What are you doing to build your “Proprietary Audience?

December 17, 2014

I had the chance to hear Jeffrey Rohrs speak at a WTWH Media event recently and subsequently read his new book, Audience.

Jeff’s take on social media and content marketing revolves around one thing – THE AUDIENCE.

Companies need audiences to survive – before they are customers they first have to be part of an audience. As we all are focusing on creating content, it won’t mean much if you don’t have someone to read and react to it.

And that’s his point, to build what he calls the “Proprietary Audience.” He defines it as ” a comprehensive, collaborative and cross-channel effort to build audiences that your company alone can access.”

He shows you how to build your database using paid, owned and earned media to identify your audience. He also shows you how to identify and communicate with Seekers (those that are looking for info), Amplifiers (those who have audiences that can share your info) and Joiners (those that are buyers).

The book is an easy read and I would recommend your marketing teams look at Audience as a new marketing discipline.


Manufacturers: What are you doing to improve the customer experience?

December 16, 2014

Today more than ever, customers are expecting, and in some cases demanding, a better customer experience. These types of experiences have to start in the C suite and trickle down. The customer service department may be on the front line, but they can only mirror what management has in mind.

Do your top-level folks really understand the needs of your customers? If not, they certainly can’t help formulate or lead an initiative for a great customer experience if they don’t know what that is! I was surprised from a recent article in eMarketer that showed over 33% of senior managers weren’t aligned with the customer experience.

I think we can all agree that everyone needs to be on board to truly make the customer experience meaningful and real. For any of you who have flown Southwest or shopped in an Apple store, you know what I mean about customer service. The culture starts at the top and both of those brands know that other choices exist for their product and services.

The two takeaways I’d like to leave you with are:

  1. Listen to your customers - Find out what they want and how they want to get it.
  2. Under promise and over deliver - give them more than they ask for and make the mundane a memorable experience.

If you liked this post, you might want to read:

Customer service: What are you doing to retain customers?

Customer service: Is your company obsessed with it?


8 Tips on Generating High Quality B-to-B Leads

December 10, 2014

Let’s face it, in your world, qualified leads are or should be the holy grail of marketing. According to a report by Marketing Sherpa, 78% of B2B marketers biggest challenge is generating qualified leads.

Here are some tips on how you can improve your process:

  1. Create a plan - that will include message, method of delivery, when to hand lead to sales and measuring ROI.
  2. Define your USP - What is your unique selling proposition? What makes you or your offer different from the competition?
  3. Offer them something of value for free - If you want them to start an engagement, you need to show some good faith and give them a tool they can use everyday (conversation chart, smart phone button, competitive parts interchange).
  4. Match the offer to the audience - Not all messages are for all audiences. A concrete tool offer to a HVAC contractor probably won’t get much return.
  5. Capture and nurture leads - Once you get a lead, there has to be some qualifications done before sending it to sales. We’re not trying to overload the sales department with leads, rather we want to give them qualified leads that they are excited about calling on.
  6. Handing off the lead to sales - Depending on the criteria that you’ve developed, you need to forward the lead and what you know about it (in the sales funnel) so when sales calls on them, they know what to talk about, i.e., initial evaluation stages, engineering comparison questions or ready-to-buy type of questions.
  7. Close the loop on the lead - Did they buy? If not, why? This should be documented in a CRM system so we know why you’re gaining or losing sales.
  8. Review performance - Repeat what’s working and stop what isn’t.

What part of selling is the “Human Factor?”

December 9, 2014

I know everyone is so focused on social media and content creation, but that’s only the beginning of the sales cycle. When people identify themselves, who makes the sale – the internet or a person? I’d say unless you’re selling a commodity or selling on price, there needs to be interaction with a person(s) along the way. In other words, the Human Factor takes over.

I’ve been in the sales game for over 40 years and I’m here to tell you times have changed and if you don’t adapt, you’re going to be working harder, not smarter. More importantly, we all need to try to improve ourselves and those around us.

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I just finished a great book by Daniel H. Pink titled To Sell is Human. It goes into who is selling now, how they should approach it and great tips on being more effective.

Here are some highlights that I got out of it:

  • The A,B,C’s of selling no longer apply - You can’t be always closing because folks will turn you off. You need honesty, fairness and transparency. No longer is it a buyer’s beware, instead it’s a seller’s beware landscape.
  • 25% of our waking hours are spent listening – That’s why God gave us two ears and one mouth. We need to learn how to ask better questions and then listen.
  • We spend 41% of our time trying to persuade someone to do something we want - that pretty much makes us all salesmen of one sort or another.
  • Non-selling is the key to success - instead of trying to upsell someone, try upserving them and see what happens. It will transform the mundane into something memorable, and guess who they are going to buy from?

The key to selling is being able to move others to your way of thinking and times have changed. The book is a good read. Enjoy.


Are You Still Pitching or Are You Starting a Conversation?

December 2, 2014

I’m still amazed by the number of folks who are still trying to sell me something instead of trying to solve my problem. I think it’s because they are struggling with their story and finding the right voice to tell it on. The old school model of glad handling and feature benefit selling has gone by the wayside for the most part.

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Let’s face it none of us wants to be sold. We want to have a conversation. Humans, by nature, are social by design and want to interact with others. Interaction is a two-way street where both parties are part of the conversation. It’s not grabbing attention, but earning and holding attention.

How do we do this? By acting and speaking HUMAN. Storytelling is an essential human activity and must be a vital part of your strategy.

I recently read an article in Chief Content Officer magazine by Kevin Lund and Eileen Sutton that talks about speaking human and gives us some tips on how to be successful at it.

Here are some highlights:

  • Be Clear - No marketing speak. Use plain English with no jargon and more heart.
  • Be Helpful - Be relevant to a specific issue. Show them how you add value.
  • Be Concise - Keep it to the point. Less is better.
  • Be Consistent - Use the same voice and tone throughout all channels.

If you can figure out how to make life easier for your customer, everyone wins.


How Are You Utilizing Training?

November 25, 2014

I don’t think any manufacturer out there would argue the importance of training. What manufacturer wouldn’t want to ensure their customers are trained properly on how to use their products or informed on their latest product offerings. Plus, training offers manufacturers a way to further differentiate themselves from competitors, as well as continue to build their brand with their customers.

There are many ways to approach and handle training; from how-to videos and online training courses, to traditional, printed instructional manuals and sales people demonstrating products in the field.  But sometimes there is no substitute for in-person training.

One manufacturer that is leading the way for in-person training is Viega. I should note that Viega is a client of Sonnhalter. The Viega Education Facility, located in Nashua, NH, is a stand-alone, dedicated building for training and I have to say, a pretty impressive facility. It first opened up in 2006 and since then, over 10,000 people have completed training sessions. Viega averages over 200+ days of training per year, with attendees ranging from architects, contractors and engineers to apprentices, distributors and even Viega employees. Currently there are over 13 standard courses covered in two-day, three-day or five-day sessions.

For the majority of industries, continuing education becomes a necessity to staying up-to-date and informed on the latest techniques, trends and technologies affecting their respective fields. Additional training can also offer up the benefits of increased productivity, reducing your liabilities for errors or omissions with updated knowledge of laws and regulations, increasing morale and job satisfaction, as well as reducing employee turnover

Kevin Higginbotham is the CEO of the Evergreen Marketing Group. Evergreen has always been a leader in product training since its inception, and Kevin gives us some insights into what their group is doing to advance professional training using a multi-dimensional approach.

Both manufacturers and distributors acknowledge the importance of training.

How are you utilizing Training?


Manufacturers: Contractors are expecting more from you. Are you delivering?

November 19, 2014

Progressive contractors, I believe, are changing the way they are interacting with their manufacturers. When I ran across this research recently, it verified in my mind that it holds true. I only wish the Electrical and Plumbing markets would do similar research.

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HVACRBusiness recently released a new research study, “HVACR Contractors: Trends in the Adoption of Products/Systems & Management Approaches,” (for a free copy of executive summary click here), that highlights new trends on their involvement with manufacturers. I did a podcast interview with Terry Tanker, the publisher, to talk about the results of the research.

Bottom line – 70% are more likely to evaluate additional manufacturers and their products. You can’t depend on your sales rep going to see them personally to introduce a new product. By the time they get there, the contractor may be well down the selection process. Contractors, no matter what kind, are looking for good information, not a sales pitch, but information that can help them do their jobs. If you can do that, it will help keep you in the game.

Here are some highlights.

They define a “High Yield” contractor as being more active in managing their business, have substantial revenues and are experiencing significant growth. In other words, The “A” players in the field.

  • 93% get involved in the early stages of the selection process of new products.
  • Contractors have even greater expectations for products/systems than 5 years ago.
  • Contractors are expecting manufacturers to do more to help them compete and operate efficiently.
  • The selling environment has become more businesslike and competitive.

The bottom line is that these “High Yield” contractors have made significant changes in their relationships with their manufacturers and expect more out of them. Among them the top three are:

  1. Making manufacturers more accountable for their products/systems.
  2. Offer more support.
  3. Make more objective decisions about products/systems/brands.

 


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