“Boring” businesses can boom with inbound marketing

Old-fashion business building exterior

Somehow, there seems to be an impression that only “interesting” companies or industries can succeed with inbound marketing. Which, frankly, seems crazy to me. Isn’t your business interesting to you? Aren’t your customers interested in how you can ease their pain points?

Designing computer networks and installing telephone systems may not seem very sexy. However, ask someone whose network is always crashing or whose phones don’t work properly, and you’ll find your solutions are suddenly very attactive indeed.

Using inbound marketing to educate – not hard sell – your clients and prospects about your company, your industry and your community works. This recent blog post in Forbes tells how a small oil drilling company in Texas uses inbound marketing and has developed a remarkable following.

If you’d like to learn how inbound marketing can spice up your service company’s marketing, give us a call at 804.382.0594 or email us at info@fastforwardmktg.com.

Heard Any Good Stories Lately?

Everyone likes a good story – scary, funny or even shaggy dog. As children, our parents told us the story of ourselves, “When you were very small, you would….” Or perhaps we’ve been conditioned to it from prehistoric times, sitting around the fire and sharing stories of how that wooly mammoth was brought down and where the sweetest berries were to be found.

Stories serve a useful purpose. Sociologists tell us that the stories of ourselves help us find our place in our family and the world. Anthropologists tell us those early campfire stories shared knowledge so everyone could eat. Whatever the outcome, the purpose was essentially the same: to make a point in an engaging and memorable way.

The MSP version of a good story

Today, the senior MSP tech guy may be sitting in the break room with his colleagues and go through a whole recounting of how he solved a problem. “I checked the whatsit board and that wasn’t it. So then I checked all the connections, and they were okay. So after poking around some more, I thought about the widget and about how they’re sometimes wonky. And sure enough….”

Coffee and a doughnut in the break room may be the modern version of the campfire. By sharing the story of how the problem was discovered, the senior tech is educating the less-experienced crew on how to find a problem. The story is far more entertaining – and memorable – than a lecture or a page in the manual. So, next time one of the other techs runs into that problem, the story of finding the wonky widget will come back to him as a possible solution, saving him time and getting the client’s issue taken care of faster.

Dan and Chip Heath’s book, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, is all about storytelling. All kinds of stories, why to tell them, when to tell them, and what you might expect to happen. Made to Stick opens with a story: the urban legend of meeting someone in a bar, then waking up in an ice-filled bathtub missing a kidney. How could you forget it?

Storytelling makes an emotional connection in a way that a lecture never will, whether it’s in print, on slides or in person. You can reach across generations, job functions and demographic groups. You can appeal to different interests. You can illustrate a complex or even controversial concept and make it understood and accepted, as you never will with a dry recitation of facts.

Use stories to help a prospect understand how your product can solve their problem. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. “XYZ Corporation was having the same problem, and when they applied our Super123, their process became much smoother and they saved $100 per widget they produced. Over a year that added up to a lot of dollars.”

Tell a story or two

Are you trying to sell in a competitive market? Is your sales process long and involved? A series of stories, illustrating user success, financial ROI, or ease of use and customer appreciation may help you close the sale.

Engage their interest, help them see the connection between their problem and your solution. Put yourself at the top of mind – and ahead of your competition.

Need help telling your story? Get in touch at 804.382.0594 or bart.levy@fastforwardmktg.com.


Perfect Pitch

We all have to sing for our supper from time to time – to gain a new contract, a new client, a new investor, or even a new partner. Some pitches are pretty informal, but are some a Big Deal. Here are some pointers to help you succeed when there’s a lot on the line.

1) Before You Even Start

Know who’s going to be at the pitch meeting

Get to know the primary client contact ahead of time. What’s her title, responsibilities, and her point of view that is necessitating the pitch? In addition,  who else will be in the room, and what do we know about them? Will the decision maker(s) be in the room? (They should/better be.) Knowing these details upfront helps you better prepare and make a good lasting impression.

The Date

If you can, choose Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday for your meeting. Avoid Mondays if at all possible. You’re putting out fires on Monday to begin with and your prospect probably is too. Your pitch only adds to the stress. Fridays also pose a problem. On the one hand, you get most of the week to prep. On the other hand, people mentally check out on the last day of the week. And it’s worse if it’s a Friday before a holiday.

The Meeting Room

Where is the meeting taking place? If it isn’t at your office, try to get access to the location ahead of time, and check it out. Or at least get a good description of it from the client contact. Visualize how it can be used effectively. Lastly, where’s the AV located, and how will that work in respect to organizing the space? And this is one more person you need to get to know beforehand – the AV person. Sure, most of the time you’re the most knowledgeable tech person in the room, but if there’s a quirk in their system, you don’t want to be dealing with it in a room full of people you’re trying to impress.

How much time do you have?

What’s the official time limit? Most pitches tend to be 60 to 90 minutes, but always make sure. Also know how strict the time requirements are. Is it OK if things run long? If a procurement or purchasing person is involved, expect to be timed by the second. One rule of thumb: Allow for at least 25% of the total time for a Q&A or open discussion.

The Criteria

What’s the scorecard or evaluation criteria? Always ask if a copy of it can be furnished ahead of time. The chance of winning the client will be better if the pitch is tailored to clearly address the criteria.

2) Bring Your Supporting Players

If at all possible, the people who will actually work on the business should be the ones in the room. Many clients will stipulate something to that effect as a pitch requirement, anyway.

For sake of transparency, include content that calls out the broader team that would be involved on the job, and clearly define those individuals’ roles and relationships to those presenting in the room. You may not want your cable guys at the table, but the job supervisor and those who will have direct client contact should certainly be there.

3) Practice, Practice

Two rehearsals are usually enough. The first rehearsal is a stumble-through, intended for getting an initial feel of the content, flow, and transitions between presenters (if there will be more than just you). It should feel like a horrible, awful train wreck. And it always is. That’s OK. Embrace the horror. Share notes about what worked and what didn’t. The second rehearsal should be timed, incorporating notes from the stumble through. It should feel sharper. Then, if necessary and depending how the team is feeling, conduct a third rehearsal for a final polish.

This may feel like overkill for a small job, but if it’s worth your time to make the pitch, it’s worth the time to make it a good one.

Focus on Smooth Transitions 

Know your own content flow. Your final slide voiceover needs to be a natural segue into what you will be discussing. Absolutely nothing can derail energy quicker than an awkward or abrupt transition.

Develop Questions for Your Team and Questions for Your Prospect

Prepare for potential questions that could come from the client during the pitch. Decide who will answer them, and then put them on the spot to practice answering the questions succinctly. Also, discuss what questions you’d like to ask the client team. Preparing questions for the client demonstrates your interest in understanding and solving their business challenges, beyond any ideas you’ve shared during the pitch itself.

Work the Deck

If using Keynote or PowerPoint, always test that it’s working on whatever device you’re going to use for versioning and fonts. Run it in presentation mode to make sure animations and videos work. Have a PDF version handy and a copy of it on a thumb drive. And in case technology completely betrays you, bring at least one printed copy of your deck. Make sure to bring a power supply, clicker, and connector/adaptor cables.

What to wear

Are you pitching to a group of boomer bankers or to a startup full of millennials? Techies have a reputation for casual, and while there’s no mandate to coordinate outfits and colors, you do need to dress appropriately for your audience. You don’t want to find yourself at a disadvantage by wearing khakis and a polo shirt in a room full of suits. Find out what the client’s work dress code is, and determine an approach with your team during rehearsals.

4) Final Prep

Pre-Visualize the Pitch

Find some alone time, and imagine yourself in the presentation space. Envision the people in the room – both those you’re presenting to, and those on your own team. Envision yourself delivering the presentation, and the reactions of the client.

Stay a little loose

You don’t want to sound robotic or become so rigid that any deviation from your script throws you for a loop. During your final prep, give other team presenters the license to jump in and add color while another member is presenting – if the commentary enhances or supports a point in the overall pitch narrative. This doesn’t mean you give everyone free license to cut one another off mid-sentence, but if you can perfect these interactions, it shows that your team is actively listening to one another and works well together. It also shows that you’re listening to the client/prospect and can respond appropriately.

5) The Pitch

Engage During the Pre-Show

There usually is time for presentation set-up, and naturally this lends itself to a little pre-pitch client mingling. Don’t be shy. Say hello to those in the room. Exchange business cards. Engage in small talk. It will help you to feel more comfortable.

Have Energy 

Be excited! Stay engaged, and own the time you have. Breathe. Be present, and keep your thinking in the moment. Smile.

Make Eye Contact

Be conscious of who’s in the room, and try to establish eye contact with them as you present. Making eye contact is the most direct way to connect with anyone, under any circumstance. Don’t ignore everyone but the one(s) you think make the decisions. Chances are, everyone will have input so don’t let anyone feel they’re unimportant.

Read the Room

Always, always allow for some spark of improvisation. Ideas can and will arrive in the moment. Pay attention to them because they might be better than whatever meticulous speaker notes you created. It’s more engaging to speak off the cuff with a bit of charisma than to recite notes you’ve memorized.

Show Gratitude and Humility

It’s a “please” and “thank you” kind of world. A little humility and graciousness can go a long way. Thank those in the room for the opportunity to be there in the first place.

Ask About the Next Step

Don’t act like a used car salesperson, but leave the room with a solid idea of what the next step is, what the timeline for the client’s decision looks like, and when you can expect a call.

6) Post-Pitch


You and your team will leave feeling both completely exhilarated and exhausted. But you’ll all be eager to talk through how everything went. Plan ahead to meet somewhere to relax – at the office, an airport lounge, hotel lobby, etc. The point is to relax and discuss what went well, what impressions the team members walked away with, and what could have gone better.

Don’t Despair

Whether you feel it went well or not, you’re going to remember things you should have said and things you wished you hadn’t said. In the end, the pitch is done. Don’t dwell on it. Remind your teammates to look forward as well. Learn from your mistakes.

7) The Follow-Up

Send a Thank-You Note

Send a note to those you met in the pitch in addition to the key contact from the client side. If you know the physical address,  a handwritten thank-you note is a nice touch.

Always Follow-Up

Don’t go into another pitch, but take advantage of the opportunity to clarify any point that needs it. It may also an opportunity to recover from the mistake you’ve been beating yourself up over. When you leave the pitch, you should have learned when the client will make a decision. If that date has passed and you haven’t received an update, be sure to check in to ask if the client needs any other information.

Now, go for it and good luck!


This post has been adapted from “Perfect the Pitch Process: A 7-Step Method”, by Jeremy Chase at Hubspot.



What’s your password?

According to SplashData, America’s favorite password is no long “password”. That’s the good news. The bad news is that it’s the number two favorite. Still. The number one favorite password is 123456. The number three favorite is 12345678.

I can only shake my head. Have we seen/heard/read nothing about identity theft? About hacking? About malice and mayhem in the online world?

I think the reasons are threefold for such pitiful passwords. One, we believe our information is so unimportant that no one is going to bother us. Another is that we, as technology professionals, haven’t done enough to educate our clients about what makes a good password, or three, that employees/clients don’t understand that an easy-to-access account provides a door into the rest of our accounts and even the whole network.

So, here they are. The top 25 passwords, courtesy of SplashData. And, really, just think up a better password.

Will the cloud change your business? You better hope so.


Cloud technology is changing business in ways we never imagined, faster than we can keep up with, according to a recent post by Paul Gillin in CIO.com. IT service providers are expanding into the Telecom space. Telecom service providers are taking on more and more IT as voice communication goes digital. And there is only more change coming, faster than before. Think of what has changed in the past five years: online shopping and all the data that creates scarcely existed. A few years ago, the sharpest phone around was the Razr and the iPhone hadn’t been released. And what the heck was streaming? If you wanted to see a movie, you went to the theater or watched it, with commercials, on TV.

Some likely changes include:

Small business, with its flexibility and access to the same tools as the big boys, will continue to grow. There’s huge potential for growth for the smaller guys as prices for technology continue to decline. According to Gillin, an unprecedented potential is there for the people who can manage and integrate services, processes and databases.

Business skills will be more necessary than ever for IT professionals. Becoming a technology strategist and helping clients select from among the array of choices will be key. Hiding behind your coding skills will push you further and further into obsolescence.

Keeping up with the technology – personal development – is as important as breathing. We all must be learning, training and growing. Gillin predicts that certifications will become obsolete and classrooms too slow.

There can be no resting on your service awards, your certifications, your client testimonials. You – we all – must keep moving forward. Faster and faster.

Read Paul Gillin’s complete post. If you want to know more about the latest marketing technology, get in touch at info@fastforwardmktg.com.


65 Lies, Damned Lies, and…


Stats symbolsI love statistics. I will proudly proclaim my mostly-right brain way of thinking, but there’s something about stats that I’ve always loved. Maybe, in spite of their being categorized as the worst sort of lie, it’s because they can help us see patterns.

Like snapshots, they’re a captured moment, not the whole story. They usually lack nuance (that’s the “lies” thing). Put those snapshots together, though, and you start getting a pretty comprehensive idea of what’s going on. In the world of marketing, snapshots of social media, blogging, and email, arranged properly, form the picture of inbound marketing today – what works and what you need to be working on in your own business.

So, without further ado, as they say, jump in. Use some of these stats to support the arguments you’re making for your own inbound marketing.

Inbound and content marketing

1. Using inbound tactics saves an average of 13% in overall cost per lead. (Hubspot) This is always a favorite with management.
2. 90% of all organizations use content in their marketing efforts. (demandmetric.com)
3. 78% of CMOs think custom content is the future of marketing. (demandmetric.com)
4. 81% of marketers would increase spending on digital, mobile, and social channels if they could better track ROI. (cmo.com) It can be done.
5. But Globally, 41% of marketers confirm inbound produces measurable ROI, and 82% of marketers who blog see positive ROI for their inbound marketing. Benchmarks are critical. Decide before you start what will be measured.
6. 80% of business decision makers prefer to get information in a series of articles versus an advertisement. (Exact Target) I’m surprised the number is that low. Inbox overflow may be a contributing factor.
7. 61% of consumers say they feel better about a company that delivers custom content and are also more likely to buy from that company. (Custom Content Council)
8. 90% of consumers find custom content useful. (McMurry/TMG)
9. Inbound marketers double the average site conversion rate, from 6% to 12% total. (HubSpot)
10. 34% of all leads generated by marketers in 2013 come from inbound marketing sources. (HubSpot) That number is growing daily. Is your site sales-friendly? Or is it just an online brochure?
11. Inbound practices produce 54% more leads than traditional outbound practices. (HubSpot) Content marketing produces 3 times more leads per dollar. (Kapost)
12. Inbound marketing costs 62% less per lead than traditional outbound marketing. (Mashable)
13. Content marketing produces 3 times more leads per dollar. (Kapost)
14. 84% of audiences age 25 to 34 have left a favorite website due to intrusive advertising. (Mashable) Not only 25 to 34 year olds…
15. Surveyed B2B companies with 250+ employees allocate 55% of their annual marketing budget for content creation and production (excluding promotional investments.) (Kapost)
16. Businesses that mainly rely on Inbound Marketing save more than $14 for every newly acquired customer. (State of Inbound Marketing) Not a lie, but it does make you wonder about that $14. But even if your customer acquisition cost is hundreds of dollars, $14 over hundreds of customers adds up.
17. Mid-sized businesses save 31% on Inbound Marketing costs compared to paid search. (Eloqua)
18. Inbound leads cost 61% less on average than outbound leads. (HubSpot)
19. The average cost per lead drops 80% after 5 months of consistent Inbound Marketing. (Eloqua)
20. Inbound Marketing yields 3 times more leads per dollar than traditional methods. (Kapost)
21. Nurtured leads make 47% greater purchases compared to non-nurtured leads. (The Annuitas Group)
22. Articles with images get 94% more views than those without. (NewsCred)
23. $20K is the average companies save per year by investing more in inbound marketing vs. outbound. (Hubspot)
24. More than half (53%) of marketers rank content creation as the single most effective SEO tactic. (NewsCred) Which leads me to …

SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

25. Buyers go through about 57% of the purchasing process before ever talking to sales. (Executive Board)
26. B2B customers conduct 12 searches on average before checking a specific brand’s website. (Kapost)
27. 83% of online tech buyers found their vendor via Google search. (MarketingSherpa)
28. Nearly half (46%) of people say a website’s design is their number one criterion for determining the credibility of a company. (NewsCred) Haven’t you ever left a site because it was just so ugly? Ugly can also include navigation, by the way.
29. 81% of B2B purchase cycles start with web search, and 90% of buyers say when they are ready to buy, “they’ll find you.” (Earnest Agency) This, to me, is one of the scariest quotes in business. What are you doing to be found? Inbound marketing is a huge part of improving your organic SEO.
30. On average, we conduct 12 billion searches per month on the web in the United States. (Comscore, July 2014)


31. Which content marketing tactics get the best ROI? More than half (51.9%) of marketers say video. (cmo.com) Professional production is helpful, but not 100 percent necessary. If you do go the homegrown route, invest in some editing software to eliminate the ums and ers and stutters. Either way, a series of short – 2 to 3 minute – videos is better than one longer one.
32. By 2017, video marketing will dominate nearly 70% of consumer website traffic. (Cisco)
33. 65% of executives have visited a vendor’s site after watching a video. (Forbes)
34. Open click-through rates increased 200% – 300% when video was included. Video boosts open rates by 19%. (Forrester)
35. Video on landing pages can increase conversion rates by 80%. (Unbounce)


36. Blogs give websites on average 434% more indexed pages and 97% more indexed links. (Inbound Writer)
37. Companies who have prioritized business blogging are 13 times more likely to enjoy positive Inbound Marketing ROI. (HubSpot)
38. If a post is greater than 1,500 words, on average it receives 68.1% more tweets and 22.6% more Facebook likes than a post that is under 1,500 words. (QuickSprout)
39. Once you have posted 50+ times on your blog, blog traffic goes up 53%, 300% with 100+ posts, and 450% with 200+ posts. Blogs that post every day generate 4 times more leads than weekly posts. Don’t forget to invite people to subscribe.
40. Blogs get the highest traffic on Monday mornings. Thursday morning posts get the most social shares. (socialmarketingwriting.com)
41. Blogging increases web traffic by 55% for brands. (Rocket Post)
42. B2B companies that blog generate 67% more leads than those without blogs. (Social Fresh)
43. On average, brands that publish 15 blog posts per month convert 1,200 new leads per month. (HubSpot)


44. More than half of marketers increased their spending on email in 2014 as email ROI reached 2,500%. (cmo.com)
45. Customers who receive email newsletters spend 82% more when they buy from the company. (iContact)
46. 77% of online customers prefer permission-based promotions via email. (ExactTarget)
47. 91% of people have unsubscribed from company emails they previously opted into. (NewsCred) Lots of reasons for this, of course, but make sure you are delivering value – not just self-promos.
48. Email marketing delivers the highest ROI (about 44 cents per dollar spent, on average) of any digital marketing tactic. SEO is #2. Banner ads have the lowest ROI. (Mark the Marketer)
49. Personalized subject lines are 22.2% more likely to be opened. For B2C emails, the words “Alert,” “New,” “News,” “Bulletin,” “Sale,” “Video,” “Daily,” or “Weekly” (though not “Monthly”) all increase open and click-through rates. (Mark the Marketer)
50. For B2B companies, subject lines that contained “money,” “revenue,” and “profit” performed the best. (Mark the Marketer)
51. Timing is important too. 76% of e-mail opens occur in the first two days after an e-mail is sent. E-mail open rates are noticeably lower on weekends than on weekdays. (Mark the Marketer)
52. Emails with social sharing buttons increase click-through rates by 158%. (Social Fresh)
53. 64% of decision-makers read their e-mail via mobile devices. (Mark the Marketer) If you are using a mass-mail platform, be sure they are mobile friendly. This is crucial if you want your message to be read. Otherwise, why bother at all?

Social Media

54. The fastest growing demographic on Twitter is the 55–64 year age bracket. This demographic has grown 79% since 2012. (Fast Company)
55. YouTube reaches more U.S. adults aged 18–34 than any cable network. (Fast Company)
56. Every second two new members join LinkedIn, but LinkedIn has a lower percentage of active users than Pinterest, Google+, Twitter and Facebook. (Fast Company)
57. Social Media has overtaken porn as the No. 1 activity on the web. (Fast Company) I have to say, this always makes me laugh.
58. 78% of small businesses attract new customers through social media. (Relevanza)
59. 85% of B2B buyers believe companies should present information via social networks. (Iconsive)
60. 67% of Twitter users are more likely to buy from brands they follow. (business2community.com)
61. “Interesting content” is one of the top three reasons people follow brands on social media. (NewsCred)
62. LinkedIn is the top social network for B2B marketing. 83% of marketers say they prefer to use LinkedIn for distributing B2B content, and more than half of vendors say they have generated sales through LinkedIn. (Real Business Rescue)
63. 34% of marketers use Twitter to successfully generate leads. (Jeff Bullas)
64. Google+ has 359 million monthly active users. (Jeff Bullas)
65. Over 40% of marketers report that Google+ is “useful to critical” for their business. (HubSpot)


Get in touch if you need more ammunition to get started on inbound marketing at 804.382.0594 or Bart.Levy at FastForwardMktg.com.

Don’t Let the ‘Break-Fix’ Model Break Your MSP Business.


Don’t Let the ‘Break-Fix’ Model Break Your MSP Business. Here’s How to Change It.

MSP break-fix Back in the day, most MSPs developed new business when the phone rang. And the phone rang when someone flipped through the yellow pages, desperate to find someone who could come out today, right now, to fix their computer when the Blue Screen of Death appeared on their monitor. Now, of course, things are different. Or are they?

It’s possible that you are still placing ads in the yellow pages, because the YP salesperson told you that your ad would also appear online or they’d give you a banner ad. Perhaps you’re spending a fortune each month on banner ads. And speaking of banner ads, did you know that the click-through rate on banner ads is now lower than a single digit? The average click through rate of display ads across all formats and placements is 0.06% (Source: Display Benchmarks Tool). I hope your results are better, but I’m guessing they’re disappointing at best.

So why are you depending on someone’s computer to break or their network to crash for new business? You know there’s a better way, but perhaps you don’t know how to develop those new techniques and bandwidth to figure it out, or you don’t have the staff know-how.

It’s a Process

The obvious answer, of course, is to put everyone a maintenance contract. Easy to say, perhaps a little more difficult to do. There are a variety of reasons why customers resist, but there’s at least one you can manage: fear of making an expensive mistake in choosing their MSP.

You can educate your break-fix customers about the breadth of the knowledge and experience of you and your staff, so they feel confident in choosing you. You can also help them understand the benefits of signing a contract for on-going services. It’s a process with several moving parts and it takes time. Be patient and keep working on it. Some of things you can be doing to share what you know:

  • Blog posts – the best place to get started. Share an opinion, share what you know on a topic, or a comment on someone else’s blog. My experience is that it’s hard to just sit and think of some brilliant blog ideas, so check out what others are talking about and then start writing. I find that as I’m writing, other topics also pop into mind. I write them down so I don’t forget them, then refocus on the subject at hand. More ideas on developing blog topics are here.
  • White papers – more in-depth, more focused, and perhaps more technical than most blog posts. They’re sort of like the essays you wrote in school. Just be sure you don’t get bogged down in academic formats and guard against using five-dollar words when nickel words will work. Think two to maybe 10 pages in length, max. Adding charts, graphs, illustrations and good graphic design will help make your white papers popular.
  • Ebooks – very in-depth with many aspects of your topic under discussion. It can be as long as you need and you can charge what you think the market will bear. You may also be able to get Amazon to list it or even get a publisher to pick it up and take on the marketing and distribution for you. Even if it’s very short, it can be a big draw to your website and a major boost to your credibility.
  • Videos – great for those who are more comfortable speaking than writing. Video can be used from everything to replacing your written blog (a written transcript to go with it is very helpful), shot with your smartphone against a simple background, to showing and explaining complex concepts, with high production values and created by professionals. Three minutes maximum, please. If you need more time, consider breaking your video into sub-concepts and creating a series. By 2017, video marketing will dominate nearly 70% of consumer website traffic. (Cisco)
  • Case studies – a good case study sets up the problem, explains the solution, and demonstrates the outcome. If the initial solution/outcome isn’t 100 percent spot on, don’t be afraid of saying so (and what went wrong), and then how you went on to save the day. If you can quote clients saying how great it is to work with you, so much the better.
  • Infographics – we’re in a visual world and infographics are a great way to break complex concepts into bite-size chunks. Show processes, decision trees, solution-result options, and choice-result options are all good candidates for infographics. Infographics are also a great way to pull people into your website.
  • Slide decks – Got slide decks? Most MSPs do, and they can be great for repurposing into inbound marketing materials. Make sure, of course, you have privileged information removed.

Now, Make It Happen

If you have all that at the ready, good for you! Really. If you don’t, it’s going to take time to write and develop a lot of content, but don’t wait until you have a library full of information, get started with what you have. Then, use email and social media to let people know you have it. If you have been marketing via advertising, direct mail and other outbound techniques, and it’s working for you, at least sort of, add inbound to your mix. They can boost the effectiveness of each other.

The important thing is to get started. If you need a boost, get in touch at 804.382.0594 or email me at Bart.Levy at FastForwardMktg.com.

Social media: The ROI is real

Socail media cloud

IT service providers and business owners can be shortsighted when it comes to social media. They sometimes think it is a waste of money, that’s it’s only for B2C business, and who has the time, anyway? As a result they are missing out on a very cost-effective marketing channel. In 2012, Cisco Systems saved $1.5 BILLION over five months when they used social media to introduce a new Salesforce customer-interaction tool. That’s a big return on investment (ROI), even for a very big company.

Cisco has also learned the value of social media as a powerful broadcasting tool for  messages the company wants to send about itself as a company, business partner and employer. In another Cisco campaign, they used only social channels to promote a new router and saved about $100,000.

Rob Petersen’s blog, BarnRaisers, cited 15 case studies, including Cisco and these tech companies:

  • Demandbase used a white paper, infographic, webinar, Slideshare and a live presentation to generate 1,700 leads and $1million in new business.
  • IBM created a social sales program for their inside sales team and trained them to nurture online relationships. It resulted in a 400% increase in sales.
  • RS Components, an electronic product distribution company, created a special hub for collaboration and engagement for Electronic Design Engineering. There’s a free tool store and a free design tool that was down loaded more than 60,000. The site gained 45,000 members in 12 months.

Need more? Rorymartin.com cited these statistics:

  • 77% of buyers say they are more likely to buy from a company whose CEO uses social media.
  • 82% of employees say they trust a company more when the CEO and leadership team communicate via social media. What’s the value of engaged employees to you and your company?
  • B2B companies with blogs generate 67% more leads per month than non-blogging companies.

The social self-help community

Instead of using social media just to promote your products and services, the higher use of social media is to engage with others, commenting and adding to discussions that someone else has started. It’s a great place to share expertise – your own and others. Many companies encourage all of their subject matter experts on staff to engage with customers and gently guiding customers’ problem-solving community. Social media does need to be monitored for negative comments. (Don’t remove those comments, by the way. You will gain far more credibility if you politely respond online.)

An active online community around a product can also save valuable resources when users ping each other with questions and provide solutions instead of depending on your support desk. It has to be monitored, of course, to be sure the solutions suggested are accurate and to block the trolls. This community of users may even teach you something about your own product. I’d call that a win-win.

What is social media?

In addition to blogging, there are 30-plus social platforms. On any or all of these platforms, you can of course post your own comments and photos. It would take a full-time staff of several people to keep up with all platforms. The big three are LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter; the second tier might include Google Plus, YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest, depending on your products.

According to LinkedIn, companies who use inbound and social marketing see a 2%-27% increase to their bottom line. It’s a pretty safe bet that these companies use outbound marketing – direct mail, advertising, sponsored events and more – as part of their marketing mix. They also devote substantial resources to their inbound marketing, but even with a lesser investment of time and resources, it’s hard to argue with the results.

Want to know how your company can use social media and inbound marketing as part of your marketing mix? Contact me at 804.382.0594 or at Bart.Levy@FastForwardMarketing.com.



5 Reasons why MSPs should overcome their blog procrastination

No need to describe what is a blog. If you’ve visited a website lately, you’ve had an opportunity to read their blog. And why not? You might pick up some interesting technical info, insights on whether a new release is worth the time to upgrade all your customers, interpretation of new guidelines and much, much more. Are your site visitors getting the same value from you? Here are some excuses – er, reasons – why people don’t blog and the reasons why they should.

Giving it away means I make less money

Sharing knowledge demonstrates confidence, generosity and, most important to your bottom line, it demonstrates your expertise in your field. Did you pay for every single bit of knowledge and every minute of help you gained on the way to where you are now? Of course not. Think karma!
At the least, you are paying it forward. At best, you are gaining notice as a go-to source for information and as a trusted provider of IT managed services. True, you may not wring every dime out of your customers. On the other hand, you may be gaining customers who otherwise wouldn’t have known of you and educated clients why they chose well when they chose you.

I posted a blog once but no one paid any attention

Maybe not. Unless you are already a very big fish in a very small puddle, it takes time to develop a community of followers. You need to post frequently – at least two to three times a month and more is better.
The good news, though, is that you don’t have to write all your posts yourself. Invite the experts on your staff to write your company’s blog from time to time. If you have different offerings, in say, security, networks and design, or in different silos, like education, government and health care, ask the people on your staff to take a turn at writing posts.
Don’t worry about perfect grammar and spelling – that can be cleaned up later. It gives your SMEs a chance to shine and it takes the pressure off one person (you?) being responsible for all of the blog posts.
As you gain a little history as a blogger, you can also invite experts in your professional network to be a guest blogger. You can also ask to reprint someone else’s post (with attribution, of course).

I don’t know what to say

We all suffer from writer’s block from time to time. More likely, though, is that you know so much, and so take it for granted, that you don’t realize that everyone doesn’t know what you know. Here are a few things to try:

  • Make a list of the top 10 questions your clients ask. Boom! 10 blogs.
  • Report on a recent conference you attended. Each breakout session, plus the keynote speaker, could each be a blog.
  • What are recent trends and how might they affect your clients – and the people you want as clients?
  • Comment on recent news and tie it to recommendations, how your company handles similar issues for your clients, and so on. I’m thinking of topics like data hacking, HIPAA security, security breaches, cloud backups, redundancy, efficiency, software updates, advances in ecommerce – you get the idea.

I don’t have time

This may be the most difficult to address. Unfortunately, they aren’t making days with more hours in them. However, if you think about it in terms of business development, you’ll see how it becomes more worth your time.
Let’s say you had 100 leads last year that you acquired at expos, Chamber of Commerce meetings, Rotary meetings, and random inquiries from people who found you through Google. You had coffee with twenty-five of them. That’s an hour at Starbucks plus 30 minutes each way. Right there you’ve spent 50 hours, plus the networking hours.
Now suppose 10 of them request for a proposal at however many hours that takes. And now only one person signs a deal. That’s a LOT of hours for a pretty small return. By blogging, people will have a clearer understanding of what you do, more qualified leads will come over the transom, and you can cut back on unproductive networking.
One caveat: It will take many blogs over several months for this to become a reality. The process can be speeded up with other inbound marketing, emailing and social media. That, too, takes more time on a daily basis, but your marketing staff or contractor can handle it for you.

I’m an engineer/salesperson/business owner, not a writer

Assuming you are a reasonably smart person, you can use reasons 1 through 4 for ideas on how to get around the mental and time blocks. You can also dictate your blog and let your computer – or an office assistant – transcribe it. You can also put your thoughts down, without worrying about punctuation, grammar or narrative flow. Then you can go back and stitch together the elements to create the narrative or hand them off to a writer to create the blog for you.

Need help? Have questions? Get in touch with Bart.Levy(at)FastForwardMktg.com.