Thinking of Changing from Direct Sales to Inbound Marketing?

I recently had a conversation with a very successful business owner regarding the changing of company marketing success.  He has run a very successful direct sales company for the past twenty plus years and is now intrigued, curious would be the word he would use about how inbound marketing could change the scope and future of his business. This question is being asked by many, I assume, whom have built successful businesses using the old word marketing techniques (Newspaper, TV, Direct Sales).

As we sat and discussed the future and the power of using inbound marketing strategies for the future of the company I became concerned for not only the directions our conversation was taking but what many executives may be doing to their now successful business model. Are they jumping ship for another vessel which will not carry as much load?

My Point: Inbound Marketing, Social Media and Web-based marketing practices are great power pack of energy for a company, They can take a successful, well run business with the right vision and aptitude to fantastic new heights in business.  They however are not the next bigger and greater thing for all companies. With out the proper foundation of business and support Inbound Marketing and Social Media are a lot like switching your Newspaper budgets to Radio and Dropping your core vehicle for marketing. It just never works, you get a new exciting single success in the meantime lose all your marketing momentum.

Example: I ran the print marketing for a company in Boise Idaho in the late 90’s and I will never forget the mistake this business owner made. He had in the marketplace the number 2 furniture store in the Metro area at that time and ran a comprehensive marketing plan on TV and in Newspaper every week. His Audience expected him to be there. His largest competitive nightmare (RC Wiley) had just come to town and had already put several of his competitors out of business. His marketing strategy was working and he was actually gaining share in a more competitive market. He made a rash decision one day in early spring to drop his Newspaper Budget and sink into a New Radio Promotion with targeted Direct Mail.  Long Story Short 30 days later he had his worst moth of sales in over 10 years, he immediate switched back to his original marketing and it took him over one year to get sales back to the same levels as before the rash decision.  His audience  did not know how to find him and perceived that in the new competitive market he was no longer a player and found alternatives.

Five tips to consider when starting your Inbound Marketing Program:

  1. What are my goals and expectations – set clear-defined goals for growth in your company. Remember these tools are meant to add to the company’s current audience base, not become the new smaller more connected audience.
  2. Designate the proper staffing for your inbound marketing strategy. Asking your current team to add it to their plate or to switch their focus will only deteriorate the success you are already having and translate into a flat or the deterioration bottom line.
  3. Set realistic Time Tables for growth – Inbound Marketing is not Direct Mail, you can’t count success in a week. You must build the audience, nurture the audience and then feed the audience before it will grow.
  4. Keep working you already have a successful business model, don’t stop jump off the boat and swim for the other ship just because it looks exciting. Your current ship is already going the right direction. Inbound and social media marketing should just help you gain more speed and collect more passengers.
  5. Commit – You can not be successful in Inbound marketing by just signing up. You most commit to the process. You must provide content, provide service, launch multiple strategies and measure response and adjust, again and again. This is why it is important to dedicate a staff or agency to helping you work this engine. Inbound marketing and social media marketing demand active participation.
So if trying to decide how to enhance your direct sales team with inbound marketing is your mission, Go for it. You will see great success and a big potential for success. If you goal is to turn inbound marketing into your new sales company, caution, you make be jumping off into a smaller vessel that is not meant to take you on the long journey of success.

5 Recommendations for Facebook Contests & Competitions

I just finished reading a new report on Facebook for Business. Facebook is changing so fast but these tips for local business I thought were great reminders of how to build engagement in your Facebook strategy.  For more information Sign up for a Free report in the side bar.

5 Recommendations for Facebook Contests & Competitions

Make a Targeted Plan

1. Establish Broad Appeal

Make sure to offer prizes that many prospects would be interesting in winning.

Don’t restrict the contest by promoting an obscure item or service that might only interest a small segment of the audience.

2. Be creative

Originality, creativeness and nerve are going to help the promotion stand out. A boring promotion will probably have boring results. Put yourself in the mindset of your target market while they are using Facebook. What potential reward would get them to sit up and take notice?

3. Strive for simplicity

Keep the promotion both clean and simple. Extravagant visuals and complicated contest rules will overwhelm your audience, possibly losing you potential applicants. Entering a contest online should be easy, quick and fun. Keep this in mind throughout the implementation of your promotion.

4. Go multi channel

Cross promote your contest through other platforms available to your brand. Share it on your website, through email marketing, print ads, word of mouth, on TV, on the radio, on YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn or any other platform you deem appropriate, including Facebook ads themselves.

5. Be timely

Seasonality and timing are important aspects of Facebook

promotions. Try to anticipate what is on the minds of your

target market right now and don’t drag things out. If the

contest is too short it may never reach enough leverage among

interested audiences and fail, yet if it goes on too long fans will

lose interest and forget what they have entered. Determine a

balanced time frame for your campaign, giving it enough time

to attract buzz while also maintaining its relevance.

Transform from Dot Marketing to Dash Marketing

OK, first a little definition before I get into my point.What is your Strategy

Dot Marketing – I think I made this one up but let me give you my definition. Dot Marketing is the practice of focusing so hard on a single item, (the Dot), that you can’t see the bigger picture and miss incredible opportunity. Perhaps you are familiar with the parable of the Fly who is so fixated on the window, (insert pile of Crap here), that he continued to beat his head on the glass until he dies, however at the same time five feet away there was a door wide open that would have allowed him to reach his goal.

Dash Marketing – The process of working a marketing plan through a complete life cycle. You know the dash, you were born on this date – your were deceased at this date (1959-2011).  In business and in life the dash is all we have. We can view it as a journey that will change and adapt or we can view it as a prescribed time in the future to end what ever venture we are on. The point is that is a period of motion and does not stay in the same spot  until it ends.

I see many businesses today fully focused on the Dot marketing. They jump from one trend to the next and are always blaming to last media for their slow growth. Dot Marketing, Target Marketing, undeveloped Marketing, what ever you want to call it is just a little short sighted.  Most businesses forget to develop a marketing plan for their product or service which includes who the target audience is, and how that audience will react to certain media.  They buy the marketing package because they like the sales rep or because it is what they think everyone else is doing and forget to check if it one has the right audience and two if the audience size being offered is a good value for the investment they are about to make.

By ignoring these two simple pieces of marketing they often find results that are not up to expectations, they design marketing campaigns that don’t fit the audience and they blame the media for their lack of results. This causes a negative feeling and a very powerful mistake in marketing.  They focus on the negative results and decide that the audience or vehicle are broken and move on to the next DOT. For this reason I often recommend a Marketing consultant or coach for most small business.

Developing a complete Marketing plan and labeling your target audience is crucial to your marketing. But if you do not evaluate your marketing buys to determine how it is a match to your targets how will you ever get the results you desire. It is like being a local merchant who sells windows only to a 50 mile radius and buying PPC ads programs on Google for everyone in the United States and wondering why all the clicks you get are not buying your items.

To transition to Dash marketing practices you must develop a marketing plan that includes:

  1. Business Goal or objective
  2. Time Table for achieving
  3. Target Audience
  4. Target Market Assumptions and Facts
  5. Routine check ups and adjustments

Realize that every marketing plan has a life cycle and that every product you carry as a product life cycle.

I am a firm believer that all media works in marketing. However businesses often over pay for the audience based on target and audience size, and they do not create customized marketing for that vehicle and that audience.

Dash Marketing takes the entire life cycle into consideration. Dash Marketers understand that once a product response starts to grow and explode that they can introduce new and exciting marketing that helps it grow even faster and wider. Conversely once a product or marketing campaign slows they need to adjust the marketing campaign to see if it can recreate energy or if it is time to change marketing strategies, brands, products etc…

To move your business from a Dot marketer to a Dash marketer, start by reviewing or building your marketing goals sheet.  What do you want to accomplish. Then evaluate to tools you are currently using, do they match, does their audience really fit who you are targeting? You might consider a Marketing Consultant that will give you honest opinions on what they see in the marketplace and how your marketing is on or off course. Design a multiple messages for different audiences and evaluate response. (Remember the media works or they would not have an audience, you just need to figure out how that audience reacts to that media and customize your message to them properly.)

Last, Stop focusing on the DOT. Take a look around and look for opportunities that you may not have thought of before. With  the development of Social Media, Mobile Marketing, Localized PPC search, Local Directories etc.. there are many opportunities to get your message out to unique targeted categories of audience.

Where does Social Media fit in the marketing funnel?

Social Media Landscape

The past two years I have had an internal conversation going on about the choices business people are making in regards to social media, mobile media, newspapers, direct mail ect.

As our economy started the slide I saw businesses start to blame their media outlets for the lack of response they were receiving and decide to jump to newer and trendier media selections. Unfortunately I also saw a rise in businesses which lost brand value and often found themselves in that place where going out of business would be more delightful than staying in business.

Let me try to clear up where I believe Social Media Fits today in the Marketing Funnel. I am big believed that Audience size does matter. Those elements such as timing and buying cycles in your industry must be used to increase the effectiveness of your marketing ROI. If you are just beginning your social media experience, you know all to well that your Audience is very small at this point. So making a marketing decision that represents this as a base marketing program at this time is reckless and will be damaging to the momentum of your company.

Before I share my ranking of sort let me tell you a little story I once heard to illustrate a point.

This story takes place back near the Great Depression. Mr. Wrigley, Wrigley Spearmint Gum, was on a train heading West with several of his trust business executives, they were discussing the decreasing revenues and profit statements of the company, A young accountant speaks up and tells Mr. Wrigley that he has a wonderful idea on how to reestablish a positive bottom line for the company. He suggests that they cut the marketing campaign budget until things improve. It is at this point that Mr. Wrigley displays great leadership and ponders this thought for just a moment. Then he asks this question of the young man. “Son how fast do you think our train is moving?”

The Young man says “35-40 MPH?” Mr. Wrigley Walks him to the front of the car and then asks, ” So if I pulled that pin out at the front of the car that attaches us to the main engine how long what do you think will happen?” “Well Mr. Wrigley we would coast to a stop” said the young man.

Mr. Wrigley then turns to the entire staff and exclaims, ” that is precisely what will happen if we cut our marketing efforts, we lose all momentum and come to a stop, Marketing is the engine that creates our movement!”

I tell this story because I think many businesses today are facing this same question, not only because of finances but because media and Audience has become fragmented and is responding differently than in the past.  See the Media that is out there still works, but the audience is smaller and the Audience has changed the expectations for responding.

So how do we design a marketing funnel for today’s audience?

Basic Marketing Funnel principles can still apply.

  1. Broad Based Marketing – The use of large audience impressions to place any possible customer in the funnel and building them to a potential customer.
    • Newspapers – Still have some of the largest Audiences in every Metro Marketplace
    • Television – Very Large Audience in a Region or Nationally if you have the budget.
    • Facebook Ads – non-targeted, you ever looked at the size of audience if you set out your message to all users? Pay per click options make this very attractive.
    • Google, Yahoo Ad Words – Similar to Face Book you can capture a global audience.
    • Direct Mail – Saturation Mailing has become easy and more affordable with the USPS new simplified mailing programs.
  2. Target MarketingAfter filling the funnel with potential clients it is much easier and more cost effective to target market to groups of customers or potential clients. Many businesses think they can just jump to targeting and skip the first step, however I would argue that they do it at the expense of future growth and will eventually spend much more trying to find that additional market share. Target Markets tend to move or dry up and then leave businesses in want for their attention.
    • Social Media Ads – Facebook etc., now allow you to zone in geographically, demographically etc.
    • Google and Yahoo Ad programs you can target very effectively, with these programs and again the pay per click model allows even small budget firms to take advantage of practice.
    • Radio – Demographic profiles of stations make this more of a targeting vehicle.
    • Cable TV – Same as radio
    • Direct Mail – Not as cost effective as Saturation, but lists today will allow you to slice and dice a zip code in various ways to get the right target.
    • Zip Code Insert Programs – Newspaper, Still one of the cheapest ways to reach a Zip Code and have a good client demographic reading your material.
    • Web Ads – Pick your site
  3. 1 to 1 Marketing – Any marketing channel where you have the ability to personally talk with your customers and or clients.  Social Media has now made this Marketing level very affordable and is now changing the workforce in many large companies around the world.  This step does take Data, and Audience and is not effective till you have both.  The secret is in accumulating Data on your customers from the first two stages and then building relationships with an audience, which trusts you and will share their love for you with all that they know.

Cold Calling vs. Social Prospecting

No Cold Calling Zone

Image by markhillary via Flickr

I read a question today on LinkedIn that asked if the Traditional Cold Call was still an effective means of growing business.  One of the responses that was recorded basically refered to cold calling as an ancient tradition that had little place in todays marketplace, I believe they said it was a huge time sucker.

This torments me a little as I continue to learn and understand the power of social media.

In a Business to Business (B2B) sales world, has Cold Calling really become that out dated. I know I still make 30-40 cold calls each week in order to introduce myself and my business to new clients. In the last month the only contacts that I have made that resulted in sales were from Cold calls that turned into relationship building (face to face) and then the sale.

Now I do understand the time Sucker mentality, Cold calling often has a low rate of return and you must have a thick skin in order to take the rejections that come with the practice. It does take time and commitment.

Social Media can be used for prospecting and if you have a specific target I can see how you could capture huge groups of leads quickly with a basic search on your favorite social site. But it also takes a committed amount of time building that relationship to a trust level which creates sales. They don’t know you and if they are going to buy you are going to be building a relationship based on what? The written or video word, not a handshake, or conversation that relates interest and value.

So what do you prefer?

Are you still using cold calling, door to door, pound the pavement tactics? Are you spending adequate time daily prospecting targets in the social realm?

As I see it a B2B business must commit to both.  I know for a fact that business professionals in the majority of businesses still today do not have the time or the aptitude to build social media relationships. Face to face still has value to them. I also know that if I am targeting anyone under the age of 35 that if I am not in the social realm, I have little chance of earning their business. Social activity is mandatory collateral to this age group.

So tell me, what methods  do you use to build new business?