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Strive First to Be the Better Version of Who You’ve Always Been

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If you’re of a certain age, there’s a good chance you remember the Sears Wish Book catalog from childhood, especially if your family celebrated Christmas. Flipping through its pages and choosing items for Santa to bring was a widespread rite of the late fall season. And it wasn’t only children who depended on Sears & Roebuck. For populations in rural areas and small towns, the company’s general merchandise catalog was the household supplier of everything from little girls’ patent leather shoes to their fathers’ power tools. (Please excuse the sexism, we’re going for a nostalgic vibe, here). Though specific product offerings had changed over decades, that was how things had been for about 100 years, starting in the late 19th Century.

Sears stopped publishing its general merchandise catalog in 1993 with the full-sized Wish Book hanging around until 2005. The company was becoming just another department store. In 2004, Sears bought the K-Mart chain to further cement a brick-and-mortar direction in retail. Though still offering a wide variety of products—including such stalwart inhouse brands as Diehard and Kenmore—Sears is far from what it once was. Today, it appears the company may be on its last legs. Revenue losses of $8 billion dollars from 2010 to 2016 prompted the closing of dozens of K-Mart and Sears stores, and things haven’t gotten any better in 2017. Reports are that Sears continues to hemorrhage cash, and many more store closings loom. The Sears in our very own Tyrone Square Mall is being demolished at this very moment.

However, about the time that Sears was turning away the mail-order aspect of its business, another company was starting operation, selling books online for delivery to consumers at their homes. In 1998, this new company expanded its offerings beyond books. Today, it is one of the most powerful brand names in the world, worth approximately $100 billion. Notably, as had previous generations who looked to the Sears & Roebuck catalog, now a huge portion of modern consumers visit Amazon.com to find almost anything.

In 2017, we see the delivery aspect of Amazon’s business including digital products and services, but the basic value proposition has remained consistent. That is, Amazon will make it easy for you to purchase the things you want, and they will get them to you wherever you are. And while Amazon’s “catalog” is online rather than a printed book, the impetus for the company’s growth is not very different from what made Sears an iconic brand for a full century.

In retrospect, perhaps Sears’s executives were thinking of the saying, “evolve or die,” when they changed the company’s business model and diversified. (For a period, Sears’s holdings included investment services with Dean Witter, insurance with All-State and real estate with Coldwell Banker). However, that’s a misunderstanding of beneficial evolutionary mutations. To be successful, the basic form remains the same; there’s just a new feature/aspect/innovation that lets the existing entity explore new horizons. What Sears did was abandon focus on what made the company special—the very core of its brand identity.

To the “evolve” maxim, legendary football coach, Paul “Bear” Bryant, may have offered the perfect rejoinder: “You dance with the one whut brung you.” It seems that the date Sears walked out on, is the one that Amazon took home.

b2b marketing

Which Type of Video Works for Your Business or Project?

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Video is an important part of advertising, and can be instrumental in informing your customers about many aspects of your business, from your product line to your company culture to education. With so many different types of video, it’s important to assess your goals and decide which type will best help you reach them. Whether it’s a company overview or a series of interviews to demonstrate your expertise, do some serious planning before you commit to production to get the best value.

Some types of video to consider:

  • Company overview – this video is usually a documentary-style video that can include b-roll of your business in action, short interview clips with your employees and/or customers, shots of your company culture, and usually has a music track playing in the background to help evoke an overall feel. Sometimes these can be quite moving, depending on the business. For example, we are working on a video for Shorecrest Preparatory School, and it’s quite beautiful, with a lot of emotive shots of the students and teachers in a passionate learning environment. The video truly evokes the culture of Shorecrest, and you are lucky if you finish watching it without shedding a tear. We also just finished a company culture video for Big Frog Custom T-Shirts – it really demonstrates what the Big Frog Franchise Group is all about and they are excited to use it to capture the hearts of new potential franchisees.
  • Interviews – interview videos can serve several purposes, and are usually less time consuming than a full company overview and can be repurposed and used in other videos like the company overview, case studies, etc. Depending on your goal, interview videos may involve one of your staff answering questions about their expertise, process, or the company culture. You may invite clients to do an interview video for a case study about your company, or do an entire video with client testimonials.
  • Case Studies – case study videos can focus on a particular project that you’ve worked on and may include many elements, from client testimonials to shots of your employees in action. These videos are a great way to demonstrate just how great your business is and how passionate you are about your work. This is an added bonus for your clients – when you post the video you should always tag your client to drive traffic to their site. Case study videos are a great marketing tool on multiple levels for that reason – you are promoting your work and your clients’ work, plus you are giving clients an incentive to hire you – you feature them in your beautiful videos!
  • Video blogs – this is a blanket term that can include some of the other types of videos, especially interview videos, but these can also be somewhat more casual and some companies do these in-house with camera phones or personal video cameras. Video blogs can be anything from weekly or daily updates about new products, company news, or commentary on what’s happening in the industry. The sky is the limit with video blogs, in a way, because they are very specific to the atmosphere of your blog and your industry.
  • Educational videos – educational videos can be created for your staff or your clients. These may be product demos, or instructional videos for training purposes. You may even create several of this type of video to use for your inbound marketing efforts. For example, a videographer may post a short video on how to create simple video blogs outlining the equipment needed, easy-to-use editing programs, and places to find stock music for background and inexpensive stock b-roll if needed. This is a great resource for potential clients, and if they need a more professional video produced in the future, you will probably come to mind.

Videos are great marketing tools – just make sure that if you make the investment, you plan properly and have clear goals in mind. Contact Pinstripe Marketing if you’d like to discuss your video project – we can help you plan and execute the perfect video for your company’s needs.

Trick-Shot Marketing: It’s Hard to ‘Kill Two Birds with One Stone’

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We love it when we take an action that turns out exactly as we hoped … and our single initiative goes on to bring additional good fortune. It’s such a happy accident that we’re often tempted to try and force such occurrences on a regular basis. Be warned, however. When it comes to marketing, these “trick-shots” can be very counterproductive.

Simple fact, it’s usually better to have a specific marketing effort entirely devoted to achieving a single, pre-identified goal.

But wait. If a person can learn do impressive things with, for instance, a slingshot (like ricochet a rock to ring a bell before hitting a bullseye), why can’t clever marketers do something comparable in their line of work?

Okay, ask yourself this: In the wild, how often do people with slingshots come across a bell positioned near a bullseye—set up exactly as they’ve practiced their shot? A more important question, is what purpose does such a trick shot serve, other than to prove it can be done? You could spend hours in practice in a carefully controlled environment, wasting a lot of rocks until you get it right. But if the goal is to ring the bell and hit the bullseye, a good marksman could probably do so within a few seconds using just two pebbles. Not spectacular by any means, but certainly more efficient. In business, more efficient is almost always better.

Think about the resources you devote to your marketing plans for a year. Let’s say a couple of goals are to improve lead generation and to refresh your website. Couldn’t you get more bang for your buck by building a website that’s designed to generate leads? Very improbable.

Consider the website refresh in our scenario: What did you originally want to accomplish? You probably wanted to update information about your products, improve search engine results, better support your brand … maybe improve customer service. How much would those plans need to change to turn the site into one that would primarily generate leads—even if such a thing was possible? Maybe you could create a website that’s so amazing that it inspires sales … but you would have to devote resources to generating website traffic before generating leads; it would probably cost a lot more; and it wouldn’t be the upgrade you originally wanted. Plus, chances are that you could get a lot more leads with a traditional, targeted campaign!

The “one-rock-per-target” rule holds for smaller projects as well. Imagine you want to send out a direct mail postcard to improve brand awareness. At the same time, you have a new service that you’d like to publicize. The temptation might be to save on printing and postage by letting one message piggy-back with the other. What’s the harm?

First, your headline and imagery can only support one of the two messages. (Don’t even think about splitting messages between headline and image. We will hunt you down and hurt you.) That means the other message gets second-banana billing—more easily dismissed as unimportant by your audience. Secondly, as for the headline subject, you lose valuable postcard space that could better drive home the point. All-in-all, the postcard would be in much more danger of falling flat.

We understand that marketing budgets can be tight … and at times the shotgun approach is your only option. (You just shoot and hope for the best.) But leave the trick shots for people with nothing better to do, and take aim at one worthwhile target at a time. If you need help, get in touch with us – we can steer you in the right direction.

b2b marketing

The Six Stages of Super-Customer Development

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Picture a great customer. He or she will have been buying from you for quite a while. They make purchases on a regular basis. They appreciate the work you do and they respect your expertise. And the best part is that they recommend your business to their friends, family and business associates.

Do you have a lot of clients like this? Do you have any? If you’re short on the number of super-customers in your client base, it may not be a reflection on the value of goods or services you provide. In fact, the opposite could be true. Maybe you put so much effort in being the best at what you do, that you’re neglecting the customer-development stage of your business. After all, you don’t just find great customers hidden like Easter eggs. They must be created—by you. It’s a process that takes planning, dedication and time.

There are six stages to creating a committed customer:

  1. Create awareness of your brand – Yes, this is basic but we’ve got to start somewhere. Besides, it’s impossible to have more great customers than people who’ve ever heard of your business, so maximize the foundation of your client base through marketing (i.e. PR, direct mail, print, TV, digital … etc.). Not every promotional vehicle is effective for every business type and there are a lot of factors to consider (that’s where agencies like Pinstripe Marketing come in!) but you must let people know your company exists, one way or another.
  1. Get your target audience interested in your products/services – Congratulations! Some prospective customers have heard of your business! Unfortunately, they have probably heard of your competitors as well. Now you have to help them understand why your products or services are better than those they can get elsewhere. You do this with a consistent brand message based on value propositions to the customer by utilizing marketing vehicles tailored to your business and audience.
  1. Do some convincing – After the first couple of stages, you may have landed a few customers, but you want more, don’t you? Now’s the time to back up the value claims you’ve made with blogs, testimonials, case studies and white papers. You might even show off your confidence by inviting customer reviews/feedback on your website or through social media. Such persuasion motivates buying decisions and helps cement the client-business relationship. People who carefully consider a decision before making it become emotionally invested in seeing it turn out well. No one likes to admit to a mistake, so if such a customer has a rare moment of disappointment, they will be less likely to cut and run, allowing you to recover from a minor error.
  1. Ensure the purchasing experience is a good one – What would you do if someone concluded their business with you feeling regret, and you knew about it? How could you get them to feel better? Send them a card letting them know you appreciated their business? Maybe inquire as to their ongoing satisfaction with the product or service, or the level of attention they received? Perhaps make sure they know you stand behind their purchase with reasonable support so they stay happy? Do these things with everyone as standard operating procedure, and you’ll combat stray feelings of regret among the few. You’ll also ensure that worry-free customers bond even more tightly with you!
  1. Never take them for granted – If you’ve been diligent in developing customer relationships through this point, you should be in great shape. In fact, victory is yours if you don’t blow it. Remember those promises to answer concerns and provide appropriate ongoing support? Make sure you’re keeping them. And, in general, stay in touch with friendly postcards, surveys, newsletters and special deals. Always let existing customers know how important they are to you. (Just think of all the work you’ve put into the relationship already. Don’t let that go to waste now!)
  1. Take advantage of their advocacy – They really like you and you really like them. This is where the investment in customer development truly pays dividends. Make it easy for great customers to share their enthusiasm by featuring happy clients in testimonials and case studies, onsite reviews and marketing collateral. You might even reward them with a customer referral program. (Meanwhile, don’t forget to take a moment to feel earned pride over every super customer you have!)

It’s true that not every prospect will require every outlined step to be a buyer; you may be lucky enough to have a few very low-maintenance customers for years and years. Conversely, some people are going to leave you no matter what you do. But If you have a process for turning customers into advocates and stick to it, you will have exponentially increased your odds of enjoying consistent, sustainable business growth.

If I Have to Go to One More Happy Hour…

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Networking always seems like it revolves around a happy hour or cocktails in a conference room with some finger foods. These events can be effective in bringing people out to mingle, but really lose their luster after a while. Below are a few networking ideas that stray from the traditional “bring your business cards” happy hour networking events.

Building Relationships – Strengthening Bonds

Today, business networking is more than an exchange of business cards. Your time is more precious than ever, and spending it with people you barely know may feel like you’re taking away from other work and family time. If you want more meaningful interactions, then it’s time to change your point of view about networking and concentrate on building relationships. One of the best ways to break out of the happy hour habit is through alternative forms of networking.

Volunteering

Some of the strongest bonds you can form are with like-minded people. Volunteering for a non-profit organization will get you in touch with people who care about the same things you do. With your business experience, you may choose to sit on the board and use your strengths where they are needed. The added bonus is that there are a lot of other business people who are the board for non-profits. They donate their time to causes they care about, which will be something you have in common.

For Entrepreneurs

There are many community organizations for entrepreneurs. Usually, these are focused around specific areas and have criteria for getting admitted. Nothing too stringent, just rules in place that limit the types of businesses in the group. You can practice your elevator pitch and share some insight into owning your business.

Social Media

Build and reach out to your network through social media. This is a great venue to share information about your business or the industry. It’s also a good way to share any leads to people in your circle. Remember to keep your profiles up-to-date and regularly post interesting information to capture their attention.

Even when we volunteer, we need to open ourselves up to talk to strangers. Try not to be too shy and maybe you’ll have something in common. If so, focus on talking about those things, then branch out from there and talk about business. These are like-minded people, so just be yourself and enjoy your time together.

 

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