Archive for the ‘Marketing’ Category

If You Build It, They Will Not Always Come

June 5, 2011

Over the years I have encountered many clients who fell prey to the “Field of Dreams Theory” of “If you build it, they will come.” Now the “it” in this sentence can be any number of things: a new website, a new blog, an e-newsletter, new social media profiles, or simply one’s business itself, or any number of other things. The “they,” of course, is new business. However, many forget the importance of personal interaction with all of these “its.” There may be many ways that the person who may need your product or service can find you, but how do those pathways to you or your website help you make a sale?

In my experience, the best programs combine both marketing (attracting) efforts with sales (finding) efforts. Sometimes it is as simple as one follow up call to the targeted prospect who downloaded a white paper, read an e-report, or visited your website to turn a prospect into a client. Other times it will take those 7, 13, 27, or whatever the latest magic numbers of encounters is (notice, however that the number is getting larger, not smaller) for them to build the confidence they need in you before they will do business with you. But, if at least half of those encounters are back and forth conversation between provider and prospect, that gives you 13.5 opportunities to not only tell your prospect how you solve problems, but to also get a better understanding of what THEIR problems are.

Too often, people use their marketing to tell people just how great they are. Yes, everyone wants to work with someone who is competent but also with someone who will solve THEIR problem. Marketing can help with that, but the only true way you will understand a prospect’s need is for you to directly interact with him.

Advertisements

Should You Downsize Your Sales Force and Implement a More Automated and Online Marketing System Instead?

November 22, 2010

This is a question that came up in an online Vistage discussion group recently, and those who know me, or regularly read my blog or newsletter already know my answer: NO! An online or automated marketing system will never replace a strong sales force!!!

We’ve spent months and months in our Vistage groups talking about attracting more clients through online marketing systems and at the end of the day what was determined was what we already knew…some companies are sales focused while others are marketing focused, but the most successful companies integrated an approach using both.

Sales is about finding customers while marketing is about bringing customers to you. By having them work together, say by reviewing the report on who reads your e-newsletter and then calling the readers to discuss topics of interest in more detail, or offering a downloadable white paper on a topic of interest then following up with those who downloaded it, will increase the ROI of your marketing programs and reduce the sales cycle (for more details on this topic, click here).

Now, some might disagree with me on this and claim that their sales force isn’t working for them. In those cases I would say the problem is not a matter of having a sales force, but not having the right sales force. For example, if all your salespeople are doing is providing you with information that can be found on Google, fire your salespeople and get better ones (OK, maybe I am being a bit harsh with that.) Good salespeople develop relationships and find the right people for you to work with. If people only bought based on the “facts” they find on Google, anyone who wanted four wheels, an engine, good gas mileage, and a way to get to work would be best served buying a Yugo. When the salesperson digs deeper to find the true pain and how his solution can solve it…well just count how many BMWs and Hummers you pass on the way home tonight.

For companies who have a sales force that spends most of their time working with current clients, or don’t have a sales force at all and the people who do the work also sell it, a better idea would be lead generation. It allows the experts to be the expert. At Randolph Sterling, we have an inside sales force that we outsource to help develop new markets and new prospects. With it, we do not simply find AN opportunity for ourselves or our clients, but THE RIGHT opportunities. Good inside sales teams get a better feel for who your ideal prospects are and work to find you more of the people you want to do business with. You never want to incent them to find ANY opportunity because wasting your time on a bad opportunity can be more detrimental than not having an opportunity at all

 

Marketing and Sales…Perfect Together

November 1, 2010

We do a fair amount of partnering with marketing firms who will bring us in to assist them in providing follow ups to some of the projects they are running. For example, they may write white papers for their clients and then set up a system so prospects can download these white papers. They will then have us provide initial follow ups on these leads that were developed and then pass the hotter leads on to their sales team to close the deal.

I was in a conversation recently where a question came up about return on investment when it comes to marketing. I think that the breakdowns will definitely change based on industry and how much attracting clients plays a part in growth compared to a company that is more sales oriented.

We are finding that more clients are looking closer at return on investment for their particular form of marketing, although some are easier to track than others. It is relatively easy to see who downloaded a white paper from your website and then follow up on those leads to turn them into business, but a little harder to track the client you cold called who then Googled the company to find your website, Facebook page, Twitter account, LinkedIn profile, etc. and based their decision to even talk to you partially on what they read there.

Sales and marketing have always had a close relationship, often like brothers and sisters: sometimes they fight, other times they try to ignore that the other exists, but they always work better when respecting what the other brings to the table so they can work together.

Integrating Your Sales and Marketing Efforts for the Best Results

October 30, 2010

In a recent post wrote I spoke of how it’s getting to be that time of year when smart salespeople are trying to meet their annual quota, as well as building and strengthening relationships during the holiday season, and clients are working on their budgets. As I wrote that article, I was reminded of a conversation we at Randolph Sterling once had with a client. We mentioned to them that, based on the trial program we were running, if they were to invest $150,000 in our solution, we could pretty much guarantee an additional $2-3 million in sales. It is a great return on investment, however they had to determine if they had the $150,000 to invest, and, if so, would they be willing to invest it on this solution or someplace else.

Many of us right now are struggling with similar questions. For example, this October, we at Randolph Sterling, where we have strong sales culture, were left seriously contemplating how much of our 2011 budget we should allocate towards our marketing efforts and how we should divide our marketing budget amongst the different tools we implement, whether they be our email marketing campaign, our blog (which you’re reading now), our various social media efforts, including Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, or any number of other more traditional efforts. (Thank you Gini for your excellent video blogs on these topics).

However, we often see that many clients, whether due to their culture, or for some other reasons, believe they have to choose between sales (going out to look for customers) or marketing (drawing customers to them). Both are incredibly valuable, but unfortunately, it seems that too many companies focus on one over the other rather than developing a strong integrated plan. Here’s an example.

The marketing-focused company sends out a very nice post card to targeted prospects and hopes that they decide to call to use their services. The sales-focused company cold calls those same targeted prospects. Both get decent results, but the company who integrates the two by sending out the well thought out postcard and then has their sales team follow up on it by calling those targeted contacts most likely gets a better result than the other two because (in theory anyway) the guy who responds to the marketing effort follows the call to action on the postcard and calls the company that sent it, while the guy who responds to the sales effort doesn’t remember the postcard but returns the voicemail the salesperson left. However, a third group of people emerges who got the postcard and had a level of interest, but not enough to actually call themselves. They receive the follow up call and feel a little more familiar with the company because they remember seeing the logo from the postcard as the salesperson talks to them. Those that implement both sales and marketing efforts (again, in theory anyway) therefore are likely to get responses from all three groups.

With this said, it is important to point out that many people who went into marketing did not go into marketing to be salespeople, many people who went into sales did not go into sales to do marketing, and many people when starting their business had no real desire to do either, even though, oftentimes, both are required for the best results. So, where do you go from here?

The first answer that comes to mind is you can do it on your own. You can do it yourself. Someone else at your company can do it. Or you can bring in an additional person or two to fill these roles in-house. To once more use ourselves as an example, we are a sales solutions company, but we have an in-house Social Media Director, Daniel Nuccio, who handles our email marketing campaigns and manages our blog and social media accounts, while we maintain close relationships with marketing companies with many different specialties to help us and our clients with other tasks (more on this later).

However, you may not feel comfortable filling these roles yourself. Or you may believe that the time of you and your employees would be better spent elsewhere. And you may find that bringing on one or two new people may be too costly.

So, then what? You bring in an outside team or two. At Randolph Sterling, we offer a number of outsourced sales services for both short term and long term sales solutions. And, for your marketing needs, we at Randolph Sterling have partnered with a number of marketing firms with different areas of expertise so that we can better offer a full solution to our clients.

Getting the Most Out of a B2B Email Marketing Campaign…Or Any Marketing Campaign

September 26, 2010

Recently in an online discussion group a friend of mine posted a question regarding how you can ensure the best results from a B2B email marketing campaign. They received a number of good recommendations for tools they could use. There was a lot of excellent information about how to craft an effective message and make sure there is a clear call to action. However, one of the things everyone seemed to leave out was that any e-mail marketing campaign, or any marketing campaign at all, for that matter, will produce an even stronger ROI if you follow up rather than just wait for them to call you.

I am familiar with several of these tools (we use Constant Contact, for those who wish to know) and the ones I know all have features that show you who from your mailing list looked at what article from your campaign, indicating they had some level of interest in that given topic. Not only is this good for targeting email correspondence to your prospects and building their familiarity with you, but it is also produces an opportunity for your sales team to call these prospects and offer additional information to them to move the sales process along. In our experience, this has been very effective because here your prospects still have you at the “top of their minds”.

However, many times this step is not taken for several reasons…salespeople are busy keeping their current clients happy, they don’t receive the information as to which of their prospects read which article, etc. This is why our inside sales team offers email marketing follow up campaigns to handle this for you. However, whether we do it for you or your team handles it, follow up and you will see even better feedback from your e-mail marketing campaigns.

If you would like more information on Randolph Sterling, Inc.’s short term inside sales services, please contact us today!

Anticipation: Bringing SAM Peer Groups to the Triangle

January 26, 2010

Anticipation…remember the old Heinz ketchup commercials where they showed the ketchup slowly flowing out of the bottle and talked about the value of anticipation? That’s exactly how I feel as we start our new SAM Peer Advisory Groups.

The concept of our SAM groups is great. We provide an advisory board for salespeople and sales managers. Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?

It was an idea brought to me by a mentor of mine who works with business owners and salespeople. He noticed that much of their internal pain revolved around bringing in new business and sales in general. We further noticed that many of the salespeople craved an additional outlet beyond their sales manager to bounce around ideas. This was for several reasons, but mainly because they didn’t want their sales manager to know they were struggling or had questions. In a SAM group, they can talk with other people out on the same front lines they are, dealing with the same issues as they sell their own products and services.

So what’s the problem? This is where my Heinz ketchup analogy comes in. SAM groups are great. Starting SAM groups are not.

Why? Well, there’s a couple of issues. One is that for a sales manager, VP, or President to commit to taking his sales rep out of the field for a four hour meeting once a month, he wants to see a return on his investment of both time and money. Another is that when we start a SAM group we may find two competing companies or two reps from the same company that want to join. This means starting another group for the second rep or the competing company.

The value of the SAM group is in its people. The agenda admittedly doesn’t look all that impressive, which is by design. In looking at the agenda the first thought that comes up is “this is going to take 4 hours?”

Agenda:

8:00    Welcome and Opening Announcements

8:15    Significant Sales and Marketing Events

8:45    2nd Half Annual Goals and Tracking of Quarterly Goals

9:45    Host Presentation

10:30  Sales and Marketing Issues–“Today’s Issues,” other issues

11:30  Guest Presentation on Topic of Interest for Entire Group

12:00  Adjourn Meeting

You see, the content of the meeting is determined by the needs of the people in the group, not by the group facilitator. When you start a group with 2 or 3 people, it does not look that impressive to management when the members get back to the office (although in reality, they probably got a lot out of the meeting because we were able to dig deeper into the issue they brought up).

We figured that the best way to build up even stronger SAM Groups was to partner with another association where what we do can benefit their members. The easy choice was to work with Penn Shore and Business Clubs of America (BCA). So I met with Penn, and after months of negotiations, starting this month…this week actually…we are offering SAM Group membership as an added benefit to the membership of BCA.

Anticipation…it’s making me wait, as the old Heinz slogan goes.

So here we are, on the precipice of our first BCA/SAM meeting and I wonder what I wonder every time we start a group: How many people will show up? Will they be good fits for the group? Do they understand the concept (the hardest part for us salespeople is trying to truly understand the problem before going right to trying to solve it?)

…it’s almost here, so I’ll let you know how it goes!

Marketing or Sales? The Good Companies Do Both!

January 13, 2010

One of the first questions we ask a client when we start working with them is what does their ideal client look like to them? What are the characteristics that they all share? It is a simple enough question but sometimes very difficult to answer as many of these traits are not exactly something you can search a database for.

One characteristic we noticed in our clients is an understanding of the difference between marketing and sales and the ability to use both effectively together rather than one over another.

I began taking marketing classes 20 years ago and have been selling since I tried to convince my parents to let me stay up an extra half hour at age 7. I have heard many definitions of marketing and sales but the best one I have heard, and the one that I use is this: marketing brings companies to you while sales has you going to the company. This article, for example, is an example of marketing. My hope is that you may read it and say “wow, Randolph Sterling, Inc. can really help me grow my business. I should talk to them,” and you give us a call or send us an email asking to be a client. It is also a sales lead tool as well because let’s face it, how many people are going to do what I described? Some maybe, but being a sales guy, I need to be more proactive.

As part of our “quick start” sales program that we have developed, we will get a report of who read this article, for example, or who looked at our website or any of our marketing efforts and reach out to them. We will thank them for their interest and offer them any additional information they may want on the article, the company, one of our clients, etc. While we have them, we will also see if there are opportunities where we might be able to help.

So which do you think is more effective:

  1. A strong marketing program which attracts buyers to you
  2. A strong sales presence where you go out and look for ideal clients and see if you can help them
  3. A combination program where a commitment is made to both 1 and 2 working together to find more of the people that have an interest in you, your company, and how you do business?

Of course, the answer is number 3.

I’m sure that many people are saying that investing in both marketing and sales is expensive and while it could be, budgeting properly and executing a good plan within your budget can yield some incredible results. The sales piece makes the marketing more effective and the marketing makes the sales more effective…and ultimately, isn’t that what we all want.

In 2009, Randolph Sterling, Inc. developed partnership agreements with marketing firms with different areas of expertise so that we can better offer a full solution to our ideal clients. We look forward to continuing those relationships in 2010 and continuing to grow as we help more and more companies find more of their ideal clients