Dec 27 2018
Every year we look back at what we’ve achieved and what we have to look forward to in the new year. In 2018 we experienced growth that allowed us to bring on new team members, and we’ve vastly expanded our abilities to deliver real results for our clients. As 2019 comes rushing in, we’ve decided to share the 5 business lessons we learned in 2018.
Be Forward Looking
In 2018 we learned the true value of maintaining revenue projections and doing weekly bookkeeping meetings. New business sales are the lifeblood of any company, and continual cash flow analysis keeps the bottom line in check. We developed strict discipline with watching “cash in / cash out” always with an eye towards the future. It helped us achieve a YOY improvement that didn’t seem possible this time last year.
If you’re still trying to maintain your books, manage payroll, and crunch all the numbers for taxes and expenses, do yourself a favor and immediately invest in a good bookkeeper. As a business owner you have much better things to do with your time. Divining Point partnered with a bookkeeper (Greeley Street Consulting) who handles all things related to accounting, payroll, and taxes. It’s made all the difference in keeping us solvent.
Entrepreneurship is a roller coaster. It’s always moving forward over hills and troughs. If you’re still in business today – and you’re not heading for certain dissolution – then you have much to rejoice. But if you’re not executing a proactive strategy for future sales, then you’ll experience dips in your cashflow that could sink your chances for success.
Celebrate Your Failures
Sure, your achievements are opportunities to move forward, but your best learning experiences come from failure. In the second quarter of 2018 we made a conscious decision to part ways with some clients who needed a level of service we couldn’t (or wouldn’t) provide or who no longer met the criteria for our ideal client.
Two months later, two of our larger clients terminated their relationship with us.
The client-agency relationship with these clients was cordial (and appreciated), but they had an underlying cynicism about marketing – and a reluctance to communicate – that hindered our ability to solve their problems.
Suddenly we were thrown into a tailspin that presented real risk to everything we’d worked for in the first half of the year. We were immediately forced to do two things:
- Conduct a thorough postmortem to see what happened and why.
- Find new business fast.
What we learned during the postmortem was not only cathartic, it also helped us quickly generate new business opportunities.
In retrospect, the loss of clients was the best thing that happened to us in 2018. We were freed from unhealthy client relationships delivering services that drained our time and resources. At the same time, we were given the opportunity to fine tune all of our processes from top to bottom, which in turn enabled us to find success with other clients who needed us. It is a business lesson that made all the difference for our future.
The unintentional bloodletting of the Summer of 2018 breathed life into our company. It confirmed something we knew all along: an unwilling client isn’t worth the effort. As our favorite prophet of marketing, Don Draper, once said, “You already know about Jesus. He either lives in your heart or he doesn’t”.
Divining Point prides itself on producing measurable results for companies who believe in the value of a rock solid brand and who work hard to deliver great service from beginning to end. We don’t want to work with a company who scoffs at these concepts or thinks that marketing is just an expensive set of bells and whistles.
Our greatest success this year was going to market with a new attitude.
We won’t waste time your time or ours if you can’t see past your biases, honestly communicate with us, and eagerly embrace the change we bring to the table. By replicating this learning, we’ve expanded our client portfolio and improved our service delivery along the way.
As you can see, your failure can be your greatest success, and you can achieve remarkable growth if you learn from these experiences. Look at your business objectively and see how you can replicate success so that it builds up your company. Don’t dwell on failure. Get better.
It’s rare these days to have the same team for longer than a couple years. The US is experiencing all time lows in unemployment, and employees have more job opportunities available to them than ever before. Couple this with a young workforce that naturally drifts from position to position until they find their place in the world. It’s natural to experience turnover, but it adds disruption and significant costs to the operation of any business.
In 2018 Divining Point experienced turnover for a myriad of reasons. In one case we had to remove a toxic presence from the company. Another employee left for personal reasons during the summer when we changed our industry focus. Two other employees accepted generous offers from competitors. We wish them all the best in their future endeavors!
In every case we amicably ended our relationships. At no point did we have to terminate a position for financial reasons, for which we’re thankful. Each time we replaced these employees with new team members who further strengthened our company.
The lesson here is be prepared for turnover. It happens. It’s not very fun. It temporarily introduces disorder into the efficient process you’ve worked hard to create. But it’s a hallmark of good leadership – and teamwork – if your company can gracefully and respectfully handle turnover while continuing to deliver results for your customers.
Complacency Is A Luxury You Can’t Afford
There are hundreds of cliches you can use to describe entrepreneurship. Expect the unexpected. When life hands you lemons make lemonade. Don’t rest on your laurels. You get the picture.
Your business is a living organism that is always moving, always evolving, always experiencing setbacks you didn’t predict. You can’t afford to sit back and count money, even when sales are hot and profits are setting records. As soon as you stop hustling you stop growing – and your company begins to crack.
In 2018 we experienced all the growing pains every company encounters in critical growth years. We never allowed ourselves to be complacent or take anything for granted, and we’re better off as a result.
2019 is set to be another great year for us.
We strengthened our SEO capabilities to achieve top rankings through on page and off page techniques. We added a new Creative Director who will take our visual storytelling to a whole new level with exquisite photography and engaging videography. We expanded our capabilities to include email marketing, public relations, online advertising (outside of just social and search), and enhanced our reporting and research methods.
Need a team to take your business to the next level? Give us a call. We’re here to help.
Dec 16 2018
It’s a given that the world of marketing moves fast. Every year brings new marketing methods to engage your buyers. 2019 is no exception. Adapting to the new ground rules each year can be dizzying.
If you skim the search results for marketing trends in 2019 you’ll see that AI, virtual reality and chatbots are still all the rage. For three years (or more) we’ve heard about the benefits of these new technologies. We don’t deny the power of these new systems, but for most companies these are still inexplicable buzzwords that really don’t make sense for their business.
Rather than promote bleeding edge programs that verge on science fiction, we present 5 marketing methods to help you succeed in 2019.
Search Is Still Critical
As we all know, every purchase starts with a need or a desire.
Sometimes the urge to buy comes from an organic place: the buyer experiences a real world situation that compels them to find a solution for their needs.
Other times, the demand for a product or service is generated through the artful use of advertising, which introduces the buyer to something they never knew existed.
In both cases, the buyer starts the process with online research. That inevitably means they rely on a search engine to find information.
There is nothing new about search. What’s new in 2019 is where people go to do it.
It’s not enough to simply write blogs and optimize your site for search engine success. People now use Facebook and Twitter to explore new products. They browse through dozens of images on Pinterest and Instagram. They watch videos on YouTube. They even use voice search (“Hey Siri!”) or visual search to find more information about something they’re looking at directly in front of them.
Is your company poised to capitalize when your buyer is in the mood to explore? The answer is probably no unless you’re engaging in a sophisticated SEO campaign and regularly pushing content across a wide array of platforms. Even so, many business fail to rank where it matters most.
Our advice is to quit discounting the most fundamental behavior of buyer psychology. SEO, SEM, social media, and content marketing matter more now than ever before. Invest heavily in a multidimensional strategy that leads buyers to you.
For the last 5 years we witnessed a massive consolidation online. Facebook essentially demolished most of the early competitors in the social media world. Google not only dominated the search engine industry, they also lead the way with online video (YouTube) and digital advertising (formerly AdWords, now Google Ads). Amazon continues to break records for online shopping and now competes for music, entertainment and just about everything else.
But something predictable happened in 2018. People changed how they consume online media. Thanks to the bitter presidential election in 2016, and as a result of privacy violations across the internet, more and more consumers are diversifying where they spend their time online.
2019 will bring about more fragmentation in online behavior. People are doing more research on sites that cater to their niche interests. They’re opting in to email lists from companies they trust – while flagging as spam those companies they don’t. They consume considerable amounts of video online all over the internet. They read forums (remember those?) and participate on discussion sites like Reddit. Blogs, podcasts, alternative news sites, the list goes on and on. More profoundly, they’re spending less time on Facebook and Twitter, instead opting for Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Mastodon, Minds, Gab, MeWe, Vero, Signal and more.
This isn’t to suggest that the Big Three (Facebook, Twitter, and Google) are going anywhere soon. But as personal data becomes a bigger issue for consumers, people will move towards platforms where they can engage with more like-minded users and ensure a modicum of privacy.
What does that mean for you? Know your audience. Research where they spend their time online and develop a strategy for engaging them all along the way.
Personalize Your Approach
You should never send a single email to an entire database of customers. Similarly, you can’t expect a single ad to resonate with all of your buyers. If you speak to all of your customers in the same way you should expect to lose them over time. Buyers are unique. You need to treat them like it.
Market segmentation is nothing new. Even list segmentation is old news. But are you actually using all of the available tools to speak directly to each individual buyer? Are you appealing to them as individuals and offering them messaging based on their behavior online?
Remarketing methods, email marketing metrics, Facebook pixel, website behavior tracking… these are but a few of the tools that allow you to analyze the interests and preferences of your buyers. With a CRM and marketing automation platform, you can generate workflows to deliver personalized messages that leads your buyer through the funnel.
Let’s take this even further for 2019. If you are not developing engaging, original content tailored to the personal preferences of your buyers, you will be missing out on the opportunity to turn customers into brand loyalists. Certainly, buyers buy products because they need them, but brand loyalists buy products because they want them… and they won’t even consider buying from another company. That competitive edge makes your life easier and increases sales.
Original Engaging Content Means More Than Just A Blog
Research suggests that the average person is exposed to over 10,000 marketing messages EVERY DAY. Is yours breaking through? We bet the answer is no.
Everyday people scroll through their social media feed in a somewhat absent minded manner until something stands out. They’re busy. They want to be informed or entertained. They want to be amazed.
How do you stop the scroll? Make your content awesome!
If you haven’t taken content marketing seriously up to now, in 2019 you must invest in a strategy that captivates and intrigues your customers. We advise you to think beyond the blog.
The most engaging forms of content are professional quality photography and video. People by nature are visually oriented. They stop and stare when something captures their attention. This is why billboards are still effective to this day, thousands of years after the first sign was hung for a business. It’s why TV still ranks as the most dominant media form. It’s why YouTube garners billions of users each month.
We’ll take this even further. If you’re producing brand-related video and photos with a mobile phone it’s highly likely that you’re doing it wrong. Today’s consumers are smarter than that, and they have incredibly high standards for what passes as quality. A poorly lit photo or a sloppily produced video tarnishes your brand. If your product looks less than stellar how does that impact your buyer? It turns them off.
Diversify Your Ad Strategy
Earlier on we mentioned fragmentation in media consumption. It’s not that people are no longer using Facebook, Twitter, Google, et al. They’re just not spending as much time there. Much ado has been made about the limited organic reach you get these days on these platforms.
The cost to reach a greater audience has skyrocketed. It’s a sign of bad times when up to a half of a company’s ad budget goes solely to one company. It’s even more frustrating when these vendors put excessive restrictions on not only WHAT you can advertise but HOW your ad must look.
The rise in niche sites, independent social platforms, and even new search engines (hello Pinterest!) means there are many more places online to advertise your products. It’s time to explore your options. We’re here to tell you there is life outside of Google and Facebook.
There are multiple private ad networks that reach industry-specific audiences and capture buyers of niche products. There are influencers and affiliates who can drive sales with a single tweet or shout out in a podcast. And let’s not forget the tried and true standards of the analog ad industry: billboards, radio, TV, magazines, direct mail, and special event sponsorships. All of these methods give you a powerful alternative for reaching your customers.
Your Brand Still Matters
At the end of the day you still need a brand. It doesn’t even need to be hip or cute – like so many startups that flood the market. With a strong sense of identity and a good understanding of your buyers, you can use the methods in this blog to reach even more buyers than you did in 2018. While it’s easy to get distracted by shiny new objects like AR/VR and AI, the fundamentals of marketing remain the same.
What’s changed is the critical requirement to build a diverse strategy. You can’t win the game if you don’t show up to play. Buyers in 2019 will no longer give you a pass for a half-hearted attempt to win their attention. Your New Year resolution should be “Excellence in Marketing”. If you pursue it with intention, you’ll crush your sales goals and succeed while others crash and burn.
Let Divining Point tackle your marketing strategy, implementation and management. For more information, visit our services page today!
Aug 06 2018
If you’re an avid deer hunter, you likely spend the summer months preparing. You’re busy planning, checking your gear and doing research to ensure that you’re ready when the season opens – all the while dreaming of that perfect buck to fill your freezer for the winter.
Preparing to launch a marketing campaign is actually quite similar.
Here’s our list of 5 ways that deer season prep is similar to marketing campaign prep. Just like in deer hunting, disorganization in marketing planning will cost you a chance at a good buck…err, we mean good client.
- Sight in Your Marketing Goal
In deer hunting, you spend plenty of time sighting in your bow or rifle so that you’re ready for clean shots when the season opens. You may only get one shot. You have to hit the mark every time.
In marketing, this is analogous to ensuring that you’ve defined your campaign goals and know exactly what it means to achieve success. Why are you launching this marketing campaign? Who do you want to attract? What’s your ideal client? Get all of your details straightened out now so that when you launch a campaign you can stay laser-focused on engaging and converting new deals.
- Talk to Farmers and Landowners
Deer hunters know that farmers and landowners are the best resources for deer information. They spend the summer months working the land alongside the deer, so they have good intel on where the big bucks feed, where the does bed down, and where all manner of game frequently visits.
In marketing terms, this means understanding not only the kinds of clients you want but the kinds of clients you already have. Reach out to your former clients to farm information from them about their thoughts on your services, why they chose you, and what are your strengths and weaknesses. You can also reach out to potential prospects to see what’s on their radar and what pain points they hope to solve. Knowing the lay of the land and the behaviors of your buyers are critical in knowing how to serve them.
- Set up Tracking Systems
The best hunters know that the months before deer season are the best time for setting up cameras and scouting for deer. By researching their behaviors in advance, hunters know which bucks are using the hunting area for their home range when they feed, and which trails they use.
You can apply this idea to marketing by reviewing your website analytics to understand when visitors come to your site, how long they stay and which pages they explore the most. Subsequently, that information helps you to determine where to add submission forms or offer gated content in exchange for contact information. Ultimately, you want to harvest your site visitor information so you can engage your prospects in a conversation and pull them through the funnel.
- Check Your Gear
Deer hunters know there’s nothing worse than waiting all summer and heading out to the woods only to discover that your stand needs repair or your bow needs tuning. Before the season begins you must check all of your gear and ensure everything’s in working order.
The same can be said for preparing for your marketing efforts. Do you have a team on hand to manage social media, SEO and your website? Is there a list of usernames and passwords for all of your critical accounts? Are there broken links on your website? Are all of the contact details correct? Do you even have ways to capture leads? Make sure all of your ducks are in a row so that your campaign is successful on the first shot.
- Be Patient
Patience is a virtue and that’s just as true in marketing as it is in deer hunting. Experienced hunters know not to shoot at everything that passes by the blind, but to patiently wait for the right deer to present itself. Sometimes this means waiting quietly for hours, trusting that the right deer will appear – and also having the restraint to take a pass on immature deer, does, or spikes.
Just like you can’t rush the trophy buck, you can’t rush a good marketing plan. A good marketing plan will take a long-range view and slowly, and steadily, build up traffic and demand so that the right leads come into the funnel. Expecting to see immediate results is analogous to expecting to see a trophy buck five minutes after climbing into the stand. Sometimes you may get lucky. But usually, almost always, you have to be patient and don’t blow your chances.
Jun 19 2018
There comes a time in a company’s evolution when they decide to pause their marketing and take a break. Common times for these breaks include summer and the weeks around the holidays, when companies are primarily focused on hitting deadlines and getting out of the office for family time. The reasons for this vary, but it usually has something to do with cost, performance, lack of vision, seasonality, or some combination of the above. In some cases, companies switch marketing teams (or employees) so frequently none of their campaigns every achieve liftoff, which in turn costs even more money for the company.
When we ask clients why they haven’t allotted marketing budget for the upcoming period/months, we often hear excuses like this:
- We’re heading into our slow period, so we need to save money.
- We expected greater performance from our marketing team after 90 days.
- We should have seen some results by now.
- We’ll spend more budget and expand the scope as soon as we get more leads.
- We’re not even sure what marketing is doing.
Have you heard such statements murmured in budgeting meetings? Or have you whispered them yourself under your breath in a planning conversation? If so, we understand. But, we’re here to let you in on a secret to winning at marketing – don’t give up. Just as your competitors are quitting their marketing efforts, stay the course and your perseverance will pay off.
When your company is tempted to throw in the towel and halt marketing, keep the following truisms in mind:
Marketing Is More Than Just Hot Leads
That sounds totally counterintuitive, doesn’t it? Isn’t that what all companies need? Leads; the hotter the better.
But marketing, especially for services and B2B companies, very rarely yields an immediate wave of hot leads falling through the pipeline. This is particularly true for companies who have not significantly invested in developing their brand and, as a result, own very little market share. If your buyers don’t know you and you don’t have many case studies to support the quality of your work, your marketing must work overtime to build up your brand awareness and lure people to your website to learn more.
But that’s not all.
Your marketing must also continue to remind people that your company even exists. Not once. Not twice. Hundreds of times. A first time visitor to your website may be curious about your company and your products or services, but will most likely only be exploring for research purposes and not ready to purchase anything. Even if your buyer is eager to make a buying decision, it’s unlikely they’d take a chance right away with an unknown new player in the industry. Your marketing must consistently work to elevate your brand, remind the buyer about your value, and encourage them to return to your website. That’s how hot leads are formed.
Guess what happens when you stop marketing? All of that work disappears. Your Top of the Funnel awareness dries up. Your Middle of the Funnel buyers quit returning. Any potential Bottom of the Funnel buyers forget to go back to your website. All the leads you were fostering will dry up and blow away.
Your Competitors Are Waiting For You To Slow Down
Going back to the beginning, if you’re a proverbial little fish trying to swim in a sea of big, strong, sharks, then pausing your marketing is analogous to handing more business to your competitors. In a highly competitive industry, the sharks are winning because they’re marketing and selling. They don’t stop swimming when the water gets rough. As a little fish trying to establish your brand, you’re threatening them and eating into their profits. And you better believe that when you stop marketing they won’t hesitate to eat up your market share.
A more direct example of this is when you pause ads in AdWords, your ad rank drops – thus you sink down the list, thereby giving your competitors a lift in their advertising. Once you do return to run ads again, you end up spending more money to regain the position you once possessed. The same thing applies to SEO. When you stop maintaining onpage and offpage SEO efforts, your rankings drop, thereby raising the rankings of your competitors.
Taking this a step further, when you stop marketing – even if the marketing isn’t performing like you’d hoped, you are removing your brand and your offer from the marketplace. That creates an opportunity for your competitor to capitalize on this opening. When you pause your marketing you make it even easier for them by removing yourself from the ad auctions and bringing down the cost to compete.
Marketing Improves Over Time, Even In The Slow Period
In nearly every case, your marketing should work on a cycle similar to this:
Design / Launch / Test / Optimize
In general, your marketing could take upwards of 6-9 months before you ever realize meaningful value. The process should begin with design efforts to develop a strong underlying strategy and a complete – and clear – set of goals. The first 90 days are essentially the first iteration after the launch of your marketing plan. It’s when most marketing teams review their metrics, learn what’s worked best (and least), make course corrections, and relaunch a second round.
The continuous push for optimization, and improvement, is the hallmark of a good marketing team. Rather than letting anything stagnate, your team should consistently review metrics and make changes as necessary. After 90 days, there will be a body of data to inform the team of how to launch the next marketing campaign – if necessary! Sometimes it makes sense to do more of the same before changing things up in another 90 days.
Regardless, along the way, your marketing is improving over time as your ad rank improves, your SEO rankings increase, your brand loyalty grows, and your buyers return to your site to engage with the company.
Marketing Is More Expensive In the Beginning
If you’re seeing numbers in the red and feeling the urge to pull the plug on your newly launched marketing strategy, just hold tight. Like any new, untested strategy, the first few months might produce some turbulence and feel like more work, and money, than it’s worth. But you can breathe a sigh of relief, because if you stick with your marketing strategy you won’t have to reinvest in setup costs, initial bids, initial tests, etc. As your marketing moves forward, your site will start to rank higher in search results, your ads will be seen by more people (and the right type of people) and your tools will start working together, all of which will, in turn, create a well-oiled marketing machine that produces ROI down the line.
When choosing a marketing team, make sure to pick one that routinely reviews their efforts and uses the results to optimize your campaigns. You want a team that spends your money like it’s their own and takes action to make your dollar stretch the furthest and work the hardest.
Apr 30 2018
Technical B2B companies can use gated content to capture leads on their websites. Whether it’s a white paper, survey report or another technical document, follow our three tips below to ensure that you’re consistently adding fuel to your sales engine:
Select the right topic
Choosing the right information to share is the most important step in the gated content process. Take time to catalog the questions that clients repeatedly ask you, or listen to your sales team about what concerns they hear most from customers. Do keyword research with Google Search or SEMrush to determine what kind of answers people are seeking. You can also review your website with Google Analytics to see which pages are most popular. Once you’ve decided on a topic, think about what related details you want to share. A good way to do this is by running through a customer use case and creating a list of questions that customers might ask.
For example, let’s say your traffic engineering firm is consistently asked what should be considered when designing a new master-planned community development. You could compile all of the most popular questions and create a white paper using these FAQs. Some of the questions might include:
- How much traffic will my development generate?
- When do I need to add a second lane?
- When is a roundabout a good idea?
- How much parking will I need?
Make it truly useful
To capture the attention of B2B leaders, you’ll need to produce some high-quality content. These folks are busy with tons of material to read already. What will inspire them to offer their contact information to read your content? It has to be useful and provide some sort of meaningful value. Think about providing more than just surface level information and dig deep to share some nuggets of information that will save them time or solve a persistent headache at their company. You might do this by sharing results from a survey you conducted or by including facts from a research paper. In our example above, the traffic engineering company could share actual statistics that will help the developer in planning.
- How much traffic will my development generate?
- Single Family Houses (per unit): 10 trips per day, 1 per peak hour
Apartments/Condos/Townhouses (per unit): 7 trips per day, 0.7 per peak hour
Office (per 1000 sq ft): 10 trips per day, 1.5 per peak hour
Retail (per 1000 sq ft): 38 trips per day, 4.2 per peak hour
Industrial (per 1000 sq ft): 5 trips per day, 0.9 per peak hour
- Single Family Houses (per unit): 10 trips per day, 1 per peak hour
- When do I need to add a second lane?
- When you have 300 left turning vehicles from that leg of the intersection in the peak hour
As you can see, these are stats that would be helpful for the developers to know when planning their development. They’re also not facts that are commonplace or would be easily found with a Google search.
Avoid pitching your product or service, especially as a one-size-fits-all solution
There’s no better way to lose a B2B reader’s interest than by filling a document with promo pitches. Remember, your gated content is supposed to be useful for the reader and help them solve a problem. They’re reading to find answers, not another way to spend their money. A good way to avoid doing this is by sharing unbiased data and by readily admitting that your product, or service, is not the right fit for everyone.
Our example traffic engineering company might include the following question and answer:
- Do I need to do a traffic study for my development?
- The answer depends! If your development is stirring up conflict with the surrounding neighborhood, a traffic study could be helpful in soothing their concerns for increased congestion. A traffic study will most likely be required when the development goes through an environmental review process. However, if your development is under a certain threshold for traffic (depends on the city), then you might not need a traffic study. If you decide to do a traffic study, we recommend you work with a traffic engineer who is familiar with the Institute of Transportation Engineering’s Transportation Impact Analyses for Site Development.
The above answer adds credibility to the white paper because it doesn’t promote the firm as the sole – or best – provider of traffic studies. It provides information to help the reader decide and then a tip to ensure that they hire the right people.
Good Gated Content Isn’t Easy
In a time when a Google search will yield tons of results, making your content stand out requires a process to ensure that people will read it. Start by carefully choosing a topic, then filling your document with information that is really useful, and then make your document credible by avoiding a salesy tone. Cutting through the noise to reach B2B leaders isn’t impossible, it just requires effort.
Jan 16 2018
We often get asked, “How much should I spend on marketing?” It’d be nice if the answer was easy, but it’s not. There is no predetermined percentage of revenue that applies to all businesses. The ideal number takes into account what you’re offering, where you’re offering it, and who you’re competing against. We’ve probably all heard, “you’ve got to spend money to make money,” and this certainly applies to digital marketing. The trick is knowing how to make your expenditures generate returns.
Traditionally, the amount to spend on marketing usually depended on the offering and industry. For a company selling a product, it’s recommended that no less than 15% of revenue be spent on marketing just to maintain market share. However, a consumer goods company could spend up to 25% or higher, depending on goals. For professional services, typically no less than 10% of revenue should be spent to maintain market share, and up to 20% or more to increase growth.
For more conservative numbers, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) recommends businesses invest 7% to 8% of gross revenue for marketing and advertising if they are generating more $5 million a year in sales with a net profit margin between 10% – 12%.
The SBA says that B2B firms typically invest 6-7% of revenue in marketing, but businesses with less than $25 million per year in revenue ordinarily spend more than 10% on marketing on average.
In a 2017 survey, Deloitte and Duke University asked CMOs what percentage of their budget is spent on marketing. The results are below:
As you can see above, professional services companies – tech software, mining, construction, etc. – are spending the industry average, or more, on marketing. But, SaaS Companies don’t always stick to the rules. Here are some examples of companies who spent way more on their 2016/2017 marketing budget and experienced great results .
- MindBody – 40% of revenue invested in marketing, 37% revenue growth year-over-year
- Salesforce – 49% of revenue invested in sales and marketing, 24% revenue growth year-over-year
- Tableau – 58% of revenue invested in sales and marketing, 27% revenue growth year-over-year
We’re not suggesting that you drop nearly half of your annual revenue on marketing. But increasing your investment in your marketing strategy will be the thing that sets you apart from your competitors. It is your secret weapon to get ahead.
For professional services, you have to dig a little deeper. The cost of easily consumable content for your website can really vary depending on the complexity of the subject matter and the length of the topic. A short blog post could be as low as a few hundred dollars, whereas an e-book or white paper could run you a few thousand dollars. Social media marketing that is guaranteed to drive traffic to your website typically starts at no less than $2,500 per month – with some robust, national campaigns coming in between $10,000-$20,000 per month. A strong SEO strategy with both onsite and offsite ordinarily runs between $1,500-$5,000 per month, with some companies spending double those amounts monthly.
What are average rates for digital marketing? A survey conducted by Moz, a leading SEO website, of over 600 agencies resulted in the following summary:
- Digital Marketing hourly rates range from $76–$200/hr
- Project-specific pricing ranges from $1,000–$7,500
- Most monthly retainers cost between $2,500-$5,000/month
And, using a mean value between what’s recommended by the SBA (10%) and what we recommend (15%), your overall marketing budget should probably be about 12.5% annual revenue. Breaking that down even further, multiple sources, including Forrester Research, have indicated that digital marketing currently averages about 30% of total marketing spend. So, in a very general sense, your digital marketing budget should be about 3.75% of your annual revenue (30% of 12.5% = 3.75%) .
Here’s an example:
A B2B firm providing technology services to other businesses with $8M in annual sales might budget $300,000 (3.75% x $8,000,000) ($25,000/month), which would likely include website, conversion rate optimization, SEO, social media management and a mix of paid advertising campaigns with Google AdWords, Facebook and LinkedIn – including ad spend.
How to Spend It
After settling on a number for your marketing budget, the next big challenge is deciding how to spend it. Another CMO survey from Forrester Research and eMarketer show the estimated allocation of marketing funds offline vs. online and across the digital channels.
Here are some conclusions from that report [source: WebStrategies]:
- In 2018, the average firm was expected to allocate 41% of their marketing budget to online, and this rate is expected to grow to 45% by 2020
- Search engine marketing will capture the largest share of online spend with online display (banner ads, online video, etc.) taking the second largest share
- Social media advertising investments will continue to grow, with a 17% compound annual growth rate from 2016 to 2021, and is expected to represent 25% of total online spending in 2018.
- Mobile marketing has grown to a point that it’s no longer tracked in the forecast and it’s presumed to be considered across all channels
- Digital marketing is pacing at an 11% compound annual growth rate between 2016 and 2021 with the biggest growth occurring in online video.
- Investment in paid search, display advertising, social media advertising, online video advertising and email marketing is predicted to account for 46% of all advertising by 2021.
Why are companies investing in social media and other online channels? A recent survey of 2,500 digital marketers showed that the most effective marketing tactics (email marketing, organic search, social media marketing and content marketing) generated better ROI than traditional (brochures, trade shows, etc) [source: GetResponse].
A Home For Your Brand
However, before any social media or content marketing is launched, a company must have a fully developed brand that is clearly defined on a website with a user-friendly experience. The products and services you sell and the promises you make must be explained in a compelling way that engages the visitor from the moment they arrive at your homepage. Your website is the entry point to the sales funnel. You must lure people in instead of turning them away.
Research supports this, but intuitively we all follow the same behavior. When was the last time you hired a company without looking at their website first? Probably in the ‘90s, right? We all do our Google research. We even visit social media to continue our research. Over 80% of people look up a company online before visiting the business or deciding to buy.
Before visitors become your customers, they have to know that you exist and what you do. Does your homepage make it clear what you’re offering? Is there an obvious action they should take – “Call Us Today!” – or an email sign-up? Of your potential customers, most are looking at your website on their mobile device. Is your site optimized for a smartphone? What’s their first impression of your company?
The value of the investment in your site cannot be underestimated. You may be able to get by with a basic website with little to no brand messaging and conversion methods, but you’ll cap the potential for revenue growth.
Invest In Success
If you don’t set aside a large chunk of your budget for an excellent online presence, you can count on your customers going to a company that does. Under-investment in your digital marketing strategy results in “leaving money on the table,” because your customers are going to work with your competitors with a great website and engaging online presence.
Have questions about budget or what strategy your company should use? For professional services and technical companies, it can be frustrating knowing just how much to spend on marketing and where to spend it. At Divining Point we specialize in working with companies who promise quality service as a part of their business model. Give us a call and we’ll get you on track.
Want to move forward with your business? Let’s talk.
Dec 04 2017
If you’ve been following along in this blog series, you’ve probably read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3, where we talked about the old B2B Buyer’s Journey, the new B2B Buyer’s Journey and why – and how – to align your sales and marketing teams.
In the world of Services, or for companies who provide service long after the sale, the Buyer’s Journey is never done. Keeping a lifelong client requires multiple layers of marketing and relationship nurturing to extend the sales process. In Part 4, we’ll cover B2B customer retention and how you can close the buying loop and keep your customers forever.
Let’s say you’ve successfully joined your sales and marketing teams and are ushering in new customers. Great! But now you want to know how to keep these new clients you’ve worked so hard to convert. You’re not alone in pursuing this goal. In a recent survey of B2B CMOs, 87% of them said that customer retention was their #1 strategic focus for 2017 – beating out revenue growth.
But why is retention so important? Couldn’t you just deploy your sales team to go out and find new buyers? Well, you could. But we’re all about working smarter, not harder. In the long run, client retention ends up being a cost-efficient way to grow your business. According to Hubspot results, it costs about 5 times more to acquire a new customer than it does to generate new business from an existing customer. And a customer loyalty survey from Loyalty360, showed that three-quarters of respondents reported that 20% of their new sales come from current customers.
To help you strengthen your customer retention, we’ve pulled together some best practices.
The best time to build customer loyalty is at the beginning of your engagement when the customer is excited about your offering and the solution for their pain you’ve promised to provide. If they’ve just signed a contract for your services or subscribed to your software, don’t leave them hanging and assume they’ll figure it all out. Now is the time to bring them closer to you.
Demonstrate your value after the sale with consistent and meaningful communication. Send them welcome emails with info on the next steps in the process. Call them to answer questions and check in with their level of satisfaction. Send helpful documents or share how-to video links. It’s during this “honeymoon” phase that you can make the biggest impact on the relationship that follows. Your marketing team should have content ready to support these “touches”, and your sales team should be ready to guide the client through the initial phases of the engagement.
2. Educate with content
Instead of overwhelming your customer with educational material at the beginning, break it up into chunks and deliver it on a semi-regular frequency that coincides with where the customer should be in their experience of your service. Create content that showcases the newest features of your software. Host a webinar to provide more insight into your industry. Publish use-cases showing how your professional service has helped other similar clients. By sharing content that helps them maximize their investment, you’ll prove that you’re a company focused on their success.
Consistent communication is one of the most important aspects of customer retention, but can also be tricky to implement. In a B2B transaction you’re not communicating with a single-buyer, but a whole group of people with different needs and questions. So, remember to stay in touch with stakeholders, leaders, and other employees who will have sway over a future decision to renew a contract.
A good way to keep the communication flowing is to provide multiple channels for discussion and feedback. Include a phone number in your email signature and then be responsive when they call. Send a weekly update/check-in email to report on project progress or answer questions. Create customer satisfaction surveys to gather thoughts and complaints. Maintain social media accounts and quickly respond to any interactions.
4. Listen and act
There’s a popular stat that says, “for every complaint you receive, there are 26 other customers who had the same experience, but just didn’t say anything.” Don’t let this happen to you. Be proactive in asking customers about their experience. Listen to their responses and then take action to ensure future customers don’t have a similar experience.
If you’re an engineer offering consulting services and frequently receive phone calls from clients who are frustrated by a lack of progress reports, do something about it! Listen to their complaints to discover what it is they want to know from the reports and why. Maybe they don’t want to know all of the technical project details but instead merely want someone to keep them abreast of any developments or roadblocks. They just want to feel involved in the process.
5. Grow Respectfully
Repeat customers should be your biggest advocates. They provide the bulk of your testimonials and references, which are critical for service-minded companies. Yet, growing these clients can be a tricky road to walk. In some cases, these clients benefit from legacy pricing or outdated services offerings that are no longer manageable or profitable for your company.
Approach pricing conversations with transparent and appreciative tones. These are your best clients, so highlight that you’re grateful for their business. While speaking of the high points of your relationship you must also explain how the pricing or services they received before are no longer applicable given today’s business environment. Offer to ease them into a new agreement that still offers them favorable pricing but also brings them in line with your new business model. Ordinarily, your clients will understand the value you bring to them and the importance of staying in business. They’re business people, too.
In those cases when you do lose a client, don’t fret. You’ve still got a hand in the game. According to the book Customer Winback: How to Recapture Lost Customers – And Keep Them Loyal, you have a 20-40% chance of winning back a former customer just by trying. Your odds are better at rekindling a relationship than at selling to a new customer, where you’ve only got a 5-20% chance.
At the end of the day, however, your pipeline should be full of new customers to replace those that leave. If your brand is sound and your marketing is in place, you will establish new relationships that evolve into strong repeat clients.
Use your time and money smartly. Instead of reinventing the sales wheel, keep it rolling with smart customer retention. After closing a deal, stay invested in the relationship and start building customer loyalty through onboarding, educational content, communication, responsiveness, and incentives.
This last step in the B2B Buyer’s Journey is critical. To keep the sales cycle running like a well-oiled machine, continuously review all aspects of your company. Refine and improve your intangible offering. Hire helpful and smart front-line team members. Engage and support buyers through the whole journey. This holistic approach to the B2B Buyer’s Journey will ensure that customers come back, again and again.
Want to move forward with your business? Let’s talk.
Nov 22 2017
Sales and Marketing are One Team
In Part 1 of our B2B Buyer’s Journey blog, we covered the traditional, and outdated, journey that looks like Awareness->Consideration->Decision. We proposed that today’s informed buyers don’t always go through the sales funnel in order.
In Part 2 we presented a new B2B Buyer’s Journey with stages fitting of a buyer who has done online research and will respond to engagement and education in a journey that resembles Discover, Explore, Buy, Ask, Use and Engage.
In this blog we ask, how should sales and marketing teams respond to the new, fluid, B2B Buyer’s Journey? The answer is to join forces.
Why Bring Them Together?
Sure, it’s great when team members work together, but why should they? Marketing and sales teams frequently act as independent silos (see our blog on this), with the marketing team working to produce leads for sales and ending the relationship there, and sales standing by waiting for qualified leads without giving marketing any guidance or feedback.
Combining these two groups might seem pointless. Why fix it if it ain’t broke?
Today’s sales teams need content and tools to guide their conversations with prospects. This material turns sales reps into subject matter experts and gives them an edge over the inaccurate and outdated information that turns up in a prospect’s independent search results. As such, the reliance on marketing has never been greater.
For the marketing team, their efforts culminate in conversions. But in the world of intangibles and professional services, that conversion is hard to measure.
A lead may fall into the funnel and land in the lap of a salesperson who is neither prepared nor informed enough to manage the inquiries of the prospect. All of the best marketing campaigns are meaningless if the person guiding the sales process can’t close the deal.
Additionally, if marketing isn’t getting real feedback from the sales team, their perspectives on the market will be skewed. Buyer personas, customer pain points, trends in the market; all of this rich information comes directly from the sales team in the trenches.
Without a cohesive team, the cycle of sales and marketing is busted. It will be evident in the company’s performance and, more importantly, in sagging customer loyalty.
“There is no question that, when Sales and Marketing work well together, companies see substantial improvement on important performance metrics: Sales cycles are shorter, market-entry costs go down, and the cost of sales is lower.” July-August 2006 Harvard Business Review
How to Combine Sales and Marketing?
For marketing and sales to align, both parties have to agree on goals.
This seems fairly obvious. Beyond just focusing on revenue, marketing targets and sales quotas must meld together. The new joint team should ask themselves these questions (in order) to gain a greater collaborative vision:
- What is our company’s revenue goal?
- What is our average deal size? Aka, how much are we currently earning per customer?
- How many customers must we reach in order to achieve our revenue goals? Divide revenue goal by average deal size.
- How many of our leads convert to customers?
- How many leads do we need to reach revenue goals?
Ideal Leads, Defined by Both Teams
The sales and marketing team must also work together to define an ideal lead. The sales team’s experience will be the most valuable resource in defining the ideal lead, because they typically have the highest level of interaction with prospects. They engage leads directly and thus understand the buyer’s pain-points, concerns, and questions.
Marketing’s role in defining the ideal lead can be as a data resource. Using information collected during the sales cycle, marketing can identify certain traits in leads that have historically led to conversion. For example, marketing’s data insight might reveal that a high percentage of conversions start from a prospect seeing a Facebook ad targeted at women, aged 30-40, living in Florida and married with children. Sharing this type of lead information can help the sales team decide which days/times would be best to send an email and what kind of content they need to convert the lead.
With both teams focused on shared goals, the next step is to analyze and score the leads. Evaluating a lead based on fit and interest can help determine their stage in the buying journey. If the lead needs an offering (fit), but isn’t interested, marketing can ramp up nurturing efforts. If the lead both needs (fit) and wants (interest) the offering, sales can quickly deliver a conversion. Each step in the buyer’s journey can trigger specific actions by sales and marketing that continue to bring the buyer closer to the final conversion.
The communication within the joint team can produce better coordination and a far more sophisticated understanding about the ideal lead. Ultimately, ideal leads, or at least better-qualified leads, will reduce the amount of time the sales team spends courting prospects who aren’t ready to buy or have no interest whatsoever.
“B2B sales and marketing teams need to prepare their reps to have high-value conversations with prospects. This includes tailoring collateral and content to meet the needs of new buyers, so that sales reps are providing answers to the questions buyers are asking at each stage of the buying cycle. ”
– Kurt Andersen (@SAVO_Group)
What To Do To Unify
Hopefully by now you’re a believer, and you’re ready to break down the silos of sales and marketing. Embrace the “we are one,” mentality. However, before you send a company-wide email announcing the new “Salarketing Team,” consider some facts.
A survey by Demand Gen found that the three biggest obstacles to sales and marketing alignment were: Communication (49%), broken and/or flawed processes (42%) and working towards different metrics (40%).
Here are some tips for improving communication and operations:
- Embrace Closed Loop Reporting
Marketing shares data/info (such as lead background information) with sales, and sales reports back on the effectiveness of marketing content. “Closing the loop,” means that sales shares with marketing which leads converted, thus helping marketing determine their best (or possibly worst) lead sources. Sales managers must develop accountability processes that keep their sales team engaged in the process.
- Develop a Sales and Marketing Service Level Agreement
Sales and Marketing can create a document that defines what each team will do to help each other. Much like the service level agreement you sign with your clients, the Sales and Marketing SLA is a series of activities and obligations the new joint team carries out in order to respond quickly to daily sales and marketing actions.
- Establish a Communication Space
Move the sales and marketing teams next to each other in the office. Make it easy for them to bounce ideas off each other and quickly share info. In general, the cultures of sales and marketing are not that dissimilar. Both are known for free-spirited demeanors and “work hard, play hard” attitudes.
To better facilitate insight, launch an online dashboard or other tracking system that provides data on leads, results of marketing campaign, sales analytics, etc…anything to keep the communication transparent and flowing.
- Share Success
When sales teams hit their goals, they usually enjoy rewards and accolades. Does marketing? In the new joint team, victory should be celebrated both individually (because salespeople love their trophies!) and together as a team who fought the war together. Marketing may not be as individually competitive as salespeople, but they still experience the “high” of crushing company goals.
In summary, combining your sales and marketing teams won’t be an effortless challenge, but you’ll reap the rewards through better lead engagement and, in turn, higher revenue. In our next blog, B2B Buyer’s Journey: Part 4, we’ll bust the “One And Done” attitude and study the value of nurturing an ongoing buyer-seller relationship. The Art Of Service is in the long lasting relationship, not quick and dirty transactions.
Want to move forward with your business? Let’s talk.
Nov 15 2017
The New B2B Buyer’s Journey
In our last blog, we explored the traditional B2B Buyer’s Journey – Awareness, Consideration, Decision – and argued that it was time for an update. We propose a new B2B Buyer’s Journey that is more fluid with the buyer having the majority control of the journey. Buyers can now decide if – and how – they move through the process, and when and where they get their information.
Gartner’s Hank Barnes had this to say about the new B2B Buyer’s Journey:
“The traditional model is we build awareness, and then, we drive interest, and then that creates desire, and finally, that leads to action. That’s been the traditional model of marketing and sales approaches in technology for a long, long time.
That’s really not what’s going on on the buyer’s side – and it’s particularly not what’s going on given how the availability of information via the web and social networks has changed. What we see is a buying process that’s much more fluid, and there’s a lot of complexity…
We don’t compartmentalize. While I’m exploring, I’m also evaluating. In many cases in technology, earlier in the buying process, I may be engaging with providers to learn about new ways to do things. We see these as streams that ebb and flow throughout the buying process.”
This shift in power means that the seller’s marketing team is now much more involved in the lead-to-revenue cycle. Instead of just focusing on getting leads in the door, they now have to produce content that drives awareness, answers questions, provides support, and delights and retains.
Instead of assigning a stage to the buyer, the new B2B journey should focus on answering: Who? Why? When? What? Where?
Who? As we mentioned above, B2B purchase decisions are made by teams. The new B2B Buyer’s Journey should consider the customer not as an individual, but as a group of individuals with different needs and desired outcomes from the transaction. A CEO might want the product/service for a reason completely different than a Project Manager, but both people could be involved in the final decision.
Why? When thinking about the buyer, it’s best to determine why they’re interested in your company. What pain-point does your company offer to resolve? How do you compare to competitors in your field? What unique value do you offer to the buyer’s company?
When? Meet the buyer at their stage in the buying process. What questions does the buyer currently have? Are they just doing some comparison research? Or, have they decided to hire you, but are just evaluating which services they need? Have they already purchased your software, but aren’t sure if they want to subscribe for another year? By understanding their motivations you can then provide answers to help move them along in the buying process.
What? What can you do to support the buyer’s decision? Do they want regular how-to emails? A downloadable ebook with case studies about your service or product? The buyer’s role should also be considered when deciding what content to deliver. A CEO may want a printed proposal with examples of previous projects, whereas a marketer may want a photo-heavy case study.
Where? And, finally, think about where your buyer discovers information about your company. Did they meet your Business Development team at professional events? Are they following your social media profiles? Tailor your content offering to match the buyer’s stage, location and role.
Asking the 5 W’s above results in a B2B Buyer’s Journey that’s more fitting for today’s environment. Forrester Research suggests that an updated version of the journey would include 6 stages: Discover, Explore, Buy, Ask, Use, Engage, where the journey is always in flux and the buyer is getting information from different sources during all stages.
The chart below shows how the different stages of the new B2B Buyer’s Journey interact. Each of the 6 rings (Discover, Explore, etc.) represents a stage, but the buyer does not necessarily pass through them in order or in a vacuum. For example:
During the Discover stage, the buyer may be doing research on a mobile device and the web, while also browsing print material and social media.
Listening to peers and sales people – they’re also processing input from many sources and discovering information on their own terms.
From the Discover stage, the buyer may jump to the Explore stage and start doing in-depth research on the seller’s company website or at events, among other channels.
It’s even possible that the buyer may altogether bypass any further research/evaluation and move straight from the Discover stage to making a buying decision and becoming an advocate.
There’s no one predetermined journey for today’s B2B buyer; each will have a unique timeline, budget and desired outcome. The best thing for a seller to do is to keep their marketing content up-to-date and to support the new journey in a nimble fashion.
As a seller, it’s crucial to accept that the B2B Buyer’s Journey has changed and resulted in the buyer having more power in the buying process. This is a good thing. Sellers may feel powerless in this new era of B2B sales, however, a cohesive marketing strategy that understands the new buying process can help you determine how to successfully engage buyers. Stay tuned for B2B Buyer’s Journey, Part 3, where we’ll discuss how your marketing and sales team can work together.
Want to move forward with your business? Let’s talk.
Nov 02 2017
The Traditional B2B Buyer’s Journey
Modern-day Business-to-Business (B2B) buyers are better-informed and more-capable than ever before. Thanks to the internet and online research, B2B buyers are no longer dependent on sellers to provide information or to help them evaluate products. In fact, 70% of the buyer’s journey is complete before a buyer even reaches out to a sales person [Forrester].
What does this mean for the seller? It means that the traditional B2B Buyer’s Journey – Awareness, Consideration, Decision – is no longer relevant and that a new B2B Buyer’s Journey needs to be embraced. The traditional B2B Buyer’s Journey had the right goal, which was engagement, but the approach was wrong. It was too simplistic and suggested that B2B buyers operated in a vacuum and were only going through one buying process at a time.
A leading apartment developer might see a Facebook ad for a local civil engineering firm and be prompted to contact the firm to ask some questions about an upcoming project.
Assuming the apartment developer had already been through the awareness stage (Facebook ad) and the consideration stage (phone call to get answers), the civil engineering firm would start trying to push the decision stage by having their sales team send emails to the apartment developers with project quotes and deadlines for taking advantage of their proposal.
However, what the civil firm doesn’t know is that the developer is still in the budget planning phases of the project and working with an internal team to consider their engineering needs, while also managing the buying process of professional services for other development projects. The buyer doesn’t want quotes, they want an informational resource to help them evaluate options.
Phone calls from an engineering sales team and aggressive emails to close a deal would be invasive and not considerate of the buyer’s stage, which may be fluctuating between awareness and consideration, as the buyer does more online research and asks the engineering firm more questions.
Like the apartment developer example above, most B2B buyers don’t act independently when it comes to making a purchasing decision. The traditional B2B Buyer’s Journey implied that a salesperson could work solely with one B2B buyer to complete the transaction. In reality, a buying team is usually involved in the process, and it’s not an easy one. A “decision” typically requires multiple stakeholders to have all of their questions answered and for purchases to be approved on different levels.
Even if the seller has a great product that matches the buyer’s needs, patience may be required as no amount of sales content can speed up a buying team’s process. In the meantime, the seller’s marketing team can champion initiatives to support the buyer: create valuable/informative content (FAQs library, how-to guides, etc.) and make it easily accessible, host a free Intro webinar, develop a detailed post-sale customer support policy, etc…anything to help the buying team feel confident in their choice of working with you or purchasing your product.
How can sellers better plan for the B2B buying transaction? The new, updated, B2B journey takes into account the buyer’s knowledge and the fact that they’re more in control of the process. Stay tuned for our next blog – B2B Buyer’s Journey, Part 2 – where we’ll talk about a journey more fitting for today’s digital environment.
Want to move your business forward? Let’s talk.