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Partner Up! 5 Valuable Reasons to Include Cross Marketing in Your Plans

23 Apr

This article looks at the benefits of having a cross marketing strategy and program.  It is a first in a series titled “Energizing Your Marketing Budget: How to make the most of your marketing resources and budget.” 

Cross marketing (not to be confused with co-marketing) is when two businesses partner to promote their products or services together. Cross marketing allows partners to share the costs of promoting their products – getting more from their marketing dollars.  Webinars, trade shows, advertising, white papers, website links, and sharing customer mailing lists are cross marketing activities that when done together with a partner provide valuable business benefits. 

Here are my top 5 reasons to include cross marketing in your plans.

1. Increase Customer Value: Together you and your partner(s) offer a more complete customer solution.  Partnering with companies that offer complementary products can provide a solution that creates additional value for your customers.  For this reason, choose a partner that targets like customers.

2. Strengthen Credibility and Reputation: The company you keep says a lot about you.  When you choose a partner with a similar reputation in the industry, you further strengthen customer perception of your company and products.

Girls Running Lemonade Stand

3. Showcase Expertise:  Participating in cross marketing promotions provides additional opportunities to showcase your expertise and reinforce the brand experience customers have with your product and company. When you choose to partner in cross marketing activities, these activities should always be consistent with your brand’s identity.

4. Broader Market Reach: With the right choice in partners, you increase your reach by sharing customer lists, customer referrals and by being included in your partner’s outreach activities; emails, newsletters, promotional materials and social media.

5. Build Strategic Relationships:  Cross marketing activities can be a great way to begin or further strengthen a strategic relationship with a partner.  By spending time getting to know each other, you potentially learn new methods to improve marketing results and ultimately help one another grow your businesses.

     A few things to keep in mind when working with a potential partner that will increase your chances for success:  Cross marketing partnerships range from simple to complex but to be successful the organizations should be in agreement on the goals, the budget and the timeline as well as have the necessary committed resources.  Consider your communications styles, do you use the same channels to market? Are your budgets similar in size?  Understanding similarities and differences at the start of a partnership can alleviate potential problems and increase the probability of realizing the benefits from cross marketing.

     The next article in the series, Energizing Your Marketing Budget will look at making the most of your marketing resources and budget by taking advantage of free marketing services, education and materials.  The article will provide examples of some of those offered by leading marketing product and services companies.

Resources:

Entrepreneur, Co-Marketing:  Twice as Nice or Double the Trouble?, Barbara Findlay Schenck, from Business on Main, January 16, 2013.

eHow, Cross Marketing Ideas, Gina Ragusa

biznik, Lead Generation through Cross Marketing, Joel Torres

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B2C Lessons that Can Improve B2B Brand Experiences

15 May

I recently read The Experience Effect by Jim Joseph.  It’s about creating just that, an ‘experience effect’ that will drive consumers to a brand.  As I read Jim’s book, it seemed to me that many of his lessons on B2C branding translate to the B2B world. A strong brand offers many benefits to business.  It can make it more difficult to be displaced by a competitor, get you invited to the discussions by the customer, justify price premiums, even attract top talent.

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How to Create Your Brand Page on Facebook’s New Timeline

5 Mar

On March 30th, Facebook’s New Timeline will go live for all Brand pages, whether or not your company has updated its page.  Take this opportunity to create an engaging page for your brand over the weeks ahead. There are several changes you need to be aware of for your brand page. Below is a handy guide from hearsay social on what you need to know to create a brand page and links to blogs that cover the changes.  Make sure you review the blog by TechCrunch’s Josh Constine.  It’s thorough. For additional information and help go to the Facebook Help Center.

Here are a few key changes worth highlighting:

1.  Cover Photo – The cover photo takes up a large amount of space spanning the entire page.  Here you should choose a photo that supports your brand.  It is important to know that Facebook Covers may not display calls to action or references to Facebook Like or sales promotions, pricing or website URLs.

2.  Left Side Navigation – The navigation for page apps has moved to the right and below the cover photo with thumbnail photos above the text link.  Four of these apps are above the fold and one is default for Photos.  So, three of these four you can choice your apps. Pick your most important three. Unfortunately, this limits visibility for custom apps; contests, promotions, coupons, games, etc. since the default landing page for all users will be the Timeline page.  Users will need to click through to find additional apps.

3.  Messages – Messages can now be sent privately by users vs. posting on the public wall for all to see.  This can be a benefit if you don’t want certain comments visible.  You’ll need to determine a process internally to actively and timely respond to the Messages.  For some businesses, this may create a burden.  Try testing it for a few weeks to monitor the number of messages sent and your organization’s ability to manage it.

4.  Timeline Bar – To the right of the cover photo is a new timeline bar that allows users to view a brand’s history over the years.  It’s a great opportunity to highlight your favorite posts by you and your fans.

5.  Pinning – This feature will allow you to pin an important feature story, promotion or event and post it at the top of the timeline for seven days.

6.  Star a Story – You can also star a post to grab attention and highlight a story on your timeline.  When you star a story, it will expand the full width of the page.

Cover of Facebook ebook by hearsay social

The New Facebook Pages Brand Timeline by hearsay social.

Resources:

Introducing New Facebook Pages, Facebook website
Learn About Facebook Pages, Facebook video
How to Use Facebook Timeline for Brand Pages: New Feature Details, Josh Constine, Technology Writer, TechCrunch
Timeline for Brands:  How to Prepare for Your Company’s New Facebook Page, Jim Belosic, CEO Short Stack on Mashable
Facebook Timeline for Brands, the Complete Guide,  Christine Erikson on Mashable

How to Rise Above the Noise and Be Heard

21 Feb

In today’s marketplace, there is more ‘noise’ than ever before. The number of companies (all sizes and levels of resources) and volume of content competing for customers’ time is staggering thanks in large part to social media, the Internet and mobile technologies. How can your company rise above it all and be heard? Tell Your Story.


People remember a good story.  Every business has one. If you think you don’t, take some time to remember why you started your business. What is your vision? What does your business stand for? What are your core values?  What do you want to be known for?  What are your customer successes?

By creating your story and consistently telling it again and again, your business develops a persona that customers identify. Story telling isn’t new.  In this day of sound bites, tag lines, and elevator pitches, telling a story may seem a bit long winded.  But, an effective narrative can tell a memorable story that has impact and matters more to your customers than advertising jargon.  Be truthful and authentic in your story and customers will develop trust in you and belief that you will deliver on your promise.

For the B2B Company:  A Great Story Can Rise Above the Noise

For B2B companies, customer successes are a great way to tell a story. How did your company help solve a problem for your customer or your industry? What did you do that sets you apart from the rest?  An employee success story can confirm your core values with customers and serve as a guide to employees in their decision making and interactions with customers to ensure consistent customer experiences.

Best Media to Tell Your Story

The best media to use when telling your story is always the one that most effectively reaches your customers and best fits your story.  Video is an important part of Cisco’s product offering so, it isn’t surprising that Cisco uses video for its story-telling and launched the Cisco YouTube channel in September 2011. Video is a powerful way for companies of any size, not only the largest, to reach and engage with customers as an alternative to standard text.

Businesses don’t make buying decisions.  People inside businesses make decisions.  Make the connection with them through your story.

Resources:

Name that Brand Story… by Rob Marsh, http://www.brandstoryonline.com
The Power of a Good Brand Story, Mark Thomson, the BrandChannel
The Importance of Story-Telling in Lead Nurturing,  Jeff Ogdon, Fearless Competitor
Are You Telling Your Brand Story, Steve Woodruff , Small Business Branding
Strategy:  Story’s More Powerful than the Brand, Tom Peters, You Tube

Defining a Target Market

13 Feb
Smiley face 2

Famous Smiley Face

When my sister was ten, my aunt gave her a box of a 1000 assorted smiley face buttons and she decided to earn extra money selling them to the neighborhood kids.  The kids wanted different buttons based on sizes and colors and how much money they had to spend, so she put together several different packages of button combinations to sell. The boys didn’t want pink.  Some kids only wanted extra-large buttons and some kids wanted a variety. You get the idea.  She sold them wherever kids hung out, the park, school, scouts.  Soon the word spread and all her stock of smiley face buttons was sold.

This is a cute story but, was does this have to do with the ‘real’ world of business?  As marketers, it’s our job to define our target market and learn everything we can about them including their needs and desires then develop our marketing initiatives based on this information.  Where can they be found? What influences their decision making?  What makes them happy?  What keeps them up at night?  A well-defined and understood target market is the foundation for everything we do as marketers.

How Defining Your Target Market Can Help Your Business Succeed

1.  Determine the viability of your business.  Is the customer base large enough to support your product or service?  Is there enough demand?

2.  Make the most effective use of your marketing dollars and focus your resources.  You cannot be everything to everyone.  By focusing your efforts on your target you increase your chances for success by selling to those most likely to buy your product or service.

3. Develop appropriate messages and a communications plan that will be compelling and appeal to potential customers. It will help you set the right tone and determine the best media to reach them.

Defining Your Target

Everything you do in your business is based on your target market.  It’s the first element in your business, brand and marketing strategies. Learn as much as you can about your target market,  the demographics such as age, income, culture and the psychographics; lifestyle, needs/desires, hopes/dreams, and product purchase and usage behaviors.  Where can you find this information?  If you have current customers, this information may be in your sales database or you can ask or survey your customers.  You may be able to find existing research on the internet or through related trade organizations or associations.

It’s an on-going effort

Needs and wants change over time.  Marketers should continually monitor their target customers and adjust business and marketing plans based on market changes.

Resources:
How to Define Your Target Market, Mandy Porta, Inc.
Defining the Target Customer, Branding Strategy, the Branding Blog
Define a Target Market for Your Small Business, Peri Pakroo, NOLO
The Importance of Defining Your Target Market, Dequiana Brooks Jackson, CEO Inspired Marketing

No Less Than 5 Thank You’s – The Importance of Thanking Your Customer

6 Feb

thank YOUOn our way out of Esin, a very popular neighborhood restaurant the other night, we counted no less than 5 Thank You’s.  These came from every employee we passed on our way to the door, the wait staff, the bartender, the managers, and the hostesses.  Each stopped whatever they were doing when they spoke.  It made a memorable last impression on us.

How often do we make our customers feel appreciated and that their business really matters to us?  Probably not often enough.  We, as business owners, managers and employees need to take the time to Thank our customers.  It can be as simple as a verbal Thank You like our recent experience, or a hand-written note, (a nice touch that stands out in our digital world), or a gift that relates to your business.

Saying Thank You is part of the overall experience a customer has with your company and part of building a consistent and memorable brand experience.  Make the Thank You heartfelt and sincere. If it has any other intention than to truly thank them for their business, your customer will see it as disingenuous.  In other words, don’t also ask for something you want from them.  Make the Thank You about showing your gratitude for their business.  You’ll leave a positive lasting impression and your customers will be glad they chose to do business with you.

Resources:

The Experience Effect, Jim Joseph
A Tale of Two Thank You’s from a Customer Experience Perspective, Sean McDonald, Ant’s Eye View
Thanking Someone for Being a Customer Should be Automatic,  Kevin Stirtz, Customer Think
Saying Thank You to Customers, Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Identify Your Unique Value Proposition and Grow Your Business

9 Jan

Do you know the unique value you bring to your customers?  The need to define a unique value proposition is key to success whether you are a B2B, B2C, for profit, or non-profit.  Being able to fulfill a customer ‘want’ that no other company can and clearly articulating that value to your customers will grow your business.

What is a value proposition?

A value proposition is much more than the benefits that your company or product delivers.  It defines why a customer should do business with you and not anyone else who provides the same product.  It is the unique value that a customer cannot find anywhere else.  Your product must have at least one  differentiator that sets it apart from the rest to be successful.

Believe it or not,  a value proposition shouldn’t be more than ten words to effectively communicate what is distinctive about your product. Be specific, clear and concise.  This isn’t easy to do and requires time to refine but essential to the success of your product.  You and your team may consider an off-site away from the distractions of the office to get this done.

Finding Your DifferentiatorA value proposition is brand defining

Unique value is a key element in brand strategy. How you uniquely fulfill the needs and the wants of your target customers defines your brand.  Find out What makes your customers happy and what keeps them up at night.   When your unique value provides an emotional benefit to your customers, you create brand loyalty and your customers will buy from you.  Define your value proposition and you define your brand.

Steps to identifying your unique value proposition:

1.  Take an inventory of your skills, what are you good at?

2.  Clearly define your target customer and their needs and wants.  If your product is segmented by vertical markets such as education or healthcare, each of these segments has its own set of needs and wants and most likely different competitive solutions.  You will want to define a unique value proposition for each segment.

3.  What gaps need to be filled in the market?

4.  Complete a competitive analysis.  What sets you apart from your competition?  What is distinctive about your product?

5.  Test.  This is a key step. Questionnaires, interviews and focus groups are good ways to see if the value proposition resonates with your customers.

6.  Once your value proposition is defined and you are able to clearly articulate it, communicate it throughout your marketing efforts, website, collateral, and social media activities.  Keep the message consistent but, you can customize it to fit the media.

Resources:

Powerful Value Propositions, How to Optimize this Critical Marketing Element – and lift your results. Dr. Flint McGlaughlin, Director, MECLABS group (webinar)
Make Customers Feel the Love and Keep Coming Back, Jim Joseph, (Vocus webinar)
Your Brand as Your Value Proposition, Chris Hughes, Vistage, (You Tube Video)
Defining Your Unique Value Proposition, ASAE & the center for association leadership

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