Today’s Marketing Channels (And the Choice to Interact)

The internet is progressing into a social medium.

That doesn’t mean that the web is ALL social.  Of course, the internet will always be used to find information.  It was invented for research and will always have that as its core, an open window toward needed or desired knowledge.  It will also always be a place for commerce, as buyers and sellers will meet in a world-wide marketplace for goods and services.  But over and above commerce and research, it has become a place for real time (or close to real time) interaction. Even if an entity’s primary function is to sell things or to provide information, both are impacted by people’s desire to interact.

Marketing to different online channels

A Shift is Buying Culture

Businesses have recognized this and most have been successful in building and maintaining a company website.  In fact, new companies are often looking to see if their unique domain name is available before settling on a name for their company.  Customers have come to expect to be able to type in fragments of what they know about a company into a search engine and find their website to get more information.  All of that is old news. What is new is that customers, prospects and stakeholders have the expectation to dialogue with companies and they expect to do so directly.

Companies have options available to them in order to initiate and engage the dialogue.  Each tool has different characteristics and does not have to be launched simultaneously with the others..  However, each medium when used, provides an edge over competitors who choose not to use these tools.  It will always be to a company’s advantage to be every single place that their prospect might be.  Given that fact, a company’s marketers have to decide whether or not it is worth forgoing potential contact with prospects and customers, by using some of the tools and not others.   Assuming that a company has its website for official company news and factual information, here are some other weapons that a firm can employ to solidify its brand. Just a quick look at two of the hundreds:

Blogs

A blog is also a website that a company owns and maintains, but serves as a time stamped journal of their activities.  It differs from the corporate website in that it provides readers a way of interacting with the information.  The interaction between readers and writers forms a community for feedback and problem solving.  Construction and equipment manufacturer Caterpillar uses its blog to work with industry experts, customers and management to improve its products and processes.  It is an excellent example of what is possible when a company chooses to build and engage a community around its products and services.

Social Media Platform Sites: Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest

Social media platforms have inherent in them social dialogue, but their power comes in personal engagement in new projects and ventures.  Companies use these platforms to get “followers” or “likes” about the things that they are planning and doing.  These platforms work best when a company is doing things that are new (and ‘cool’), and if everyone knew about them, it would be of benefit to the company and those who found out about it. Companies effectively share the thoughts from their blog, website and other real time news in hopes that others will share it with their social network of friends.  Manufacturers such as Livescribe and Samsung use their social media platforms to expose new insights, products and services to their following as well as to engage in areas of customer service and research.

YouTube Video

Multimedia venues such as YouTube add the dimension of visual demonstration to a corporate brand.  Companies like Cisco, are able to engage those who want to see their research as it is happening as well as to envision what the new products and services may look like when they are launched. YouTube channels are at their best in building anticipation in those who have an interest in a company’s research.

Companies like Blendtec add a fun element to attract prospects into their marketing funnel.  How exactly does a company get someone excited about paying over $400 for a blender?  A look at the Blendtecs YouTube channel will offer some clues.

Because each social platform does something entirely different, a company that decides to use one but not another misses an opportunity to interact in a unique dialogue. Each one adds a very special dimension to the relationship building process.  Do you have a community for improvement built around your products and services?  Do you a way to let their friends know about the really cool things you have coming in the future?  Can you visually demonstrate what makes your product special amid all of the noise in media, television and the news?

The choice is yours to make.

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5 Ways Social Media can Take You Off a Prospect’s Radar

According to Forrester’s Jeff Ernst, most B2B sales professionals finally have some breathing room in this year’s marketing budgets. However, company owners and financial managers want to see measurable results. That’s why so many of your competitors have focused their attention online, where it’s easier than ever to connect social media contacts with closed deals.

Keep social media from hurting your company

Instead of worrying about whether their trade show booth will outshine yours, your competitors have staked a claim online that threatens to disrupt your company’s reputation. Imagine what happens if you can’t match their social media presence:

1. Prospects can’t find you within professional networks.

Many of your prospects have replaced standard search engines with LinkedIn and other industry-specific networks when they want expert guidance. LinkedIn members conduct more than 5 billion professional searches each year. Your prospects can’t find you if you’re not there.

2. Reporters and bloggers favor your competitors.

The 2012 Oriella Digital Journalism Study revealed that 3 out of 4 reporters reach out through social media networks for quotes and reaction before they track down traditional sources.

3. Your competitors document their products and their processes.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology cites examples of industrial suppliers like Carr Machine and Tool, who post videos of their order handling and fulfillment processes on YouTube. If your supply chain looks like a mysterious black box, your prospect will order from a shop that shares its secrets.

4. Detractors run rampant on blogs and forums.

Your customer privacy policy probably dictates that you take real concerns offline. However, your prospects want to see that you’re willing to engage in serious conversations and offer empathy when you encounter detractors online. Ignoring the complaints or asking for their removal usually leads to ridicule.

5. Your biggest competitor shows up everywhere at once.

Thanks to sophisticated monitoring tools, your competitor can scour social media networks for mentions of your industry’s key brands and phrases. You’ve got a problem on your hands if they’re answering questions about your products and services before you do.

 

Five steps to building trust with prospects online

Including social media marketing in your B2B sales strategy won’t completely replace traditional relationship selling over the phone or in person. However, the right kind of online presence will help you fill your funnel with warmer leads while taking pressure off your existing customers.

  • Revise your social media policy in partnership with your compliance and marketing teams. Explore how you can translate your existing marketing communications into social media conversations without breaking the rules.
  • Open multimedia channels for sharing video and photos. Prospects want to know that you’re a real person, flaws and all. Set up accounts on YouTube and Instagram that document how you’re helping your current customers. Use a Facebook business page to reach prospects without surrendering your privacy.
  • Stake out community discussions on LinkedIn and on industry forums. Get known for being helpful and for finding the right solutions for your prospects’ problems.
  • Build social media followup tasks into your CRM process. Learn how your customers like to get engaged on social media. Pepper your usual phone and e-mail outreach cycle with interactions on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Spread your insight with reports and white papers. Establish your expert status by tackling your customers’ biggest problems on paper. Become a key source for bloggers and reporters who can use your data without fear of an aggressive sales pitch.

A strong social media strategy won’t just preserve your existing sales funnel. Executed well, you can open up your business to even more prospects who wouldn’t have shown up on your radar.

What steps will you take this month to build a stronger social media presence into your sales outreach?

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Posted in: General Marketing, Industrial Web Marketing, Social Media

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Information Marketing for Profit in Industry

The internet has forced companies to rethink ways in which they deliver their products, services and pricing.  Although many high value service providers do not post their pricing as a matter of strategy; most don’t do so because their services are tailored to the specific needs of a project. But what happens when you introduce information marketing to that service provider who can then begin charging for the exact reason they don’t post pricing; Specialized knowledge.

Businesswoman drawing diagram on a natural background.

However, in most cases due to the vast numbers of service providers available, it is very difficult for a company to differentiate what they can offer.   Competitors that do not have the necessary skills in-house can very easily freelance the expertise in order to provide or match the service offerings of others in their market or industry.  Established companies can experience a ceiling on their pricing as a result.

Put Your Network in Place

However, businesses that have an industrial marketing network in place are at a distinct advantage in managing through pricing challenges.  Marketing for manufacturing, in some cases, works no different than any other business in that there are individuals who cannot afford to work with a particular business although they might want to.  Depending on the nature of the business that a company is in, opportunity routinely exists to take the expertise that companies cannot sell to businesses in project work completion, and instead package it and sell it as education/training. (Dramatic Music) Enter Information Marketing.

The existing industrial marketing network mentioned above that might be interested in training and information will consist of:

  1. An active (SEO) search engine optimized campaign to attract those who are interested in what the company offers,
  2. A following of industry related contacts from conferences, trade publications and educational content delivery
  3. A contact database of prospects, former clients and current clients
  4. A following based on social media platforms of Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn

Companies with this framework in place already have a potential client base for their information products.

Why is this important?

Why is this aspect of business worth pursing? Knowledge and expertise more than service delivery is the chief component of a business that providing a true sustainable competitive advantage.  It is the unique character of the knowledge pool within a company is what sets it apart from others.  While it can be to the company’s advantage to give a fair amount of this knowledge away so that a company and its executives can be positioned as experts in the industry; it can also be lucrative to take some aspect of the knowledge and provide it to companies that need information more than they need service.

Thinking in this vein is very important because it provides access to a competitor’s client base without necessarily having to offer the same bundle of services.  Additionally, while training is easy for others to copy and offer through their own venue, the expertise isn’t easy to duplicate.  There will always be some aspect of information that can be offered that is unique to the talent pool of a company’s staff that cannot be offered elsewhere.  How then can a company cost effectively bundle this information together without taking their focus away from their core product and service offerings?

Companies can offer the following information bundles and packages for sale to interested buyers:

  1. Self Published/Commercially Published Books
  2. Audio/Video Training (Online/Offline)
  3. Conferences (Online and Offline)

In effect, information marketing provides companies with the option of being able to make an offer of some kind to everyone in their marketing funnel.  While offering information products should not preclude a company from providing free training, it can supplement their earning capability by positioning themselves as consultants in addition to service providers.  This will help them to offset some of the lag time between a project’s start and its corresponding compensation.
So then how does a company begin building a structure to package information to market to its network?

  1. Take note of the expertise that the company has
  2. Survey the network to find out what they want to learn and what training they are already paying for
  3. Based on this information determine if the expertise can be offered with existing staff
  4. Add industry expertise from outside of the company, freelancers for pay, industry professionals for exposure
  5. With this information, decide on the most cost effective way to deliver the information
  6. Test the product on a segment of the company’s network and gather feedback
  7. Make suggested changes and offer the product to the entire database
  8. Recreate the information in the two additional forms from Step 3
  9. Offer the other forms to the company’s network
  10. Repeat the process for those problems that industry managers and executives are willing to pay for be trained for.
  11. Develop a referral and affiliate system offering sales commissions to those who bring new clients to this part of the business

The key component in the process is to survey those who are already purchasing information and follow the trend to figure out what can be immediately offered.  This method is advantageous because it can provide visibility in markets that the company was unable to compete in otherwise.  It will also provide new visibility to the business in areas where their pricing was too high for those who may have wanted to work with them.
Most importantly, information products offer an excellent opportunity for companies to showcase their expertise to future clients. Often those who experience a business’ philosophy in training will come to understand that their best course of action is to hire the authors of the information to carry out the process instead of trying to implement it themselves.

Is your business being paid for its expertise or only paying for it?

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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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9 Steps to Find your Market and Build your Plan

Its true. Too many people today spend their time focusing on building relationships with the networks of people who don’t give a damn about what they write leading them to the wrong marketplace.

After finishing the most recent chapter of my book, I took to the Twitter streets to get some insight from a couple of best-selling authors about what they feel is the most important thing to focus on, after your writing is complete.? Although their advice was tailored to writing, I think it goes much further than that.

The first response I received was:

Carrie Wilkerson, a true inspiration for many and the Author of The Barefoot Executive, is someone who can grow on you from the first time you have the privilege to interact with her.? I’ve focused a lot on Carrie these past couple months, and the reason is because there’s a ton everyone can learn from her.? Even the response above can shed some deep insight to companies wondering “what next?”.

Out of the 100 or so industrial companies I’ve worked with, many of them are hit with this question early in the process of a product release.? They’ve built something phenomenal, they’ve spent countless hours making sure its right, and now they sit and wonder what the hell do to with it.

Here are 3 tips to keep you focused on creating your marketing plans:

1. ) Build your Plans Now

Gather evidence to justify the avenues you take to market your business or product. This ensures you?re ready to go as soon as possible. Otherwise, you might fall second to a competitor.

2.) Prioritize the Investments

Invest in integrated programs that explore multiple platforms to maximize exposure and identify opportunity.? Prioritize as pre-product, product-release and post-product programs to build and sustain awareness in your target market early, allowing you to build upon these programs and utilize the same exposure for future marketing activities.

3.) Emphasize Measurement and Evaluate your Channels

Today, the most effective marketing programs are online programs whose performance can be measured and analyzed. Online programs are built around impressions, clicks and conversions. You can easily see what is working and focus marketing dollars on the most successful programs, which will help reduce waste while increasing results.

Best-Selling Advice #2

The second bit of advice came from another professional who I often turn to for inspiration and for ideas on my own business, Chris Brogan.? Chris is something of a ninja when it comes to building a market for business.? He writes one of the most respected marketing blogs in the industry and is a pioneer for inventing new ways to build a network.

I exchanged a few tweets with Chris, and felt they were worth noting:

Come on! The second tweet absolutely kicks the shit out of any advice many of us have received.? If you don’t think so than maybe you shouldn’t quit the day job.? But seriously, its so true.? Many times we get so consumed in attempting to emulate something that doesn’t make sense for our own success that we lose vision of our own marketplace.

Its true, there is a market for everything.? Its just about putting the time in to identify the market and engage in it.? Here are 6 things that anyone can do to find the marketplace they seek:

1.) Engage in your Target Market

Spend time learning and listening in on what conversations are happening in your target market.? Find our what they are facing and consider how your marketing plans need to adjust from what your audience is telling you.

2.) Be Clear about What you Do

How can someone know if you’re a right fit or them until they clearly understand what you do.? Refine your marketing message and your engagements to speak clearly to your target market.

3.) Be Adaptable

Odds are that your target market is not approachable int he way you originally dreamed up and thought.? Fit your marketing messages and engagements to what you’re learning from your audience.? Change it based on what problem it solves and how it connects with your target audience.

4.) Source Yourself

Finding the right audience for your product sometimes requires you becoming the audience yourself.? Spend some time sourcing your competitors from your buyers point of view. Learn what the current market looks like and if you’re truly a fit with what’s already there.

5.) Help Now, Learn Later

Offer your expertise at every opportunity possible.? What better way to learn if you’re in the right marketplace than by engaging in it with your expertise. Monitor discussions and opportunities for you to become part of.? Take the feedback you get and adjust your marketing message.

6.) The “Worth It” View

Review the strategies and tactics that you’re currently putting into place and decide if they have the ability to be repeated on a consistent basis.? if not, you may not be in the right marketplace.

In Closing

So the advice I received today was directly related to writing m y book, but you can see how one can expand on the information and turn it into some extremely valuable business experience.? You never know when great information will smack you face!

Thanks to Chris and Carrie for the help today.

 

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