Why brand reputation matters in large sales

The value of a strong brand reputation plays a critical role in the extended sales process.

The value of a strong brand reputation plays a critical role in the extended sales process.

Brand reputation sells long after the sales call

In the book Spin Selling by Neil Rackman, sales methodology is explored and documented. One of the findings, supported by research, is that in large sales, the selling process is often pushed through the sales funnel by personnel internal to the buyer of the product or service, due to the number of influencers and decision makers that must approve large capital expenditures. During this extended sales cycle, it would be almost impossible for the sales rep to be present for every meeting and address every objection or question that might arise. For that reason, the value of a strong brand reputation plays a critical role in the sales process.

Brand reputation in the digital age

Brand reputation is a soft metric that does not lend itself to the analytics of lead generation or conversion. Yet it may be one of the most powerful sales influencers that a seller has at its disposal. In the digital age where every aspect of a brand can be researched by a purchaser, a sterling reputation for performance, service, and durability provides a blanket of reassurance for the purchaser. In fact, positive brand attributes can elevate the brand from competing on price alone to commanding a premium price because of the intangible and emotional connections that the purchaser establishes with the brand.

Foundation of the brand reputation is delivering on the brand promise

The brand promise is a contract with the customer that they will receive the promised brand experience. The brand experience is the customer’s interaction with the brand at various touchpoints. Examples include website functionality, customer service response, technical assistance, and delivery; even the product packaging can help deliver on the brand promise. When viewed as a whole, each of these elements contributes to the brand reputation.

Outbound and inbound marketing efforts also contribute to the brand reputation. Customer insight gained through traditional or digital channels provides the framework for key messaging which can be used in advertising, promotion, and social marketing.

In large sales, one of the challenges is keeping the prospect in the sales funnel and not having them spin off into in a different direction based on inaccurate information. Therefore, investing in the brand’s reputation keeps a consistent stream of messaging that can counteract competitors’ efforts to sway the purchaser toward their product or service offering.

Additional articles you may find of interest on this topic:

What’s your brand’s reputation worth?

Why Business-to-Business Marketing is Transforming to People-to-People Marketing

Inbound Marketing and the Prospect Pipeline

Please leave your comments or thoughts below.

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Why employees are the best source for inbound marketing content

 

Creating content for inbound marketing is everyone's responsibility

Creating content for inbound marketing is everyone’s responsibility

Having a process and the right skill set to capture content is half the battle.

Speak with almost any CEO of a small to mid-sized brand, and they will tell you that inbound marketing is an important communication component in creating and maintaining brand preference. However, ask them what resources or processes are in place dedicated to inbound marketing content, and the answer will tell you that this is usually more wishful thinking than reality.

Why is this? Small and mid-sized brands are resource-challenged. Their employees have a wealth of knowledge to share but usually there is no process in place to capture content.

Content mining: content that adds value to the brand

Authentic content has a point of view and provides thought leadership or hands-on practical information.

Every department in the company has something to share. It is vital that content development is viewed as everyone’s responsibility, not just the function of the marketing or PR department.

When the CEO leads the way, resources are sure to follow.

Many times the most authoritative content originates from the CEO. The CEO provides leadership and the high altitude point-of-view about the brand, such as:

  • Its current direction
  • Challenges to be faced
  • Opportunities on the horizon
  • Industry disruption from new technologies
  • How the brand can contribute to the betterment of the industry

Creating content is everyone’s responsibility

The engineering staff also contributes to developing content. This group has a unique perspective on innovation, new technologies, and production processes that contribute to solving customer problems.

The production department contributes by providing content on best practices, achieving optimal product performance, or tips on prolonging product life cycle.

Customer Service also contributes; they are the first to field customer concerns, complaints, and frequently asked questions. This group can be the conduit between engineering and production in identifying product flaws, delivery shortcomings, and inefficient interaction between departments.

Marketing’s job is to determine the most efficient process to capture the content and optimize it for different uses. Usually an employee is identified as an expert in their field and is asked to create a rough draft on a particular topic. From there, working in collaboration with either an internal or external journalistic resource, the content is edited and polished so it is suitable for publication and optimized for web use.

In addition, once the content is formalized, it becomes part of an e-library. This e-library can serve as a quick reference to customer requests.

Inbound marketing requires a commitment of time and resources to be successful. The pay-off is a stream of authoritative content that can be used across social media platforms, publications and customer service that supports brand leadership.

Additional articles you may find of interest on this topic:

Social media content strategy?

How inbound marketing can help drive lead generation

Inbound marketing essentials?

Please leave your comments or thoughts below.

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Inbound Marketing and the Prospect Pipeline

Inbound marketing can provide a warm call environment for reaching out to the prospect.

Inbound marketing can provide a warm call environment for reaching out to the prospect.

Inbound marketing can help identify your best prospects

I’m reading a lot these days about the disconnect between marketing and sales. The story goes something like this: Marketing generates leads and hands them over to sales. Sales says the leads are worthless because the prospect has not been qualified as to purchasing intent and does not have an immediate need.

This leads me to believe that marketing and sales have not collaborated on the following:

  • What does the best prospect look like?
  • What are the critical business issues the prospect is facing?
  • How does the product or service offering provide the best solution?
  • How do you determine the prospect’s interest in the solution offering?
  • What milestones should marketing achieve before turning the information over to sales?

Gaining productivity forms inbound marketing.

The primus of inbound marketing is to identify interested prospects and educate them about the brand’s product or service offering.  Consistency of engagement and messaging helps to build trust for the brand leading to preference for the brand’s solution when the critical business issue arises.

Inbound marketing was never intended to carry the entire marketing load, or substitute for sales-building personal relationships. Used correctly, inbound marketing can gain an inside advantage, change the parameters of an RFP, and substantially shorten the decision making process.

Where inbound marketing shines is in creating an environment where prospects are familiar with your brand and the story behind your product or service offering.

Digital analytics – structured and semi-structured data – can provide a representative visual picture of prospects that have interacted with your inbound marketing. By assigning values to data points, a lead scoring system can be developed furthering defining the prospects interest.

For example, if the prospect opens an email newsletter three out of five times, you could assign a high value due to the frequency of opens. Conversely, if the prospect only opened the email newsletter one time in five mailings, a low value would be assigned.

Creating this picture over an extended time frame provides a detailed image of the prospect, their interest in the offering, and the groups that they interact with.

All of this information provides a warm call environment for reaching out to the prospect.

The inbound marketing activity is the first step in people-to-people marketing – engagement. This step helps in qualifying the prospect’s interest and allows sales to determine if the prospect meets the criteria for additional follow up.

Additional articles you may find of interest on this topic:

Social media content strategy

People-to-People Marketing: Engage, Connect, Influence

How inbound marketing can help drive lead generation

Please leave your comments or thoughts below.

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People-to-People Marketing: Engage, Connect, Influence

There has been a seismic explosion in the channels and tools marketers are using to influence purchasing decisions.

There has been a seismic explosion in the channels and tools marketers are using to influence purchasing decisions.

The goal for P-to-P marketing is to engage decision makers and influence their purchasing decision

If you feel a little out of touch with the whole marketing ecosystem today, don’t feel alone. There has been a seismic explosion in the channels and tools marketers are using to influence purchasing decisions. Now, effective marketing is a mash-up of traditional B-to-B and digital P-to-P strategies with tactical execution determined by company size and where the buyer to be reached spends the most time.

Content everywhere but what do buyers find most useful?

Content can take many forms. Eccolo Media, in collaboration with market-research firm Global Marketing Insite (GMI), with recently published the Eccolo Media 2014 B2B Technology Content Survey Report identifying categories for marketing collateral and what technology buyers in small, medium, and large companies consume when making considered purchase decisions.

16 forms of marketing collateral were identified:

• White papers
• Product brochures
• Case studies
• Technology guides
• Video and multimedia files
• Blog articles
• Infographics
• Webinars
• E-books
• Podcast, audio files
• Magazines and publications
• Competitive vendor worksheets
• E-newsletters
• Social networks
• Web slide show
• Tweets

Content consumption in the sales cycle

Breaking down the sales cycle into 4 phases to identify the most effective forms of content that buyers found useful:

Pre-sale (unaware of the problem) – Blogs, infographics
Initial sale (understands the problem) – White papers, case studies, video and multimedia files
Mid-sale (identifying solutions & selecting vendors) – Case studies/success stories, technology guides
Final sale (finalizing vendor and purchasing solution) – Technology guides, implementation scenarios

Relevant and high quality content plays a critical role in the purchasing decision. Marketers that understand this have the opportunity to engage, connect, and influence buyers throughout the purchasing process.

Social networks – perception and reality

Social networks are prime territory for distributing content. Determining which social platform to concentrate on for content distribution can be influenced by the size of the company you are trying to reach. Small and mid-size companies lean more toward Facebook, while larger companies consume more content from LinkedIn.

Twitter is also a viable network for reaching influencers and purchasers. Click-through rates from vendor posts are increasing because the short burst of information is usually accompanied by a link to a larger content library.

Blogs are also influential in the pre-sale phase to identify problems, bringing them to the surface for consideration.

One thing to remember is that with so much content available, buyers are becoming more selective in deciding which content is worthy of their time. Because buyers choose the time and place for receiving marketing content, formatting for desktop, tablet, and smart phone enhances the buyer’s experience.

Additional articles you may find of interest on this topic:

Why people-to-people marketing is replacing business-to-business in the aviation industry

Content development for aviation marketers is a communal affair

Getting social media to pay off

Please leave your comments or thoughts below.

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Aviation Marketing: Learning to Love HTML Code

Learning HTML code is more about attitude than aptitude.

Learning HTML code is more about attitude than aptitude.

Learning HTML code is about attitude, not aptitude.

Digital ad spending in North America is projected to top $51 billion in 2014. This figure does not take into account the additional spending for digital inbound marketing for websites, emails, landing pages, and newsletters. Now, almost every marketing channel relies on HTML code (Hyper Text Markup Language) to deliver the marketing message.

Why then do so many marketing practitioners shy away from learning the language of HTML code?

Digital native or digital immigrant?

There are two ways to answer this question — by date of birth or digital attitude.

Digital natives were born after the introduction of digital technology. For the natives, there has always been broadband, Facebook, Hulu and Twitter.

Digital immigrants were born before the introduction of digital technology. Immigrants were brought up on radio, television, newspapers, and magazines.

To stay relevant, marketers need to embrace digital technology in order to assimilate into the digital native world.

Learn the language of HTML code through online tutorials

One site I found helpful is Codecademy.com. Codecademy.com offers tutorials in learning several web development languages through self-paced online lessons.

As mentioned above, learning HTML code is more about attitude than aptitude. Starting with basic HTML tags <html></html>, you follow a progression of steps learning how specific tags control the display of photos, links, and text. As you progress through HTML code and your comfort level increases, you are introduced to cascading style sheets (CSS). CSS language lets you control specific page sections of HTML code, streamlining the coding process.

Knowledge of HTML code and CSS enhances templates

A lot of inbound digital marketing relies on the use of templates for blogs, newsletters, and websites. For all the ease templates provide – page format, color selection, text edit – they can be limiting when it comes to adding additional effects and features. Looking “under the hood” at the HTML and CSS code determines how the page will display and if the HTML code is robust enough to portray the page across multiple platforms in a consistent manner. One advantage of being able to identify and change code is the ability to customize the template so it becomes unique to your brand.

Small HTML code changes provide consistent design across browsers and operating systems

Not long ago I delved into my own newsletter code. It had been a while since I’d looked under the hood and it quickly became apparent that the original template HTML code was not as robust as it needed to be for displaying across generational versions of Microsoft Outlook and Internet Explorer.

Inserting new HTML code, fixing missing code, and deleting redundant code cleaned up the problem for consistent email and browser display.

The right attitude and HTML code training will insure that you’ll get a consistent, quality product that will support brand presence across ever-increasing digital networks and platforms.

Additional articles you may find of interest on this topic:

Inbound marketing essentials

Why aviation marketers struggle with digital marketing integration

Is your website attracting customers or sending them away

Please leave your comments or thoughts below.