Kitchen Table Talks (Who do you thank, and how?)

I just finished viewing a technically improvised Kitchen Table Talk with @ChrisBrogan, @JoeSorge, and @JohnMorgan, on Google + hangout which was fantastic.

During this week’s episode, I felt the question of the week was worth covering:

There were fantastic answers all around the table.? Everything from “thanking your following”, to “thanking your critics” and each of the guys had incredible insights to how it can improve your overall business goals.

My personal answer:

It was followed with a great round of discussion and insight on the show from each of today’s panel members.

What I Took Away

It’s funny how completely indulgent we become on the negatives we are faced with.? Chris made a great comment on how you can host an entire show earning great praise from the community, however, your attention immediately becomes consumed by the one negative comment on a question that “ran too long”, or how something “could have been better”.

The point made that I felt was so constructive, was that many of us will become so involved with the negative comments that we fail to show thanks for the praise.? We are more concerned on why someone had a bad experience, when in reality, these are not the people who are paying the bills for you.? They are not the individuals who are giving you money for your books, or paying for your time.

Sometimes its easy to forget to thank the ones who you’ve already gained the approval of.? Sometimes a simple interaction is all it takes to show the people who support you, many times in a financial manner, that you appreciate all they do for you.? Don’t get so disconnected with your following that they become a number.? Understand that each of your followers is an individual that is adding ‘Social Proof’ of your work to further your position as a professional and a thought leader.

Keeping this in mind will ensure you always remember to thank the people who got you to the exact place you are today. Who do you thank? and How?

 

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How to Win Business When Pricing is the Same

Internet users expect to get the lowest prices on most of what they buy because information about pricing is readily available, faster than you want it.   Of course this makes markets more competitive when companies have to compete on the basis of price. In addition to this, most markets have low barriers to entry because it is easy to replicate business teams and business models.  That means that it is easier for new entrants to recreate products and relatively low pricing, while undercutting established players.

Win business when pricing is the same.

The same dynamic exists with service companies, as both clerical and technical assistance is available to be sourced at extremely low rates allowing new players to match the pricing of established players very easily.  As a result of these factors, both product and service oriented companies are always under pressure to cut pricing to meet both new and existing players.

This pressure to cut pricing causes companies to attract new clients through discounting.  Of course this is not the best way to build a marketing funnel.  Clients attained in this way typically won’t be loyal if another company offers them better pricing on accessories or on replacement items.

Don’t Always Move Quick to Price Cut

The result of competing in a market on the basis of price is that a company must tear away at both their revenue and subsequent profits in order to bring new prospects into their marketing funnel.  When tactics like these are used to gain new prospects for the long term industrial marketing plan, it is a viable strategy.  When it is executed as a routine part of the company’s business model, it is unsustainable.

So how can a company compete when other entrants can match product and service offerings very quickly in the marketplace?  In what way can established companies distance themselves from the competition and/or new players?  Is it possible for companies to build a sustainable competitive advantage into their marketing for manufacturing plan?  It is here that industrial marketing consultants can partner with business to accomplish this.

In order for companies to create space for themselves in the marketplace, they must be skilled at adding value to every transaction.  This involves knowing what their clients want and how to package as much of what they value as possible into each sale.  To accomplish this, managers can use internet technology to add value to its transactions at a relatively low cost of human and capital resources.

3 Ways to Differentiate Your Company with Content, NOT Costs

How can companies take practical steps to use these marketing for manufacturing tools to add value to their products and services?

  1. Companies should utilize YouTube.Com to explain every aspect of the proper use of their products and services.  By providing explicit directions and demonstrating them visually, they can minimize confusion and increase chances to develop customer loyalty.  Because YouTube is free to upload content, companies can do this for relatively low cost.  Other video directions can include proper website navigation as well as ways to use the product to solve common problems.  To find out what to create the video subjects on, companies should use the email contact information as well as the telephone to survey users to find out what they would like to see covered in the videos.
  1. Companies should provide online classroom settings to keep clients aware of changes in relevant uses of the products or services they have purchased.  For instance, when there are changes in laws and policies that affect the use of services, management can conduct webinars (internet/web seminars) to discuss alternatives for buyers. While companies should survey their clients to find out what they would like to learn, they should also share non proprietary industry research as they are learning it. This kind of education can increase loyalty as it helps clients to improve their companies, save money and/or increase revenues.
  1. Companies should provide private social networking opportunities using existing technologies (such as Facebook) or create proprietary ones.  This will allow users to share solutions and converse around the product.  These relationships can make it more difficult for clients to leave for a competitor.  Companies can create groups around individual products and services, or they function out of one large community with many sub-groups.  The only requisite for entry should be the purchase of the company’s products or services.

Closing Thoughts

Creating value in this manner places the premium not only on the product but on the expertise underlying the product.  By giving customers private access to this expertise, a business can set it self apart from their competition.  This is important if a firm looks to position itself to compete in areas other than price and ask for premium compensation.

Does your company use information technology to add value to every sale?  Do you know what constitutes additional value to your customers?

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Can Social Media Ruin SEO?

Social media Social media is an ever gaining momentum force pounding its way throughout the massive web.? It continues to grow in new and impressive ways.? New tools such as IFTTT and Pinterest are showing up, casuing a big? buzz and prompting more and more users to become part of this incredible movement even further than Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and the many other networks already have.

Where I?m Coming From

Now first and foremost, let me be perfectly clear when I say that I firmly support the growth of Social Media.? It has been the sole reason that I?ve had the opportunity to interact with incredible people such as Danny Sullivan of SearchEngineLand, Chris Brogan of Human Business Works and Carrie Wilkerson, the Barefoot Executive.? Without social media, I would never have the opportunity to learn, engage and converse with such innovative people.

In recent discussions, the power of social media has been a checkmate argument of what?s to come in the future for SEO.? The main focal point is how social sharing will continue to affect rankings in the Search Engines.? Realistically speaking, its way to early to discuss how social media will significantly impact the search world (although it appears that it is already taking a role in doing so) and speculating on its impact may appear premature.? But for argument sake, I wanted to step on the other side of the fence and discuss how social media could have a negative impact on SEO.

When recently questioned from PointBlankSEO, whether or not social sharing would decrease the impact links have on rankings, here’s how one of the most respected experts, Danny Sullivan answered:

Now, other opposed, however Danny does a such a great job at covering search, that its hard to let his comment go unnoticed.? The more important issue is what if the comment was correct.? What if the search engines soon see social sharing as a more prevalent signal in the ranking algorithms.? Would it be a good thing, or a bad thing?

Three Issues I see with Social Media and SEO

Popularity Could Out-Perform Relevancy

The first issue I see with social sharing is the inability to attach relevancy to links since the current method of link sharing in social media doesn’t support anchor text.? Now sure, that’s something that could be easily changed in the future but we want to focus on social media as we know it.? We’ve all been observant of how powerful a tweet could be.? If we, as contributors, can catch the attention of the social media thought leaders, we have the ability to reach enormous audiences in a matter of minutes.? I support viral content and feel that its good for the web in general, but there are ways that this could be manipulated.? “Unknown” authors can become “Well-Known” thought leaders in the matter of minutes, and I’m not so sure this should be the same story with search.? The people who give us the great content we crave will become absolutely attacked with SEO’s trying to get a piece of content spread throughout their network losing the credibility that social media is earning so diligently.

Reciprocal Linking Returns…Via Social Sharing

Social media thrives on the ability to build relationships.? We frequently see thought leaders sharing each others’ content in an effort to share the insights of the people we admire.? When I see content from one of my colleagues who I respect greatly, I don’t hesitate to share that content with my followers and community.? Alternatively, I hope that if I write something worth sharing, those same people can help push my views and insights deeper into the community.? I never want that to become jeopardized.? Remember when reciprocal linking was discredited in search rankings.? Remember the days of “link to me and I’ll link to you” was a common sought after strategy, I see the same thing happening in social media.? I would imagine “link-exchange” tweets would become a sought after annoyance. They would have to be discredited.? But at the same time, could we really discredit when Danny Sullivan and Matt Cutts share their insights with one another?? Think about it.

Klout Score Obession

I’m not a huge fan of Klout scores, although I do think they serve as a fairly strong foundation to developing a scoring metric that could contribute to the search ranking game.? My thought is that there is eventually going to have to be a standard system based on data and metrics that would allow the value of social sharing to be passed through the search engines (which is currently existent in some fashion).? Once those metrics become obvious, there comes a new obsession: “Do what you must to enhance the metrics that affect your score in a positive manner”.? It hurts social media.? At this point, people will begin submerging themselves in the metrics while losing focus on the quality of their content.? The new motive will be to create thoughtless content that can be shared and if its not within a few minutes of posting, on to the next one.

Do you feel that the main goal and objective of social media will become lost if it begins to contribute significantly on search engine rankings?? Again, I’m an advocate of social media, but you must look at both sides if you want a full picture.

 

 

 

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How to Create White Papers that Sell

Among the many tools that a company has in their arsenal to make their case to prospective customers, the white paper can be one of the most potent when it is used effectively.  It is content that easily makes the transition from the web to physical handout while retaining its effect in the marketplace.  Most importantly, the format communicates a seriousness about the brand and/or the product that an online article, video or image cannot easily do.  Because the white paper is a sober, well researched and factual presentation of your company’s assessment of how to solve a real-life business problem, the document is considered to be a more trustworthy marketing piece than a standard brochure or presentation.

White papers that sell

What Is a White Paper and Why Is It Trusted

The white paper originated in governance and was a way for proposals to be made to start new projects, request funding and most importantly to consider new legislation.  Because of this the structure of the communication needed to be objective, with depth that indicated that the research had been done to cover contingencies.  Because the form was effective in governance to ‘sell’ new ideas and concepts, it eventually evolved into a marketing tool.

Current Evolution of White Papers

White papers are used by companies to educate prospects and clients as well as the general public on what is required to solve certain problems.  The research involved in assessing solutions is also used by successful companies to boost their image and brand in a new or experimental niche. Moreover, white papers are now used to position companies as a ‘thought leaders’ in mitigating the effects of new problems that don’t have commonly known and practiced solutions.

A Good White paper Educates to Sell

Part of what any good white paper does is to bring the knowledge of the prospect or client up concerning the depth and impact of a particular problem.  In some cases, this part of the education process is critical because those to whom you are presenting may not know or understand how a particular issue is affecting them or their marketplace.  The objective presentation of both the problem as well as the negative consequences of allowing it to go unresolved is often the key to making a deeper impact on decision makers who make purchase commitments.

White Paper Topics Solve Problems

When a company decides to commit to write a white paper, it should consider what the most confounding problems in its industry are.   Typically these problems are going to revolve around those things that affect costs and/or revenues in some sense.  However, the problem being analyzed could also have a more indirect linkage to costs and revenues.  Regardless, it should be one that a prospect has a need or desire to resolve as soon as possible.

How Long Should a Good White Paper Be?

The way to approach this piece of research is not to work toward a pre-determined length.  The most important issue is that it flows to the right amount of depth in communicating the nature and effect of the problem.  Because every niche is different and the nature of its problems is different, it is difficult to speak to what the “right amount” of content in a white paper should be.   The question that every company should ask before completing the process is about what it takes to achieve the educational goal.  Is the prospect or customer aware of the depth of the issue you are writing about?  Do they recognize what not solving the problem could mean to their revenues and/or costs?  Are they calculating potential strain that the issue could be placing on their human resources?  The education process needs to be long enough for the reader to have credible and reliable information on which to make a good purchase decisions.

What Is the Structure of the White Paper?

A.) The structure of a good white paper is very basic, but the critical factor is that each stage should engage as well as prepare the buyer for a soft sales pitch at the end.

  1. Introduction
  2. Discussion of the Problem
  3. Nature of the Solution
  4. Conclusion or Sales Pitch

B.) The appearance of the white paper should be very easy to read with copious graphics and photos to make the information clear.

C.) Although a call to action is necessary, the text should be void of a sales pitch until the conclusion.  A white paper is a soft-sell piece, not a hard sell letter.

D.) The document is a researched proof piece of the depth of your understanding of a prospect’s market and what a solution can actually do for them.

Because a completed white paper has inherent in it, significant resources in research and writing, a company should repurpose the content many times.  While it should be posted to the company’s web properties, it should also be viewed as worthy to be re-contextualized in local, regional and national trade publications.  Moreover, the content can also be used in e-mail/e-courses as well as press releases and high level sales presentations to senior executives.

A white paper, in effect is serious minded content that states to the marketplace that you are a leader and problem solver.  Good marketing messages communicate a unique position in the marketplace. That message can be made superior with proof that a company understands its prospect’s needs and constraints, and that that where the white paper shines.

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8 Ways You Can Use Content to Close the Sale

Because Business to Business (B2B) marketing depends on relationship building, owners and managers have long relied on traditional methods of client attraction including:

  1. conference and trade show attendance,
  2. personal networking,
  3. cold calling,
  4. semi-direct mail and
  5. referrals
Content selling

And to some degree, sales professionals within B2B industries, still rely on these methods.  However, the web continues to provide an increasingly wider range of marketing tools to decision makers when used strategically.

How Web-Based Tools Affect The B2B Sales Process

B2C Companies have been at forefront of using these tools over the last decade.  Leaders in those companies have been successful utilizing different forms of inbound marketing to attract consumers into their marketing funnels.  Through the use of SEO, social media and online multi-media, companies have been successful in capturing clients in the midst of researching intriguing problems and looking for personal comforts.  Consumers have now fully adopted the practice of being converted from prospect to customer entirely online, and have shown increasing affinity toward direct marketing processes.

This prospect to client process works well for personal purchases with relatively low dollar amounts and a single decision maker.  However, B2B transactions are typically made by more than one individual, and rarely made at the point of being introduced to a particular product or service.  This inherently longer sales cycle doesn’t lend itself well to attraction efforts that lead to direct marketing tactics.  In a B2B context the two (internet attraction and direct marketing) are incongruous.

Rule of Attraction in B2B Marketing

A B2B Marketer can and should use attraction methods with website/blogs, social media and email marketing.  But the attraction process is less of a hard sell and more of a dialogue about how the product benefits the customer.  A B2B marketing funnel must affirm the traditional forms of relationship building and networking mentioned above while also problem solving through educating clients.  Whether the initial contact that a prospect has with the company is a journal article, whitepaper or webinar; marketers should be always be demonstrating their knowledge of the depth of the problems in the industry.

In that context, intelligent decision makers are able to go an additional step by helping prospects to understand the nature of their problem if left untreated.    A good education process not only outlines the nature of the problems in the industry but answers the question: what will happen if a company decides to delay fixing the problem described?  Since the solution to the problem is the company’s product or service, this question and answer is the transition point from educating a prospect to moving them to into position to make a purchase.

Each stage in the B2C marketing funnel provides tools to move the client forward while building a relationship.  The B2B marketing funnel has them also, and the position in the relationship that a company should seek to earn is that of an expert trusted advisor.   Being able to secure that position in the minds of managers at the prospect client’s company is critical to the effective use of internet attraction.

B2B Marketers should use blogs, newsletters, whitepapers, SEO, webinars, video and SEO interchangeably at all stages in the marketing process, including the attraction of traffic, conversion of leads and enticing their clients to make additional purchases.

8 Steps to Close the Sale with Content

What then are the steps to implement an education based selling method?  As a start, companies should do the following:

  1. Get a firm handle on the concerns of the industry.  Research industry trade journals, participate in online forums, interview clients and attend industry conferences.  In attending these events, the purpose is information gathering. It is not necessarily prospecting, as mentioned above.
  2. Keep an ongoing list of the issues that perplex executives.  Prioritize this list based on which problems can be solved by the company.
  3. Determine the forms of content needed to effectively reach industry executives and decision makers.  Will executives be most likely to watch videos, listen to podcasts, read whitepapers, interact on webinars, etc?
  4. Once the content delivery method has been determined, sales funnels should be designed with marketing automated databases in place.  The databases will assist the company in segmenting  prospects according to the issues that the company has the capacity to solve.  Make sure that tracking mechanisms are secured from the marketing databases and integrated into the content delivery.
  5. Utilize the created content to attract prospects into the marketing funnel.  Companies should make use of SEO principles, public relations (PR) and social media to strategically place content online in locations where individuals are looking.  Effort should also be made to publish content in prospects’ and clients’ industry trade publications, conferences and trade shows.  In every content piece, companies should promise in-depth answers and solutions in exchange for the prospect’s contact information when they opt-in.
  6. Offer more specialized solutions to those who opt-in.  Offer webinars, seminars and written content that more definitively answers their questions.  Propose solutions that come form your company’s product and service line.
  7. Continue the cycle of discovering industry problems and strategically placing content in locations online and offline that  concerned executives will see and consume.
  8. As part of the sales funnel process there should be an individualized follow up procedure. In other words, each product-to-client solution should warrant a specific follow up plan.  Although most of the follow up will take place “offline”, executives should make sure that every available means of contact can be systematically employed.

Takeaway

The key is to use education to reinforce real transparency and relationship building knowing that unlike B2C marketing, the entire process is unlikely to start and finish on a website with only minutes having transpired.  The B2B education process assumes that the marketing funnel starts with trusted advice and ends with a decision being made to authorize a check, with days, weeks or months in between.

What is your company implementing to build transparency and relationship building?

Does that process lead to more sales?  If not, can you use education to bridge the gap?

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