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Client Ignorance about Your Business Isn’t the Client’s Failing

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Have you ever told a client about one of your products or services and heard this surprised reply: “I didn’t know you had that!”? You may have bitten your tongue to keep from pointing out that this particular offering is listed throughout your website, mentioned in every bit of marketing collateral and advertising you produce and also prominently proclaimed by a huge sign over your left shoulder, even as the two of you are speaking! Somehow, instead of whacking this person over the head and yelling, “Hello? McFly!” you thoughtfully go about closing a new sale.

But before jumping to conclusions, ask yourself why clients frequently don’t retain important bits of information about your business. We’re going to go out on a short, thick and very sturdy limb and say the problem likely originates from one of two places: 1) your clients aren’t all that motivated to learn about your company; and 2) information you would like them to have isn’t attracting their attention.

It’s human nature to not do things we don’t have to do. That’s why we don’t see bald men combing their heads, or why most don’t make their bed everyday if they live alone. We have better uses for our time, so if we aren’t strongly motivated to perform certain acts, we won’t. Therefore, it’s not surprising that random members of the public don’t normally commit the content of business websites to memory, or that some people would be unable to describe a company logo even if their lives depended on it.

“But,” you may say, “knowledge is power. My company satisfies important demands, and it’s wise to know how to access critical resources such as those we provide.” This may be true, but we all prioritize which information to acquire, especially in an age where we can Google an answer to any question in seconds. These days, it’s usually safe to feel a need before finding out where to fill it.

More importantly, you care more about your business than your customers—by a lot! Have you ever noticed that the person most bothered by dirty dishes is the one who’s quickest to wash them? (Unless there’s a lot of nagging involved, that is.) Public apathy operates under the same principle. Clients say, “If you really want me know something about your company, I’m going to leave it up to you to imprint that information on my mind. Good luck.”

This brings us to the second point. How does the information you want to convey manage to push through everything else that’s clamoring for your customers’ attention … much less actually stick around in their brains?

Well that’s what marketing is all about, isn’t it? You carefully identify your audiences, send precisely constructed communications that will attract their attention—through a medium that has the best chance to reach targets—and do it over and over and over again until they (finally) remember your message. And you’ve got to brand it all so your company won’t be confused with others sending similar information to the same people!

It’s a process with countless twist and turns, millions of variables, innumerable nuances and considerations, but never a single perfect solution. Still, we truly believe focused customer outreach and education will be fully worth your effort. (Helpful hint: Let your Pinstripe friends handle it for you!). It’s up to you to make the right impression on your clients—not them—but if things go right, they’ll be glad you did.

The Five P Chords of B2B Messaging

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Many popular songs are recorded using only a few guitar chords. For instance, Wild Thing by The Troggs, Bad Moon Rising by Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Sweet Home Alabama by Lynryd Skynryd use only three. No, they are not the same three chords—and there are others to choose from—but the point is you don’t have to hit a lot of notes to make sweet marketing music. In fact, if your company mostly serves other businesses, you can build a nice messaging repertoire from just five.

What makes this even easier to grasp is that you don’t need to remember “Every Good Boy Does Fine,” or to “FACE” the music. Thanks to the Microsoft Word thesaurus, all our B2B messaging chords start with a P. And so, without further fanfare, here they are:

P1 – Profitability
An appeal to profitability is inherent in most B2B marketing. That’s superficially obvious, but there’s real psychology going on. Business owners seek better margins because of what additional dollars represent to them as individuals. Unless we’re dealing with Scrooge McDuck (who just wants great wealth to roll around in) money is only a means to an end. For most business owners, the goal is to provide well for themselves and their families. Others enjoy the competition that comes with building a successful business. And some people simply love what they do and want to keep doing it. When you offer to help improve profitability, your target audience can translate that into assistance in achieving their highest aspirations.

P2 – Productivity
Improved productivity typically increases profitability, true, but it may also mean a less onerous work day for business owners and/or their employees. Then, maybe, the pay-off becomes better work-life balance instead of a bulging bottom line. Regardless of where your B2B customers find the value, any time you can help them attain higher productivity using the same (or fewer) resources, you’ll have rapt listeners.

P3– Performance
A company’s performance usually boils down to how favorably customers evaluate the experience of doing business with it. This could mean assessing the quality/value of the provided products, noting the responsiveness of staff, or enjoying a comfortable and safe commercial environment. By helping businesses perform better, you empower them to strengthen their own client bases by gaining greater loyalty from their customers. If you can do this for your business clients, they will be all ears.

P4 – Provision
As you’re doubtlessly aware, there are aspects of running an organization that you don’t have the time, expertise or inclination to do as well as you should. This might be anything from watering plants to installing a computer network. How could the service or services provided by your company free up your customers to devote more time to what they do best? The answer to this question is well worth sounding off in your marketing communications.

P5 – Peace of Mind
Secretary of Defense James Mattis was asked what keeps him up at night. He confidently replied, “Nothing. I keep other people awake a night.” Well, good for him. As for the rest of us—especially those running a business—there are plenty of worries to keep us from enjoying a good night’s sleep. Telling your customers how you can provide them with a little more “peace of mind” is practically singing them a lullaby.

But what about another P, namely, Price? It’s going to be important, but unless you’re sure you’re offering a deal that your competitors will find it hard to match, it may not be a marketing note you want to strike too often. Sales prospects will either find your price acceptable or they won’t, and unless you’re Wal-Mart, price isn’t going to make you special. For the most part, you’ll play a more memorable B2B tune with your own original composition.

Bonus P – Pinstripe
If you need a little help, give the Pinstripe team a call!

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Work-Life Balance: What is It and How Do You Achieve It?

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People use the phrase “work-life balance” often, and it’s even become a selling point for companies who want to attract new talent. In this way, the elusive “work-life balance” has in a sense become a benefit of employment, much in the same way that health insurance or vacation days are benefits. But how do you define this phrase, and more importantly, how do you REALLY achieve it?

From our perspective, work-life balance is a moving target, something that cannot be given one definition. We think that it looks different for every person – the difficult part is deciding what it looks like for yourself, and then implementing activities and habits to achieve your own personal balance. This is why it is difficult to quantify, and even more difficult to compare. There are so many variables at play, and below are just a few examples of work-life balance.

Example A: “The Work-IS-Life Balance”

These are often entrepreneurs who are energetic, full of ideas, and LOVE what they do. Perhaps they have grown a business to the point where it “runs itself.” Perhaps they have sold a business and are working on their next venture. Either way, they really like working, and sometimes, they have several businesses that they are working on (and in), and because they love what they do so much, they end up spending the majority of their time working. For them, however, a lot of this work is enjoyable and thus considered free-time activities.

Example B: “Work Hard, Play Hard”

This person works a lot, and is always on top of their work. They probably at least like what they do, if not love it, and so they don’t mind spending an above average amount of time at work. However, when they do take time for themselves, they make it count. They may go on adventurous vacations where they completely disconnect and immerse themselves in their activities or perhaps they prefer a more relaxing island getaway – either way, they achieve work-life balance by trying to fully immerse themselves in what they are doing, whether it is work or play.

Example C: “Treat Yourself”

When this person leaves work, they leave it completely. They do not believe in overworking and spend a good amount of time on self-care and family activities. They believe that there are more important things to life than working and making money, and they prefer to spend their time on those things. They will not be found in the office on the weekends or evenings, unless it’s required.

Example D: “Balancing Act”

This person works a lot and always seems frazzled. They try to make time for family and friends, but this ends up stressing them out even more because they feel like they’ve neglected their to-do list. They just can’t seem to catch up. One of the main problems this person faces is not balance, per-se, but time management. Perhaps if they could learn how to manage their schedule a bit better and use their time more wisely, their work-life balance would be more harmonious and they wouldn’t feel so frazzled.

These are just a few archetypes that we’ve noticed over the years. What does your work-life balance look like?

Nikki Devereux Named Tampa Bay Business Journal Up and Comer

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Pinstripe Marketing Senior Project Manager, Nikki Devereux was named a Tampa Bay Business Journal Up and Comer, Class of 2017 by an independent panel of judges. She was chosen as one of 60 of her peers in the business community, out of a pool of more than 400 nominees. This is a group who do their best to make the Tampa Bay area the best community it can be. From leadership to community service, these Up and Comers are making the world a better place. We are proud of Nikki and look forward to cheering her on as she continues to do her best in work, life and community.

View the list of 2017 Up and Comers here.

Setting Client Expectations

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You’re talking to a prospective client. How would you present the work your company does? What might you say about your company’s productive efficiency. How responsive are you to client needs? What would you say about the professionalism of your staff? How important is corporate responsibility?

We’d guess our readers always answer these questions exactly to same way, even if talking to their BFF at their favorite bar and after a drink or three. But for others, there may be glaring discrepancies between some of the answers in first scenario and those in a relaxed, non-selling situation. If that’s the case, it’s reasonable to worry that somebody’s business is off to a bad start managing client expectations.

We know the temptation to oversell. A good company that provides a worthwhile product or service and operated by a competent staff of decent people can suddenly become a socially crusading, budding Amazon, led by super heroes (but with a gentle, caring touch) and providing a better ROI opportunity than the ground floor investment in Microsoft.

Okay, that might be a little hyperbolic, but few prospective clients come away from a sales pitch expecting to frequently hear the word “no” to future requests. And when there has been too much “gilding the lily,” someone is not going to be happy. Interestingly, that someone is often the business owner and her or his staff.

Unless a company is run by true rip-off artists, most clients can walk away from bad business relationships having merely lost a little time and not quite getting what they thought their money was worth. More often, the real suffering comes to the other side of the equation as businesspeople take on unprofitable jobs that require excessive workloads. The probable outcome is a painful, ultimately fruitless attempt to hang on to a difficult client.

So how does one prevent (or handle) this predicament? Well, here are our thoughts:

  • Appreciate your own worth. For contractors and others in professional services industries there can be a tendency to take on work for too low a fee because “something is better than nothing.” Often this is accompanied with the rationalization that one can raise rates later. (Why would a client agree to that?) It can be same with willingness to accommodate abnormal business hours. Make your standard prices understood upfront and don’t give the impression that you’re anyone’s indentured servant.
  • Lead with your value proposition. You’re not exceptional at everything, because no one is exceptional at everything. If someone claims to be, you know they’re lying. When selling, make your top value proposition clear to the prospect and be realistic about other aspects of your business. Don’t be afraid; a strong value proposition should appeal to a lot of clients, and others may like enough of everything else they hear to give you a fair trial. You can’t win them all, and you don’t want to lose by “winning.”
  • Listen to what your client is saying. Rarely do prospective clients hide what’s important to them. In fact, they usually mention it quite often, especially if they’ve been previously disappointed. If their demands have been a problem for others in your line of work, they might be a challenge to you as well. Carefully and thoughtfully evaluate what prospects want and let them know where you can, and where you might not, meet their expectations.
  • Lower the bar. We joke and say that every client wants everything yesterday, but thankfully that’s not (always) true. People may be quite reasonable in their expectations—they simply don’t want to be disappointed. What if you made your costs estimates a little higher than you truly anticipate and your set deadlines a little further out than you think necessary. Then you could watch your client’s delighted reaction when you can charge less than you initially said and you get the work done faster than promised!
  • Play up the client success stories that you’d want to repeat. Testimonials and case studies make for excellent sales collateral, but be careful about how you present these stories to prospects. When you go far above and beyond the call of duty for a client, perhaps you should keep the specifics to yourself and share the client’s appreciation in a brief testimonial. And when you’ve done a great job following your normal procedures, that’s the time to go into the details with a lengthier case study.
  • If you’re having trouble competing, look for the cause and make changes. Suppose you’re regularly disappointing your clients while killing yourself and your employees, AND losing money for your trouble. Then you notice your competition seems to be doing fine. It’s time for some research. Try to figure out what advantages your competitors have and see how you can even things up. If the advantages are inherent (like a better location) find out how others in your situation have coped and emulate them. Be prepared to change your marketing strategies to better attract the available audience, rather than continuing to push the same old boulder up the mountain.
  • Be willing to give up. You may have heard the saying, “Winners never quit and quitters never win,” but we have another one: “He who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day.” Some jobs and/or clients are simply not worth the effort and never will be. Don’t run yourself or your business into the ground trying to make something happen that can’t. After you’ve done your best but simply can’t make an arrangement work for everyone, thank the impossible client for the opportunity and bid them a fond farewell.

As Dirty Harry once said, “A man’s got to know his limitations” … and so does his (or her) client.

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