Category Archives: Marketing 102

Are you old-school or new-age sales?

Technology sales personIf I was evaluating a technology-based sales person with a lengthy resume, I would base it on more recent sales history – no farther back than the last 10-15 years. Back 20+ years ago computer and technology sales people could boast big impressive sales numbers because sales were “easy” compared to selling in today’s  highly competitive marketplace. Why? The world was switching over from paper and fax machines to computers and networks. Plus, connecting to the early stages of the Internet. Every company was buying technology and computer related products.

Back then the sales approach was totally different – you could make an easy sale on computers and networks based on price or superior technology because it was changing so quickly. Companies were buying entire telecommunications and computers systems – they were all basically building from scratch.

computer sales

Now successful new-age sales sells the “value” of a company’s technology – because there isn’t as much difference between the competition as there was in the early technology days. Yes, most companies now think they have something new and different, but typically not different enough for the customer to recognize or understand the difference without a lot of marketing and sales communication.

A new-age sales person articulates value propositions and creates the perception in the customer’s mind that the product and company is unique and offers a better value than the competition. That takes additional time, effort, and patience

best selling tipsAdditionally, it is equally important for the new-age sales person to partner with marketing because a successful sales person is part of the sales process and not the whole process. They are patient and learn how to become an important part of the “social media engagement” process. The new-age sales person understands how social media marketing and a company’s website are now an integral part of the entire sales process, as they are not the lone-wolf sales person glad-handing and selling like the good ole’ days.

Features, Benefits and Advantages: Finally – the differences explained.

Business writing

When writing text for a company’s products, clearly communicate the value and benefits of a product.  Figure out what the benefits and advantages really are, and don’t just creatively describe the features as given to you by the company’s engineers.  Most copywriters and marketers don’t differentiate between features, benefits and advantages because it’s like pulling teeth to figure out why a customer needs a product and why they should buy it. Yes, it takes time to think that out, but think how long it took to design and develop the product – and the marketing of the product is just as important as the product itself, so it needs proper marketing effort for the product to sell.

You should know thisThe difference between the features, benefits and advantages:

A Feature is the function of a product – specifically what it can do.

A Benefit is why a product’s feature is desired, needed or a good thing.

An Advantage is why someone should buy the product and why it is a better choice than the competition.

Here’s a simple example of using the above definitions:

kayakFeature: This kayak is made out of hardened fiberglass
Benefit: So it won’t ever leak or break
Advantage: Meaning you can take on more extreme rapids than ever before

So many times I see the features of a product called a benefit, and or features mixed in with benefits and written under the heading of benefits. Clearly communicate the differences between a Feature, Benefit and an Advantage – and let the follow-up info for responses to inquiries be used to fill in additional information on the features. Give customers a reason the product is needed and is better value than the competition’s product.

Building Relationships is a Valuable Marketing Tool, Here’s Why …

If you do not start somewhere, you will be nowhere. In order to get business, you need to get out and meet people and push your comfort zones. You need to form relationships with people outside of your immediate influence and industry. Join organizations whose members are business owners and senior people in organizations – as they are your potential new clients.

businessman connect to social network

You aren’t going to be building much of a business if the only people you know are those you are meeting through work. You must get out and meet people outside of work. This means going to events where people in your profession are networking for business are likely to be present, but it also means going to events where you are likely to stand out because you are one of the few who do what you do.

Networking-PartyThere are hundreds of potential social situations you can inject yourself into. It’s important that you get involved in as many social situations outside of work as you possibly can. This networking will give you the ability to meet new people and connect. These people may have the ability to refer relationships to you, or they may not. If you do not start to form relationships, however, then you will not be someone who can get business in the first place. Get out and form relationships!

The Best Email Marketing Campaign Tips: 7-10

best practice email campaigns

7. Customers have specific needs and what they consider value-based content. Because of that, it is best to divide the email list of customers into sub-categories which allows you to send even more highly targeted information to you customers – it could be by product categories, geographic location or even by titles of decision makers. The key is to more closely match the customers needs with your messages. Sometimes being made aware of other products they may not normally buy in addition to new versions of what they do buy, would be of value to them and another way to segment the lists. You could also provide referral bonuses for repeat customers or special introductory offers for products they don’t currently buy as a way to test them out.

email strategy of coordination8. Channel coordination. By using the same product promotion, language and images in social media, the website and the email campaign, it creates an integrated approach that enhances the brand and helps the customers remember that product that they may not be currently buying. Reinforcing a message is always a good thing, and if action is required, make sure it is up front so you are not telling a long story before getting to the call-to-action.

9. Test best time to send.  According to direct mail research studies, the best time statistically to send an email is between 2pm and 5pm. The largest volume of emails people get is typically between 10am and 2pm. You could also do an A/B split test for the emails and look at open rates from the email analytics so you can optimize the lists.

strategic email

 

10. Design and layout. Of course the email needs to be visually appealing but where the pictures and graphics are located, the headline, subhead size, and text formatting is a science unto itself. When I worked at AT&T we commissioned an outside firm to do readership studies of ads, website, product packaging designs and other marketing materials. We would have test groups look at the messages and lasers would track their eye movement, as well as we tracked when they stopped reading and lost interest. So designing an email to be effective involves helping the reader to move their eyes in an order that feels natural to them so they read the content you want them to read in the order you hope they will. In a nutshell, people read messages best that are designed in the shape of an “F”. Best at emailingHeadline is read left to right, then down to a shorter width subhead or image, back out to a longer subhead or larger image then down to a narrower width text content. The goal of the headline is to get the reader to the subhead, and the subhead then to the text – but pictures and graphics not carefully placed or sized can interrupt that flow, causing people to skip ahead or bypass key parts of the message. The design is as important as the content of the message – and an effective layout can move people to read the entire message.

Email marketing campaign tips: 4-6

It’s easy to follow just some of these guidelines – send an email out to customers and then check it off the to-do list. That said, all of these suggestions contribute to success. If the subject line isn’t compelling or communicates value, the customer may never read it. If the basic structure isn’t followed as mentioned in the previous email, then again it will decrease the potential for a successful Strategy for email campaignsprogram. Emails are like an offense in football, the quarterback, receivers and offensive line all need to do their part well for the play to work, if one guy is not on the same page, most likely the play fails. It’s the same with an email marketing campaign – all of the details matter. Tips 4-6 below focus on frequency, content and compelling subject lines.

Subject line for emails is critical4. Write knock-out subject lines. Do I have your attention? We could have the best content and message in the world but it may not get read because of the subject line. Writing a subject line is a marketing art – I actually attended a seminar just focused on writing email subject lines, that’s how important they are. The subject should grab the reader’s attention quickly and explain exactly why the message is valuable. Most important, keep it short – around 6 to 8 words because readers on mobile phones only see 25 to 30 characters in the subject lines and laptops around 60 characters.

Let customers know your email frequency5. Frequency. The readers will want to know how often we’ll email them. Whether you plan to email once a week or twice a month, its important to be up front with the frequency information so they know what to expect, (and stick to those expectations). Many times people sign up for informative emails and get deluged with daily emails, so these days people are skeptical, and telling them the frequency they can expect would be very customer-friendly and appreciated.

Email content needs to value in a campaign6. Great content, not just marketing messages. Your customers are going to unsubscribe to your emails if it’s just marketing and advertising messages. The content needs to offer value – new technology, products that help their lives or business, product installation tricks and tips, as well as customer testimonials – all are  value-based messages. Then over time we find out what interest customers the most through the email response analytics (click-through rates, user surveys, etc.). Questions asked in forums, social media or asked directly to your sales staff are also ways to find what content would be of value to the customer. ==> Be careful of sending frequent advertising specials and coupons in email blasts because it could dilute the perceived real value of your products. The content still needs to focus on the value the product is to the customer.

Tips for email marketing

Again, leaving out one of the above tips and not thinking it’s important will result in a sputtering offense, and miss the opportunity for a real score.

10 best tips for email marketing (1 of 3)

Email marketing tips 1-3 of 10 best 1. The first email. First and most important is that the very first email that goes out establishes and communicates the purpose of the email. If it doesn’t communicate value, some recipients might consider it intrusive, unsubscribe or worse – label it as spam. Attention to detail is important. (If you want to develop a consumer email base, provide a sign-up form on your website and  social media sites with an incentive such as a discount coupon for signing-up to build your list. Email tips for business Email-opt-out2. Provide an Opt-out option and a Forward button. It’s frustrating for customers to get emails they don’t want and can’t easily unsubscribe to, plus it’s legally required to do so at the bottom of each marketing email. Bonus – provide a “forward” button so that the recipient can forward the email to another person in the company that might be an appropriate person to also get the email, as well as providing a link for them to also subscribe to the emails. Make sure your business emails are mobile friendly3. Make sure the email is mobile-friendly. Many people these days read their emails on phone and tablets to check in while they are at lunch, after work or waiting somewhere – and are doing so to kill time. It’s an opportunity if the email can easily be read on a mobile device – if it’s interesting to them they will know to read the email on their computer when they get back to the office. If the text is to small they will skip to the next email, if the pictures are not optimized (taking to long to load), they will skip to their next email and may automatically delete it when they get back to the office. Mobile-friendly email many times get read twice – and it doesn’t cost any extra to make it mobile-friendly. Also important, if there is a call-to-action, make sure you link it to text and not a photo that may not have downloaded correctly. If you need help with your email marketing program, click here to drop me an email.

Storyscape; Explaining this marketing trend and my 6 basic principles for marketing success.

“Storyscape” is a coined term for the latest alternative to traditional advertising and media plans by getting the consumer more involved in the “brand’s world” through various media channels. Create a world for the consumer using StoryscapeThe consumer wants to feel like a part of a story and think, “wow, that is cool” about the brand. The concept is to build a brand story that builds an emotional association that inspires the consumer’s behavior. That is the key, creating an emotional connection between the consumer and the product. Apple products are a perfect example of that – their customers have an emotional connection, a story to tell about their iPhone or iPad and how it changed their lives, which compels them as devoted customers to share their experience with like-minded people.

That said, there should be one strategy – versus a strategy for social, a strategy for events, a strategy for digital, and a strategy for public relations – there should be just one cohesive plan for all, Strategic thinkingand it’s directed by the big idea that organizes those activities. I ask my customers, “what’s your purpose?” Today’s customer wants to be able to connect to brands they trust, believe, feel are authentic, fill their needs and are able to take part like they are part of the company’s culture. They want to feel they connect with the company, like a friend, and are proud to say they are loyal supporter and part of the brand’s story.

So how is that type of marketing accomplished? It’s about creating a world or landscape of ideas that could be physical, virtual, emotional, and more than likely it’s all of those things. For Storyscape strategyexample a Storyscape for selling a new house; baking chocolate cookies in a model home’s oven for visitors so it has a nice homey smell, the website touts your model dream house and has free cookies when you visit, offer a recipe for the cookies in a blog and on Pinterest so that a story or idea for engaging the consumer crosses all media platforms. That way the consumer looking for a house creates their world or story about that experience at all marketing touch points – so they not only experience a world they helped create, but they also tell a story about their experience.

The social media world changes so quickly. The traditional media plan keeps different media in separate boxes with target dates – where as we need to be more fluid and to think about how the different media interact and affect each other, as well as being affected by an event that causes a rippling effect throughout the media plan. The key difference with Storyscape, it’s designed to give the consumer control over which marketing connection points they wish to be engaged with and then encouraged them to interact across those channels — all supported by an organized idea and not the marketer choosing, based on analytics and data, which channels might be more efficient to reach them.

It’s a more organic or worldly version of a customer testimonial. In traditional marketing, the marketer writes the customer testimonial Customer-testimonialso it fits the needs of the marketing plan and gets the customer to signoff on it or tweak it for approval. The hope is that it resonates on one particular level with other consumers. Where as Storyscape opens up the world to all possibilites, so when the consumer’s exposed to the “idea” – they have an experience in the world they helped create that is a life-changing and they are willing to share it with other like-minded people.

The marketing industry is famous for creating new trends. Keep in mind, every couple of years a marketing person coins a phrase for a “new” approach to marketing, sells a bunch of books and it becomes the latest defacto marketing tool to be used. A year  later, another marketing approach is the latest thing to do.

Marketing trendsRegardless of the latest marketing trend or coined name, it has been my experience for marketing to have been effective for the last 10-15 years –and going forward, it has these 6 basic principles:

1. Understand what the customer wants or needs,
2. provide a logical and emotional dialogue so the consumer has the information they need to help them make a decision,
3. give them plenty of opportunities for that exposure,
4. make sure customers feel connected to the brand’s world and product,
5. provide them with easy access (distribution points) to purchasing the product and,
6. after the sale, make the customer feel special and part of the brand’s family.