Don’t turn your back on your customers

Do you stop communicating with your customers after they buy your company’s products or services? If so, you’re missing a big opportunity to boost your bottom line by RETAINING them.

When someone buys your products, it doesn’t mean their customer journey has come to an end. It’s actually just beginning. Now’s the time to rethink how to keep existing customers engaged with your brand.

Effective, ongoing communication with current customers increases the likelihood that they’ll buy from you again. In some cases, it may increase the frequency and value of their future orders. In either case, it significantly increases their lifetime value – and your long-term profitability.

Here are some powerful ways you can creatively use marketing to do a better job of retaining your most valuable customers:

Don’t leave onboarding to chance: When you first acquire a customer, there’s a lot they need to know: For example, how to use your product or get value from your services, where to go to get their questions answered and how to get customer support. Why not create an email “drip” campaign that educates them about each aspect of doing business with you? By proactively teaching them how to interact with your firm, you’ll make them more comfortable, reduce the number of misunderstandings and save your staff a lot of time. In other words, they won’t need to keep answering the same customer questions, over and over again.

Streamline their access to key tools and resources: Identify the needs of your new customers and then design tools and systems that empower them. For example, you could:

  • Create a private customer portal within your website where they can login to get all of the learning, resources and support they need.
  • Create a mobile app that gives them anytime, anywhere access to these services.
  • Can you enable them to order consumable parts ahead of time, so they can pick them up when and where it’s most convenient for them?
  • Set up an online forum where your customers can congregate to ask questions, get answers, share knowledge and network with each other.

The possibilities are limited only by your imagination.

Survey says…: A traditional survey is an ideal way to identify existing problems you need to fix as well as to identify additional needs you can meet.

Education is always a winner: Provide your customers with education about your product itself, as well as how to get the most value out of it. This could take the form of self-service e-courses, webinars, workbooks, manuals and other materials that distill what your customers need to know into a skimmable, actionable format.

Create an exclusive “subscription” for customers: Your customers should perceive that they are being treated special, with exclusive training, content, events, discounts and more. Loyalty programs can also make customers feel like they “belong” and benefit from their relationship with your company.

Don’t forget to personalize your communications: Nothing says you care more than addressing your customer contact by name in printed and electronic communications. Today’s sophisticated email and marketing software makes this easy to do. The best marketers even use deeper customer information to offer highly tailored recommendations to them. Think Amazon.com, with its “people who bought X also bought these related products…” recommendations. It’s as if they know your deepest needs! Familiarity breeds loyalty.

Create a customer content calendar: Don’t leave communication with your existing customers to chance. Build relationships with them by creating a rolling schedule of consistent communications with them. This calendar should include all types of communication, both formal and informal: Letters, phone calls, special events, discounts, special offers and personal notes, for example.

Develop a customer newsletter: Newsletters are excellent tools to help you develop and maintain customer relationships over time. This publication should be different than the one you sent to sales leads and prospects. Its content should be tailored to the needs of your existing customers. Be sure to include it in your content calendar, so you remember to publish it on a regular basis.

Connect your communications to your company’s mission and values: Customers like to feel like they’re part of something bigger. They may jump at the opportunity to be part of your company’s mission and values, if you invite them (think Tom’s Shoes, which donates a pair of shoes each time you buy a pair). If they can feel like they’re part of an active and engaged community that’s focused on your values, they will become more committed to your brand.

You need a customer communications strategy

In the same way that you develop a well thought-out strategy for attracting prospective customers, you need to also take a strategic approach to cultivating relationships with your existing ones. This approach has a number of key benefits:

  • By helping customers feel well cared for, you can reduce or eliminate buyer’s remorse
  • It helps your new customers trust you
  • It gives them confidence to do business with you again.

It’s time to get started. We can help you develop a communications strategy with your current customers. Let’s chat.

Great Content: The cure for the engineer’s marketing allergy

Content Allergy

How to speak that engineer marketing language

The first rule of marketing is know your audience. Find out what they want. Connect with them and show them how you will solve their problem like no one else. Reach your audience on a personal level. Get in their head.

Yet, for right-brained marketing creatives, getting inside the head of analytical engineers is like getting in the head of a calculator: challenging to impossible. To market to engineers, you must think like an engineer and speak their language. This leaves some marketers at a loss, running with fluffy, feel-good messages that ultimately fall flat or come off as less-than-credible.

When selling your technical product, your customer’s engineering team is comprised of critical decision influencers if not THE prime decision maker. No matter who ultimately ends up pulling the trigger, you need the engineers to buy-in if you want to grow your sales. Engineers play a vital role in the sales process—you’ve got to reach, connect and influence them to close the deal.

So, how the heck do you speak to engineers on their level? What makes an engineer tick?

Inside the head of an engineer

Engineers really are a different breed. The usual stereotype of a stubborn, analytical introvert probably comes to mind. While this picture may hold a grain of truth in certain cases, it’s important to let go of stereotypes and understand what really appeals to the mind (and heart) of an engineer.

You see, engineers undergo an extremely rigorous academic curriculum and their jobs demand they pay strong attention to detail. The adage “measure twice, cut once” refers to this trait. Engineers are even more valuable to their organizations for how they think, just as much as the skills they bring to the table.

But despite this specific way of detailed thinking, most engineers are extremely humble and even insecure about what they don’t know. Most are also self-aware enough to realize how much they don’t know. Engineers primarily rely on their own perspectives to make decisions, but they also know there is likely someone outside their immediate area of expertise (read: knowledgeable salesperson) who will further educate them about a product. That’s where YOU come in.

Appealing to engineers is key to marketing in the technical world

It’s the rigorous attention to detail and calculated decision-making that makes engineers so valuable during their company’s purchasing process. While typically not the final decision maker, 69% of engineers provide input into the buying decision, making a huge impact when it comes to closing a sale.

Clearly, winning this group of influencers for a technical product purchase is critical. But how do you market to engineers?

Being measured decision makers means engineers are naturally skeptical. They’re taught to question every message they hear and compare it with their own experience and knowledge. This careful way of thinking leads to innovation and progress—where engineers really excel!

Because of their skepticism, traditional marketing and advertising are unlikely to work with this consumer group. They rely on their acquired method of thinking, research and judgment to filter out irrelevant preliminary options before calling in the expert. Engineers don’t commit to buy until they’re completely comfortable with their understanding of a product. To appeal to technical experts, marketing itself must adapt and offer what the engineer craves the most: information-packed, relevant content.

The 2017 Smart Marketing for Engineers Research Report sheds light on engineers’ methods of learning about a product. Over 90% of engineers said they’re more likely to partner with a vendor who produces new and current content. Why? Because engineers love to be informed.

They want to learn before they commit to the purchase.

This means engineers do their research. They spend time reading up on your product, knowing the specs and compatibility with current equipment and understanding exactly how it works, often BEFORE they’re in your purview. If an engineer contacts you? Well, you know he or she has already done their homework.

Where do engineers go to research before they buy? The top 5 sources they turn to are:

Content Source % Surveyed Engineers’ Usage
Search Engines 43%
Supplier/vendor websites 37%
Online technical and trade publications 29%
Trade Shows 28%
Printed technical and trade publications 27%

From the table above, it’s clear that engineers prefer easy-to-access, powerful, informative technical information. Furthermore, 3 of the top 5 content sources are digital, signaling that engineers value convenience and expedience in accessing information.

After consuming enough content to provide sufficient confidence in the final few options, an engineer is happy to engage with a product expert. Though confident in their ability to sift the product offerings down, they seek affirmation to ensure the recommendation or purchase is the best choice. If they receive this validation, the salesperson will gain the engineer’s unwavering brand loyalty. Backed by individual research and external validation, engineers see no sensible need to conduct the exhaustive research effort again. When they’re ready to buy, they don’t hesitate.

When engineers are presented with direct, succinct and logical information, they’re ready to buy and the confidence they need to converge on a buying decision increases dramatically.

Valuable Content Chart

Engineers are willing to spend time reading mid- to long-form content, like case studies, e-books, books and whitepapers. How-to videos are also a great way to appeal to engineers, especially for those engineers between 25 and 35 years old.

Driven by logic, engineers use the power of information to educate themselves about a buying decision. Due to their pragmatic method of thinking, the input provided by engineers is sought out and highly valued by final decision maker. Developing marketing strategies to target this unique influential group is critical to success. If you want to sell a technical product, you should be marketing to engineers.

Engineers want and expect informative content. The data shows investing in well-researched, carefully crafted, long-form content has a high likelihood of return when targeted at engineers. Instead of traditional marketing methods with flash, humor and emotional appeals, engineers need a more technical marketing meal.

Engineers also tend to stick with solutions that work. Rather than reinventing the wheel, they’re busy working bigger and better inventions. For you, this means that when you’ve won over an engineer, you’ve got a customer who will stick with you for the long haul. Business owners are smart to reach out to this technical audience to win the race for their initial and repeated brand loyalty.

So, the real question is:

How much informative and educational content is your company providing to appeal to your engineering targets? Time to get started creating better content for engineers. First step, develop your content marketing strategy. Let’s chat

Give your customers a big ol’ “bro hug!”

The Bro Hug

When you see an old friend, do you give them a handshake or a ‘bro hug’? Of course, if you’re under 30 years old, you give them a hug to let them know that you’ve missed them and you appreciate them. It’s more intimate than a traditional handshake.

What’s a ‘bro hug’? It’s a visible sign of an ongoing relationship. You give one to a close friend or family member, someone who you know fairly well. It also carries with it the implication that, “I’m on your side. I’ve got your back. You can count on me!”

Have you ever considered giving your customers and prospects a bro hug to show them how much they’re appreciated? I’m not suggesting that you literally hug them, but to do so in the way you communicate with them.

Think about it… many companies still do the functional equivalent of standing on a chair and shouting at their customers and prospects. They make very little attempt to maintain ongoing relationships with them, but instead focus on transactions – closing the sale. In today’s world of empowered customers, that antiquated model of communication is simply too formal and non-personal.

So, what’s a successful way to communicate?

Consistent, ongoing, helpful communication that builds a relationship and establishes trust over time. Content that educates, informs and inspires is an awesome example. This customer-centric style of communication improves the odds that when a prospect is ready to buy, he or she will consider your company first.

To solidify a back and forth dialogue with their valued audience, successful marketers arrange events: open houses, webinars and training sessions, or they use surveys and focus groups.

How can you reach out with both arms and give your target audience a big ‘ol bro hug? Here are several ideas:

  • Ask your audience for feedback regarding their needs on a regular basis. Look for opportunities to have one-on-one conversations and build relationships with them at industry events. Get them involved in contests, crowdsourcing campaigns and surveys.
Here’s a great example of communicating with your audience that John Deere engineered:
At a trade show, the global equipment giant debuted the “Chatterbox,” a portable structure styled to resemble a piece of heavy equipment where customers could “talk back” and really give a piece of their mind to the company. This strategy was wildly successful, and was followed with an extensive marketing campaign that proclaimed, “We listened to you. Here’s what we did with what you told us.”
  • Make it easy for your audience to ask questions. One of our clients has a website with an extensive knowledge center that is highly valued by its customers worldwide. One key to its success: A search form centered at the top of their web page, inviting interaction. Other companies add a live chat feature to their website, enabling potential customers to talk to a human being and get answers to their questions. It’s all about initiating dialogue!
  • Use a conversational style of writing and communication. It’s okay to be a little bit informal and conversational because it makes your audience feel like they’re dealing with real people who care – not a faceless brand.
  • Provide a consistent, ongoing and helpful stream of communication to your audience, focusing on their needs, preferences and aspirations – not on your company’s new product and service enhancements.

If you need help creating this type of customer-centric communication, please contact us. We’d love to chat with you.

(See how that works, bro?)

 

Blueprint for a successful content marketing strategy

Blueprint Content Strategy

Who in their right mind would build a house without a blueprint?

You need a detailed blueprint to convert the piles of building materials on your empty lot into a beautiful, finished home. If you try to build it on your own, without a blueprint, you’ll end up with a haphazard structure that will probably get knocked over by the first strong storm.

Spending money with an agency or outside advisor to produce content without a strategy is quite similar to building a house without a blueprint: it’s haphazard, random and ultimately won’t help you achieve your objectives. In fact, let’s be honest… it’s a waste of your time and money.

To help you design a solid blueprint for your content marketing strategy, here are the steps you need to follow for your content marketing strategy to be successful. So grab your tool belt and hard hat… let’s go!

1. Align with a key business impact or goal

Every successful content marketing program starts with a business impact or goal. What do you want to accomplish? What impact do you want to make on your target audience? Make sure your goal is tied to one or more of your organization’s goals, or it won’t survive long in your bottom-line oriented corporate environment.

2. Build your knowledge of your target audience

A critical step in creating a content marketing strategy is to create a detailed profile of the target audience you want to influence. The detailed profile includes a description of who they are as a person, what motivates them and what challenges they face in their work. What keeps them awake at night? Create an imaginary person and give this persona a name like Bob or Judy – and write a “day in the life” description of them. Our goal is to make them as real as possible, to understand their needs at a very deep level. We call this exercise creating a persona.

3. Define your content marketing strategy

Based on your company’s business objectives and the customer personas you’ve created, it’s time to create a content marketing strategy. Ultimately, you need to deliver the right content, to the right people, at the right time. Here are the key pieces to analyze that will help you define the who, what, where and when within your content marketing strategy:

Buyer’s journey: It is vital to understand your target audience’s buying process (their journey). In other words, the steps they take from the time they first realize they have a need until they are ready to buy. We call that process the “buyer’s journey.” Understanding who is involved in the purchasing process, their roles and their information needs throughout the buyer’s journey helps us write content that will help them decide to buy from you.

Content to be produced: Focus on your customers’ needs that you have identified while creating personas and documenting the buyer’s journey. Your content should arm your audience with the knowledge and insights they need to move through the buying process quickly and efficiently. In addition to educational content, consider creating content that can be used to gently nudge or “nurture” prospects to where they are ready to buy.

Also, be mindful of the formats that your target audience prefers to consume. If they favor video, then your content should be prominent on video channels where they are already gathered. For most B2B audiences, LinkedIn is a natural gathering point.

Timing: Create a content calendar to outline what topics and customer pain points will be addressed each month. A documented and shared content calendar helps keep your team focused on your content strategy, and helps you take a more cohesive approach to creating and publishing your content. When you’re planning your content calendar, keep in mind any potential seasonal topics and times of year where there may be pent up demand.

Delivery: 

  • Create a monthly email program where you email brief teasers of your content that click thru to your website to read more.
  • Inspire your team to share your new content on their social media channels, where it can reach a larger audience of people – and even more people who match the characteristics of your buyer personas via paid promotions.
  • Develop your content using SEO (Search Engine Optimization) best practices to increase visibility within search engines results. This way when your customers will find you when they use google and bing to find information about your products.

Conclusion

Designing a solid blueprint for your content marketing strategy leads to success. At Cultivate, we offer a free 30-minute consultation, where you will walk away with a concise understanding of how to develop a solid blueprint for your content marketing strategy. Call or email me directly for details.

Bob email notification thank you picture

Bob Wendt

262-373-4001

There’s a runaway train barreling towards you

RunawayTrain

Today, if you’re not yet on board the content marketing train, you may get run over. It’s that simple. Your customers have changed and you need to adapt the way you’re marketing. If you continue to use the same old ways to communicate with them, you’ll be left in the dust.

Today’s B2B customers tend to ignore pushy messaging and salespeople. They prefer to do product and vendor research on their own, and don’t want to talk to a salesperson until they’re ready to make a purchase. They want to be educated, not sold to.

That’s why content marketing is so powerful today. It starts with a target audience’s needs, and aims to build relationships and trust by providing informative, helpful, useful content.

If you insist on maintaining the status quo, you do so at your own risk. Here’s what’s at stake if you do nothing:

1. Competitors will run you over. What if one of your major competitors launched a well-designed and well-executed content marketing strategy? Let’s say it does a marvelous job of answering the questions and meeting the informational needs of your mutual audience. They’ve become THE trusted source for information on your type of product or service. It will be much harder if not impossible for you to catch up with and surpass them.

2. Flat sales. Your customers have changed how they buy products – but you haven’t changed how you communicate with them. They’re learning to ignore your messages, which are typically all about you, not them. They don’t trust you as much as they once did, because you’re not focused on their needs like your competitor is. That means you sales will probably remain stagnant or slowly decline, as your competitor’s content initiative gains steam. The content marketing train has left the station – and you’re not on it.

3. Commoditization. Your products and services are in danger of becoming commodities because you’ve not the company influencing the way people think and feel in your niche. Becoming the industry expert to your target audience requires a lot of excellent content. But you’ve decided to abdicate that role. Your competitors have filled that void by providing high-quality knowledge and education to your mutual customers. Maybe that’s why prospective customers treat your products like a commodity.

4. Diminished customer loyalty. Like a magnet, customers and prospects tend to gravitate to those suppliers who do the best job of anticipating their information needs – before, during AND after the sale. Today’s customers want to be educated, not just sold to. If you treat them as a single transaction, you’ll miss the opportunity to build deep relationships with them and that will inevitably result with them tossing you on the trash heap.

5. You’ll become invisible. At the very least, your old-fashioned interruptive ads, emails and direct mail campaigns will teach your target audience to ignore you and your brand. At the worst, they will remove you from consideration for upcoming purchases. They may even actively avoid your brand. Once the damage has been done, it’s hard to reverse.

What you need to do now

Don’t panic. You need to create a content marketing strategy now and here are some ways to get started:

  • Interview your sales people and key customers. Learn more about their needs, and the ways in which their buying process has evolved.
  • Use the information you have gathered to map out the customer journey, from the time a prospect realizes he has a need until he makes a purchase.
  • Use what you’ve learned to determine the types of content that are needed at each step of their journey to nurture them toward a sale.

Your focus should be to provide them with the right content, at the right time, in the formats they prefer. Good luck!

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Stop burning cash on these inefficient content marketing strategies

Stop Burning Cash

Would you stack bagfuls of cash into a crude pyramid, and then set it on fire? Of course not! That would be stupid, and you’re not stupid, so you’re not going to ignore inefficiencies in your content marketing initiative, are you?

Here are five areas that are especially problematic:

1. You’re producing content, but it’s campaign focused

Campaign thinking is deeply embedded in the minds of most marketers, which is why it’s so hard to escape. Campaigns, which can last anywhere from several weeks to several months, tend to confuse today’s buyers. They love the advice you’re giving them on a timely, valuable topic, but then you suddenly move on to something completely different as you transition to the next campaign.

And… you’ve lost them.

2. Failure to cut through the clutter

Your target audience is swamped with messages which all sound the same. “Blah, blah, blah…” (cue eye roll and tune out). Why should they pay attention to yours? To stick out like a sore thumb, your content must have what Joe Pulizzi, author of Content Inc. and the founder of the Content Marketing Institute, calls a content tilt:

“Your content must be different. It must fill a content hole that is not being filled by someone else… Without tilting your content just enough to truly have a different story to tell, you likely will see your content fade into the rest of the clutter and be forgotten,” he explains.

Too often, brands try to target too broad of an audience with content that is too similar to what their competitors are publishing. Generic, derivative, “me-too” content gets ignored today. What’s the solution? Narrow your focus until you can define a subset of your audience that you CAN serve with a unique, valuable content offering.

3. No plan for nurturing prospects

By now, most companies realize that they need to provide gated access to white papers, webinars and other resources as a way to gather email addresses. But then they confuse these interested people with prospects who are ready to buy. They’re not the same!

What’s missing is a nurturing strategy – a sequence of content, resources and emails, delivered over time – that is designed to move them steadily toward a sale. Don’t just focus on the “top of the funnel” (acquiring prospects’ contact information); have a strategy for the rest of their customer journey, too.

4. It’s all about you, you, you

Some marketers still insist on using their blogs to promote themselves and all of the great advantages of their products and services. That’s not what today’s customers want. They want to be educated. They want content that addresses their needs, challenges and aspirations. Instead of telling YOUR story, demonstrate your understanding of THEIR needs by addressing common pain points and providing relief for them.

5. Not building a base of email subscribers

During the last decade, many companies have focused on building their social media followers, while underinvesting in their email lists. There’s only one problem with this approach: You don’t own those social channels. The rules can be changed at any time – and have been doing so with increasing frequency. Frequently, they want you to pay to reach the followers you have painstakingly gathered. Instead, focus your efforts on the digital properties you DO own: your website and your email list. Continue to use social media, but adjust your tactics to always drive your followers back to your website.

Where can you improve?

Invest some time to identify your shortcomings and make plans to correct them. Remember: Every great success isn’t a “one and done” deal. Usually, it involves numerous setbacks and course corrections. Don’t get discouraged. Improve, assess, then improve again. The cumulative effect of this approach will put you miles ahead of your nearest competitor!