How to Beat Recession – Lessons from History on Marketing

We’re into uncertain economic times in this post-Covid world, but another recession was overdue anyway, being more than a decade since the last one. It can be difficult and stressful for many, perhaps make or break time for some, but this environment can inspire change and growth.

By doing things differently and reaching out beyond what you would normally do, you can gain ground in the market. “Necessity is the mother of invention”, pushing us out of our normal comfort zones to do things we could’ve done before, but didn’t.

Here are 6 ways to fix your communication to get more business for less marketing spend, based on historical patterns and lessons from the 1930’s to 2008…

1) Don’t just cut marketing – optimize it to get more for less

A defensive reaction is an understandable survival instinct, but can be counter-productive. As Warren Buffet said, do the opposite to everyone else… it’s smart to invest when everybody else is in panic retreat. 

Some cuts may be necessary for unprofitable areas, but it’s crazy to cut anything that generates more value than it costs – like stopping production to save operational costs! We don’t want to lose profitable customers by dropping their satisfaction.

In recession, it’s been said to boost marketing and advertising to raise “share of voice” in the market, leading to higher “share of mind”. There’s less advertising ‘noise’ out there to compete with, and advertising is cheaper too, due to lack of demand. It also shows company stability and longevity, which builds trust.

But it’s not just a matter of throwing more money at it. These days, digital marketing is very measurable, so with some analysis you can see what’s working best. 

The key to success is your message – connecting your greatest value to your clients’ greatest needs, regardless of which marketing channels you use.

2) Go to the horse’s mouth for real market intelligence

Client needs and issues can change in these times – so their ‘hot buttons’ are a moving target. We need to review what they value most, and the best way to find out without guessing is to talk to them.

Outsourcing this interviewing will bring an objective 3rd party perspective on the issues, while freeing you up to focus on operations. Clients can also talk more openly, not just telling you what you want to hear. You may even get suggestions for improvement – valuable in these times to help lift your game.

Using someone who understands both the technicalities of your industry and marketing communications has big advantages ‘to see both sides’ and bridge the gap between you and your clients.  With all this market intelligence under your belt, you can have confidence to ‘hit the mark’ with your sales and marketing.

3) Find your sweet spot – leverage your forte

What are you best at? What’s your specialty that stands out in the market and offers the greatest value to clients? If you have a passion for this, you’ll excel even more. It could be hidden right under your nose, but client interviews can uncover it.

It’s best to capitalize on your strengths, and not work in your area of weakness – which may be a competitor’s strength.

One of my engineering clients presented a job to a staff member who complained that it was tricky and awkward, but my client said “that’s why we’re in business”. Handling difficult outside-the-box jobs was their competitive advantage in the industry, and key to their success.

“Strategists succeed where opportunists fail”. The latter go after all the latest fads in the market – which may not be in line with their strengths. Strategists also look at market opportunities, but only go for the ones that suit their strategy – based on their strengths and passion.

It’s like getting into a yacht that’s drifting here and there in the wind and ending up on the rocks, instead of using the wind to tack across to where you want to go. It’s about focus, which means saying no to the hundred other good ideas out there, according to Steve Jobs

4) Build trust and confidence – prove your value

This is the biggest point. Trust and value are keys in recession, so you’re seen as a safe solution for nervous, risk-averse, prospects, who can be confident that they’re going to get more value than they’re paying for.

Trust can actually be gained quickly if you have the ‘substance’ – which comes down to what I call ‘ability’ and ‘attitude’. ‘Ability’ is the means or skill to do something – competence, reliability, quality, and consistency.

‘Attitude’ is the motivation for doing something – honesty, fairness, and care about others’ interests.

You can see my other article that shows how research has proven this with a formula for trustworthiness.

You can also look at ways to add extra value – by ‘innovating’ to provide greater benefits that clients will appreciate. But you may only need to show the value you already have, if it’s been hidden, like Schlitz Beer discovered in the 1800s. I love this story…

They were lagging behind at 8th place in the market, so they called on Claude Hopkins, an innovative copywriter, for help. He explored their operation and was wowed by the lengths they went to, such as 4,000 foot deep wells to get the purest water, a yeast cell borne out of 1200 experiments to develop a robust flavour, and meticulous cleaning routines. When he communicated all this in his ads, the company jumped to number one in 6 months. But the most amazing thing is that the other companies were doing much the same thing, but weren’t communicating it.

As they say, quibbles about price come down to quibbles about value, so proving value will command a good price.

Here’s a good way to do it: “How to leverage ‘strategic’ case studies to build trust, demonstrate value, and take your company to the next level

5) Convert market need into demand for your services

With effective content marketing, we can target potential clients early in the “buyers journey” – which is getting longer and more uncertain these days. If can get in before other companies, who only target ‘purchase-ready’ people, it slips under the radar.

By digging deep into client issues, and some outside-the-box thinking, you can re-frame their key needs and problems to uniquely position yourself as the solution, without direct selling.

If you produced natural fertilizers for home gardeners, you could explain that normal chemical fertilizers damage the health of the soil and cause pest problems which are treated by pesticides, which in turn kill the microbial life in the soil, requiring more chemical fertilizers. A vicious cycle.

So if you can show gardeners that they have a problem they didn’t know about, which their current practices are exacerbating, you have re-framed everything and positioned your organic fertilizers as the solution.

Offering relevant and useful advice also generates a lot of goodwill leading to client satisfaction and loyalty, while presenting yourself as an expert authority.

The sales stage then becomes easy, once you’ve won their trust.

6) Team up with partners having compatible values

Why should your business fail because of your areas of weakness?

To cover services that clients need outside your sweet spot, build relationships with other companies who have different sweet spots. But make sure they have compatible values so you can have a strong mutual trust to support ongoing ventures.

There’s a difference between “out-tasking” and “out-sourcing”. The former usually involves hiring a low-cost party in a transaction-based arrangement to get things done for you. But it doesn’t always work too well for quality and timing when you need it most.

Effective “outsourcing” is a loyal relationship where you can rely on the other party’s honesty, communication, quality of work, and commitment to deliver – even in difficult or demanding situations. And you do the same for them, which makes for a strong and resilient team that’s hard to beat.

Get help to beat recession

If you’d like someone to interview your clients to find your ‘full value’, build trust, and boost your marketing results, find out more.

Trust: Your Most Precious Marketing Asset – and How to Gain It

These days it’s a precious commodity in business, and could even be a differentiator in the market if you can earn it and demonstrate it. Research has found that it’s a greater determinant of success than anything else, and isn’t based so much on what we might think. And it can actually be gained quickly.

Trust has been defined as “feeling safe when vulnerable”, or “a firm belief or confidence in the character, strength, or truth of someone or something”. It’s the glue of society that enables relationships to function and people to do business. Just 100 years ago it was taken for granted in a lot of places and all you had to do was persuade people to buy your products or services. Now it’s different.

Why Your Business Will Stand or Fall on It

It’s been said that the big aim of marketing is to earn and nurture trust. It has priceless value for your brand and reputation. Without at least a basic level of it, no one will buy from you. The higher the level of trust; the more business you’ll get.

Trust is a key especially in recession, where you can be seen as a safe solution for risk-averse, cash-strapped prospects. They need assurance that they’ll get what they need – and more value than the money they spend.

Research has shown that trust has far-reaching benefits that aren’t obvious. It actually enables you to get things done with efficiency, ease, and success.

Proven Reality From Research

Trusted Advisor Associates analyzed data from over 72,000 survey respondents on what creates trustworthiness. Contrary to popular thinking, they found that more expertise is not the key to building trust in business and professional situations. It’s more to do with the ‘soft skills’ of underlying beliefs, values, and principles, not just outward behaviour, so it’s way too complex to fake.

The formula they developed is: Trustworthiness = [Credibility + Reliability + Intimacy]/ Self-Orientation

The top line has the positive factors:

  • Credibility is in what we say – being knowledgeable and truthful
  • Reliability is in what we do – dependable and predictable delivery
  • Intimacy is about safety in close proximity – the security felt when entrusting us with something precious

The bottom line has a negative factor:

  • Self-orientation is the degree of our motives and attention on our own interests versus others’

They also found that trust can actually be gained quite quickly if the above equation is favourable. In fact most people decide to trust or not almost instantaneously through a mix of rational and emotional judgment.

Trust Factors in Simple Terms

Trust can also simply be seen as having two parts: ‘ability’ and ‘attitude’.

Ability is the means or skill to do something – basically: “they know what they’re doing” i.e. competence.

Attitude is the motivation for doing something – basically: “they mean well” i.e. honesty, integrity, fairness, and care about others’ interests.

You may acknowledge someone’s ability, but if you can’t trust them to look after your interests, it’s not safe. Successful criminals have great ability. On the other hand, with just attitude, you may like someone enough, but you won’t risk your money with them if they don’t know what they’re doing.

We need to prove both aspects to our target market. First, we need to build a case to prove our ability – rationally convincing prospects’ minds. Second, we need to convey an attitude that makes them feel good about approaching us – appealing to their emotions.

A Practical Way to Establish Trust

Prospects do due diligence on your company by looking at client feedback – on your ‘ability’ and ‘attitude’. This speaks louder than blowing your own trumpet. The good news is you don’t have to wait for this feedback to land on your plate; you can get it whenever you want, assuming you’ve satisfied a few clients!

If you can capture client stories in their own authentic language, in a way that demonstrates your ‘ability’ and ‘attitude’ – it will build a solid foundation of trust. You just need the right person to produce these ‘strategic case studies’ for you – an objective outsider who can relate ‘safely’ to your client, win their confidence, and get them talking openly. This is best accomplished by someone who knows both marketing and the technicalities of your industry.

Stories will come out showing on one side client pain points, issues, interests, deeper motivations, and values. And on the other side, revealing company strengths, value-adds, points of difference, and bottom-line benefits with hard figures (such as % production increase, labour hours reduced, $ saved, etc).

Show These Traits in Action, and You’ll Hit Home

Over the years, I’ve interviewed many clients, and had the privilege of hearing stories about the outstanding qualities they value most in a company.

Here is some of the ‘hidden gold’ that case studies can show. You don’t have to demonstrate all of these qualities, but if you can show a few that are important to your prospective clients, you’ll win their trust and business…

On the ‘ability’ side:

  • Quality of the work, down to intricate details
  • Timely delivery, especially in difficult or demanding circumstances
  • Cutting-edge tools and technology
  • Clever, cost-effective, or innovative solutions
  • Outside-the-box thinking and skills to fix complex problems

On the ‘attitude’ side:

  • Genuine interest shown by listening to client needs, issues, and goals, before jumping to action
  • Fit your products or services into the client’s world on their terms, instead of making them fit into yours
  • An ongoing relationship perspective, not a short-term transactional focus, with a willingness to work in collaboration
  • Commitment to ‘go above and beyond’ to deliver what the client needs, even in difficult circumstances
  • Rescue clients from scary vulnerabilities, pains, and problems
  • Share ideas and advice on how to use your products to best advantage, save time and money, or make life easier
  • Take responsibility to acknowledge and fix mistakes (no one’s perfect), with good responsiveness to complaints

Getting it Together

We’ve seen that trust is critical to business success, especially in recession, and strategic case studies are a practical and potent way to gain trust quickly. Once you’ve served a few clients well, you can reap the benefits of trust over and over by ‘broadcasting’ your case studies on your website or social media.

To find out more about the practicalities of doing these, you can read Leverage ‘strategic’ case studies to build trust, demonstrate value, and take your engineering or tech company to the next level

Reap the Benefits of Trust in Your Business

If you’d like someone to organize case studies to give your marketing a stronger foundation to grow your business, find out more.

How to Fix Your Marketing Message to Get the Business You Deserve

Disappointed that your website, social media, brochure, or ads aren’t bringing in those “ideal clients” and the business you want – but still draining your money and/or time?

It can be frustrating… like being stuck on an island wanting to reach your target audience on the mainland. Here’s practical advice on how to bridge your communication gap through ‘tech-savvy marketing’ to get more clients with lower acquisition cost.

Let’s have a look at what you might be experiencing…

“We’ve got something of real value, and care about our clients, but we’re just not getting the business we deserve”

Sound familiar? You’ve worked hard to build your company. You’ve put a lot into developing your products and services. With continual improvement, you think they’re better than average, however you’re not getting the recognition and rewards. Sometimes the self-doubt creeps in.

You may get glimpses of the business potential, but you can’t quite see how to get there from your current level. Word-of-mouth referrals are great, but they’re not enough. You’re not just looking for more leads – you’d like the right kind.

Do you know who your “ideal” clients are – the most profitable, loyal, and enjoyable types who give referrals, and share your values? A handful of these is worth more than a bucket-load of low-value, big-hassle, clients.

“Our marketing isn’t getting the results we’d like”

Your advertising and marketing is costing you, but not pulling in much business. The low ROI is disappointing and frustrating. You want to be smart with your resources, so you’re looking for more bang for your buck.

You’re open-minded enough to try the latest tactics like social media and digital marketing, but they’re not living up to the ‘buzz’ you were seduced with. It can be overwhelming to try to keep up with all this, and stay on top of everyday business. You’d prefer to ‘stick with your knitting’.

Blowing your trumpet harder or pushing your products more into prospects’ faces may be tempting, but it won’t cut it. A hard sell puts people off, as you’ll probably know from being on the receiving end! It kills trust because they only seem to care about getting your money; not listening to your needs and helping you reach your goals.

People want to be communicated with, not sold to. 

It’s like when you need urgent help for a clogged sewer drain, and you look in the Yellow Pages or Google for a plumber. All you can see in big letters is “Bill’s Plumbing Services” or “Ted’s Plumbing Services” but then finally you see “Clogged drains – 2 hour response or it’s free”. Finally someone is meeting you where you’re at, so now you’re actually interested in their name.

It’s also like election campaigns where you see a whole lot of signs that seem to say “pick me pick me, I want the status and power”. It doesn’t work. You want to know what they’re going to do for the city, with credible evidence that they can actually deliver some value.

“Can the market see our full value?”

In the 1800s, the Schlitz beer company was in trouble, lagging behind at 8th place in the U.S. market. They employed Claude Hopkins, a famous pioneering copywriter who was a bit out-of-the-box, to write some ads for them. He asked for a tour of the brewery and was amazed at what he discovered – things that were just everyday routine for the company… 

– 4,000 foot deep artesian wells providing the purest water available; a mother yeast cell that came out of 1,200 experiments to yield the robust flavor; filtered air in production rooms to cool the beer without impurities getting in; pumps and pipes cleaned twice daily; and every bottle sterilized four times before filling with beer.

It took an objective outsider to appreciate all these ‘technicalities’. Wow! When he put all this into his ads (like the one on the right), the company leapt from 8th in the market to number one in only 6 months. But the really amazing thing is… all the other breweries were doing much the same thing! They simply weren’t communicating it to the market, but shouted “purity, purity” without actually proving it. 

“Do we actually know what our clients value most?”

Your clients will see your business quite differently to you. The things that keep them coming back to you might be ‘right under your nose’, while the features you think are most exciting may not be such a big deal to them. If you can get them talking freely and openly at a deeper level, you’ll find out, but that’s not so easy. However, an objective outsider can achieve this by effective interviewing. 

I helped one company, that solves noise problems for airconditioner installers, receive 20 times more enquiries off their website. Here’s a sample from the case study

“I interviewed a few of their valued clients from different target market sectors to find out about their experiences, what they valued most about NCS, and the benefits that kept them coming back.

What transpired was the great end-to-end service they provide, taking a ‘global’ view to provide resourceful, cost-efficient, solutions backed with helpful advice – not just products.

NCS had clearly learned a lot of lessons over the years and developed expertise that they took for granted – assuming it was obvious to others, but wasn’t.”

These stories were a powerful proof of the value NCS offered. When written up in the clients’ own words, they were like word-of-mouth referrals – the ultimate marketing fodder. Instead of just reaching a few people by personal talk, they captured a wide audience of website visitors – building a lot of trust and interest in NCS.

When I re-wrote the website to touch the hot issues, supported by testimonials, along with search optimization and a fresh design (see above), there was a sudden boom in quality leads.

Your potential success may not even be about your product technicalities, but the value-add service you provide. I asked a customer of one client how their products stacked up against competitors in the market, and he just said “they do the job”. Huh… amazing… their loyalty was actually all about the helpful advice and solutions to problems.

“Have we got the right people doing our marketing?”

It’s all about ‘matching what you’ve got to what they need’ – connecting your greatest strengths to the market’s greatest needs. It’s like hitting the ball in the ‘sweet spot’ of your tennis racquet – maximum ball speed with minimal jarring or effort. But who can best help you achieve this?

If you employ a non-technical marketing agency…

They probably won’t really understand your business, with little interest in the technicalities, and will struggle to relate to your technical staff. (Even a technical marketing company confided in me that they have trouble fathoming some clients’ businesses.)

It’s unlikely they’ll capture all the business benefits of your technology and express them in a believable way to your target audience. Prospects will see through it, and your company could lose credibility. You really need safe hands for your brand and reputation.

The content could sound quite ‘salesy’ – pushy – ‘ra-ra-ra’. There may even be technical mistakes if you don’t carefully check everything. Getting it right can require arduous review cycles, meaning slow collateral development and delayed rollouts.

Marketing agencies can be very expensive too.

If you use in-house staff (DIY)…

You may believe you’re saving money. You might even think “lets just get our products out there and they’ll come to us”.

Your engineering or technical staff are probably too busy and pressured on ‘productive’ work to get around to it. They’ll be reluctant or grudging, so collateral development will usually get put off.

The website or brochure content will likely be too complicated and hard to understand – written from the company’s point of view, not the prospect’s. It won’t address your prospects’ world and hot issues, and the marketing message will get buried. 

If you use sales staff, they‘ll know how to relate to your prospects all right, but they have their demanding quotas to meet and may not be good writers.

If you employ a technical writer… 

They write to explain, not sell. That’s great for user manuals – showing how the product works and how to operate it – but it’s not going to attract new clients.

Hitting the ‘sweet spot’ with a tech-savvy copywriter

The above options mean trying to reach your target audience with only marketing or technical knowledge – getting limited results, but tech-savvy marketing unleashes full sales potential.

Help is out there, so you can stick to running your core business and have the marketing content taken care of. If you can find a copywriter who understands BOTH technicalities AND marketing – ideally an ex-engineer – you’ve got it made…

  • As an objective outsider, they can talk to your clients and get to the heart of their needs, motivations, and the full value they get in your company – then put that across in a unique way to stand you out of the crowd
  • They will understand your high-tech solutions and ‘speak engineer’ – plus translate complex technologies into clear business benefits that are compelling to non-technical management and decision-makers
  • The job gets done on-time and it’s all easy to manage – the writer takes care of everything seamlessly with minimal effort and time on your part
  • You finally get the recognition and business you deserve, as trust and respect is won

There aren’t many people like this around. You may have to look at their About Us page to see that they’ve actually done engineering work. You’ll find a small handful of them, including Spectra Technical Copywriting.

Keys to Fix Your Marketing Message to Get the Business You Deserve

To sum up, here’s how to grow your business by gaining recognition, trust, and respect in the market:

  • Identify a few of your ideal clients – the most profitable and loyal types who give referrals and are less hassle;
  • Get a tech-savvy copywriter on the job – who understands both technicalities and marketing – to help you achieve the rest…
  • Interview some of your ideal clients to get their stories – experiences, big issues, and what they value most about your company;
  • Identify the outstanding ‘value-adds’ – in your products, or just your service (even if you’ve got ‘average’ products);
  • Write marketing content that addresses the big client issues and conveys your full value to the market (supported by case studies written in the clients’ own words) – and put this on your website (which is the hub of your marketing) and brochures;
  • Extract some highlight snippets from the above and use them as ‘hooks’ in your ads and social media to point back to your website.

That’s it in a nutshell.

Feel free to share this article with those who could benefit from it – who would appreciate you doing them the favor…

How to Find Your Full Value and Convey It to Your Target Market

(Taken from “How to Fix Your Marketing Message to Get the Business You Deserve”)

The key to fixing the disappointing business results from your website or social media might be sitting right under your nose. Can your target market see the full value you offer? Probably not. If you can find and communicate this ‘hidden gold’, it could make all the difference to sales results, and here’s how to achieve it…

A classic story of value discovery that propelled a company to the top

In the 1800s, the Schlitz beer company was in trouble, lagging behind at 8th place in the U.S. market. They employed Claude Hopkins, a famous pioneering copywriter who was a bit out-of-the-box, to write some ads for them. He asked for a tour of the brewery and was amazed at what he discovered – things that were just everyday routine for the company… 

– 4,000 foot deep artesian wells providing the purest water available; a mother yeast cell that came out of 1,200 experiments to yield the robust flavour; filtered air in production rooms to cool the beer without impurities getting in; pumps and pipes cleaned twice daily; and every bottle sterilized four times before filling with beer.

It took an objective outsider to appreciate all these ‘technicalities’. Wow! When he put all this into his ads (like the one on the right), the company leapt from 8th in the market to number one in only 6 months. But the really amazing thing is… all the other breweries were doing much the same thing! They simply weren’t communicating it to the market, but shouted “purity, purity” without actually proving it. 

The hidden gold is with your clients – waiting for you to capitalize on

Your clients will see your business quite differently to you. The things that keep them coming back to you might be ‘right under your nose’, while the features you think are most exciting may not be such a big deal to them.

If you can get them talking freely and openly at a deeper level, you’ll find out. However, that’s not so easy in practice, but an objective outsider can achieve this by effective interviewing.

I helped one company, that solves noise problems for airconditioner installers, receive 20 times more enquiries off their website. Here’s a sample from the case study…

“I interviewed a few of their valued clients from different target market sectors to find out about their experiences, what they valued most about NCS, and the benefits that kept them coming back.

What transpired was the great end-to-end service they provide, taking a ‘global’ view to provide resourceful, cost-efficient, solutions backed with helpful advice – not just products.

Some really interesting stories emerged of saving the client’s bacon – avoiding all sorts of trouble with delays, expensive rework, council compliance, and hefty contract penalties!

NCS had clearly learned a lot of lessons over the years and developed expertise that they took for granted – assuming it was obvious to others, but wasn’t.”

These stories were a powerful proof of the value NCS offered. When written up in the clients’ own words, they were like word-of-mouth referrals – the ultimate marketing fodder. Instead of just reaching a few people by personal talk, they captured a wide audience of website visitors – building a lot of trust and interest in NCS.

When I re-wrote the website to touch the hot issues, supported by client stories, along with search optimization and a fresh design (see above), there was a sudden boom in quality leads.

Your potential success may not even be about your products, but the value-add service you provide. I asked a customer of one company how their products stacked up against competitors in the market, and he just said “they do the job”. Their loyalty was actually all about the helpful advice that reduced costs and avoided problems. In fact, the advice on how to do things more efficiently sometimes reduced the amount of products required, costing sales in the short term, but the goodwill and repeat business far outweighed it

Convey your full value to get the business you deserve

After a few interviews are done, patterns will show up in client issues, motivations, and what they value most in your company. This establishes a solid foundation of market intelligence to inform content writing for your website, ads, brochures, and social media. You might be amazed at the difference it makes to your sales. If you’d like a free assessment of your existing website, or someone to interview your clients to find your full value and boost your marketing results, contact me.

How to Leverage Case Studies to Build Trust and Demonstrate Value

Are you using the ‘hidden gold’ in your clients’ stories? It’s a huge asset to capitalize on, and without it, you’ll be losing business. It will provide ammunition to boost your disappointing marketing results, and underpin your engineering or tech company in times ahead.

Trust is a precious commodity in business these days. Most people are over the hype and empty platitudes like “we are second to none”… “give the best service”… “offer top quality”, etc.

Prospects do due diligence on your company by looking for the real story from the ‘horse’s mouth’ such as independent reviews and customer feedback. These forms of third-party endorsement carry real ‘authority’, and have a huge impact on sales.

Client stories – the ultimate marketing ammunition

Client endorsement carries more weight than blowing your own trumpet, so why not let your clients’ promote you? While word-of-mouth referrals are the highest form of recommendation, you’ll only get a limited number of them – from clients’ personal contact with a handful of people.

Would you like more endorsements? The good news is you don’t have to wait for them to land on your plate. You can actually generate them whenever you want – assuming you’ve served a few clients well!

Case studies can add potent ammunition for your marketing by building a foundation of credibility and trust – especially when they are written in the clients’ own words.

‘Strategic’, not just a factual description

Most case studies that you read are factual outlines of projects, showing the client scenario and the work that was done. This may be of interest to the company, for internal newsletters, but not to prospective clients skimming a website for answers to their needs.

In order to know if you’re the go-to company for them, they need to see whether you have the required know-how, care about clients’ interests, and deliver solutions that work.

If you can capture stories in your clients’ own words and emotions, while asking the right questions to uncover company selling points – that’s ‘strategic’. It comes across as a natural and authentic story, while intentionally promoting your company.

Find the Right Person

It usually takes an objective outsider to get the client to open up and talk freely in depth – not just saying polite niceties or what they think you want to hear. It requires digging deep, beyond a Q & A session.

This person can step into both your shoes and your client’s, to get the whole story from both sides. As a ‘trusted ambassador’, they can build a bond with the client as ‘safe hands’ for your brand and relationship. If they have both technical and marketing understanding, they’ll know even more how to dig down to the ‘hidden gold’ and find the hidden potential in your company.

How to Do Interviews

The first thing for you to do is to identify a few happy ‘ideal’ clients and ask if they’d be willing to be interviewed.

Then, it usually requires 15 to 20 minute phone calls to hear their story, spot their pain points, issues, and interests, while exploring their deeper motivations and values. It also requires digging for evidence of your selling points, strengths, and points of difference in action. Then there’s the bottom-line benefits the client received, with hard figures if possible, such as % production improvement, labour hours reduced, or $ saved.

You might even get suggestions for improvement – a bit of ‘constructive criticism’ to lift your game.

Putting it together

From the interview notes, the story can be assembled, with enough factual details of the job so that readers can understand the situation, but no more. A few gaps may be discovered in the narrative, requiring some reading between the lines and putting the missing words in the client’s mouth, or emailing them with follow-up questions.

Then a draft is submitted to the client for feedback and any required amendments before approval. It’s a courtesy that reassures their trust, unlike some in the media who spin a story and publish it without the subject’s permission – not a good way to keep people on side!

The client’s amendments may be for factual inaccuracies, things not heard or interpreted correctly, sensitive areas they want kept confidential, or changes of mind.

When it’s all done, they should be thanked for their time – after all they are doing your company a favour. And it’s good to acknowledge the huge value of their story, to make them feel good about it all.

Spinoff marketing benefits

After a few case studies are done, patterns will emerge in client issues, motivations, and company strengths. This forms a solid foundation of market intelligence to inform content writing for your website, ads, brochures, or social media.

The whole exercise should also enhance client loyalty because it reminds them of the benefits they’ve received. They may not have been fully aware of the payoff until you probe for specific figures. One of my clients went back and counted his website enquiry emails and discovered more than a ten-fold jump!

How one business owner benefitted

Dominique Hawinkels, of JD-Data, improves client business productivity through database solutions that simplify processes, make life easier, and fit around the client’s way of doing things (unlike a lot of IT solutions).

I interviewed five of his clients, in different market segments, and discovered that the strengths they valued most about Dominique formed 3 ‘pillars’:

  • Technical know-how to find the smartest and most efficient ways to enter, organize, and present data
  • Empathy with clients to really understand their business and make it work uniquely for them
  • Responsive service and hand-holding relationship

I used some of the benefits quoted by clients as potent attention-grabbing headlines in the case studies, such as: “slashing admin time… 33% productivity boost… suddenly at industry leading edge… information at our fingertips… exactly what we needed to operate effectively”.

This is what Dominique said about the benefit he gained from the whole exercise:

“David introduced us to the power of case studies through his client survey:

– How they allow you to connect deeply with your clients
– Get helpful feedback on your performance
– Gain a better understanding of their problems, key issues, and what they are looking for in you
– Demonstrate the reality of what you actually do for them (something we found very humbling)
– Not forgetting; something tangible that can be used in promoting your business

David helped us to see how our clients truly see us and what it is that they really value about us. Now that is gold – certainly more than we expected.”

The help you need to get the benefits for your business

If you’d like someone to organize case studies to take your marketing to the next level, contact me.

Getting the missing connection to release business for technical firms

‘Technical’ people are great at fixing problems and making things, but… they often don’t get the business they deserve

It’s been said the world over: they are smart people who can research and analyse a need, and work alone for long periods to build a solution – but not so good at communicating their ideas and products, especially to non-technical people.

This communication gap can mean loss of business opportunities or contracts from potential clients who may be left frustrated with unmet needs or go to other suppliers who don’t meet their needs as well as you can.

Marketing communication is becoming more and more important in the emerging ‘mobile information age’ where lots of potential clients search the internet for products and services.

Competition also grows as physical location becomes less of an issue, so creating a niche becomes more important to succeed – by capitalizing on your unique selling points.

Missing the value

Technical people can see marketing as ‘fluff’, exaggeration of product capabilities, or hype that doesn’t add any value. Well, yes, this can be true when sales & marketing people get involved who don’t understand the technicalities or relate eye-to-eye with your technical people.

The ‘DIY’ trap

Businesses often end up throwing together their own marketing content, but it’s often ‘self-focused’ and not very customer-friendly, appealing, or ‘stand-out’.

Most websites and brochures say similar stuff to everyone else – what the company does and a whole lot of technical facts and features.

Their target audience can get bored or bamboozled from this and not see the benefits in their own language. They are in a different world, with motivations and interests beyond the technical issues.

It’s actually quite hard for a business owner to see past their own view to their target market’s perspective, and it can take an outsider to do this.

I had a ‘smart buildings’ designer/installer proudly show me his website design – electronic boxes and cables. I could see how it appealed to him, but suggested that his potential clients wouldn’t want to see any of that, but would be looking for a good time entertaining their friends with their home theatre. We pitched the text and imagery to that end and his website took off.

How to bridge the gap to advance your business

Your potential clients may see a number of technically competent firms that could do the job, so how can you stand out? How about carving out your own market of ‘ideal’ clients?

The next 3 articles show you how…

Find your 8 hidden marketing assets to attract your ideal target audience

By digging for the gold right under your nose, you can tap into your full business potential.

As I was saying in my previous article Bridging the communication gap that limits engineering & technology firms, most websites and brochures tend to be ‘self-focused’ and not very customer-friendly or appealing. Your clients are in a different world, albeit linked to yours, with motivations and interests beyond the technical issues.

Who are they?

Your ideal clients may be the ones who appreciate your value and tell others, are willing to pay for it, take up minimal time, or give ongoing business… profitable clients… your real target market.

Let’s focus on them and screen out the ‘tyre-kickers’, unreasonable complainers, time-consumers, or people that would be better served elsewhere.

What are they really looking for? The key to your success

Let’s tap into their heartbeat and find out their real ‘hot buttons’ – needs, fears, problems,pain points, questions, interests, and hidden emotional reasons to buy.

We can find a certain amount in discussion forums or social media, but ultimately by going to the ‘horse’s mouth’ by interviewing. This can be easiest done by an objective outsider where the client can speak freely rather than saying what the business owner wants to hear.

Mining the raw gold for your marketing message

Now let’s see what assets you have to satisfy those ideal client hot buttons…

  • Identify the key benefits you offer, your most valuable selling points,and unique points of difference. Can you put your finger on that real forte that sets you apart? It can be a challenge to find your USP (unique selling proposition), let alone express it concisely, but outside help can distil it. Taglines like PlaceMaker’s “Know how Can do” are short, punchy, and effective.
  • Is there anything outside the square that you know or do – ‘provocative’, bold, stands out, or goes against the grain of the industry? That will catch attention – as long as it’s relevant and beneficial to your target market.
  • Consider areas of your expertise and knowledge that could be presented to ‘pre-sell’ your business, like Spark’s “techinasec” technology tips. If your expertise is deep enough, there may be opportunities for selling it or even coaching/ consultancy. This “content marketing” is a growing trend.
  • If you can, create a free introductory offer such as a product trial, consultation, or valuable ‘how to’ resource to entice your target audience to make that critical first contact with you.
  • Case studies and testimonials, showing tangible results and highlighting your selling points, are always powerful trust-builders. An interview is usually required for this – easiest done by a third party.
  • Anyone can say they are “reliable”, “superior”, “leading”, “professional”, “high quality”, or “second to none”, but this doesn’t cut the ice unless it can be proven with ‘credentials’ – a quantifiable or specific performance record, awards, reputable business partners or clients, qualifications, experience, industry association memberships, and guarantees.
  • Any sponsorship or support for the community or charities also helps build clients’ trust in your business ethos.
  • Find any other connecting points with your target audience outside business, such as common personal interests. If a good portion of your clients are into fishing or golf and you are too, then weave it into your ‘about us’ story.

The next step – capitalising on it

We now have the ‘gold’ as a foundation for all your marketing endeavours. It’s just a matter of how to leverage your 8 hidden assets in your marketing channels – ads, brochures, white papers, proposals, website, blog, videos, and social media

How to Leverage Your 8 Hidden Assets in Your Marketing Channels

Presenting your ‘uncovered gold’ in the right way can advance your business through ads, brochures, white papers, proposals, websites, blog, videos, and social media.

In my previous article Find your 8 hidden marketing assets to attract your ideal target audience, I talked about digging for the ‘gold’ right under your nose to tap into the full potential of your engineering, technology, or manufacturing business.

This included finding ‘hot buttons’, key benefits, selling points, uniqueness, outside-the-square factors, expertise and knowledge, free offer, case studies and testimonials, credentials, sponsorship or support, and other connecting points.

Now we need to put these to use in your marketing channels to build the bridge to your target audience.

Make your ‘billboard’ count

Your main headline is critical to grab attention, after creating a good first impression with your images and design.

It should touch your target audience hot buttons with ‘empathy’, showing you understand their problem or need, and ‘resonance’ – striking a chord. You also need to convey your most valuable benefits, key selling points, and ‘outside-the-square’ factors.

Focus on potential clients who are most likely to buy, and ignore the rest. If you try to appeal to everyone, you’ll appeal to no-one.

Priorities… first things first

We need to get important information across clearly on the front pages and leave details for the deeper pages. Don’t clutter or ‘dilute’ the front pages with unimportant distractions – ‘less is more’.

Sub-headings and bullet lists are great to highlight things as they make the content ‘scannable’ to catch impatient readers. This includes touching hot buttons and conveying selling points – continuing on from the main headline – plus presenting key technical features & benefits.

Don’t bury important points in large blocks of text where they’ll be missed.

To the point – but touching all the bases

Body text needs to be concise (saying as much as possible in fewer words as possible) but not necessarily short. Complex technical products and services need plenty of information to satisfy analytical clients and build confidence.

‘The more you tell, the more you sell’ still applies, but not boring repetition or waffle.

A friendly tone to build rapport

Be personal and use ‘you’ and ‘your’ to build connection, using a natural conversational tone. People generally warm to that more than cold formal language, but it depends on your target audience. A formal professional tone may be required, but still friendly.

Build trust – a ‘biggy’ these days

In your ‘About Us’ story, note your credentials, mention any sponsorships or charity support, and use all the ‘connecting points’ that might help your target audience ‘click’ with you.

Show a few testimonials and case studies to demonstrate your performance.

Fitting with their thought sequence

As they say, ‘people want to be communicated with, not sold to’. Shoving a brand or product in a person’s face like a pushy salesman is not the way to win friends and influence people. Businesses do this perhaps out of fear that they won’t be noticed or recognised.

Sales conversion is a process. We need to engage readers by acknowledging their needs and answering their questions at the right points, and build trust before expecting a response.

The call to action                            

By utilising all the above marketing assets in the right places, we can use ‘indirect persuasion’ to draw people without pushy trumpet blowing or hype that puts them off.

Once you’ve acknowledged their needs, shown what you’ve got for them, and built trust, it’s time to ask for a response – requesting more information, discussing their needs, purchasing a product, or most enticingly… taking up your free offer.

When you’re asking them to take a big plunge to sign up for something risky or unknown, give them reassurance at that point by a guarantee or testimonial. For specifics on making websites effective, see 7 points to get your website delivering better business results

7 points to get your website delivering better business results

In my previous article How to leverage your 8 hidden assets in your marketing channels, I gave tips on making marketing material effective for engineering, technology, and manufacturing businesses. Now we look at websites in particular…

1. The attraction of a good look

  • The design creates the first impression – but it’s about quality, not quantity, of images
  • An integrated colour scheme that supports your logo and branding works better than the chaos of too many colours
  • Contrast (of colour or brightness) should be used to highlight important things, not distract from your main message

2. Well organised – to get around easily

  • Your website needs to give a positive ‘usability’ experience to keep visitors coming back
  • Simple layout with a ‘unified flow’ (versus fragmented information) is easier to follow, with adequate white ‘breathing’ space to ease the eyes
  • Each page needs to have a clear focus (except your home page) with not too many side issues or clutter

3. A compelling message – to command attention

  • Focus on your target audience’s needs, fears, pains, questions, and emotions, then state the key benefits you offer them, and say something unique, provocative, or curious to grab attention

4. The key elements to catch the eye

  • Your text should be easy to scan, so important things are conveyed in your headline, sub-headings, and bold text, not hidden in large chunks of text for readers to wade through (which they probably won’t, then leave your site)
  • Your headline is your best shot at grabbing attention, and if you don’t get them here, they’re unlikely to look any further
  • Sub-headings are your next best opportunity to catch attention, so use them effectively
  • Use bold type in the body text for important things not in sub-heads, but don’t over-do it as it can look messy and hard to read
  • Use bullet lists to ‘punch-out’ key points, and research has shown that people tend to look at the first two and last items most, so if you have more than 7 bullets, break them down into categories like I have here to avoid the old ‘needle in a haystack’
  • Images need to have clear meaning and purpose, to support the text, not distract from it, so eliminate unnecessary links and buttons that distract your visitor’s attention

5. Match your visitors’ thought sequence – giving them what they’re looking for

  • Each type of visitor should be able to find what they need, and relevant pages in your site should follow their thought sequence
  • Each page should lead on somewhere if possible, not a ‘dead-end’
  • Have a clear sales conversion process: engage your visitor by acknowledging their needs and answering their questions, touch their deeper motivations to hold their interest, then present your product or service to them as the answer, then finally a call for response

6. Actionable – for the outcomes you want

  • Have clear actions for your visitors to take – filling-in a form, requesting more info, making an enquiry, or product purchase
  • Your visitors shouldn’t have to think too much, e.g. don’t have too many options to choose, so guide them helpfully to their destination
  • If significant risk is involved for them, ease their ‘anxiety’ by stating a guarantee or showing a testimonial next to the action button

7. Optimised for search engines ­– to attract the right audience

  • Basic search engine optimization hasn’t changed much over the years, so as long as you help Google to connect searchers with quality content, you’ll be rewarded, but contrived tricks can be penalized these days
  • Find the relevant search keywords that your target audience uses (with the Google AdWords keyword tool)
  • Each page should focus on 1-3 keywords
  • Embed keywords in the page title, headlines, sub-headings, and body text, plus image <alt> tags, web page URL (address), and file names if possible, but don’t over-saturate with keywords as it could work against you – so use a natural variety of synonyms (similar words) as Google is getting more ‘human’.

Some of the above points aren’t easy to achieve and can get a ‘bit technical’, but help is available.