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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Marketing Automation Platforms (MAPs)

Blog_110_Marketing Automation Platforms

MAPs are a set of software tools with many moving pieces.

 

The promise of Marketing Automation Platforms is to integrate and automate marketing functions

Marketing Automation Platforms (MAPs) are receiving lots of attention in the B-to-B marketing sphere. Most of these platforms are targeted toward companies with large database records that execute the majority of their marketing efforts online. For originations that fit the aforementioned criteria, MAPs promise greater marketing efficiency, integration with sales CRM software, reduced external resource expenditures, and ROI tracking for each marketing event.

The strength of an MAP is its ability to capture digital transactional information for specific marketing actions. These actions can include the following:

  • Email opens, top performing links, and overall performance
  • Website visitation, visitor page interaction and analytics
  • Inbound marketing responses to posted content and landing pages
  • Social platform monitoring for sentiment and customer insight

These actions are generally considered first encounter lead generation activities found at the top of the sales funnel. It is at this junction that marketing and sales must agree on what a qualified lead looks like and what steps are necessary to move this lead through the sales funnel.

With the definition of a qualified lead identified, an MAP can provide the functionality to automatically continue to reach out to the prospect. As the prospect demonstrates intent to purchase, CRM software is able to provide sales with leads that require shorter close times and better success rates.

All of this sounds great, almost like push button marketing; however, there are several things to consider:

  •  MAPs are a set of software tools with many moving pieces
  • MAPs are not a substitute for a strategic marketing plan
  • Underestimating the amount of content required to shepherd the prospect through the sales funnel
  • The current marketing staff may not have the technical horsepower needed to manage the MAP
  • Time commitment and resources from IT will be needed for implementation, integration, and ongoing maintenance
  • Substantial learning curve and resources required for marketing and sales personnel
  • Implementation time of 6 to 12 months to see results
  • Identification of critical data chains for ROI reporting
  • Commitment from the executive wing to fund and nurture MAP implementation

MAPs focus is on digital interaction. What about traditional marketing and brand building? These software platforms are challenged to know what effect display advertising has with regards to purchasing behavior, brand sentiment, and brand loyalty.

Don’t get me wrong here. I see the benefit of ROI analysis and the positive potential MAPs can have when implemented properly. However, at the same time, I am also cautious about MAPS. My concern begins with the automaton nature of the entire process. The promise of inbound marketing is to engage with interested prospects and begin to build a relationship. Being inundated with additional email offers and qualifying phone calls can be a turn-off, stopping the relationship building cold. In addition, marketers must be cautious about treating prospects like Pavlov’s dog. Thinking that they can be trained to respond by redundancy is a danger.

Additional articles you may find of interest on this topic:

Big data and creativity

Determining Advertising Return On Investment

How to engineer a social marketing strategy

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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