Friday, September 25, 2009

Successful B2B Marketing and Business Development; Become a Trusted Advisor; Part I

Here is some advice for business to business service businesses, i.e., professional business services. If you want to gain more customers you must be viewed as a trusted advisor. Large corporations are finding that they have to use consultative sales techniques to win business. The days of the adage “the three most important aspects of sales are close, close and close” are over. This is especially true with the advent of web 2.0 marketing and sales. There is a great book on the market entitled Spin Selling by Neil Rackham, and while it has been around for a while, it is gaining ground in influencing sales and business development departments in companies large and small. Neil advocates consultative selling….in other words, establishing your self and your company as a trusted advisor.

Briefly, Spin Selling is a style of selling that takes the emphasis off presentation and closing and puts it on discovery of needs. It achieves this discovery with four types of questions, thus the acronym SPIN. It stands for Situation, Problem, Implication and Needs-Payoff questions that are designed to discover pain/problems and lead the prospect to the logical conclusion of a solution that becomes increasingly self evident. In order for this to work properly, the seller has to establish him/herself as a trusted authority who understands the prospects pain and likewise the solution to it.

So how do you establish yourself as a trusted advisor? The answer is made easy with web 2.0 and the social media. The first way that I would suggest is to publish a blog that offers helpful information to the market that you seek to serve. If you maintain a blog that offers at least forty articles a year, (I think more is better) that publishes information that is beneficial to your market segment you have gone a long way toward becoming a trusted advisor. If you don’t have time to write articles all the time, you can find writers that will take your topics, use your research and information and will write your articles for you. I think that you can find writers that will give you quality at an affordable price.

You can use FaceBook, LinkedIn, and twitter to establish yourself as a trusted advisor also. A great way to do it is by sharing blog and news articles that you happen across in your daily web activity. They can be written by others and, you show yourself as a trusted advisor by the articles that you choose to share. It is all about presenting value to people. If I use myself as an example, I can assure you, that even when I spell out how to do things in marketing…making it possible for one to do it on their own, the truth is that many people are too busy to do it themselves and will then call on me to do it for them and, they choose to do that because they see me as a trusted advisor an expert.

In part two of this article I will discuss how to create an offer that will open the door to becoming a trusted advisor.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

What's Your Definition of Small Businesses

According to the SBA's Table of Business Size Standards a small business is defined on the average as a business that has 500 to 1,500 employees. There are a few categories where the size is as low as 100 employees but on the average, the size is 500 employees. While I can understand and appreciate that the above mentioned businesses are small in global or even United States standards; are they really small? Are they small compared to the companies that are the backbone of our entrepreneurial spirit in the US? I think that businesses that employ 5 to 25 people are truly small businesses and deserve to be in a class of their own. It is to this group of businesses that I am writing.

I believe that these small businesses, i.e., really small businesses, need to have more attention paid to their needs, especially in marketing. This is particularily true for small businesses that are offering business to business services. I have been calling into these types of businesses for several years, and it seems like they are increasingly growing more and more skeptical when approached by someone offering services or products over the  phone. The feeling seems to be that they are inundated with various marketing ploys and have been the victims of predators promising the sky and delivering a ditch. In short, this makes it difficult for these small businesses to receive the help that they need.

So then, what are some of their needs? Well, first off they need to be able to get their message out to people who are in need of their services. To use a tired cliche phrase, they need to fish were the fish are. This means that the techniques that these small business owners need to use are the same ones used by larger corporations. They need to adopt a strong web 2.0 strategy which includes SEO for local searches, social media marketing, especially with reviews on local directories. Whenever one of their customers/clients compliments them, they need to have them put the compliment on a directory like yelp. I am convinced that as time goes forward, web 2.0 marketing will become more and more important, and yet, I saw a study the other day that stated that 62% of these small business owners do not even have a website. As more and more people research products and services on the internet, it will become increasingly critical to have a web presence that impacts revenue.

How can we marketeers help? I believe that it will be by offering scalable, affordable marketing assistance; by providing the opportunity for free discovery so that these small business owners can get an appraisal of services without an obligation and that they can get actionable solutions that will meet their marketing needs.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Small Businesses Can and Should Leverage Web 2.0 and Social Media Marketing Strategies

The buzz these days is all about social media, blogging, tweeting, and Web 2.0 marketing strategies. Many large corporations are including these techniques in their everyday marketing efforts. It produces great results because the leads that are generated are warm leads, that is, they are people who are actually interested in purchasing or, at the very least researching what they are offering. In fact, it is revolutionizing the way companies market their goods and services.

Here is the interesting thing. This is largely the result of people taking their own personal consumer buying habits and carrying them to the workplace. The fact is that most people do almost all of their research and a lot of their buying on the internet. If large corporations are seeing the benefits of these marketing techniques, how much more should small businesses benefit from this as well? This is true whether your business is B2B or B2C. It is a must when other media marketing efforts are so costly and many times do not deliver the wanted and needed results. Let’s face it the internet is a formidable force in today’s marketing and advertising

The problem too often is that small business owners do not have the time, the resources or, the capital to spend a lot of effort in this area. The result is that many consumers end up purchasing from the big box organizations or online. What I am saying is that small business owners are missing out on a lot of potential business. There are ways however, that the small business owner can capitalize on this trend. To do this, they need to have their website optimized for search engines; they need to be listed in the local search results of Google, yahoo and other search engines; and, they need to be talked about on the social media networks. I know you’re saying to yourself easier said than done right?

Well, the truth is that there are small business marketing consultants that can help with this and it may surprise you how affordable it can be. I know of a company, that does just that. They will get you seen (on the internet) get you talked about (in the social media) and get you results in additional business. The great thing about this is that it will begin to produce warm leads…real customers that really want your goods and services. It is very cost effective marketing and makes good sense in the long run.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Small Business Marketing Plans; Do One Annually

I think it is good advice to avoid clichés; however, occasionally we should throw caution to the wind and revitalize an old cliché. I am going to do that right now. No one seems to know where to credit this quote but I will use it anyway. “Those who fail to plan can plan to fail.” This is just as true for the small business woman or man and maybe more true for him or her. This article is geared toward the small business person, the entrepreneur that has from one to thirty employees. I realize that businesses that have upwards to five hundred employees can be considered small businesses and while this is true for them also, it is targeted at small local businesses; especially small business to business and business to consumer service businesses. This ranges from the local contractor, IT service provider or accountant, to the local attorney, engineer or chiropractor…and it is not just failing to plan business wise in general, these businesses should do marketing plans on an on going basis. 

This plan should be somewhere between a formal five page document and Jay Levinson’s seven sentence marketing plan. Don’t get me wrong, Guerilla Marketing is a great book and the seven sentence marketing plan is a must but, I am suggesting that the plan be a little more formal and a little more detailed. Furthermore it should be shared with every person who plays a role in the business. One of the most important parts of this marketing plan should be a one sentence position statement. This should be the ideal of what you want to accomplish for your clients or customers. A good template for this sentence would be as follows; Name of your company is a ____________ firm dedicated to __________ __________ __________. When you fill in the blanks it should send a message to your prospective customer that says “they have what I need.” In fact everyone connected with your business should have the position statement memorized so that they can recite it every time they get a chance.

You can go on the web and find many marketing plan templates and marketing plans that you can use as a guide and, while you are at it, use your common sense. Don’t include a section just because it is there. Make sure that it has actionable steps that can be understood by all of the people connected with your success. That is the key word here; actionable. The reason is that it will take actions to reach your goals.

Finally, keep it flexible. It should be a fluid document that you can update with any situation that may arise in your market climate. Be always watching and evaluating your competition and continually creatively find ways to set your self apart. It may mean that you have to offer something new so the marketing plan can change; no expect that it will change. Hopefully I have inspired, nudged, cajoled you into starting a new plan today. Do it even if you are merely restating a plan that has been working for a long time.