A Very Simple Way to Win Customers!

 

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A long time ago in my marketing communications career, I was sitting across the table from the Vice President of Marketing for a brand new client. He started the conversation with a question that has stayed with me for more than two decades.

“Do you know why we chose you instead of the others we interviewed.”

“No,” I said in all honesty.

“It was because when you discussed marketing communications with us you always used  the words ‘we’ and ‘our’— as in ‘how do we present this concept to new customers’ or ‘what are our marketing objectives for the next quarter?”

“Everybody else we interviewed used the word ‘you’ and ‘your’ when they wanted to get at the same type of information. We could tell that, in your own mind you already saw yourself as part of our team and that made it very easy for us to select you.”

Because this trait was something that came to me naturally I was surprised to learn that it was something that differentiated me from my competitors. This experience showed me how important it is to see things through the customer’s eyes and how doing so paves the way for winning new business and maintaining sound, long-lasting relationships.

So before you try to develop any sort of marketing communications piece take a little time to first see what you are about to present through your customers eyes. That one change of perspective can work wonders. Need to talk about your marketing communications program, contact Ross Hudson to schedule a visit to your company.

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Building and maintaining that all important list

Shiny colorful cubes - high quality 3D render.

You want to get some attention from customers and prospects, but they have a short attention span. That’s just the way thing are today. To get them to put you on their radar screen you have to attract to a target pulsing with something really useful – valuable information that will help them solve their problems. To do that, however, you must first have a list. Then you must maintain it.

Here are some ways to build your list.

  1. Trade Shows – If you attend trade shows…as most do these days,,,make sure you get something to show for all the money you spent to be there. One opportunity was to visit with customers and hot prospects. But what about those who are just casually shopping. They’re prospects too. Maybe not tomorrow, but down the road. By stopping at your booth these visitors initiated a relationship. Now it’s up to you to keep it going. Collect their names either via automated carding or old fashioned business card. Then, when you return from the show, capture that valuable contact information in a spreadsheet. This is the start of your permission-based email marketing list.
  2. Inquiry calls – Every inquiry should be seen as an opportunity for obtaining contact information, including email address. This sounds obvious, but all too often, unless there is a demonstrated interest in purchasing or obtaining specific information, that contact information is either not gathered or not passed on to the person responsible for updating the mailing list. If you have not given someone this responsibility do it ASAP!
  3. Your sales personnel – Most sales folks have their own list of prospects. It’s their bread and butter. Make sure all the names in your sales personnel’s customer and prospect files are also in your email marketing database so that they can receive appropriate information about your products and services via a thoughtful, unobtrusive email marketing outreach program.

And here’s how to maintain your list.

  1. First, assign someone the task of overseeing the list. He or she should be the conduit through which all information flows.
  2. Your initial master list should be developed in spreadsheet format. Additions can be made with notations as to date added.
  3. Estasblish a certain time at the end of the week for updating the list with new names compiled during that week.
  4. If you are entering lists from a trade show, make up separate labeled spreadsheets for each show. This will come in handy for follow-up mailings to the list.
  5. Employ a service such as Constant Contact for your emailing program. Constant Contact is inexpensive, convenient and forms a central part of our Productivity Marketing programs.
  6. Post your master spreadsheet on Constant Contact and then simply add the new names or delete the old ones weekly. As noted above, enter separate listings for trade shows or any groups where specialized mailings might be in order.

By following these simple steps, you’ll have an effective list of prospects and be in position to regularly disseminate information about the company thereby keeping your name at the forefront when a buying opportunity presents itself. Need help? Simply email Ross Hudson and we’ll gladly schedule an appointment to review your situation.

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The art of the interview

photo-1In my line of work, the interview is the key to obtaining good information for writing content for trade magazine article, blogs, web sites, white papers, you name it. Over the years I’ve conducted thousands of interviews in a wide range of industries. I’m often asked what makes for a good result. Sometimes the person asking is looking to hire an interviewer himself or herself. At other times the individual wants to make sure that interview time will be productive. With that in mind, here are some of my “art of the interview” trade secrets.

Always ask open ended questions – In other words almost never ask a question that can be answered with a simple yes or no. Instead of asking “What year did you start working here?” ask “describe the your years here at the company, the various ups and downs you have gone through and your immediate and long-term goals for future achievements in this line of work.”

Your interviewee isn’t going to like this, because he will need to flush out of his brain everything he is currently working on and reload it with information relevant to your question. However most people will cooperate and start giving you the details you want to hear.

Let one thing lead to another: When something interesting comes up ask another question that takes your subject further down that path. “You said you had a difficult time readjusting to the new business realities after the fire. Tell me about the fire, how did it happen, how were you involved that day and what did you and you co-workers have to do to get back on-stream afterwards?” (Notice this is another open ended question.)

Record your interview: Listening is an active sport. It takes a lot of attention to make sure you understand what the subject is telling you and coming up with questions that will keep him or her actively engaged in the process. If you try to take detailed notes, it is unlikely that you will conduct a good interview or capture all the good things the subject is telling you.

Squeeze it Dry: Sometimes the best information will come out when the interview is almost over. When you thought you’ve heard every good thing the subject has to say, he or she will pop up with a “By the way,” comment that will become a major topic of your article. I always ask one last question, something like “If I was a better interviewer, what would I have asked you that I didn’t today?” Sometime this answer will surprise you.

Follow up – After the interview I like to follow up with a note of thanks to the interviewee sometimes with a copy to his or her supervisor.  Use the follow-up to keep him engaged in the article writing process. Ask him to send additional information, such as articles and PowerPoints and photographs. Let him know that it may be a number of days or weeks before the article is completed but in the meantime you may contact him briefly to clarify points you didn’t completely understand. Keep him engaged in the process because you will want his full attention one more time when it is time for him to review what you have written.

Those are some of my trade secrets. Please feel free to use them as you please. Interviewing is like dancing or any other art form, if you have a little talent you will get a lot better with practice. If you have other things that are more important to you than learning how to extract good information from knowledgeable people, then you might also consider hiring a professional.

Good luck either way. And if you’d like to talk about your situation, email Ross Hudson

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“We’ve got nothing to tell!”

It’s one of the most frequent comments we hear when discussing a program involving content generation. Yet the truth of the matter is, in all likelihood you have more to tell…much more…than you can imagine. You can generate flow of information that can begin now, building upon itself to last indefinitely.

You can find information in a number of ways. Here are six. And each is worthy of an article unto itself. The key is to use professionals who can interpret the data and turn it into “newsworthy” content for multi-purposed dissemination to your diverse audiences.

  1. Your own company literature – Start with literature about your company, equipment, processes, etc. Check out any white papers that may have been written…even if not current. There’s a wealth of information, which can be updated into new presentation. Not only is sales literature helpful from a copy standpoint, but it will also provide graphic elements for reuse.
  2. Your  website –  A well maintained and frequently updated website is another great source for company information. The material can be taken and reformatted into informative new content for dispersal.
  3. Your PowerPoint presentations – In most companies PowerPoint presentations are a valuable means by which sales presentations are made. They are also a means of introducing employees into the intricacies of a new machine or process. Too, they are chock full of treasures worthy of email dissemination.
  4. Your employees – Want to get the lowdown on a particular step in the manufacturing process? Talk to the folks most closely identified with it. That means the tool guy. The CNC operator. Other key players. Not only can they tell you why what they are doing is so exciting, they get the chance to demonstrate their pride in the company.
  5. Your sales representatives – Because they are closest to the customer in most cases, your sales representatives can tell you all about innovative breakthroughs, things that have made the difference in giving your company the business as opposed to another competitor. They can guide you in what to say…and what not to say…about a particular application.
  6. Your customers – And finally the customer. Think about ways to involve the customer in the solution. Possibly a joint case history that can show off the attributes of both without sacrificing confidentiality. Satisfied customers are your best marketing communications resource. Use them!

So the truth is there are many ways to get good content onto your web site and a blog. What makes it seem overwhelming is the thought that you have to build it in a day. Slow and steady wins the race. If you start now, you can have a substantial amount of good content on your site in just a few months. And you can do it in small, incremental steps that won’t drain your time away from all the other critical roles you play in the shop.

If you’d like to learn more about how a Productivity Marketing program could help your business, contact Ross Hudson.

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What’s in your content pipeline?

Productivity flow chart diagramTraditionally, when someone thinks in terms of “pipeline” they think of the pipeline intended to generate leads for the sales folks. However, there’s another pipeline just as important but often ignored or given minimal attention. It’s the content pipeline for generating news about your company, its products, technical innovations, success stories and the like. This information forms the basis for ongoing website posts, trade articles and press materials.

Good fresh content is the important means for driving prospects to your website and keeping awareness of your company at the forefront. Unfortunately, in too many situations, companies invest heavily in creating an impressive web site but then think that the job is completed. There is no pipeline. If there is no pipeline, you will miss valuable, on-going opportunities to get on the radar screens of important prospects and customers.

The pipeline approach is an essential information gathering process for any company wishing to keep its web pages and blogs updated with new information. This article will deal with the seven primary elements of the pipeline process: securing leads, interviewing, writing, obtaining graphics, gaining approvals, selecting placement and following up. In a typical well-developed pipeline it wouldn’t be unusual to have a dozen items in play at various stages of the process. We might be working on five leads, two interviews, two articles being written, several placements and follow-through on others.

In this blog we’ll deal with the first two pipeline items.

Securing Content Leads

A lead is just the name of a subject, but more importantly, the email, phone number and name of a contact person who can give you information. The lead could start with a specific idea and person attached to it or it could be an individual with multiple ideas. The lead might be someone within the organization…a product manager for example. Or it could be someone who is in the sales area or even a customer. And we, being good reporters, might take the subject and use it in several directions.

The lead involves contacting that person, informing him or her of what our intentions are and arranging a time for an interview. This is a critical stage because it is important to build up trust with the lead. The lead has to be willing to allocate a period of time to the interview. They also need to know that whatever is produced will be returned to them for review so that they don’t have to worry about saying anything they don’t want to see in print.

Interviewing

The interview is simply a conversation with a lead. It is recorded and transcribed. The interview might last fifteen minutes or, better still, around 45 minutes in order to get as much information as possible.

Once we’ve collected the information for a particular subject, we may also discover other subjects worth exploring that came up during the interview. These can go on our leads list for further exploration and ultimately locating other information sources that can provide us with an interview. You can see that the interview process not only provides us with content for writing, but also additional leads for generating new subject matter. So the pipeline process is self-regenerating.

In future blogs we’ll address more pipeline subjects. In the meantime, if you’d like to discuss the state of your content pipeline, send me an email

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