Tag Archives: Linkedin

Solving Real Business Problems and Showing Value – Every Marketers’ Job

19 Jun

For me Marketing has always been about showing customers how a product solves real business problems and creates value.  Recently I became familiar with the term, Solutions Marketing.  Look online and you’ll find Solutions Marketer job titles in Fortune 500 companies and marketing consultants and agencies that provide Solutions Marketing services.

     What is Solutions Marketing?  One of the definitions I found on Google stated, Solutions Marketing addresses a business level problem, aligning products with business value. Good Solutions Marketing speaks directly to business needs. 

     Young Asian BusinessmanAs a career marketer in various roles (communications, product marketing and management), my job has been to show customers how my company’s products solve real business problems.  Whether developing a Marketing Requirements Document for a new product or creating product messaging, each required an understanding of how the product solved a business problem and created value for customers.

     Maybe it’s the sign of the times.  Many marketing functions have become specialized. As marketers, if we cannot show customers how our products solve business problems, we will fail in our efforts. Solutions Marketing is something we all do (or should do) regardless of our marketing job title (or function).

     Wikipedia has this definition of Marketing: B2B marketing is creating value, solutions, and relationships either short-term or long-term with a company or brand. It is an integrated process through which companies build strong customer relationships and create value for their customers and for themselves.

Consider that most companies aren’t large enough to have a specialized Solutions Marketing position or group. Is it the role of all marketing functions to understand and communicate how a product solves a business problem and creates value for customers?  What do you think?

Is There Value In Giving Your Product or Service Away?

6 Jun

Is there value in giving away your product or service? The topic came up at a recent event when a small business owner questioned whether or not she should continue to give away her company’s products at industry events. When the business first launched she provided free products to grow her customer base but, now isn’t certain the free offer is needed.

Red 3-D Dollar SignFor those starting a new business, one of the biggest challenges is getting those first customers. Attracting customers by offering them a risk-free opportunity to try your product or service can be a successful strategy to build business.  The offer may be free trial, special pricing or a 100% guarantee that can remove concern a customer may have about trying an unknown.

Free trials are a frequently used strategy.  Cloud-based software companies use free trials to grow business and then convert trial users to paying customers. One of the most successful companies to employ this strategy is Salesforce.com.  Another cloud-based software company that offers free products is WordPress.com.  WordPress’ strategy is to provide basic blog features free with the intent to entice customers to pay for additional or enhanced features.

Free may not be a good strategy for some businesses.  Costs, brand image, value perception and conversion to sales need to be considered. Answering these questions can help determine if there is value in providing a product or service free.

Will your business benefit by giving something away?

Is the goal is to entice your targets to use your product and convert to paying customers? Or are customer referrals and success stories what you’re after? Both are a tangible benefit. Decide up front what benefits/results you want to achieve.

Do your potential customers find value in what you are giving free?  

The bottom line is if the product doesn’t solve a business problem for the customer, it won’t matter how great the offer is.  A good example of providing something of value to customers are free assessments.  Let’s look at a company that sells a product that improves CRM database performance.  This company provides free professional assessments that evaluate productivity and performance of customers’ current CRM products.  In addition, the assessment includes data showing how by also using their company’s product customers can improve productivity by X% and save $Y annually.  The free assessment underscores how using the company’s product solves key business issues.

Will providing your product free help or hurt your brand?

Providing free products or services must support the brand. In other words, potential customers should not think less of your product or service because it is offered free.  In the example above the free assessment supports the brand, the company is positioned as knowledge experts in improving CRM database performance and employee productivity.

Can your business afford it?

Giving away free product is another marketing activity so evaluate it as such. Set your goals and make sure to include the costs of giving away free product in your budget. Since the desired result is to attract repeat and long-term customers, offer the free incentive to the targets that will continue to do business with you.

Resources:

5 Rules for Giving Your Products Away, Beyond the New Frontier blog, by David Sorkin, New Frontier Marketing Associates

Should You Give Away Your Product, by Tom Taulli, Forbes.com

The Importance of the Why Strategy in Marketing

29 May

It’s almost the end of the first half of the year.  Are you meeting the goals you set for 2012?   If you’re not, it might be time for the Why Strategy.

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Social Media – Just Like Any Other Business?

22 May

Has Social Media become so complex that we feel like we’re losing our minds trying to make sense of it? For the majority of us, Social Media is complicated, even for those of us that use Social Media on a regular basis. It’s a young industry and new companies, tools, and applications are continuously launching. Trying to make all that visually understandable to us, Buddy Media and Luma Partners published a graphic categorizing Social Media firms, platforms, tools, and blogs. This graphic seems to have hit a few nerves about the complexity of Social Media today.Businessman with many choices

(Due to confidential and proprietary content, the graphic is not included in this blog. The graphic can be viewed at one of the two links below. )

In Eloqua‘s blog on the recent graphic, Joe Chernov compared the complexities of Social Media to that of the auto industry and its vast ecosystem.   Even if Social Media is as complicated as other businesses making that comparison doesn’t mean that Social Media isn’t complicated. And for most of us, who are not experienced digital marketers, Social Media IS complicated.  Yes, there is an almost endless amount of free Social Media white papers, ebooks, webinars and blogs to help get educated.  It still takes a lot of time to understand every platform and tool, their differences and then to decide which ones are the right ones to support the marketing plan.

Do we need to learn all the tools inside and out to be successful at Social Media? I don’t think so. Deciding which tools to use in Social Media is like other marketing decisions we make.  We start with goals and objectives, focus on the products that will help to achieve them and ignore the rest.  Buddy Media’s graphic depicts 28 categories and almost every Social Media platform and tool available. That doesn’t mean every one of those tools or even a fraction is needed to support our marketing needs.

And if Social Media is like other businesses, a time will come in the not too distant future when there will be a consolidation of companies and integration of products and features.

What do you think?

Resources:

Social Media isn’t “Ludicrously Complicated” Business Is, by Joe Chernov, It’s All About Revenue, Eloqua blog

This INSANE Graphic Shows How Ludicrously Complicated Social Media Marketing Is Now, by Charlie Minato, Business Insider blog

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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Focus or Fail – Tips to Keep Your Eye on the Target

8 May

Focus: a point upon which attention, activity, etc, is directed or concentrated.

A common challenge we marketers confront is keeping a laser-sharp focus.  We may do this some of the time or even most of the time, but, to maintain focus requires awareness and conscious action. I’m not talking about loosing short-term focus because of office distractions like incoming emails, phone calls, or text messages. Although, those are interruptions we need to address because they break our concentration and ability to get our day-to-day work done. I’m talking about maintaining a long-term focus on our goals.

Hypnotic artworkHere are some useful tips I find helpful to keep my focus.

#1 SET ACHIEVABLE GOALS

It’s better to do a few things well.  Don’t sign up for something you know you cannot possibly accomplish given the resources or timeframe. Break down larger goals into smaller chunks. You will feel less overwhelmed and more in control and able to keep your focus.

#2 MAP IT OUT 

Now that you know where you want to go, determine what you need to do to achieve the goals.  Determine the programs, actions, tasks, owners, contingencies and timelines that map to a specific goal.  Make it Visual. Put this information into a project plan tool or excel spreadsheet.

#3 REVIEW YOUR PROGRESS 

Review your goals to plan often. Are you on track? If you’re not, figure out what you need to get back. Ask yourself often if what you’re doing is contributing to achieving those goals you set.  If it’s not, stop doing it. A quick review of progress at the end of each day and a detailed weekly review process will help you stay focused on your plan and goals.

#4 ENVISION SUCCESS

What will it look like when you achieve your goals?  Visualize your success and the path you’ll take to get there.  Athletes do this all of the time to get them ready for a big competition. This exercise will help to focus your mental energy in the right places.

#5 MIX IT UP

Once in a while, kill the routine.  Doing things differently can be reinvigorating and gets the creative juices flowing. You’ll be better able to focus on your work and goals when you feel energized.

#6 CELEBRATE

Celebrate the small successes as well as the big ones with your team. Talk about what you did that resulted in success and how to keep it going.

Do you have any tips you’d like to share that help you remain focused?

6 Things to Consider Before Hiring a Marketing Consultant

1 May

More companies are hiring marketing consultants today as demand for products and the economy fluctuates.  Help is needed but, many organizations aren’t able to bring on full-time staff that they may need to lay-off in a downturn or require help on a project basis only. Consultants bring a wealth of knowledge and experiences that can fill this need. Continue reading

Repurpose Existing Content to Create PowerPoints, Videos and Reach More Customers

24 Apr

Wouldn’t it be great to have your own Content Marketing staff, a team of writers that could meet your every content need?  For the majority of us, there is no Content Marketing staff.  Content development most likely falls under someone in marketing that already has a full plate of responsibilities or maybe it’s outsourced. One way to effectively extend marketing resources and the value of content is to repurpose it in different mediums.

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Do the 4Ps Work in the B2B World??

17 Apr

Anyone who studied marketing knows the 4Ps.  Even those who didn’t can recite at least 3 of the 4; Product, Price, Place (a.k.a. Distribution) and Promotion.  The 4Ps were first talked about in 1960 by Jerome McCarthy and later published by one of the most famous marketing scholars, Philip Kotler in 1967.  Back in those days it was Mad Men, a consumer marketer’s dream.

 

For the last fifty years, these 4Ps have been ruling the marketing world but, business marketers have always been doing things differently than our consumer colleagues. The 4Ps model was never a good fit for B2B because business to business sales processes are complex, many are typically involved in the decision-making and products tend to be more sophisticated, very different from the consumer world.

Today, a lot is being written about finding better models for both consumer and business marketing. For B2B marketers, this is an opportunity to define a unique model that works and better fits business marketing than the traditional 4Ps. Why do we even need a model?  Models help marketers put context around the most common challenges we face and provide a framework to address complex business issues.

I recently came across a new model that was proposed by Solutions Insights a marketing consulting firm located in the Boston area. They provide consulting services promoting a customer-solutions focused business model. The model Solutions Insights proposes is appropriately named OVER; O = Offering, V = Value, E = Experience and R = Relationship.  

Below is Solutions Insights chart defining OVER and comparing it to the 4Ps:

Chart comparing the 4Ps marketing model to Solutions Insights' OVER model

Solutions Insights OVER model comparison to 4Ps

 I think it’s a pretty good one for B2B marketers. What do you think?

Resources:

The 4Ps Are Out, The 4 E’s Are In, by Brian Fetherstonhaugh, Ogilvy and Mather

The True 4Ps of Marketing for B2B CEOs, by Michelangelo Celli

Solutions Marketing:  The four Ps are OVER, by Solutions Insights

What March Madness Reminds Us About Business

3 Apr

The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is over.  Like past tournaments, this year’s excitement and nail-biting game endings didn’t disappoint. March Madness is entertaining but, to be a winner it takes a combination of the right leadership, players, strategy and desire. Much like what it takes to succeed in business. Here are my top picks for winning on the court and in business.  Any others you’d include?

Basketball game, player shooting a basket

1.  The coach hires a staff that compliments his style and addresses areas where he is weakest.  The best leaders know they don’t know everything and find managers whose skills fill those gaps.

2.  The coach recruits players that believe in his vision and have the right mix of talent and skills to fill the position. The recruit may not be able to fill the position 100% on day one but, the coach sees the ability and desire for growth.

3. Everyone knows the contribution they make to the team and works together to achieve team goals.  There may be stand-out performers but, they recognize they can’t do it alone.  Winning requires every player on the team.  

4.  Individual performance is elevated because coaches focus on developing a player’s strengths.  After all, those strengths are the reason he was recruited.  

5.  Practice, practice, and then practice some more.  I worked for someone who told me that he always over prepared because there was nothing worse than finding yourself in front of an important customer or your boss under prepared. He anticipated questions, objections and various scenarios and prepared responses for them.

6.  Play Your Game with Flawless Execution.  Play to your strengths and what you do best.  If you’ve prepared, your execution will be flawless.

7.  Believe You’re a Winner.  If you believe in yourself, your talents and that you can win, you will do everything in your power to make that a reality.

8.  It Ain’t Over Until It’s Over.  How many times has a team come back from a ten point half-time deficit to win the game.  Too many to count. Fight the battle.  Don’t throw the towel in before the game is over.

Aligning Marketing Programs with the Sales Cycle – How Great Marketers Measure Their Performance

27 Mar

With the end of a quarter upon us, functional departments are pulling together performance results to present to their CEO and CFO. For marketing, it has long been a struggle to show how marketing programs have resulted in growth of revenues and profits.  When asked how a specific marketing program, activity or campaign affected sales, marketers are quickly put on the defensive. Add to that, many marketers don’t see their role as revenue generating. Marketing programs may not be tied directly to an organization’s objectives and goals and therefore their impact on sales and profits is not measurable.  As a result, leadership views marketing as a cost center. Eventually, this thinking can lead to cuts in marketing’s budget and in personnel when the company needs to make improvements to its bottom line.

Bar chart showing sales growth

How to Be a Great Marketer in the Eyes of the CEO and CFO

It isn’t enough to show charts and graphs of how many more visitors viewed a website in a month, or downloaded a new white paper or dropped their card in a bowl at a trade show. A better way to measure marketing performance is to measure its impact on buying behavior during the sales cycle. When measuring performance, marketing must determine whether their activities resulted in moving a prospective customer closer to becoming a buying customer.

B2B sales cycles are typically more complex than B2C cycles. More decision makers are involved in the buying process and from initial contact to actual purchase the cycle itself is longer.  Different marketing programs touch customers at various stages during the sales cycle, making it difficult and even inaccurate to credit a single marketing activity as being responsible for the buyer’s decision to purchase. For this reason, marketing needs to look at its programs, activities and campaigns holistically and measure the impact each has on moving the prospect into the next stage of the sales cycle.

Where Do You Start?

Begin by understanding your company’s sales cycle and gain a clear understanding of what your prospective buyer needs at each stage. Look at your current marketing programs and activities. These should map to the prospective buyers’ needs at each of the stages in the sales cycle. If they don’t, consider whether these activities are contributing to your organization’s objectives. If not,  drop them from your marketing plan. You may need to consider new activities that better align with your company’s objectives, sales cycle and prospective buyers’ needs.

Next, assign values to each program based on the importance of the desired outcome along the sales cycle. Certain activities are tied to more critical outcomes and therefore should be given a higher value. You now have metrics to measure and can evaluate how effective a marketing program or activity was at eliciting the desired outcome in the sales cycle and if they contributed to generating additional sales.

Is the Marketing Program Profitable? 

Once you have measured and quantified how these activities contributed to generating revenues you must determine if they did so profitably.  Calculate the ROI.  Start with a simple P/L statement.

  1. On the Revenue side, include the dollar contributions that the program made to sales and multiply this number by your average gross margin to calculate the gross profit from marketing’s contributions to sales.
  2. On the expense side, total all marketing program expenses and include staff time and any other resources that contributed directly to the program.
  3. Subtract the total program expenses from the gross profit to determine the ROI of the program.

For more details, download the ebook, Definitive Guide to Marketing Metrics and Analytics, by Marketo which provides excellent real business examples for calculating Marketing ROI.

Be a Revenue and Profit Generator

With the start of a new quarter, now is a good time to review your marketing programs and goals.  Consider if these line up with your organization’s overall objectives.  Determine if you have the right metrics in place to measure effectiveness and impact during the sales cycle. Choose the tools to measure results. Decide how often to measure and adjust your activities.

When marketers develop programs that align with prospective buyers’ needs during the sales cycle, measure program effectiveness (incremental sales contribution) and calculate program profitability (ROI), it demonstrates to leadership that marketing is a contributor to the growth of the organization and not just another cost center.

Resources:

Definitive Guide to Marketing Metrics and Analytics, Marketo (ebook)
Digital Body Language, Chapter 9, Can you Finally Measure Marketing Effectiveness? by Steven Woods, eloqua ebook 


Are You Watching Social Media from the Sideline?

20 Mar

American football field at the 50-yard line.Many companies have Social Media strategies and plans in place.  Many still don’t. And it isn’t only small businesses. Even some large companies don’t have Social Media in their marketing play books. Social Media is the great unknown and risky unchartered waters for many businesses. They avoid any efforts to develop a program, instead watching Social Media from the sideline.  If this describes how Social Media is viewed at your company, maybe it’s time to learn to crawl before you run.

Consider trying one Social Media platform first.  Don’t wait to develop a comprehensive Social Media strategy and campaign. Having said that, it is important to have goals in mind and what you’d like to accomplish.  An initial goal may be as simple as creating a Twitter account and following leaders or competitors in your industry everyday for the next three months. Remember that your actions should be consistent with your brand and target audience messaging, no matter how high of a level you decide to initially participate in Social Media.

The Best Platform for a B2B to Start Social Media Activities

If you are a B2B, LinkedIn is a great choice to test the Social Media waters. This is the professional business networking platform.

Start by completing a LinkedIn Company Profile page.  You can add information, accessible to all LinkedIn’s 150 million members, about your organization including your logo, products and services, current promotions and job openings .  With a company page, once you have followers you can start a conversation and engage with them. LinkedIn members follow what matters to them professionally and to their business.

Next, build your company’s LinkedIn presence by identifying members within your company to join industry groups related to your business like customers’, partners’ and competitors’ groups.  Being a part of these groups is really where your business can benefit.  If this is a first time participating in a group, take some time to listen and get a pulse on the conversations of the group.  Establish your authority and expertise in these groups by becoming an active participant sharing useful information and starting discussions with the group. Another benefit of participating in groups is the opportunity to hear what customers are thinking about your product, your competitors and what is trending in the industry.

Increase your LinkedIn presence further by creating your own industry group. I like the HP and Intel group, Small Biz Nation that features good discussions on relevant topics for small businesses like the discussion on Techniques to Stay Connected to Your Customers. Another group I like is the American Express Business Knowledge Share with discussion topics ranging from Social Media and online marketing tips to How Participating in LinkedIn Groups Can Help Your Business.

The costs of not participating in Social Media are too great.  You don’t have to watch Social Media from the sideline.  Pick a platform and get started.

Get Unstuck and Seize the Opportunity

13 Mar

One of the problems that we all face from time to time is getting stuck.  We may get stuck for different reasons but when we are stuck, we have closed our minds and our ability to be open to change.  The cost is missed opportunities.  

Woman with Arms in Air upwards towards the sky/sunAt one time in my career, I was a data security product marketing manager and made the mistake of being stuck in a belief.  It was very early on in the data security market, (late 90’s), and we were marketing enterprise-grade security firewalls.  These firewalls were designed for large networks, expensive and required technical expertise to implement and manage.  This worked fine for large enterprises but, not for small/medium size businesses (SMBs).  Back then SMBs were the next big growth market for data security products.

Taking the advice of very knowledgeable security gurus, I wasn’t willing to compromise the level of security that large firewalls provided in order to move down market.  I was stuck in the belief that the new firewall designed for SMBs would not provide adequate security.  The truth was that the new firewall did provide good security and SMBs needed a security solution.  The large, expensive, complex enterprise firewall was not it.  Fortunately, after many heated discussions with those in favor of the new firewall, we included it in our security offering. It wasn’t enterprise grade but, it met the needs of the SMBs on price, technical simplicity and security.  The small firewall was a successful addition to our product offering.

Many times, you don’t even realize you are stuck in a belief or idea that is keeping you from seeing an opportunity clearly.  We need to remind ourselves often to remain open to new ideas, not be too quick to judge them and allow them the time to be considered so we don’t miss out on those opportunities for growth.

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

Sharing the Who, What and Why With Customers

28 Feb

Several months ago a start-up had asked for a review and recommendations for improving  their current website and Facebook page.  What stood out most for me was that their website lacked information about the organization, the Who, What and Why were all missing.  Who is a part of their organization? What is their organization about?  and Why does it matter that customers do business with them?

For a new business with a unique product, sharing this basic yet key company information with potential customers is even more critical to build trust and a relationship with customers.

While this may seem pretty obvious to most of us, sometimes smaller organizations and start-ups feel the need and want to be different starting with the website.  For this organization, they have a unique, creative and non-traditional approach to funding charities.  Their website design and content reflects those attributes.  But, the important point is not to get so caught up in being creative or non-traditional that you forget about why you have a website in the first place, to provide information and to connect with your customer.

On this organization’s website, there is no tab or section that tells the story of how or why the organization got started, who the founders are or what is the mission.  A Join button is located on the home page that immediately opens to a window requesting customer contact information to join. There is no landing page to tell the customer why do business with them or in this case ‘join’ their cause. And because this organization has a new model in charity giving, it is important for potential customers to clearly understand how the giving of donations works, what is expected of them and what if any are the costs should be explained on the site before the call to action to join.

Understanding where customers are in the sales process and providing the right content for each stage in the sales cycle is also critical.  If you don’t provide the appropriate information, customers that are not yet ready to buy will leave.  Don’t ask for the sale too soon.  You’ve got to build trust first.

Start with the website. For the majority, it is still the first place they go to learn about a company.  Be creative in design and marketing on your website but, also include the information that customers need and want to know, who you are, what you are about and why they should do business with you.

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