As I scan the landscape of my L-shaped desk, I find it cluttered. But not with paper, books, trade publications, business cards or other typical desk accessories. Instead my desk is buried under technology. A laptop with dual screens, a secondary laptop, an iPad, a Smartphone, a scanner, a landline phone and so on.
And when I need to research something, I turn to one of these nearby devices and begin at www.google.com. Sounds efficient, right?
But as I study my own research behavior, I realize how quickly time can be lost in the world wide web. And time is my number one commodity. Weeding out the useful websites vs. the useless websites is the first time-sink.
When I begin one of my knowledge pursuits I am oftentimes delayed and become annoyed by websites with in-your-face sales pitches. I find myself thinking, “don’t they know I’m researching right now, not buying?” And then there are those websites who claim to have the Holy Grail of answers to my questions but I can only see behind the virtual curtain after I hand over the keys to my email kingdom and sometimes my snail mail castle too.
When I reach the light at the end of my research tunnel, I am truly appreciative. It is those research-friendly URLs that are bookmarked in my digital library and visited time and again. And it is those URL business owners that are the closest to considering me a true prospect.
In today’s digital world, anybody can claim to be an expert in anything. As consumers of this kind of free-flowing information, it is up to us to be the editors-in-chief of what is accurate and what is not because, “you can’t believe everything you read.”
So if I’ve bookmarked you then you’ve been vetted by me as a source of accurate and relevant information. And that means that I’ve started to trust you. When I need help in your area of expertise, I am most likely going to think of you.
But if you come on too strong while I’m “researching” then you’ll never make your way to my digital black book of URLs much less be able to consider me a prospect.
In this economy, we all need to close sales to keep the lights on. But we are also the same people stretching every dollar to make it count. When someone takes on the role of a helpful librarian and makes it easy for us to find the answers we seek, we take notice.
So think about your digital call-to-action strategy and make sure you’re reviewing your path-to-closing from your customer’s perspective. Be a time-saver not a time-waster. And understand that patience is key. You need to wait and “move-in” when your customer is ready.
TKG’s President, Tom Keer, gets the word out about fall fishing and boating opportunities on behalf of TakeMeFishing.org in a satellite media tour with coverage from over 20 TV and radio stations across the country.
Clients traditionally hire us because they believe that their poor sales are due to bad marketing. Some of that claim is true, and when we reposition brand messages, illustrate them appropriately, and add relevant content, the client’s phone starts to ring. We create and implement capture and response mechanisms that show that the new creative is working.
That said, the salesman answering the phone is an absolutely critical component. In the lodging business we see many guides or operations staff manning the phones in the offseason. They are placed in these positions for one reason: to manage the budget. It takes a skilled jack-of-all trades to effectively handle both roles and often these employees are just not the right person for the job. The employee gets frustrated, the lodge doesn’t hit its numbers, and all that is achieved is a line-item cost savings in the budget. It’s a common issue and often a recipe for disaster.
Andris Zoltner’s excellent piece in the Harvard Business Review (To Build a Great Sales Team, You Need a Great Manager) takes the discussion one step further. He correctly identifies a recent trend in companies: hire excellent salesmen. But he also correctly identifies that a sub-par manager will short out the outstanding work created by those excellent salesmen. A short-sighted or opinionated manager de-motivates those marquee salesmen through poor management styles.
An excellent sales manager with an average sales staff routinely outperforms the former group. How? The excellent sales manager counsels, coaches, and motivates those salesmen to achieve a higher standard. The manager’s role is to help the salesmen close the sale through training and providing the right tools and marketing materials for the job. Not to micro-manage all of the details. And in the end, the good salesmen become great, the poor salesmen are replaced, and the company gets traction.
These days, one of the hottest debates pertains to print versus social media marketing campaigns. Some quick numbers reflect why:
-over 800 million people worldwide subscribe to Facebook
-180 million Americans, which is about 50% of the adult population, use Facebook
-Twitter just topped 300 million accounts
Those are staggering numbers, and while many small-business owners try to capitalize on the trend, few are reaping the rewards. While we’re fresh off of the ICAST show, many business owners report great traction from social media for brand building and for increasing awareness, but very few report any significant direct sales.
Small businesses do well to align their current posts and campaigns with the origin of social media. Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook so as to stay in touch with friends and to meet new people, hence the inclusion of the word “social” in its description. If you’re looking to generate sales you might consider other marketing methods. To maximize social media benefits, consider the following tips: Post Regularly: To develop a following you’ll need to regularly update your page all year long. 3-5 times a week is a good start, and in order to grow your user group you’ll need to maintain that pace for the long haul. Relevant Posts: As with any marketing communication, consider your audience. What do they want to know and, more importantly, why do they want to know it? If the writer provides the audience with information they want to know then your page will grow. If not, it’ll become stagnant. Visual versus Text: Pictures and videos should be interspersed with text, and visual imagery performs far better than long prose. Keep the words to a minimum. Ask, don’t tell: Social media is just that, it’s social. Ask questions of your readers and they’ll respond. Dictate to them and they’ll clam up. Invite participation and you’ll create a community. Create a tone: Make sure that your page has a tone appropriate to your business model. Posts of family events or personal opinions tend not to go as far as posts that are relevant to your purpose. Serious business models should probe serious issues while light-hearted pages should focus on fun. And by all means remove responses that fall outside of the tone that you are setting for your business. Some pages specialize in the negative, and unless your page is one of them remove them before they do damage to your brand.
I used to manage the contact center for The Orvis Company. One day, I received a handwritten envelope addressed to me with no return address. I thought it was a letter from a catalog customer and so I opened it. Inside was an article that appeared torn out of a magazine about some new workforce management software. I unfolded the article and found a yellow post-it note attached with a note that said “Thought you’d be interested in this.” It was signed by someone named A-.
I racked my brain to identify this mysterious writer. Was it a past colleague from Husqvarna? Someone from my Contact Center Share Group? A friend? A sales rep I’d met while exploring this type of technology? As I went through my mental, pre-Linkedin.com Rolodex, no one matched up to the initial “A.” I was intrigued.
I left the unread article with the mysterious yellow post-it note on my desk for a few days. Every time I glanced at the yellow sticky all I could think about was “who is A?” Eventually the torn-out article was shuffled to the bottom of my snail-mail inbox and eventually found its way to the wastebasket to forever remain an unsolved mystery.
A few months later, I received another handwritten envelope with no return address. Once again, it made its way again to the top of my junk mail pile. I opened it and found a new article that appeared to be torn from a magazine with a yellow post-it note. It read “I thought you’d be interested in this article.” This time it was signed by B but the article had the same headline.
Alas, I solved the mystery. This was no one from my past or present seeking to lend a helping hand. This was a marketing effort to get me to buy software, and a creepy effort at that! At first blush it would seem successful because I’m representing it a decade later on The Keer Group blog. The truth is it couldn’t have been any more of a dud.
Let’s break it down:
Successful Delivery? Check.
Open Rate? Check.
Engaging Headline (in the form of a personalized sticky note)? Check.
Visuals that don’t detract from the message? Failure.
Relevant content that captures the reader’s attention? Failure.
Call to action? Failure.
The yellow post-it marketing campaign was a failure because it was too personal and the method of delivery completely distracted me from the actual content and call-to-action. I never even read the article until I received the second mysterious envelope. Only then did I scan it to determine who the company was so that I would avoid doing business with them at all costs!
As marketers, we have a responsibility to both the brand we represent and the audience they are trying to reach. In the social realm of the internet, there is more personal information available about our customers than ever. It is important that we use that information respectfully and in a way that will make the audience comfortable with how we’re using it.
While our audience at ICAST was primarily fishing tackle retailers, these ideas can be helpful for a variety of business types. Here’s the Top 5 that appeared to resonate with folks the most:
Market Your Staff’s Expertise. Never miss an opportunity to turn your staff into a key opinion leader. If your shop offers outstanding customer service, has the hottest fishing information, gives quick rigging advice, or offers community outreach it’s important to communicate that information as part of your brand. People are what make active outdoor enthusiast shops different from other retail establishments. You’re selling a passion and a commitment, so make sure that it is all part of your branding and marketing messages. -Angela Keer
Sell Sizzle, Then Steak. People don’t buy the product or service, they buy what the product or service will do for them. When you write a sales ad, sell the sizzle not the steak. The benefits are what the customers are looking for so focus the ad around how your product or service will make their life better in some way. To get the highest ROI from your sales ad, incorporate a call to action component within the ad. –Bob Svetich
Build Your Own Brand. It is important to drive the brands of the products in your store but with all of the various activities going on every day, week, month, quarter and year, many shop owners forget to brand their own business. The most important question we have found customers are interested in knowing and that is part of your brand positioning is why. Why are you in business? Are you conservation-oriented? Education- oriented? A competition-centric shop? A traditional/legacy/multi-generational shop? Or a youthful hard-core shop? Customers attach to that type of branding and with a position that revolves around you and your company you’ll also have an easier way to convert prospects into customers. –Tom Keer
Blog. Keep your shop and expertise in the customers mind. Folks search for the info they want and to the degree you write about what they want to know about, Google will help them find you. I get my ideas by answering in a blog post the questions that are most commonly asked by in store customers. Consider utilizing You Tube if the content you wish to share is better demonstrated than explained. –Peter Jenkins
Learn From Your Customers, Ask These Questions
What attracted you to us? This helps get a view of the things that appeal to your customers.
What would you do if we weren’t here? Would anyone actually notice?
Name one thing we could do better. Just one thing – this emphasizes improvement priorities.
Why do you buy from us? This highlights your strengths.
Name one thing that we do or don’t do that irritates or annoys you. This one speaks for itself! The key is doing something about it!
Who can we learn from? This helps you identify who your customers see as ‘best practices’ providers.
What would you say to someone else who asked you about us? Similar to NPS rating but open-ended.
What is the one thing we should never stop doing? This one tells you what they really value about you!
Are you ‘completely’ happy with us? It can only be answered ‘yes’ or ‘no’. It’s a brave question.
Our friend Mary Jane Williamson, ASA Communications Director, reports “from exhibitors to buyers to outdoor media, 9,000 representatives from the global sportfishing community converged on the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., July 11-13, for the world’s largest sportfishing trade show. The 55th International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades, better known as ICAST, produced by the American Sportfishing Association (ASA), represents the cornerstone of the sportfishing industry, driving sportfishing companies’ product sales year round and is the showcase for the latest innovations in gear and accessories.”
Thanks to everyone that attended our seminars, “50 Ideas in 50 Minutes to Improve Your Business” and “Special Events: Creative Ways to Boost Sales.” It was a pleasure to see you all and we look forward to working with you on a variety of projects.
We at The Keer Group are excited about this week’s ICAST show! Ken Andres and Mary Jane Williamson have done a tremendous job assembling an outstanding show. In keeping with their raised bar, we enlisted the help of our professional and insightful affiliates. Joining us at our presentation 50-in-50 will be the following business professionals, each of whom will contribute to the topic of sales, marketing, research, operations, and special events for the fishing tackle retailer.
Bob Svetich, The Outdoor Group Inc (www.theoutdoorgroupinc.com). The Outdoor Group, Inc. is a four division company specializing in Broadcast Media, Sporting Sales Development, Luxury Sporting Travel, and Commercial Ranching. After a professional baseball career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Bob spent nearly 40 years in the active outdoors sales arena. Bob was a managing partner of a 40,000 acre hunting venue inNebraska and has strategic relationships with industry professionals, corporate meeting planners, incentive program managers, and agent outreach programs. Bob also works with high-profile celebrities and VIP’s to generate revenue for his clients.
Alex Brooks, Brookmark Research Services(www.brookmarkresearch.com). Alex founded Brookmark Research Services under the pretense that survey research processes should be insightful, reveal strategic opportunities, and be error-free. Alex was the former President at Research Data Technology and a Vice President at Scudder Investments. He’s a lifelong sportsman who works within the active-outdoor sporting markets.
Peter Jenkins, owner/operator, The Saltwater Edge and Edge Angling (www.thesaltwateredge.com and www.edgeangling.com). Peter is a life-long fresh and saltwater angler as well as a former sales and market development executive in the medical device industry. He’s worked for Johnson and Johnson, Boston Scientific, and other start up companies. In the early 1990’s he founded the Saltwater Edge inNewport,Rhode Islandand was one of the early web pioneers of Reel-Time, the online saltwater fishing journal. He brings a tremendous amount of customer engagement experience spread across retail, sales, special events and ecommerce to the forum.
We are delighted to have these three talented professionals join us for our presentation on 50 Ideas in 50 Minutes on Thursday at 1:00 PM. Looking forward to seeing you all this week!
Our generation bears witness to the new comer that is vastly different from traditional print media. Joining fly fishing books and magazines is a brave new world of digitally-published blogs and ezines. In the past few years, many businesses have retooled their sales and marketing expenditures by reducing print advertising. In many circles, print is perceived as costly with no ROI while digital has gained favor because of it’s perception as “free.” In January, 2012, Business Insider reported that CEO Robert McDonald of powerhouse Proctor and Gamble laid off 1600 marketing personnel and staff after finding out that Facebook and Google were either free or relatively free. There is a tremendous cost savings to the $10 billion annual ad budget, but are customers turning to social media for information on Old Spice or Tide laundry detergent? Mark Twain once said “common sense ain’t that common,” and with marketing budget-cuts occurring in such an expedient fashion, I beg the question: has digital replaced print in the fly fishing and sporting sectors?
This just in from the Outdoor Writers Association of America.
MISSOULA, Mont. – Tom Keer earned a prestigious Excellence in Craft award from the Outdoor Writers Association of America, with recognition to be at OWAA’s annual conference in Fairbanks, Alaska, Sept. 6, 2012.
Keer’s award was in the magazine section which recognizes excellence in communicating the best stories related to fishing in either freshwater and saltwater with an emphasis on human interest or adventure within the sport. His submission “Isonychia,” was published in the Autumn 2011 issue of Fly Rod and Reel magazine of which he is a Contributing Editor.
In addition to running his international marketing company, Keer is a widely-published freelance writer and regularly writes for Sporting Classics, Gray’s Sporting Journal, The Ruffed Grouse Society, Fly Rod and Reel, among others. He is also a columnist for the Upland Almanac and a Contributing Editor for Fly Fish America.
The Outdoor Writers Association of America is the oldest and largest association of professional outdoor communicators in the United States. It was organized in 1927 by members of the Izaak Walton League of America and includes professional communicators dedicated to sharing the outdoor experience. OWAA’s professionals include writers, photographers, outdoors radio and television show hosts, book authors, videographers, lecturers and artists. The association is headquartered in Missoula, Mont. Visit www.owaa.org for more info.
For more info, contact: Robin Giner, firstname.lastname@example.org 406-728-7434