Branding, Content, and the Sales Pitch: Finding the Right Balance

The temptation to hammer your audience with a peppy sales pitch when you’re trying to write content can be hard to overcome. Marketers are supposed to market, right? So why shouldn’t we be screaming Buy! Buy! Buy! like freakshow carnival barkers?

Oh, wait, that’s actually the answer. Yikes.

Aggressiveness is out. Instead of demanding action from your customers, you have to give them answers to entice your customers to come to you. What you use to attract them determines the quality and longevity of your relationship.

Why We Had to Kill Frank…

Imagine you live on a cul-de-sac in a quiet suburban neighborhood—that is, until a new neighbor moves in. You know it’s going to get ugly when a panel truck with an LED display offering a miracle health product pulls into the driveway.

But, being the good neighbor you are, you bake a nice casserole and go over to introduce yourself. Your new neighbor Frank tells you all about how you can earn money by selling his miracle product…and all about how the pyramid scheme works. You buy a jar of miraclestuff to be polite and excuse yourself.

The next morning, Frank is at your door. He hands you a single flower from his garden, invites himself to breakfast, and tells you more about the product and the pyramid. Frank doesn’t care what you want, he only cares about selling you so he can make more money.

You’re forced to choose your own adventure: You can either kill Frank or put your house on the market and move to Tucson.

Pushy, one-way relationships were common in the early days of the Web. Intrusive banner ads, aggressive popups, spammariffic emails…

The good news? Technology killed Frank. We’re all very happy about it.

Moving to Tucson

Marketers had to find something more effective than Frank InYourFace—and the growing popularity of blogging and social media provided the perfect vehicle. For the first time, business owners and marketers had a forum to talk about solutions, issues, and pain points…all things your customer is interested in. And it worked.

Don’t worry, you still get to brand your business and sell your product. It’s just a more organic process today. A good relationship involves trust and rapport. Understand your customer’s needs and provide answers. They will remember your brand. Loyalty is human nature.

Making an Impression

Consider what you want people to think of your brand. Do you want to be seen as a thought leader? A company concerned about sustainable products? The manufacturer of the best widget available on the market? The low-price leader?

If you build your content around your desired image, you reinforce your brand and company values with every piece of content—WITHOUT selling. Your website should be filled with quality information about you, your company culture, your products, and your customers. That’s your branding. Authentic reinforcement of your message.

The Selling Part

You’re going to have to cut to the chase and promote some sales copy, and you don’t have to betray the trust you’ve built to do so. Make it relevant and timely and your customers won’t want to hit you with a shovel.

3 softer-selling secrets:

  1. Get Personal. Even with all the changes in delivery, the basic principles of marketing still hold true. The amazing depth of information you can gather on customers and their behavior eliminates the guesswork. You can send an offer so personal and timely it’s hard to resist:

“Dear Elizabeth, Last year, you told us you loved the yellow duckie raincoat and matching umbrella for your 3-year-old daughter. It’s almost rainy season again, and we thought you might like our outstanding selection of Dora the Explorer raingear in just the right size. We even have a matching backpack! It’s all on sale this week. Oh, and while Dora is the best-selling choice for girls her age, we also have a big selection of alternative characters, prints and solids, all on sale right now.”

  1. Weave Your Selling Point into Valuable Advice. Basic Selling 101: Identify a pain point (like the coming rainy season in the example above) and offer a solution. Your content marketing goals aren’t just to sell an item, but to be so useful and full of great ideas that your customers will come back just for the edutainment.
  1. Ask for Opinions and Advice. Customers love to give input and to be heard, so don’t be afraid to ask—then make changes based on their answers.

Back to Frank

Imagine your new neighbor, Frank, moves in without fanfare. You take over a casserole, introduce yourself, and exchange pleasantries. He invites you over, grills steaks, and pours a few beers. You become friends.

Over the course of the friendship, Frank never asks you to become involved or tries to sell you product, but you do notice how healthy and energetic he is. You ask, and he tells you he likes to get plenty of rest and exercise, along with a healthy diet including a special supplement.

A few months later, a different friend mentions he’s looking for a side business, something he can really believe in. He mentions he’s been slowing down lately, feeling run down and tired. You find yourself telling him all about Frank. While you’re talking, you wonder if that supplement would make you feel as energetic as Frank feels. You decide to ask Frank if you can buy a bottle of his supplement.

That’s how content marketing works.


Side Door Thinking: Learn the smart marketing tactics you need to truly engage with more customers.Stop banging on the front door of your customer’s mind …when the side door is wide open! Want to learn more about effective content marketing? Whether you decide to outsource content marketing or not, this eBook is chock-full of great information on content marketing. Download this FREE guide, Side Door Thinking, to discover how content marketing can help you ramp up your website and complete your marketing strategy.

You’ll learn how to:
  • Increase Your Referral Rate
  • Increase Your Social Media Reach
  • Leverage New Product Lines & Revenue Streams
  • Earn Your Customer’s Loyalty & Business
  • Position Yourself As An Industry Leader & Trusted Resource
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3 Big Ways Top B2B Companies Retain More Customers

For B2B, nurturing existing customers is even more important than in B2C. Your business depends on recurring business—and oftentimes from fewer clients. You need a revenue stream that flows every month…you’re not just luring in random new customers with “The Biggest Sale of the Year.”

The customer retention danger zone? Complacency.

Assuming your customers are happy is a dangerous. If you’re sitting on the status quo, confident your customers are secure because you’ve been working with them a long time, it’s time to take a look at just how much things have changed…and how these changes have brought us full circle, back to personalized human-to-human customer service.

Excellent customer service isn’t a new concept, but it got lost to technology for a long time. Automation killed the personal touch and with nowhere else to turn, customers put up with it. There are some perks to automation, like reminder triggers and easy ordering, but customers today want more: They want a deeper understanding of your company and the products and services you provide.

Here are 3 ways you can deliver more than expected and retain more customers:

#1: Open the Doors of Communications
Achieving primo customer service starts with communication. Don’t accidentally mistake advertising for communication. Advertising is telling customers why they should buy your product. Communication is asking your customers how you can improve, and then responding with meaningful action.

Bill Gates may have put it best years ago when he said,

Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.

Here’s a great B2B example:

Hootsuite is a set of tools for social media monitoring. After launching a new update, they responded to customer complaints about their “terrible” new interface by channeling a Jimmy Kimmel show bit that’s become a cultural meme: “Mean Tweets.” The important thing to understand is Hootsuite’s response. They acknowledged the validity of the criticism (despite the curse words) and redesigned the UI for a cleaner, prettier, and more useable interface.

#2: Encourage Customer Loyalty
Everybody loves swag—and customer loyalty programs are remarkably effective. IBM does B2B customer loyalty exceptionally well, even offering deals you can offer to your customers to help build your business. Their incentives don’t stop at completion of the initial sale, they continue throughout the business relationship. Well done, IBM.

#3: Create Helpful User Tools
Gordon Food Service is a food distributor that goes well beyond its purpose to help business working in the food-service industry. On their website, restaurant owners can find menu planners, cost calculators, a staff scheduler, and much more. By investing in technologies designed to help customers effectively run their business, GFS competes against some very formidable businesses.

3 Big Ways Top B2B Companies Retain More Customers: Great Example of Creating Helpful User Tools

We all know B2B is all about developing long-term relationships, your customers’ expectations go far beyond what’s on sale today. They want to deal with businesses they know and trust. Careful consideration goes into that decision to work with you, and it’s up to you to deliver on that promise of service. These three approaches can help you deliver more than expected helping retain customers and increase sales.


Additional Resources

Manufacturer’s Guide to Attracting More Customers: How Top Manufacturers Are Driving New Revenue By Attracting More CustomersNo matter what industry you’re in, the competition is heating up, so traditional marketing methods simply aren’t enough anymore.  Check out these five B2B case studies and learn replicable marketing strategies from leading manufacturers. Get this step-by-step guide for creating a workable content and social marketing strategy for your B2B company. Get ahead of the curve.





10 Paths to Outstanding Content Marketing

Content is the beating heart of communication with your customers and prospects—but sometimes the process can feel like a maze to navigate. Are you stuck at a fork in the road, not sure where to tread to create great content? From business blog posts to tiny tweets to comprehensive eBooks, if you want your customers to engage, share, and come back for more, your content needs to be compelling, current, and relevant to your industry and your audience.

No matter the road they take to get there—email marketing, web browsing, or social media—your content is what people see, share, and talk about. Great content drives traffic and creates buzz.

In a market drowning in information, how can you be sure you create a clear path to valuable content that your target market actually wants to experience?

Are you stuck at a fork in the road, not sure where to tread to create great content? Check out: 10 Paths to Outstanding Content Marketing

1. Stop overpublishing. Flooding your site with slapdash blog posts every day is not a substitute for quality and depth. Far too many businesses are cranking out shallow, self-indulgent blog posts without regard to quality—and they’re calling it content when it’s really just filler.

2. Address your FAQs. The best content answers your customers’ questions. It’s that simple. Provide your customers (and potential customers) with the info they want to know.

3. Narrow your focus. Some businesses indulge in scattershot content: linkbait, outrageous opinions—literally anything that might bring people to their site. You might attract traffic that way, but your conversions will be low. Be an expert—no, be THE expert—on your industry and on what your customers want to learn.

4. Consider the lifecycle of your customer relationship. Leads and customers will be at different stages of the Growth Cycle Marketing process when they experience your content. You’ll want to address customer questions at every stage in the buy cycle to successfully engage with that customer before, during and after the sale. Your existing customers are valuable, so be sure you continue to offer them new and interesting content. To better understand the Growth Cycle Marketing process, download our free guide.

5. Don’t worry about undermining your business. If you’re familiar with the “Nailed It!” meme, you know that sharing your recipe for success won’t hurt your business. Amateurs can’t do what you do—so don’t be afraid to show your stuff.

6. Make it portable. Always include buttons for easy sharing, tweeting, or embedding. If your content is good enough to share, make it easy to do so.

7. Make it diverse. Think of all the cool content formats you can create—short-form info bites, long-form whitepapers, videos, photos, reposts from other businesses and from your customers, case studies, infographics—the works. You have to think in 3D color, tone, and style to cast a wider net and attract more customers.

Side Door Thinking: Stop Knocking on the Front Door of Your Customer’s Mind When the Side Door Is Wide Open8. Hire professionals. Crafting your voice in writing or designing awesome graphics requires a specific and trained skill set. If you already have a frustrated writer with mad skills on board, great! If not, find a professional. Poorly written content with haphazard clipart makes you look unprofessional—and that’s really bad for business.

9. Forget ABC. Don’t confuse content for copy. “Always Be Closing” might work for Phil Dunphy, but it’s through the side door on the web. Stick with the 80/20 rule. 80% of your content should inform, engage, and entertain. 20% should sell in a direct manner. We suggest 20% or less for best results.

What is Marketing’s Impact on Innovation for Growth? Download this Free White Paper on Growth Cycle Marketing

10. Track your results. What good is great content if you don’t know how well it works? By tracking your pageviews, clickthroughs, and conversions, you can measure how your customers are responding to your content and use that information to provide more of what they like best.

Creating successful content requires talent, expertise, understanding your customer needs and wants, a comprehensive content strategy, and sometimes a little luck. The key is to start with your customers in mind and work from there. Keep your customers top of mind and you’ll make your own way down the path that leads to content marketing success.

5 (Un)Magical Ways to Draw in Customers with Content

Have you heard? Great website content attracts more prospects and results in higher conversion rates. More customers? Woohoo! But…

How do you effectively create and shell out GREAT content to draw in those customers?

You can’t just put stuff on a webpage and expect people to find it by magic. (Ok, you can, but it’s unlikely to happen.)

Here are 5 ways to (really) Make the Magic happen

 5 (Un)Magical Ways to Draw in Customers with Content

1. Offer Extras Prospects WANT. Everybody loves free stuff, and enriched content (like an eBook or white paper) can work wonders for your lead pipeline—but ONLY if you’re offering up tactical content your potential customers really want. Either give away your content for free, in exchange for their precious email address (Presto! A new lead!) –OR– launch a special giveaway for an information-laden eBook across different social media channels to engage your audience on a broader spectrum.

(Abracadabra: Here’s everything you need to know about How to Run a Successful Social Media Sweepstakes.)

2. Provide Answers. The majority of people search the web for answers to specific questions. The more in-depth information you can provide about topics they’re looking for, the more eyes you’ll get on your page. The longer visitors stay, the more likely they are to buy from you, or at least return for more information. Providing information builds trust, and people buy from businesses they trust. Be the authority. They’ll love you for it.

(Abracadabra: How do you find out what your prospects want to know? Listening in on social media is a great way to keep your finger on the pulse of the market and inform your business decisions.)

3. Hold Webinars. People love to participate in webinars, especially when they’re on a not-so-easy-to-understand subject. Give your prospects an opportunity to ask questions live and you give them a voice: answer their questions and they’ll know they’re heard and that your business cares. Plus, displaying recorded webinars on your website allows visitors to find out what other people are asking. You demonstrate your expertise and build credibility during that delicate research phase.

Growth Cycle Marketing: Free White Paper Download(Abracadabra: A report commissioned by Adobe found webinars are effective throughout the buying cycle, so check out these tips for a successful webinar.)

Download Free White PaperWant to learn more about this mysterious buy cycle? No need to pull a rabbit out of your hat. Just download our FREE Growth Cycle Marketing white paper to better connect with your prospects before, during and after the sale.

4. Be a Tease. Think about how news programs entice viewers to tune in: “Are you at risk for Ebola? Find out at 11.” If they just stated a conclusion like, “Don’t worry, you’re not at risk for Ebola,” fewer viewers would tune in. Their goal is to get your attention—and your viewership—by adding a sense of urgency to what would otherwise be fairly ordinary reporting. But you don’t have to follow the example of our hyperactive media—it’s better to be measured and honest than simply sensational. For your business, post enticing teasers with a clear call to action.

(Abracadabra: Last year, Twitter offered advice about the most effective calls to action on Twitter. Check it out!)

5. Offer Fresh Content—Often! One of the most important things you can do to attract visitors is keep your website new and updated. Even your old customers will get bored with the same content day after day. Serve up piping hot fare fresh every week and they’ll keep coming back for more.

(Abracadabra: While you’re working to build regular, fresh content, pretty please avoid the crap. If you have to choose between quantity and quality, pick quality.)

If your website isn’t bringing in the traffic, there’s no need to wave your magic wand—instead, it may be time to rethink your content strategy. Too many businesses make their web and social media offerings all about themselves and not about their customers. While telling your story is important, always do so with a focus on how you can help your customers—then watch your content work its magic!

Count Your Cupcakes: How Incentivizing Your Customers Creates Measurable Results

Count Your Cupcakes: How Incentivizing Your Customers Creates Measurable ResultsWhile it’s always exciting to see your customer list grow, it’s your existing customers that’ll ring up the biggest dollars for you. In fact, it costs at least six times more to woo a new customer and make that first sale than to sell an existing customer. That’s why it makes perfect sense to offer incentives to new customers to invite them in and bring them back again and again.

What Are Your Customers Hungry For?
The answer isn’t always cupcakes. Although cupcakes are never a bad idea (who doesn’t love cupcakes?), some customers are looking for information or are more interested in saving money. The incentive you choose should reflect your business and answer your customer’s needs and wants.

The most popular incentives include:

  • Cash back
  • Discounts on targeted goods/services
  • Free shipping
  • Free swag
  • Loyalty rewards
  • Referral bonuses
  • Co-branded deals with complementary goods/services (buy milk and get cookies at half price)

The Incentive to Offer Incentives
The best reason to offer incentives is to spur flagging sales, but that’s not the only reason you should consider it. As part of your overall Growth Cycle Marketing plan, you’ll have the opportunity to contact your customers consistently, without pestering them…to give ‘em a new reason to come back to your store or website and explore, or to participate and engage on social media. Keeping customers engaged is a great way to keep their business and incentives are a tried-and-true engagement method.

For new customers, think in terms of outselling your competition. Your job is to lure customers away from other shops, so your cupcakes should be bigger, sweeter, and maybe have bacon on top. Offer up something that’s really hard to turn down.

Count Your Cupcakes: How Incentivizing Your Customers Creates Measurable Results

Free Stuff Fail
Some companies manage to win and fail at the same time with incentives programs. DIRECTV, for example, offers a great referral program: invite a friend and get a discount for a year—and your friend also gets a discount. (Win!) They also offer their popular sports package free to new accounts. Existing customers pay for the same service…a lot. (Fail.) To add insult to injury, after the first year of service, they charge automatically, whether you ordered it or not. It’s probably a good idea to offer incentives that aren’t designed to tick off existing customers and don’t come with pricey strings.

It’s like a yummy-looking cupcake with anchovy filling. It looks like a great deal, but it ultimately leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

Analyze Your Measurable Results
Once you’ve launched your incentive program, it’s important to watch the numbers. How’s your campaign performing? Are opens, clickthroughs and conversions up? If your numbers go up, you’re doing it right. If there’s no change, consider mixing it up. If your open rates are low, you may want to try different subject lines or experiment with the best time to send emails. If, on the other hand, your emails are opened but customers aren’t responding, the problem might be that your content is not compelling or your CTA needs to stand out more.

Figuring out what incentives work best for your business won’t be rocket science. If you’re paying attention, you know what your customers want. You just have to figure out how to give it to them…and still make money. Consider the long game, and remember, when you’re passing out the cupcakes, put your existing customers at the front of the line so they don’t miss out on the best flavors. They might be delighted to discover something new from you and they’ve already sampled your tasty wares.