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Staying out of the Mediocre Middle

Kara Valz, EVP of Sales & Marketing and Center for Small Manufacturers, TechSolve
May 2017

How can you get the most out of a limited marketing spend? As consumers we are used to being marketed to and we know good (and bad) marketing when we see it. Because of limited budgets, the “mediocre middle” is where some small companies find themselves. Here are some marketing mistakes to avoid so your marketing efforts can be less “mediocre” and more successful.

“I will sell to everyone; I want anyone I can get as a customer.”

Have you said that to yourself? When I hear someone say that, it tells me, they don’t know their customer base and as a result, they are very likely to waste marketing dollars. The most important thing that a small business can do is define their target market and customer. Keep in mind the larger you define your target market, the more money you need to reach them. Keep it realistic and within reach. For many organizations it is best to define geographies that you want to “own” or a niche segment of the market that you can serve better than anyone. It is smart to look at your current customers and prospects, but you don’t have to limit yourself to that group. You may have products and services that will benefit other sectors. If you aren’t sure, talk to thought leaders (more than one) in your industry. Where do they see customer bases growing and why? Certainly if you can get more from existing customers you should have your sales folks making that a priority.

“We have the best service, best quality and best people.”

If I had a dollar for every time I read that on a website!   That description may be true, but that descriptor is mediocre middle” personified. Determining product claims that you can OWN is worth more than the laundry list of reused and same-old descriptions that your competitors use in their marketing efforts.

Many companies’ websites all look and sound the same. Run this test: Have your nearest twenty-something (or 14 year-old if you are really brave!) read your website and the sites of your two closest competitors. See what they can tell you afterward. See what they understand and ask them the difference between yours and the others.

  •  What are the clear differences between products and services?
  • Which company is bigger?
  • What did they like best (or least) about all three sites?

In less than 20 minutes you will have more feedback on your site than most marketing teams do. Take that feedback and start getting that website working harder for you. The first thing any prospect is going to do is look at your website. It needs to be the beginning of “your story” and your goal is to get them to want to talk to your sales team. Make sure you have calls-to-action on your pages.  Do you want them to call you, email you, or place an order?  Make sure the user has enough information from your site to do these actions.

Have you ever googled the word “quality”?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is extremely important for organizations’ marketing plans. Your website and SEO plan can help you with shortening the sale as well as converting prospects into buyers.  Setting KPIs (key performance indicators) and goals such as number of downloads, incoming emails, and phone calls will get you started. One way you can create the most productive keywords and content is by asking your current clients their search terms. How did they find you? Asking your clients for input will help you with creating appropriate content and creating conversion points like downloading PDFs, price sheets, and technical descriptions. In a recent B2B marketing study, Enquiro Search Solutions, Inc. described four types of buyers and corresponding information your website should offer to them:

  • The Economic Buyer – Information about price, maintenance cost and depreciation if applicable
  • The Technical Buyer – Information about installation, spare parts, maintenance
  • The User Buyer – Information on how to use the product, support services, and manuals
  • The Coach Buyer – This buyer is an influencer and is interested in performance and payback

“We haven’t seen a lot of results from our marketing efforts so far – what should we do?”

Stop and evaluate your current marketing tactics. If you are doing more than SEO (trade shows, thought leadership papers, blogs, etc.), are they being executed with excellence? Are they part of an overall marketing strategy and plan? Are you doing things because you have always done them or are you taking appropriate risks and trying something new? You might want to look at where your competition is spending their dollars. This might give you some ideas of where the market is heading. Additionally – do you have a CRM or marketing automation system that can track the success of your tactics and initiatives? By tracking your results, you can alter your plan as needed. Spending smart is always a series of learning cycles. What works this year may not work the next so stick with the goal of trying new tactics and track your learnings and results.

It doesn’t take a million dollars to get you out of that mediocre-middle – you can do the following to become a more successful industrial marketer:  benchmark, analyze, plan, track and repeat!