Business and professional markets respond to the same tactics used in consumer campaigns. People at work are still people. There’s no such thing as marketing to institutions, only people, and they’re very much consumers too. And what works, well, works.
But wait, there’s more!
Certainly, not every consumer tactic will get results. But specific tactics that you should consider include…..
We all know that proper positioning of our products is essential. But for a strong and lasting business, even the most brilliant positioning will never take the place of showing off your great offering using demos. When you have great product, bragging rights apply.
So use demos to showcase your offering while building awareness and understanding. Product demonstrations hold enormous sway in the sales cycle, and if done properly and can significantly speed the process. And they do not only have to be part of a one-to-one or one-to-group sales presentation. That opportunity may take a long time presenting itself. Or worse yet, it may never do so. Demos should be accessible to prospects during the information gathering process, as well as being an integral part of outbound communications.
Some here are some recommended guidelines when creating your product demo:
Keep it light.
In part, your demo is a highlight reel of how your product works, why it’s important to the marketplace, and how users can benefit. So keep it brief, informative, lively, and showcase your best stuff.
Keep it accessible.
If you’re concerned that your competitor will gain access to your demo, guess what? They’re intensely more motivated than your prospects, so they’ll gain access regardless of the roadblocks you put up. So what you’re really doing is blocking access to your prospects. Don’t make it hard for anyone to see your overview demo.
What to see more? Then take names and emails.
You want to collect some contact information so you can remarket to those who have shown more than just a passing level of interest. One great way of proceeding is to create a shorter overview demo, and offer a second demo that’s more in-depth and detailed. Open access to the detailed demo by requiring a name and email. If someone balks at leaving behind their information, odds are they were never intent on becoming a customer anyway.
And then…..gently use those names and emails.
The point of building this contact database to remarket, but not more frequently than every 2-3 weeks or so.
There are many very good demos out there to provide you with inspiration. I recommend scouring the sites of competitors and also those outside your marketplace. This will give you ideas to allow you to broaden your approach and allow you to produce a truly standout demo.
One final tip: pay very close attention to the scripting of the demo. While all components – graphics, branding, imagery, pacing, background music, vocal choice, and so on – are important, you’ll find a clear, concise script that ties into your overall messaging and brand promise is the foundation for making an impactful video.
When you keep your communications simple, you’re creating access. And clarity. And that allows your core message to be heard louder and clearer.
It’s the difference between being on point. Or rambling around its peripheries.
The KISS principle certainly applies to messaging, as it does to most things we do in life. But when we create outbound communications, there sometimes exists a habit to “kitchen-sink” the information. We become adamant in our attempt to tell the marketplace everything about our business and its products in the nanosecond we have to catch and hold attention.
By doing so, we add to the noise rather than detract from it.
Five ways to allow your outbound messaging to cut through the noise:
#1: Keep it simple.
#2: Edit ruthlessly.
#3: Meet needs.
#5: Be yourself. Be unique.
It’s marketing’s responsibility to make sure the sales team is fully on message, so provide them with a top-notch, killer sales presentation. With one at their disposal, one that they can used in nearly all selling situations, then you’ve made important strides to maximize your sales potential.
So what are some attributes of a really great, highly effective presentation?
Adaptibility. If you design your presentation to be modular – able to be cut into any number of independent components on the fly – then you’ll be arming the sales organization with a valuable tool. As they uncover specific needs, they’ll be able to focus in on those needs and sell in a more strategic way.
Simplicity. Yes, the KISS principle applies. Make it protracted, make it complex, make it about anything other than how you solve pain points, and you might as well be talking to your dog. And you’ll get the same vacant looks from both your dog and your prospects. (Though your dog will still love you regardless. Site-based and district stakeholders, well, they won’t).
Brief. Being self-indulgent with other people’s time is a sure way to ice new business. Go too long in a meeting, and even the most engaging presenter begins to sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher. Waawawa wawawa wa. Pass that point, and you’ll get no sale.
High-Interest. Use multimedia, use anything visual, but do all you can to say away from droaning, mind-numbing bullet points. Let’s face it, we all know that presentations can be boring, boring, boring. You don’t have to do magic tricks and saw a person in half; but if your presentation induces narcolepsy, then you don’t need me to tell you that the sales group won’t use it and you’re launched right back to square one.
And if your marketing team can’t provide sales with a presentation that meets their needs? Then among other things, you’ll certainly be dealing with…..
Brand dilution. And confusion. Marketing is the brand Sherpa. They’ll be sure to overlay the proper branding in your sales presentations to keep it consistent and clearly communicated.
Inconsistent messaging. As a component of branding, marketing is the message Sherpa too. So if you don’t define that message and let your reps deliver it to the marketplace during their calls, then it’s a certainty that the efforts will not live up to potential.
Lower sales. That’s because top-notch reps will be spending way too much time devising their own presentations instead of selling.
It’s marketing’s responsibility to provide the tools to instill a solid brand and to help facilitate the sales organization’s tireless quest to grow the business. If you’re interested in learning more about what’s required specifically for the K-12 educational marketplace, download a free copy of the 13 page PDF guide “The K-12 Marketing Toolkit: 11 Essential Components.”
January is the “beginning of the end” for all of us who market to K-12 and rely on funding from school budgets. It’s the start of what can be termed the K-12 marketing “end zone.” January through April. It’s during that period of time when we aggressively market our wares to align to an incredibly and at times intolerably rigid purchasing cycle. If tapping school budget dollars, that cycle culminates with purchases made during the summer. Miss the cycle, and you’ll find that your product or service radically misses its potential for the school year. And you have to wait 12 months for a repeat. That’s a long time for even the strongest of businesses. You’ll likely find your business prospects are left out in the cold.
So the scenario plays out like this: you’ve spent the fall growing awareness and gathering prospects. That’s great, that’s exactly what you should be doing. Now is the time to move prospects through the funnel, and transition them from cold to warm. In general, you would have spent about 40% of your annual budget during the months spanning late August to mid-November.
But when the holidays are over and the chill of January settles around us, out comes the big marketing guns, and it gets serious. That’s when you shift gears from awareness-building messages to those that ask for business. It’s the time of year when you tell your best prospects exactly why your product meets their every need, and work hard to have them nod their heads in agreement. It’s when your call-to-action shifts from the “take a look at this” messages of the fall to “buy before June 30th and get this amazing deal!”
So just a few ways to make the most of the next four months:
• Create and deploy outbound emails routinely from now through the end of April. Begin to lean it down in mid-April.
• Keep the outbound cadence steady, but keep your prospects interested. How? Deploy at most 2x per month to the same contacts.
• Vary your messages. Too much repetition will not keep your prospects reading.
• Keep it personal. If your contact record is from your own database, you should be able to personalize it.
Now’s the time to have offers designed to stimulate action. Like messaging, offers that are out of sync with customer needs can have a numbing effect on the sales process. Two things are critical with offers for the next few months: that you’re increasingly handing out your best ones, and that they’re intended to lead to a purchase.
I’m sure you already know that webinars are a great way to engage and inform, and also to grow your prospect base. If you don’t do them already, then you should start. They can cost-effectively create a pool of warm leads very quickly. Record the webinar, and provide it on-demand on your website, with name, email address, title, and school/district affiliation the cost of admission.
As you work your initiatives over the next four months, be sure to gear your messaging to a definitive call-to-action that leads to a purchase. Now’s the time to be serious, or you’ll find yourself having to wait a long, long time to latch into the next budget cycle.
“Authentic brands don’t emerge from marketing cubicles or advertising agencies. They emanate from everything the company does…” ― Howard Schultz
A brief story on visibility. In 2000, Bell Atlantic rebranded to Verizon Communications. What seemed to have taken place in the span of a few days was a full-scale rebranding, and to a brand no one ever heard of — what’s a “Verizon?” An immediate and radical change. And it did something amazing. Seemingly in that launch week, everything a consumer would see on a routine basis – vans, billboards, ads – was now Verizon. It was as if Bell Atlantic went “poof.”
How did they do it? Certainly, it was a combination of effective planning, coordination, and logistics. Add to that the magic ingredient: the outlay of an enormous sum of money.
Very few of us have access to those kinds of funds, so our approaches will be somewhat less dramatic and less expensive. So we need to work with the tools at our disposal, and with the money we have to spend. And here’s what’s important when considering how to become more visible:
Budget. Spend more in the right venues and directed to the right audiences, and bingo, you’ll be more visible. I’m stating this as if it’s easy. It’s not. But it’s essential that you come to terms with quantifying your spending.
Consistency. If your presence or message is scattered, then no matter how visible you become your prospects won’t be able to connect the dots and you’ll be effectively unknown.
Know Thy Media. Being at play in the right media gets you known. The wrong media keeps you lost.
Loud and noisy does not necessarily translate into visible. You have to make the right kind of noise, or else you’re wasting time, money, and resources.
Know your audience and what they put eyes and minds on.
Build it and they won’t necessarily come. It might work in Field of Dreams. But in real life, while putting up a website is an essential first step, it’s just that: a first step. You need to devote energy and resources to market your brand.
Being known is much, much better than being unknown. Without a doubt. But some investigation should go into the price of that visibility, and what it really gets you. Is being known the same as being purchased? Or being profitable? These questions have a significant amount of complexity attached to them. But you already know the answer here is a resounding “not necessarily.”
It all comes down to being known in the best possible light; knowing your customer and understanding their needs; and making sure your efforts are measured and well directed. It’s also critically important to understand that the right kind of visibility is what’s required.
The way that I think about visibility and brand awareness is that it’s one component of a multi-step cycle that’s necessary to lead to a sale. It’s not an end-all and be-all.
A well-stocked marketing toolkit is essential to maximize awareness and build a solid sales foundation. So what does one look like when marketing to K-12 education? Download this free 13 page PDF guide and you’ll get details on the 11 key components to help your marketing program achieve success in the coming school year. Also included are links to additional resources to provide even more details and specifics.
Fill out the form below and your FREE PDF is on its way.
“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”–Lao Tzu
Leadership abilities are essential in business, and in most other pursuits in life. Whether you’ve worked for leaders, followers, or not much of either, it seems that these days, leadership shows itself in short supply. While we all might have worked for leaders who inspire with their words and most importantly, their actions, it appears that many people in leadership roles are ill-equipped to lead with effectiveness.
The 11 Major Attributes of Leadership is excerpted from Think and Grow Rich, written by Napolean Hill and published in 1938. Make sure you read the book if you haven’t already. It’s essential and inspirational, and should be read by all who partake in business. But first, read the complete list of attributes in my blog post on Business2Community.
As a followup post on the B2C network, and also from Think and Grow Rich, is my post on the 10 Causes of Leadership Failure. Read more here.
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”– Abraham Lincoln
Without a doubt, the success of an endeavor lies in its diligent and thoughtful preparation. And when I’m asked by business owners to name the one marketing activity that’s essential when developing or expanding their businesses, I tell them to develop a marketing plan.
I encourage everyone in an active, growing business to formalize their marketing strategy in a plan. Creating a plan is important on so many fronts, not least of which is that it forces us to consider how our business fits into the marketplace.
It’s possible that you crafted a detailed marketing plan when assessing the viability of your business. If you did this already, then you have an excellent start. I’d recommend reviewing it at 3 month intervals if your business is new, and make the necessary adjustments. When your business matures somewhat, review and revise it every 6 months. For companies in business for five or more years, marketing plans should be revised and updated annually. Also remember that a marketing plan is a guidepost to allow you to follow a fluid course of action. It’s not written in stone, and it should be adaptable to situations and opportunities as they present themselves.
If you don’t have a plan, now’s the time to develop one. At the outset you need to define your marketplace and your objectives, so the sooner you can do this the better. You can pull a market plan template – there are plenty out there — off the internet. Or build your own. Among the main topics you’ll address in a marketing plan are:
Marketing objectives and goals for the coming year. What are you trying to achieve with your marketing? Open a new marketplace? Gain market share? Create a stir when you launch your new offering? Announce your great new business? Create tactics to support business growth of 23%? Here’s where you consider what you intend to do with your marketing for the next 12 months.
Marketplace specifics. Include current climate and competitive threats. This is an examination of what’s going on externally. What are current market conditions? Are you in a growing segment, or one with challenges? How does the overall economic situation affect your business opportunities?
SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats). A SWOT analysis is an excellent exercise each year. It allows consideration of the broad spectrum of what’s important in our businesses. I’d recommend revisiting your SWOT every year, and make it a part of your ongoing activities.
Product. Take a look at your offering. Does it meet market need for the next 12 to 24 months and beyond? What is your unique differentiator? From a markets perspective, do you envision modifications are required? What specifically are they?
Sales expectations. This might be part of your sales plan, if done separately. Even if you’re uncomfortable with projecting sales, it’s important to put a stake in the ground. Think big: pick a lofty goal, because it’s significantly better to stretch than to play it safe.
Tactical approaches. You’ve considered what’s important for the year, what the external climate is like, what you need to do with your product, and so forth. Now you will determine exact marketing activities you’ll pursue to fulfill your goals. This is where you map out your action plan, and make sure it ties directly back to the strategies delineated in your marketing plan. How do you get in front of and connect with your marketplace? What’s your messaging like? Are your activities visible and vital enough to support your sales objectives?
Planning is an enormously worthwhile activity that yields significantly more dividends than the effort put into creating it.
“Good plans shape good decisions. That’s why good planning helps to make elusive dreams come true.” – Lester R. Bittel
This post was excerpted from “8 Marketing Essentials for Startups & Small Businesses.” To download your free copy, please click here or on the image at left.
Fall means conferences. For more than a few of us, conferences land somewhere between mediocre expectations and impending doom. Conferences are expensive, and many complain – and rightly so — that it’s difficult to get a firm grasp on ROI. But with planning and a strong adherence to an overall integrated methodology, you can build a conference strategy that’s an important part of your marketing and sales plan, and that can have a positive impact on your revenue. Here are 6 steps to understand how:
1. Have a well-defined plan.
Why are you at the conference to begin with? What are you trying to achieve? If you’re there mainly to get leads for driving revenue, then figure and quantify how many you’ll need, and work to maximize that. See my post on analytics for some specifics. If you’re attending as an educational experience, then understand what specific knowledge you want to come away with, and whether the conference is going to meet your needs. There might be more efficient and less expensive options for getting the knowledge you’re seeking.
2. Weigh your cost of exposure.
And then ask, “is it really worth it?” I’ve heard so many companies say they needed to be at a specific conference to be seen, only to become one of the herd and guess what? They weren’t seen at all. They lose sight of the fact that it’s difficult if not impossible to be remembered if you’re one of the herd. There are many successful companies that work hard at standing out in their own unique ways. Like this little computer startup called Apple. You know, the one that sort of wrote the book on product innovation. They don’t attend the CES, the mammoth consumer electronics show, but that doesn’t stop them from being the dominant presence. Now what sort of voodoo makes that work?
3. “Because we’ve always gone” is not a reason to keep going.
Don’t fall back on “well, we’ve been there for the last 20 years, so we need to make a showing.” That isn’t a reason to do anything. It’s an excuse to support status quo thinking, and it won’t get you to the next level. Take two steps backward.
4. Think outside the hall.
If you’ve weighed your options and make the decision to go, keep your resource load light and begin thinking in alternative ways. Think outside the hall: you might be able to forego the exhibit hall entirely. It might be possible to arrange meetings prior to the conference, tap into wifi and pitch your offering. Going in stealth mode has its advantages. Try it, it might not be as death-defying as you think.
5. Work the meeting well in advance.
Start at least six weeks in advance, and think about the conference as if it were a business pitch meeting. You wouldn’t show up without knowing about the company, key players, big issues facing the business, and so on, right? Approach conferences with the same work ethic, prepare hard, arrange as many relevant meetings with key prospects in advance and as you can, and you’ll have a significantly more successful showing.
6. On a lighter note: Have fun with it, but remember, its work.
The upside of conferences is the socializing. Drinks, dinners, and special events can be a lot of fun. But always remember that you’re there to work, even at night. Don’t end up with your tie around your forehead singing “Hungry Like the Wolf” in a karaoke bar. And especially in this age when everyone has a camera phone and a Facebook account, do yourself a favor and save the Duran Duran impressions for when you’re catching up with college friends.