Are You a Branded Authority or One of the Crowd?

I recently attended an excellent presentation by David Avrin, who is known as the Visibility Coach and author of It’s Not Who You Know, It’s Who Knows You. Like other first-class marketers, Avrin understands that marketing is way more effective when you have established yourself as a branded authority.  This principle echoes what we preach (and practice) and is the essence of the difference between push marketing and pull marketing.

The opposite of being seen as a branded authority is to be considered “one of the crowd,” otherwise known as a commodity provider. While this may seem like a safe path, it is rarely a good idea to be perceived as just like your competitors. A commodity provider is one where there is no real advantage in terms of the product, service, etc., and where the prospect tends to evaluate you primarily on pricing, terms, and so forth. And as a commodity provider, you will often have to make painful concessions to win the business.

The alternative to being perceived as a commodity provider is to create a perception of differentiation.  I use the word “perception” because it is the marketplace’s perception of who you are that gets you invited to the sales dance, and not your actual competitive differentiation. This is a key principle of marketing: Perception = Reality.  The trick is to present the reality of what you offer in terms of products, services, and customer experiences, in a way that is both accurate and compelling.

To establish yourself and/or your company as a branded authority, you will first have to decide the breadth of your focus.  Marketing yourself with a very broad focus (e.g. general practitioner) is very different than a narrow niche focus (e.g. endoscopic brain surgery).  And across most industries, those who have a greater degree of specialization earn more and face less competitive pressure.  But you must understand that when you market yourself in a narrow niche, you are telling the world not only what you do (your specific area of focus) but also what you don’t do (anything else).  So before proceeding, make sure there is a healthy marketplace in your area of branded authority.

You will know that you have achieved success as a branded authority if:

  • You do not have to chase your prospects – they come to you when they need what you offer.
  • You get invited to more sales engagements and face few, if any, competitors.
  • You are able to charge reasonable prices and don’t have to deeply discount to win business.
  • You are able to replace expensive push marketing with lower cost and more effective pull marketing.
  • Deals close faster and more reliably.

You can’t become a branded authority overnight. You may need to take a fresh look at both your products/services  and adjust what it is that you deliver to the customer. Likewise, you may need to sharpen your messaging and content strategy.  And becoming a branded authority will almost certainly require you to transform your model from push marketing to pull marketing.

One final thought.  Adopting the spirit of the title of David Avrin’s book, It’s Not Who You Know But Who Knows You, would be a great way to get your pull marketing efforts off to a great start for 2013.

Carpe Occasio

Making the Transition from Push Marketing to Pull Marketing

You have no doubt heard of the many benefits of pull marketing, also called inbound marketing. But perhaps you face a common challenge – how to implement pull marketing without disrupting what you are doing with your push marketing model. In other words, how do your reap the inbound marketing goodies, without sacrificing what is already working.

Push Marketing Pull Marketing

First, let’s briefly recap the benefits of pull marketing. Here are five of the most important:

  1. Improves sales close rates by 50% or more.
  2. Generates leads at 1/3 the cost of push marketing.
  3. Shortens the sales cycle by 20-40 percent.
  4. Protects your pricing from margin erosion.
  5. Pull marketing is a great way to stay in touch with prospects, and convert them later.

We explored the last benefit (staying in touch) in a past blog post titled How to use Pull Marketing to Stay in Touch with Your Prospects. The basic premise is that pull marketing is much more effective than push marketing at nurturing prospects through the stages of awareness, education, requirements analysis, and vendor selection. As I mentioned in that post, you can’t make the sale if you aren’t invited to the dance. And in today’s world of consumer choice and self-selection, getting invited to the dance is critical to success.

When advising clients on how to transition to inbound marketing, our first rule is to “do no harm.” For example, if a company is generating 200 leads per month through push marketing programs, we don’t try to replicate these results with pull marketing campaigns. Most of the time, this can’t be accomplished in a short period of time. A reasonable would be to generate 10 percent of the push marketing total as additional leads within 90 days – growing the monthly total to 220.

While protecting the existing lead stream in the short-term, we begin to shift funds from push marketing to pull marketing campaigns. Since an average pull marketing lead costs only about 40 percent of the cost of a push marketing lead – every dollar you are able to shift to inbound marketing can be two and a half times more efficient as your push marketing dollar. Over time, this drives down your total cost-per-lead and you are able to generate substantially more leads at the same budget. As an example, we reduced the cost-per-lead for a SaaS software company from $120 to $45 in a one-year period.

Since pull marketing depends heavily on fresh content, you need to have one or more people in your organization dedicated to creating a steady stream of content (social media, web content, sales collateral). If this isn’t realistic, then outsource the function. However you choose to handle this, remember that a dearth in collateral means a much tougher climb to achieve pull marketing success.

No matter how excited you get about transitioning to pull marketing, remember that it seldom leads to overnight success. Inbound marketing strategies can have a strong cumulative impact, but they work better if you start small and grow over time. Here is a post you might enjoy that illustrates this point: Is Social Media a Marathon or a Sprint?

One other important tip: Don’t forget to line up early support from senior management for your forays into pull marketing. Hard core numbers crunchers who don’t understand the long term benefits can and will pull the inbound marketing plug. You will be rewarded if you sell the future vision, start small, and persist.

Carpe Occasio

The Most Important Number in B2B Marketing

I often write about the importance on numbers in B2B marketing success. A recent blog post titled Marketing Analytics – Measuring Most What Matters in B2B Marketing, covers this in subject in greater detail.

B2B MarketingAs marketing black belts, we constantly slice, dice, analyze, tweak and report on the numbers in order to create the most effective marketing model. We measure cost per inquiry, cost per lead, cost per new customer acquisition, cost per new sale and cost per whatever else is important to a particular client.

But of all the numbers in B2B marketing, there is one that stands far above the others, and that number is ONE. Every great B2B marketing model includes:

  • One powerful and relentlessly presented brand promise.
  • One consistent go-to-market strategy.
  • One version of the truth when it comes to the definition of a qualified sales lead.
  • One service level agreement (SLA) between marketing and sales.
  • One great strategy for qualifying and nurturing your leads.
  • One dependable leader who motivates the entire marketing department.
  • One more action that you take every day to improve your results.
  • One marketing and sales automation system to optimize every part of the process.

We sometimes have a tendency to over-analyze what we do in B2B marketing. But instead of dealing with a cacophony of competing numbers, it is sometimes helpful to bring it back to the number one. So what’s the one thing you can do to have a better marketing model? And when will you make it happen?