Posted by Marc on Mar 27, 2013 in Leader News
, Marc Sanderson
The almost insane rate of technological development that we’ve witnessed at the start of the 21st century has, in many respects, been a huge boon to everyone involved in sales and marketing.
The internet, and the many ways in which we now engage and interact with it, has proved particularly potent; it means that everyone can now reach out, engage and build relationships with customers in ways which were simply unimaginable less than a decade ago.
But as with all change, the technology does come with a catch. Such has been the explosion of tools for e-marketing, e-commerce, social media marketing and all things virtual, that more and more marketing campaigns are finding themselves led not by any understanding of what makes for good marketing and effective selling but by a desperate ‘need’ to be using the latest platform or tool.
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose – the more things change, the more things stay the same.
It’s an old saying, but one which has never been more relevant to sales and marketing than now. The fact is that while the tools may change, the people don’t. And that’s why these four timeless principles of good sales and marketing are as effective today as they’ve ever been.
1. The proposition is everything.
If you want to sell more, there’s no more effective place to start than with the product or service you offer.
When Samsung set out to catch Apple in the smartphone market, they didn’t start by employing more salesmen – they set themselves the task of making their ‘phones not just as good, but better, than the iPhone.
In their case that meant bigger and brighter screens, unique apps and processor power, but in your case the leaps forward might not need to be so dramatic. Pick a feature that matters to customers and focus on making it 10% better. Consider your services as much as your product – perhaps by improving response times, offering a service guarantee or creating more attractive pricing structures. And if you already have a genuinely unique sales point, rebuild your sales and marketing messages around it.
The lesson today is the same as it’s ever been - never underestimate the customer. You can engage, interact and build relationships all you like (and by all means use those nice new online tools to do it), but ultimately they will find the product or service that offers them the best value. Make sure it’s yours.
2. It’s not content that counts. It’s useful content.
The old adage that ‘content is king’ remains as true today as it ever did – only now, thanks to the internet, it’s provable. Google’s own analysis of online behaviour shows that b2b buyers spend 26% of their time on search, 6% on display advertising, but a whopping 43% engaging with content.
Unfortunately that doesn’t automatically mean that b2b buyers are spending 43% of their time reading your lovingly prepared website sales spiel.
Buyers are typically looking for content that meets one of three needs, and usually in turn. First they’re researching potential solutions to a problem (the Solution Seeker). Then they’re trying to identify potential suppliers of that solution (the Supplier Seeker). Finally they’re looking for reassurance that their shortlisted option is the right one (the Decision Maker).
And meeting those requirements is going to need more than just an us-us-us sales script on your own website (although of course you’ll need a well-written one of those as well). White papers covering key industry issues, seminar presentations, magazine editorials, blog articles, FAQs, case studies, testimonials on LinkedIn and forums, marketing emails and more – these are just a few of the ways an effective content strategy should be carrying prospective buyers through those three stages and ultimately to your door as a customer.
3. Good design sells. Bad design repels.
There’s not a lot more to say on this one – what was once true for your corporate brochure and product packaging is now equally true for your website, your e-shot or your animated online brochure.
No matter how logical, calculating or rational you might like to imagine your customer, there is something deep within us all that is drawn to good design. Effective visuals welcome and draw people in, they create space for the messages, and they support those messages with strong and memorable themes. Bad design simply turns people away. With someone else’s website only a click away, you simply can’t afford to make your own an uncomfortable place to be.
4. Reputation matters
“Reputation, reputation, reputation! Oh, I have lost my reputation! I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial.”
When Cassio lamented his bad behaviour and subsequent loss of office in Shakespeare’s Othello, he was giving voice to a truth that would still be just as relevant, perhaps even more so, many hundreds of years later.
While the quality of your product or service, what you say about it and how you present it are all factors that will bring people to your door, ultimately it is your reputation that will carry them across the threshold, giving them the confidence they need to become a customer, and then to stay as one.
Reputation is the point at which everything meets; something that is formed through a combination of what you do and the way it is perceived. Whereas once it was spread by word of mouth, it now flies around the world at the click of a button. Ask Starbucks. Ask Burger King. Ask the banks.
Whether you manage your business’ reputation or not, it certainly has one – and it’s almost certainly one of your most important assets. Cassio realised it, and so did Bill Gates when he reached his oft-quoted conclusion: “If I was down to my last dollar, I’d spend it on public relations.”
Posted by Marc on Feb 14, 2013 in Leader News
, Marc Sanderson
As yet another high-profile businessman abandons advertising in favour of new media and content marketing, has traditional advertising really had its day?
BrewDog is a wonderful brand, one of a new generation of small brewing companies aiming at bringing innovative and high-quality beers to new audiences.
I say small, but a heady brew of quality product and exciting branding have in fact helped it grow to a £20m turnover in just six years.
This success story makes all the more interesting the sentiments of BrewDog founder James Watt as he rejects traditional advertising in favour of PR and content marketing. “I would rather take my money and set fire to it,” he is reported to have said. “It is the antithesis of everything we believe in. It’s a medium that is shallow, it’s fake, and we want nothing to do with it.”
He added that editorial exposure is “1,000 times more worthwhile” than advertising, and confirmed that instead of more advertising, the company would now be creating a US television programme called BrewDogs.
Now, this is a typically robust and unequivocal stance from Watt, and one which would find many supporters – particularly among small and niche businesses unwilling, or unable, to compete pound-for-pound with the enormous advertising budgets of bigger and longer-established competitors.
For businesses in that position, PR and content marketing have proved time and time again that they have the potential to achieve an awful lot of results for a fraction of the cost of a traditional advertising budget.
It’s an approach we often endorse in seeking the biggest bang-per-buck for our own clients.
But it is, I think, worth adding one small footnote.
While the death of advertising has long been asserted, it remains the case that, in true Mark Twain, rumours of its demise are often greatly exaggerated.
Of course advertising can be expensive. And it’s true that customers are increasingly sceptical of its claims. But traditional advertising CAN still justify its place in many marketing programmes. To take just a few reasons: not every customer lives an immersive, interactive digital life; not every customer reaches for the search engine before the local paper or printed directory; and by their fragmented and niche nature, not many only online spaces can reach anywhere near the number and mix of people in a short period of time that major broadcasters and publishers still can.
Sure, we’re all excited by the great results, the traceability and the value that new media and new marketing approaches can deliver. But any marketer worth his or her salt knows there is no such thing as a silver bullet in marketing.
Each market, each customer and each purchase decision process is different – just as each promotional technique has its own strengths and weaknesses. An effective marketing plan is one that reflects this, prescribing a blend of tools tailored to suit specific circumstances.
In this day and age that will almost certainly include new media, social media and content marketing (and a great deal of them).
But don’t be at all surprised if you find, to paraphrase another brew from another age, that traditional advertising still influences the parts that other methods cannot reach.
We have been delighted to help an established service find a new identity in the world of mergers and acquisitions.
The business in question, a unique and already-successful merger broking service, was in the process of separating from a major accountancy firm when we were asked to help it address one major issue - the separation meant that it no longer had a name, a visual identity or sales and marketing material of any kind!
Through close consultancy work with the new owners, investors and operational team, the name Langcliffe Merger Connect was born. The sleek, elegant logo places great emphasis on the descriptive element of the name - ‘Merger Connect’ - and the website URL follows suit - www.mergerconnect.co.uk.
Building on those elements, we wrote a strong, distinct set of key messages which draw out the unique proposition this business has for its two key audiences - businesses looking to make corporate acquisitions, and those advising the sellers.
Using powerful but slightly off-beat images to illustrate these messages we were then able to build a website which concisely and effectively delivers its key messages, offers opportunities for instant engagement (via contact and engagement forms), and leaves a strong impression for long-lasting brand impact.
The whole project was delivered in just five weeks to meet the demands of the business registration and launch timetable.
Langcliffe Merger Connect managing director Mark Eardley said: “Although our business model is well-established and familiar to many in the market, it was vital that the new company name and identity was developed and delivered with as much impact as possible.
“Leader proved itself an invaluable partner in that respect, delivering the combination of marketing expertise and design excellence necessary to create a cohesive and highly-effective brand solution in time for the launch.
“Their whole approach was spot-on – collaborative, engaging, professional but highly personable throughout.”
Leader has been working with Excel, an IT specialist which designs, manages and supports networks and infrastructures in some of the world’s most demanding corporate environments.
Despite having already established itself as a partner to a range of blue-chip clients in London, Frankfurt and other financial centres across EMEA, the company had struggled to escape from a longstanding perception that it was essentially a structured cabling specialist.
Excel’s senior team asked Leader to help change this (mis)perception, and to develop and deliver marketing solutions which would drive diversification and growth.
Analysis + Strategy
Leader’s preliminary marketing analysis suggested that as well as physically rebranding the company, there was also significant scope to develop and better align the company’s core services to the needs and wants of the market. In particular it was important that we developed value propositions based on a ‘full lifecycle’ vision of IT infrastructure, allowing us to better communicate exactly where and how Excel is able to add at every stage of the journey, from design and build, through support and maintenance, and on to renewal and transformation.
Based on research which underlined the value customers placed on continual improvement, innovation and good communication, we worked with Excel team to review and revise all its service processes with a focus on developing these qualities.
The result was Xceed, a new integrated service delivery model which captured a unique combination of systems, processes and tools designed to ensure Excel continued to support customers at the highest level on every project, every contract and every individual assignment.
Building on the themes and values of Xceed, Leader carried out a comprehensive rebranding across the company. Alongside the new company logo, we created matching identities for the Xceed service delivery model and Xact software platform, as well as a series of graphic images which delivered key value messages around service precision, integration and innovation.
A new website was designed and structured around the lifecycle theme, allowing prospective customers to quickly identify Excel’s value propositions wherever support was required. Social media and ‘knowledge base’ functions on the website ensured that it could serve as the primary hub for a marketing programme, and a range of additional sales and marketing tools were created in support of the overall new business strategy.
The new brand was launched in a phased roll-out to staff, customers, other key stakeholders and the wider market.
The impact was instant. As well as positive comments about the visual rebranding, there was a high level of interest in the potential of Xceed and Xact to deliver customer value, leading to several significant sales appointments in the days immediately following the launch.
Statistical data from email marketing and website analytics supported this anecdotal feedback – the customer launch email recorded an opening rate of 33% and a click-through rate of 20%. Over its first month online, the new website recorded both a high page per visit count and high average time of site – thanks in large part to the value-added content being driven through the social media and knowledge base areas.
Director Barry Horgan said: “What has been so impressive about working with Leader has been the way in which practical, no-nonsense marketing analysis has fed seamlessly into strategy development and then to the eventual creative design and implementation of the new brand.
“The result is a brand and a marketing process which we know will work because it started not in the design studio but with our customers, with their needs and wants. The impact of that was obvious from the word go.”