Archive for September 2014

30 September, 2014 12:18

September 30, 2014

When you sit down to develop marketing materials, you know you’re trying to reach potential customers. If you’re unclear who that might be, however, you could find yourself wasting time, energy, and money. Taking the time to develop your official ‘buyer persona’ can make the task of figuring out how to reach these potential customers significantly easier.

What is a buyer persona?

A buyer persona is basically your ideal customer. It’s a profile you develop based on the type of customer you’re trying to attract. This profile includes information about gender, lifestyle, income level, where your ideal customers work, and what jobs they perform. It also contains critical information about what types of problems they face at work and how your company can solve them. A buyer persona might look something like this:

Marketing Mike is working to lead his marketing team for his small business. He’s in his late 20s or early 30s and makes about $80,000 a year. Mike is struggling to make his superiors realize the importance of marketing because they’re threatening budget cuts to his department.

For a company that focuses on helping clients maximize their marketing efforts while minimizing costs, this buyer persona could provide the critical insight they need to reach Mike and help solve his problem.

How do you develop your buyer personas?

Buyer personas provide the basis for all your marketing efforts, so it’s critical to develop them on solid evidence and not just who you ‘think’ would be interested in your product or service. Begin by speaking with your existing customers. Get a feel for who they are and what has brought them to you. Complement this information with some research about the industry, the market, and who is typically using services like those you provide.

As you begin to compile these different sources of information, you should start to see some patterns develop. Use these patterns to begin grouping customers into a few different buyer personas. It’s critical that you always seek to learn the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’ as you do your research. It’s not enough to know that Marketing Mike wants to find a more affordable way to market. Understanding the motivation behind his drive is what will help you effectively reach him.

How to use your buyer personas

Once you’ve established your buyer personas, they’ll run your marketing campaign. You’ll develop content that speaks to the questions and problems your personas are facing. You’ll create promotions and attention-grabbers oriented toward these specific people.

Buyer personas give you the additional edge of a targeted approach. No company can be everything for everyone. By developing buyer personas, you’ll know exactly who you’re trying to reach. You’ll have a clear goal and a much better chance of reaching the people who are most likely to buy from you.

A successful marketing campaign means reaching your potential customers and making your company’s value to them clear. That task becomes much easier when you know exactly who you’re talking to. Develop your buyer personas to refine your marketing strategy, and you’ll find your chances for a successful campaign improve drastically. If you’re ready to start refining your marketing strategy, contact us today.

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26 September, 2014 20:20

September 26, 2014

With football season now in full swing, fans across the country are watching their favorite teams fight for a shot at postseason glory. Football is a sport that requires athletic prowess, analytical skill, and a considerable amount of strategizing. As such, there are many lessons we can apply to the business world. Here are just a few to consider.

Study the competition

Football teams are known for their intense studies of opposing teams. Coaches and players alike will spend hours analyzing footage from past games to get a feel for how their opponents work together, what plays they go to frequently, and what strengths and weaknesses they bring to the field. They use this information to develop their own strategies and to see where their opportunities lie.

As business leaders, we should do the same. It’s not enough to just occasionally glance at the websites of the competition. Instead, we should be analyzing their moves, seeing what works for them and what doesn’t, discovering where they’re failing their clients, and finding whatever else we can glean to help us compete more effectively. This insight will give us the tools we need to make our own businesses stronger, as we compete for customers and leads.

Build a balanced team

Successful football teams look for talented players in every position. Having four starting quarterbacks but no safeties will do a football team no good. The team needs to be balanced and account for every position. When games are starting, how often do we hear comments about how one team will be at a disadvantage because a particular player or two are out due to illness or injury?

The same principle applies to business. Successful companies account for every position, too. This includes:

  • leaders who can help the company see and attain its vision
  • financial experts who are good at accounting and planning budgets to help the organization make the most of its resources
  • marketing and sales professionals who excel at generating leads and bringing in new paying customers to help the business grow

Have a good leader

On the football field, effective leaders are essential. The coaches are responsible for developing the playbook and strategizing what plays to use. A good coach can work magic with a mediocre team, while a bad coach can have a losing season even with the strongest of players. The quarterback is another key position. Quarterbacks are responsible for leading the team on the field, implementing the plays the coach dictates, and keeping the team working together.

In business, leaders are equally important. They must be able to see the company vision and guide those around them toward that outcome. Talents in strategizing, encouraging others, and working in
groups are all important for leaders. Cultivate these talents among your staff, especially those in leadership positions, to maximize the potential of your company.

When it comes to organizing a business, football has many lessons it can teach. Keep these lessons in mind as you tune into this season’s games, and see just how much you end up learning.

23 September, 2014 14:00

September 23, 2014

Imagine it’s your first day of college. You enter campus, not knowing anyone. You find your way to your dorm room and review your class schedule and campus map to try and figure out where you need to go. You listen to the chatter of hundreds, if not thousands of new classmates outside your door. The whole process can feel more than a little overwhelming. You somehow need to find new friends in this home away from home, but when not a single face looks familiar, that can be easier said than done. How do you find people you like? How do you start forming relationships?

Chances are you begin by looking for people with common interests. If you’re into fitness, that might mean spending time at the gym on your free time. If you’re into a specific sport, you might try out for a team or get involved in a recreational league. If sports aren’t your thing, you might find clubs and groups that cater to your other interests. When you find people who share your interests, you start to build the relationships that will carry you through the rest of your academic career.

How you can apply the lessons you learned in college

The same principles apply to building your customer base. When you first begin building your company, you’re like that new kid on campus. You need to find people interested enough in you and what you have to offer that they’ll want to build a relationship with you. These relationships will be the key to finding new customers.

Where to go to find your niche

The key to successful marketing is finding your niche and building potential relationships. In school, you found those people by joining clubs, participating in sports teams, and taking part in activities where you would be likely to meet others with similar ideas and interests as you. When developing a marketing plan, you need to do the same thing.

Begin by determining the type of people you want to attract. Identify key characteristics of potential customers and use that information to find them. Learn what your potential customers are interested in, what concerns them, and where they like to hang out. Social media is a fantastic tool for finding potential customers and jumping into the community.

Social media offers access to groups, trending topics, and other useful insights you can use to pinpoint your desired audience while also finding meaningful dialogue that can help you better meet the needs of your customers. Use these resources to start building relationships. Just like that lonely freshman in college, you want to begin by starting the conversation. Become a familiar face to those in the crowd. Ask people about themselves and listen to what they have to say in response. Use that information to build your value. Show these new potential customers how you can help them solve their problems.

Finding a core audience and a niche to grow your business can seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Think of how you handled your first weeks on campus. You focused on finding others with similar interests and started conversations to begin developing relationships with them. Many of these same tactics will also work in the business world. Focus on building relationships, and the rest will follow.

19 September, 2014 14:54

September 19, 2014

When your sales and marketing teams work together and are aligned in their goals and strategies, amazing things can happen for your organization. Studies have shown that companies with marketing teams and sales teams that work well together see as much as a 20 percent increase in annual revenue growth, and no one can afford to ignore that opportunity.

Unfortunately, obtaining that level of cooperation can be a challenge. With a few internal changes and a concentrated effort at aligning these two teams, however, it is possible to bring everyone together.

Begin by establishing definitions

Written, thought-out definitions can be your savior. They give everyone a concrete idea to look back upon and reduce the potential for miscommunication or misperceptions. Here are a few definitions that everyone in marketing and sales should agree upon.

  • What is a quality lead?
  • What will sales do when they receive a quality lead?
  • What level of communication will be expected between the teams?
  • What are the goals for each team?
  • What is the process of handing off a lead from one team to the other, and when should it happen?

Once you’ve established these definitions, it will be easier to see what each group is working toward and when they’re successful. You’ll then be able to determine common goals, such as the number of leads expected from the marketing team and how the sales team will handle each opportunity.

Enhance visibility and transparency

When each team can clearly see what the other is working on and whether or not they’re reaching their goals, they’ll gain a better appreciation for the role both teams play in growing revenue for the company.

To improve visibility and transparency, communication and data are key. Like definitions, data gives concrete facts that everyone can consult and reduces the risk of misunderstandings and resentment. There are several ways to produce quality data reports:

  • Analyze where leads are coming from and how each marketing source is performing.
  • Have marketing team members include highlights of their interactions with leads (such as what content was downloaded), so the sales team can better capitalize on those opportunities.
  • Have sales team members report their communication efforts with leads and results.

Another important measure of visibility is simply to meet together. Gather your two teams together for regular meetings to discuss goals, outcomes, shortcomings, and plans for improvement. These meetings will help to clear the air and get everyone on the same page.

If your marketing and sales teams are too big, consider having occasional meetings with everyone and regular meetings with just marketing and sales leaders. During these meetings, the data will provide you with plenty of conversation topics. Celebrate each other’s accomplishments, but if revenue goals are not being met, make sure both teams are transparent about their plans to make improvements.

Aligning your sales and marketing teams can have a wonderful impact on your bottom line, as well as the overall feelings of cooperation among your employees. With a potential 20 percent growth in revenue on the line, the effort is well worth it.

16 September, 2014 11:48

September 16, 2014

The Great Gatsby is considered an American classic. Its recent film adaptation starring Leonardo DiCaprio has only increased its popularity. Few students in North America made it through high school without reading the book, and the film only helped to bring the images of decadence to life.

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s story takes place on Long Island during the 1920s. A mysterious millionaire named Jay Gatsby holds luxurious parties on a regular basis, all in the hopes of drawing his old lover, now married to another, to his home so he can rekindle the romance. Over the course of the novel, it becomes apparent that Gatsby has made his money participating in illegal activities, such as bootlegging, and has surrounded himself with an unsavory crowd of people who seem to care only about where the money for the next party will come from.

In the end, all the money in the world can’t save Gatsby from an untimely demise.

What we can learn from The Great Gatsby

Networking

Gatsby understood the importance of networking. He used his connections to build a reputation among the people of the fictional town of West Egg. His network even managed to bring him into contact with his old love, which was the ultimate goal of his parties and wealth.

Every business professional should leverage networking to build their company. It’s impossible to do business in a bubble. Networking will put you in touch with others in your industry who you might end up working with, as well as potential customers and clients.

Goals

Gatsby’s entire career was focused on reconnecting with his past love. He kept his eyes always focused on this prize and strategically worked to achieve it. From building his wealth to throwing his parties, his life was centered around this key goal.

Hopefully, your long-term goals are more business-oriented than Gatsby’s, but even so, it’s still important to keep your eyes focused on achieving them. Don’t get distracted or caught up in some new fad if it doesn’t help your company achieve its goals. Goals can change and adapt, but it’s important to always keep your eyes forward.

A strong foundation

Gatsby managed to build a wealthy empire for himself. However, this empire had a horrible foundation. He had built everything on an illegal enterprise and associations with people of questionable character. While he may have had good business sense, he still tried to take the easy way out — to build his wealth without having to develop an honest business.

When building your business, focus on establishing a strong foundation around a network of reputable business associates, strong products and services, and outstanding customer relations. Don’t take shortcuts. They’ll only come back to hurt you in the end.

The Great Gatsby is a classic novel that explores the world of the roaring twenties. It can be tempting to dismiss the moral lessons as products of a bygone era. For those of us in business, however, there are many things we can learn from Gatsby’s triumphs and failures. No professional should overlook them.

12 September, 2014 13:11

September 12, 2014

The idea of saying ‘no’ to a client can seem counter-intuitive. You’re trying to grow your business, after all. But there are times when speaking up and turning down a request or deciding not to work on a particular project might be good for your company’s long-term growth. The key is learning how to gauge these situations so you can successfully focus on growing your business without worrying about problematic clients or requests. Here are three situations where you should definitely consider the benefits of saying no.

You know the client’s idea won’t work

Clients come to you because they know you’re an expert in your field. That means they trust you to know what you’re talking about when it comes to the industry. Sometimes, having that knowledge means you have to point out to a client that their grand idea isn’t as great as they thought.

Speaking up can be difficult, especially when dealing with a new client. You have to worry about feelings and trust. Consider the alternative, however. If you say nothing and complete the task precisely how the client requested it, and then the initiative falls flat on its face, who do you think the client will blame?

Protect everyone involved and carefully lay out your opinion and thoughts about a project before you even get started. Hopefully you and your client will be able to develop a plan that will be more likely to deliver results. In the process, you’ll protect your reputation while also sharing your industry wisdom, and any client worth working with will respect you more for it.

What the client’s asking for isn’t worth the money

These types of traps are easy to fall into for inexperienced newcomers to any industry. Thinking that some work is better than no work, it’s easy to get talked into taking projects that don’t pay nearly enough for the time and effort needed to complete them. But instead of accepting this type of project, try to negotiate a better rate, outlining exactly how much time and effort the project will take. If the client refuses to accept a more reasonable wage, let them go. Chances are, your time will be much better spent working on building a stronger portfolio, marketing, or any other task that can help you find new, well-paying clients. Have respect for your industry and for your own work, and refuse to work with people who don’t share that regard.

What they’re asking for is outside your expertise

There’s something to be said for expanding your skills and knowledge, but know when to say when. If a client asks for a job that’s too far outside your area of expertise, resist the temptation to try ‘winging it’ for the extra money. Otherwise, you’ll risk your professional reputation and the client’s trust. Instead, work with the client to find a trustworthy professional who can work with you to complete the project for the client. The client will appreciate your help and honesty. As an added bonus, the professional you referred the client to will appreciate the extra business and (hopefully) reciprocate down the line.

When struggling to grow a business, nothing is more tempting than finding as many clients as possible. Often this type of desperation can lead to accepting work you’d otherwise never do or agree with. To keep your business moving forward, it’s important to know how to correctly gauge and balance requests and be willing to sometimes say no. Use the above three instances as a starting guide to improve your client relationships and grow the business.

9 September, 2014 14:21

September 9, 2014

For those who like to believe all the hype, it’s easy to think that outbound marketing is dead. After all, it’s rare to hear about marketing experts extolling the importance of direct mail. Instead, they’re usually talking about website conversion rates and developing content that will appeal to the reader. Don’t fall into this trap.

While outbound marketing has lost some of its glamour in recent years, it remains as viable as ever in today’s digital world. It’s role has just changed. Understanding those changes and how to integrate outbound marketing with your inbound efforts is a challenge well worth undertaking.

How the role of outbound marketing has changed

Before the digital era, outbound marketing was the primary means of finding new customers. Everyone in sales remembers doing ‘cold calls,’ which basically involve picking up a phone and trying to convince someone new to buy a product or service. Often, that phone call represented the first real contact between the company and the prospective customer. In other cases, cold calls were used to follow up on a direct mail campaign.

While cold calls are still necessary in some circumstances, the whole idea of just reaching out randomly, blindly, trying to find new prospects has largely gone by the wayside. Such practices are now more often used to complement inbound and other outbound marketing efforts.

For example, say your marketing team has been running an online promotion that allows people to start a free trial of your service from your website. After the free trial is over, many customers decide to continue, but others don’t register for the paid version. This is where a follow-up phone call or email can help. When contacting these prospects, ask them about their experience and what in particular might be preventing them from making a purchase. This kind of outbound marketing follow-up can provide you with valuable feedback and help convert more leads into paying customers.

Similarly, when customers complain or compliment your company on social media, use the opportunity not only to address their concerns right away with an immediate follow-up, but also to provide a tangible means of letting them know you appreciate what they have to say (good and bad). Once you’ve done what you can to alleviate any issues your customer has raised, follow up with special coupons and a thank you note. This simple gesture can help reinforce to a disgruntled customer how much you really care, while at the same time encouraging those who offer compliments to keep spreading the word about your company.

As inbound marketing continues to change the way many of us communicate with our customers, we must be careful to avoid thinking that outbound marketing is dead. It’s not. But its role is changing and will continue to evolve in the future. Understanding the new role outbound marketing plays can help all of us adapt our efforts and get the most from our marketing campaigns.