Your Logo Is Not Your Brand

All too often, a CEO will say something like, “We need a new brand. Get marketing to work on it. I want to see five new designs by next Tuesday.” Sure, the company may need to update the look of its logo, but for that logo to really have an impact, the designers will really need to study the company brand.

You can have fast and cheap.McDonald's logo

Let me explain. When you see those golden arches on a red background, what do you think of? Big Mac and fries, of course. You know you can walk up, place your order, and it will take you, on a good day, about five minutes. You’re encouraged, by the hard seats, bright colors and harsh lights, to eat and go. You also know that it will be greasy, salty, and all in all, of fairly poor quality. You know it will be cheap. Lunch will cost you about five bucks.

You can have fast and pretty good.Panera logo

Now think about the warmer earthtones of the Panera logo. What do you think of? Coffee or tea, a moderate selection of soups and sandwiches that are filling, with a greater emphasis on healthier choices. Though this is hardly a crunchy-granola kind of place, nothing here is fried. The restaurant seating is more comfortable, the lights a little softer, the noise level a little lower. Some Paneras have started bringing your order to the table some of the time. It’s still pretty fast, but it’s more expensive – about $10-$12 for lunch.

Or you can have great and expensive.Morton Steakhouse logo

Finally, there’s Morton’s Steakhouse. Black background on logo and website. Subdued lighting. Tablecloth and cloth napkins. Alcohol. Great service. Amazing food. Classy place. As one review said, “expense account prices”. Lunch can easily set you back $25.

So, let’s call logos a brand representation. Brand is what you experience or what you expect to experience when you interact with a business. The logo (golden arches = cheap and fast) is merely a visual representation of that experience.

 

Get a Better Buyout Offer With Diversity

A Diverse Customer Base Equals Survival and Growth – And a Better Buyout Offer

Magical thinking cartoon

The economy has been improving, albeit too slowly for many for the past eight years. If you’ve been growing your business too, give yourself a pat on the back. Don’t however, just keep doing what you’ve been doing.

Wha..? What happened to “don’t mess with success”? What about “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”? Here’s what happened: they are based on the false assumption that nothing will change if you don’t change. You know that just isn’t true. Making changes, adding products and services, getting rid of processes (or products or services) that don’t work, in other words, evolving and diversifying will be the keys to survival the next time the economy heads south. Which it will, sooner or later, because it always does.

Make Your Business More Attractive – Diversify Your Customer Base

If you have only one or two big clients, what happens when – not if – one of them makes a change? Your good buddy, the owner of one of your big accounts, retires or sells the business. Now what? Another big account goes with a new supplier. What are you going to do?

Selling your business when you have only a few big accounts is going to severely limit the number and quality of offers, according to business broker Mike Metzger, of Murphy Business & Financial Corp. It makes buying your company pretty risky, especially if those client relationships are built on personal relationships.

Diversify and Grow

Diversity can, should, happen on two fronts: gaining new clients and expanding sales to current clients. Gaining clients means making sure your sales team are armed with up-to-date resources that really reflect what what your company is about. It means your website is up to date and mobile friendly. (Did you know that 60-90 percent of Google searches happen on mobile?) It means taking the appropriate actions, in operations, service and marketing, that will attract the customers you want.

The second way to diversify is to make sure your clients know about everything you sell, and that you’re selling everything in your industry they want to buy. You’ve heard of land and expand. Just because you landed ages ago doesn’t mean you can’t expand now.

Marketing for Growth

Marketing is the key to attracting a diverse clientele, educating them about who you are, what you sell and, most importantly, why they should buy from you. Growing the number of orders from new and existing customers is the key to putting more money in your pocket – now and when you sell the company.

Contact us if you’d like to make your bottom look better by diversifying at 804.382.0594 or info@fastforwardmktg.com.

Successful Inbound Marketing

5 Components of
Successful Inbound Marketing

How IT Service Providers can learn to use inbound marketing, love social selling and grow their business.

There are many options and many questions to be asked when considering successful Inbound Marketing, Online Marketing, or Social Selling for your IT  and Telecomm Service Provider company.

Inbound Marketing Strategy

Adding inbound marketing to your business development mix can lead to substantial increases in web traffic and qualified leads. There are a lot of moving pieces – how do you get started?

Learn how to harness the power of inbound marketing to grow your company

Use inbound marketing and social selling to gain more qualified leads:

  • What are the 5 most important elements of inbound marketing
  • How to use each social platform
  • Putting your website to work – the importance of crafting the just-right copy
  • How often to post on each platform
  • What email can do for you

Get started today! Simply complete and submit the form, or call us today at 804.382.0594.

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Tune Up Marketing Before You Try To Sell Your Business

If you’re like most of us, you started a business because you were good at something and you loved it. You were solving a problem in a way no one else could, in a way that was better than anyone else’s solution. Over the years, you gained customers, added employees, contributed to the community in ways large and small. But somewhere along the way, the thrill of going to work in your own successful business started to wane.

There are many reasons: the market changed and, for whatever reason, you didn’t keep up, or your customers changed, with older, loyal customers replaced by a new generation who demanded changes. Or maybe you realized your kids have no interest in joining the family business.  Whatever the reason, you’ve lost your passion and you are starting to think of selling your business. Wait!

The worst thing you can do before you put your business on the block is to take your foot of the gas, says Mike Metzger, business broker at Murphy Business and Financial In fact, it’s a great time to tune your business engine to get the best possible deal.

Marketing for a sale

Your bottom line on a successful sale is getting the price you want. It rarely happens, Mike says, because declining revenues, drooping sales, neglected infrastructure and an image of being past your peak will severely impact any offers you may receive. So what can you do? There’s no quick fix, but there are things you can do, all of which reflect your brand – and may affect your sale price.

Beyond advertising

Marketing goes way beyond advertising. In fact, you may never advertise and still run a very successful marketing effort that can increase revenues, gain new customers and get more business from existing customers.

If you’re ready to find your next adventure (with the most money possible from the sale of your business), you must shake off your discouragement and get to work.

Remind your customers why they love you

Start by reintroducing yourself to your customers. Visit them in their place of business, just like you did when you started and were hungry. Introduce them to your entire line of product and services, beyond those they’re in the habit of buying from you. There’s a good chance they have no idea or have completely forgotten all that you do. Maybe you need to create special deals or even special products for long-term customers. Make them feel special.

Social media is king – even if your customers never tweet

Social media improves your search engine optimization. To over-simplify, social media links back to your website. The more links in, and the more page visits you have, the more the search bots like you and the higher you’ll appear in the search results. There are many ways to decide which social media platform to use, but Facebook, which is sometimes discounted for B to B companies, is one of the most visited websites in the world. Are you sure you want to ignore it?

Share your knowledge

Share what you know about your industry with a combination of social media, email marketing and SEO. It is very effective in persuading customers and prospects that you are an expert and a trusted resource. Combine it with paid advertising and you have a dynamic campaign to gain new customers and encourage more business from existing customers.

Polish your customer service

Great customer service will win you more customers than any any marketing (though you can use marketing to tell customer success stories). It goes beyond saying thank you at the time of a purchase, though that is always important.

Hire a mystery shopper to call your office and talk to various employees who interact with customers, including service, billing, and sales. Ask the shopper to visit your location(s) for a true customer experience. You may know that Gladys has a heart of gold, but to a new customer she may just sound rude. Make sure your service department is never condescending, and sales staff is honest and clear on what a new customer can expect.

Hire an expert

You may have a general understanding of internal combustion engines, but you still take your car to a mechanic for a service and repairs. So with marketing. You know your business better than anyone and may have an understanding of marketing, but an outside marketer brings the right tools and expertise, and an outsider’s perspective. They’ll do a better job than you might, in less time and with better results.

Call us if you’d like a free initial consultation on marketing as you prepare to sell your company. 804.382.0594 or Bart.Levy@FastForwardMktg.com.

Rev up your LinkedIn Profile

Prospects will check out you, the company representative, before they buy from you. Be sure to make yourself look as professional as possible. The infographic is geared toward job seekers, but isn’t selling every new prospect like applying for a job? Click on the image to zoom in.

LinkedIn infographic

Special thanks to Morton Consulting for sharing this infographic.

Marketing and Sales – Working Better, Together

Collaboration illustration

David Johnston has a problem. He’s the owner of a 40-employee MSP. He started the business 15 years ago because he thought that, since he was so good at sales that he regularly bumped up against his employer’s commission cap, he would go into business for himself. He weathered the recession, and he’s kept up with the changes in technology, but the business has stubbornly refused to grow beyond where it is now. He’s stuck.

Sure, he’s a great salesman, but there’s no real strategy behind it. He frequently sees his customers buying services and equipment from others because they “didn’t know he did that”. His ads aren’t instantly recognizable because the brand is here, there and everywhere. His outreach to prospects is scattershot. He’s always running in response to the next thing, the next lead, the next customer problem.

“Marketing makes sales
easier and more profitable.”

In his mind, marketing is the same thing as sales, so he has no strategy. They aren’t the same, of course, though good marketing and sales teams work closely together. Marketing is supplying ammunition for the sales team and the sales team reports back on how well the ammunition performed.

“Marketing makes sales easier and more profitable,” says sales training guru Laura Posey, president of Simple Success Plans. Marketing unlocks the door, introducing your company and products. Then you, the sales person, can spend your time solving your prospects’ problems – and closing the deal.

It’s a process

Marketing and sales frequently take on different aspects of a particular task. Each is most effective when they have a continuous conversation, polishing, reiterating and adjusting for the marketplace. The process is one of constant, open communication and constant improvement.

So, what is it that sales does and what does marketing do? Below is a list of what each side does. There’s a great deal of overlap, and there should be constant for best results.

Marketing and Sales comparison chart

It isn’t a pair of silos, working in isolation. At the best companies, it’s collaboration, with constant back and forth, open communication and a strong measure of trust that, together, create strong companies.

So what can you do for your company?

Start with getting sales, marketing and management in the same room. Articulate company goals and how each team can support the effort to attain those goals. Collaborate on defining a lead-generation strategy.

Let each team articulate its challenges and where it needs input and support from the other. Keep it positive – if it degenerates into name calling and finger pointing, your efforts will stall.

Set regular meetings with all three groups to be sure everyone is on track, steps toward goals are being made, to provide feedback from all parties, and to work out any issues that have arisen. Take advantage of automation, such as SalesForce, Marketo or Hubspot, which can help you make decisions based on real data.

Neither sales nor marketing are rocket science, but by working together, you just might shoot the moon.

If you’d like help with boosting your sales with marketing that supports your team, contact me at 804.382.0594 or by email at info@fastforwardmktg.com and let’s talk.

Tired of Chasing Worthless Leads? Here’s How to Attract Qualified Leads

Working with a list of MSP prospects that your boss hands you or, worse, a purchased list of leads and you’ll get lots of hang-ups, a few tepid maybes and very few real prospects that turn into even fewer closed deals. And why should they talk to you? They have no idea who you are, they have no idea why they might need to talk to you and, frankly, they’re busy and you interrupted what they were doing when you called.

Attract rather than chase

With a carefully thought-out plan to share information on blogs, special offerings like ebooks, whitepapers and checklists – information that is useful and attractive to your best customers and prospects that look like them – inbound marketing is a great way to attract the kind of prospect who is already interested in what you offer. Inbound marketing is a process, starting with research, through content creation and moving through the stages of attracting and nurturing leads, and finally to converting leads to customers. The infographic at the top of the page shows how it works.

Research will give you information – or additional information – about your target market. Even if you are simply looking to expand within a silo you’re already working, research can reveal specific words and phrases, questions and concepts that are the daily language of your target and which you can use to capture their attention. Research will also help you craft your web and blog text to improve your organic SEO.

SEO (search engine optimization) comes from your content, which is the knowledge you share via blog posts, videos, case studies, tip sheets, and other special offerings we mentioned above. Your web copy will contain some of the words and phrases you discovered in your research. Elements of your website, such as new content, tags, metadata, links and other details, also improve your organic SEO.

Blogging attracts people who are searching for your expertise.

If your content is robust and, most importantly, provides useful information that speaks to their concerns, people will subscribe to your blog. Answer the questions and concerns using the language your research discovered. Do not sell. Do not talk about what you do. Talk about what you know. Once they sign up – boom! – they’ve just identified themselves as a prospect.

Social Media invites prospects to your website. Social media is a conversation and, like any good conversation, it isn’t all about you. Engage with other thought leaders, clients and prospects to share information. An invitation to follow, like or connect encourages an interested person to become a qualified prospect.

Social media is also the broadcast channel to let people know about all the good stuff you have on your website and in your blogs and how to find it. Talking about others’ ideas is only good social media manners.

Landing pages are the locked gates to your in-depth info, and a key to your inbound success. The info you are giving away has a small price: the recipient’s name and email address. Different kinds of content will appeal to prospects and customers at different points of their purchasing journey.

When they are simply researching their options, a guide, a comparison chart or something similar would be useful to them.

A case study is likely to be read when they are in the deciding stage of their journey.

Email, when it is permission based, is the tool for staying in touch with useful information and links to more in-depth info, special offers, links to blogs, invitations, news and more. When the message is properly targeted, it will have a 62 percent better chance of being clicked on than a non-targeted email. It’s the research you started with that will help you target your message.

Don’t bother with purchasing an email list. At best, a large percentage of the list will be out of date or your carefully crafted message will end up in their spam folder. At worst, you’ll be shut down for sending spam and your email account will be suspended or cancelled. Don’t you hate getting junk emails from someone you don’t know for a product you don’t want or need? Of course you do. So, why send it?

Getting to know you

What’s the point of all this activity if none of it results in a direct sale? You’re cultivating a relationship and sharing knowledge. You’re demonstrating your expertise. You’re building a relationship. You’re building trust. You’re making it easy for your sales team to close the deal.

According to a survey conducted by Hubspot, in six months, inbound marketing resulted in almost twice as many web visitors and 2.69 times more leads. The conversion rate for lead to sales was a whopping 73 percent higher compared to all respondents, and 69 percent of survey respondents saw increased sales revenues. Isn’t that a worthwhile goal?

Bart Levy is marketer in chief at Fast Forward Marketing Co., and a certified inbound marketer. You can reach her at 804.382.0594 or bart.levy@fastforwardmktg.com.

Measuring your marketing plan

By guest blogger Clay Hamner

You have completed the discovery process of your project, created a campaign that has your customers saying “wow, I want that”, but how do you measure its success?  The answer depends on the type of plan implemented.  The following discusses various ways to track the success or failure of any plan you implemented and some tips to help you refine your results.

Measuring a digital campaign

Let’s say you chose a local news service to deliver ads to its audience.  Call it Business Services.com. This service delivers 10,000 impressions per day and everyone who visits their site sees your banner ad, but do they click through to see what your product or service is?  The service should supply you with a click through rate (CTR), but you should verify the results using Google Analytics. Google Analytics provides a free service to track all data coming to your website.  If your banner ad sends the user to the main website, you can’t tell the difference between regular traffic coming to your site or the effectiveness of that great banner ad you created.

Make your destination URL unique for the campaign and for example, make it www.businessX.com/adcampaign1

This will tell you exactly how effective your campaign is apart from regular traffic.

Measuring a print or any other type of campaign

The same type of delineation with the URL applies here.  Send your user to a specified URL such as www.businessX.com/printcampaign or www.businessX.com/radioad.  Make sure you give the listener, or user a word that’s easy to remember.

Here’s an interesting article from Entrepreneur Magazine that explains these recommendations very thoroughly:

http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/248596

“Measurement” is a hot topic in marketing right now, although I’m not sure there was ever a time when it wasn’t important.

Back in the day, when the bulk of a brand’s marketing budget was based on advertising and promotion, it was a tad easier to measure its effectiveness. With marketing budgets much more fragmented across multiple channels now, measurement is even more crucial to determine the most effective parts of the plan. But it’s also much harder to measure.

When teaching my class at New York University about measurement, the first words out of my mouth are “Measurement doesn’t begin when the program is over. It begins when you start planning for it.”

Related: The Secret to Maximizing Your Marketing Dollars for Fun and Profit

Every element of your marketing plan, and your business plan as well for that matter, needs to have a measurement and metrics protocol built into the planning with key benchmarks set at the beginning and end with milestones throughout.

How else can you know for sure if the program was successful? Without a goal and measurement system in place at the beginning, you can’t possibly ascertain success. Plus, by adding in milestones throughout the program’s life, you can track progress so that there are no surprises. In fact, you can monitor and control the progress and course correct along the way to ensure success.

That’s just smart marketing.

For the big brands of the world this may seem obvious. But for small-business owners and entrepreneurs, this kind of methodology doesn’t come naturally. So I’d like to break it down into a couple of simple components so that you can properly measure for your planned success.

Measuring the product

Measuring success of your product or service is the obvious first step, and most likely your ultimate metric will be sales. But it’s important to not only set your sales forecast in advance, but to monitor the key factors that affect your forecast along the way. You may also want to measure customer satisfaction of the functional attributes of your product as well, to see if an upgrade might be in order. This is just one example of measuring your product.

Related: Use the Metrics That Really Matter in Your Business

Measuring the brand

Most small-business owners track sales and think the job is done. Not by a long shot. You should also be measuring key brand metrics as well since they are highly influential towards your ultimate sales results. Attitudes and perceptions about the brand and what it offers will impact your future success, so you should be monitoring those metrics throughout your marketing programming. Sure, you may know how well your product is selling, but if you don’t know how the brand is delivering on its promises then you don’t know the health of your business.

The truth is that measurement is one of those topics we tend to avoid until tallying up our success at the end of the year or at the conclusion of a marketing campaign.

But by then, it’s too late to change course and it’s likely too late to impact the next year or the next program. I know it’s a daunting task, especially when you are resource constrained and managing all the other aspects of the business as well, so keep it simple and focused.

Pick a few key measures for both the product and the brand and monitor them. Pick the ones most tied to your firm’s success, so you know they are driving the business. Pick a couple and focus on them — it’ll be a big leap forward in your thinking that will hopefully deliver a big leap forward for your work.

Clay Hamner

Clay Hamner is a Richmond, Virginia native and owner of Lythos Studios. He has worked in a family advertising business since he was 14 and has a unique understanding of data interpretation. To learn more about his company, go to www.lythos.com/aboutus.

You talking to me?

MSP blogger robot

I read a lot of blogs. Some are great with useful information that can help me in my business and are so entertaining and well written, they’re a pleasure to read. Some are pretty good, with at least a nugget that sparks a new idea. These are are also well written, sometimes humorous, sometimes straightforward. They are all obviously written by a real person for real people.

Which brings me to the third category of blogs. They’re pretty awful. They sound like they were written by robots for a high-school English assignment. They’re written in third person. They’re full of technical jargon. They’re crammed with acronyms, that awful alphabet soup that baffles the casual audience and slows down even the most knowledgeable reader.

Just as bad, they aren’t written with their particular audience in mind. Like me. Or the business owner, or the small business IT manager. Their blogs are all about themselves, what they know, and what they can do. Just as bad, they are ungrammatical and misspelled. Unfortunately, MSPs’ blogs are among the worst.

Be yourself

Use your real voice. Use first person voice: I suggest, I recommend, I think. If appropriate, you can use we: “We at Zappo Electronic Services have found….” Avoid the third-person, neutral voice like poison. It makes you sound pompous at best and, at worst, boring. “It has been found that….” Zzzzz. You’re the expert here. Own it!

Talk to me

It’s far more effective if you tell me how what you’re telling me is important to me. So the new router from your supplier is faster or your new VOIP system is the best on the market. Okay, I may understand that faster is better but, in real terms, what is a faster router going to do for me? Why should I care that your new VOIP system is better? It may seem obvious to you, but it may not be to me. If it’s faster and better, it’s also probably more expensive. What are the benefits to me that are going to outweigh the expense and the pain of making a change?

If you can include real-life examples, so much the better. Sometimes technospeak is unavoidable, especially since you’re in a technical field, right? So make sure everyone understands what you’re talking about, by spelling out the acronyms (at least at first) and adding brief definitions. Not everyone in your field has the same level of experience and the same depth of understanding.

Teach me something useful, but don’t try to sell to me

Like a lot of people, I like learning cool new things that are going to useful to me. I define as useful those things that make my business run more smoothly, help me provide better information to my clients, save me money, make me money, improve my health and that of my family, boost my confidence by showing me I’m doing the right thing, or prove to a client that we’re on the right track. Or just make me think, Huh, I didn’t know that!

If you try to sell something to me, I’m outta here. Certainly provide your contact information and a soft offer to provide information about services, but watch the sales language. Check your spelling and ask someone to edit for grammar and clarity. Even if just for a while, you’re an educator, not a salesperson. And definitely not a robot.

Want an outsider’s view on your blogging and inbound media? Get in touch at 804.382.0594 or info@fastforwardmktg.com.

Tired of Chasing Worthless Leads?

How to attract qualified leads to MSP

Try Attracting Qualified Leads Instead. Here’s How.

Working from a list your boss hands you or, worse, a purchased list of leads will get you lots of hang-ups, a few tepid maybes and very few real prospects that turn into even fewer closed deals. And why should they talk to you? They have no idea who you are, they have no idea why they might need to talk to you and, frankly, they’re busy and you interrupted what they were doing when you called.

Stop chasing them

With a carefully thought-out plan to share information on blogs, special offerings like ebooks, whitepapers and checklists – information that is useful and attractive to your best customers and prospects that look like them – inbound marketing is a great way to attract the kind of prospect who is already interested in what you offer.

Inbound marketing is a process, starting with research, through content creation and moving through the stages of attracting and nurturing leads, and finally to converting leads to customers.

Research will give you information – or additional information – about your target market. Even if you are simply looking to expand within a silo you’re already working, research can reveal specific words and phrases, questions and concepts that are the daily language of your target and which you can use to capture their attention.

Research will also help you craft your web and blog text to improve your organic SEO.

SEO (search engine optimization) comes from your content, which is the knowledge you share via blog posts, videos, case studies, tip sheets, and other special offerings we mentioned above. Your web copy will contain some of the words and phrases you discovered in your research. Elements of your website, such as new content, tags, metadata, links and other details, also improve your organic SEO.

Blogging attracts people who are searching for your expertise. If your content is robust and, most importantly, provides useful information that speaks to their concerns, people will subscribe to your blog. Answer the questions and concerns using the language your research discovered. Do not sell. Do not talk about what you do. Talk about what you know.

Once they sign up – boom! – they’ve just identified themselves as a prospect.

Social Media invites prospects to your website. Social media is a conversation and, like any good conversation, it isn’t all about you. Engage with other thought leaders, clients and prospects to share information. An invitation to follow, like or connect encourages an interested person to become a qualified prospect.

Social media is also the broadcast channel to let people know about all the good stuff you have on your website and in your blogs and how to find it. Talking about others’ ideas is only good social media manners.

Landing pages are the locked gates to your in-depth info, and a key to your inbound success. The info you are giving away has a small price: the recipient’s name and email address. Different kinds of content will appeal to prospects and customers at different points of their purchasing journey.

When they are simply researching their options, a guide, a comparison chart or something similar would be useful to them. A case study is likely to be read when they are in the deciding stage of their journey.

Email, when it is permission based, is the tool for staying in touch with useful information and links to more in-depth info, special offers, links to blogs, invitations, news and more. When the message is properly targeted, it will have a 62 percent better chance of being clicked on than a non-targeted email. It’s the research you started with that will help you target your message.

Don’t bother with purchasing an email list. At best, a large percentage of the list will be out of date or your carefully crafted message will end up in their spam folder. At worst, you’ll be shut down for sending spam and your email account will be suspended or cancelled.

Don’t you hate getting junk emails from someone you don’t know for a product you don’t want or need? Of course you do. So, why send it?

Getting to know you

What’s the point of all this activity if none of it results in a direct sale? You’re cultivating a relationship and sharing knowledge. You’re demonstrating your expertise. You’re building a relationship. You’re building trust.

You’re making it easy for your sales team to close the deal. According to a survey conducted by Hubspot, in six months, inbound marketing resulted in almost twice as many web visitors and 2.69 times more leads. The conversion rate for lead to sales was a whopping 73 percent higher compared to all respondents, and 69 percent of survey respondents saw increased sales revenues. Isn’t that a worthwhile goal?

______________

Download the free ebook, “5 Components of Successful Inbound Marketing to learn more about what makes inbound marketing work for MSPs.

DOWNLOAD NOW!

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Bart Levy is marketer in chief at Fast Forward Marketing Co., and a certified inbound marketer. Contact her at 804.382.0594 or bart.levy@fastforwardmktg.com to discuss whether inbound marketing will work for your MSP.