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2018 SMPS Marketing Excellence Awards

Join SMPS St. Louis on June 14th for the Marketing Excellence Awards and get inspired. This awards celebration will showcase some of the top marketing efforts across the St. Louis area. Come network with local marketers, get ideas to improve your firm’s efforts, and celebrate this year’s winners. The works submitted by several top firms will be displayed and three of the entrants will present on their award winning submissions.

The SMPS St. Louis Marketing Excellence Awards recognize outstanding achievement in marketing communications by professional services firms in the design and building industry. Occurring once every two years, the competition provides an unparalleled opportunity for professional services firms to showcase their best marketing practices and elevate their firm.

Build Brand Love by Taking it Up a Notch from Good to Great Marketing

in Columns/Marketing/Sales

BY STEPHANIE WOODCOCK

Stephanie Woodcock

Companies hire marketing firms for many reasons. Some are obvious. They want to freshen their brand, broaden market awareness, increase lead generation, drive sales and “take it up a notch.” Many times companies decide to reach out for help in marketing when they want to gain a foothold in a new market, have an upcoming anniversary, notice a drop-off in sales or need a whole new brand and direction. While all these goals and needs are important, there is no “silver bullet” marketing technique that will stun the customer base into handing over their business. Before results can be measured, we need to step back and evaluate why we want those results. What is our real motive and measure of success?

Effective marketing requires a “long game” approach, where both parties sit down and assess the big picture and long-term goals before diving into the details. It’s more than listing sales goals and last year’s YTD numbers. It’s about asking key questions such as the following:

  • How does my company’s brand, big or small, make a difference and impact in the world?
  • How does my company’s vision align with the vision of my employees and my company’s culture?
  • What does my brand provide customers and employees beyond a product or service?

Answering these macro-level questions is the start of building Brand Love. Surprisingly, many times a mission statement is just words on a wall, not a company culture and daily vision. Brand Love embodies that mission statement with a sense of purpose and connects employees and customers around that purpose.

Brand Love is when a customer experiences a bond with a company’s values and mission through its messages. This is marketing at its best. It’s when the message goes beyond selling and connects clients to the real reason and vision of that company’s driving goals.

Brand Love is achieved by building on brand loyalty and can be accomplished through a variety of marketing objectives. This is where the marketing professional can dive into the details.

Good marketing helps create brand loyalty. Many companies have a good, solid marketing plan that helped gain a loyal following. Great marketing helps create Brand Love. Fewer companies achieve this kind of recognition. Brand loyalty is when customers trust your services and reward you with their repeat business. Brand Love engages the clients, tells a story and offers a clear, concise vision that is more than a product or offering. It creates a partnership with its customers and enables trust, security and hope in its brand. This keeps a customer for life and protects against the commoditization of the company’s product or the clients coming and going with a particular salesperson.

This is a good indicator whether or not a company has achieved Brand Love. If a key salesperson leaves a company and takes much of his or her book of business, then that company hasn’t done a good job at creating a partnership and trust with its clients.

Building Brand Love requires more than bullet points on a sell sheet. It requires a vision that aligns with the goals and internal culture of the company and a vision that is consistent, transparent and relevant. No touch point is too small to build Brand Love and tell the company’s story.

One exercise I conducted with a client helped differentiate between brand loyalty and Brand Love. As a team, we came up with 10 different touch points or marketing techniques to unroll our recent campaign, such as lunch and learn sessions, sales flyers, social media, event engagement and electronic blasts and contests. Each one of these techniques was designed to provide helpful information about our product and would help create brand loyalty.

Then we created two columns and explained exactly what we wanted to achieve through that technique and how each would create both brand loyalty and Brand Love. This exercise was really helpful in showing the difference between the two. It forced us to look beyond the obvious marketing tool and “take it up a notch.” One is based on logic – on features and benefits. The other is based on emotion – on engagement and instilling a sense of purpose. The insight gained through this exercise was immediate. Now with each new marketing objective and message, we think first about what we can do to make it a little better and increase our Brand Love. It’s taking the marketing techniques from good to great.

The overall goal is still achieved. We broaden our market awareness and increase our lead generation, but we also deliver our message with an extra level of care. We try to surprise and delight our customers rather than just promote or sell to them. While it may not be the “silver bullet” of marketing, Brand Love safeguards against commoditization, creates a community with the client base and adds to overall long-term goals.

Stephanie Woodcock is president of Seal the Deal Too, a St. Louis-based marketing, creative & communications firm. She can be reached at stephanie@sealthedealtoo.com .

Don’t Accept the Slow Season

in Sales
Tom Woodcock
Tom Woodcock

By Tom Woodcock

Winter is approaching. Work conditions will decline, ground will harden and everyone goes from holiday mode to winter blah. No one is spending any money and projects are scarce. Time to hold your breath and ride your line of credit through this annual recession.

Not so fast!

Throwing in the towel before the season even changes is awfully defeatist. The real course of action is to dig down deep and drive your sales effort. Opportunity may slow down, but it doesn’t disappear.

I’ve worked with enough contractors to know the difference between those that thrive through the winter and those who starve. The firms that go hungry are those that resign themselves to the norm and do nothing to move the bar. The true winners are those that look for every sales vehicle possible to get in front of the customer base therefore, opportunity. They gain a presence physically, electronically, and proactively. They’re not sitting by the phone waiting for it to ring or surfing the Internet for hours at a time. They understand that it takes work to find the projects that break over the winter. Not just those that bid this time of year, but also those that begin.

There is always pressure to go with the historical processes that the construction industry has sustained. Get fat over spring and summer then hibernate over the winter.

I refuse to let my clients accept this logic. We sit down and develop aggressive sales schedules and implement them. We keep the company accountable and review the results. Areas that we feel are the most likely to produce opportunity get the greatest sales attention. We then attack from a selling perspective and don’t let up. These opportunities may take more face-to0face customer time but often we’re the only ones actively pursuing them. This presents a great opportunity to steal a regular customer from a competitor.

Most people think that when they are actively engaged with a customer on a project, they’re selling. Not true. That’s servicing.

It’s what you do with customers when there isn’t a project on the table that falls into the sales category. It’s easy to communicate with a customer in the middle of a summer project. There are details to cover and schedules to meet. That’s a main component of a contractor servicing their client. It’s much more difficult to communicate when you’re not reviewing those elements, to actually talk to your customer on another level. Because of that difficulty, few people actually do it.

So this is the scenario: few people are actively calling on customers, you have time, and projects exist. Seems like an ideal situation for securing some business.

The challenge is to have the discipline and the plan to go after it. The first step is eliminating the “slow season” mentality. I’m not sure about you, but I prefer to be busy year-round. It can make sales projections easier and growth more possible when you gain business every month of the year instead of just nine.

Once this becomes part of your sales program, it tends to grow stronger year after year. You begin to recognize the vertical markets that produce opportunity during the winter months. You can then continue to develop your approach and marketing efforts to capitalize on the seasonal opportunities.

It is kind of like landscaping in the spring and summer and plowing snow in the winter, a common practice in property maintenance. Translation in construction terms: ground up in the spring and summer then renovation in the winter. That is just an example.

You can superimpose that formula on almost any construction trade of dynamic, if you’re willing to. That’s the rub. It’s easier to simply ignore this opportunity and kick back. Some see it as a time to catch their breath business wise. In reality, it’s more like holding your breath.

Investigating which market segments are progressing indicate where projects exist. Developing a sales approach to those markets and enacting it can unveil opportunities. Few people do this kind of sales work in the proverbial slow season.

The size of your company is irrelevant if you truly prioritize the sales effort. Breaking the trend is the most difficult part in conjunction with extending patience till results begin to occur. Selling is never a situation where you simply snap your fingers and the business magically appears. It requires planning, effort, and diligence, especially in a season that traditionally is not productive.

Anyone can secure business when there’s plenty for everyone. The real sales professionals secure it during the leaner times. When the bit players disappear and the field opens up, more commonly known as the Slow Season!

Tom Woodcock, president, seal the deal, is a speaker and trainer to the construction industry nationwide. He can be reached at his website: www.tomwoodcocksealthedeal.com or at 314-775-9217.

 

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