By Don Lazzari, Delivering Value LLC
Ciao amici. It’s good to see you again at our new meeting place, Techburger. For those of you who have joined us for the first time, organizations in the know call me The Godfather of Growth. Each month, we get together to talk business – how to grow sales, manage your people and take your business from a small operation into one that the other capos will look at with envy. So grab a double espresso and listen up.
This month we are going to talk about generating demand. We’re all aware that you can’t grow without expanding your network of people who bring money into the organization – customers. But a significant challenge for many organizations is finding enough potential sales opportunities to add customers at a rate that fuels the growth of the business. For this month’s discussion, we are going to focus on how to generate demand if you are a B to B. In the B to B world, many of the new and innovative social media tactics that B to C companies are employing with great success may not produce as much traction. While I may go to Facebook or Twitter to ask my network about a restaurant or a car, chances aren’t as likely that I’ll go there to ask about a technology product or service that will solve a business problem for me. So let’s look at what successful emerging B to Bs are doing bridge the gap.
Before we start, let me dispel one notion. You don’t have to spend a ton of money to generate demand. When you have a ton of money it only broadens what you can do, it doesn’t necessarily make it any more effective. So if you are part of an emerging company with a limited budget, don’t get discouraged. Successful demand generation rarely, if ever, is free. It does require some level of investment. But if you are a wise about how you spend the limited dollars you have, you can make a modest budget produce more than modest results.
Successful demand generation includes three main facets – awareness, passive demand generation and active demand generation. Let’s look at awareness first. In order for someone to buy my product or service, they first need to be aware that it exists. There are a number of avenues that require almost no investment other than your time. The first and most obvious is the Internet. Here’s what you can do for free. Add key search word and meta tags to your web site to make it easier to find your business through a Google search. Want to increase this, blog about a subject that is pertinent to your industry, your customers or your products or submit articles for publication in e-magazines. The more present you are on the Internet with fresh information, the higher you’ll appear in a search. Yes, there companies who have expertise in search engine optimization that can help you do this; but you’d be surprised what you can do on your own.
You can also increase awareness by submitting stories to industry publications and blogs that feature how your customers solved a business problem by using your product or service. In addition, you can also apply to speak at industry conferences or gatherings. One thing that you have to remember is that most potential buyers will care little about hearing how innovative or revolutionary your product is, so don’t produce product feature/function infomercials. Focus your content on customer experience because your future customers are very interested in what their peers are doing to solve the same business problems they face. If you are fortunate enough to have someone who is adept at writing on your team, you can do everything that I’ve mentioned for less than $500. If you don’t, there are plenty of very capable and reasonable contract writers who can help you do it very cost effectively.
Let’s move on now to marketing. If you are part of my sales family, marketing doesn’t mean producing clever, colorful brochures and websites. It means producing potential sales opportunities as in leads. There are two basic approaches to marketing efforts – passive and active.
Passive marketing means that you have no way to directly engage with a potential customer when their interest is sparked. You have to rely on them to act. Two good examples of passive marketing are trade shows and advertising. Both help you find potential customers but the onus of action is on the customer. It’s kind of like fishing in a river. You throw bait into the water and hope that the type of fish that you want to catch bites. You’re also hoping that enough of those types will bite so that it has an impact on sales. For me, there’s too much hope here my friends and we all know that hope is not a strategy.
Active marketing is where you are taking your message to your potential customers in a systematic and targeted fashion. You are doing things to prompt them into acting. A great example of active marketing is an email campaign to a well-defined group of targets that is coupled with active outbound calling. All things being equal, this is the approach that will most likely produce the best results for dollars invested. Just like with awareness, your campaigns will be more effective if you feature a customer and not your product or service.
So here’s my advice if you are an emerging company with limited budget. Favor investing in active marketing over passive marketing. Then do as much as you can for free or almost free to boost awareness. Also, be certain that your active marketing efforts include telephone follow-up. Active follow-up can be a real difference maker in finding prospective clients.
Before I say arrivaderci, let me share with you what the 2012 demand generation investment looks like for a client who wants to increase sales from less than a million to more than 3 million with a modest, but appropriate investment in marketing.
- 2% awareness – (includes contract writing services)
- 7% fulfillment – (includes brochures and collateral)
- 75% active demand generation for 20 campaigns – (includes email and direct mail campaign materials, list purchase/rental, telephone follow-up, supporting software)
- 16% trade shows and events – (includes one national conference and one executive level event)
As you can see, they are favoring targeted marketing with active follow-up. They have limited their trade show appearances and other passive tactics to one national conference and one executive conference. Something that I’d strongly recommend everyone considered doing since I consistently see too much marketing investment spend being devoted to trade shows. They are also spending nothing on advertising. Something I’d also strongly recommend. For dollar spent, advertising is least effective in B to B settings. Use advertising once your company has emerged to bolster awareness, assert market position and build brand. Don’t do it when you are still trying to breakthrough.
We’re running out of time for this month’s meeting. If you need my help, you can find me at firstname.lastname@example.org . You can also call me at 412-973-8909 but be careful what you say because you never know who’s listening.
Don’t forget you can stay connected with what’s happening in the sales family @GrowthGodfather on Twitter. Ciao for now my friends.
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