marketing

Four Ways You Can Improve Your Company’s Content Marketing

Four Ways You Can Improve Your Company’s Content Marketing

Content marketing continues to serve as a key marketing tool for businesses of all sizes. Those businesses that make a commitment to provide informative and useful content build a stronger bond with their target audiences, leading to greater sales and enhanced profits. and for small businesses the low cost allows for early ROI. Here’s a look at four content marketing strategies that can benefit your company’s marketing and sales efforts…

How to Drive Marketing with Engaging Social Media

How to Drive Marketing with Engaging Social Media

The true power of social media is the ability to get dozens, hundreds or even thousands of people to share your messages, but people won’t share just anything. In fact, today’s online customers are more discerning than ever. That’s why it’s essential to focus your social media strategy only on the most shared content – the post formats that are likely to result in the most shares…

Social Media – the Small Business Owner’s Checklist [Infographic]

Social Media – the Small Business Owner’s Checklist [Infographic]

Social media can confuse a business owner. They know they need to do it, often feel intimidated, sometimes get sucked in so it saps time from other valuable business actions. More worrying they can’t always prove that it has an ROI (return on investment). Then, like so many actions, it dwindles, and that lack of ROI is a self-fulfilling prophecy. So, how do you win at the social media game?

Is “Emotional Marketing” the Best Way to Connect with Customers?

Is “Emotional Marketing” the Best Way to Connect with Customers?

According to the Small Business Association, “All humans feel four basic emotions: happy, sad, afraid/surprised, and angry/disgusted.” Of course, no business wants to spur feelings of disgust or anger with their customers, but as the SBA adds, “creating strong emotions—either positive or negative—can help build a bond between your customers and your business,” which is definitely a goal all businesses share.

If you’re looking for a stronger connection with your target audience, here are tips on emotional marketing that might resonate with your target audience…

How to Get Your Sales and Marketing Teams on the Same Page

How to Get Your Sales and Marketing Teams on the Same Page

Just how well do your sales and marketing teams interact? Can you point to tangible achievements as a result of close sales/marketing collaboration? Or is the situation more akin to military platoons advancing with little or no contact with one another?

In fact, many businesses are still chasing the elusive goal of optimum sales and marketing alignment. Even in an era of advanced marketing automation, “marketing technology and processes have yet to turn the sales and marketing boxing ring into a night of candlelit dinners,” observes B2B marketing expert Laura Ramos.

Here are tips on getting sales and marketing on the same page, thus benefiting both your business and your customers:

6 Business-Damaging Social Media Mistakes to Avoid

6 Business-Damaging Social Media Mistakes to Avoid

As a business owner, you know that social media offers an unprecedented opportunity for businesses to engage with their current customer base, connect with potential new customers and greatly enhance brand awareness. Whether you’re looking for more business or to expand your team, you need to engage. At the same time, those without much experience in social media may encounter a landscape crowded with potential minefields that can—if you’re not careful—inflict significant damage on your brand.

Here are six social media mistakes your business should avoid:

What to Include in Your B2B Marketing Plan

Nowhere is the celebrated “buyer’s journey” more relevant than with B2B companies and their customers. With the vast array of digital resources at their command, these customers embark on the journey by conducting extensive research, comparing companies and exploring social media—sometimes well before they make direct contact with the business they’re most interested in.

As a result, B2B companies need to “up” their marketing game, in order to be ready when the buyer’s journey leads to them.

Here are tips for key elements and action steps for a marketing plan that keeps your business “top of mind” for current and prospective customers:

Focus on your core audience. Some businesses try—and generally, fail—to be all things to all customers. An effective marketing plan should focus on a clearly defined customer segment, so as to avoid diluting the appeal and effectiveness of a company’s key products or services.

Tailor content to meet that audience’s needs. The type of content you offer to customers (website, blog posts, articles, white papers, etc.) is a crucial element of any marketing plan. This, in turn, means thoroughly understanding what drives your customers—their needs, desires, pain points, etc.

“You need to know how your buyers like to buy and what they respond to,” notes Forbes contributor AJ Agrawal. “This will put you in the best possible position to sway them to making a purchase.”

Creating a comprehensive buyer’s persona to help with both marketing and sales leads is one highly effective way to ensure you’re hitting the right note in your content efforts.

Refresh the content and design of your website. Remember, the buyer’s journey almost always includes a visit to your B2B website. It’s in your company’s best interests to ensure that a consistent and appealing marketing message is built into virtually every page on that site. Don’t let old material or an unchanging homepage discourage potential interest.

As always, your site must also be user-friendly and informative (meaning, little or no fluff!), with a focus on how your products or services benefit the customer, as opposed to making your company look good.

Commit to a strong social media presence. Buyers will usually check out your company’s presence on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and other industry-specific social networking sites. If you’re not already doing so, 2018 is the right time to commit to an in-depth social media marketing strategy. This can include:

  • Using social media to gather data on customer preferences
  • Becoming an industry thought leader through high-quality, customer-focused content
  • Engaging in two-way communications with customers and prospects
  • Monitoring online discussions of your industry

Your B2B marketing plan should specify the kinds of social media initiatives and activities planned for the new year and, ideally, assign this key responsibility to an individual or team with experience in this area.

Write a plan that’s clear and accessible throughout the company. While assembling the B2B marketing plan, keep in mind that shifting industry conditions may require a re-examination of basic ideas and strategies throughout the coming year. Consider assigning a knowledgeable team member with the responsibility to review the plan on a regular basis—identifying those elements and marketing goals that still make sense to pursue and refining other strategies that may have been rendered irrelevant by new market conditions.

The “marketing environment is always dynamic,” notes marketing technology expert Anita Brearton. “Create your strategy and plans in a way so you can adjust quickly to changing marketing conditions and customer requirements.”

Want to learn more about marketing and planning for your business? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!

6 Tips for Winning Back Lost Customers

Sooner or later every business loses a valued customer. Needs change, problems occur, personalities differ. But nowhere is it written that a lost customer must stay lost. In fact, the mark of a successful business is its ability to determine why customers stray and to take action that, over time, effectively brings at least some of them back into the fold.

Here are six tips to keep in mind when you decide to focus your energies on regaining customers lost to your business in the past:

1. Reach out to former customers. Some businesses just write off lost customers, as though they’ve disappeared or gone into hiding. On the contrary, those customers are still out there. It’s up to you to reach out and re-establish a connection. If possible, approach them via a more personalized route than email. A phone call or even a written letter may prove to be the “pleasant surprise” needed to get these customers to respond to your inquiries.

2. Determine the reason for defection. Customers don’t stop purchasing a company’s products or services for no reason. While their departure may have nothing to do with the quality of your offering, nonetheless, it’s entirely possible that they left because of some related element of dissatisfaction. Your business can only improve if you clearly understand why this happened.

Business author Geoffrey James recommends asking two key questions of former clients: (1) Why have you decided to leave our business? (2) What can we do to bring you back as a happy customer?

It’s a “no-lose proposition,” James contends. Ideally, “customers will be so impressed with your curiosity and concern they’ll reconsider their decision to leave.” At the very least, “you’ll learn what’s driving customers away so that you can make corrections.”

3. Apologize sincerely and take responsibility. If the cause for defection relates to the quality of your product or shortcomings in customer service, it’s time to issue a sincere apology. But don’t stop there.

“Saying ‘I’m sorry you’re unhappy’ isn’t enough,” writes business owner Vladimir Gendelman. Even if your company isn’t technically at fault, “make it clear that you can understand why they would be upset, and that you’ve taken steps to make their next purchase more satisfactory.”

4. Reassess your business operations. It’s not easy taking criticism, justified or not, but learning what drove a customer away means looking objectively at the way your company conducts business. Sometimes you can achieve this goal on your own, but for many CEOs and business owners, getting clear-headed advice and guidance from outside sources can make all the difference in the world. (Joining TAB and attending Business Owner Advisory Board Meetings guarantees you’ll receive honest, insightful feedback on your customer service and all other business operations.)

5. Begin the process of re-establishing relationships. Lost customers aren’t “found” overnight. It may take awhile to win back the trust of a customer who feels they’ve been short-changed in the past.

One viable strategy is to ask permission to resume contact and regularly share key industry information with a former customer. Learn more about their particular needs and challenges, and begin sending on articles, white papers, blog posts, etc. that can help provide solutions to those challenges. In this way, your business takes on a new identity as a “trusted partner” in helping customers grow.

6. Land a one-off project and prove your worth (again). A former customer may be understandably reluctant about hiring you on a full-time business resource. Instead, bid competitively on a single project—or offer to provide a different product or service altogether—and do everything in your power to “wow” the former customer. If things go well, you can move forward incrementally and demonstrate with certainty that you’re fully committed to satisfying the newly-found customer in every way possible.

Acquiring new customers if far more costly than retaining the ones you have. The ROI of reclaiming a lost customer, therefore, is well worth the time and effort involved.

Think your business could benefit from a TAB Board? Apply for membership today!

What is a ‘Buyer Persona’ and How Can It Boost Your Sales?

These days, it’s virtually impossible to lump all customers together and try to market to them the same way. Thanks to ecommerce and other consumer-empowering changes in the marketplace, the audiences you aim to serve have moved from one large, undifferentiated mass to many subsets with individual tastes and preferences, needs and challenges.

If you’re not careful, your team can waste valuable time and resources chasing after unqualified prospects who don’t really want or need your products. That’s what happens when a business relies upon a one-size-fits-all approach to customer acquisition.

So how can you adjust your sales and marketing efforts to identify qualified prospects and best serve your company’s various niche markets? One key strategy involves building “buyer personas.”

You already have broad-based demographic information about your customer base. But creating buyer personas “takes that a step further to include psychographic information based on actual current client and target prospect research to focus on why your target customer makes a purchase decision.”

Here are tips to help construct buyer personas that fit your business and industry:

Organize your search for relevant data. A thorough profile of your customer emerges from numerous sources. Start by asking your current customers why they buy your products or services (as opposed to those of your competitors). What specific problems do your offerings solve? How do these products improve their own businesses and/or lives? Also, reach out to former customers and ask for candid assessments of what you did right (and wrong) when they were buying from you.

Look at trends and solicit online information. Most sales leads follow a certain pattern or trend; the key is analyzing the data to see what those patterns indicate. Have your sales team look closely at which customer appeals are most effective, and with which group of customers. Compile information relating to customer age, gender, location, job title, education level, etc. Make sure the team understands why customers make the decision to purchase your products—and, conversely, why other prospects choose not to buy.

Focus on solving problems. One or more buyer personas will emerge from all this data. You’ll have a fairly sophisticated profile of what your customers are like. The key from there is looking beyond who these people are and concentrating instead on what it is they require from you and your business. What problems do they face that you may not have considered before? Are there ways to upgrade your products to better solve these problems?

Create an ideal customer experience. By understanding a buyer persona, you can alter your messaging and the content you share on your website and social media. This will inform every stage of the marketing process, including product packaging and advertising, and customer follow-up after a purchase is made. You know the people you’re selling to, so you can reframe your message in ways that genuinely resonate with them.

Often, crafting a buyer persona will narrow the scope of your sales leads—since you’re not trying to attract everyone with one generic message across the board. There’s always a concern when your team is reaching out to fewer prospects. But by leveraging buyer personas and other pertinent data, the result will likely be a higher percentage of qualified leads, ready to move through the sales funnel, with less time and money spent on the qualification process.

Want more advice on improved marketing strategies for your business? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!

Buyer Personas to Prequalify Prospects

Do you receive a lot of inquiries from potential customers that turn out to be unqualified? While sales is a numbers game, you need to make sure you remain focused on your core competencies. If you are spending too much time on prospects that aren’t qualified, then your marketing process isn’t doing its job. Make sure your website and other marketing materials are very clear about who you work with.

Every business person knows about target markets, and you have likely defined your target market based on demographic targets such as gender, age, location, etc. Buyer personas take that a step further to include psychographic information based on actual current client and target prospect research to focus on why your target customer makes a purchase decision.

Pro Business Tip: Start developing your buyer personas by asking these 9 Questions You Need to Ask When Developing Buyer Personas. Do not rely only on your own answers to these questions, but include your sales team, current clients, past clients, and people who have not become clients. Also, consider implementing a survey for leads who ultimately decided to purchase from a competitor or substitute.

By now, you may be wondering what buyer personas have to do with prequalifying prospects. It boils down to the cliché example of the buyer who wants a hole, not a drill. If you take the time to develop your buyer persona, you will have a deeper understanding not just of who your ideal customer is, but what they need.

Once you have developed your buyer personas and understand who they are, you can begin to craft your marketing messaging and communications around your ideal customer. By targeting your message, you will find that your marketing is generating a lower number of leads, but a higher percentage of those leads will be qualified to move into the sales funnel, thus saving time and money in the qualification process.

To learn more about buyer personas and to help streamline your marketing pipeline, be sure to contact us today!

 

Make Your Marketing Message Contagious

Make Your Marketing Message Contagious

Jonah Berger first caught my attention in this Fast Company article (“Fifty Percent of ‘The Tipping Point’ is Wrong”). The article positions him as the new Malcolm Gladwell and challenges some accepted theory of The Tipping Point.

Berger is a Marketing Professor at the Wharton School of Business. At Stanford, he was a student of Chip Heath, author of the marketing classic Made to Stick. Made to Stick describes why messages stick with audiences. Berger has taken this concept a step further in his bestselling book Contagious: Why Things Catch On. Berger examines why certain products get more word-of-mouth marketing and why some online content goes viral...

4 Tips to Boost your Sales by Kick-Starting your Influencer Marketing

Your company’s marketing efforts are up against some stiff competition. Way back in 2014, the research firm Yankelovich estimated that “the average American is exposed to 5,000 advertisements a day” (and we can all imagine that number has grown since then). As a result, your target customer have become increasingly impervious to ads, banners, pop-ups and other attempts to draw their attention to any particular product or service.

What’s the solution to overcoming this blizzard of images and ads that fewer people pay attention to? For many businesses, the answer lies in influencer marketing.

In case the term is unfamiliar, it’s pretty much what it sounds like, that is, “the action of promoting and selling products or services through people (influencers) who have the capacity to have an effect on the character of a brand.” And in our era of social media, influencer marketing has largely shifted from relying on superstar athletes and Hollywood celebrities to aligning with individuals with massive followings on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.

If you feel influencer marketing has potential to dramatically enhance awareness of your brand, keep these tips in mind:

1 - Be selective about the influencers you pursue. Obviously, an influencer should possess a following whose tastes and needs correspond to your offerings. Research influencers before asking them to endorse or otherwise promote your products or services, to ensure that you’re connecting with likely prospective customers.

In the same respect, it’s not necessary to chase after “A-list” influencers with the largest social media audience. As communications strategist Linda Landers notes, “If your influencers are reaching the target market for your brand, then you’ve hit the jackpot, no matter how large or small their audience may be.”

2 - Clarify your goals. Associating with a key influencer can assist your business in a variety of ways, so it’s helpful to determine beforehand where they might be most effective. As noted, boosting brand awareness is a common objective, but there may also be opportunities to:

• Actively generate sales leads
• Reach a wholly new target audience
• Become more visibly active on social media
• Strengthen your relationships with an existing customer base

Knowing what you want to achieve will affect the ways in which you approach influencer marketing.

3 - Reach out to influencers in an authentic, respectful manner. In many ways, key influencers need businesses like your own as much as you might need them. But they will also be selective about whom they associate with. So, don’t rush in like a bull in a china shop. Cultivate a relationship based on an approach of authenticity and respect.

Start slowly, by following the influencer on social media. “From there you can comment on posts, retweet their content, or simply send them a compliment via social media,” advises marketing communications expert Bonnie Harris. Demonstrate a sincere interest in their content and don’t ask for reciprocity “until they see that you also want to do something for them.”

4 - Incorporate influencer marketing in a broader strategic plan. It’s exciting to successfully associate with a prominent social media figure and to begin amassing a whole new set of followers. In the long run, however, influencer marketing is more effective as part of a larger strategy that also draws upon more traditional marketing activities. This way, you can refine your various campaigns to reap the most benefits from a wide range of strategies.

Want more advice on sales and marketing or general advice from other business owners like you? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!

Four Tips for Successful Lead Generation

Your sales need qualified leads, like you need oxygen – it is the lifeblood of most businesses.

What is a qualified lead? Someone that has demonstrated an interest in your business’ products or services and is qualified to purchase from you. I other words – has the cash – or whatever else they need to have (location, time, prerequisite) to buy. Some of these leads can be nurtured into prospects and converted into sales, and won’t. To get tips on how to connect with qualified leads you can view our recorded webinar.

There are four key elements you need to get right to maximize qualified leads

1. Your lead capture forms MUST be user-friendly

Generating leads starts with capturing key customer information—enough to move a casual
visitor to your site to start the sales process rolling. Many sales efforts stumble when the lead capture forms on your landing page don’t reflect a typical user’s preferences; either they ask for too much information or, too little of the user.

Short forms may generate larger numbers of potential leads, but the quality of those leads might be lacking. There simply won’t be enough for your sales team to go on, and a lot of time can be wasted chasing after prospects who stubbornly refuse to become “qualified” in the desirable sense of the word.

Forms that ask for too much information are most likely to discourage potential interest in your business offering. (Though, on the bright side, those visitors willing to share an abundance of information are probably better qualified to begin with.)

Finding the right amount of information you ask for on your lead form may depend on what you offer as a “reward” for sharing information. Strive to balance your request for data with the value of the benefit you’re offering.

2. Your web pages should be optimized to generate leads

As with any business site, visitors flock to certain pages more than others. Businesses sometimes err by not optimizing the most heavily trafficked sites (such as the home page, “Contact Us,” etc.). Here are opportunities to seize on prospect interest in your business.

Make sure these pages are optimized with eye-catching, stand-alone calls-to-action (CTAs), generally placed in the upper left-hand corner for prime visibility. Also consider adding special offers on these pages, to generate further interest.

If your CTA does happen to send users to a general page on your site, it’s likely that they won’t bother wasting the time trying to find what they were after in the first place. They’ll just get it elsewhere.

3. Your call-to-action requires urgency

Speaking of CTAs, how compelling are the ones you feature now?

Remember, visitors come to your site at different stages in their “buyer’s journey.” A generic CTA won’t likely produce much response. Consider tailoring these with different goals in mind, such as downloading a white paper, viewing a demo product video or some other value-added incentive to generate more click-throughs.

4. Define what a ‘qualified lead’ is and ensure everyone in your business agrees

In some organizations, there’s a clash between marketing and sales when it comes to defining a lead.

Marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) are those leads identified by marketing as having genuine potential for a long-range customer relationship (with an emphasis on repeat business), These leads may grow out of analytic results or customer demographic characteristics that have proven successful in the past.

Sales-qualified leads (SQLs) are, by contrast, regarded by the sales team as promising opportunities for a short-term closed deal.

It’s imperative that your company’s definition of an MQL matches its definition of an SQL for this transference between departments to work seamlessly. For better results, close communications between teams will improve overall sales by generating a marketing agenda that best suits and supports your sales force.

Want more advice on sales and marketing or general advice from other business owners like you? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!