What does your company do that’s different and better than everyone else in your market? For many, this is a difficult question to answer. At The Borenstein Group, we recommend that clients consider the following constructs as they create their own brand equation. How do you meaningfully communicate this value proposition? That’s a harder challenge.
Does everyone in your organization who interfaces with clients, prospects and industry leaders deliver the same message? Even tougher.
Compelling messaging and market positioning must quickly and effectively communicate why a prospect would choose you over another product or service provider. It qualifies the prospect and clearly articulates what you offer.
Effective messaging and positioning will firmly define your offerings, mission, and benefits in language that matters to your universe of buyers. This is a critical step as companies move toward cohesive processes and consistent delivery of the brand message. Messaging must include the problems the company, solution or product solves and how it improves the lives of your customers.
This is ambitious work and calls for a careful process. It also calls for an honest assessment. Be prepared to answer some big questions like:
- How does my company impact our clients?
- How should we be selling against our competitors?
- What do our clients say about us?
- Why do our clients or customers buy from us?
At a very basic level, here is the messaging equation:
Ready to learn more about practical tips to create or improve your messaging and positioning strategy? contact us or call 703-385-8178×28
We’ll be the first to tell you that revenue generating initiatives are of greater value in a down economy than branding efforts. But federal contractors are different. Generally speaking, they tend to lack the strong brand identity and recognition of their commercial sector counterparts. Only, unlike their commercial counterparts, successful government contractors, with a greater immunity to the recession, can afford to make the investment in the brand building now.
Your most innovative applications and far-reaching solutions with the biggest ROI can be used aggressively to help your company reach its sales objectives.
B2G and B2B Case studies can have a measurable impact on your company’s sales pipeline. Are you leveraging them for maximum ROI? They have the potential to touch prospects in various stages. At The Borenstein Group, we come across many companies that have great past performances that never see the light of day in the form of a well-written case study, thus, failing to share with the decision makers the ‘how’ behind their success.Just like fine art, if no one sees it- your best and most valuable stories may go unappreciated, sitting at your capture manager’s share drive, unless brought to life.
Here are some ways you can make use of these powerful tools, including some new ideas for even the most seasoned marketing pros.
1. Begin with the bottom line in mind. The best case studies are the ones with the most compelling ROI. The most sophisticated technologies and innovative solutions only matter if they can impact someone’s bottom line. For commercial clients, that often means costs saved and profits increased. For government clients, the ROI may be based on strategic outcomes, better positioning for funding, compliance achievements or other objectives. Think strategically about the products or services you want to aggressively promote and ensure that the outcome is clear and compelling.
2. In general, be specific. Good case studies enable prospects to place themselves in the position of the client whose success you’ve profiled. To do this, they must be able to relate. The problem being solved should be both specific enough to tell a story, yet broad enough to appeal to a greater audience. A government buyer is going to be far more interested in how you helped a peer agency succeed than they are in how you helped a hospital. One way to accomplish this is to target your case studies to industries or market segments. But the rule of thumb is to make it easy for the prospect to put themselves in the shoes of the client. It’s basic sales. Give the buyer a reason to qualify themselves out of your solution and they’ll take it.
3. Make marketing the champion. Case studies work best when they have a marketing focus. They lose their luster when prepared by proposal departments and technical professionals. They are ultimately sales tools and must be framed in that manner. Technical professionals may provide good content, but sometimes the “so what?” question is missed. Marketing people do the best job of asking the right questions.
For example, we interviewed the customer of a client on how their flagship product helped the business. We asked the same question a few different ways before getting to the “aha!” The product was instrumental in helping the small business increase five-fold in 1½ years. This story usually won’t tell itself. It requires tact and skill in extracting it from executives and technical staff.
4. Determine the impact on the sales process. So you have dynamic studies of how you’ve dramatically improved the lives of the people who buy from you. How will you use these studies to ensure these amazing examples reach the people who haven’t bought for you, but should?
Here’s the take-a-step-back-and-look-at-the-big-picture question. What should case studies do for your company? If the prospect is unfamiliar or less familiar with your firm, should case studies be early on in their experience? Then consider adding them prominently to your homepage. Make them part of lead generation activities. Include them in materials at conferences and post-conference follow-up communications.
Case studies should certainly be part of your sales materials. But consider the presentation. Many companies use them as one-page slicks. Others use a broader brochure approach that can make a greater impact to a wider audience. This is a single piece that conveys the impression that you are immersed in a particular industry, federal agency or line of business.
5. Expand your base. These stories can also be re-purposed into press pitches by targeting specific industries or pubs that accept by-lined articles. Your greatest story with the most solid ROI and tales of innovation can be converted into abstracts for speaking proposals. Both of these are fantastic examples of reaching outside of your prospect and customer databases.
6. Let your customers speak for you. One of the smartest ways we’ve seen to extend your case studies is to utilize them as video testimonials. Get a few of your best customers and let them speak about what you did for them—on camera. Granted, this will take some out of their comfort zones, but you can make it worth their while. More and more companies are using this tool very effectively. Customers can speak more powerfully than even our best sales reps. Think about how much value you could get out of these—on your web sites, at trade shows and conferences, during sales meetings, at road shows and so many other marketing opportunities.
Not every project or sale can be converted into a show-stopping case study. But your most innovative applications and far-reaching solutions with the biggest ROI can be used aggressively to help your company reach its sales objectives. Best of luck as you tell your client success stories to the world.
If you need help extracting more value from your case studies, or need to build a new arsenal of effective past performances, Borenstein Group can help. Reach out via the web, or by phone at 703-385-8178.
The end of the year is a good time to take inventory of your customer, partner and colleague referrals. It gives you a chance to look back at the referrals you’ve received and put plans in place to receive even more in FY 2017. Are you getting as many referrals as you would like? A better question is: are you getting as many qualified referrals as you would like. It’s always surprising to us how many firms are disappointed in the quality of referral business they receive.
But there’s good news here. And as is often the case, it’s made possible by marketing.
If you received fewer referrals than you projected, or you would like to improve your organization’s referral program, read on.
Referrals come from three sources: current and past customers, business partners and other colleagues. Employees, too, are a lead source that should never be taken for granted. But like sales, referrals don’t just fall out of the sky. As marketers, you have to help make them happen. Referrals take solid strategy and well-executed tactics.
Here’s the formula for receiving quality referrals:
Provide excellent services and/or products + Stay at the top of prospects’ minds + Enjoy good relationships + Provide Motivation = Receive High Value, Sustainable Referrals
How to Earn More Referrals
You should be getting lots of referrals. If you don’t have a program in place that’s working for you, now’s the time to begin implementing. Follow the tips below, and by the end of FY 2012, you will be reaping measurable returns:
1. Institute a Formal Referral Program
Measurable results start here. There is absolutely no substitute for having a structured program with incentives in place to encourage your customers to refer you. You must stay top of mind. For a good example of this, think about your real estate agent. He or she knows that referrals are a major part of their business. They are always incentivizing by giving away restaurant and movie certificates and other gifts. They know we have plenty of options and understand the value of being at the fore of our thinking.
Define what the program “payout” will be based on the sale that’s closed. The amount of money you spend on a referral program should be consistent with the dollar value of what you’re selling. If you’re a low margin reseller, the referral gift will be very different than if you’re making product sales of $50,000 and up. You must pick a referral gift that is to scale.
As for the payout, it’s recommended to only give these referrals gifts upon close of the sale.
2. Look Outside Your Customer Base
The program should apply to more than your current customers. You should also open it to past customers, as well as business partners and other colleagues. Anyone who has interaction with prospects you’d like to add to your roster is a candidate for the program. If you have a board of directors, they should be bringing you leads. If they’re not, find out why.
3. Promote the Program
Without promotion, your referral program is like a tree falling in the woods. Your customers and partners won’t always be thinking of you. They certainly won’t go out of their way to identify opportunities to bring you business. But if they respect your organization, know you appreciate referrals and have incentives for bringing you good ones, then you’re on the right track.
It’s essential to continually remind clients and partners of your services and value proposition. Tell them you value their referrals. You can promote the program through newsletters, invoice mailers, special direct mailers, or when sales representatives or project managers meet with your customers. Special events to thank customers for their business are a powerful way to build good will and encourage them to provide you with qualified leads.
4. Give Them Something of Value
It’s always recommended to give your customers standard referral gifts, particularly if the product or service you’re selling is a standard item. People talk. If one customer finds out that they got a $20 gift certificate, and another got a gift of 10 times the value for the same type of referral, you could burn bridges, all in the name of trying to build relationships.
If your organization has clients on maintenance contracts, think about giving “gift certificates” that can be applied to service contracts, additional services or sponsored company events, such as customer conferences. This is a gift that benefits both the customer and your company. We have seen this company gift certificate approach work well time and again. It’s well received by the client base, costs the company soft dollars, and improves your relationship with your client. There aren’t any losers with this type of program.
5. Arm Sales to Gather Referrals
Your sales people understand the value of referrals. Make sure they are part of the program. If sales is integrated into this program, they can use it as a tool to touch base with your customer base, warm up leads that have cooled, or resume contact with a customer who hasn’t purchased from you recently. In this way, your referral program is an integral part of your sales and marketing strategy, not a bolted on after-thought. Integration is essential!
6. Measure the Success
The only way to know if your program is successful is to measure its results. Results of this program should be relatively straight forward and easy to measure. Since your client or partner will be receiving a gift for referring you, they will help ensure that the lead is traceable back to them. Otherwise, how do they get their gift? If you are promoting the program and your customers are talking to other qualified leads, you should notice an increase in the numbers of referrals you’re getting and the number of sales closed. The only way to be sure of this impact is to measure it.
Referrals can be a valuable part of the growth strategy for your business. If you need more motivation, think of the opportunities you’re missing by not putting a program in place.
For more information on creating a successful B2B Marketing Referral program, contact us at The Borenstein Group at 703-385-8178 or via our web site’s contact us page.
Remember that feeling of accomplishment you had receiving your college diploma? “I’ve made it,” you probably thought. “I’m finally ready.” Then came the sobering discovery—the realization that post-graduation life from the status of making it in the ‘real world’, has its own challenges and impediments.
It’s the same story for Small Business. Once they’ve graduated from the SBA program in an IT NAIC code, they find themselves competing in a different world. It’s called ‘No Man’s Land’ where titans and gnomes are equally competing for the same RFP capture. So, often we see the smaller companies’ revenues drop; key employees get poached; worst of all, buyers use “comparables” to consistently undervalue their company’s true worth.
According to a study from the Merrill Advisory Group, the four critical components of Government Contractor Valuation are:
1. Business Focus
2. Financial Operations
3. Unique Characteristics
4. Company Brand
But what are Unique Characteristics? That’s the question most Small Business government contractors aren’t prepared to answer. Assuming all things are equal (including past performance, business focus, and financial operations), what makes your company worth more than your competitors?
Often, the answer is rooted in a company’s Strategic Brand Proposition (SBP), or lack thereof.
SBP, like marketing in general, may sound superfluous to most government contractors. But you’ll find it’s intimately and inextricably linked to your company’s growth post-graduation. Buyers and investors have many names for it, “Good Will,” “Intellectual Property,” and “Reputation with Customers, Suppliers, and Partners,” to name a few.
When stakeholders visit your Web site—your digital brand identity—what will they find? User experiences, thought leadership pieces, and collaborative technologies that demonstrate your unique value proposition? Or a hollow, unconvincing mission statement bootlegged from a competitor: “We’re the only company that’s truly customer-focused,” or “We deliver solutions!”
Few Small Business entities have invested the proper time to position themselves for optimal value. The same IT systems integrator can be perceived as an “Architect” (highly skilled strategic partner), or as “Mr. Fix It” (low-cost vendor). Savvy entrepreneurs know that brand equity and the art of strategic communications can make or break perceived value to both Federal customers and potential buyers.
Often, we hear Small Business graduates lament that they can’t afford marketing, advertising, or public relations. It’s the equivalent of bemoaning the need to buy a suit for your first real job interview. Image matters, particularly when you’re building your company for higher valuation. And that, Small Business graduates, is the bottom line.
Ready to chart a different course? Contact us at The Borenstein Group and we can help evaluate what you need to do to make the neccesary changes.