You might be thinking now that a lot of us are working from home how do we reach the right audience? Before COVID-19, you could meet people by doing lunch meetings and networking things where you might be able to find the right person interested in your product or service.
Now, everything is different, and we've got Mike Maynard here from NapierB2B to talk about some solutions to help us find the right audience and reach them from home.
Breaking Through the Virtual Barrier to Improve Your Business
We've got Mike Maynard here from NapierB2B, and he's going to go through some solutions and how you can find the right audience. So Mike, how would you go about making sure that you can reach an audience from home?
Mike: That's a great question to start off with Josh. It's hugely challenging to reach people at home. Our clients who we work with tend to sell to big business, and almost all of the people they wanted to reach sat in an office and they could send salespeople to meet them. Now obviously, COVID has completely changed that. Even if people are working in the office, you still can't get salespeople out there to meet them. So what you need to do is understand what sort of media and what sort of information people are consuming at home and how that's changed from when they're in the office.
There Are Multiple Channels Out There
So it comes down to being in their social feeds, being in their news feeds and creating a strategy to be able to track down the decision-maker in the business?
Mike: We're seeing clients have success with different tactics. I think one of the things that's really clear, is that different audiences, different sorts of people you want to reach with your marketing, are actually going to prefer different channels. So absolutely social, for sure, is bigger. You look at all the stats activity, and social media is way up. Now, people are working from home, but equally don't rule out things—for example, the good old email newsletter. Great newsletters can actually be very valuable today, particularly in some industries where perhaps people aren't receiving the trade magazines they might have been reading in the past.
Battling Against the Noise
With social media, do you think the amount of noise is becoming a problem, or the message getting washed out?
Mike: Whatever channel you choose, you've got to battle against noise. If you're trying to use email marketing, absolutely, you're still battling against noise and spam filters, trying to remove that noise. Unfortunately, sometimes that spam filter is going to think your messages are noise rather than signal. So absolutely, I think everybody's battling against noise.
We've seen a big move online, particularly from some of the companies who were perhaps a bit more focused on traditional media previously. All that's doing is adding to the noise. Now, of course, we have seen that some of the paid channels actually become slightly less competitive. So, for example, if you want to advertise travel destinations on Facebook, now's a pretty good time globally, because there's not much travel advertising going out on Facebook. However, whether it's good for your business is a very different question. So it's not the case that everything has got noisier and everything has got more difficult, but it's always the case that:
If you don't stand out and you don't add value, then people are not going to listen to you.
So I would forget about the competition and how much noise or not there isn't anyone channel and work out how you can create content and information that's actually going to be of interest to the people you want to influence.
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Focus on Your Target Market
It comes down to making sure that you understand your target market, making sure that you've profiled your ideal client.
Mike: Absolutely. So we're all about focus. I think today, it's not just about having your ideal client, but it's also understanding the individuals within that client. For example, let's say you're looking to market an IT services company. You might want to talk to somebody who's the IT director, IT manager, but you also want to reach the CEO of the company, and potentially even the finance director or the guy in charge of the money. All three of those people will have very different thoughts about what they want from an IT services company. So what you need to do is not just tailor your message for your ideal company, but also tailor the messages for each of those three people within it to make sure that they hear information that addresses their concerns, their worries, and makes them feel you're the right business for them.
That information could also vary depending on who you're talking to. It could be analytical information; it could be emotional information. Once you found out that you've got that, then it just comes down to the channels that you need to be able to talk to or find people on. There are lots of different places out there that you could be throwing your content up. Your target will probably be on LinkedIn and might have an Instagram account too, but, do you want to spread the message too thin, or do you want to focus?
Mike: You absolutely want to focus. I think you need to find out what really works for you. One of the interesting things is you can't always predict that, and we have companies where one has fantastic results on social media, and the other will have email as their primary vehicle for reaching people. Both of them will be doing great, both clearly doing the right thing. Yet, it's different channels.
For me, there's a lot of different factors that affect what's going to be the most important channel. There's no point marketing in a place where your audience doesn't visit. If your audience is never on Instagram, don't go to Instagram, it’s a waste of time. But if you're where they are, then it's about:
- Building a presence
- Building authority
- Building an approach that works for you, and also works for your customer
It's about finding a platform or a channel, that's going to make a difference for you. That's going to reach your audience and a platform or channel where you can actually contribute.
Going back to marketing with Managed IT services, you know that there are some companies with awesome podcasts, there are other companies that are not doing podcasts because they're much more introverted.
I can say over the years, we've tried many different things. It comes down to working with what works. One of the things we do that we find can help connect you with the right person is we send out postcards to our ideal clients. We found no one gets a handwritten card in the post. So that's one way that we've made sure that we stand out a little bit.
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Current Trends in Online Marketing
With Facebook and any sort of online marketing, I've noticed a trend, and I just wanted to see what your thoughts were. Do you think right now businesses are pushing it more or pulling back? What do you see out there?
Mike: I think there's a mix of approaches. We did some research amongst the industries we work in. It was interesting to see that there was a group of people who were carrying on as they've always done, there was a group of people who were slashing marketing budgets and a group that was actually increasing. We saw the same with our clients. Some of that is due to how people approach marketing and where they see marketing as a cost or where they see it as an investment.
We have a Managed IT services client, who literally more than doubled their spend with us. When everyone's working from home, there are huge demands on I.T systems which I'm sure you know. Whereas we had other clients where they've cut back because their business has fallen.
Targeting Specific Accounts Can Work
If you are doing digital marketing and you are trying to be in people's newsfeeds, are you better off tracking down the decision-maker for the account as a marketing process?
Mike: I think the more focused you can be the better. So just sending out content and hoping it reaches the right person is clearly the wrong approach. What we're seeing is a lot of our clients moving to target specific accounts. So, LinkedIn is the primary platform for most people where you can target by industry, you can target by job role, and you can even target by company. You need a certain audience size, you can't literally target one person at one company when you do that. But you can build up really focused audience lists.
We're seeing people do the same thing on email, as well, I'm being very focused in my work on building their email list, and making sure they understand within that email list. Different industries might have different concerns, and the IT director wants to hear very different things from the CEO of a company. That's hard work and it takes time. This is one of the reasons why I do say that, that people shouldn't try and do everything. Just trying to spray stuff across almost all channels is the wrong thing. Doing one thing well is definitely the best approach.
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How to Get Started
If you don't have an email list and no digital leads, where do you start?
Mike: It's one of these great questions that really need to be answered with well; it depends. Where you start is your best guess as to what's going to give you the best return. Let's say you sell an engineering product. The big concern from all your customers is how to get prototypes of this mechanical engineering product. Perhaps you want to produce a lead magnet around 3D printing, for example. I would use that lead magnet across a number of different channels to see which one drives the most interest because that's going to start giving you an indication of where your customers are actually looking at information and looking for content.
There's all sorts of different ways you can do that. You can do that through SEO, you can do it through paid search, you can do it on social media, you can even do it through targeted ads. We're seeing clients using Google ads to target display ads on particular websites. The one thing I would say as well as if you don't have an email list, the one thing you probably do have is visitors to your website. So retargeting is like a poor man's version of an email list where you can actually target ads to people who visited your website. That certainly is a good approach if you know that people who you can sell a product to are actually visiting the website.
For anyone that's not sure what retargeting is, it’s where:
If someone comes to you, you can hide a little sneaky thing on their computer that lets you continue to market to them afterwards.
It's fantastic for some businesses, for example, if you're a florist and you want to send flowers out and remind everyone the week before Valentine's Day, “Hey, don't forget your partner”, it's great to know that you're in front of mind, even if they may have not have done something with you for 12 months. When it comes down to retargeting, the costs are significantly more cost-effective and efficient than virgin marketing when you are marketing to people based on long-tail keywords through AdWords. It's definitely a great way to go about it.
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Understanding Your Sales Cycle
What would be an average timeline that you'd expect going from A to B to actually seeing some dollars trickle through for a business in the IT Professional Services industry?
Mike: That is so hard to say, but if we look at our clients, some of their sales cycles are pretty much immediate. They're eCommerce vendors, so they can pretty much immediately generate sales. But they've already got that email list. We have another client that makes baggage handling systems for airports and their sales cycle is 20 years. So 20 years from starting marketing all the way through.
I think the first thing you've got to understand is how long your sales cycle is in your particular business. In professional services, you can certainly generate leads very quickly using lead magnets and producing great content should generate leads pretty much straight away. Converting those leads that sales process is very difficult. It can depend on a lot of things. For example, in your business, Josh, where you're selling I.T services, if they've already got an incumbent company, then you probably don't really have an opportunity to get their business until the contract comes up for renewal. So there can be a sales cycle of anything from a month to a year, depending on how long is left on the contract.
Don’t Forget About Phone Calls
I think it's very hard to say how quickly you can get revenue because it's very dependent. But the reality is you can get leads. At the end of the day, marketing can do a lot of things, but you've just got to pick up the phone. even today, with people working from home, if someone's interested, you've got to pick up the phone and talk to them. That will ultimately start driving that sale.
Getting back on the phone is 100% something to be in front of mind, keep the personal touch. We use a lot of automation, we're always talking about automation, but I don't think you should ever automate the human connection. That's something that you should always just keep so you have that authenticity in your voice, keep the emotion, keep that connection with someone as opposed to just sending them just the newsletter.
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Content Ideas That Work
A lot of people always use the term “I don't have enough time”. I think it's just that they probably don't want to spend their time doing certain things, such as content creation. A lot of people don't like that. But it is one of the cornerstone pieces of a good digital marketing campaign. How can you get people out of that rut?
Mike: Since my business is an agency I probably should be saying everyone employ agencies, they're a fantastic solution. But that is not always the case. Sometimes you've just got to bite the bullet and do things slightly differently if you're trying to generate some content. If you're really not the sort of person that wants to sit down in front of a computer and type out a white paper, an article, or an ebook, it's actually very easy. Just record yourself talking about it, and get it transcribed.
I think one of the biggest challenges people have is getting that first draft of something down. So any way you can do that, whether it's just scribbling, speaking into a microphone, or have someone just chat to you. You can transcribe it, and then turn that into an E-book or a white paper. All those sort of things make it easier to start. You can bring in an agency and they can make the quality of the text that much better and they can make the layout look beautiful, but the end of the day, if you don't start with something that's helpful to your audience, an agency is stuck, they can't do anything.
However pretty we make it look, it's not going to help that potential customer, it's not going to get them to pick the phone up to you. So, find the way that works for you to get that first draft. Then keep editing and editing as it is much easier than writing that first draft, I can assure you that once you've got that first bit of information down, it's so much easier.
I always think the first five minutes is the hardest when it comes to any task you don't want to do. It doesn't matter if it's public speaking and you're talking in front of an audience of 20 or 2000. The first five minutes is the hardest. I used to hate making content, but I've fallen in love with it. Everyone out there that is looking for a client, as long as you've got a business that's out there to make a difference you should have a story that goes with that as to how you're doing something differently. It shouldn't be driven by money. As soon as you start writing it down and you start talking about what it is and how your solution differs to other people, you'll start finding the people that resonate and become raving fans.
Mike: Just getting started is the key. I think people will find it much easier going forward; there are millions of tools on the market that are going to help you, whether it be creating emails, or whether it's creating E-books, there are tools to help you do that automatically. But the reality is, it's all about having a point of view. I can guarantee if you're in business, and your business is making money, you have a point of view. That point of view matters to somebody because you've got customers that value that point of view. We're seeing a lot of people struggle to get content created, because they feel that something written has got to be 20 times better than something verbal, and often that's not the case.
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Avoid Buying Spun Content
I've seen a lot pop up more and more recently is people that are using spun content. They purchase subscription content and make a few newsletters for your industry that you send out to your clients. They are vaguely about your industry, and my personal thought is knowing how much work goes into developing content and making sure my brand and my message comes through is that I don’t like this option. What are your thoughts?
Mike: I think the answer is people are not looking for you to be a trade magazine. They've got trade magazines for that, they've got other newsletters, they've heard this information 100 times. So yes, if you've generated your own content, is the quality going to be as good? Maybe not, but is the value to your potential customer going to be higher? Absolutely. It's not about getting something that looks pretty. To me, the great thing about digital, perhaps the one thing I think the digital has done to completely change marketing is that marketing is no longer subjective. I can tell you; we run tests with ads. We'll have two ads, and almost unanimously, both within the agency within the client, everyone will go, “I love that ad” but I hate that second one and we will run the two ads as an A/B test. The one that everybody hates performs best.
So subjective opinions, particularly your own subjective opinion, is quite often wrong. If you keep doing something, whether it's an email newsletter, or a podcast or blogging, you will get better. I can tell you, we started our own podcast. Not only was I terrible in the first podcast interview, but actually I've managed to lose the recording as well. Every time you start, you know, you look back, and you think, my first attempt was awful. Maybe it is, but actually, there are still people who think it's great.
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Remember to Measure Your Engagement
I completely agree. Make sure you're measuring what you're putting out there so that you can see the results of your fruit. If you're going to the effort to make sure that you can see people are reading and clicking scrolling through and how long they're spending their session times on it. Whatever the content is, ask for reviews. This is something that people don't do, but ask your client. They may give you some feedback that you wouldn't have even thought about and give you information from a perspective of your client as opposed to what you think your client wants.
Mike: I totally agree. Also, the one thing I'd add to the measurement is measure something that matters. One of the worst things about digital is that it's given people any number of different metrics they can use to measure their marketing campaign. We work with a small engineering company, and they're doing some email marketing. If you look at the click-through rate, there's a group of people that have fantastic click-through rates; in fact, they click on every single link in every single email. So measuring the click-through rate is crazy, because it's not a human doing it, it's clearly a spam filter that's looking at the email and making sure that there are no links that you shouldn't visit. Ironically, we found out for sure that one of these was purely spam, because we found out the guy who we were sending to was on furlough, and didn't even have access to his email.
It comes down to how you can measure whether what you're doing is generating either quality leads or opportunities, or ultimately customers. At the end of the day, as a business owner, I don't make any more money, if my click-through rate goes up 10%. I make more money if I get more customers. I think people really need to think about that and not get dazzled by some of the sparkly bits on tools.
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Mike’s Book Recommendation
The metrics have to matter. I like his story there on the spam filtering, because that happens quite a lot. I wanted to ask you one last question. What would you say is your favourite book that influenced the direction that you've got in your business?
Mike: I'm going to pick a book that is a little bit different. I read Lance Armstrong's autobiography, “It's Not About the Bike”, which is interesting. Lance, I mean, he is a very interesting character. He's got clearly a huge number of character flaws and is certainly very imperfect. He wrote the book before the emission of cheating with drugs, so he's still denying taking drugs in the book. But he talks a lot about his life and his cancer treatment. There's a bit in the book that kind of talks about the people who survive cancer and the people who die. He said, there are optimistic people who survive, they're optimistic people who die. People who really look after themselves and survive, some of them died.
He really brings home the fact that you can do a lot to get yourself in the best position, but sometimes there are things you can't control. We could do everything right as a business, as an agency, and COVID could still take the business down. It doesn't make us a worse business. That's really influenced my thinking; all you can do is really do the right thing and then hope the circumstances make you successful.
Getting in Touch
Anyone out there that's looking to get in contact with Mike, visit NapierB2B. You can find out a bit more information about the voodoo that he does and go from there. Stay good and stay healthy!
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