Tag Archives: Marketing plan

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

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?

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

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 


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.

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