Marketing

How Do I Work This Remote? Three Tips to Survive and Thrive in the Digital Marketing Era

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By STEPHANIE WOODCOCK

As we continue embracing digital and virtual marketing strategies, the process can feel like getting a new television remote.  We are pressing the buttons and nothing is happening. This is infuriating. In my home, when someone moves the central Hub and the remote stops working, things get ugly fast. Tempers flare. Arms are raised in despair. Lots of finger pointing occurs. As the de facto IT director, I have to “realign” the Hub so that everything is “connected.” This is accomplished through an app on my phone.

Meanwhile, my husband throws up his hands and blames the device. My kids reject the prospect of watching TV altogether and play Xbox. The family is divided. Each to our separate rooms.

Funnily enough, the remote’s name is Harmony. 

A company’s digital marketing is like the Harmony remote. 

If the hub is not aligned properly and synced with the rest of the devices, all hell breaks loose. It’s normal to wonder how to get to this blissful state of alignment. How do we work this thing and keep it humming? How do we maximize its efficiency? How do we keep everyone in the same room? Marketing, sales, operations, accounting – all departments need to be on board with the digital marketing tools.

Social media, email campaigns, banner ads, search engine optimization, Pay Per Click, Search Engine Marketing. The list goes on and on. They are all different buttons available on a digital remote. 

Here are three tips to help you embrace and navigate virtual marketing:

  1. Make your website the hub of your digital marketing. All channels should be aligned to drive traffic to the website. If your lead generation is accomplished through an email marketing campaign of industry news, videos and feature projects, connect these emails to related content on your website. Your website is the gatekeeper to your digital marketing goals. When you get someone new on your website, you want him or her to have a good experience. You want your visitor to read a blog post, watch an explainer video and engage with the content. Use landing pages to enhance the experience and clear call-to-action buttons to encourage engagement. Half the battle is getting customers to your website. Don’t lose them there.
  •   Know your main digital marketing channels and use them wisely. Our marketing budget is a finite resource. In this digital world where options seem infinite, selecting the best channel can seem daunting. From guest blogging as an industry expert (content marketing) to running a drip marketing campaign through email (email marketing), the list of options is endless. Don’t try to do them all at once. Pick a few strategies that work best with your overall goals. To simplify, here are the six main buckets digital marketing channels fall into and a brief description of each:

1) Website/SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

2) Social media posts (building an audience organically)

3) Social media ads (getting clicks through sponsored content)

4) SEM/PPC (search engine marketing and Pay Per Click)

5) Email marketing (direct email campaigns)

6) Content marketing (guest blogging, article submissions, PR campaigns)

Each channel has pros and cons. What are your goals? Do you want to increase brand awareness? Do you want to drive traffic to your website or increase quote opportunities? Do you want to attract the best talent for employment, raise the profile of your company’s services, highlight industry awards or be an expert in your field with guest articles? Each goal requires a different channel and strategy. Some companies benefit most from Google ads, some from growing their social media presence organically and some from direct email campaigns to existing customers. The size of your company, ways you get business, lead generation goals and overall brand health are all factors to consider when laying out a strategy.

        3  Don’t ignore your brand. The word “brand” can be interchanged with “reputation.” How do your customers view your business? Acclaimed marketing guru Marty Neumeier says: “A brand isn’t what you say it is, it’s what they say it is.Branding is not a buzzword for marketers. It is the art of trying to steer your reputation in the right direction. My job as a marketing consultant consists mainly of reframing companies’ brands into an intentional brand versus an accidental brand. Then we create the best strategy to portray that intentionalbrandthrough specific channels.

A brand should be aligned with a digital marketing strategy. Virtual marketing is a brand (reputation) first and foremost. Before we start playing with all the buttons on the remote, we must create a strong visual with clear copy. By creating a true representation of our brand before implementing various digital marketing channels, we increase our chances of “alignment” and success.

It’s like that television show you want to watch with your family. The remote can be connected and the Hub aligned. But if what’s actually on the TV isn’t inspiring? In the same vein, if your customer doesn’t see strong visual with clear copy, he or she will just turn off the message. And we’ll all go to our separate rooms.

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.

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Sales Professionals: Challenge Yourself to Go Beyond the Virtual into the Actual

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By TOM WOODCOCK

Tom Woodcock

So, we’ve moved into the virtual age of sales, eh? Personal relationship is non-existent now, right? Outside sales is a thing of the past, correct?

I beg to differ. The COVID era has moved the bar, but don’t think for a second you can abandon tried and true sales practices.

Whether you agree or not is irrelevant. Personal sales contact is alive and well. Due to the pandemic, my speaking schedule has all but disappeared. I’ve gone back into the world of selling. I am now literally practicing what I preach.

Guess what? It still works! Prospecting, entertaining, networking and aggressive customer contact is still effective. I’m averaging 40 to 50 face-to-face meetings a month. Some reps don’t even Zoom that much.

What I’m seeing is the easy excuse that people aren’t meeting. Hmmm, maybe they aren’t meeting because they don’t want to meet with you. Customers are hesitant to take meetings with individuals who have zero interest factors. If I’m going to make a commitment to see you face to face, you’d better give me a good reason to do so. Either you have a real, tangible value for me as the customer or you’re flat out fun to be with. The more people are cloistered, the more they’ll want to get out.

The question is this: Will you be the vehicle to bring customers back out into the light?

I recently met with a new account and delivered chocolate covered strawberries to their team. Old school, right? Guess what? When their next need arose, I got the business. Sure, I did the basics of presentation and follow-up, but I was the only person to think of them personally.

You see, virtual is completely impersonal. Everyone becomes an image. You’re no different than the meme they saw on social media. Plus, your competitor was on screen just before you, meaning there’s absolutely no competitive separation. This drives commerce to a price-based dynamic. Everyone is simply a video presentation, no strawberries.

The one thing I’ve learned in 30-plus years of selling is this: People like to be acknowledged. Being nice enhances loyalty. The nicer you are, the more critical information you get. The virtual generation may never learn this lesson. As I incorporate young sales reps into my network, I’m shocked how line by line they are, almost robotic in their approach. They can’t tell a joke, have no idea how to compliment someone and are cheaper than Ebenezer Scrooge! I can run sales circles around these rookies.

The point is this: Don’t believe the press that sales work is now a virtual discipline. That is a false premise. You know why? People are not virtual. They are real and need human interaction. The sales reps who reach out personally will now stand out. Let the rest be lost in the wasteland of virtual reality.

Personal interaction will always be the most effective way of selling. Regardless of what the tech giants tell you, the reality is obvious. The more that salespeople gravitate toward virtual selling, the more I will strive to get face to face with clients. Hey, I understand the pressure to conform to virtual and the shift toward marketing. It takes courage to go against the grain.

Bottom line: The reward is substantially greater for those who will not relinquish traditional sales methodology. I know many will disagree with this premise, but I’m witnessing it firsthand. There is merit in being cautious, and I respect that. I’m simply pointing out what is effective in this sales climate. That is, for all intents and purposes, my job. I know many reps are frustrated and struggling. My advice is to look under every bush, keep pursuing clients and don’t give up on the sales principles that work. Sooner or later, it will break for you. Honor customers who are foregoing personal contact and connect with those who are open to it.

The choice is yours. I cannot make that call for you. Ultimately, it will still come down to the trust in relationship that your customers have that will tilt the decision scales. Challenge yourself to go beyond the virtual into the actual!

Tom Woodcock, president of seal the deal, is a speaker and trainer for the construction industry nationwide. He can be reached via his website,  www.tomwoodcocksealthedeal.com, or at (314)775.9217.

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Top 10 Major Marketing Mistakes That Cost You Money

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By STEPHANIE WOODCOCK

I recently purchased a Peloton bike.  I was doubtful at first. Will this become an expensive clothes hanger? Will I feel like going to my basement to literally spin my wheels?

Stephanie Woodcock

After setting up my subscription service with customer care, they said, “Welcome to the Peloton family.” Oh wow. We’re family now? Okay? I didn’t quite get it.

Then I took a ride. The virtual live class takes over the screen and you become part of this enthusiastic community. You’re swept away by the vibrance of this brightly dressed and animated instructor telling you that you are the best. You are a warrior. Royalty. And how great you will feel after this climb interval. As a first-time skeptic, it was exhilarating. 

The bike itself didn’t motivate me, however pretty it looks in my laundry room. But the live classes with upbeat music did. The unique, on-demand classes and celebrity-like instructors made all the difference in my desire to use the bike.

In many ways, our marketing is like this bike. If it stays dormant and unused, it’s just an expensive piece of equipment that cost you a lot of money with little to no results. 

We’ve got to spin it to win it. 

Are you winning in your marketing plan, or are you spinning your wheels? 

Following are my top 10 major marketing mistakes that cost you money:

#1 Your website is static, out-of-date, not mobile friendly or too detailed with industry terms.

User experience matters. In this virtual environment, your website is a good investment. Since 2011, smartphone usage has increased from 35 percent to more than 80 percent. People buy, look up contact information, products and services on their smartphones. Gain momentum by capitalizing on this here-to-stay trend. Think of your site as a catalog or phone book in the palm of your client’s hand. 

#2 Your marketing content is not visually appealing.

The human brain processes images 60,000 times faster than plain text. About 90 percent of all information transmitted into and through the brain is visual. Too many people think they can do their own marketing content, yet they fail. Do not make your human resources department tackle marketing or attempt to do graphic design. Would you let a random person cut your hair? No. Image matters. Graphic design is a science as well as an art. Best to leave it to the experts. 

#3 You neglect your company’s online presence.

Like it or not, social media is here to stay. You need to be connecting with your audience, customer base, influencers, employees and peripheral base. LinkedIn is a good place to start.  This is the place to share, network, see and be seen. If you don’t even go to the party, you’ll never be seen. And your website will remain in static Internet purgatory. 

#4 You’re not clearly stating what makes your company different.

Messaging is even more important now in our virtual age. Using industry jargon or feel-good statements does no one any favors, and we all come to a screeching halt. Try not to be too technical or vague in describing what makes you different. 

#5 You have no story that connects with the audience.

Draw in your client with a question that opens a story loop in the mind. For A/E/C companies, this is usually a problem that you can help solve. Instead of telling people what they need, open a story loop and compel them to want answers.

#6 You are not properly executing public relations campaigns.

This is KEY for our A/E/C industry. Promoting your company’s achievements through consistent PR campaigns helps further your brand. Highlight project completions, newsworthy events, award wins and nominations, industry news and employee promotions.

#7 You are not maximizing association involvement.

Even in this virtual age, membership involvement is key. Host a webinar. Sponsor digital events, websites and events, when they come back. If you are going to sponsor a big association event, have enough of a presence with people and support material.

#8 You’re building a Cadillac website but have no one to drive it. 

Companies too often make a sizable investment in a new website but have no marketing plan so that it gets noticed. “If you build it, they will come” does not apply in this case. Increase engagement and drive traffic to the site with social media, electronic marketing, SEO and SEM.

#9 You are focusing solely on customer acquisition.

Success rates of selling to a new customer fall somewhere between 5 percent to 20 percent while the success rate for retaining existing customers is 60 percent to 70 percent. Spending the majority of your budget on customer acquisition versus customer retention is yet another costly mistake many businesses make.

#10 Your marketing does not connect to a real sales plan.

The two go hand in hand. A marketing plan without sales engagement is like a bike without wheels. You may have a great seat and all the right tools for the ride, but you won’t go anywhere. Marketing should warm up cold leads and gather new ones.

Just like with any workout, consistency, planning and execution is key. 2021 is the time to get back in the saddle. These are just the basics. We have to plan the ride before we start it. And in the words of Peloton instructor Denis Morton, “Start Now. If you wait until the time’s right, you’ll wait forever.”

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.

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Altering Your Sales Approach in This Climate

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By TOM WOODCOCK

Tom Woodcock

Sales trainers and consultants around the country are trying to pull rabbits out of their hats. How do you teach traditional sales techniques to contractors in a non-traditional business environment?

Answering that question is a daunting task. I’ll take a stab at it. As I watch and experience what is taking place in this sales climate due to the virus issue, election season and mercurial economic conditions, I’ve noticed a couple trends.

Trend #1: Zoom meetings are leveling the playing field. There are few ways to gain competitive separation when people are meeting from their home offices and kitchen tables. Plus, video fatigue is very real and growing. To combat this, it is critically important to be prepared, upbeat and interesting. If you just go through the motions when you jump on a video sales call, you blend in with the digital white noise.

Have some humor ready, look fantastic, mind your background and for goodness sake, make eye contact. Keep your traditional sales principles in place and achieve some level of commitment by the call’s end. Anything you would do in a physical, face-to-face meeting, do the same in a video call…you can even buy lunch! Have it delivered if your customer is willing and eat together online. You need to be creative to catch attention.

Trend #2: Virtual meetings are losing a level of professionalism. The more relaxed environment of a home office can breed a false sense of security. What happens around you on a call can distract your client. Drop the ocean background video. That’s not standing out. That’s unprofessional. You should be the interest factor, above all else. People are still buying from you, and they have an expectation that you function with the same level of professionalism as you did prior to this season of virtual interaction.

Trend #3: Confrontational topics abound. Stay away from them. Election results, religious points and perspectives on virus numbers can alienate your client. Even if your client or prospect brings up these topics, do your best to avoid the trap. I’m seeing too many salespeople make political statements and judgments that can erect a wall between them and their customers. I respect your opinion, but I really don’t need to hear it during a business setting. Many digital platforms are diving very negatively; selling with the same demeanor can kill your transactions.

Here’s a key to achieving sales success in this climate: Be strong in the vehicles and channels you have available, but always be looking to get as close to normal as possible. Determine what is an acceptable format for you with regard to meeting with customers face-to-face, attending association meetings and networking. After you have done so, look for opportunities that fit into that format. Find clients who are willing to meet face-to-face. It may take more contacts than usual to develop a full roster of meetings, but if it’s important to you, then make the calls.

I’m seeing too many people giving up on sales efforts and focusing solely on their marketing. Though I strongly believe in aggressive marketing programs, you can’t quit on your sales efforts. I’m not here to set your personal standards; I’m only relaying what is working. Individuals who are still getting out and meeting are seeing results. Whether you agree or not with that fashion of sales work in this era, it’s just a fact.

I also understand that different markets have differing restrictions. Staying within those guidelines and effectively meeting with clients is feasible. Unfortunately, this is the world we currently live in – yet commerce is moving forward. Construction predictions are all over the board. That said, the more sales activity you can enact, the greater chance you can secure projects regardless of the economic or political climate.

Good sales work endures. Relationships established prior to these events will cut through the uncertainty. I’ve been selling and teaching people to sell for decades. The one constant is that those who look for every angle to get in front of customers end up being the top performers. There are currently plenty of reasons to explain poor sales performance; just don’t let them become excuses. Digging in and fighting through difficult circumstances is what the champions do. There is business opportunity out there if you look hard and use a disciplined approach. It also doesn’t hurt to ask for a different set of eyes on your sales direction and take some constructive criticism from that individual.

This is a time to roll up your sales sleeves and find answers. Those who overcome can still experience success and growth. The companies that settle for down years will have exactly that. Whether you agree or disagree with the methodology I’ve stated is immaterial. The facts are apparent. You can achieve sales results in a pandemic, during an election year and in the midst of an economic uncertain business climate. Just do what you know you have to do to achieve it.

Tom Woodcock, president of seal the deal, is a speaker and trainer for the construction industry nationwide. He can be reached via his website,  www.tomwoodcocksealthedeal.com, or at 314.775.9217.

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Three Marketing Secrets to Make Your B2B Digital Life Easier

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By STEPHANIE WOODCOCK

Stephanie Woodcock

While we are all working tirelessly to increase sales in this unsettled business environment, I’m giving away some of my digital marketing secrets to help you.

Listening to clients’ needs and struggles in the construction industry has helped me develop a syllabus of sorts. I begin with Digital Marketing 101. When clients start asking about Google rankings, Facebook ads and website analytics, I remind them they have prerequisites to meet before getting to that class.  That’s Digital Marketing 301.

There are many so-called “experts” and new digital marketing channels; it’s easy to get overwhelmed. One size does not fit all. 

Secret #1: You don’t have to do it all to get quality leads. 

Pro Tip: If your marketing person is trying to upsell you on these new ways to get leads, be wary. It’s not supposed to be complex. A simple website that tells a story, presents a problem and solution, provides key client success stories and asks for the sale with strong call-to-action buttons is a great start. 

Ask your marketing person: How do you wireframe a website to get more leads? If they don’t have a good answer, find someone else!

Great copy supported by clear and inspiring design helps connect your company to your customer’s needs and is another must-have. Hire someone who can accomplish this and understands your values and core principles. 

I was recently asked by a client, “Why do we need to upgrade our website if we get most of our leads and clients through associations and relationships? Why do we need to invest in a more modern looking site if we are growing organically through referrals?”

When I asked my client what type of clients he was attracting, he identified large engineering companies with multiple layers of potential customers. 

My answer: If you are going to increase your business within this company through referrals, you need to upgrade your brand and digital identity. If you are referred from one customer – who knows you – to a colleague in the same company who does not know you, chances are good that the new referral will go straight to your website to gain a sense of who you are.

This client asked a valuable question: In a tight economy, why should I invest precious dollars in a website when the one we have is adequate enough? Does anyone really go to my website? The answer for his company is yes.

Your website should be a visual representation of what you want to convey to the customer. It needs strong, clear copy with visual, inspiring design. In this case, a multi-million-dollar industrial engineering firm was searching for a national specialty contractor with money to spend on an updated website. The firm was not looking for a budget company who clearly cut corners. Image matters.

In these times, where face-to-face interaction is sparse, our digital footprint is even more important.  

Secret #2: Sell the story before selling your product/service. 

As a business owner, have you ever sat down with a salesperson and halfway through the pitch you wonder what it is they are selling – and what it has to do with you? This sales professional has forgotten his/her story and is only selling the product. 

The story is the why behind the what. Why do I need what you are selling? How will it make my life better, easier and more successful? Selling the story makes everyone want to know how it ends. 

Too often, B2B companies forget to be interesting. They focus too much on content and details of the product/service that they miss telling the big picture of why prospects should consider doing business with them.

Good copy opens a story loop in the prospect’s head, making them want to keep reading to find out what the answer is. 

I recently talked with a future client who was struggling with converting website traffic to leads. A quick audit of the client’s website revealed overarching, glossy statements like “sustainable solutions,” “make every drop count” and “chemical free is the better way.” The site quite literally showered me with statements about the benefits of the organization’s product. Yet I didn’t know what was sustainable, and if it was supposed to be dripping. Making something “chemical free” sounds positive, but that depends. Are we talking about food, water or hair products? I rather like the effects of the chemicals they put in my hair. 

The site was also missing strong imagery to help the consumer understand the industry and product the client was portraying. And it was missing strong copy and inspiring design. 

We needed to engage the customer by presenting a problem and our solution to that problem. How do I save the prospect money and headaches by solving a common problem? 

Secret #3: Marketing can be aggressive and that’s okay.

While it depends upon the marketing channel, it’s okay to ask for the sale with strong calls-to-action in your marketing. “Buy Now, Contact Us, Get a Quote, Book an Appointment, Schedule a Consultation” are so much better call-to-action statements than: “Learn More, Click Here, Find Out More” or (God help us all) “Read More.” When you have strong problem and solution verbiage above the fold, you can and should ask for the sale with noticeable call-to-action buttons. 

Closing deals and warming up leads is not just for the frontline sales team anymore. Digital marketing is now the front line. Hit the pain points. Create urgency. Tell the story of why your customer needs you.

You can be aggressive and straightforward. From websites and email campaigns to social media posts and sponsored ads, make sure your copy is strong and your call to action is stronger. 

I like my first cup of coffee strong and my second cup stronger. 

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.

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New Outside Sales Realities: Creatively Continue Your Process and Stay Ahead of Your Competitors Who Don’t

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By TOM WOODCOCK

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Tom Woodcock

There apparently is a new normal in business. Now everyone will live by Zoom and companies will save tons of overhead.

COVID has changed business forever. At least, that’s what we’re being told.

I see a couple significant issues with this perspective as it relates to outside sales efforts. The people perpetuating this belief tend to be administrative, cost-oriented personnel. The majority of their responsibilities take place in an office environment, so transitioning to solely electronic communication seems “completely logical,” as Mr. Spock would’ve said.

The first problem: What do the Captain Kirks of the world do? As many of us have noticed, people are already experiencing Zoom fatigue. The lack of personal contact and socialization is beginning to wear on people. We are social creatures. As such, we look forward to personal contact. This need will resonate in a louder cry as more companies try to drive their staffs to work from home.

The second problem: When you relegate all business activity to digital communication, you lose a major aspect of competitive differentiation, and that’s the sales individual. The unique abilities good salespeople have to read, connect and influence customers are more critical to profitability and the closing of transactions than many administrative personnel care to admit. Removing this element from the sales process can virtually guarantee a reduction in profitability – possibly a noticeable drop in revenue.

Before you brand me as a rebel against safety practices, understand that I realize there are restrictions in place with regard to face-to-face contact. The fact is this: The business environment is reopening enough for you to begin reengaging your outside selling process. The quicker you’re able to restart those efforts, the faster you’ll establish a sales presence. Remember my lifelong credo; Sales is the most important aspect of any business. Everything else hinges on a successful sales effort. Without it, all the cost savings in the world will amount to nada.

The challenge many companies will face is the level of uncertainty that exists currently.

When is it okay to make calls?

Where can I take customers to lunch?

What level of face-to-face contact is allowable?

How do you accomplish this when there are other internal company restrictions?

Great questions. Not to mention attempting to do a sales meeting with a face mask on. I’m not a medical expert, nor will I judge anyone’s convictions, but if you want to maintain a successful business going forward, you’ll need to solve these problems. Is there risk? Yes. Outside salespeople understand risk. They drive way more miles than most of us, risking a higher potential for vehicular accidents. They see more people from different walks of life, risking other health issues, project safety concerns and just plain rejection.

We get it.

My goal here is to bring understanding to how critical your outside sales effort is. Some say you can make more contacts if you work digitally. True, but so can your competitors! Oops. Didn’t think of that. What appears to be a great cost-saving idea may not be the case relative to external sales.

As companies decide to move their sales efforts internally and digitally, many of the sales personnel with whom I work will be ecstatic. This gives them a new edge. They can increase their contact list to maintain contact levels before the world of COVID. That’s the challenge before them.

If half of the previous contacts who would normally meet will not do so in the current environment, simply increase your contact list to offset the loss of those contacts. For those who will not meet face-to-face, simply manage them digitally. But you may lose some of these contacts and see a drop in profitability with that group.

The bottom line: Keep your outside sales effort moving in some capacity. To ignore or stop that effort could be disastrous. We are social creatures and we need interaction. This is true in relation to the business world, too, as well as in our private lives. Keep fighting for each transaction. Just don’t disarm your sales agents.

Tom Woodcock, president of seal the deal, is a speaker and trainer for the construction industry nationwide. He can be reached via his website,  www.tomwoodcocksealthedeal.com, or at 314.775.9217.

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Virtual is the New Visual: Keep Your Marketing Simple and Effective in Turbulent Times

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FacebooktwitterlinkedinmailBy STEPHANIE WOODCOCK

As work continues in the wake of this global crisis and some form of normalcy resumes, there is a new landscape to navigate in our marketing efforts.

Yes, marketing. Did we forget?

I don’t blame you. It’s easy to forget parts of our overall business strategies when we are currently living out what seems like a real-life apocalyptic movie. With everything changing so fast, it’s difficult to track how it affects our marketing, let alone to deliver that marketing.

Now that traditional B2B sales efforts, face-to-face meetings, lunch ‘n learns and event marketing are paused, we need to learn the new normal of marketing techniques that may be the new normal to stay. With everyone going digital, our content and messages can easily turn into white noise. In addition, we’ve all been thrown a lot of numbers lately. Here are some important ones:

Marketing 101 During COVID-19 in 2020

  • Embrace A Different Kind of Digital Marketing

Now that traditional sales work is restricted, marketing has to fill that space. Whether it’s paid search marketing, SEO, electronic email blasts, video content, webinars, press releases or social media engagement, B2B content marketers have the tall order of being both sensitive to current circumstances while also being educational and entertaining.

Good marketers know that in order for people to engage with content, it has to inform, entertain or save them money. Some companies are really capturing the spirit of community and togetherness in this crisis, but many of those companies are B2C. They are used to entertaining the consumer.

In our B2B environment and A/E/C (Architectural, Engineering, Construction) industry, we are more accustomed to informing and educating our customers with crucial project details and in person – not educating our customers about our company, community and culture. But now is the time. People need to laugh. They need to feel comradery. Take your brand and company culture to a new level.

  • Improve Your Online Presence and Inbound Marketing

While your customers may not be googling your location, they may be viewing your website – for the first time ever – to gain information that they used to receive from you in person. In addition, mobile usership was already rising rapidly before we were all sent home to our smartphones and tablets, with more than 50 percent of consumers viewing content on their mobile phones. So by now, it’s probably at about 100%. That means your online presence needs to look good on a smartphone.

The time is now to upgrade your brochure-like, static site into a mobile-responsive, conversion-focused and lead-generating website. Even the smallest companies can have a simple, effective website with engaging copy, strong call-to-action (CTA) buttons, a lead generator to capture email addresses and an inbound marketing strategy. I’m an advocate of an easy-to-find resource section and frequently asked questions (FAQ) section as well.

Give them answers. Answers. What a wonderful word during this time of uncertainly. Users are engaging in new content and media channels they don’t normally consume. That new content could be your (new) website.

  • Don’t Let Your Brand Die on the Street

While many companies are smartly reducing budgets overall, it’s important to keep feeding the upper funnel so that your brand remains top of mind when demand bounces back. The worst thing companies can do is ignore the situation and hibernate their marketing efforts until this is over. Brands still need to deliver value to fill the pipeline for the future. Here’s how:

  1. Recognize and address new pain points your customer may have and find new ways to address them.
  2. Repurpose existing content to fit the times. Reevaluate creative so that it’s sensitive to the current climate.
  3. Test new audiences. Think about alternate uses for your service or product that might be relevant right now.
  4. Find new ways to connect with people remotely.

If your brand only had street traffic before this crisis (meaning only you were the brand), it’s time to create a real digital footprint. Digital marketing and a digital presence are here to stay.

In this new normal, companies are desperate to connect remotely to maintain and increase their customer base. Virtual is the new visual. The onus is on marketing teams to rise above the mass of digital traffic and be heard. Our job is to pivot our marketing strategies to educate and entertain in a concise, fun way.

While there is a fine line between seizing opportunity and being opportunistic, good marketing gains even more traction and interest during these times of crisis. Keep it simple, streamline strategies and create positive messaging. Staying positive, offering assistance and building community are a good way to start.

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.Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail

Virtual is the New Visual: Keep Your Marketing Simple and Effective in Turbulent Times

FacebooktwitterlinkedinmailBy STEPHANIE WOODCOCK

Stephanie Woodcock

As work continues in the wake of this global crisis and some form of normalcy resumes, there is a new landscape to navigate in our marketing efforts.

Yes, marketing. Did we forget?

I don’t blame you. It’s easy to forget parts of our overall business strategies when we are currently living out what seems like a real-life apocalyptic movie. With everything changing so fast, it’s difficult to track how it affects our marketing, let alone to deliver that marketing.

Now that traditional B2B sales efforts, face-to-face meetings, lunch ‘n learns and event marketing are paused, we need to learn the new normal of marketing techniques that may be the new normal to stay. With everyone going digital, our content and messages can easily turn into white noise. In addition, we’ve all been thrown a lot of numbers lately. Here are some important ones:

Marketing 101 During COVID-19 in 2020

  • Embrace A Different Kind of Digital Marketing

Now that traditional sales work is restricted, marketing has to fill that space. Whether it’s paid search marketing, SEO, electronic email blasts, video content, webinars, press releases or social media engagement, B2B content marketers have the tall order of being both sensitive to current circumstances while also being educational and entertaining.

Good marketers know that in order for people to engage with content, it has to inform, entertain or save them money. Some companies are really capturing the spirit of community and togetherness in this crisis, but many of those companies are B2C. They are used to entertaining the consumer.

In our B2B environment and A/E/C (Architectural, Engineering, Construction) industry, we are more accustomed to informing and educating our customers with crucial project details and in person – not educating our customers about our company, community and culture. But now is the time. People need to laugh. They need to feel comradery. Take your brand and company culture to a new level.

  • Improve Your Online Presence and Inbound Marketing

While your customers may not be googling your location, they may be viewing your website – for the first time ever – to gain information that they used to receive from you in person. In addition, mobile usership was already rising rapidly before we were all sent home to our smartphones and tablets, with more than 50 percent of consumers viewing content on their mobile phones. So by now, it’s probably at about 100%. That means your online presence needs to look good on a smartphone.

The time is now to upgrade your brochure-like, static site into a mobile-responsive, conversion-focused and lead-generating website. Even the smallest companies can have a simple, effective website with engaging copy, strong call-to-action (CTA) buttons, a lead generator to capture email addresses and an inbound marketing strategy. I’m an advocate of an easy-to-find resource section and frequently asked questions (FAQ) section as well.

Give them answers. Answers. What a wonderful word during this time of uncertainly. Users are engaging in new content and media channels they don’t normally consume. That new content could be your (new) website.

  • Don’t Let Your Brand Die on the Street

While many companies are smartly reducing budgets overall, it’s important to keep feeding the upper funnel so that your brand remains top of mind when demand bounces back. The worst thing companies can do is ignore the situation and hibernate their marketing efforts until this is over. Brands still need to deliver value to fill the pipeline for the future. Here’s how:

  1. Recognize and address new pain points your customer may have and find new ways to address them.
  2. Repurpose existing content to fit the times. Reevaluate creative so that it’s sensitive to the current climate.
  3. Test new audiences. Think about alternate uses for your service or product that might be relevant right now.
  4. Find new ways to connect with people remotely.

If your brand only had street traffic before this crisis (meaning only you were the brand), it’s time to create a real digital footprint. Digital marketing and a digital presence are here to stay.

In this new normal, companies are desperate to connect remotely to maintain and increase their customer base. Virtual is the new visual. The onus is on marketing teams to rise above the mass of digital traffic and be heard. Our job is to pivot our marketing strategies to educate and entertain in a concise, fun way.

While there is a fine line between seizing opportunity and being opportunistic, good marketing gains even more traction and interest during these times of crisis. Keep it simple, streamline strategies and create positive messaging. Staying positive, offering assistance and building community are a good way to start.

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.Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail

Lead Generation: Get More Leads and Convert Them into 2020 Sales

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FacebooktwitterlinkedinmailBy STEPHANIE WOODCOCK

As we review our 2020 marketing plans, the main question I hear is: How do we get more leads and turn them into sales?

I sit down with companies and develop crawl, walk, run marketing plans.

.  What do we do first, next, this year and next year? First off – dream big. Get that “run” plan written down. If you don’t plan for it, it won’t happen.

Crawl

Let’s focus on crawl and walk first. These are items that we can solidly get accomplished in the calendar year. The “crawling” category is about finishing easy-to-activate tasks. All housekeeping marketing items belong here, such as:

  • HTML-coded email signatures with a Call to Action button
    • Keep it consistent. Change up the CTA button periodically. Add extra content, a link to your LinkedIn profile, a project spotlight, published article, charity involvement, giveaway or award recognition. Be creative. Your email signature is one of the first and most frequent branding elements your clients see.
  • Upgrade proposal templates, office collateral, PowerPoint presentations, invoice templates, etc.
    • Keep consistent and make sure all your office personnel have access to the newest versions.
  • Website maintenance

This item should be first on the list, but I’m easing you into 2020. Nothing says “I don’t have a marketing person” like a poorly updated website. Updating plugins and page content, changing out footer information, getting an SSL certificate are all necessities to keep the brand current and your clients informed. Make a note in your “run” category to have all these website updates prepped for 2021 before 2021 begins.

  • Update your email database

Walk

My favorite category. It’s a sight to see my clients reach and grab things off the proverbial coffee table of marketing ideas and put them into action. This is where the fastest growth happens, and lead generation can take off. We go from teetering on two legs to stomping around, impressed by our massive marketing strides.

Here are some possibilities that fall under the “walk” category:

  • Inbound Marketing
    • Add content to your website that acts as lead generating tools. Websites need to be more than just brochure, informational sites. This includes how-to videos, lead generating PDFs, surveys and content that creates urgency. Our goal is to engage the customer with detailed information that solves problems.
  • Press Releases and Advertising
    • Maximize your print ads, electronic ads and press releases to drive traffic to landing pages on your website. You will be able to track traffic, engage your audience with lead generating tools and capture more database information critical to your outbound marketing plan.
  • Association and Event Involvement
    • Are you overly relying on repeat and referral business and not enough on inbound lead generation? In an increasingly digital world, it’s important to keep face-to-face with clients and prospects. Pick three events to attend and consider sponsorship opportunities in a major event where a good portion of your clients are present. In the A/E/C industry, it is crucial to be a fixture at industry association functions.
  • Outbound Marketing – Get Creative
    • Develop creative campaigns involving digital and event marketing that promote a service, award, anniversary, new look or anything creative that solves a problem, entertains or educates. In B2B lead generation, our jobs as marketers are to identify the audience, connect with targets, explore opportunities and then advise. Business does not just walk in the door and sign the contract. It takes a structured, lead generation plan and a joint effort by sales and marketing to get it accomplished. Your digital marketing should be an extension of your face-to-face sales effort and communication.

Run

Grab your headband. Here we go. The run category is for goals that may not happen this calendar year but are still important. Whether you want to create an onboarding video for your new employees, implement a new CRM format, increase SEO/SEM practices on your website or start a new texting program for client engagement, all these items are placed in the “run” category. These typically take time for buy-in and require a higher spend, so they demand a longer lead time for implementation.

All these items generate more leads. Engaging with sales via a structured strategy in a crawl, walk, run marketing plan helps nurture these leads into sales. The two go hand in hand. We can’t have a great marketing plan and generate leads if we don’t also have a way to guide them into sales.

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.Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail

Sales Excuses in Place of Sales Effort: Smart Sales Professionals Ditch the Excuses

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Tom Woodcock

By TOM WOODCOCK

I’ve worked with hundreds of people responsible for their company’s sales effort. I’ve seen some incredible individuals who seem to be in the mix on every deal they go after. They nail it and ask little in return, except for their bonus or commission check. Their companies thrive and their profit margins are strong. The economy – whether poor or booming – doesn’t affect them. They are producers, simple and true. They may not be the thriftiest among us, but who cares if they bring home the bacon? For those of you out there who fit in this category, I salute you.

Then there’s the other category – folks who complain about every aspect of sales, who blame the economy and who complain that everything is about price. They find fault with their own company and are seldomly proactive. They argue with you that sales work doesn’t make a difference, but when they get a deal, they’ll tell you how they learned the inside track on the project. It can drive a manager crazy. These responses are very simple to explain. They’re excuses.

I have contractor clients who are securing work in minimum or no-bid competition. They are winning without being the low number and are getting good margins and repeat business. Their clients call them first or keep them on a short list. These contractors set aside time in every work week specifically for sales work. They understand there is no more important aspect to their business than sales. They market properly and do the extras to develop relationships. These folks are networking and not qualifying away opportunity. They don’t discount those who are consultants regarding sales and marketing as less than valuable. They are regularly looking to grow and learn in relation to their sales skills.

Not all of them come by it naturally. Some of them were also excuse makers at one time. The change came for some when there was virtually nowhere else to go but sales work to gain profitable business. A few were sweating things out before they turned the corner.

The first step to excelling in the way you sell is to quit with the excuses.

When I begin working with a someone who is a sales agent for his or her company, the first place I start is to discover how that individual is using his or her time. Most of us get things thrown at us regularly that lure us off task. Having a plan in place that forces you to incorporate sales time can begin to stabilize your schedule. The more you learn and train your customers, the more control you have over your schedule. My next step is to find out why they feel they’re not enjoying the sales success they’d like. This flushes out the excuse. Trust me, there are only three to four excuses in total within the construction industry. These excuses might have slight variations, but really, they’re all very common – although they feel unique to each person. Setting a sales strategy for specific customers and targets is the next step. If you were to do only these few steps, you’d be doing more than most contractors, or for that matter, companies in general.

The pressure to perform in a construction environment as competitive as the current one is great. Many experience failures at a rate they’ve never seen before. The easiest explanation is to find fault in some other area besides one’s sales work. The more difficult response is to adjust your sales approach and focus the same level of attention on that effort as you would to finding profitability on a project. Refreshing marketing collateral, finding time to connect through business-oriented, physical social networking, establishing a strong digital footprint and setting an aggressive call schedule takes time when combined with planning. Finding excuses not to take that time will only result in the same pattern of sales. If that pattern is trending down, deeper it will go.

So many contractors are looking for ways to get an edge or find new opportunity. How do you propose to do this if you are continually excusing a weak or ineffective sales effort? Multitudes of contractors across the country are struggling with the challenge of getting business. Productivity for most contractors is at an all-time high. Field performance is at a premium. Many are working ridiculous hours and giving the operations aspect of their business everything they have. They’ve cut costs to the bone. Still, there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. As we head into the winter, we are entering a prime sales season. Filling your pipeline with quality opportunities now will bring results in the spring.

Evaluate your sales work and determine if you need to make adjustments as opposed to excuses. If you are not an excuse maker but things aren’t where you want them, change your sales strategy. Find areas of weakness and correct them. Maximize your strengths and invest in the customer relationships you have. Expand your network and get out of the office because there aren’t a lot of customers there.

I’ve been watching the continued trend of reducing personal contact with customers. Technology has made it easier to do so. I’ve watched young, millennial sales personnel sit in front a potential customer and blast them with data and information. The data-driven sales processes coming into prominence will do nothing more than increase pricing focus. Unfortunately, in construction, price is a poor decision-making factor if the facility is poorly built or not built to the project owner’s wants and needs. Safety, quality of materials and skill of labor begin to become watered down in the quest for the lowest bid possible. If you don’t think that’s true, you’re not really looking very closely.

Construction lives and breathes with sales. The competitive differences are very real. With millennials becoming decision makers, sales agents need to realize they’re selling the value of relationship, skill and reputation, not simply the project.

Construction has never been black and white. Just ask the excavator who hits bedrock unexpectedly, the demo contractor who discovers an environmental hazard behind a wall or the masonry contractor who discovers the plans are an 1/8 of an inch off. There is still a lot of selling to do in construction, and it needs to be done effectively. One of my most consistent points is simply this: If sales is the most important part of your business, why in construction does it not get the same level of attention that it merits? Without sales, you have nothing else. Construction isn’t so unique that you don’t need to focus or improve in the area of sales. You must, just like in any other business.

Tom Woodcock, president of seal the deal, is a speaker and trainer for the construction industry nationwide. He can be reached via his website,  www.tomwoodcocksealthedeal.com, or at (314) 775-9217. Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail

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