Ten ways to get the most from your clients

My recent post citing ten ways to get the most from your agency stirred up some mixed emotions when discussed on the blog, in Linkedin groups, on Twitter and further afield.

The emphasis was placed on clients knowing what they wanted to achieve from their marketing efforts, providing communicative briefs outlining their requirements, working with and viewing the agency as a collaborative and long term partner. Otherwise, the relationship was doomed to failure.

Whilst I think this is reasonable, I wanted to provide some balance as agencies don’t always do their fair share of relationship nurturing.

The key learning from this tandem blog seems to be in an upfront clarification of roles and responsibilities, the communication and understanding of expectations and the establishment of robust, and reasonable reporting processes.

I’d be interested in your feedback once you’ve had time to review. Here goes:

1. Effort. From the outset, agree the degree of effort to be expended on a pitch, try and build a rapport and then if you win it, don’t try and include the charge in your billings. Unfortunately, agencies need to accept that pitching is still part and parcel of the gig.

2. The team. In pitches, introduce the team that will work on the account, not the agency big hitters who will win it and pass it on. You want to build a long term relationship, rooted in chemistry.

3. Show some management love. But don’t keep all the big hitters away from it either. Show some love when clients come to town. Be interested in meetings, their news and developments, and encourage a review of deliverables and the working relationship at regular intervals.

4. Work strategically if given the remit to. Clients should know what they want and where they want to get to. Agencies can work strategically in terms of integrating tactics and aligning them to commercial goals but too many agencies see their role as defining the business strategy, which in my view shouldn’t be the case.

5. Know when to push. There is often a prioritisation taking place and as long as you are seen to have been doing your job, it can’t be held against you if you are seeking a decision but for whatever reason it isn’t forthcoming.

6. Know when to sell. This means understanding your client’s budgeting cycle and pitching new ideas accordingly. There is simply no point doing it mid year if the budget is set.

7. Accept price negotiation. Budgets for most client marketers have declined if not stayed the same. Accept that your pricing will be scrutinized and be prepared to defend it. Value is one argument but costs should be as transparent and in line with the going rate for the work. If you can’t explain why you are worth £20 or £200 an hour, you probably aren’t.

8. Add value. To build your profile as a trusted adviser, occasionally share interesting or potentially relevant news stories, polls etc you may come across in your work for other clients. Don’t badge it as selling, just as taking a broader business view and taking in stimuli from other sectors.

9. Add more value. Simplify status reports, annual plans and minimise the flow of communication to daily emails or calls if it can help get quick decisions made. Run immersion sessions to help clients get up to speed in particular areas, and support new members of the client team with familiarisation days in the agency.

10. Above all, be aware of other pressures. Agencies, particularly account handlers, need to understand that they only see the thin end of the wedge when it comes to the pressure on a client. We represent a fraction of their responsibilities and sometimes clients aren’t able to respond as quickly as we might like.

Think about how you deal with your suppliers, screen their calls when not convenient and so on. Sometimes it is just part and parcel of effective time management.

Thoughts?

Image: Tecaffect

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Top Tweets of the Week (wc 24 Jan 2011)

There was some really great material circulating on the wires this week. Here’s my pick of which what interested and inspired me this week.

MONDAY: Interesting social media statistics. A re-post from the highly active @jeffbullas but worth reading if like me, you are preparing a number of client and speaking presentations and want to ground some of your social media ideas in some firm research.

MONDAY: From the B2B Marketing magazine site’s Knowledge Bank, a useful piece on using white papers in your marketing

TUESDAY: This piece from @hubspot talking about five misconceptions about marketers provoked some debate online when I put to a number of Linkedin groups

TUESDAY: A great piece illustrating how Econsultancy have put a ten point social media plan in place. via @Econsultancy

THURSDAY: Interesting tips on setting up your own podcasting show via @smexaminer

FRIDAY: How to avoid the seven deadly sins of search marketing via @utalkmarketing. Selected not just because of the content but the interesting way in which it has been written.

What did you stumble across this week worthy of having a look at?

How to make a sexy car ad

If, like me, you tend to fast forward through the ads because you watch all your television on a hard disc player such as a Sky+ box, it may take a while for interesting ads to register on your radar.

Advertising, the original interruption marketing tool, still has validity as it goes more direct response and increasingly viral in reach.

But remember that if you add advertising (in whatever format) to your marketing toolkit, it is used to specifically raise awareness and bring about some kind of response. For that to happen it needs to be relevant, it needs to resonate with and engage your target audience.

It is for these reasons that I liked the recent Volvo ‘How to make a sexy car ad’ when I stumbled upon it this week.  because it tackles the conventions of the traditional car ad head on, in a thoughtful, creative and engaging way.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xKNsF7Cg2U4&fs=1&hl=en_US]

Stepping into the blog spotlight

Writing a blog can be a very personal and cathartic journey, or it can be a credible way to drive traffic to your business. Crack it and it does both!

One thing is certain. Doing all you you can to ensure it is seen by as many people as possible is time well spent. There are a number of ways of doing this from going viral with links, adopting a response strategy on higher traffic blogs to indexing your blog in as many directories as possible.

To help, below are a number of clickable links to the top blog directories and indexes where you could and should add your blog in order for it to be found and read more easily.

www.blogarama.com

www.blogsearch.com

www.blogbunch.com

www.blogcatalog.com

www.blogexplosion.com

http://tools.blogflux.com

www.bloggernity.com

www.bloglisting.net

www.blogrankings.com

www.bloglines.com

www.ontoplist.com

http://technorati.com/

Sound like too much effort?

Look at it this way. If you write a blog, or plan to, you have content other people crave. You are ahead of the game. Content is where the market is moving. Content means expertise. Having content means you can promote yourself more effectively as expert across traditional and new social networks as well as in other offline channels.

Positioning yourself as competent, credible and approachable gives you the best chance of business success as a trusted and valued partner.

So when you look at it like that, what are you waiting for?

Image Live Music News & Review

Marketing Metrics 8: Email marketing

I read some statistics in preparing this blog that suggested 90 trillion emails were sent in 2009, and approximately 86% of them were spam. (Pingdom). Bad day in the office for the guy counting, but it is a staggering number if it’s even remotely correct.

If you have a glass half empty outlook, that’s going to put you right off email marketing. But if you’re a glass half full person, these numbers imply rather a lot were still well targeted and well propositioned to recipients interested in what they had to say.

Email remains a great way to make and stay in touch with a range of audiences and it can provide powerful insight into how your brand is perceived, the messages you want to convey, and the design and offers you make – if you take the time to assess the data.

Determining whether you use your email for acqusition, retention or relationship marketing will determine what you say, to who, how and when. This drives your metrics. There are lots of things that can be monitored and measured when it comes to email marketing (open, bounce rate, unsubscribes, time of day, number of unique clicks, number of repeat clicks, number of forwards) but there is only one metric that matters. You want click-through to your website. That’s where the engagement truly starts. Don’t get caught up in the numbers.

This isn’t an email masterclass (though there may be one in 2011), but if you want traffic generated from email click through, consider the following:

1. Audience need – we’ve moved away from monthly and quarterly broadcast communications and can now easily deliver bespoke content for different segmented lists. Sending the same communication to customers and prospects is plain lazy.

2. Design – the email needs to work without images, have a solid spam-filter friendly title, be sent from a reputable email address (not ‘donotreply’), contain an ‘if you can’t see this, click here’ link and an ‘unsubscribe’ button.

3. Message – different audiences are after different things and the content and tone should be tailored accordingly

4. Automation – the best emails are event triggered, whether by a transaction, a shipment or delivery update, an update on stock or a new price/offer, an anniversary or an abandoned basket. Amazon are the gold standard in internet business cross-sell and up-sell, but any business can adopt elements if considered.

A case study

I get regular emails from the shirt maker TM Lewin. Well I did until I unsubscribed. I like their shirts and the way they have used digital channels to promote their products (interesting YouTube channel). But they essentially make the same ‘4 shirts for £100/£90’ and ‘suit for £179’ offer on a weekly basis. And despite creative changes, this has been pumped out to their database (and me) for over a year.

I queried it with them on Twitter saying when you offer product at the same price consistently, it isn’t an offer anymore. They weren’t interested in taking honest and constructive customer feedback, saying it was working fine for now and they weren’t planning on changing it.

Which is fine, but that lack of regard for my transactional history and needs means my next shirt will probably come from Charles Tyrwhitt and for now TM Lewin have lost me to an untargeted, lazy and short term broadcast email strategy.

Image Keyzo

Marketing Metrics 7: News & blogs

Search is the dominant marketing tool of the moment and rightly so. Most of us use search engines daily when it comes to researching something, whether it is a personal purchase like a car, holiday, DVD or insurance, or a business purchase where the Internet can be used to shortlist suppliers, distributors, partners, agents and graduates. Statistics from the recent B2B Marketing Buyosphere survey support this.

One of the more pressing requirements in ensuring your business is indexed in search results relevant to your business lies in how you rank organically. Pay per click advertising (like Google Adwords which is found on the top and right hand side of Google) can still be used to great effect at launch or during key promotional periods.

However, the sustainable and long term approach to search is in operating a search engine optimised site with regularly updated, keyword rich meta data and on page content. And, this boils down to effective use of news and blogs.

Regularly updating your website news page is critical as changing content remains one of the hallmarks of a dynamic and leading web site. Ensuring new news features on an optimised home page regularly checked by the search engine ‘spiders’ remains one of the key ways of improving your organic listing.

And blogs, the one time hobbyist website, have come of age. With an estimate 130 million blogs on the Internet, there are an essential information resource and way of getting your message out. Sites like WordPress, Blogger and Tumblr offer impressive optimisation because of the high traffic passing through them on a daily basis.

Blogs can be used effectively for business and without the need for layers of approval. Business owners and middle managers can use them to talk about the science, technology behind the product to answer customer service issues and produce and distribute FAQs, or to comment on industry developments. As blogs of this nature are personalised and removed to a degree from the corporate entity, any concern about damage is reduced.

When developing content to drive your profile, the most crucial elements in marketing 2.0 remain the right of reply and the ability to share. Metrics can be set up to measure reads, shares, subscriptions, downloads and many other datasets.

Image: smbmarketingguide

Marketing Metrics 6: Trade shows

Attending trade shows is one of the most expensive activities in a marketing plan. How do you ensure they provide return?

Trade show organisers have probably had to work harder than anyone else during the recession. The expenditure in this area is often the first thing scrapped in a marketing budget review as extravagant. This isn’t a surprise given most companies attending trade shows fail to manage their attendance properly from the outset. They are not ruthless about why they are attending and what they want to get out of the show. Going because you always have is a poor approach to marketing and business.

But done well, with appropriate consideration given to pre-event traffic generation, trade shows can be your most profitable marketing mix tool. Why? The lion’s share of your new business still comes through word of mouth, endorsement and personal selling, so it makes sense to be right in the heart of any gathering of your clients and customers.

I tackled this very issue in a recent post following my experience at the Total Packaging show in Birmingham.

From a metrics perspective, there is a lot that you can do to measure the effectiveness of attending an exhibition. Working through the following thought process throws up things to consider and the metrics to be employed to measure them. In these recessionary times, I’ve deliberately kept to the tangible lead generation focused activities.

1. Why, what, who? Start at the planning phase, and decide what you are exhibiting, why and to who? If you haven’t got a credible reason to exhibit and/or nothing new to promote, don’t.

2. Focus on ‘new’. Make a maximum of three key messages the core part of all pre-show and show communication. The rules of high impact PR apply throughout, so ‘new’ always works best and attracts the most interest. Demonstration and presentation are fantastic ways of getting ‘new’ across. This could be product, service, data or insight related. And ‘new’ doesn’t have to mean available – a measurable metric might be to take a set number of enquiries, even orders for a previewed/future product or service.

3. Calculate Total Project Cost. Price up space and stand costs, design & logistics costs, hospitality, literature, email/advertising costs, hotels, lost sales force productivity through being taken off the road and management time.

4. Apply a Cost Per Enquiry. Having a Total Project Cost will allow you to start to consider cost per enquiry and allows you to start to work out how many enquiries (and convertible orders) are required to cover the investment of attending.

5. Set enquiry/order targets. Plug in your rough order value and calculate how many orders will be needed to cover this cost and then ideally turn a profit.

6. Set specific enquiry targets. With all the previous steps completed, you’ll be able to allocate enquiry targets against the cost of attending, per product/service line exhibited, per sector and per sales rep. This gives you a minimum of four ways to set lead generation metrics, and informs what you should do next to promote your attendance at the show, to who, and by who.

7. Agree pre show marketing targets. Allocate enquiries to each element of pre-show marketing (personal sales call, invite, email, visit to site, online registration). Offer customers pre-registration. Stage an event or give a presentation within the trade show and use the sign up to this as a metric. Set up a daily blog/email summary/Twitter feed from the show and measure engagement. Twitter hashtagging is fantastic for events. Above all, set up a specific Internet landing page and employ Google Analytics to give you a thorough assessment of this. Any advertising and literature should cite all contact points.

8. The intangible. Some times it is important to attend a trade show to build or protect profile and reputation. In this instance, arrange meetings with trade publishers and editors in advance and set a metric on that, reviewable 3 months and 6 months after the show in terms of PR coverage.

This is by no means an exhaustive list but it will give your trade show planning greater clarity and focus.

Image Beacon Alliance

Supercharge your SEO

Search is the dominant tool information hungry consumers and professional buyers use to seek out suppliers, solutions and assess costs. And within search there is a growing preference for organic listing rather than pay-per-click advertising. We’re all just a bit more sceptical of ads than we used to be. Think about it, when did you last click an advert?

Search should be a critical part of your marketing strategy. Put simply it means your website continues to sweat while your office is closed. And what a waste of money a beautiful but poorly optimised site would be.

It is getting harder not to get sucked in by the ‘we can get you on page one of Google brigade if you spend £xxxx a month’ brigade. There is a way of actually saving yourself time, effort and money in the long term. And that involves getting your website optimisation right in one single swoop.

What is true is that the Google algorithm is getting ever more sophisticated as it seeks to protect the integrity of search. But by structuring your website right and with the search engines in mind, you can improve your organic ranking fairly quickly by considering these six steps:

1. Meta data, titles and tags – this is in the coding and text based structure that search engines read to index your site. Use the same keywords, provide a meta description, use the best possible keyword rich page naming structure and assign tags to all images and headings on each and every page.

2. URL indexing – add the home page URL to all major search engine indexes, eg by going to www.google.com/addurl.

3. Incoming links – target the most important high traffic sites and post incoming links. This could be social networking and filesharing sites like Linkedin, Facebook and YouTube, but equally relevant media sites, trade association sites, supplier and customer sites.

4. Sitemap – a sitemap is critical as it acts like a directory. Ensure it sits on the home page, if not every page.

5. Regular home page content – updating content ensures that the site is viewed as current and relevant. For this reason feature the latest news and/or blog activity on the home page. This plays a massive part in achieving higher organic search listing.

6. Use of Google location tools – whether you love or hate Google, you can’t deny how powerful many of its free to use applications are in promoting your business. Go to www.google.co.uk and click Business Solutions.

Making an exhibition of yourself

Trade shows are often a mystery to me. They are an expensive, time consuming and resource draining element of the annual plan but done well, can energize or re-energize a tired sales force, a disinterested distributor network, or disengaged customer base.  They offer the opportunity to demonstrate, to research and to make introductions in a safe, if artificial, environment.

I recently had occasion to attend a trade show in Birmingham, visiting a client who was exhibiting their wares and I also used it as an opportunity to research the particular sector and to talk to some of the leading players. I think more and more people are attending shows as a delegate, opting to go about their information and contract trawl in a much more clearly defined, but guerrilla, manner.

I deliberately picked the second day to maximise time with influencers and decision makers on stands (they would simply have been too busy on day one). It became quickly apparent to me that many of the exhibitors were experiencing poor levels of traffic and interest. Most were quick to bemoan the show, its organisers, their promotion methods, and the decline of UK trade shows in general. Worryingly, few accepted their role in promoting their own attendance at the show and too many stand personnel were quick to offer sweeping statements without really ascertaining who I was or what I was interested in.

Trying to spin this experience (and fourteen years of managing trade show attendance) into some positives, here is my take on getting the most from trade show attendance.

1. Establish that your target audience attends. Surprisingly obvious, but despite waning interest, how many companies (yours included) persist with certain shows in a bid to keep up appearances?

2. Agree a single and central proposition and stick to it. Lots of stands are just too cluttered. Issue based communication is the order of the day. Delegates have problems to solve so reframe your whole approach by answering ‘Who do I help and how?’

3. Agree evaluation criteria by setting benchmark objectives. Don’t be so vague as to have a simple enquiries target – cut it by product, sector, customer type, geographical market or sales rep. Be bold, you are investing big money and you need to ensure  a return.

4. Design data capture early on and ensure it can be quickly used after the event. If you can invest in barcode scanners if they are on offer. Anything else is just fiddly, time consuming and unprofessional.

5. Take space only and design a stand that reflects the importance of the market to your business. If the UK packaging sector is your number one sector, reflect it by having a corner stand open on 2-3 sides, some good height and visual branding, hospitality space and on stand promotions and Meet the Expert type events. Put it another way, why not?

6. Befriend the organisers. Like in any other walk of life, they can give you a great spot next to the seminar hall, near the entrance or near the coffee bar, advance notice and deals on showguide advertising, ad banners on the website and in promotional emails, and opportunities to join the conference program. By not creating a relationship you are reducing your ability to do this.

7. Integrate the show into your marketing and communication activities. You decided months in advance to attend the show. Tell people. Add it to your website, stationery, advertising, emails, press releases, invoices, statements etc.

8. Invite key customers & prospects and get them to network. Use your best most loyal advocates to do your selling for you. Everyone knows word of mouth and referral are the best, and easiest routes to new business. Act as the facilitator.

9. Brief your stand personnel on what to plug, how to act, and ensure they are always mindful of looking open, engaging & interested. There really is nothing worse than the two suited guys clogging the stand, talking to each other or tapping into a laptop. All those thousands of pounds flushed down the toilet as potential buyers stroll by.

10. Invite editors of the major journals to visit the stand and meet the team. Yes, it’s a tough sell, especially if PR is not one of your strong suits, but by getting editors warmed up to you as a business and what you do, it makes it easier to get releases placed in the future and can help you position yourself as an expert when they write features about the things you excel at.

Here’s to making an exhibition of yourself, in the right way.

Image Danburgmurmur Flickr stream

20 steps to a successful event

Been to some interesting events over recent months and have managed a fair share myself.

If you’re considering using seminars, conferences and networking events as a tool in your promotional mix, don’t sour your reputation by putting on a poor show.

Follow this guide to plan, promote and deliver impact events.

Pre event

1. Consider your audience, their needs and where they are.

2. Offer an interesting, relevant topic, ideally with business cases and not academic related.

3. Book an engaging, passionate speaker

4. Select an interesting venue (it’s part of the draw – but not a bar!) i.e. business schools, museums, town halls, football grounds, new business premises etc with optional tours.
5. Offer online booking

6. Offer early bird, group and recommendation discounts.

7. Provide real time attendee information – so people can see who else is attending.

8. Use Linkedin groups to promote your event to your audience.

9. Consider partnering / sponsorship opportunities to cover costs and maximize exposure.

At the event

9. Offer drinks and nibbles.

10.  Provide sufficient time for networking pre & post, especially if a presentation is involved.

11. Consider building in some structure if it is a solely networking event i.e. regular 5 minutes with whoever is stood to your left.

12. Circulate a delegate list on the day

13. Give delegates large, readable name badges with their name, company and title/interest.

14. Provide sufficient time for Q&A if a presentation is involved.

15. Remember to thank sponsors, venue, caterers.

16. Ask for feedback on the night via feedback forms.

Post event

17. Make speaker notes available to all attendees.

18. Give additional opportunity to feedback.

19. Send out a press release and post feedback on your website & social networks.

20. Start planning your next event.