News Flash: B2B = B2C

People talk about B2B and B2C as if they’re Venus and Mars — two completely different spaces. That leads to the assumption that the messaging for each has to be dramatically different. And that’s a mistake.

Certainly, the sales process is different for each. But in every case — without exception — decision makers have to be engaged by marketing or salespeople, or both. And decision makers are people, just like other people.

Regardless of what we believe about ourselves, people make decisions based on both data and emotion. But in the B2B world, we assume data drives decisions, and that emotion seldom comes into play at all.

In fact, emotion may be an even more powerful motivator in the B2B world than it is in consumer sales. As a consumer, when you buy something, the only consequence for a wrong choice is that you’re unhappy.

But if you’re making a purchase decision for your company, the stakes are higher — maybe much higher. A mistake doesn’t just impact the company. It can affect co-workers and even jeopardize your position or your career.

Smart B2B marketers use language rooted in emotion — words that reassure potential buyers. They reveal all the problems and issues — and the dire consequences — that can be avoided by choosing them over a competitor.

This is one reason the right testimonials work so well. They provide reassurance to potential buyers, including insulation from the possibility of things going wrong.

It’s also why a lot of industry jargon acts as sales repellent. Not only does it actually impede communication, it can make it seem that the potential pitfalls of a product or service are being hidden behind a wall of technical talk.

Even with the most sophisticated audience, there’s a lot of evidence that simple, straight talk is the shortest path to the level of trust you need to make a sale. Save the technical language for those who ask for it.

And don’t just remind prospects of the pitfalls if they choose poorly. Show them how you make their lives easier and better in clear, emotionally-rich language. Never forget that the customer is the hero of your story. Not you. Not your company. Not your product or service. Your customer.

Finally, as with consumer companies, B2B companies need to demonstrate how simple they make things. Make your product or service easy to buy and easy to use — and constantly look for ways to make it even easier.

If you want to stand out in the B2B space, start thinking of your prospects as consumers. When you do, you’ll liberate your marketing and accelerate your sales.

HR Needs Marketing. And Vice Versa.

No one talks about it. But Marketing and Human Resources need each other to succeed. Here are four areas where marketing can assist HR, and vice versa.

Most companies need talented employees now. But marketing involvement is often limited to ordering the “Now Hiring” signs and making sure positions get posted on the website or social media. 

Marketing can do more. Like rewriting “now hiring” to make it more sexy. Making job descriptions more appealing. Creating point-of-purchase material that entices and excites. Rethinking the website to bring talent recruitment to the fore. Or using social media to share company culture.

Robust recruitment marketing has a side benefit of increasing retention. Find passionate employees and let marketing create videos of them talking about what they love about their jobs. Share those on your website and social media – and encourage your team to like and share.

Actively look for ways to hold up team member achievements and successes — on social media but also at the point of purchase and in employee emails and communications — with the spotlight squarely on those top performers and their accomplishments.

It may not seem like a marketing function, but finding fun and innovative ways to share goals and wins is a sure way to engage your team. 

There’s the classic story of the company owner who took a piece of chalk and wrote on the shop floor, in huge numerals, the number of units his day shift had produced. Nothing else. When those workers came in the next morning, they found it replaced by the night shift with the much bigger number they had produced. It was on. And productivity and pride soared. That’s marketing.

Let marketing and HR brainstorm inventive ways to display goals where the team members responsible for meeting those targets can see them. Find equally compelling ways to show progress toward them — and to celebrate reaching each.  

A brand stands or falls on how well employees deliver on the brand promise. The more ways HR can find to instill the mission and accountability into everything from the hiring process to ongoing training and support, the stronger the brand will become and the more effective every marketing initiative will be.

2020 Vision vs. Brand Blindness.

They say “familiarity breeds contempt.” But in marketing, familiarity breeds blindness — brand blindness. You’re simply too close to see your unique position clearly. And you can’t share what you can’t see.

Think about it. You know your company inside and out. Your products. Your services. Your people. Your customers. Your competitors. Your industry.

But knowing it all so well can make it almost impossible to see it with the fresh eyes that building a brand requires. And that can make planning for 2020 and beyond pretty tricky.

This exact scenario played out at a recent Storybrand workshop. Attendees struggled to answer some of the questions that could help them shape a unique position. 

Then something funny happened. When they were paired up with the person next to them, each was able to see the other person’s position much more easily than they could see their own.

If you or your team struggle to pin down the unique ways you help customers on their journey, maybe a little outside perspective can help. And the best place to start may be your customers — especially new ones.

Ask them what problems you solve for them. How you make their lives easier. What you do for them that others didn’t or couldn’t or wouldn’t. This moves you past products and services to real benefits.

Their answers will shed light on why they chose you — and why others should, too. They’ll give you some clear direction for your marketing messages. And if you’re following the Storybrand path to clarifying your marketing, they’ll fill in a lot of the blanks for you.

There are a couple of bonus benefits, too. You’ll end up with some new testimonials for your website, social media, etc. And your relationships with those customers will probably be even stronger.

Interview those customers one at a time or as a group, whichever makes them more comfortable and relaxed. And consider having an outside party interview them, so your own brand familiarity doesn’t blind you to key insights you could otherwise miss.

As you plan your marketing for the new year, take this opportunity to sidestep your own brand myopia and gain true 2020 vision for your brand.

The Five Ingredients of Great Copy.

Whether for a print ad, a website, a radio spot, a brochure, a TV spot, a digital ad, an email, a video or something else, there are five factors that mark great copy.

Our brains have been retrained. Texts and tweets and TV have shortened our attention spans. So short copy gets read Long copy doesn’t. Trim ruthlessly. Short words. Short sentences. Short paragraphs. Get in. Get out.

Great copy takes the customer’s point of view. Show me you understand my problems. Feel my pain. Share my joy. But make it about me.

Nothing sticks in your brain like the unexpected. That’s why surprise works so well in copy. And humor is the best surprise — real humor that makes you smile or chuckle. That kind of copy doesn’t just get a reaction. It gets shared.

Too much copy uses logic to persuade. But forget the head for awhile. Aim for the heart. Conjure up the emotions you want the customer to feel. Contentment. Frustration. Joy. Longing. Nostalgia. Engage the heart, and the head will follow. (And yes, this includes B2B copy. Because business owners are people, too.)

Lose the jargon. Seriously. How simply and clearly can you say what you do and how you help? Look over every sentence that takes your message into the world. Is it clear? Is it helpful? Is it necessary?

If you can inject those five ingredients into all of the copy you’re using to reach prospects and customers, you’ll reach a lot more, and they’ll retain a lot more. And that means you’ll sell a lot more.

Cute and Clever, or Clear?

There are two billboards within a mile or so of one another. Both advertise eye care. Sort of.

One company’s billboard uses the headline, “We focus on you.” Cute? Not really.

The other company has the word “First” in its name. So their headline? “We put your eye care first.” Get it?

Neither headline is very memorable. And neither tells you why they’re the right choice. In fact, they’re both trying, in somewhat lame fashion, to say exactly the same thing.

Clever — or what passes for clever — is often the enemy of clarity. When a company lacks a strong, unique position, they often fall back on cute.

There are a couple of problems with this. First and most obvious, those “clever” headlines don’t give consumers a reason to choose one over the other.

Prospects need a reason to choose you. A hook. Something to remember you by. Something different. A benefit only you can offer. A thing they can only get from you.

Being cute without being clear about why you’re the best choice just makes you forgettable. You’re not distinctive. You’re one of many.

That brings us to the second problem. Neither of those headlines above is actually clever. They’re certainly not funny enough to make either provider stand out.

And there’s the problem. A really, truly clever campaign can help you overcome the lack of a strong position. You’re easier to remember because you actually made yourself memorable. Think of Allstate and “Mayhem,” or Progressive and Flo, or Farmers and their “seen a thing or two” and jingle.

Being clear about the “why you” question is hard enough. Being clever in the process is really tricky. But doing both at the same time is where the money is.

So if you or the creative firm you work with are trying to come up with clever or witty messaging, ask yourself a couple of questions. First, is that messaging clear about what you do and why you’re better? Second, is it really, truly clever in a way that sticks — or only mildly so, like a moderately cute play on words?

If you can do both, that’s where marketing moves the needle. But if you can only be one, choose clarity. Because no one ever made money being confusing…or boring.

Pain Relief Sells.

If you want to keep a prospect’s attention long enough to turn them into customers, there are three important things you have to do — three steps that make the whole process easier.

Find Your Prospect’s Pain.
What problem does your prospect have? It could be pain they’re well aware of, or pain they’re oblivious to, because they don’t know any different. It could be pain from not using services like yours, or pain from using a competitor who isn’t delivering on what they promised.

And don’t get too literal about that word “pain.” Think more broadly. What annoys them. What exasperates them? What wears them out? What takes too long? What feels impersonal? What doesn’t work as intended?

As clearly as possible, define all the kinds of pain your prospect has to endure without you.

Agitate Those Pain Points.
Remind your prospect of their pain in vivid ways. If they’re unaware of it, demonstrate it to them. Show them what they’re missing. If they know about it already, amplify it. 

Share details. How is it hurting your prospect when they don’t use you? What are they giving up? What are they putting up with? What sucks? Poke that wound. Agitate that pain.

Offer Your Pain Relief.
Only after you’ve shown the prospect that you understand their pain, and only after you remind them how much it hurts, offer them the relief that only you can provide.

Show them how you eliminate their pain. Let them see how much better — how painless — life can be when they’re using you. Better yet, use testimonials and let your own customers tell them.

Easy As 1,2,3.
Understand your prospects’ pain and remind them of it. Agitate and amplify it. Then show them how you spell relief.

If you follow that simple formula — on your website, in your video, in your ad, in your email — you’ll generate more leads and convert more of those to customers.

(And if you could use a hand, Idealogy’s Allen Howie is the Louisville region’s only Storybrand Certified Guide. Call 812-399-1400 or reply to this email to find out how he can help you relieve your prospects’ pain — and your own, too!)

Treat Your Website Like Your Pet

If you gave your pet the same amount of attention most companies give their websites, there’s a good chance you’d have a dead pet.

A lot of businesses go through a website redesign every few years. Then they let the site sit mostly idle until it’s time to do it again a few years later. Rinse and repeat.

But that kind of benign neglect is killing your marketing. Here’s why.
First, the longer a website goes without new content, the farther it drops in search engine rankings. So if you depend on your website for lead generation, you’ll see diminishing returns.

Second, that “every few years” approach means that when you do decide to make a change, you’re probably more focused on redesign than on rethinking what your site could be.

Third, search engine algorithms and technology in general change faster all the time. So what works for your website now probably won’t in a year or two. 

Website development is no longer an event. It’s a continuous process. And that requires a different approach, with four separate but related stages.
The first is strategic. Set goals for the website. What should it do for you? How can it generate leads? Help recruitment? Improve customer service? How can it reinforce your brand?

The second is design and development. This includes structure, content, functionality and code. How will the site look? What will it be able to do? Do you expect more visitors on mobile devices? Then build for a great mobile experience.  

The third stage is ongoing content development. Create a calendar for new content. Develop topics, assign roles and set deadlines. Sync this with your social media calendar (you do have one, don’t you?) so your content and message are consistent across the digital space you occupy.

Finally — and parallel with stage three — is monitoring analytics and changes in everything from SEO to hardware and consumer trends. This lets you adjust content as needed, and also helps you know when the look and flow of your site is out of step with the way people are using the web. Because that is and will remain a moving target.

The more attention and care you show your website, the more it will do for you. And isn’t that the point?

(If you could use a hand with any or all of the four stages of ongoing web development, reply to this email or call 812-399-1400 to see how Idealogy can make your site work harder and make the process easier.)

Seven Ingredients for Powerful Emails

The average professional spends about 13 hours a week reading and responding to email. So if you want to cut through that thicket, watch these seven factors.

Inform and Sell
Alternate emails between those that give the reader valuable information and those that sell what you do. Think about answering the “how to” question in either case — “how to boost your _____ results” or “how to cut your _____ bill in half.”

The 50% Subject Line Rule
Spend half your content creation time perfecting your subject lines. If your email doesn’t get opened, it doesn’t get read. Powerful subject lines get emails opened. Use numbers. Ask questions. Keep it short. Use punchy language.

Content Mix
Try different kinds of content and pay attention to what works for you. Is it a quick video? An article? A chart or infographic? A “how to” pdf? Experiment to see what performs best, but keep mixing it up.

Calls to Action
Think beyond open and click-through rates. What do you want your reader to do? Tell them. Buy now. Get a free sample. Schedule an appointment. Download the free guide. Give your reader something to do.

Trim and Grow
Have a continuous process for building your list and stay on top of it. Prune that list regularly. Get rid of names tied to bounces, or those who go a certain amount of time without ever opening one of your emails.

Involve Prospects and Customers
Ask readers what they want. As a part of your regular conversations, ask what kinds of emails they find themselves opening. What do they need to know more about? How can you help?

Stay Social
Share your email content across your social media platforms. Share your social media links in every email. Share other people’s relevant posts with your connections, but not too often — the best content is always yours.
Email remains a powerful, cost-effective way to drive awareness and sales. And there’s a lot more you can do to amp yours up. Call us today to find out how we can help you max out your email ROI.

Four Social Media Missteps to Avoid.

There are lots of ways to miss the potential of social media for your company. Here are four of the biggest to avoid.

Hiring the Wrong Person.
Just because someone is active on their own personal social media — even if they’re wildly engaging — doesn’t mean they can do the same for your company. If they don’t really understand your business — and more importantly, your customers — it’s unlikely they’ll post the kind of content that will truly resonate with them and move them closer to a purchase.

Here’s the good news. There’s probably somebody who already works for you who knows you and your customers well and who would like the opportunity to start handling your social media. They get an opportunity to do something different and earn a bit more, and you get a much higher chance that your content will hit the mark. If that won’t work, consider hiring an agency or a professional to manage your social media accounts.

Now Hiring. Again.
If you’re constantly posting open positions you’re trying to fill, you’re either saying that you’re short-handed, or that you have a lot of turnover. In either case, it suggests that you’re having some internal challenges, and that the service you’re providing right now may not be great.

Should you use social media for recruiting? Absolutely. But try positioning your postings as signposts of growth. Use testimonials from existing employees to talk about what a great place yours is to work. And post plenty of other kinds of content so it doesn’t seem like you’re always looking for help.

Same Old Same Old.
Take a look at your posts from the last three months. If they’re all pretty much the same kind of content (“congratulations to or team for doing ____”) the chances that your audience is paying attention are getting slim. You need to be helping them, informing them or entertaining them — and ideally all three — every step of the way.

The cure? Take time to build a content calendar that really mixes things up — and stick to it. Schedule lots of different kinds of posts, with a focus on what interests your customers the most.

Always Be Closing. Or Not.
If you’re using social media only to sell what you do and promote how awesome you are, with pictures of your team doing exciting things, it’s pretty unlikely to move the needle for your brand.

Instead, make your customers the star. Ask them questions. Tell their stories. Share their posts. Like their content. Show how their lives or businesses are better because of their connection to you. Check your analytics to see which posts seem to catch on — and create more like them.

Social media is a fantastic tool, but like all tools, you get more out of it when you really know how to use it. Use yours well.

Are Smaller Lists Better?

In marketing, we usually think that the more people we can reach, the better. But when it comes to the lists you’re using, going big may not be the best strategy.

It may seem counterintuitive, but with email or direct mail, you should almost always try to trim your lists. Here’s why.

Especially with direct mail, each prospect you reach costs you money. So it makes sense to focus your list on your best prospects — those who: 

  • Are most likely to have the problem you solve or who want what you provide
  • Are most likely to buy
  • Have the highest potential to generate long-term / lifetime value
  • You can serve cost-effectively and profitably

Think about your best customers or clients — those who meet the above criteria. What do you know about them? 

If they’re individual consumers, what’s their annual income or net worth? Where do they live? How old are they? Are they college educated? Do they have kids? How old? What else?

If they’re businesses, how big are they? What’s their annual revenue? How many employees do they have? What industries are they in? Where are they located? How long have they been around? Who’s your contact?

Now look at building or refining your list around more people or businesses who fit those criteria. These are the prospects you’re more likely to convert.

Keeping your mailing lists more focused means you’re not paying to deliver your message to those who are less likely to buy. Keeping your email list under control means fewer bounces and higher open and click-through rates. In both cases, your response rate goes up and costs go down.

So if you’re using these two powerful marketing tools, amplify their value by tightening up your lists. And be sure to use your website to offer visitors something of value in exchange for their email address.

(And if you could use a hand building those lists or crafting a message that creates engagement and response, call Idealogy at 812-399-1400 or email to get started.)