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.


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.

 


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?

 


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.

buyers

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?


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.


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