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Swim Against the Tide

14 Jul

Avoid the Trendy Inbound-Only Approach

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Although inbound marketing has become quite the buzzword recently, B2B marketers need to strengthen their outbound marketing efforts for lead generation as well. Inbound marketing can be a great tool for short term results, but the only way your organization can generate successful leads is if you have a balanced combination of both inbound and outbound marketing efforts.

According to a report from Act-On Software and Demand Metric, B2B marketers should focus equally on growing their inbound and outbound marketing tactics in order to optimize their revenue. With 43% of revenue generation coming from outbound approaches and 41% coming from inbound approaches, it is quite clear that marketers cannot solely rely upon the trending inbound efforts.

When used correctly, inbound and outbound marketing efforts complement each other and support one another at every step. Outbound tactics make your presence known, and its content motivates leads to invest in a professional partnership with your company. It can allow you to approach anyone within an organization and target influencers within the company. Inbound creates fast results and a clear path to brand visibility because it encourages new leads to come to you; however, they may not have the same level of influence as those approached in outbound tactics.

The combination of inbound and outbound is preferable to simply choosing one approach, because they lend strengths to one another. Outbound efforts require a higher level of research in order to identify customer profiles, which can come in handy when dealing with inbound leads. Conversely, inbound marketing content can be recycled for outbound strategies and repurposed to fit specific customer profiles. This will further engage your outbound leads, and make them feel that you understand their wants and needs with fresh content instead of staunch and more traditional approaches.

Your inbound and outbound marketing mix will depend on how your consumers behave. Some strategies may rely more heavily on lead generation through inbound efforts with a coupling of outbound. Other, larger companies may rely solely on outbound. Some are now looking to incorporate new strategies to keep up with changing demands of the market. In today’s market it is a poor decision to neglect one approach for the other, instead of having a balance of each because the market is seeking more thoughtful and personalized information. This will also effect increased ROI challenges for marketers as the market becomes more competitive and fragmented.

To find the right marketing mix, you must first understand the need. With many B2B marketers growing more towards account-based marketing, outbound efforts will play a more important role than it has been given credit for recently. The way in which outbound will be used, however, will be more direct and original than more traditional, aggressive sales tactics.

Inbound marketing has by far set the standard for personalization and catering to your leads wants and needs. It allows for you to leave them wanting more while also informing them of what they need to know. Whitepapers, emails, and social media content has allowed for more approachable lead generation efforts, but again will be most effective in the long-run when paired with outbound tactics.

While inbound lead generation is the “next big thing,” there have been clear advantages that outbound efforts have proven to turn into revenue. Since we have recently seen success in different and more direct outbound tactics that have led to converting leads into new client relationships quickly, this challenges the notion that only inbound efforts will bring new leads into the sales funnel. Since there is less pressure applied and the viewership is more spread out, inbound is excellent at nurturing new leads, but it is not necessarily faster than the efforts of outbound lead generation. The important takeaway is that a balance of inbound and outbound marketing tactics will provide a more well-rounded lead generation strategy.

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Book Review 3: The Fred Factor (Part 2/2)

12 May

4 Steps to Find and Develop “Freds” in Your Organization

fred-factor

I recently wrote a blog post on Mark Sanborn’s book, The Fred Factor. While that post focused on explaining what a Fred is (long story short: a passionate employee who delivers an extraordinary customer/client experience) and how to identify one, this blog post will dig into how you can find and develop Freds within your own organization.
But first, why go to the effort? Quite simply, Freds—the most passionate people in your organization—are different. They do ordinary things extraordinarily well. Not surprisingly, Freds are also generally happier because people doing good work feel good, and people doing exceptional work feel, well, exceptional.

Sanborn uses the acronym FRED to explain how to develop “Freds”:

  • Find: There are three main avenues for finding Freds within and for your organization:
    1. Let Freds find you. If you really want your company to be world-class, it must become the kind of place that attracts Freds. To accomplish that, you must empower the Freds you have so their impact will be felt not only in the work your company does externally, but also in your internal culture.
    2. Discover “Dormant Freds.” There are many employees, also known as Dormant Freds, whose inner Fred has yet to blossom. To find them, watch for people that do things with flair (not to be confused with showing off or trying to attract attention)—an exceptionally well-done project, an elegant client meeting, or a clever suggestion are all possible tip-offs that a Dormant Fred is hiding in plain sight. Here are some questions to ask yourself about a potential Dormant Fred:
      • What do I remember about this person?
      • What’s the most extraordinary thing he or she has ever done?
      • How badly would this person be missed if he or she left his or her current position?
    3. Recruit and hire Freds. When you have exhausted your internal Fred pool, you may have to look externally to find them. Here are some great interview questions to find those prospective Freds:
      • Who are your heroes? Why?
      • Why would anyone do more than necessary?
      • Tell me three things that you think would delight most customers/clients/consumers.
      • What’s the coolest thing that has happened to you as a customer?
      • What is service?
  • Reward – Implement a rewards program to make sure Freds are recognized and appreciated, even if you are only recognizing good intentions and not a good final result. While nobody likes to fail, it is important to encourage employees to take chances. When people feel like their contributions are unappreciated, they will stop trying. And when that happens, innovation dies. My company, ER Marketing, recently implemented an award system in which employees nominate each other for exceptional work and attitude. This is meant to encourage employees who live up to the ER Marketing values of Curiosity, Respect, Accountability, and Performance (yes, we know what that acronym spells) with peer and management-level recognition.
  • Educate – Find examples of “Freds,” (both inside and outside of your organization), analyze those examples for commonalities that others can learn from, teach others to act extraordinary everyday—not just when there is a crisis—and set an example (invite others to act similarly).
  • Demonstrate – Set an example by inspiring, involving, initiating, and improvising. Here are some ways you can set an example and inspire employees to better serve your customers, vendors, and fellow employees better:
    • Inspire, but don’t intimidate.
    • Involve by creating a “Team Fred” of leaders in your organization.
    • Don’t wait for the “right” moment. It will never come—you have to make it.

One final, important thought from the book: Pull, Don’t Push. You can’t command someone to be a Fred. You can’t require someone to practice the Fred Factor. Command-and-control short-circuits the spirit of the Fred Factor, which is about opportunity, not obligation.

Invite people to join you. The most powerful tool you have to spread the Fred Factor throughout your organization is your own behavior—the example of your life and the effect it has on others. The best “Freducators” are themselves Freds. As John Maxwell says, “You teach what you know, you reproduce who you are.”

 

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When Selling Building Products, Opt for Simple

21 Apr

Lessons Learned from the 2016 ISC West Show

ISC West

As building products marketers, are we overcomplicating things? Do we consult with people down the channel—including customers and even our own sales teams—to make sure we are delivering the best information in ways that are easy to consume? Most importantly, who can we look to for simplification inspiration in the building products industry?

I recently attended the 2016 ISC West Show, the largest security industry trade show in the United States, with technical reps from more than 1,000 exhibitors and brands in the security industry. While there, I explored and learned about the rapidly growing segment of the connected home and the integration challenges of hardware and software in the security and door hardware industry.

The attendees of the show are typically security dealers. They sell in consumer homes, similar to a lot of building materials products. And, like a window or siding rep, they have to “win the kitchen table” if they hope to sell their product effectively down the channel.

One of the tours that did a great job of demonstrating how to “win the kitchen table” based on their product offering was the Tektronix® Connected Home booth. There, I learned how their integrated system connects the video doorbell to the alarm, the sprinklers, garage door, network-boosting light bulbs, and so on. Obviously, Tektronix is not the only company doing this, but for manufacturers not thinking about what homeowners want, this is where they need to start looking.

What I found amazing was one of the final items on the Tektronix tour, which displayed their “upsell kit.” It’s what a marketer might call a sales rep kit or in-home kit. Over the years, we’ve probably created dozens of these for clients, ranging from somewhat basic to very complex and expensive to produce. You’ve likely done these as well.

The upsell kit Tektronix showed at their booth is their most requested and used of all time. So what makes it unique? Triple fold-out panels with a wiring schematic that integrates all the cool features? Maybe some electronic component that connects via Bluetooth to the reps phone?

Nope. It’s simply a printed image of all the pieces that might normally go into the kit.Unknown

Yes, you read that right. The sample kit doesn’t have physical samples. It has pictures of them and a call out image on the inside flap of the box. It’s very light, so it’s easy to carry. It’s very cheap to produce so dealers can have several of these for all their reps.

These are home security items—technology items. These are items that protect the homeowner’s family. But even with all that, they don’t require a physical sample. I realize they aren’t picking a color or finish, but compared to what most in the building products industry have always done, many might consider it a “fake” sales kit. But for Tektronix, it works well—and suits both their customers’ and sales teams’ needs just fine.

So, I’ve challenged our team and I’m challenging you to think about this when developing your in-home sales kit and other sales enablement tools. Have you talked to the dealers to see what works or why they don’t use one item or another? Have you ever tried a completely different approach? Have you asked why your company does it that way?

And most importantly, have you asked yourself if there is a simpler way to do this? That’s what drove this change in their upsell kit. We can do this too—find things to simplify in our increasingly complex lives, both as people and as marketers.

 

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Book Review 2/3: Year of Yes

1 Apr

What Building Products Marketers Can Learn from Saying “Yes”

Year of Yes

As building products marketers, the word “no” comes up a lot—either from us saying no or being told no. It’s easy to take those as referendums on our work or be discouraged from putting forth that next game-changing idea.

I recently had the opportunity to read a book that is different than my typical literary fare. Usually, I opt for building products-specific books, or other books that directly apply to business and marketing. This one was different in that it was written by Shonda Rhimes—one of the most powerful women in Hollywood, and the creator of three hit shows. Anyone who has ever watched Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, or How to Get Away with Murder likely knows about this extraordinary creative talent.

Year of Yes is about a challenge that was lobbed at her one Thanksgiving by her older sister. That sibling muttered six little words to her: “You never say yes to anything.” Saying no had become an easy choice to make, because it meant having nothing new to fear. 

Those six words set the course for the next year of her life, as she committed to one year of saying yes. Here is how that worked. Rhimes agreed to say yes to everything that scared her. In the book, she states she is an introvert, terrified of encounters like live interviews, speaking engagements, cocktail parties where she doesn’t know a soul, and so on. With this new pledge, she resolved that things were gonna’ change!

So she started saying yes, and this book is the story of that. Through this transformative year, Rhimes accomplished the following:

  • Gave commencement speech at Darthmouth and here are a few significant points from that speech to those graduates:
    • Lesson 1: Ditch the Dream. Be a doer, not a dreamer.
    • Lesson 2: Tomorrow is going to be the worst day ever for you.
    • Lesson 3: Anyone that tells you they are doing it perfectly is a liar.
  • Appeared live on Jimmy Kimmel
  • Lost 100 pounds by saying yes to health
  • Gave speeches across the country
  • Hosted industry-wide events
  • Gave up fake friends by saying yes to the truth

I am going to embrace this idea and see what saying yes will mean to me this year. I challenge the building materials industry to think about a simple concept like this.

What would saying “yes” do to our efforts? Would excuses fall by the wayside? Would we be more focused on trying new things and moving beyond fear or hesitation? Would we create new products and services that could change our industry? Would we market them in bold new ways that engage our customers instead of doing what we’ve always done? Would we challenge ourselves to do better work that pushes us outside of our comfort zone and delights customers? Might we embrace new technology and use it to build up our business and our customers’ businesses? Would we sell more? Grow more?

I’ll venture a guess and say that the answer to those questions is a resounding yes.

See? I’m doing it already.

 

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IBS 2016: “The New Big Thing” Is…

23 Feb

My Key IBS Takeaway for Building Products Marketers

IBS 2016

We’ve talked a lot about the 2016 International Builders’ Show (IBS) throughout the course of the last few weeks. You might even say we’re a little obsessed. But the reason why is that, for building products marketers, trade shows are a big deal. And there is perhaps no bigger one—or more important—than IBS. Every year, IBS represents where the building industry is going, from products to design trends to marketing. And every year, it’s at IBS where you can find “the next big thing.”

For me, the next big thing in trade show marketing is pretty clear: experiential booths. For a long time—too long, in fact—boring and uninspired booths have ruled the roost. Matt Hillman, our creative director at ER Marketing, even recently went as far as to describe the majority of booths as “brochures you stand in.” Not far off. But things are changing. In his post, he discusses some of the booths at IBS that delivered much better experiences for their audience. The common theme was that these exhibitors need to put on a “show” for their audience.

I think this is true no matter what trade shows you attend. In fact, it sparked my thinking on some other trade shows I’ve been to that have exemplified the experiential booth marketing that was such a hit at IBS. Here are some of the standout booth experiences I’ve had attending trade shows—experiences that should become the model for B2B marketers in the building products industry:

  1. At the Food Equipment Show, a commercial sausage making company proved the power of their product by doing multiple demonstrations using Play-Doh. This created a colorful (in more ways than one) experience for attendees.
  2. A simple product demonstration that proved effective was a window company that let attendees experience their good, better, best product offerings. By placing single, double, and triple paned windows in front of heaters, visitors could simply touch the glass to feel the difference in quality.
  3. A house wrap company had an innovative approach to showing their product’s resilience. By pulling their house wrap taut and placing it next to competitors’ products, they were able to demonstrate which was the strongest—by having a professional pitching machine shoot baseballs at the wrap.
  4. At the Deck Expo, one company created a competition in which attendees attempted to break their product with a hammer. If they were able to break it, they won a huge prize. It was simple to execute, and best of all, the loud noises of people attempting to break the synthetic decking drew a crowd.

IBS proved that the next big thing for building products marketers is creating an experience attendees will remember and breaking from tradition to do it. But that’s not exclusive to IBS—these examples demonstrate that it’s a change happening at all trade shows. B2B marketers in the building products industry need to do better. Your average, boring trade show booths are no longer effective. Worse, they’re very likely a huge waste of your money.

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