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Lead generation for professional services companies

Lead generation for professional services companies

Differentiation – that’s the challenge faced by all professional services companies. What makes you any different from the rest of them? Invariably it comes down to the same thing – your people. Which is fine if you’re in front of a potential client – they can see your people, talk to them, understand their depth and breadth of knowledge. If you’re failing repeatedly at this stage, then you need to take a serious look at the people you have doing the pitch. But what if you can’t get in front of enough clients? That’s where marketing that makes you stand out will play a part.

What does that marketing need to look like? Well, here’s a one sentence marketing strategy for professional services businesses:

“Publish timely, relevant content for your audience that provides a credible demonstration of your breadth and depth of expertise and make it easy for potential clients to find you and get in touch.”

The first thing to note is that this isn’t about interrupting people. It’s about getting noticed by them as they go about their business and providing sufficient relevancy to make them take real note and contact you at a time that suits them. Let’s break this down a little further:

  • Publish: whether that’s yourself or via another channel, get your content out there, make sure there’s plenty of it
  • Timely and relevant: Hook into what’s going on in the market that your client operates in, make sure you do it when they’ll be paying attention
  • Content: Blog, press release, news story, video, podcast – whatever your choice of medium, let the story shine through
  • Your audience: this is about them not you – talk about what matters to them, what problems you solve for them, not how great you are
  • Credible: Your clients give you credibility, not your subjective opinion of yourself
  • Easy to get in touch: This is the key piece: by providing relevant content, you’ll get found more; by making it easy to get in touch, your customers will find you, and you won’t have to hound them down.

None of this is rocket science, but so many people fail to see the importance of getting these basics right.

You can’t please all the people all the time

You can’t please all the people all the time

In my work helping businesses large and small with their digital marketing, our work together often ends up helping the business understand their full customer journey. For many businesses this leads to the realisation that they’re trying to serve everyone with a perfect solution, which they invariably fail to manage.

This often manifests itself in the marketing and communications material of such companies. Businesses have a product that can be used in many ways by different people to meet their differing needs. This leads to the desire to tell everyone all the features, so the core message gets lost or becomes so garbled that it appeals to no-one. It might feel counter-intuitive but targeting your message more tightly, so you’ll only appeal to a small section of your audience is the way to begin to engage them. You’ll be talking their language and solving their problems and you’ll be able to be very clear how you do it and what the benefits of your approach are.

In today’s social media, always on environment it’s even more important to remember that this approach needs to be followed. Be focused on who you want to reach out to. Be specific about what you can do for them and why you are the best option.

A simple start point for reviewing your marketing strategy

A simple start point for reviewing your marketing strategy

“We’re focused on delivering customer value”, it’s a statement uttered by many, yet I wonder whether those making such utterances do so, just because they think it’s something they should say? Sometimes we need to get out, talk to people and really get to grips with what our customers actually want and whether that’s what we’re actually delivering.

How do you do this?

Simple, ask your customers:

  • Why do you choose our product / service?
  • What do we get right?
  • What could we do better?
  • What should we stop doing?
  • What would make you go to a competitor instead of us? (Do you already use a competitor?)
  • What don’t you like about what we do?

And listen to their answers. Don’t just rely on what you think you heard or what you wanted to hear. Listen to it all. Take it in and ask yourself – are we really meeting their needs?

If you are, then great, keep on trucking.

If not then maybe it’s time to take a root and branch look at what you’re doing and how to improve things.

Doesn’t feel much like a marketing strategy yet? Well, it’s time for honesty – your marketing is built on your product / service quality, reputation, desirability and ultimately what your customers think of you. If those things aren’t right and understood then no amount of “marketing” is going to build a loyal and loving fanbase. So get out there – ask questions and make sure you’re on the right track.

Only then should you start thinking about how you’re going to raise awareness and increase those leads that will grow your business.

The reality of “wow” moments

The reality of “wow” moments

I recently heard a colleague talking about a customer’s “wow” moment’, referring to the moment when a customer says (or hopefully shouts!) the word “wow” about your product or service. In the case of a retailer who shows stock in a different way, or a new product innovator it’s easy to see why the client may make this utterance. But for many businesses, the reality of understanding your “wow” moment and, importantly, what it does for you can be quite a challenge.

Consider an intellectual property protection advisory service, or a manufacturer of rolled metal, or even a wifi software provider. Getting to grips with and defining how your service makes your customers jump out of their seats and shout for joy in these cases can seem a daunting task.

To help then, it’s worth considering some of these hints and tips:

  • Start with “why?”: Why do your customers buy what you offer?
  • Then look at why what you offer is better than someone else.
  • Consider, what’s truly different about your business from the others in your market.
    • Is it the quality of your service? (and if it is – be specific about what aspect of your service is so great.)
    • Is it that you add value to the product you sell by tailoring it in some particular way?
    • Is it the status of your brand and what being seen purchasing from you says to others?
    • Is it as simple as price – being the cheapest?
  • Talk to your customers. Check that your “wow” really is a “wow” for your customers. Ask them. If they actually love what you do, or how you do it, they’ll tell you. It’s important to make sure you don’t second guess your “wow”.

Once you understand your “wow” moment you need to make sure it’s replicated consistently. After all, why wow only a few of your customers? And remember it’s not about you shouting wow, or saying publicly this is our “wow”, but it’s about consistently meeting that expectation every time.

If you’ve thought about it, talked to your customers and still don’t think you have a “wow” moment, then maybe it’s time to go back to basics and think about why that’s the case. Dig deep – the chances are that there’s a nugget in there somewhere and if not, then maybe things aren’t going so well for your business, so it might be time to start re-thinking how you truly can be different from everyone else.

If you have a “wow” you want to share let us know below!

nutella, gerbils and emotional connections

nutella, gerbils and emotional connections

There are two stories in the media today that catch the eye. One about nutella and the other about gerbils. If you haven’t read them, the gist is: a nutella jar full of loom bands started a fire that burnt down a family home along with their dog; and some boffins have discovered gerbils may have been responsible for the spread of the Black Death, not rats as we’ve been taught for many years.

So what do these tales of woe and mistaken identity tell us about the media and what comms practitioners need to think of when influencing the agenda?

And I don’t mean the how do you write a good story. Of course, a strong headline, a good opening sentence, a clear flow, often with short clear sentences – these are all important.

Fundamentally, though, a news story must have a strong heart. Journalists will often call this an angle. It’s the heart of the matter that connects with something personal for the reader and makes them want to stay with the story to the end. An emotional connection or series of connections.

Let’s consider first of all the unfortunate dog and the nutella jar. Nutella is a staple in thousands of homes across the country – if we don’t have family members who eat it now, we may well have eaten it in our childhood. The man who invented it, died only last week making the story even more current and engaging. And even if we don’t have a particular connection to nutella, half (or so)  of the UK population are dog lovers, who hate the idea of a dog going up in smoke. So, as we read, the story pulls at our heartstrings and we have the recognition that it could be us and and our pooch. Perfect ingredients for a cracking story.

Now the gerbil story. Here we have the creature with a poor reputation, the rat, who has been lambasted for years because they live in squalor, spread disease and there are so many of them, they simply must have spread the plague. And we have the much cuter and cuddlier (in many a small child’s eyes), gerbil who now becomes the real villain. We’re also reminded in the piece that the plague hasn’t been totally eradicated. So, although the Black Death seems like ancient history to us, we’re reminded it could affect us and it’s those once loved and now wretched gerbils that might be the harbingers of doom. As borne out by the number of tweets by concerned gerbil owners.

In both cases:  strong connection, evoking emotional reaction.

So, why does this matter to the B2B technology or engineering marketer? It provides an insight into the heart of what matters to journalists and how to approach a story for your audience. Clearly stories of the Black Death and fires caused by nutella jars might not be appropriate for you, but no matter what your product or service offering, there’s always a story in there that’ll make that emotional connection with your audience. It’s a case of looking hard and being open-minded. First and foremost it’s not about you and your product, it’s about the reader and what matters to them.

7 quick digital marketing wins for engineering companies

7 quick digital marketing wins for engineering companies

We lead busy lives, so we often need reminding of the simple things, that have a big impact, never more so than when it comes to digital marketing. It’s worth taking 5 minutes to check you’ve not forgotten some of these:

  1. Put on your customers shoes – remember what you offer your customers is likely only a small part of their business, and they’ll have different issues to you that keep them awake at night. Think about how you can add value to solving their problems, not just how you can sell them more stuff.
  2. Ask your customers where they hang out – it’s no use chatting into the ether on Facebook, if your clients hang out on Twitter.
  3. Know your numbers – if you’re not measuring what’s working, how can you improve your outcomes? Always, set up a simple set of metrics to see what’s working well for you and what happens when you modify things.
  4. If you are measuring things like your website activity using a tool like Google analytics, are you taking action from the information you receive? If you’re reporting on the activity and doing nothing with it, then you’re missing an opportunity. It’s lovely to know you’re popular (if you are!), but it’s better to take action on that popularity and turn it into business.
  5. If you have a blog – when was the last time you updated it? Your visitors will look at your blog, and get an immediate impression of how interested you are in your clients. If you don’t update your blog, because you don’t think anyone’s reading your blog, then take it off your site – better not to have one than have one which was last updated over a year and a half ago. If you can’t think about what to write – go back to my first point and write about the things keeping your customers up at night
  6. Are there any ways you could be re-purposing the content you have in one place, such as your blog, and putting it out more widely. Submit a variation to the story to another site as a guest post or hook your story into a relevant event that’s in the news and highlighting it to a journalist?
  7. And finally, how easy is it to get hold of you? Is your phone number clear on your website? Do you make it clear that people can pick up the phone and talk to a real person for support? Do you have a personal email address on your website or an impersonal info@…?

These are just a few simple things to review, no matter where you’re at with your digital journey and they apply not only to engineering companies, but pretty much any business out there that’s seeking to make more of its online presence.

Don’t think you can do all that in 5 minutes? Select one, do that and do the one a day over the next 7 days. Let me know how you get on.


A secret of content marketing – getting back on the bike

A secret of content marketing – getting back on the bike

2014 was the year that the phrase “Content Marketing” took off (well, in marketing circles at least!). Of course, if you believe much of the hype it’s a new way of marketing, it’s never been done before, it’s the only way to get leads, etc. In fact, the reality is rather different: content marketing has been around for a long time.

Good marketing, ergo good content marketing, focuses on the audience and engaging them in a topic that is relevant, timely, has an impact on them and through their medium of choice. The reason that content marketing has been coined as a phrase is that the opportunity for content creation has been massively amplified over the last few years as the nature of the way people consume content has changed and the ability to easily publish content has changed.  Yet, even in the days before there was such a simple and direct way to engage your audience, the approach remained the same: provide a timely, compelling story built around the need of your audience and find the best way to get it in front of them. “Gobbing off”, as a colleague of mine once put it, didn’t work any better then than it does now.

One of the biggest challenges with content marketing today, is cutting through all the noise. With ease of publication, has come increase in volume – exponential increase in volume. So, how do you increase your cut through? Well, actually it all goes back to where good marketing started – step into your audience’s shoes, find out where they hang out, create content that is relevant to them, make it emotionally engaging, make it focused on their need. Then and only then, only once you have established connection and need, link it back to your offering.

And, while you’re at it, recognise that all of this takes time. There are no shortcuts. You need to take time and be consistent in getting your content out there, which is a hard thing to do. So, we often see people fall off the bike – they don’t get responses quickly enough, it’s not a core part of the business, they just can’t find the energy, they don’t have the commitment to the programme, so they stop producing content. And that’s ok – there’s no need to beat yourself up over it if you take a break from producing content. What’s important is to recognise when this has happened (no matter how long the time has been) and then get back on the bike and start producing again. No-one will judge you for starting again and who knows, the effort may pay off sooner than you think.

Enterprise Nation – find advisers for your growing business

As we enter this New Year, it’s a time when many are thinking about what to do next with their business:

  • How to grow?
  • What to invest in?
  • How to win more clients?
  • How to wow existing clients?

One question that’s well worth considering is

“How to get the most out of your money?”

…and one way of doing that is to take a look at the Enterprise Nation Marketplace. It’s a government funded scheme whereby businesses can seek support in different areas and receive match-funding up to £2,000 for specific projects in the following areas:

  • Marketing and customer service
  • Leadership and management
  • Expanding your workforce
  • IT and web
  • Finance and cashflow

It’s a straightforward application process, with a plethora of suppliers to choose from (we’re one of them), so it’s worth a look to see if you fit the criteria.


The web or the Internet – does your audience care?

Last week you may have seen a raft of articles celebrating the fact that it’s 25 years since Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the web.  If you’re a reader of some of the more technical media, you may also have noticed a number of commentators bemoaning the fact that that several media outlets committed the heinous crime of calling the web the Internet.

The bottom line is that many people use the words web and Internet interchangeably.  They simply don’t care that one’s the pipes and the other’s the way you navigate.   To your average Joe it’s all the same thing.

And the media outlets that didn’t get it right know this.  They know their audience well enough to know that, despite the fact that Sir Tim was part of the marvelous opening ceremony for London 2012, most of those watching don’t make a distinction between the web and the Internet.  They know that it’s too technical.  In the same way that they know that people don’t care how their latest mobile phone works, or the technical reasons behind the different HD formats of their televisions.  What they do know is that a Briton invented a part of one of the most significant technological shifts of the last century and that’s what matters to their readers.

Which is of course the same reason that the media outlets who bemoaned the crime also wrote about the fact they got it wrong – they know their readership do care.

It’s all about writing for your audience.  Something it’s easy to forget about when we get caught up in the excitement of our products or services.  So remember, whether you care about calling it the web or the Internet, it’s what your readers care about that matters more.

When does little data become big data?

We’ve all heard lots about big data recently, but what relevance is it to you and your business?

 1.     Data for data’s sake

The first thing to know about data is that what ever its size, data is a tool. On it’s own not much use.  It’s the insights that can be derived from the data that matter.  Insights that tell us about the past, give indicators of the present situation, and ultimately enable prediction of the future.

Data for data’s sake is pointless.  Data that is used for insight is golddust.

 2.     Where’s my data?

Data can come in many forms from many sources.  Every business has data about its customers, suppliers, staff, products, and much more (even if it’s only stored in one person’s head).   The first challenge is to recognize where the data lies, then how to access it and draw it together and ultimately to derive knowledge and wisdom from the information held in the data, so you can make decisions and take action.

 2.     Analysis paralysis

Getting the balance right with data is important.  Insight provided by one set of questions, often leads to further questions, which leads to further questions… Once you begin to understand one aspect of your customers’ buying patterns, you very quickly want to understand more.  And here’ lies the temptation of big data – the desire to want ever more data, so you can make the best possible decisions ever with 100% certainty.  This can lead to analysis paralysis, the ever-increasing desire for data leading to indecision and inaction.  So, apply your resources appropriately.  Don’t get stuck in the rut of data collection.  Get enough, make the decision, move on.

3.     So, when does little data become BIG data?  – Does size really matter?

I expect you’ll realize by now that, in my opinion, this is not the important question.  Yes, it matters what computing power you need.  Yes, it matters, what data sources you are drawing together.  Yes, it makes a difference to the tools you need to process the data.  But no, it doesn’t matter how big your data is, as long as you are deriving knowledge and wisdom from it.

And that can be done with very small datasets as well as very big ones.

4.     First steps with BIG data

Often the first sensible steps with big data are to practice on little data sets. Understand what you can learn from the data you have.  Make decisions based on the knowledge you gain.  It’s the decisions you make that will drive your business forward, not the mountain of data.

Want to talk more about making choices based on data?  Get in touch.