Tag Archives: Marketing

Inclement Weather Marketing

In North Carolina, we tend to get a good snowfall at least once or twice every few years.  These “snow days” can wreak havoc here in the Triangle.  Driving in the snow and ice is not a North Carolinian’s strong suit, so many civic, school, and business organizations close as a safety precaution.

When a snow storm comes, local media is abuzz about it and updates scroll the bottom line of network TV.  Most of these updates are about area closings and openings.  These updates offer a great marketing opportunity for small businesses.

By tapping into the media, businesses can gain exposure by sharing updates about their office hours.  The result – free brand impressions on network TV (this year these updates were paired with ACC basketball games, broadcasts drawing a huge number of viewers in North Carolina).

The next time snow or ice is closing down offices in your area, seize the opportunity to share your business’ schedule with local viewers glued to the TV while the snow falls down.  This tactic takes little time to deploy and reminding local viewers about your business without having to run an expensive advertisement is sweet!  Even sweeter, if you don’t need to close you can still gain exposure by reporting your regular closing or opening times.

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Super Bowl Event Marketing

It’s Super Bowl Sunday!!  A time when advertising comes into focus.  This year, however, I’m thinking less about the commercials and more about event marketing around Super Bowl XLIV.

There are opportunities for your business to piggyback on the excitement of a big event.  DirectTV has implemented a well-timed marketing tactic by setting up tables in Sam’s Club and offering a SuperBowl promotion.  This is a great strategy for DirectTV!  Football fans, one of the drivers behind HDTV adoption, often consider upgrading their TV sets before the SuperBowl and DirectTV can sweeten their purchase by offering attractive HD sports packages.

Shopping for new TVs is one side-effect of the SuperBowl, and there are certainly others.  Let’s consider food consumed on Super Bowl Sunday. Hot wings, pizza, chips, dips, and beer are foods that come to my mind.

If you’re a chicken wing supplier, demand leading up to the SuperBowl is bound to rise.  Chicken wing suppliers and distributors can raise their prices and enjoy better margins than other times of the year.  If you run a hotel in Miami, host of Super Bowl XLIV, demand for hotel rooms and other entertainment venues will be high too.  Plan accordingly.

My advice, think about upcoming events in your area and implement aligned event marketing tactics to capitalize on the event’s excitement.

What event marketing tactics have been effective for your business?

Transparency in Your Business

P&G’s recent backlash for shipping a “new and improved” version of Pampers diapers in old packaging is a lesson proving the value in coporate transparency.   Social media has amplified customer’s voice, which can spread rapidly over social networks.  In this case, upset Pamper customers have put P&G’s new brand in jeopardy before it has even officially launched.

It goes without saying that P&G didn’t handle this product introduction very well.  They’ve also struggled to respond to their critics in an effective manner (read: using social media platforms to inform and respond to buyers of Pamper diapers).  However, injecting transparency in your company is not only important for preventing similar failures, but it is also important for establishing an authentic voice in your business.

Achieving transparency is easier said than done.  Organizations need to give their clients insight to their company, products and services without giving up too much competitive intelligence.  Ultimately, transparency breeds an authentic company.  Customers gravitate towards authenticity and your long-term business will benefit by having more connected customers.

Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and share the type of information that could provide value in their life. Find an authentic voice that connects you (and builds a valued relationship) with your customer.

Differentiating With Customer Service

As more products essentially become commodities, service has become a viable means for increasing revenue and profit margins for companies in these industries. Use a service strategy to your advantage.

Big companies often struggle to develop great relationships with their customers.  Too many levels of authority, employees unauthorized to make decisions, arbitrary policies preventing customer-facing employees from advocating for the customer, and limited access to direct customer feedback often handcuff the big guys from delivering great service and developing good relationships with their customers.

This spells opportunity for agile companies!

One of the reasons I enjoy working with small companies is knowing exactly who stands behind the company and its policies.  This tends to build a more responsive organization and it’s good marketing.  If your a small business, use your size to your advantage.  Develop relationships with your customers and provide the best service possible.  Develop a culture for customer service through training and service programs that empower your employees.

Great customer service can differentiate your business from others and improve your bottom line.  Embrace a culture of customer service and develop relationships with clients that make them want to be your customer for life.

People and Systems

While startups are constantly creating and tweaking their systems and processes within their own organization, most larger organizations are entrenched with them.  Whether you operate within a large company or you are selling to them, learning about the people who influence/make decisions and understanding how to address the constraints the systems and processes of their organization place on them is crucial to a successful selling process.

In simplistic terms, there are two buckets you need to become more familiar with, people and systems.

  • People address: hierarchy, influence, decision making, early adopters, and subject matter experts.
  • Systems address: hardware, software, procedures, and necessary steps to get sign-off for sales.

Together, these buckets help you identify the who and how to move your agenda forward.  Perhaps even more importantly, if you understand an organization’s people and systems and you can develop a sales map that will identify potential roadblocks and lead you to replicable workarounds resulting in a more efficient sales process.

Plus, you can incorporate common findings from the sales mapping process into your product and service offerings to better serve your customer’s needs.  Now that’s a win if I’ve ever heard one.  I’d recommend you learn the people and systems in your product and sales process landscape to improve your hit rate and reduce your sales cycle time line.

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So What?

A simple question yielding powerful results.  The question “so what?” can reveal what really matters to your target audience – the benefit.

So you have a flashy new web app that can refresh logos – so what? A feature you just launched will be useful for clients making up less than 20 percent of your revenues – so what?  Your company has assembled the most experienced team in your industry – so what?

These features are meaningless to your audience without a benefit.  Asking the question “so what?” helps you get to benefit for your customers.  It gets to your customer’s “what’s in it for me?, ” and “why should I pick your product or service instead of the alternative?” thoughts in their minds.

For example, the benefit of employing the most experienced team is better illustrated in your customers’ eyes by explaining how an experienced team will help clients avoid costly pitfalls and speed the launch of important projects.  The “so what?” line of questioning forces you to speak in client-benefit language and cut out insular feature-laden language.

Determining the benefit statement you craft for your clients and prospects takes time and often probing conversations with your customers. It can be challenging to identify something unique and compelling. However, after a few iterations of truly identifying the answers to “so what?” your message can be effectively molded into benefits that are music to your customers ears.

So, the next time you think you have the answer, take a step back and ask the “so what?” question.  Be sure you are answering the right question and speaking to the benefits your audience needs to hear.  Now all you need is for your customers to listen to your song.

Seek Market Fit, Not Branding

For entrepreneurs, finding the right fit in the market for your startup is essential. Before ramping up marketing programs, assess your fit in the market so marketing dollars aren’t wasted on premature campaigns.  Without the right market fit, no amount of branding will overcome a misaligned offering.

Forget branding and develop a focused product or service that your customers can’t live without.  This is not to say you shouldn’t have a positioning statement for your company.  A positioning statement helps identify, create, and capture markets.  Avoid branding until your market fit is established.

Once you’ve placed your stake in the ground and the majority of your customers say they couldn’t imagine doing business without your product, you’ve found your market fit, and an enviable one at that.  From here, ramp up your branding efforts to build loyalty, create barriers to entry and grow your business!

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Five Nuggets from the Internet Summit

The Internet Summit was last week in Raleigh, NC and I want to share with you five nuggets I took away from the panel sessions I attended.

1) Blogging is Not Dead
Didn’t really think blogging was dead, but I guess with a few bloggers ditching blogging for micro-blogging some were wondering where the blog fits in.  The take-away is that blogs should be a hub for your online marketing initiatives.  For B2B folks, they’re great for thought-leadership positioning too.

2) Search Marketers Start with Google
Google AdWords is easy to use and on the platform where more than 60% of search traffic resides.  Unless you know your audience is on Yahoo/Bing, or your budget is significantly lacking, Google is where you want to start. One other theme around search marketing is that it can also be used effectively for branding purposes.

3) Analytics are Increasingly Important
Think measurement first. Tie your business goals with analytics (read: reverse engineer the goal to the measurement).  Include KPIs as part of budget discussion.

4) Email Marketers use Best Practices
Be relevant (know your audience)
Think holistically (where does email fit into your overall marketing campaign)
Segment and personalize emails (this ties back into relevance)

5) Twitter is Versatile
Great for monitoring brand (customer service) and as a content distribution medium. Expectations are that niche providers like Yammer and the like will start gaining popularity in 2010.

What do you think?  Did the Internet Summit 09 get it right?

Market Sizing

Accurately estimating the market size of your product or service is crucial to determine whether the business or specific industry is worth pursuing.  And if you want financing, investors will want to know what the potential return of their investment could be.  Fortunately, there is a wealth of information at your fingertips to help you determine the market size of your business.

I prefer take the wide view when quantifying markets. This can reveal unexpected relationships between types of people or businesses within a market and can also help identify the most suitable market niche to pursue once the business has achieved success in an ancillary niche.

With this in mind, I recommend sizing up three types of markets: the total available market, the served available market, and the target market.

Take the Wide View
Take the wide view by estimating the total available market size (anyone who could potentially use your product or service) first.  After this, narrow your wide view of the market by determining the served available market size (the portion of the total available market your sales channel can reach, which often includes geographic limitations) and identify the further segmented target market size (the segmented piece or niche of the market to whom your company will be marketing your product or service first).

Quantify the Market with Numbers
To quantify these markets, you need numbers. If you’re pursuing an existing market, check out industry and market research reports (e.g. – Frost & Sullivan, Gartner, Forrester, etc.). These reports are often expensive, so you may need to look elsewhere.  Sometimes you can find other articles referencing an industry report, so do a quick search of articles referencing the report and check the Google cached view to easily identify where the information you want is referenced (this can save a lot of time if its a big report).

Still no luck?  Look in the researcher’s news archives, which often includes useful data in press releases about their reports. Research industry trade groups can also be very helpful, and often publish market statistics about the industry they cover.

If all this fails, visiting your competitors websites may provide you with the numbers you seek.  Estimate the market size by looking at competitors’ annual report and dividing their sales revenue by their market share.

Bring It All Together
Remember, one report won’t tell you everything and there are many ways to get an approximate market size for your business.  You may need to take a multiple data points from various sources and assemble it into a tailored market size report that quantifies the total market size, served available market size, and the target market size.

Researching data from various sources will help you see a more complete picture of your industry.  With these numbers, you’ll better understand the potential for your business and which segments of the industry are most attractive.

Happy market sizing!

How have you determined the market size for your company?  Share your experience.

Why Customers Buy

Unsuccessful startups often think customers will come if they build them a solution they should want.  This is backwards.

Startup success can often be boiled down to one thing.  Successful startups know why their customers will buy their product and develop their offering and marketing plans armed with this knowledge.

Once you know why people buy, you are able to accomplish three things.

1. You can build your product to meet your customers true needs
By developing the right product and proper pricing that accounts for the total cost of ownership of your product, your business can be profitable sooner.

2. You can describe and sell your product in a way that resonates with your prospects
It’s a beautiful thing when the positioning of your product matches what your prospects want to hear.

3. You can identify the best channels to sell your products
If you know why customers buy,  you should know enough about them to create a customer mind map and know what the day in their life holds to better target marketing channels in which they will buy your product.

These three things set startups up for success.  The customer is always right, so companies need to be vigilant about getting their team out there to listen to them.  Get out there, get to know your customers and understand why they buy.