Social Media as a Marketing Tool

web20logosFrank Casale of The Outsourcing Institute sent me a great Wall Street Journal article this weekend entitled “How Facebook Ruins Friendships.” It was informative and humorous, but what I found most interesting were the social media tools at the bottom of the page: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Digg, etc…  While it is ironic that an article making fun of social media tools would have them embedded in the article, it is a sign of the times. Today it seems that everyone, even the Wall Street Journal, recognizes the effectiveness of social media as a marketing tool.

We use Eventbrite to promote the Design and Construction Network events primarily because no other event registration website has such an extensive social media arsenal. Even Cofebuz now has a “tweet this post” link at the bottom of every article, and many of our most involved readers are from LinkedIn article referrals.

Social Media as a Marketing Tool

So we all get it, social media is powerful. But the real question is how to capture social media as a marketing tool. Let me give you the four secrets that I have found effective in turning the web into a powerful marketing tool. I’m certain many of you have your own insights as well so feel free to use the comments section at the end to add them.

Four secrets to turning social media into a marketing tool:

  1. Social media works when real value has been created – Try posting a tweet about last week’s weather and see how many people retweet it or reply. Start a blog about your journey selecting carpet color for your home and see how many people sign-up for your e-mail updates. The same is true for your company, make certain what you write creates value for others and they will be drawn to the value you are providing.
  2. Social media works when it isn’t selfish – Ever been turned off by a salesman that told you they really needed a sale because of XYZ reason? Online those that are selfish generally lose and those that are selfless typically win.
  3. Social media works when you can create a “buzz” – If you have successfully achieved the first two social media secrets you are positioned for creating a buzz, known as viral marketing. Viral marketing is the idea that others, even people you don’t know, will promote your idea for you because they think it deserves recognition and attention. The results? The greatest return you’ll ever see for your marketing dollar.
  4. Social media works when you have friends – Frank Casale (the individual that sent me the article above) is not only the CEO of one of the largest outsourcing associations in the world, he also has focused on building amazing friendships. I have found that real success comes not when someone pushes to achieve their own dreams, but when we push together to achieve our dreams. At a minimum, we have people to enjoy the journey with and to toast when we reach the top.

Recession Marketing

How we respond to a recession dictates our success (or failure) not only during, but more importantly after, the market downturn. Companies that can hold their ground through a downturn often become market leaders afterward.

In hard times businesses often look to eliminate expenses, but what about marketing expenses? If a marketing department is properly functioning there should be a direct correlation between our marketing budget and our accounts receivable. Based on this we would all agree that cutting the marketing budget would be a poor idea in a recession. What recessions often remind us, however, is that the expenses of many marketing departments do not have a direct correlation to our accounts receivable. Often marketing departments focus on producing glossy brochures and professional websites that do not necessarily function to support the bottom line.

Refining and Reshaping Marketing
This said, down turns in the economy are not the time to cut our marketing budgets; rather it is the time to refine and reshape our marketing expenditures to truly focus on bringing work in the door. This refining and reshaping should yield an increase in the return on our marketing investment dollars, increasing the correlation between those expenditures and our accounts receivable.  Here are some common changes that you can evaluate to achieve this goal:

  1. Increase your advertising dollars instead of giving your website a facelift.
  2. Incentivize your sales staff instead of getting more mugs with your logo on them.
  3. Cross-train a key person on your marketing staff to provide business development support instead of redesigning your company logo.
  4. Target some new relationships before RFPs and proposals come out instead of using the shotgun approach to pursue proposals (pursing RFPs and proposals that you have no business pursuing).

The Common Recession Mistake
Some functions/expenses of marketing can, and should, be put aside during a recession so that those funds can be spent on marketing functions that are more effective at bringing work in the door. A common mistake during a market downturn is to eliminate the ‘extra’ marketing expenses, but failing to redirect the money towards marketing that will enable you to compete in the highly competitive recession market.

What to do
A recession is the perfect time to sit down with the head of your marketing department to reshape your marketing approach.  Focusing on the marketing functions and expenses can help support your bottom line.

A Last Note
So, why are firms that market heavily during a recession positioned to succeed post-recession? Because people are our most valuable assets, and providing them a place of security during a recession ensures that your best employees will be around as the market picks up momentum. Also, a recession provides a great opportunity to hire the best and brightest from your competition if you are able to keep your bottom line intact. After the recession you then have a foundation for growth and the ability to become a market leader.

It’s Back to the BD Basics

itsbacktothebdbasicsRecessions have a tendency to remind us about business fundamentals. It is through the refinement of a recession that wasteful spending is eliminated and that we again focus on the core capabilities that make our companies successful. It is also recessions that remind us that marketing and business development are not the functions of just one or two departments. When company backlogs decrease we recapture the essence of our mutual corporate responsibility to bring new projects in the door. 

Focusing on existing clients and services
It is easy to want to expand into new markets during a recession. The problem is that during a recession work is much harder to come by, both in the markets you currently serve as well as in markets that you don’t serve. Expanding into a new market requires both time and money to enter the market – two things that are not readily available during a recession. As a result, a recession is not the time to expand into new markets, but rather it is the time to focus on your existing clients and services.

The goal during a recession is to focus on bringing work in the door immediately. Most marketers will tell you that the fastest, least expensive, and easiest way to bring in new work is to focus on your existing clientele. This includes people you have sold to previously and others in the industry that are familiar with your work. So what can you do? Here are several things that you can do during a recession that will position you to succeed: 

  1. Don’t Wait, step-up your current marketing: When faced with the possibility of a decline in your workload initiate action immediately. Often when the slowdown reaches your doorstep firms find themselves among a large group of competitors that are competing for work. The idea is to immediately step-up the everyday marketing efforts that you have found to be successful in an effort to build your backlog going into the recession. In our industry this usually includes follow-up on outstanding proposals, using qualifications to bolster the effectiveness of your fee proposals, and pre-marketing RFPs.
  2. Call your existing clients: Especially at service firms, the “last line of defense” when you are in need of work is to pick up the phone and call your best clients to ask for work. Firms often hesitate making these calls because they are afraid of what others will think. Simply put, get over it! Calling your existing clients and asking for work is the most effective way to get work in the door in a down market.
  3. Focus on being the best: Now is the time to set-aside change orders and additional work authorizations (within reason) and give all of your clients 1,000 reasons why they should never even consider another firm. Begin by asking yourself, “What can I do to help this person that is above and beyond what they hired me to do?” Remember that focusing on being the best isn’t something that just one person or a group of people can do, it is a company-wide focus that requires buy-in to be successful.
  4. Diversify within your current markets: Pursue relationships and work in market sectors in which you are currently working that are stable. Generally in a downturn these markets include the federal and healthcare markets. As discussed above, now is not the time to pursue new sectors, but it is a great time to place emphasis on some of your markets that will handle the downturn better. This does not mean that you should simply respond to more RFPs, rather initiate new relationships and build inroads that will position you to win.
  5. Be Patient: Markets change. Just when you think you will run out of work the markets will start moving again. Firms that survive this economic cycle will again experience an upswing as industry and opportunity prevail in the free market.

Building your Marketing Culture

In marketing and business, recessions provide us the opportunity to unite our companies for future growth. The proceeding actions are just a handful of things that can be done to empower everyone in your company to be a part of the sales process. In addition to these, think about how you can leverage today’s challenges to develop a culture that embraces marketing and business development. Firms that succeed in building this culture today will reap the rewards of growth in the future.


http://pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/show_ads.js

It’s Back to the BD Basics by Tim Klabunde was published in the February 2009 edition of Marketer.

Proposal Debrief

studiomengstrazzaraI received an e-mail from Mark Wainwright of studio Meng Strazzara in Seattle, WA this past week asking me for some thoughts on debriefing after submitting on a proposal: “I’ve done many of these in the past with no specific formula and mixed results, so I’m looking to tighten things up and create a much more successful process.” Thanks for the great question Mark, let me share with you my personal philosophy on proposal debriefs. In addition, I hope that others will feel free to jump in with any of your “lessons learned” in the comments section at the bottom of this post.

Proposal Debrief Philosophy

I am not a fan of proposal debriefs. I work in an industry where it is common place to ask potential clients to rethink and reiterate why they didn’t select your firm for a particular project. I personally believe that interaction with potential clients should always be about building a relationship, and the way that most firms approach debriefs is counter productive to that end goal. With that basis, let me share with you two great ways to debrief with a client after you have submitted a proposal:

The First Right Way to Debrief

Debrief on a project that you were just awarded. This gets at the question of “We know why we think you should have hired us, but why did you hire us?” The post-award debrief serves two main objectives: 1) it shows you what factors will help you win your next proposal and 2) it helps you understand your clients’ expectations for you going into the project. In my opinion the second of these is even more important than the first, as repeat clientele and client referrals account for the majority of work in many firms.

The Second Right Way to Debrief

Debrief by focusing on your relationship with the potential client. Never walk into a debriefing with the goal of finding out what you did wrong. Rather a debriefing should focus on understanding their needs rather than how they interpreted your proposal submission or interview. It is by showing a potential client that you are truly interested in them that you will win them over for the next project.

Should you debrief?

If you can’t debrief in a way that builds your relationship with the potential client, do not debrief.

More Than “Just Marketing”

sara_gammillIn the December edition of SMPS Marketer Sara Gammill of EDI Architecture writes a great article about how to position your marketing department as a strategic partner inside your company. You would think that marketing would always be a strategic partner yet many companies, especially those in the service industry, struggle to understand the importance of marketing in a successful business. Here are a couple of my favorite recomendations from the article:

Educate others about what marketing is.
Most technical staff don’t realize what marketing is or how they benefit the company beyond proposal writing. Make it your mission to educate others about how everyone is involved in marketing and how your department benefits the bottom line.

Don’t be afraid to innovate.
You are never too junior or too senior to generate new proposal processes, to spearhead programs that will save your company money or raise morale, or to draw attention to your firm by shining in a professional organization. Don’t settle for, “That’s the way we’ve always done it.”

Sara also identifies “act like a leader” as another of her ten keys. I couldn’t agree more, when you act like a leader most often it is followed by being viewed as a leader. Thanks for the great article Sara!

How to Market in a Recession

Focus on your existing clients and services. It is easy to want to expand into new markets during a recession. The problem is that during a recession work is much harder to come by, both in the markets you currently serve as well as in markets that you don’t serve. Expanding into a new market requires both time to enter the market and money: two things that are not readily available during a recession. As a result, a recession is not the time to expand into new markets, but rather it is the time to focus on your existing clients and services.

The goal during a recession is to focus on bringing work in the door immediately. Most marketers will tell you that the fastest, least expensive, and easiest way to bring in new work is to focus on your existing clientele (that is people you have already sold to previously, or others in the same industry that are familiar with your work).

So what can you do? Here are several things that you can do during a recession that will position you to succeed:

  1. Don’t Wait, set-up your current marketing: When faced with the possibility of a recession initiate action immediately. Often when the slowdown reaches your doorstep firms find themselves among a large group of competitors that are competing for work. The idea is to immediately step-up the everyday marketing efforts that you have found to be successful in your industry in an effort to build your backlog going into the recession.
  2. Call your existing clients: Especially at service firms, the “last line of defense” when you are in need of work is to pick up the phone and call your best clients to ask for work. Firms often hesitate making these calls because they are afraid what others will think. Simply put, get over it. I have found that calling your existing clients and asking for work is the most effective way to get work in the door in a down market.
  3. Focus on being the best: Now is the time to set-aside change orders and additional work authorizations (with-in reason) and give all of your clients 1,000 reasons why they should never even consider another firm. Ask my favorite question “What can I do to help this person” and add on the end “that is above and beyond what they hired me to do.”
  4. Diversify within your current markets: Pursue relationships and work in market sectors in which you are currently working that are stable. Generally in a downturn these markets include federal and higher education markets. As discussed above, now is not the time to pursue new sectors, but it is a great time to place emphasis on some of your markets that will handle the downturn better.
  5. Be Patient: Markets change. Just when you think you will run out of work the markets will start moving again. Firms that survive this economic cycle will again experience an upswing as industry and opportunity prevail in the free market.

For some foundational truths on your marketing budget in a market downturn, check out the article Marketing Engineering Services in a Market Downturn. Also, remember what Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today.”

Marketing vs. Business Development

‘Marketing’ and ‘Business Development’ are often used interchangeably in the business community because many people struggle to understand the difference between the two terms. The reality is that Marketing and Business Development have two distinct yet interrelated roles in the sales process. Most businesses define the roles and responsibilities of the two business functions as:

Marketing develops assets and materials that facilitate the foundation for business and relationships.

Business Development focuses on the development of relationships through direct communication channels.

I recognize that this is an oversimplified view of two complex aspects of the sales process, but I have also found that the reason many people misunderstand the difference between the two terms, is because of the drawn-out definitions that we often use to explain their functions. If you are a Marketing or Business Development professional that has a hard time educating staff on these functions then start with these simple definitions and expand on their intricacies after this foundation is understood.