Car Sales Strategy – A Form of Pull Marketing

I walked in to a car dealership that’s local to our area and wondered, “Do they even have any cars on this lot?” Well…yes they do.  But you *have* to talk to someone.  Now that I know where the cars are, I might sneak past the sales guys but at this dealership the guys don’t roam the lots, you come to them.  This is probably their form of inbound/pull marketing.

I found it very interesting as at most other dealerships you can walk around the big lots freely and peek into the cars and read the specs as you shoo off the sales guy until you are actually interested in asking a question.  But here, it was different.  It was going to be a different experience and one that lead me to blog about it.

It’s difficult for car dealerships to be one upping each other all the time.  I mean really.  What’s the difference in who anyone buys from other than that customer’s experience, the inventory on the lot, and last but most importantly the prices?  More than likely it’s the very first thing I wrote as well as the last.  Word of mouth travels and if enough people have a bad experience, and if enough people document that bad experience online, then you might be doomed.

But I digressed.  I simply found it very interesting how this dealership set up its “interaction” with its customers.  What do you think?  Will more dealerships begin to do things this way? Have I been living under a rock and most of them conduct business this way now?

Creating a Content Strategy

Ahhh…content strategies.  Many people don’t get them, and many people don’t see why more than just the marketing department needs to be on board with the overall content strategy.  In some instances, when marketing and its PR or content partner are the only ones creating content, then sure.  But, if you’re in a situation where there are other departments creating case studies, white papers, blog posts, lab notes…essentially anything that is shared, then every one of those people need to be on the same page.

What do I mean the same page?  When planning out your high level content strategy for the year, you more than likely have an idea of what you’d like to focus on and when.  There are buying times to contend with, key event times, special interest stories for publications, the list can go on.  Having taken all of those things into account, you know…more or less…the kinds of topics you’ll need to cover and when.  However, when others know nothing about this strategy, or think they can march to the beat of their own drum then you might be in a bit of a pickle due to misaligned content, or a lack of resources to create the kind of content you need.

Here are some of my tips for the preliminary steps of a content strategy:

  1. Know who you are going to be targeting with your content
  2. Understand your key audience(s) needs
  3. Know when to focus on those audiences
  4. Know where the audience(s) you are trying to reach consumes its content
  5. Know what you want to get out of the audience consuming your content – Is it back links to the website? Is it filling out an embedded form? Is it to grow brand awareness? Is it to push a product & help sales?

When you have the 5 things above figured out then look internally, or externally, as to who will be creating the right content, at the right time, for the right audience.  You also need to make sure that you have some kind of KPI tied to this so that you can explain to upper management the need & the results for this kind of new thinking.

But, most importantly, step number 5 will dictate the kind of content you want to write…engaging, to the point, “buy now”, teaser, general info/thought leadership, etc.

Good luck…but don’t take my word for what I’ve written above.  Here are some additional resources for you to peruse:

Developing a Content Strategy

The Discipline of Content Strategy –>This is an older article, circa 2008, but a good one none the less

Content Strategy Basics

Content Marketing Strategy Checklist, A Big Fat Roll Up Your Sleeves Guide for B2B Marketers

And last but not least, here is a place where you can get 17 Content Marketing Templates & Checklists

2016 Marketing Plan

I know it seems early but I hope you’ve already started to have talks about what you’ll be doing in 2016 in regards to marketing.  There are certain aspects that I’m sure are already underway, such as prep for tradeshows that are early in the year, Q1 initiatives, advertising, etc.  But make sure to begin to get into big picture mode.

There are unfortunately many people who don’t believe in a marketing plan but as this article, Elements of a Marketing Plan, wonderfully states – “Whether you’re marketing for a huge corporation or a local coffee shop, if you do not have a marketing plan in place, make it your first priority.” THANK YOU Hannah Watkins!  I hope everyone reads your article because I couldn’t have said it better myself.  Hannah goes through a great step by step process of writing a marketing plan.  Here are the highlights, but I HIGHLY suggest you read, and share, the article!

The Initial Phase/Pre-Plan:

  1. Assess your current financial situation
  2. Assess your staff
  3. Understand your marketplace and target audience
  4. Identify your focus products and services
  5. CREATE BRAND GUIDELINES (Boy do I wish I could share this wonderful step with a few people who didn’t think that brand guidelines played any role at all in marketing, or their business in general)

The Core of the Marketing Plan:

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Business Goals
  3. Target Audience Groups
  4. Online Marketing – Current Standings
    1. Basic Google Analytics
    2. Competitive Analysis
  5. Online Marketing Objectives
  6. Tactics
    1. On-site changes/Multi-variant testing
    2. Content Marketing
    3. SEO/SEM
    4. Social Media
    5. Link Building & Cross Promotion
    6. Email Marketing
    7. Online Paid Advertising
  7. Execute & Adjust As Needed

Good luck!

Nobody Cares if You are Busy

I took that line from an interviewer, and agree with it to a point.  Yes, busy to one person is not busy to another.  But unfortunately, with how “connected” and “on” we always are, we’re always busy because everyone can get a hold of you in a million different ways.  I suppose one would say that the way you separate yourself from the rest is to tune out the noise, which means you should probably become a master delegator of tasks in order to surpass all those do-ers and instead lead the pack.  I suppose also, that you should be good at prioritizing what is noise and what is a priority…but that can be very subjective.

As someone who I worked for once said, “I notice that you’re always planning and strategizing. It seems like a waste of time.” It would be one thing if all of it was useless planning and no good was coming out of it.  But when the opposite was true, I couldn’t not take offense to the statement.  Planning, meetings, thinking, all take time.  But apparently that’s not time that is viewed as useful, no matter how effective.

What are your thoughts on this?

Marketing vs. Brand Management

Thinking more and more about the kinds of employment that I’ve focused on I’m seeing some true distinctions for both a marketing and brand manager roles.  There are benefits to both of course but I’m also coming to the realization that in some of my past roles I’ve either had to teeter on the edge of being both or been pigeonholed into being one without anyone focusing on the other.  But that’s a whole lot of gobbledygook.

As this article by the Tronvig Group eloquently writes, “…marketing is actively promoting a product or service…Branding should both precede and underlie any marketing effort…”

And even more precisely, “Marketing unearths and activates buyers. Branding makes loyal customers, advocates, even evangelists, out of those who buy.”

So true!  I think the reason why some of my past efforts may not have worked out to their true potential was due to there not being a focus on the brand and building that, or at least making everyone 100% aware of what it stands for.  Instead, we did everything we could to create a marketing strategy that would fit the appropriate markets that the brand sold into, but there wasn’t a central tie back to all of those efforts.  At the end of the day, we were still all over the place.

But going back to my original thought…the key differences I have noticed, and realized, in these two roles are that with marketing, you are doing a lot of the heavy lifting for the brand.  Of course the initial heavy lifting comes from clear messaging of what the brand is and will be.  Its look, voice, etc.  From there, marketing takes over to ensure that all efforts keep that branding in mind.  They do so while keeping track of metrics that tie back to business goals, hopefully, through lead gen, product promotion & launches, market research, SEO, PPC, social…the list could go on.

Whereas the branding department needs to ensure that what they did initially is being kept in mind.  Those folks are essentially the brand police.  And without them, and without the buy in of senior management, nothing will move forward in the way that it was intended.

These two are very interwoven and must be at an equilibrium, which I think is also why some marketing and or brand manager roles speak to a lot of mixed responsibilities.  At the end of the day, without one, you can’t successfully have the other.  And it’s our job, as marketers, to convey that to senior management.

There are of course pros and cons for both of these roles but as I alluded to in the beginning, there have been times when I’ve have to make sure that both sides of the seesaw were equal and there were times when the seesaw was very heavy on one end without anyone sitting on the brand end, which ultimately led to a lot of internal and external confusion.

What do you think?  What are your thoughts on branding and marketing?

Golf & Business

We can’t deny that a lot of business gets done and many relationships are cemented on the golf course.  But as someone who doesn’t golf what can I do to achieve the same success’?  And more importantly, what is the appeal of conducting business on the golf course?

Let’s go backwards and do some research.

What is the appeal of conducting business on the golf course?

  1. Time.  You have a heck of a lot of time to get to know one another during a round of golf & work on building a relationship.

From everything I’ve thought and read, that is the key to the appeal.  It’s not so much about being sleazy and closing a deal, or going into the game with that being the goal, but rather about building a relationship that will lead to a closed deal

What can I do to achieve the same success’ as those that golf?

  1. Make time.  Conversations and relationships can be built through honest conversations and making time for your key customers or accounts.  Dinner, ball game, or a walking meeting if they’re in the fitness business.

Do you agree with the above? How important do you think golf is to business?

As a total aside:

I wish this was an actual website and not just a dummy site…

Washington University is actually offering a course on golf and business!

Legal Services Marketing

Something I haven’t looked at before is legal services marketing.  It might be a tough service to market but I’ve learned that there are a couple of areas that all law firms try to focus on, getting their name out there as well as getting their lawyers names out there.  You want to be in a conversation and have the other party say, “Oh, I know of your firm.”  But how do you get there other than through successful cases?

Well, not having played in this space before I took to the web and found the following tips:

  • “Without a plan a law firm’s or individual lawyer’s marketing and business development efforts are generally serendipity or haphazard at best. By preparing a road map that seeks the clients you prefer and a practice niche you enjoy, your personal and professional life will become much more satisfying.”
  • “The best source of new business is existing clients, either through new matters or referrals to new clients. ”
  • Here are also Legal Marketing Blog’s top 10 tips for successful marketing:
    • Visit your client
    • Entertain your client
    • Seek client feedback often
    • Offer to make a proposal
    • Communicate often
    • Talk it up with more speeches
    • Write articles of interest
    • Wake a reporter to lunch
    • Networking with super connectors
    • Be active in organizations
  • Join the LMA to be in the know on new marketing practices

And because at the end of the day marketing is marketing, here are my own quick tips:

  • Pay attention to SEO
  • Have a well functioning, and mobile responsive, website
  • Gather and write testimonials
  • Create thought leaders
  • Be present on the right social channels
  • Be consistent
  • Communicate with your customers

Here are some additional resources:

New Beginnings

“If you’re not scared to do something new, then you’re not trying hard enough.” That’s my loose re-quoting of Steven Colbert on starting in his new gig on the Late Show.

I happen to agree.  Being somewhat scared means that you are not only worried about starting in a new environment but also that you want to make sure you live up to expectations.  But, you have to make sure you don’t show these concerns, but rather exude the confidence you showed in your interview process.

Here are my 5 tips for your first month:

  • Come prepared to dive right in – Expectations might the set high so be ready to get down and dirt
  • Use your street smarts – Your gut feeling about someone or something may be the right feeling
  • Speak up – Depending on the role you were brought in for, your insight is probably needed so don’t sit and observe too long
  • Sit & Observe – To the point above, it is important to sit back and see how things function
  • Small wins – Get some quick wins in under your belt.  Clean up or create a process, fix something that is broken, make a creative contribution

Good luck!