Category Archives: Marketing

Developing Buyer Personae

An important shift that I’m seeing more frequently is tailoring marketing content by persona.  Seems like a no-brainer:  focus on the “who” of your customers to be able to address them directly in their voice, about their concerns.  My experience has been that most B2B companies understand that is what they should do, but the pull of talking about their own products and services in their own voice is irresistible.

Marketing Sherpa published in their Chart of the Week some research on the methods of developing buyer personae.  Major emphasis:  interviews – going to the customers and prospects (64%) and talking to sales (56%).

They make a further point to  balance this qualitative data with more traditional quantitative data.  I’m in total agreement with the interview method.  There’s nothing worse than a buyer persona that describes who we “think” the buyer is, as opposed to mirroring the actual buyer.

— Lisa Dennis

The “Invisible Children” and “Kony 2012” Phenomenon

We normally try to steer clear of political hot buttons on this business blog, and will make every attempt to do so here, as well.  What I want to focus on is the amazing reach of a single idea, and and how that idea quickly splintered into reactions and investigations and rumor and innuendo and inevitable humor and satire, all within 24-48 hours.  That, my friends, is viral.  Or as we say in New England, wicked viral.

An interesting summary of the situation can be read here, and some intelligent comments on both sides of the argument follow.  So I will not recapitulate the matter here, nor express my opinion on it (which is, in fact, still being formulated.)   Rather, I would like to examine the social media impact of this phenomenon.

The video first caught my attention via an article on FastCompany.com on March 7.  By the time I watched the video, it had already been viewed by half a million people since its appearance on March 5.  Within an hour of sharing it on my Facebook page, a friend posted a comment, with a link to another article, which suggested that the makers of the video, and their cause, were not exactly as they presented themselves to be.  After reading that article, a few thoughts came to mind:

    1. The power of a well-produced video is so compelling.  Upon first view, my reaction was not to do more research, or ask any follow-up questions.  In my mind, the video had shown me enough to warrant my desire to share it with others, thus helping the cause of the organization that created and posted it.  That’s a powerful video.
    2. At this writing, the original video has almost 28 million views on YouTube, and almost 17  million more on Vimeo, just 6 days after its initial appearance.  Is it possible to capture that kind of lightning in a bottle on a regular basis?
    3. It will be interesting to see how much traction their movement gets before April 20 – the day the organization has targeted for having their message blanket the physical world, in addition to the cyber world.  As a marketing case study, this one is a beaut!

So, the question is, is this a matter of a well-made video, introduced initially to a number of the right influencers in the worlds of politics and entertainment, then snowballing into a viral phenomenon?  Is the actual subject of the video that drove its popularity, or was it the execution of a great content packaging and release strategy?

Chuck Dennis

Can Pinterest Help Your Business? Or Is It Just Messing Around?

Yes.

Pinterest, one in a long line of new social media platforms, is seen by some as a fantastic gateway to driving traffic to other web sites, and therefore, ostensibly, some business.  It is seen by others as another in a long line of colossal, self-indulgent time-wasters on the web.  Hey, you kids!  You’re both right! 

Like with all social media, don’t blame the tool for the quality of the content its users post.  As we are still in the infancy of social media, let us indulge in the frivolous for a while.  Indeed, it is, and has been necessary, to put fun, goofy stuff on the web to encourage more users. Twenty years ago, those of us with corporate jobs were adept at using a computer, but most other working people were not.  Now, 2012, everybody’s grandmother is playing Angry Birds online.

But social media sites like Facebook, and now, to an extent, Pinterest, attract many of the casual web users.  They come for the fun, but many of them stay for the shopping.

And this is where Pinterest shines, if your business sells anything that can be attractively or interestingly turned into a graphic image.  You post a cool image.  Everybody on Pinterest can see it.  Many of them click on it to get a bigger version of the image.  Many of them then click on the link which will direct them to your site, or wherever you got the image from.  Then, many of them pin it on their own page, thus giving their seal of approval to your product.  People trust their friends more than advertisers, so they click on the image, too.  Pinterest has driven more traffic than Google in the past several months.  Like, way more traffic.

But the age-old question on the web is, does the traffic turn into revenue?  That’s up to the individual business, of course.  Pinterest will get the interested people to your site, but you still gotta give them something they want to buy!  That’s a whole other can o’ beans.

For businesses that do not provide tangible products that lend themselves to graphic representation, Pinterest is not right for your business.  Might be great fun for you, personally.  But not your business.  Don’t post pictures of your gas station, because no one online cares about it until they actually need gas.

But for artists, photographers, jewelry, real estate, music, food, collectors, automobiles & boats, and about a zillion other businesses, I think Pinterest is a no-brainer addition to your social media mix.

— Chuck Dennis

Sales Letters: Focus, People! Focus!

We have all received sales letters that bore us to tears.  The writer goes on and on about themselves and/or their company’s wide range of products and services.  If we actually read these things all the way through, are we then motivated to buy anything?  Not really.

If your child is a little thirsty, you don’t blast him with a fire hose.  (Well, you shouldn’t, anyway.)  Same principal applies to sales letters.  If you know your customers are thirsty for something, you don’t need to blast them with everything you’ve got.  Give them a taste of what they are thirsting for, and they will come to you for more when they want more.

We discuss this concept in more detail here, and offer some tactical tips on how to focus your message so that each recipient feels you are speaking directly to him or her, with exactly what they are thirsting for.  We urge you to try some of these tips so that you don’t  overwhelm your audience, or bore them to the point of indifference.

One size does not fit all.  All sizes do not fit all, either.

— Lisa Dennis

All I Want for Christmas is… a customer-focused value proposition?

Some of you in reading this will question whether what I’m proposing is really a marketing responsibility or a sales responsibility. But the point is that the buying climate out there is forcing marketing and sellers to engage and partner more closely than ever before. It takes a village of marketing and salespeople to land and keep happy customers. Marketing has the power and expertise to lead the way on that journey.  So please read this and let me know what you think!

• Customer-focused value proposition that clearly states the prospect’s challenge or goal, your company’s specific offer to address it, and what differentiates your offer from available alternatives;

• Customer-focused benefits (not features) tailored to individual personas/titles of target prospects;

• List of key value drivers that guide the prospect’s decision process, quantified with verifiable proof (customer testimonials, case studies, or third party validation). Qualification tools make all the difference in streamlining the sales process and driving closeable opportunities into the pipeline. While it is sales’ job to qualify, there is a role for marketing to play in driving the process.

• Create a “Prospect Fit Index,” which provides an easy and consistent method for sales to determine whether a prospect is worth pursuing. The index should outline what is a poor fit versus an optimal fit based on a set of 5–7 key criteria that describe the best and closable sales targets for your products or services. Any prospect can be quickly assessed or scored based on where they map across the index.

• Develop a lead measurement tool that allows both marketing and sales to score a lead to be able to assess the quality of leads coming in, and to determine which leads should be pursued versus nurtured until they are ready to go to sales.

Oh yes, there is more!  Click here to continue.

Customer Testimonials: Now That You Have Them, What Do You Do With Them?

Testimonials are important assets that can be used in myriad ways. Be creative with them and be sure to ask permission on types of use. Include on the testimonial form a list of the ways you might use the quote. And if they prefer you don’t use their name, still gather the information. Research has shown that the use of a ‘blind” testimonial is only 10 percent less valuable than a named customer.

Here are some options for using them more creatively:

  • Get endorsements on your website through third-party review sites.
  • Post relevant quotes on different areas of your website (not just a “testimonial” page).
  • Use short customer quotes on your social media profile pages.
  • Add relevant testimonials as an appendix to proposals.
  • Arm sales people with testimonial letters that can be used on sales calls.
  • Add a customer quote to your telephone on-hold recording.
  • Add a customer quote to the back of all business cards.
  • Add to brochures, flyers, fact sheets and other marketing collateral.
  • Consider a sidebar on customer letterhead with 2 -3 short quotes.
  • Video the customer talking about their experience with you.
  • Interview customers for newsletters, blogs, webinars.

Important note:  While it is important to make use of testimonials from customers, do not overdo it! A bombardment of positive commentary about you and your business may come off as a bit disingenuous. And keep it fresh; rotate the testimonials you use every few months!

Read more on this topic.

What Should a Good Customer Reference Say?

Many of your clients may be happy to provide a reference for you in writing, but are often at a loss of exactly what to say that would be meaningful.  Some of them might just tell you to write something yourself, and they will sign off on it.  As tempting as that may be, the most value that you get out of a customer reference is that it comes from the customer!

But that doesn’t mean you can’t help your customer along with the process.  Ask them to take a few moments to answer some pointed, open-ended questions about the work you did or the product you sold.

•    What immediate or long-term benefit(s) did our engagement provide?
•    What aspects of the service experience were memorable and why?
•    What aspects exceeded your expectations?
•    What was the impact on revenue gains or cost reductions?
•    Describe your customer experience in 3 words or less.
•    What did you learn from our working together?
•    Would you work with us again and why?

Ask permission to use some of their answers as a reference for prospects.  Be sure to show the customer exactly how you are going to use their words, and in which media.

Customer references are some of the most precious assets your business has.  Don’t leave them on the table.  And once you have them, don’t squander them!

Click here to read more

Time is of the Essence!

To make any kind of impact on social media, it is imperative that your content be timely.  That’s why you should start each day by viewing search alerts from your web search engines of choice, on topics that are meaningful to your business and industry.  You need to know what’s going on NOW.  The reasoning here is simple: keep your web presence as current as possible. It strengthens your business reputation, and your blog’s SEO.  And, you always have stuff to write about!

Here’s a quick lesson on how to get pertinent, timely information delivered to you when you need it:

  1. Where do you go? Log into your Google account, and go to http://www.google.com/alerts.  (Yes, you can do this with other search engines, too.)
  2. Where do you search?  Don’t limit the scope of your search to just news or just discussions, at least initially. Search everything, including other people’s social media!
  3. What do you search?  Create search alerts on your name, your business or product name, and some industry keywords.  Don’t forget your competitors’ names and products.  Do each of these separately, otherwise you will have bloated search results.  Use quotation marks to focus on “specific terms” such as “your name.”
  4. When do you want to be notified?  At very least, once daily.  But depending on your industry, you may want to be notified “as it happens.”  Beware of having too broad a search when you use immediate notification; your inbox will fill up quickly.

Consider doing this with a variety of search engines, such as Yahoo!, Northern Light, Bing, etc.

But a word of caution: become adept at quickly scanning and assessing these alerts.  If you fully investigate each citation, you will have created an incredible time-suck.

So focus on the hot news, and when something catches your eye, immediately write something about it, link to its source, and share it with your world!

–Chuck Dennis

8 Steps to Recovering “Lost” Customers

Because we’re so focused on generating new business, recovering old accounts is usually not a priority. But it’s a great revenue strategy to identify recovery targets and develop an action plan to go get them. Here are some steps to get you started:

1.  Research your customer database for all customers that have not done business with you for one year or more.

2.  Segment the list into groups of one year, two years, three-plus – and then sort by sales territory.

3.  Review each list with customer service and the territory sales rep to see if they have any intelligence on why the customer left.

4.  Check in with other key personnel who have been with your company for a while and have had customer contact, to see if there is any anecdotal information.

5.  Categorize the reasons for leaving and work with marketing to construct tailored messages for the major categories.

6.  Create a multi-touch field campaign to start to re-engage – holding out those you know had a service issue.  The goal is to get agreement for a preliminary live conversation with a sales rep.

7.  Do NOT try to sell them anything in the first live meeting. This is only step one in earning back their business.

8.  For service-issue customers, re-engagement requires a personal touch. Determine what the nature of the issue was, and what you can offer them now that might be worth reconsidering you as a vendor.

For this to work, you need patience and consistency. So make Customer Recovery a key aspect of every monthly sales meeting. Track and report on the process of recovery for each of the identified targets and make sure everyone in the company knows what is happening, and when you win them back or why you didn’t.

Click here to continue

Who Cares if Prospects “Fit?” You Should!

Over the past several years, most of us would say that any prospect with a pulse is a good prospect. But the reality is there are a number of other criteria that actually determine who is the best target. The stronger the fit of the prospect, the better chances you have to turn them into a profitable customer.

Given that the most limited resource you have is time – a random approach to working your sales territories has the potential to leave a lot of unclaimed revenue on the table.  Not to mention your valuable time, blowing around like leaves in the autumn wind.

Over the years, we have preached the importance of “doing your homework.”  This is not just a cute tagline; this is a serious strategy for everyone who needs to make sales.  In archery, hitting a target is a lot easier and more productive if you are aiming at the right target, and within reasonable shooting distance from it.  If that same archer was blindfolded, and spun around a few times before shooting, how many bulls-eyes would he hit?  How many times would he even hit the target?

Doing your homework, especially regarding your target prospects, will help you aim and focus on the right target, to increase your chances of a hit on each shot you take.  This is just smart business.

Please read my article on Creating a ‘Customer Fit Index’ for your Sales Territory” for some ideas on how to focus on the right targets.

— Lisa Dennis

%d bloggers like this: