June 24, 2012
5 marketing tips to improve your odds of winning new business when you least expect it.
We signed a new client last week. I could say that it was because of our tremendous service quality, amazing results, or widely recognized brand, but that wouldn’t really be correct. We were in the right place at the right time. Yes, I’ll admit it. We got lucky.
I disagree with the sales guru who first coined the phrase “luck is not a strategy.” While there are probably no marketing plans that list “luck” as a strategic priority, your marketing plan can dramatically increase your opportunities to get lucky – meaning to generate leads and win business when you didn’t expect to do so. Read the rest of this entry »
April 15, 2012
Putting a cheesy marketing metaphor to work for your firm.
I was meeting with a prospective client last week, trying to convince the principals that they could cut out a good chunk of their advertising budget and improve marketing results by just implementing an ongoing content marketing campaign. The group was having difficulty understanding why an established firm needed to keep pushing their message to prospective clients, so I pulled out a cheesy old example that I saw in some marketing class years ago. Read the rest of this entry »
August 3, 2009
Streamline communications to improve results.
I was reading a company’s PowerPoint sales presentation earlier today… with a magnifying glass. Each page was chock-full of very valuable information about the company, but it was so overwhelming that I couldn’t figure out what they were really trying to communicate. I feel bad for saying this, but I quickly lost interest and decided to write this post rather than read on.
Is your company presentation overloaded with content in paragraph form? Did you have to produce your brochure in 9 pt type to include everything you wanted to say? How many times does a website visitor have to page down to reach the bottom of your home page? If you had to give these questions more than a couple of seconds of thought, you need to cut out some of the fat and focus on delivering a few key messages to the right audience at the right time.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- 3 messages – Before you start planning each communication, think about the top 3 messages that you want the audience to remember. This should be what you can truly offer your client that no one else can. Then leave everything else out. I mean it. You’re not going to close the deal with one brochure or presentation, so don’t try it.
- 3 seconds – This is how long you have to generate interest or you will lose your audience. Where were your eyes drawn in this post? Hopefully to the bulleted items, where the cute use of 3s attracted your interest. Get to the point, and highlight or bullet your key messages. This applies to all marketing-related communications, especially new prospect communications like brochures and websites.
- 3 minutes – Limit the size of your sales or company presentation. The last thing you want to do is run out of allotted time, and you’ll start hearing that familiar Blackberry key clicking if you try to rush through your pitch. Assume each page will take at least 3 minutes to cover, 5 or more if you expect your audience to actively participate in the discussion.
- 3 bullets – Actually 3-5 bullets is just fine. The whole concept is to highlight a few important points. Too many bullets and you’re really not highlighting anything anymore. For presentations, use bullets (other than quotes or your boilerplate) rather than paragraphs or your audience will be squinting at the screen instead of paying attention to you.
- 3 times – Here’s a good rule of thumb for any marketing communication.
- Introduction – Tell them what you are about to say.
- Body – Say it, in a concise format.
- Conclusion – Tell them what you just said, with next step.
Enough with the 3s. You get my point. Most communications that I’ve seen could be cut in half and be twice as effective. This type of concise communication is much harder to accomplish, but your results will be worth the effort.
If you can’t measure it, don’t do it!
July 28, 2009
7 questions to ask yourself before you fire everyone.
This will probably be my easiest post, since I really started writing this several months ago after hearing three prospective client CEOs make similar comments in as many days. Here’s what they said:
- They hired reps with terrific track records.
- The reps weren’t contributing enough to offset the expense.
- The CEOs couldn’t understand why the reps weren’t more successful.
- The reps either left, were fired, or were heading down one of these two paths.
After hearing these comments, I started to think about some of the basic barriers to successful selling. The changes that ultimately improve sales results may actually need to start much earlier in the marketing and sales process. Here are some questions to ask yourself before you hand out pink slips.
- Do you have a plan? A marketing plan (and/or sales plan) doesn’t have to be a novel, just a document that outlines the basic who, what, when, where, and why. Set activity goals that will drive your revenue goals. When in doubt, just make something up and make adjustments when you start seeing real results.
- Are you selling to the right buyer? If you are selling something that will streamline (read staffing cuts) IT, you should probably go above the VP of IT who will be directly impacted. Think about who will ultimately benefit, and who will sign the check. It also helps to know the buyer’s current environment and solution, as that may impact your marketing message.
- How do your reps meet buyers? Local businesses often see great results door knocking and phone calling, since the target owner is often the one behind the counter. If your true buyer is a company executive like a VP or COO, you are wasting your time and diminishing your reputation by cold calling. When’s the last time you answered your phone for a telemarketer? Get your reps involved in networking groups, chambers of commerce, trade associations, and even charitable organizations. That’s where they will build real relationships with buyers and influencers, not during a 30 second cold call.
- How are you marketing to buyers? Basic marketing tools include professionally designed (no 3rd party logos) business cards, print and PDF brochures, and website. For some companies, a bulleted PowerPoint presentation will also help present your value, and it can be customized for each prospect to show you understand their “unique” needs.
- How often? There’s a good analogy that compares the sales and marketing process to one hour on a clock. While the sales rep represents 1 minute of contact, ongoing marketing contact represents the other 59 minutes. Create content that shows you are a credible source of knowledge and experience that will improve the buyer’s ability to do his/her job. Think about sharing successes, related experiences, aggregate data, and best practices in a brief format. Avoid a blatant sales pitch. You will add value, earn respect, and buyers will start calling you. I promise.
- Did you hire the right reps? Less that 10% of sales reps are natural hunters, meaning they thrive when tasked with generating something from nothing. The other type of sales rep is a farmer, best at building and growing relationships over time. Make sure you’ve got the right people for the task at hand, and you will ultimately need both types to grow your business. Some people (like me) pretend to be able to play both roles. Ask about their largest sales wins and losses, and the truth shall be told.
- How are you measuring them? Build some metrics that are realistic to the sales cycle as well as the end results. Measuring only revenue results, or hourly progress in a 6-month sales cycle, just doesn’t make sense. Think about the activities that have to occur before a sale is closed, like introductory buyer meetings, presentations, proposals, and contracts, and then set reasonable monthly or quarterly goals. If your reps are achieving those targets, they are more likely to hit the revenue goals. If you only measure revenue, you will always be a complete sales cycle late in taking corrective action. Link compensation (like a small bonus) to these metrics, and your reps will be more likely to focus on the short-term activities that lead to long term success.
If you don’t have a complete answer to one of more of these questions, it’s probably worth the time and effort to make some upstream sales and marketing process adjustments. If you’ve got everything covered, then it’s time to call your sales reps in before they start on the back nine.
If you can’t measure it, don’t do it.