Tag Archives: marketing strategy

Can This Radical Change Increase Content Marketing Effectiveness?

23 Jan

2014 is looking like another big year for Content Marketing. Do a search and you’ll find a vast source of predictions from the Content Marketing Institute, Mashable, research analyst Forrester, the IAB and others.   All sources forecast business spending will be up for Content Marketing this year.  Depending on whose report you believe the CM budget will increase 58% to 75%.

While more is spent on Content Marketing are the efforts more effective?  At the recent Northern California Business Marketing Association (BMA) meeting in Silicon Valley, an experienced panel of Content Marketing experts tackled the question and shared their challenges and struggles to make content marketing a success.

Informative presentations, different perspectives and implementations were shared.  One that I found most insightful came from Jeremiah Glodoveza, Director, Public Relations and Social Media at NetApp.

Much has been written and said about the importance of SEO and content strategy for CM success – but we have not heard much about (if at all) the need for organizational change to support CM effectiveness and success.  Jeremiah shared that his company is in process of changing its marketing organization so it can better integrate content marketing campaigns – restructuring from functional silos to an interconnected organization.

Current Organization

Current Organization

New Organization

New Organization

(These charts are examples only, not NetApp charts).

The change will bring together marketing functions that often times are working independently and with goals that are not aligned .

The new organizational structure is intended to better support collaboration and consistency in messaging and campaigns as well as sharing common goals across marketing functions like PR, technical writing, and communications. Jeremiah believes that more companies will begin making this kind of change to their marketing organizations.

Hats off to NetApp for thinking out of the silo. Making a radical organizational change like this one isn’t easy.  It will be interesting to find out if NetApp’s Content Marketing is more effective as a result.

Resources:  NorCal BMA Meeting, January 22, 2014, panel discussion, Content Marketing:  Why Is A Publisher’s Point of View Essential Today

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

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

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.

Continue reading

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

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.

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

A Simple but Powerful Business Tool

16 Jan

Whatever strategic decisions we make in our business it’s important to have as much information at hand to make the best choices for success.  A sometimes overlooked but, simple exercise that can provide much of that information is a S.W.O.T. Analysis.  

What is a S.W.O.T. Analysis?

S.W.O.T. = Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats

Part of a business and marketing plan, a S.W.O.T. analysis identifies a company’s strengths and weaknesses relative to customers and the opportunities and threats present in the market. Preparing a S.W.O.T. analysis (even without completing a detailed business plan) can identify those things that will help accomplish a company’s objectives (a strength or opportunity), or it may identify an obstacle (a threat or weakness) that must be overcome or minimized to achieve desired results.  A S.W.O.T. analysis is not difficult to create but, requires a company to take an honest look at itself and a thorough look at its environment.

Components of S.W.O.T. Analysis

Internal:

An audit of a company’s strengths will assess what it does well, what are its most valued assets and resources and any advantages it has in the market. Conversely, identify weaknesses, vulnerabilities and what can be done better.  Both should be looked at relative to its importance to customers.

External:

As important as preparing an internal analysis is looking at a company’s external environment and threats and opportunities.  Threats and opportunities change over time as the result of changes in the competitive, economic, political/legal, technological, or sociocultural environments in which a company operates.

With a completed S.W.O.T. Analysis, management will have a current view of the competitive landscape, any obstacles or potential roadblocks and areas identified for improvement internally.

Next Steps:

1- Prioritize identified strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities and complete a SWOT matrix (like the one shown) to visually show the analysis.

SmartDraw Software SWOT Analysis Matrix

2 – Develop an Action Plan to address weaknesses and threats and to take advantage of strengths and opportunities.

Resources:
Importance of SWOT Analysis, by Regina Edwards, eHow Contributor
SmartDraw Software Templates for S.W.O.T. Analysis
SWOT Analysis by Anthony C. Denca

How to Avoid Social Media ‘Soup du-jour’ Syndrome

27 Dec

A small business owner and I met the other day to discuss social media and how it can help her business.  She said she was overwhelmed by all the different platforms and sites and wasn’t sure which one was the best way to go.  Her perception is that social media tools are ‘soup du-jour’ and she felt as soon as she made a choice of which social media tool to use another would take its place resulting in wasted time and money and missed business opportunity.

The variety of Social Media options can be overwhelming and make each platform seem like the ‘soup du-jour’.  Look at Social Media as you do any other marketing tool in your mix and chose the platform based on how it will help achieve your goals and you will have success.  Social Media is no different from any other marketing tool you use to reach customers.  Both marketing tools and social media platforms should be chosen based on which will most effectively reach your target audience to meet your goals with the resources you have available.  How you message and how you communicate with your audience are the differences.

Commitment is Key to Avoiding Social Media Soup du-jour Syndrome

You can commit and believe in your Social Media choices if you do some work up front. That work includes taking time to set your goals and plan.  No marketing tool, social media or other will succeed in helping you reach your goals if you don’t do the work up front.  If you don’t, the result is you will have wasted precious time and money with little success.

Top Social Media Platforms

The top Social Media platforms can help a business meet its goals depending on the target audience and each requires different capabilities, time and resources and include; social networking, multimedia, blogs and microblogs.  Some of the most popular are Facebook, (social networking site), LinkedIn (social networking site for professionals), MySpace (social networking for the creative, artists/musicians), YouTube (video sharing site), Flickr (photo and video sharing site), Mashable (Social Media news blog) and Twitter (microblog).

Follow These Basic Steps When Choosing a Social Media Platform for Your Business

  1. Develop your Marketing Plan
  2. What are your Social Media goals – these should support your Marketing goals
  3. Develop your Social Media Plan
  4. Look at and focus on the top Social Media platforms and sites as a start
  5. Chose the most effective of these to reach your audience and based on your capabilities and resources. Who are your customers?  Do they even have a twitter account to follow your business?  If not, twitter is probably not your best choice.  Are you able to post blogs consistently?  Do you have the resource to develop content and video to post on YouTube?
Additional Resources

Review Your Business Plan Now for 2012 Success

12 Dec

As we near the end of 2011, now is the time to pull that business plan off the shelf.   If you haven’t done this already, it’s time for a full review of your plan for the coming year.

Why is it important to review your business plan?  To achieve your goals and move beyond where you are today, you must assess how well your company is performing to the business plan and identify any significant changes that may require adjustments to the plan.  If you make it a best practice to do a full review at least once a year,  your business goals will remain top of mind and you will be positioned to take full advantage of opportunities, address challenges and grow your business.

Make sure you review these key components of your business plan before 2012

1.  Company Analysis:  How well did your business perform to plan this year? Did your business meet expectations? Did you accomplish what you set out to do?  If you didn’t make your targets, do you know why not?  What are you good at and what makes you unique and qualified to be in this business?  Identify your biggest challenges and opportunities.

2.  Industry Analysis:  Has the size of the market grown or contracted? Take a look at the competition.  Are there more or fewer players?  Who are the major players?  What position do they have?  Do you see new market trends?

3.  Customer Analysis:  Who are your customers and are they the same targets in your business plan today?  Are they buying your products and services?  What are their needs and are any trends affecting their buying behavior?

4.  Marketing Strategy:  Is your marketing strategy generating the projected revenues and results from your products/services.  Are your products priced and positioned to take advantage of opportunities.  Do your products’ features and or specifications meet the market needs?  Did your marketing plans and promotional activities generate the intended results?

5.  Financial Plan:  Do you have enough revenues and the necessary cash flow to operate the business?  Do you need more capital to run the business and take advantage of market opportunities?

6.  Management Team:  Do you have the right players to operate and grow your business?

With a full business plan review completed,  you are ready to make any necessary changes and to set your goals for 2012 and develop an action plan to achieve them.  It can be difficult especially for small businesses to take the time out from day-to-day business operations to review and plan.  Planning takes discipline but, for long-term success it’s a requirement.

Make an Emotional Connection with Your Customer

17 Oct

By Susan Lowe

Recently, I received an email from Larry Baer, the President and COO of the World Champion San Francisco Giants.  Ok, the email also went out to millions of other Giants fans but, it felt personal.

Larry Baer’s letter was heartfelt.  It reached out and grabbed at my emotions. As I read, I felt the incredible excitement of last year’s season and the World Series Championship win – the anticipation of doing it again this year -Saturday afternoons watching the Giants play at one of the most beautiful major league baseball parks. And I felt the disappointment of this year’s season that started with Buster Posey’s horrible injury.

The letter connected on an emotional level and brought Giants Fans together one last time this season. It is an example of great marketing that reinforces the Giants brand and fan loyalty. This was a season ending that didn’t meet expectations making it all the more important to reach out to the fans on a deeper emotional level.  In the book, The Marketing Power of Emotion, the author, Nicholas J. O’Shaughnessy states “Emotion is the adhesive that, when mixed with trust, equals loyalty.”  In his letter to the fans, Larry Baer provided that adhesive.

The take-away here is find ways to connect with your customers’ emotions.  Brand loyalty is more than providing great products or services at the right price.  There are almost always emotional factors in a buyer’s decision. You need to determine what emotions you want your product or service  to evoke with your customers and then incorporate these into your branding strategy and messaging.

%d bloggers like this: