Artisan Marketing – Market Your Passion

We have created a message series specifically to help artisans market their craft. Today’s business feels like it is getting easier to do tasks, but harder to do everything. There are so many options that it makes your head spin. This article series is designed to help you choose what is right for you and show you have to navigate the new marketing terrain. If you don’t want to page through the articles online, you can just download the e-book with all the same great content. (…and a few tid-bits more.)

Choosing Software & Services

Where to begin… There are so many technology options these days. Don’t get me wrong, its great! Years ago you had to pick a technology partner and live with the decision for years. Shackled to their release cycles and promises to fix it in the next release. As a Boston Red Sox ⚾ fan that familiar “maybe next year” saying started to get pretty sour. But the “curse” is broken and these are new times. We’re in the Lego® generation now! Pick and choose what you like and integrate a custom solution. If you out grow a tool, pick a different one, integrate it and move your data. Even your data layer can be a platform that is part of your technology stack. I know, you may already be feeling anxious and I’m not helping… probably making it worse. So lets move along. 🏃🏿

Getting Started

Like our own customers, most people start with a web search. The problem with a straight Google search is that it provides a lot of content that may not be accurate unless you provide a lot of context in your search. Also the results are often skewed by general consumer searches. If I have no idea who the players may be, I do several searches to see what names may pop-up most often. This gives me a level of confidence related to the competitive set that I need should evaluate. When I am ready to dig a bit deeper, I use evaluation platforms/networks. My favorite is G2 Crowd because it has a lot of peer reviewed content and several analytical and filtering tools. Trust Radius is a peer review site, but I don’t think it has as many analysis features. (Gartner, Forrester, etc. are good sources… if you have a subscription.) It is especially nice when you know the product category or when you want to compare a few products.

For Example

Let’s say you were tasked for find some tools to help the sales and account teams to manage and develop prospects. You have your marketing team working to nurture and qualify leads and they are passing them along to your sales team. To help the team manage the prospects, share and avoid duplication you think a tool may help.

Step 1: You do some searches and find some articles about sales engagement and a few different product mentions.

Step 2: You go to G2 Crowd and click on Software > All Categories. After a quick heart palpitation from the overwhelmingly long list, you search “sales engagement.” This returns one category and a list of products. The temptation is to start clicking on the companies, but… wait for it … you click on the “Sales Engagement” category instead. Much to your delight, you are presented with a nice 2 by 2 chart that positions all of the major players. Nice.

Step 3: So your eyes scan the diagram and you look at the leader quadrant in the upper right corner. You can click the logo in the chart or the company in the list below the chart to checkout the product. Let’s say we clicked on Outreach. This gives you a nice summary of the product/company, and since this site is built on user reviews it puts us on the Reviews tab. There are also ProfilePricing, and Features tabs. As you scan the pages, you notice that there is a link to chat with a G2 Crowd associate, which could be helpful, but right now we are just doing some research. You also notice that there are some buttons to compare Outreach with other products. Sounds interesting, so lets click Outreach vs. SalesLoft.

Now things are looking pretty interesting. You can start to compare the products side by side to see which ones may be the est fit for your business and who to include in your evaluation or RFP.

Step 4: You also notice that there is an nice box in the margin that lists other similar products and a convenient little plus symbol ➕ to add them to the comparison. This is starting to give you a good feel for which products you may need to explore further. Then it occurs to you that this is a lot of informality and you wonder how much is relevant to you and your business. It’s OK, lets push on.

Step 5: Filters. When I was a kid, smoking was common and filters were those smelly things that everyone tossed on the ground and filled the change tray in the car with. (I know, it was an ashtray, but to a non-smoker… its for change. Also, I know I ended the sentence with a preposition. Let’s just keep moving.) As you look at the page, and left navigation, you will notice there are filters. Love it! You can filter by the category because some products fit into most categories. (It’s a dessert topping and a floor wax… that’s for you older SNL fans. Younger people, search “SNL Shimmer” on YouTube.) You can also filter on company size, to see the comparison related to reviewers from your size company. If you are looking for an enterprise company, your needs and assessment may be much more critical than a SMB. Also, you can save your comparison… after all, we heart to heart stuff! 💚

There are plenty of reviews to read. I like to look at the most critical reviews to see if there is a weakness that is concerning to me. Sometimes the criticisms are personal preferences and down-right of the topic. Once you have narrowed the field of potential solutions to 2 or 3 options you can start digging into the products. Sign-up for demos and downloads to learn as much as you can from the solution provider. This will put you in their lead funnel, but at least you know that it is a product of interest. (Much better than scanning your badge at every booth of a trade-show. (We all know that it may take a long time to get off the call list for products that don’t match your needs.) ✨🤪 I find that there is much you can learn from online or guided demos, and you can pepper the sales people with lots of questions. Be very candid with them and tell them your concerns. If they have a good product/service they will be prepared to answer the tough questions. If you work for a large company, bring your procurement/sourcing partners early so they can start working on pricing while you focus on features and functions.

In Summary

Shopping for a technology solution can be intimidating, but it is much more manageable when we breakdown the task. Here is a short breakdown of the tasks to put in your notes.

  1. Conduct a general web search to see who are the category players and what they call the category.
  2. Jump to a review source that can tell you more about the company/product in the context of your business. (G2 Crowd, Trust Radius, Gartner, Forrester, etc.)
  3. Evaluate the findings and reduce the list be eliminating the products that have unacceptable gaps.
  4. Go deep to evaluate each product on your short list. Don’t be afraid to sign-up for information, watch demos, or take calls from the sales people.
  5. Eliminate the candidate solutions that are not a fit, and tell them. It is much better for you and them if you tell them early if they are not a fit for your company.

These steps will lead you into a final evaluation and selection group of products that are viable options for your business. Continue to research, talk to current customers, and work your LinkedIn network for others that are using the product, so you can get an inside scoop.

I hope this was helpful. Re-post it if it was. 🍰

List Buyer Beware

As marketers, we want to do our best to reach new leads, educate and nurture them to become potential customers.  We want to build a profile of the customer, so we can identify leads who we believe is qualified and pass them to our sales team.  The challenge is where to start with leads.  If you’re like me, you get at least five email per week from some service that is offering to “sell” you a list of leads that fit your target.  This rings two alarms in my head…

  • With today’s regulations around privacy, there is a risk of personal data being captured as “business contact” data (Maybe the person gave personal data to a particular company for business, but they didn’t give it to me, so the data has a bit of risk associated with it.)
  • The person didn’t add themselves to a list so it could be “sold” to people like me, so there is likely going to be a huge amount of unsubscribes, un-opens, or just plain angry recipients.

Buying a lead list sounds like a great way to load up a database, and it is, but we need to be very cautious about where we get the list, use it in a timely manner, and only use it once. (maybe twice 😨)  We need to think of the list as fresh fish 🐟 from the market.  We need to get it from a fish monger that we can trust. Who can we trust as a list supplier?  A reputable organization that has explicit permissions to share and would not likely be forgotten by the list member.  This may be a subscriber list to a publication, attendees to a trade show, or some similar list source that has been used recently.  We need to use it soon, because there is a timeliness to freshness. If the list is from an event, you want to use it within 3-4 months of the event.  We don’t want to keep leftovers around, so they need to be consumed very soon.  As far as a list is concerned, you only want to resend to soft-bounces, out-of-office replies, or unopened reminders … but I would only recommend that you use it once.  Also, be transparent about how you got their information (i.e. We hope you enjoyed the show…, last issue…, etc.) and remind them that they can unsubscribe.

When buying a list, remember that you get what you pay for.  A list of three-thousand names for $1,500 may only give you a handful of good leads.  In reality these may be some very expensive leads that may still never become a customer.  So, what do you do when you don’t have a good source for a list or it is too expensive.   You may be a lot better off building your own list.  This sounds hard and slow, but in the end you will get much better leads with a higher potential of becoming a customer.  Also, it’s not that hard!

The key is to think about it as part of your campaign.  Just keep in mind that building a lead database is one of your campaign objectives.  You will want to use the content and message of your campaign to also draw in leads that are attracted to your content.  This means that leads that opt-in through your campaign have already self-identified as having an interest in the topic of your campaign.  This means that it won’t take as long to develop them in to qualified leads.  Take a look at this simple flow and we will walk through it below… 

Opt-in as Part of Campaign

Content seems to always be the missing part of many campaigns, but you need something.  Here is one tip to that you can always use … Simplify! I’m sure that you have content, but it may seem like it’s too much or too complicated or in the wrong format or all of the above. 😲 Think about you customers and how to start the conversation.  Set-up the problem that you will solve, or share a teaser part of the content to make them want more.  Downloads or restricted content is a fair trade for their contact information, but give them something for free that raises their confidence that you have something of equal or greater value to share.  Create your ad as a small piece of content that will spark an interest or make someone want to share it.  (Especially for social ads.)  It doesn’t need to be funny.  Serious content is worthy of sharing, too.  If you took the money that you would have spent on the list ($1,500) and used it in a targeted online ad spend, you will be surprised how much you will get for your money.  And they will be better quality leads.

Landing pages are often poorly executed, if at all.  I have seen many ads that lead you to the company home page.  OK, now what!?  Don’t just drop someone on the home page if your homepage doesn’t have a call to action (CTA).  It is like playing hide and seek with your lead.  You sparked their interest with an ad and dropped them on your home page … Why? To just dare them to find the content you want them to see?  Sending them to a landing page is another opportunity to present your value proposition and a CTA is the best way to get them to provide their contact information. “Fill out this form and download the infographic. …to download the worksheet.  …we will send you a free hat.”  ☝️ Tips:  1.) Put the form right on the page, so they don’t have to open another page for the form.  2.) Only ask for the minimum amount of information you need to get started. (i.e. Name and email address)  You can add to their profile over time, because the more information you require upfront, them more people will abandon your site.  There is an invisible line that people draw and won’t cross when it comes to providing their information.  It is different for everyone, but the more data you require, them closer you get to that line.

In summary, you may get a lot further faster by building your own list than buying a list.  Especially when the list is from an unknown source. 
🤔 Think about it … how did you get their email offer?  They pulled you from their database of “highly qualified” leads!  Yuck. 😝

Mobile Impact on Campaign Results

Check out this short article that I wrote on LinkedIN

Image Source: Search Engine Land linked article.

I was reading a new article about Googles new Mobile Scorecard and Impact Calculator, which was interesting. When I looked into them, I realized that they are only for larger sites that have enough traffic to be in their data set. Even some enterprise sites don’t have enough data. Also, if you don’t have an on site e-commerce feature, then the impact tool is of little value.

But let’s not walk away form this idea just yet! There is still opportunity to assess your site for mobile speed and friendliness. A linked article about the Google PageSpeed Insights tools improvements based on Chrome user data, you can improve the mobile experience of your site.

This is very important these days, because more people access their mail and links form their portable devices. Those of us that are using marketing automation have calls to action that are critical to our campaign. Well, if the landing page is a miserable mobile experience, you’ve lost the opportunity. (Most likely, the message has been “marked as read” and will not be opened again from a laptop/desktop.)

I strongly suggest that you run the Google PageSpeed Insights on your landing page as part of your campaign “pre-flight” checklist. Some of the things I see on pages are sloppy inefficient coding by the page developers. They get lazy and just leave a lot of CSS and JavaScript files in the page, that are not needed. Also, some pages have oversized images and large CSS/JS files that have not been minified. All these files need to be loaded on the mobile device, which slows your page load. and have a negative impact on the mobile user’s experience. You are probably paying a lot to have your pages and templates created, make sure that your developers are giving you quality work. A low cost asset could result in poor campaign performance and even bigger loss in your ROI.

Even if your site is just an information page and you expect low traffic, it still doesn’t hurt to evaluate your page. Why not make the most of every customer touch point. I use WordPress for my site, which is convenient and easy for a low volume site. However, with the convenience comes some inefficiency. I will still look for some low hanging fruit, because it still may be the first impression a potential client gets. I probably need to admit that my best work goes into the sites and templates that I build and not into my own site. (Note to self.)

Solutions that work

McMichen Consulting Company will work with you to develop a solution to your business problem or need.  Services can include design, architecture, installation, configuration, process development, training and documentation.  Everything you need to run your business.  We realize that many people need technologies for their business, but find it very frustrating to set it up and use on a day to day basis.  We will help you through this process and train you and  your staff, so you can focus on your business.

With over 3 decades of experience in enterprise organizations, we understand that solutions can be over-complicated and dysfunctional.  At the same time we realize that it is important to have a reliable solution with back-up and recovery capability, and quality documentation and training.  Talk to us about your business needs.

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