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.

Manufacturers: HVACR Contractors Are Changing The Ways They Interact With You

March 26, 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.

HVACRBusiness recently released a new research study, “HVACR Contractors: Trends in the Adoption of Products/Systems & Management Approaches,” (download 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.

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 business like 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.

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.

What Are You Doing to Get the Most Out of Trade Shows?

March 13, 2014

We’ve been doing a lot recently with clients for trade shows. There’s been a renewed interest it seems in them. Most of you participate in various trade shows from time to time.

If you do, you know that they can be very expensive and management is always looking for a ROI. That’s why it’s important for sales and marketing to work together to make sure they get the best bang for the buck.

I ran across a guest post from Vince Tricomi, VP, New Business Development at PFI Displays on ways you can maximize your efforts that I thought was worth repeating. Enjoy.

Except for a lucky few who still write orders at trade shows, most exhibitors can’t tie a specific revenue-generation figure to their trade shows.

That’s OK though. Consider how marketers tie sales figures to a magazine ad:  They can’t, and that’s why they measure things like impressions, reach and awareness.

Trade shows offer plenty of measurement opportunities for the savvy event marketer. Some of these metrics are firm, others are calculated estimates, but they can be combined to create clarity into the effectiveness of any trade show program, large or small.

Here are a few of our suggestions:

1. Leads:  a. Let’s get this easy one of out of the way i. Don’t mess around with collecting business cards ii. Renting a lead retrieval machine that loads your lead data on a flash drive is money well spent b. SAVVY TIP: Break these leads down into A, B, and C categories for better insight into the show’s quality.

2. Cost Per Lead: a. Take the total cost of your exhibit investment and divide it by the total amount of leads collected b. Compare this to other marketing efforts to see how your show stacks up c. SAVVY TIP: If you exhibit at multiple shows, this metric also shines light on the comparative effectiveness of each show.

3. Demonstrations: a. If you’re launching a new product, consider giving one-on-one or group demonstrations b. Count how many demonstrations you give and how many audience members listen or interact c. If you’re doing multiple presentations each hour, you’re having a great show d. SAVVY TIP: Find out from the VP of Sales an average cost of a trip for a sales person to give a demo at a prospect’s office. Compare that with the show’s average cost per demo, and suddenly trade shows look like a bargain!

4. Website Traffic: a. Know the average visitors to your website before the show, and compare that to the visitors during and immediately after b. Pay special attention to the pages for the products and offers you featured at the show c. SAVVY TIP: Don’t forget that trade shows are about face-to-face interactions. Generating web traffic is a great metric, but for most exhibitors it shouldn’t be the main goal.

5. Press Mentions: a. These hold special appeal, and therefore more “weight” as a viable metric, for all classically trained marketers b. SAVVY TIP: With the abundance of trade magazines, writers, and bloggers at every show, if you’re not getting mentioned, something is wrong; try setting up interviews and press walk-throughs well before the show.

6. Post Show Appointments: a. In today’s hectic, time-starved business world, one of the hardest challenges faced by every salesperson is securing a face-to-face appointment b. Commit the sales team to informing you of every show lead that generates a follow-up appointment c. SAVVY TIP: You’ll have friends for life if your shows facilitate setting post-show meetings. Think creatively about a space in your booth dedicated solely to this endeavor.

As you can tell, these suggestions are only the tip of the iceberg.  Please share some of your favorite, and most effective, metrics with us.

In closing, leading full service exhibit companies, like PFI Displays, offer innovative, easy to use software tools that will help you measure your shows—and do a lot more, too.

I’m sure you can add to the list and I’d like to hear ways your company is measuring the effectiveness of trade shows.

If you like this post you might like:

5 Ways to Improve Your Trade Show ROI

New Study Shows Best Way of Reaching Manufacturing Professionals

The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

March 5, 2014


I had some time this week to reflect on almost 40 years in this crazy B-to-B marketing communications business and realized not much has changed.

Let me explain. In our business someone wants to sell something, so they ask us to help to communicate why they should be talking with them about product X as opposed to one of their competitors.

35 years ago, we didn’t have many options in the B-to-B space to get their message out. There was direct mail, trade shows, referrals (today we call it networking) and a newfangled machine called a fax that we could send messages out on. With the exception of referrals, we pretty much had control of the message, when it went and the frequency. The only thing we couldn’t control was when someone actually referred a customer to you.

Today we have so many other alternatives of getting our message out with digital offerings and social media. Some of these tactics we can still control what is said and when it goes out. Others, like social media, we have no control over messaging or when people decide to look at your info and better yet, contact you.

The point being in both cases is that we either identified a prospect or they identified us and the sales cycle started. No matter which scenario you chose, what comes next is the same. You need to talk with the prospect, listen to what they need and give them a reason to buy from you instead of your competitors. For most B-to-B items, unless they are considered a commodity, there are value-added benefits for doing business with one company over another. It could be a unique feature or a great support team after the sale.

I’ve always said an ad or blog post won’t sell anything. People and companies do, and they do it by interacting with each other in person on the phone or email. You can’t take the human element out of the equation in most cases, and I’ll guarantee you when you lose a sale that you thought you had, it could be because they liked what someone else said better.

My point is, you can use all the marketing tactics in the world, but if you don’t have good qualified sales to back it up, the sale won’t happen. That’s why it was important 40 years ago as it is today – sales and marketing need to work together as a team.

Like I said, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Mobile Apps: Manufacturers, Are You Using Them to Build Customer Loyalty?

March 4, 2014

Most folks are familiar with mobile apps, but I think we associate them more with retail/consumer applications instead of the B-to-B world. The key to a good app is no different from any other piece of content you develop. It has to answer and be helpful to your customers. To have an app for an app’s sake doesn’t do anyone any good. You need to be customer centric.

The reasons for having an app are pretty simple:

  • How many contractors do you know that don’t have a smart phone?
  • Mobile represents over 5.3 billion mobile subscriptions worldwide.
  • Mobile devices are on the way to surpassing PCs as the first screen for all web usage according to a study by Grant/Morgan Stanley.

eMarketer recently had a post, Mobile Apps Help Lure Customers, Spur Loyalty, that I thought had some great points that would spill over into the B-to-B world for manufacturers to consider. The survey was done by Forbes Insights to executives of companies with revenues over $250,000. Most common reasons were: customer communications, customer service and product information. No real surprises here other than the way it’s accessed and delivered.

Apps can definitely play a role well beyond branding to both support existing customers, but to help potentials through the buying cycle. Potential apps that you might consider would be:

  • Product information
  • Installation and troubleshooting instructions videos
  • Productivity tools
  • Competitive cross reference charts
  • Ability to check current inventory levels
  • Distributor locator with direct links

These are only a few ideas. The point is, with mobile being the fastest growing segment, you need to have a presence there. Make sure your interfaces are user friendly and make sure they fall within the requirement of the app stores.

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

Do You Have a Mobile App? Are You Promoting it?

Things to Consider When Using Mobile to Reach the Professional Tradesman.

When is Less – More?

February 25, 2014

We all get caught up with having to do more and more, especially when it comes to developing content and deploying it through various media channels. We get pressure from our bosses (clients) to be on every new thing that comes down the road. I recently read an article by Joe Pulizzi, the founder of The Content Marketing Institute,  that addresses this actual issue - Do less, not more.

So here’s a novel thought, Don’t worry about quantity and start focusing more on quality. Let’s be realistic, we don’t have the time, resources or possibly content to do all things. Joe cites examples of great brands that started out by dominating one channel consistently over time. What a novel idea. Doesn’t it make sense to focus on and own the primary space you’re in? It doesn’t mean you can’t branch out into other means of getting your message out, but just take it slow.

So what does this mean for the manufacturers? It means do some homework to find out where your customers get their information. If it’s blogs, forums or LinkedIn groups, then start there. Create a blog, for example, that addresses your niche. Make sure you regularly contribute to it so you attract followers. Make sure topics are about solving customers’ questions/issues, not trying to sell them something. Engage them in a dialog of ways you can help them do your job better. Make whatever you do so good people can’t wait to read what’s coming next. In other words, over time, become the go-to resource for whatever specialty you offer.

I think you will find that by focusing on few things and doing them well will not only make you feel better, but will actually accomplish some of those marketing goals of becoming the industry expert.

What are your thoughts?

What’s Your Marketing Strategy for ’14? See What Other Marketers Are Saying

February 19, 2014

As the year gets under way, we are all completing our plans and strategies for the upcoming year. Last fall, ExactTarget completed a survey of over 2,500 marketing executives who gave their insights on what they will be doing this year.  You can download the full report.

The main takeaways are:

  • Increasing conversion rates
  • Improving brand awareness
  • Collecting, measuring and using behavior-based data

2014StateofMarketing-page 1

Other points of interests:

  • Acquiring and developing strong relationships with new potentials.
  • Email is not dead, on the contrary, it will be a core driver in ’14.
  • Responsive websites will be the norm moving forward.
  • Mobile is big – there are now more mobile devices connected than there are people in the world.

The key is to develop a strategy, implement it and evaluate it. If some things are doing well, try something else. Make sure you use both the traditional, as well as some of the newer digital options in your mix.

Hope you have a great 2014.

Manufacturers: Why Are You Using Content Marketing?

February 18, 2014

I just saw a stat this week that over 90 percent of B-to-B companies are now using content marketing. I wonder if you asked them why, what the answer would be. Hopefully it’s not because everyone else is using it! If you’re using content, you know how much time it takes you and your team to develop and place good content.

Whether it’s content marketing or any other tactic, there should be good reasons for using it and a detailed plan of action – what to say, where to use it and how to measure it. I recently read an article by Heidi Cohen, Why Use Content Marketing – 7 Reasons that I thought would help us all in not only reviewing what we’re doing, but more importantly, evaluate and possibly refocus our efforts on those activities that are working.

We all have different reasons and priorities, and from a manufacturer’s point of view, here are three things you may want to consider when using content marketing:

  • Build your brand - this should be true in any type of promotion, but building good content helps set you apart and builds your reputation.
  • Attract new customers - Give customers what they want pre- and post-information that will help them through the sales cycle. Good content will sell itself.
  • Support existing customers - with updated product/installation information, handy apps or other tools that will make doing their job easier. Remember, existing clients are your best repeat customers, so continue to engage them.

Why are you using Content Marketing and what tactics are working best for you?

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

Manufacturers: What Are You Trying to Accomplish with Your Content Marketing?

Smaller Companies are Doing a Better Job with Content Marketing

What are you Doing to Improve your Content Marketing Performance?

Content Marketing: Have a Strategy and Be Relevant.


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