Image: epublicist on Flickr
Do you remember the bit in Pretty Woman when Richard Gear asks Julia Roberts her name? Her response is start-up marketing gold dust: “whatever you want it to be”.
How many times have you heard a pitch from a start-up which goes along the lines of: “Our product is unique. No-one else does what we do.” This is especially common in business-to-business services. Ask the same start-up who their competitors are though and they often say: “We don’t have any competition as our proposition is unique.”
Really? I think not and here’s why: the customer.
The customer is king, and in their eyes you are not unique. Well you might be different but the customer still has to have some frame of reference to compare you against to make a purchasing decision. Given that they have to pay for the product/servi
ce they will have a very definitive say on how your product is positioned so you ignore their views at your peril.
Granted your product or service might be totally different to anything else out there but the customer has to position it against what they currently use. That way, they can then decide whether they want to purchase it or replace an existing solution. This is not a trivial decision — particularly in business-to-business.
As a founder of your business you see things very clearly. You know exactly what you do, how you are different, why you are better… The trouble is people outside your business don’t — if they do you are lucky and be, very, very nice to these advocates. But, for the most part, they have neither the time nor inclination to work it out. So you have to help them – big time!
In the IT space there is an old adage: “No-one gets fired for buying IBM”. The point is that we know what the company does and stands for. The challenge for start-ups then is doubly hard. First, you have to get to the decision maker and then you have to convince them to trust you and risk their money and reputation. If the product or solution is positioned in the customer’s mind in a way that reduces this risk, you are half to making a sale. Which brings me neatly to the final point — the pivot.
It’s a classic piece of re-positioning. There are times when start-ups create a product or service that ultimately no one needs or offers benefits that are of limited value. When this happens there are two options: quit or re-position.
I worked with a social networking start-up that was aimed at highly regulated industries. However, the offer of a social network was not particularly attractive to that audience. The start-up repositioned its product as a collaboration tool to reduce time to make decisions and support sales. Suddenly, it was much more attractive.
The product didn’t change but the positioning did.
Marc Duke is a marketing consultant and founder of Marc Duke Consulting.
With the popularity of online advertising and email as marketing channels, the low cost of delivery has made the allure of e-media powerful. But it’s leaving many marketers asking, is print dead?
We get a staggering amount of digital communication each day, and every message is easily replaced by the next tweet, email or status update.
Print, however, is tangible, high-impact and high-ROI — and it stands out in today’s increasingly cluttered online universe. Direct mail provides a tactile response that stimulates the senses, creating more positive brand associations and making the communication more memorable. And it’s impervious to spam filters.
But it’s not about abandoning one for the other. By merging the digital world with the world of print, the success of both increases.
Print marketing: the secrets of success
In order to get the best return on your investment, your print marketing should contain these three elements:
The companies that are the most successful at integrating print into their marketing mixes are masters at crafting a cohesive campaign across all marketing channels with personal, relevant materials.
I love the fresh-scrubbed feel of a new year. It’s a great time to set goals and it inspires me to charge ahead.
I do more looking forward this time of year than looking back, but it is important to pause and take stock of where I’ve been. It helps me avoid making the same mistakes twice, and reminds me of things we did that worked well, so that we can try to repeat them.
To that end, here are my top four marketing must-dos in 2014:
With clearly defined goals, you have something to aim for and a way to measure your progress (or lack thereof). Throughout the year, I can easily analyse the numbers and see whether I’m on track; if I’m not, I know I need to address any problems.
Goals include how many followers or connections you’ll gain on your social media networks, and how many new subscribers you’ll sign up for newsletters. Sales may be a number you take into account, but remember — sales are the result of a comprehensive strategy of which marketing is just one component.
Building a database with email addresses and relevant information about former, current and prospective clients is absolutely essential. It allows you to communicate with them, reminding past customers of all you have to offer; strengthening the confidence of current customers; and encouraging prospective customers to move toward a sale.
If you’re just getting started, create a database of all the people you know who might be interested in hearing from you including friends, family and all your business contacts. Your communications should not be sales pitches; they should offer valuable, helpful and relevant information.
Grow your database by including a “call to action” on your website — an invitation for visitors to share their contact information in exchange for something that benefits them. That could include free reports, how-to videos or subscriptions to your blog posts.
The first thing some people do when income declines is minimise expenses by whacking their marketing budget. Huge mistake! In fact, you need to pay more attention to marketing when sales drop off.
The new prospects you develop today, and the prospects you’ve been establishing relationships with, will be your paying customers tomorrow. If you allow that stream to dry up, you’ll be in even more dire straits a few months from now.
Today we have more tools than ever for communicating the value of our service or product. Many of them cost you nothing. Today I can jump on Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and the other social media networks and reach a potentially far larger audience for free.
Speaking engagements may be old school, but they’re still effective; personal, face-to-face experiences create lasting impressions. Traditional media — radio, newspapers and magazines, and TV — are also still powerful and carry the additional benefit of giving you credibility. That implied endorsement from journalists can set you apart.
Creating a great website accessible to millions of potential shoppers doesn’t have to break the bank, and you can ramp up its value by using it to showcase your publicity.
Use everything at your disposal to share your message.
Everything has a story behind it, but if that story isn’t told, who cares? If no one had written down the tales of Camelot, King Arthur and the Round Table would be unknown today. No matter how great a story is, it doesn’t pass itself down on its own merits. Someone has to share it.
Your company’s story is no different: It must be told to make an impact. And leaving behind a legacy isn’t the only benefit — there are a number of ways it can help your business now.
One of the main objectives of any business is to build trust with potential clients and partners. Not only does writing a book give validity to your expertise, but it enables prospects to learn more. A book can also provide added revenue through sales.
It’s important, however, to tell the right story about your business to succeed. Here are two ways to find the best angle:
If you’re going to put the time and energy into writing a book, you might as well do it right. Keep these things in mind:
However, avoid writing about others (especially if you can’t cast them in a positive light), getting uncomfortably personal, or supplying boring information.
By crafting the right story, you’ll find new opportunities at your doorstep. For example, Gary Vaynerchuk ( author of Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World) and Dave Ramsey (author of EntreLeadership: 20 Years of Practical Business Wisdom from the Trenches) both became New York Times bestsellers. While they were undoubtedly successful before, their stories propelled them to titan status in their fields.
So start looking for your company’s sword-in-the-stone moments. You just might end up the King Arthur of your field.
Nicolas Gremion is the ceo of Free-eBooks.
Whenever I’m talking to business owners, a question I’m often asked is, how can I ensure I stay ahead of my competitors? So here are seven things that you can do to ensure you stay ahead of your competition for 2014 and beyond.
The first thing you need to do is ring-fence your existing clients. More and more businesses are looking to replace lost revenue and profitability through acquiring new clients — and some of the new business your competitors are targeting will include your existing regular clients.
As a lot of businesses have got complacent. They’ve tended to neglect existing accounts — and those are now the ones that have been taken by their competitors, or the ones most at risk.
What are your relationships like with your existing accounts? What about the ones you haven’t spoken to for a while? The ones you don’t get on as well with? Would they tell you if they had been using a competitor’s services? And if they did, would you keep the business at the same price or would you have to price match to keep it?
The quality of your prospecting will be one of the biggest factors in how successful you are (or not) in 2014. As the individual salesperson is asked to do more and more, it’s vital that the time you spend prospecting is time well spent.
That means knowing who is a good prospect for you. Most people think they know. But often they don’t. There will be certain specific criteria that make certain prospects more ideal than others. If you don’t know what they are, you need to find out — and fast. Take a look at your existing client base. What was it that made them stay with you at the moment they did?
The next thing you need to do is crank up the volume. I’m a big fan of a high level of activity — as long as that activity is good quality and is done with the right mindset.
The more deals you have in your pipeline, the more you can afford to lose. If you only have just enough in your pipeline (or close to), then you’re always going to be struggling as you’ll be counting on every deal converting, and it’s devastating when any of them drop out.
Just by increasing your activity, you increase your chances of success — and therefore increase the amount of money you can earn. Who wouldn’t want to do that?
Some of the best salespeople I know are a valued resource for their clients. They’re someone whose opinion their clients respect and who they turn to first to get information about purchasing decisions. They’re someone that has a high level of credibility and clients trust their advice.
Not all salespeople are in this position however. A lot of salespeople complain that their clients ignore their advice; that they don’t listen; that they don’t take their calls or see them when they pop in. What bigger signs do you want that clients don’t see you as a valued resource?
In order to be seen as a valued resource, you have to earn it. You have to give value first. You have to get updated on industry trends, technological advancements and understand the impact that these could have on your client’s business. You have to be able to hold a business conversation with the level of decision makers you’re meeting. Invest the time to do things like this, and it will pay you back tenfold.
One of the best ways to get ahead of the competition in 2014 is to win some customers from them. This is a great way of distracting them from their own new business efforts, plus it’s a great motivational factor for you and your team.
If you’re in field sales, why not map out competitors’ accounts in your territory? Then create a call plan for getting to see them and focus on winning their business.
If you’re in internal sales, make notes on the prospects that are currently using your competition, then filter the data by competitors name. Then you can create a phone campaign designed specifically to convert their customers to your customers instead. Dedicated and focused approaches have a far better chance of success — and they put a big dent in your competitor’s confidence.
We all know that motivation is important for a salesperson. But it’s the salesperson’s ability to be consistently motivated that will help them stand out from the rest.
In order to be motivated on a consistent basis, the salesperson has to take charge of their own motivation, rather than waiting for other people (or things) to motivate or de-motivate them. They need to have compelling reasons for doing what they do, especially the tougher jobs such as cold calling.
If you really want to stay ahead of your competition in 2014, you’ll need to sharpen your sales skills. This means getting up-to-date, relevant sales tips and advice from trusted sources.
Internal training at your company is great and hiring an external trainer or motivator is even better. However, you don’t have to spend money to keep your sales skills updated — there are articles, videos and podcasts that are free to access and there are plenty of seminars you can attend.
Just make sure you put into practice what you learn.
If you run your own business you need to juggle many balls — the financials, stock, display (online and offline), networking, social media management, staff… the list goes on.
But one thing that all entrepreneurs must try to keep on top of is brand awareness — so that new customers can discover you easily and so that your existing customers feel good about seeing your company getting mentioned in the press. This kind of visibility will encourage customers to pick up the phone and order your product or services again.
Press coverage is free editorial — not paid-for advertising. If you haven’t tried to get press coverage to date, here are 12 essential steps that will help you get your company some valuable media coverage in 2014.
You will need to roll your sleeves and go for it, because if you don’t employ a PR agent (either in-house or on a contractual basis), then no one is going to do it for you. The fact that you are passionate about your product or services is a great start.
So let’s dive straight in and get some press for 2014.
1. Have a thick skin and be persistent: you could get plenty of push backs, but keep on trying, don’t be put off by rejections from journalists, the next journalist you call may love your product.
2. Be creative: try and think outside of the box to come up with interesting angles for your media approaches.
3. Have confidence: pick up the phone. If you believe in your product and are passionate about it, that’s half the battle.
4. Good images, both high and low resolution, are essential.
5. Strong copy: make your words punchy and to the point in order to catch attention.
6. Prepare your website: add a new page with links to your images and the news you are promoting.
7. Buy the target magazines or newspapers or read them online to find out more about their approach and to get the key contacts details.
8. Follow journalists on Twitter: You will see up to date information on what they are covering. You can also check out these two hashtags: #journorequest #PRrequest.
9. Identify your story: Is it a product launch? Profile piece? Case study?
10. Come up with a grabbing headline and use this in your email subject box and as the title for the press release.
11. Use statistics where possible, this gives credibility to your story. Provide a quote and if possible get one from a satisfied customer as well.
12. Always say thank you to the journalists when they publish your story.
Good luck and go for it!
Amanda Ruiz is the founder of www.amandaruiz.co.uk, a marketing and PR agency.