This year I’ve been working primarily with small to mid-size btob companies—under $200 million in revenue—that provide services or software. These companies are successful and growing, sometimes in spite of themselves.
What they lack is clearly defined messaging for their brand(s) and product(s) and often even a marketing plan. As a result, the company’s marketing is hit or miss—taking advantage of a new opportunity, attending a trade show, publishing an article or sending out press releases.
If you’re shaking your head and tsk tsking—good for you! I hope that means you have a cohesive marketing program that is well defined, updated regularly and measured for results. If you are feeling a bit superior because you at least have a marketing plan and budget, but the plan is often abandoned mid-year as emergencies and budget cuts start to happen, read on.
The best lesson I learned during my years of btob marketing is to take the time to create a messaging platform that clearly defines your product/service, mission and vision statements, USP, elevator pitch, target market(s), decision-making titles within each market, the key messages that resonate with each audience/title, and the revenue potential of each segment. You can add more information of course—sales cycle for each, ease of sale, competition, etc. Once your key messaging platform is developed and agreed on, a marketing plan and budget is developed to communicate individual messages to each market segment.
Painful? Sometimes. It helps to have a consultant to guide your team through the process and build consensus about the messaging. Otherwise it can happen that he/she who talks the loudest or is most senior dominates the discussion and you can end up with a platform that represents the consensus of the few.
The advantages of a well-defined and executed key messaging platform? Consistency, discipline and more bang for your marketing buck.
- Marketing campaigns focus on each target market, in order of revenue potential.
- Sales materials and presentations deliver the USP and tailor messages to the market segment and then the decision-makers within that segment.
- The sales and marketing team speaks with one, consistent voice, maximizing your impact in the marketplace.
- Budgets developed for each target market are based on the revenue potential.
- Core marketing messages will be consistent across media, saving time and increasing impact.
- Key metrics can be defined and your ROI tracked over the year, providing some data on what to do more—or less of.
- It becomes much easier to evaluate new campaigns because the messaging grid outlines your agreed-on priorities for the year.
Start now and you could have your messaging platform in place in time to budget and plan for 2014. You can accomplish this in one or two days of facilitated discussion among your sales and marketing teams. The result–a more successful marketing campaign next year.
Regardless of what you sell, exhibiting at your industry’s key trade shows is essential. The trade show floor puts you in direct contact with your customers and prospects, as well as your competition. The vibe on a trade show floor is as good an indicator of the state of the market as anything. Yet in many companies the budget for trade show exhibiting and sponsorship is the first to be cut and the discussion of the trade show ROI is endless.
In boom times (if you can remember back that far), trade shows blossom, new expositions abound and exhibiting budgets grow. When the market slows or stops, trade show participation is the easiest way to cut marketing budgets quickly. Why?
Exhibiting is expensive. Even a 10 x 10 booth at a small show is going to cost $2500 out of pocket, before the cost of travel, marketing materials and time of the office is calculated. Major shows with substantial booths start in the low six figures—after the cost of the initial booth.
Calculating ROI for individual shows is complex and requires that you have good data management and mining capabilities. Garnering 100 leads is only worthwhile if the leads are targeted and hot and your sales team follows up.
Working a trade show booth too often falls to the least experienced staff, while the executives network, speak and set up private meetings. How many times have you stopped in a booth to ask questions and been told “I only know what the brochure says,” or “here’s a card for the person who can explain why our process is superior?” Or walked by a booth where the company representatives were busy chatting among themselves or working their phones.
Managing the exhibit schedule is a thankless task. In most sales-driven organizations, there is a constant push from the field to add more shows and events in order to support sales. At the same time, there is a constant push from company executives (particularly the CFO) to justify participation and cut expenses. Once a schedule is approved, it is often amended throughout the year. Then there are the logistics of getting the booth or booths to and from each event, keeping the graphics fresh and the booth in working order, meeting the many deadlines for payment, service orders, set up and take down. In many companies, this falls to the marketing department and in my experience it is not a welcome addition.
Plan, track —and maybe get help
List the shows are critical for exhibiting and which for attending. If you are unsure about an expo or conference, attend the first year to determine the value.
Create a marketing plan for each show that includes:
- Attendee demographics and why that is important to your sales goals
- Number and level of staff best suited to talk to that audience
- Cost of exhibiting/attending, including travel, out of office time
- Other meetings/visits that can be added on to get more value out of the travel and time investment.
- Goals: How many and what types of leads justify the cost of exhibiting? How many sales do you expect to result from the event? Or is the goal to break a new category of customer? Increase business with existing customers? Introduce your company/product to the market? You can’t measure ROI if you don’t know what you are measuring against.
Prepare, Prepare, Prepare. I’ve worked a lot of trade shows and managed both trade shows and conferences and this is what I’ve observed: Very few exhibitors and sponsors take advantage of all the marketing opportunities—free and paid—that events offer. Too many companies show up, set up their booth and then wait to be found by a prospect. Here are a few steps you can take:
- Execute a pre, during and post-show communication plan for customers, previous customers and prospects. The message should always be tailored to the event. Use a contest or giveaway to increase responses.
- Consider advertising in the show guide because everyone gets one and many use their guide as a source throughout the year.
- Look at sponsorship opportunities—they don’t have to break the bank—but evaluate each one in terms of how much exposure you will get with your key audience segments.
- Arrive a day early and visit any clients or prospects you have in the area—that helps spread the cost and could win more business.
Investigate outsourcing. Executing on any of these suggestions is not rocket science, but it is time consuming. If you company doesn’t have an event support group or event marketing person, consider contracting for support. Outsourcing can take your trade show participation from “did anyone take care of this…” to “let’s brainstorm new ideas.” An added advantage is you benefit from a wider range of experiences than your internal staff can have—which can result in saving money, increasing leads and generally showing your executives exactly what they got for their exhibiting investment.
Photo Credit: <a href=”http://dmad.com/photos/money” target=”_blank”>Hundred Dollar Bills</a>
There is so much new every week I find it overwhelming to keep up. But then I need a marketing or social media solution—preferably for free—and I find myself feverishly Google-searching. So I’ve started a Cool Tools file where I can easily cut-and-paste the treasures I find. I even attach some keywords to make it easy to search the file. And–before you tell me there are more sophisticated ways to store information–my low-tech system works just fine.
Here are my Cool Tools from the past few months.
Postagram.com: Easy way to send a real postcard with a photo and a brief message. The photos are detachable and the postcards can be set up and mailed from a smart phone. The cost is an affordable 99 cents each, including postage. The print quality is ok. I’m using them to talk to my nephews and grandson. But I think Postagrams could be used for promotion as well. Perhaps to invite prospects to visit your booth and bring the detachable section to enter to win, or go to the head of the line, or get lunch.
Yesware is an email tool for salespeople. This free software provides all you need to manage customer communications. It works with Gmail (only) and allows you to setup a desktop CRM, with tracking and open statistics, templates as well as a CRM sync to your company’s software. It downloads and self-installs and is ready to use within minutes. The free version limits the number of emails that can be tracked per month. The paid version (nominal monthly fee) allows unlimited tracking. Yesware, Inc. is a Boston start-up and the company blogs are worth following for the email tips and app recommendations. Happily, customer service is available and helpful.
HubSpot sends out templates and how-to guides that are helpful for those of us not on the bleeding edge. They can be downloaded from HubSpot.com. Here are some recent offerings:
Social Media Publishing Schedule Template: Yes, we could all set this up ourselves, but have you? This Excel workbook has sections for posting each social media event (twitter, Facebook etc.) and a repository section to list content links and descriptions. So much easier than searching for the great fact you want to use but can’t remember where you found it.
SEO Template Guide: All you need to get started in the fun world of search engine optimization. A great time saver.
ebook Template: A simple PowerPoint template to use to create custom content for your prospects, visitors or clients.
Creating Infographics: Another PowerPoint with a step-by-step guide to planning and creating infographics.
I’m sharing a cartoon with you that hit the “I rarely forward these things but” circuit last week.
It perfectly sums up the world that marketing folks live in, whether client or agency. In fact, most of us confessed to being on both sides of the cartoon equation.
Which one(s) are you?
I went looking in search of permission to publish the cartoon and discovered cartoonist Tom Fishburne’s website (http://tomfishburne.com). Fishburne started drawing cartoons on the backs of Harvard Business School cases. His cartoons have grown by word of mouth to reach 100,000 business readers each week and have been featured by the Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, Forbes, and the New York Times. As Founder and CEO of Marketoon Studios, Fishburne creates marketoons to help businesses—including some big ones—communicate with their audience. It’s hard to miss the point of any of the marketoons and they are still funny.
After spending time on the website, I can’t imagine any marketing communication that wouldn’t be improved with one of these marketoons.
At one of the organizations I work for, the marketing department recently found itself with an out-of-commission marketing manager four weeks before a major trade show. The department was already skeletal and staff was supporting several major events staging in the same time frame. Fortunately, I was already providing marketing support for one of those events and familiar with the department’s processes and work flow. So it was relatively easy for me to step in and complete the marketing program.
What’s your back up plan?
As the economy inches toward recovery, most marketing departments are short staffed and lacking resources to support new projects or cover staff emergencies and resignations. When I ran a large marketing department in a fast-growing but under-resourced company, I created a backup team of freelancers who could step in to almost any ongoing project. Some of them worked on a modest retainer to provide incidental support and were also paid by the project. Others worked on a project or hourly basis. It took some years to build a reliable network, but the results were worth the investment. We could quickly scale up and down as projects launched or died and staff emergencies were far less traumatic because we had knowledgeable freelancers waiting in the wings. Best of all, the freelancers had minimum budget impact, saving me the involved negotiations with my boss and the HR department every time I needed extra help.
Can I help?
I’m a freelance marketing professional with lots of hands-on experience in taking over ongoing projects, launching new ones, or just handling overflow work at peak times. I have a great network of experienced marketing professionals. We’re fast, flexible and affordable. Let’s create a marketing emergency preparedness plan that will work for you! Learn more at www.SeltzSolutions.com.
“I can see what I want in my head,” are clumsy words I’ve often spoken to a designer or agency account manager. Those words strike fear into the heart of any creative services professional.
Have you found yourself with a vision for a marketing piece but unable to communicate coherently? Are you often disappointed with the final output? Do you feel like no one understands your creative vision?
That’s because they don’t. Few people are able to communicate their abstract idea (often more like feelings) into words that a creative team can correctly interpret.
Although each side of this partnership blames the other, it’s no one’s fault. We just have different vocabularies. And honestly do even those who know and love you understand what you mean when you say “snazzy but not too loud?”
Here are some ways to improve communications:
- Collect samples all of the time. Just anything you like from a flyer to a website. Try to jot down a few sentences about why you like it and don’t overthink your comments.
- Look for designers whose work you like. Most designers have a style and they don’t stray too far from it. Ask each designer to show you his/her favorite work—because that will give you an idea of what they consider to be their best.
- Remember that designers—like writers—deliver what clients ask for and that is not always their best work. Their website will show you more about their personal style.
- Find designers who can help you translate—or is at least willing to listen to you and review your “like” file.
- Compile action/marketing words that you like and that describe your product or service. This helps the designer better understand the project.
- Make a list of colors you like, don’t mind and hate. Keep samples of those colors because many people don’t see color clearly. My husband, for example, sees most grays as greens, causing many a misunderstanding in our house.
- If you don’t have core creative for your company and/or products, be clear with the designer about any colors that must be used.
- Write a creative brief that is unique to this project. You can find samples of creative briefs by searching Google and agencies often have a format they ask you to follow. The time you spend writing the brief will translate directly to the quality of the project.
- Write the copy or have it written and make it as final as you can. Even marketing professionals very often provide more copy than can be effectively used. And don’t think that because your project is digital, you don’t have to be disciplined. True, digital solutions provide unlimited space—but your audience’s attention is twitter-length.
- Set your budget and understand clearly what the designer will provide for that. Even if you are working with your cousin, define how many design comps you will see and how many copy/layout.
1. Do your clients feel cared for? Valued? Respected?
2. Do you have a formal program to solicit feedback from your clients?
3. Do you communicate their value to your company throughout the year, or just at contract renewal time?
4. Does every communication to your clients present your company at its best?
5. Is your company consistent in the way you fulfill your brand promise?
6. Can every employee articulate the company’s value proposition? Deliver your elevator pitch?
7. Do you empower your employees to solve problems for your clients, quickly and graciously?
8. Do your employees feel valued? Do you treat them as well as you treat your best clients?
9, Do you have formal quality control programs in place?
10. How well do your executives model the best client care behavior?
If you can’t answer yes to these questions, consider adding client care to your management agenda.