet in the Jan/San sector. I have to believe  the office products trends are not so much different from the markets we play in.

The study also showed that smaller, more single-category-focused printed pieces are on the rise.

Contractors and MRO professionals – they are/were still apprehensive about giving up printed material. I think that’s changing a bit. Let me clarify my statement.

Yes, the old timers (55 and older) probably prefer a printed book. But you might be surprised, at even that age group, they want current info and aren’t afraid to go on the Internet to at least find something. Let’s face it, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to use Google.

Now distribution might be another story. Countermen, for sure, prefer the printed piece for day-to-day inquiries. If you don’t believe me, next time you’re in a distributor look at some of them.

Most of these contractors not only have access to computers, but have tablets and smart phones on job sites where they can access info immediately. So I’d feel safe in saying that most of us have some sort of online presence.

So if you buy into my premise, here are a few things you can do:

  • Create a digital strategy and fund it with the money you save from not printing all those full line catalogs.
  • Create single category pieces whether they are product or market focused.
  • Create good meaningful direct mail pieces that will inform and inspire your target audiences.

Do I think the print catalog is dead? No, but it’s on its last legs.

What are your thoughts?

 


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.

 


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 147 other followers