If you are a business marketing to other businesses (B2B), there are a few steps you’ll need to address. Unfortunately, 9 out of 10 small businesses, when surveyed, don’t do sufficient planning of their marketing strategy. If you are a start up, your failure to plan means that you are planning to fail. To avoid the most common pitfalls, do your homework. The below steps will help you get started. It’s all about your research, your strategy, and your careful execution of marketing campaigns that are first tested and then refined and then launched.
If you need help with developing your B2B marketing strategy and execution, find a business coach / consultant / counselor with experience guiding small business owners through the process. The investment will pay off with a much higher ROI.
Before you start on your B2B marketing communications plan, there are some important things you need to consider:
The purpose of your marketing communications – Any marketing / communications effort has only two purposes: create a positive, larger-than- life image of your company, and create and facilitate sales opportunities. It’s all about creating a funnel of qualified leads for your sales team to close. And, if you are the only sales person (“solopreneur”), you need to leverage your time with effective marketing: you waste less time and end up making more money in less time.
Your budget – Most businesses fail because they run out of seed capital or have a dip in cash flow at some point. All factors must be taken into account. Obviously, a key new product or service introduction will require more money than an established product or service that “sells itself.” When a business owner makes marketing mistakes, the average cost is around $15,000. It’s better to invest in getting help developing your strategy than to waste your budget on failed marketing campaigns.
Your strategic plan – Are there new products to be introduced? Problems to be solved?
Images/perceptions to be altered? Interest/sales opportunities to be created? What do you expect to achieve through your marketing efforts? Develop a SWOT analysis (identifying your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) that helps you see problems before they arise.
Your tactical plan – Never forget that the desirability of the product or service itself is by far the greatest single factor in any marketing/selling effort. How you plan to create demand depends on just how much in demand your product or service is already in the market place. The more demand, the more competition, right? But, competition is good! Why? Because, as you read above, most small business owners don’t take the time to develop effective marketing strategies. When you do just a few simple things to correct the most common mistakes in your industry, you’ll soon see yourself dominating your market.
10 Proven Revenue-Growing Strategies for Small Business Marketing Communications
It’s just as important to execute the various components of your marketing communications campaign in proper sequence as it is to execute them well. For most small business owners the order should be as follows:
1. Corporate Identity – Logo, branding, letterhead, business cards, tagline, signage, etc. Follow through on all communications projects/materials. Look up the ebook called The Branding Bible. I’ve used it and recommend it highly. Branding is more than you’re your logo, or the colors and pictures you choose on your website. When you position yourself in the market correctly, you differentiate yourself from other businesses offering similar products / services. Your brand needs to show your Unique Selling Proposition within each marketing message. Not familiar with a USP? Simply “Google it” and you’ll know enough to improve your current slogan or elevator pitch. In fact, you’ll want to do the “poor man’s background check” and Google your brand or your first and last name to see how others see you. I’ve been working on this one myself. Google “Andrew Barden” and you’ll see that I dominate the first page, usually 9/10 or 10/10. Your online reputation can make or break your business reputation. Protect it.
2. Product photography/illustration – You need good photos or illustrations before you can do anything. This seemingly basic requirement is often overlooked. A picture says 1,000 words. The right picture can grab the readers’ attention enough to get them to read. Pictures of human faces or animals can also create a desired emotional reaction, even before reading a single word of copy in the promotion.
3. Web site – All of your leads / interested parties will go here, so make sure your web site is ready for them! Your site must make it easy to locate products/info and download quickly and easily. You need to be able to answer your prospect’s first question upon arrival “What is the ONE THING they want me to do?” And your answer needs to be “Give us your information in exchange for X.”
You need good copywriting and professional navigation, but you don’t need fancy graphics – web sites in the B2B world are for information, not showing off. No Flash is necessary. Your web site exists to help sell your products or to generate leads to sell your service. Make sure the information is current. Above all, develop a video with testimonials from satisfied clients. Adding a video introduction from you, the business owner, goes a long way in building rapport, too.
4. Web Traffic Generation – How to generate targeted traffic to your site. There are two approaches, short term and long term. An example of a short term approach is designing a landing page with Google Analytics embedded in it, then design a pay-per-click campaign, assign a daily budget, and test to see if within a week or so you have made more money than you spent.
A long term approach is to set up well written professional profiles on all the social networks, grow your network to many thousands, and ask and answer questions within groups of which your ideal client is likely to be a member.
Don’t dismiss the efficacy of growing your business with a well written social network profile. I’ve personally had prospective clients read my answers to questions posed on social networking sites, read my profile, check out my verifiable testimonials, and then pick up the phone and call me to sign up for business coaching. Plus, I’ve been fortunate to have both the Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones Newswire writers contact me as a small business expert—all based on my well written professional profile on sites like LinkedIn.com and Biznik.com. Just imagine if you had your industry news organizations calling you or clients calling you, simply because you had a compelling profile!
5. Literature – Provide first-class brochures that your salespeople are proud to present. Your literature is a reflection of the professionalism, or lack thereof, of your company. You need as much to capture the mind share of your salespeople as you do the attention of your potential customers.
6. Follow-up system – Use telemarketing to follow up on leads. Your telemarketing people must be capable of connecting with prospects and getting the information you need to close sales.
7. Ads – Target any ads to a very small niche. You’ll need to do your psychological profile of your Ideal Client first, to know where their “eyeballs” are going to be through the day. For B2B, industry journal advertising gets your company and products in front of a huge audience. It’s very cost effective in that sense. Advertising will not, typically, generate hot leads, but it will get people to your web site.
Establish a campaign or “look” unique to your company. Carry this through on all ads for at least a year. This is key for any branding strategy. And remember this: You only get one shot, so you have to stop them! Make them want to take action, and help them get in touch with you. Frequency is important, and so is impact. Take advantage of editorial calendars in journals and map out your schedule accordingly.
8. Public relations/publicity – Once you have your list of journal editors (which you need to update faithfully), send out press releases on a regular basis. You can use services like PRWeb.com and similar companies, most of whom charge around $400 per press release. If you are not a writer, be sure to have a professional write your press release or it won’t be distributed. Provide photos. Some online PR companies even allow you to embed video.
Establish relationships with the editors. You can use the press release’s cover letter to set up the initial pitch for technical articles. Technical articles are one of the most important yet most under-appreciated activities you can perform. They can generate huge exposure and position your company as the expert in your field.
With your article, you will want to showcase 2 main qualities. First, your humanity and only secondarily your expertise. Your humanity is showcased when you tell a painful story, showing the reader that you understand their pain. Then the reader believes that if you understand their pain so well, you’ll undoubtedly know how to solve their problems and make the pain go away. Only later do they need to confirm your competence. Start with a story and you’ll get them hooked to read all the way to the end where your contact information is located.
Most editors will run them, especially (whether they want to admit it or not) if you’re running ads with them. You can also write what is called an “advertorial.” Advertorials look like articles but you paid for their placement. It is one of the best forms of publicity out there.
Press tours to introduce new products or services are a very wise investment if you can afford them. You’ll need to hire a professional PR firm for this.
9. Direct marketing – It’s expensive to mail a printed piece to a huge audience. That’s what the wide circulation of a trade publication is for. But direct marketing is very easy to manage. You can target your recipients, check the leads yourself, and follow up easily. Success is easy to quantify. You’ll want to hire a professional copy writer for your sales letter, post card, or brochure. Write the first draft, focus on success stories and the benefits (the emotional release of solving the problem) and then turn it over to the copywriter to make it sing.
With any direct marketing effort, always make an offer. Without “something in it for me,” people will not respond. It’s called a “Call to Action.” But don’t just give stuff away. Make them respond to receive the offer.
Creative execution is critical. It must stand out. Newsletters, both print and electronic, offer another excellent way to communicate current information and generate exposure. There are often services within an industry (real estate, for example) that provide a weekly newsletter that they send to your list on your behalf, with your branding and photo and personal letter. Then they add plenty of news and stimulating articles that will be salient to your ideal clients. They can be either printed/mailed or electronic. Just look at your average client acquisition cost to see if postage and printing is a relatively small expense compared to the lifetime value of a new client.
Newsletters should be sent on a regular basis to key customers/prospects, sales channels, even editors. Most people want to receive personalized information. This means that you could have a different newsletter for a different product or service category. Let your browser choose which information will best suit their interests. They are far more likely to both subscribe as well as open and read the newsletter when it comes. You’ll also wan to utilize the service of an auto-responder service, like VerticalResponse.com or others, making the capture of contact information and regular sending of newsletters that don’t go into spam folders a much easier task. These services typically run at a very cost-effective $20 monthly fee.
Opt-in email is a very cost-effective, contemporary method of direct marketing and should not be underestimated. I recommend the work of the late Cory Rudl of MarketingTips.com His group, continuing on after his passing, is among the best trainers for email marketing and web site design that I’ve come across.
10. Trade shows – Pick the key trade shows in your industry and use a modest, well-organized booth. Get a hospitality suite, sponsor a press breakfast, host a seminar. Do something unique – focus on a key new product or product family. Focus on shows that will allow you to personally speak to enough qualified buyers to make it worth the cost. One little secret of how to write business at trade shows: do a major phone campaign to all the registered attendees prior to the show. Find out if they are willing to set up an appointment for a presentation. If you can present before the show, you can even close the deal at the show.
Remember, business is about relationships. Money comes from people making decisions. All of your communications, write, audio, video, or in person, needs to communicate the benefits of doing business with you. Apply the Law of Reciprocity and “show up giving” when first talking to your prospects. You’ll be amazed at how many prospects respond.
Andrew Barden is a small business marketing strategist, trainer, author, consultant, and one-on-one coach, based in Los Angeles.
He can be reached at Andrew@AndrewBarden.com or 1-866-339-4619. Sign up for his free monthly “Small Business Marketing Strategies” newsletter and receive a 30 minute complimentary small business diagnostic: http://eggurl.com/dV
You can also view his professional profile, read testimonials, and connect with his 5,300+ global professional network on LinkedIn at: http://www.linkedin.com/in/andrewbarden