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What happened to grace?

September 18, 2019

I love social media and the whole concept of access that it’s brought to the forefront. Ten years ago consumers had no idea how to get a company’s attention. Sure, they could call the 800 number or write to “customer service” at the company’s corporate headquarters but neither was very reliable. Even if the company did respond, it was usually too late to resolve the issue.

Social media changed all of that. All of a sudden, CEOs, Marketing Directors and Customer Service reps were all over Facebook and Twitter and not only were they there but they were responding when customers reached out.

Many organizations have invested a serious amount of time, money and human resources to create a customer service portal using social media networks as their medium of choice. Odds are pretty good that you’ve interacted with a company this way. And I am hoping that odds are – you and your company have explored how to use this concept to connect with your own customers as well.

Access is smart marketing. When someone feels like you are making yourself available to them, it triggers a sense of belonging and tells them that they matter to you. We know this isn’t a passing fad – it’s how we communicate now. Remember about five years ago when the buzz was about how digital platforms like social media have shifted communication from a monologue to a dialogue? Today that’s old news. We’ve adopted these new networks, tools, and apps and for many of us, we can’t remember how we communicated before they arrived.

But as we’ve adopted these new tools, we’ve developed some really ugly habits. I’m concerned that these new trends could discourage organizations from using social media to reach out. Because when they do – they get their hand slapped.

What I’m talking about is the complete lack of grace that seems to be prevalent in all social networks. People don’t get annoyed; they seem to move immediately to rage. People don’t disagree; they escalate to vehemently oppose. And when it comes to dealing with companies online, even the smallest slight triggers a social media blood bath.

Maybe it’s fueled by the arm’s length anonymity, but people seem to go to an extreme place much faster online than they do in person. The slightest transgressions trigger reactions that feel very reactionary and extreme. It seems like we’ve lost the ability to offer others a little grace. Every organization is going to screw up. Why can’t we start with the assumption that they’re doing their best and cut them a little slack?

If you find yourself on the end of an extreme reaction, here are some things you can do to gain control of the situation.

Apologize: I think many times people over-react when they think the company in question doesn’t care or isn’t empathetic to their situation. Using the words “I’m sorry” or “I can understand how frustrating this is for you” can go a long way to defusing someone’s anger.

Take it offline: Ask to move the conversation to the phone or when possible, in person. Having to speak to someone directly will often take some of the harshness out of the conversation. It also demonstrates to everyone else who is watching the interaction that you’re very willing to try to fix things when they go wrong.

So yes – there are some things you can do to calm the storm as the company being attacked, but I am hoping there’s even more we can all do as human beings to tamp down this trend. When you see it among your family and friends – call it out and help calm it down.

Civility matters and everyone deserves a little grace.

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And action!

September 11, 2019

It seems simple on the surface. You sell something awesome that people really need and want. In theory, all you should have to do is let them know you’re open to selling it to them, right?

And yet we’ve all experienced the frustrating situation of having someone tell us that they genuinely want what we sell and yet somehow, they can’t get over the hurdle and actually take action. Even after you’ve removed all the barriers (“why yes, Mrs. Smith we will deliver that to your home” to a payment plan) it still seems to take people a long time to take that final step.

I often read that for most people, the scarcest of resources is time. I don’t disagree, but I think the kissing cousin to time is attention. We are rarely alone anymore. Even if we are physically alone – because of our devices and technology, we really aren’t. Someone is always pinging, poking or prodding us through email, apps, or even the old-fashioned phone call. In fact, we don’t really know what to do with ourselves if we get a rare moment of silence. It’s why you see everyone grabbing their smartphones every few seconds.

We literally spend the entire day filtering. We filter our emails, skimming over them and quickly deleting the ones we think we don’t need. We filter calls with caller ID and even text messages can be ignored and/or deleted without reply.

Given all of that – how in the world do you get people to take action and buy what you know is a valuable product/service?

First, I think we have to accept the reality that they’re in control of the situation. They will buy (or not) when they’re ready. Yes, you can do things to make it easier or more compelling but at the end of the day, they will take action when it suits them. The most destructive thing you can do to your sales opportunity is to demonstrate your frustration and get pushy.

Which means you need to adjust your expectations about your sales cycle. When you’re setting your goals for 2020, go back and really analyze the time span between your first connection to a new customer and their initial purchase. I’m guessing it’s a lot longer than you think.

It’s not uncommon for me to have a prospective client say, “Oh, I’ve had one of your columns pinned above my desk for years.” The longest so far has been 8 years. But you know what – they just weren’t ready. And there’s nothing I could have done to make them get ready any faster.

Given both our lack of control and the unpredictability of when a prospect will finally be ready to make that first purchase – the reality for us is that we need to think of marketing like dollar-cost averaging investing. According to this philosophy – since we can’t predict when the market will go up or down, we put in a little bit every day. Some days we’ll buy high and some days we’ll buy low but in the end, on average, we’re going to come out ahead.

Marketing and sales work pretty much the same way. Unless you can accurately predict the day your prospect is finally going to be ready to buy – you’d better be out there consistently so you’re still top of mind on that day. As you work with your 2020 marketing plan, make sure that consistency is there.

In today’s marketplace, your competition isn’t just the other company who sells what you sell. The real competition is for the prospect’s attention; and in that race, you’re running against every email, TV show, billboard, phone call, and ping.

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Do you work with that sales team?

September 4, 2019

Like it or not, whether you work for an agency or client-side marketing department – much of your success is out of your hands. In the “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink” analogy, it’s your job to lure the horse to the water. But you are depending on the sales team to actually entice the horse to take a sip.

Unfortunately, you can’t just boss the sales team around, unless you’re their boss. But assuming you are just their peer or colleague, you’re going to have to be a little sneakier to help them hit their numbers.

Let’s look at some common mistakes that your sales team may be making and how you can help them over the hump to better sales.

Waiting for the prospects to come to them: No one likes a pushy salesperson so I understand the inclination to lay low until a prospect raises their hand and indicates that they are ready to buy. But the truth is that you need to be talking to them long before they reach for their wallet or purchase order.

What you’re probably already doing: You’re most likely piquing their interest by creating content that is helpful and relevant to them. You’re offering that content through digital display ads and once they visit your site, keeping in front of them with retargeting. Once they decide they’re ready to download your offer, you’re capturing their email address.

How to step it up: You need to settle in for the long haul. It may take years from the time a prospect trades you their email address for something useful until they’re ready to buy. You have to stay interesting no matter how long it takes.

Instead of just sending them your monthly newsletter that is all about you, your awards, your new sales, and your products – keep sending them more helpful content. Think of yourself as an educator and just keep teaching. But keep it interesting by creating a variety of pieces. Sure, you can offer them another white paper but after a while, they’ll get bored. Create case studies that focus on best practices, testimonials that offer insights into problems they’re probably facing and checklists that make their lives easier.

Your job is to keep helping in compelling ways until they’re ready to buy. No matter how long it takes.

Thinking everyone is the same: Much like some basketball players have a “go-to” shot that they always take under pressure, many salespeople develop a certain offer or pitch because it’s comfortable or because it’s worked in the past. Many times, that’s the right call but they also need to understand the nuances that make each potential customer a little different.

What you’re probably already doing: You might have built personas based on your knowledge of the clients you already serve and some assumptions you’ve drawn about your prospects. You might have even built your online editorial calendar in a way that hits all of your key personas on a consistent basis.

How to step it up: You need to dig a little deeper. Why not do an audience attitudinal segmentation study? Demographic segmentation establishes groups based on who people are — age, gender, income, occupation, etc. Behavioral segmentation establishes groups based on what people do — what they buy, where they click, how often they visit, etc. But attitudinal segmentation will tell you why they make the choices they make and what matters to them. Imagine how you could create different channels and offerings based on that kind of insight.

You and your sales team are forever intertwined so you might as well do all you can to help them hit the numbers that bring you all accolades and rewards!

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From My Inbox

August 28, 2019

inboxI thought rather than do a deep dive into a specific topic, I would take this opportunity to answer some questions that you’ve sent in recently. Useful marketing information but served up snack-sized!

We’d like to have a much larger email list. Should we buy a list and start from there?

While there are few absolutes in marketing, buying an email list is rarely a smart strategy. The CAN-SPAM Act makes it pretty difficult to blindly market to someone who has not requested it or given you permission to send them something.

Even if CAN-SPAM wasn’t around, it’s still not a very effective way to build an audience. Think about how many unsolicited emails you receive every day. How many do you ever glance at, let alone actually read?

Everyone’s inbox is so crowded with junk, the SPAM filters are so much better and we’re all pretty good at triaging our emails at the speed of light – so the odds of you breaking through and actually making a meaningful connection are pretty slim.

Ideally, you’d grow your list by being interesting and offering value. If you’re helpful enough – you’ll draw a crowd. But if you absolutely need to jump-start your email list – do it with direct mail.

Yes, direct mail. The hottest “new” media around. With everyone shifting to digital communications, our mailboxes are much less crowded. A well-designed piece with a grabber of a headline can really work wonders. In your direct mail, offer the recipient something of value that they can download off your website. Require an email address and voila – your list is growing!

We’ve been doing an e-newsletter for about a year and we don’t seem to be gaining any traction. Can you look at a sample and give us your feedback?

Drew’s note: You don’t need to see the sample for these suggestions to be meaningful.

Here are some suggestions I would make to increase your e-newsletter’s effectiveness.

Actually publish it consistently, rather than hit or miss: Either do it or don’t do it. Inconsistency demonstrates your own opinion about the content and the value it provides. It should never be an optional activity. Remember, this is a tool for earning the trust of your potential customers. If you can’t honor your own deadlines, why would they think you’d honor theirs?

Less about you: On average, 80% of your content was about you. Your projects, your awards, your specials, and your people. Honestly – your audience doesn’t care that much about you. Create content that is useful to them in their lives and if you must talk about yourself – no more than 10-15% of any e-newsletter. And you should never be the lead story!

It’s not a novella: People aren’t going to read the equivalent of three pages of articles at one sitting. Cut back to 3-4 stories and don’t let any of them run longer than 500 words. Even that is too much, but it would be an improvement.

Be kind to their eyes: Remember, your audience is reading this on their computer, tablet or phone, so be gentle. Give them plenty of white space and make the copy concise. Use bullet points and visuals to make it easier to read.

Let me know if these tips were helpful to you and keep writing!

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Don’t forget your media mix

August 21, 2019

media mixBack in the good old days, you could advertise in the daily paper, an outdoor board, on one of the local radio stations or one of three TV channels – a media mix.

Today, of course, we don’t have the luxury of that simplicity. Instead of three TV channels, there are over 300. Radio and print have undergone a similar explosion with niche publications, satellite radio and of course, there’s the whole internet and mobile world as well.

It seems like every time something new comes around, the inclination is to abandon the old. It would be much easier if that were really the wise course of action, but just because we have more options doesn’t mean the old ones don’t add value.

I was reviewing numbers from a recent Nielsen study that looked at our electronic media usage. (So print and outdoor were not included). One of the elements of the study was to look at how consumers spent their media time.

First – we are consumed by the media we consume. The average American spends 11 hours a day with electronic media. We’re only awake about 16-18 hours a day, so that’s a staggering number.

It may surprise you that television remains on top – by a three to one margin over smartphones/tablets or the internet. But as you might expect, the TV number is dropping and the smartphone/tablet number continues to rise. Interestingly, watching something off your DVR or what has been dubbed “time-shifted TV” is also on the rise.

Live TV viewers are watching less, but it could be argued that they’re really just watching it differently, as more and more households are streaming and that is influencing how/when they watch. As smartphone/tablet usage goes up, using the internet on a computer has declined. Again, it’s not that people aren’t accessing the internet as much; they are just doing it differently.

Maybe what will surprise you even more than TV being on top is that radio is #2 in terms of hours spent. The study didn’t differentiate between local/satellite, so I can’t help you there. This number is declining like TV usage, but it’s definitely a more popular media than our phones, tablets or the internet at the time of this study.

What does this mean to you? It means a few things:

What you do isn’t necessarily what the rest of the world does: One of the most dangerous assumptions business owners and leaders make is that because they personally do or don’t do something – that’s the norm for the rest of the world. Unless you are utterly average in every way – that simply isn’t true. Don’t let your bias get in the way of good decision making.

Every medium might be the right choice: There isn’t a media out there today that isn’t still a viable choice in terms of reaching the audience you want to talk to. There may be other factors (price versus value, the kind of message you want to deliver, the need for interactivity, etc.) but don’t dismiss any media with a “no one uses/watches/reads XYZ” because it simply isn’t accurate.

Your best bet is a media mix: If you can afford it, spreading your media investment over more than one media is always going to be your best bet. You need to make sure you don’t spread yourself too thin and jeopardize frequency, but your media budget needs to be adequate enough to buy more than one outlet.

Media buying is both art and science. Just remember to consider all the options in your media mix before heading to the latest trend or fad. You absolutely can’t ignore the digital world when it comes to advertising today. But don’t think it’s the only choice to consider.

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Low Tech but Effective

August 14, 2019

low techLooking for new customers?

In today’s 24/7 plugged-in world, we tend to focus on the digital marketing tactics that are all the rage. Social media, SEO, and content marketing seem to get top billing of late but don’t let all the hype distract you from some of the simpler, low tech tactics that have worked for decades.

Long before there was any mass media, advertising venues or even town criers – people relied on people they knew to steer them to the best establishments and buying experiences.

Word of mouth and referrals are as old as time and they’re as influential today as they were back then. In fact, as consumers are bombarded by more and more ads, the raves of a friend or colleague seem even more compelling.

Every business, even if you’re running at capacity right now, needs to have an active program to cultivate and earn new clients. No matter how good you are, a certain percentage of customers will always come and go, even if you’re doing an incredible job. So, you must always be adding new prospects to the sales funnel. While I have covered how to leverage your website to feed the funnel in the past, I’d like you to consider a more low tech option as well.

I want to suggest a weekly activity that should go on every business owner/leader’s To-Do list.

I want to warn you. You might read this and think, “well duh, Drew. Is that your big idea? Of course, we should be doing this.” But before you dismiss it as incredibly obvious or so basic that it’s stupid – ask yourself if you’re actually doing it. My guess is, the answer will be no. Which is why I’m writing about it.

Put together two lists. The first list should include all of your current clients that you actually like working with and would gladly welcome another client like them. The second list should be every past client (over the last five years) that you actually miss doing business with.

Starting with your current client list – start scheduling a breakfast, coffee, lunch, drink, etc. with each of them…so you have one meeting each week. Ideally, between the two lists (over time) you could fill a year’s worth of weekly appointments.

At this weekly meeting, your goal is two-fold. First, you want to genuinely let this person know that you and your team appreciate them and enjoy working with them. In the case of past clients, let them know that you miss working with them. Be sure you tell them specifically what makes them such a good client for your company. After all, you want them to help you find someone else with the same traits.

Your second goal is to ask for a referral. Tell your client/previous client that you’d like another client just like them and ask for their help. It’s amazing to me how eager our clients are to help us grow our business when we take the time to ask.

If you’re successful at booking a weekly meeting at least 40 weeks out of the year and if 25% those people can connect you to a new prospect or two, and you land half of them – that’s five new clients and 40 renewed and rejuvenated relationships.

Here are the upsides of this tactic:

  • New clients who match the profile of your best clients
  • Your existing clients will feel appreciated and some of them will buy more
  • Some of your previous customers will probably come back

Low tech, low risk, and huge rewards. Why wouldn’t you start your lists today?

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Planting your brand’s seeds

August 7, 2019

Branding. What is it and how do you define it? In most cases, people mistake the word branding to mean one of two things. A logo or a tagline. Both are tools you use to communicate your brand but neither is your actual brand.

Brand has been described in many ways. Advertising icon David Ogilvy said a brand is “the intangible sum of a product’s attributes.” Here’s how we think about brand at MMG – your brand is the feeling that is evoked when someone hears your company’s name.

The way we help bring that to life for clients is by helping them define their #1 promise to everyone in their world (customers, prospects, employees, vendors, etc.). It is the thing that will help them stand apart from their competitors in a way that is genuinely meaningful to the audience and is already part of the organization’s DNA. It is a sword they would be willing to fall on.

So how do you figure out exactly what your brand is?

There are three ways to guarantee that your branding efforts will fade away, leaving you feeling as though you made a lot of noise but no one was listening.

Trying to do it yourself: You know a brand is built on a wobbly foundation when 3-5 people sit in a room and decide what it should be. That begs for a superficial brand that’s mostly fluff and little substance. When you are figuratively inside of a jar, you can’t possibly read the jar’s label. That’s what doing your own branding is like.

The truth is – you can’t see your company from an objective point of view. And you can’t really see it from the world’s point of view. So you need to have an outside team lead you through a process that truly helps you discover what your brand is. And here’s a little insight into that process. It’s much like sculpting. It’s more about what’s not necessary than it is about adding anything.

Your brand already exists inside your organization. The process will help you find it, clean it up and remove the barriers that get in its way.

Letting someone else tell you what your brand should be: As vital as the outside help is, be very wary of anyone who tells you that they’re going to meet with you for a few hours, talk to a couple of your customers and then voila – come back and present you with a list of possible brand positions.

That would be like me having coffee with you, talking to a few of your friends and then dictating what your core values should be. It’s ludicrous. Find someone who will guide you through a process that will allow you and your team to recognize and decide on your organization’s true north.

Restricting it to your marketing department: You must recognize that your brand is not just a marketing thing. It’s a holistic company thing. It has to be just as true and meaningful to the accounting department as it is to the sales department. It has to be something you deliver to your employees with the same level of conviction as you do to your best customers.

So the discovery process needs to involve representation from all the key departments of your company. Yes, the leadership needs to be there but you also need some of the front line team members, who actually talk to your customers on a daily basis.

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What audiences want — experiences across both digital & physical channels

August 1, 2019

It’s official – Physical and digital engagement is paramount for effective customer engagement. No matter what age, gender or location, consumers around the world agree that when it comes to brand interactions, personal, trusted and reliable omnichannel engagement is THE preferred option and choice. 

Over 85 percent of 2,000 global consumers surveyed by the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council, in partnership with Pitney Bowes, reveal that a blend of both digital and physical channel experiences is the preferred way of interfacing with brands. Yet, only 13 percent of consumers believe that brands are fully meeting this expectation and delivering across both physical and digital channels.  (download the executive summary here)

Bucking the assumption that younger generations are digital-only, 87 percent of Millennials (born between 1981-1996) and GenZ (born after 1997) say they prefer an omnichannel choice of communications. Across all generations, key omnichannel touchpoints are an expectation, not an option. These include access to email, phone, web, in-person engagements, video, social media and printed mail.  The overwhelming majority of consumers – 91 percent – suggest that omnichannel experiences are either important or critical, with 29 percent suggesting that companies should be “where I want, when I want, ready to share and communicate how I expect.”

Among the key generational shifts identified by the study:

  • When it comes to channels consumers can’t live without, all but GenZ reached for their phones. For GenZ, they simply cannot part with social, which they are likely accessing on their phone.
  • Social emerges as a key channel of discovery and influence for Millennials and GenZ, while GenX (born between 1965-1980), Boomers (born between 1946-1964) and the Silent Generation (born between 1928-1945) rely on websites to discover new products, and they admit that web is also the biggest influence on buying decisions.
  • Think ONLY GenZ is an open book? Think again. Across all generations, the majority of consumers are comfortable sharing some data with brands, especially consumers in Europe who have been well-educated about data and its uses and benefits. In exchange, consumers expect to understand what is collected and how it is used. Specifically, Millennials are slightly more inclined to share more data in exchange for better personalization.
  •  Everyone gets frustrated when asked to re-start conversations with a brand after they shift to a new channel. But Boomers hold a grudge, as 78 percent – the highest across all ages – say that this frustration has led them to question why they do business with the brand at all.

“It is easy to assume that a single generation will embrace or reject a single channel as we see individual adoption rates soar or plummet year over year,” noted Liz Miller, SVP of Marketing with the CMO Council.  

“But we also live in an age where we are seeing incredible creativity being applied across both digital and physical channels – where digitally native brands like Google, Casper and Harry’s Shave Club are looking to disrupt consumer behavior and consideration patterns with beautiful printed pieces pulled from a mail box and extend the reach and impact of email, mobile and in-store experiences. We can’t afford to ignore or discount physical experiences by assuming digital is the only channel of engagement. Consumers are not focused on channel. They are focused on their own needs, requirements and preferences. The call to action is to meet them in their moments and not in ours,” she adds.

One example of how channels are evolving to increase influence and disrupt behaviors can be seen in consumer reaction and reliance on video. Consumers indicate that control, personalization and the ability to “build-their-own-adventure” were all ways to their hearts and wallets. Nearly half of respondents (48 percent) said they want to engage with videos that reflected specific products and services they own or are interested in. Another 43 percent stated they would like video to be more interactive, allowing them to decide what information they can view and when. 

“It’s incredible to note how even the newest and most exciting of digital channels continue to evolve as consumer preference fully embraces the omnichannel opportunity,” noted Jeff Winter, VP of Marketing & Communications, Pitney Bowes. “Whether by traditional means of communication, or more modern means like video and chatbot, one constant remains: everyone wants to be treated as an individual and it is up to us to deliver on that promise. The amount of data and emerging technologies available today make this an attainable goal for our industry. But it’s those brands who embrace these capabilities that will stand out as leaders in the future.”

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The name of the game

July 31, 2019

A new business opened up around the corner and I couldn’t help but notice the name. It is A-1 Iowa Plumbing and they’ve hung a big banner announcing that they’re open and ready for new customers.

The name is a good reminder of several common naming mistakes that I thought were worth sharing. Whether you are starting a new business or contemplating a name change for your existing business, your company’s name gives you an opportunity to begin to create a familiarity with your brand.

Starting your name with an A: Back in the good old days, when people relied on the yellow pages to find new vendors, starting your business with an A had some merit. It meant you were at the top of the listings. But, today it’s really not that relevant. When was the last time you reached for the phone book? Exactly.

Even though there are still people who use the yellow pages – it’s not the first place most people look. The truth is, most people ask their friends (either in person or on Facebook) or Google it. Others might turn to a tool like Angie’s List. But in all of those cases – a business with a name that starts with an A has no advantage.

Letting the map define your name: It’s not that there is anything wrong with showing your civic pride but it doesn’t help differentiate you from any other provider. If I look at ten plumbing companies online, via my friends’ recommendations, on Angie’s List, or even in the phone book – they’re all going to be from Iowa. Adding Hawkeye, Cyclone, Iowa or any other variation that tells me you’re based in Iowa is not new information.

If you work locally or regionally, then I already know you’re proud to be an Iowan. If you work nationally, then adding Iowa only makes you look like a local company that I might dismiss as not being big enough for my needs. Either way, it’s not really helping.

Creative Spelling: Unless you have a very large advertising budget, many locations with great signage or you own a lot of real estate that you can clearly mark as your own — – don’t purposefully misspell words in your name. Kwik Trip can make it work but odds are you’re working with a smaller marketing budget, so don’t create more work for yourself.

No matter how you market your business, you’ll spend valuable time and money making sure you have helped your audience spell your business name correctly.

Tell me how you’re different: If you can, use your name to differentiate yourself. Use it to tell me what you stand for or a promise you make to your customers. The local business Service Legends is a heating and cooling business. But where they stake their claim is in how they treat their customers. Their name makes us a promise – that their service will be legendary. That’s a name you’d notice.

Not being willing to change: For an existing business, it’s a delicate balancing act. Do you have so much equity built into your original name that you can’t afford to change it or would the change give you the fresh start and clarifying vision you need?

Walking away from a name that you’ve used for a while is a complicated decision, but that doesn’t mean you should dismiss it outright. If your business has undergone some significant changes, serves new audiences or is re-inventing itself, it might be worth the risk.

Your company’s name is a potential client’s first peek at what it will be like to do business with you. So choose every word with care.

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Community Building

July 24, 2019

CommunityMost recently, we looked at the idea that content marketing efforts often stop short of actually building a community and by doing so, brands miss out on the incredible benefits of that strategy. The phrase “build a community” is nebulous so I wanted to give you a concrete example to spark ideas as you look forward to building out your 2020 marketing plan.

One of the most effective ways to build community is to bring your audience together to learn, discuss shared challenges, and to encourage them to be both the student and the teacher. One of our clients hosts an annual event that yields incredible results. Their annual one-day event focuses on sharing best practices and trends for the industry they serve.

They only invite clients and key prospects. Every invitee covers their own travel expenses but after that, it’s all on the brand. They host a full day of speakers, panels, and small group discussions. Everyone walks away with new connections, ideas, and renewed energy for tackling their shared concerns.

For their clients, it’s a perk of working with this company. For their prospects, it’s an opportunity to learn while learning more about their potential partner. But look at it from the brand’s perspective. Their best, happiest clients are mingling with their biggest prospects. What do they have in common to talk about? Two things. Their industry and the company that is hosting the event.

They bring in some big name outside speakers but most of the presentations are done by members of the host company’s team. This positions them as subject matter experts and they use case studies and other successes as examples as they teach. Imagine people flying to you, so you can walk them through your case studies of how you solved your customer’s problems.

When we do the ROI report for this event, the numbers are impressive. For a hard cost of around $40,000, our client will generate $300,000+ annually in new opportunities from both existing clients and prospects who become clients. In addition, the retention rate on the clients who attend is three times better than those that they can’t convince to come.

They keep that audience connected and give them additional opportunities to be both teacher and student throughout the year so that when they come back together at the next event, the ties are even stronger.

One of the aspects of this event that I really love but may seem counter-intuitive is that if a client is no longer working with the host, they’re still invited to the event. This is a bold move that’s aligned with the company’s values around relationships. In many cases, those former clients become clients again and even if they don’t, they become a referral source.

For some of you, this may be out of reach, at the scale they do it. But that doesn’t mean you can’t create community by bringing your customers together. If most of your clients are local, host quarterly breakfasts that spotlight a specific challenge. If your clients are scattered all over the globe, leverage technology and create learning groups. Host the meetings on a platform like Zoom so everyone can still see each other as they learn together.

The key elements are that it has to be educational, not promotional. You need participants who are willing to share what they know as well as learn from others and it can’t be a one-time thing. No one forms a lasting bond after one encounter. Be mindful and realistic in terms of what you can sustain, quarter over quarter or year over year.

This isn’t a quick win but the gains can be substantial, both from a revenue point of view but equally important, from a relationship, referral, and retention point of view.

 

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