Be a Mentor to Your Future Customers

In the B2B world of industrial manufacturing, sometimes it’s hard to penetrate your target companies; it can be even harder to find the right person to talk to once you’re in. While there are ways to effectively reach seasoned engineers and purchasing agents, right now we’re going to focus on those young men and women who are the future of your customer base: students and young professionals.

What I’m suggesting isn’t really that radical. Simply, become a professional resource and sounding board for someone who is just starting out. In short, become their mentor.

Where to start?

Google is your friend!

For the purpose of this post, I searched Google with the term “student engineering forum.” The key is finding the places where engineering students hang out online. Here are my top results:

  • Top 40 Engineering Forums & Message Boards This is a pretty broad list. The great thing is that it’s broken down by discipline.
  • Engineering Students Reddit feed With almost 50,000 subscribers, this feed on the popular social media platform reddit is extremely active and full of engineering students.  It is “a place for engineering students of any discipline to discuss study methods, get homework help, get job search advice, and find a compassionate ear when you get a 40% on your midterm after studying all night.”
  • Engineering Exchange A very active forum with over 14,000 members from around the world, the Engineering Exchange was “developed for engineers by engineers.” I can endorse this site from personal experience, as in a previous role, most of the engineers I worked with used it.

Leverage industry associations.

Do you belong to any industry associations? Does your company? An easy way to find out about the latter is to reach out to your marketing communications department. Chances are, you have memberships you’re not even aware of, and certainly not taking advantage of. Make a target list of associations and get to work! Why? Most have member-only forums where you can join discussions and foster relationships with those in your industry from all career levels, from students to seasoned veterans.

An excellent example is the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). Membership gets you access to ASME’s online community, where you can:

  • Share your professional qualifications with tens of thousands of engineers
  • Communicate with our fellow engineers and make professional connections
  • Post relevant articles, photos, video, and more from your personal Dashboard
  • Join Groups for your areas of interest, where you can participate in discussions in Forums, comment on blog posts, and share news in the Activity Feed

Ask your best customers.

I wouldn’t recommend asking all of your customers, only the ones you have the best relationships with. Particularly the younger ones who more apt to network online. What are their go-to sites for industry community? Chances are their answers will not only surprise you, but open up possibilities you never would have found otherwise.

Go back to school.

Most, if not all, universities have alumni associations specific to their different colleges. For example, the University of Alabama’s College of Engineering has its Capstone Engineering Society. These alumni groups can be an invaluable resource for networking with college students and recent graduates. Most universities already have mentoring programs already in place. Like this one from Washington University in St. Louis or these from the University of Minnesota or this one from the University of Pennsylvania.

So check out what your alma mater has to offer!

Head to human resources.

Does your company partner with local universities to recruit graduates? If you’re not sure, pick up the phone and call your HR office. Lots of companies have recruiting campaigns that their employees know nothing about. This is a huge opportunity for you to get connected with upcoming graduates in your area. These graduates could end up working with you, or they could end up working for your customers. Either way, these relationships could prove to be valuable both personally and professionally.

 

Of course, this isn’t just about grooming future customers.

Mentoring someone is not just beneficial for the mentee. Try it and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how fulfilling it can be! From a great post on fastcompany.com:

When you teach something to another person, you discover all of the details that you don’t completely understand yourself.

The bottom line: Take the leap and mentor a student or young professional in your industry. Not only might he or she end up being an integral part of your customer network down the line, you’ll also grow professionally and personally.

Get Your Complimentary Customer Creation Consultation

Connects Marketing Group has launched a new service for prospective clients – the Customer Creation Consultation.

If you are interested in building your B2B business through a robust system of research, qualified lead generation, customer creation and retention, please take a moment to read through how Connects Marketing Group can help. We are now providing free consultations to companies that feel they might benefit from our services. Recipients are under no obligation to Connects for this free service; It is simply our way to demonstrate to you how we can help you reach and exceed your sales goals.

The three-phase consultation process is high-level, designed to provide you with a clear understanding of your current situation, challenges and goals, along with specific recommendations for overcoming those challenges to reach those goals. Our consultation will help you accelerate your sales by identifying strategies to attract new customers and expand the ones you already have.

Assessment

In this phase, we will conduct an in-depth discovery interview with you to identify your ideal customers and markets, along with your present-day close rates.  We will also explore your current sales and marketing initiatives, pinpoint the results you are looking to achieve and determine the gaps in between.

During this process, we will create for you a Total Customer Profile—a graphic that captures in a single page your key goals, values, challenges and opportunities.

Recommendations

In the second phase, our goal is to help you chart your course and actually begin your journey to greater sales. To do so, we  review your Total Customer Profile, ask clarifying questions and confirm we understand your needs.
Next,  we will provide you with specific recommendations that we believe will help you realize your sales goals and accelerate your sales cycle. Your Recommendations Report  will contain those recommended actions and next steps.

These recommendations may or may not  include utilizing Connects Marketing Group programs. Connects programs are not for everyone. We only invite clients to participate IF we are confident we can have a big impact. If we are not confident that we are a good fit for you, we will suggest alternative programs we know well in the industry.

Mutual Commitment

In the third phase, if we mutually agree that there is a strong basis for us to build a long-term relationship, we will schedule a meeting, called the Mutual Commitment Meeting. This meeting will take place only after you’ve had time to study the written recommendations we offer and review the details of the programs we suggest. It is important for you to collect your questions or concerns about the fit and take time to reflect before the meeting.

We are excited to offer this free consultation and look forward to meeting with you! Please contact us today to get started!

Connects Marketing Group
PO Box 1027
Langley, WA 98260
360.222.2043

Click here to read what our clients have to say!

Is Big Data a Big Flop or a Big Win? You Decide.

“Big Data is the biggest game-changing opportunity for marketing and sales since the Internet went mainstream almost 20 years ago.”

Big Data this. Big Data that. The term has been bouncing around the marketing universe for a few years now, even more so in the last year. But, what IS Big Data? Well, not to be obtuse, but Big Data is just that: big data. It’s data analytics- the collection and examination of information- on steroids. It’s the ginormous sets of data that are created in today’s world of digital and social media. For my own sanity, we’ll just say data for the rest of this post.

This data is coming at B2B marketers harder and faster than ever before. It comes from things like:

Your company’s website

  •  Number of visits per month
  • Number of visits per page
  • Names, titles, employers of those who visit your site (if you’re smart enough to have a website member area)
  • Number of minutes someone spends on your site
  • What’s being downloaded

Search Engines (Google, etc.)

  • The words that are driving people to your site
  • The most popular search terms in your industry

Social Media

  • Number of fans, followers, etc.
  • Analysis of these fans, followers (Who are they? Where are they from? What companies? What industries?)
  • Who’s commenting?
  • What’s being shared?

I could go on and on, but I’m preaching to the choir. If you’re reading this, you know that there are almost unlimited ways that you can gather data on prospects and customers. The question then becomes…what are you doing with all of this information?

Now What?

“Those that use Big Data and analytics effectively show productivity rates and profitability that are 5 – 6 percent higher than those of their peers. McKinsey analysis of more than 250 engagements over five years has revealed that companies that put data at the center of the marketing and sales decisions improve their marketing return on investment (MROI) by 15 – 20 percent. That adds up to $150 – $200 billion of additional value based on global annual marketing spend of an estimated $1 trillion.” (Forbes)

What you do with your data depends largely on two factors: the size of your data pool and the size of your marketing team, but here are some things that companies of all sizes should consider.

1.      Map your top prospects’ behaviors: Map your prospects by tracking their digital interactions with you. What do they open, click on, link? What pages do they visit? What do they download?

2.      Identify your purchasers, and then branch out: Identify prospective purchasers, and use this as a starting point to map out his or her sphere of influence.

3.      Don’t wait!: If a prospect is nibbling, contact them sooner rather than later. And don’t, under any circumstances, send a generic email. Pick up the phone!

4.      Know the B2B Customer Decision Journey: Contact, nurture and delivery sales-ready prospects to your sales team.

Here’s a real-life example.

Platform: Website

Tool: Online Member Area

Specifics: In order to access e-tools, users are required to register their names, emails, locations and company names. They also have the option to give specific application or industry information.

Result: Company has database of more than 20,000 members, broken down by sign-up date, location and whether or not theses members are current or prospective customers.

For this particular real-world example, the company is a part of a multinational corporation and offers complex e-tools and services targeted at engineers.

Now ask yourself: if this situation existed in your company, how would you go about converting these leads?  Sure, you could set up some sort of automated system where anyone who signed up would receive an email and a kind of ‘we are aware of your interest’ letter.

But what if these leads require immediate action? Do your sales engineers have the resources and time to make that happen? More honestly, do they even care about these leads? Let’s be blunt. A lot of sales engineers are territory-driven, so they don’t want to spend their already stretched-thin time focusing on leads that won’t affect them.

Here’s how Connects can help:

Your new members are downloaded and contacted via phone within 24 hours of registration. Through a well-thought-out conversation based on a pre-determined set of questions, your inbound web leads are qualified (either in OR out) and turned into hot, actionable sales leads ready to be handed off to a sales engineer.

The bottom line: Big Data can almost be overwhelming, but to not have a system in place to take advantage of it is almost a criminal waste of marketing dollars.

 

 

A Mentor Trumps a Boss. Always.

I usually blog about topics relevant to growing your business; this week is no different, but we’re going to take a look at how the boss/employee relationship can make your productivity soar.

A wise woman once told me that you should only hire someone whom you could see eventually being your replacement. At the time I thought she was crazy. I was still in college, working as a co-op and as green as they come to the corporate world.

“Why would you do that?” I thought to myself. “Wouldn’t you always be worried that this person would, in fact, eventually replace you?!”

What a poor attitude, right? More like, what an inner admission of poor self esteem.

I was fortunate enough to be hired by and continue working for this woman for several years, she as a direct supervisor and then a member of senior management. To this day, I will tell you that I learned more from her than I did in all my years of college. Sure, my professors taught me how to write effectively, but she taught me how to engage effectively with others and how to be a part of a team- a team of people from different countries and cultures, and how to do so with confidence. At times I would become discouraged that I didn’t have the business acumen that comes with years of experience, but she would always say to me, “You have to forgive yourself your learning curve. You’ll get there.”

She was my mentor.

I was reading a great blog on mentoring from the Harvard Business Review titled “How GE Gives Leaders Time to Mentor and Reflect.”

Here’s an excerpt:

Launched in 2010, the Leader in Residence program is emblematic of a broader shift from prescriptive to collaborative learning taking place at Crotonville and elsewhere. In a complex environment, learning comes from a combination of discovery, dialogue, experience, reflection, and application. At Crotonville, we bring people from all over the world and from different businesses and contexts. We have to create the opportunity for each person to teach and learn, simultaneously, enhancing everyone’s perspective. David, like other leaders, uses this as a listening post — a venue to capture what’s happening around the company and the world in an encapsulated way…with Crotonville providing the opportunity to listen, test, validate, and absorb on the one hand, and to share, push, elaborate, and support the students on the other.

In all, the program has enabled some 75 of our top leaders and thousands of participants to connect on a human level and to reflect on work, self, and career in a way that would never be possible in either a traditional classroom or office setting. By giving leaders access to deeper levels across the organization, and, in turn, providing participants access to senior leadership, we have created greater cohesiveness throughout the company. We have never had a problem filling out classes even during the most trying of times. Based on the success of the program, as measured through participant surveys and feedback, we recently launched a global version (74% of Crotonville experiences are delivered outside the United States currently).

I sincerely believe that mentors are a must-have for every employee, especially those new to the workforce. Just think how much more effective your organization could be if each and every person felt lifted-up, valued and essential? Is this true for your organization today?

If you don’t want to take my word for it, here’s Sir Richard Branson’s take on why mentoring is needed:

Mentoring was very important for me personally. For example, Sir Freddie Laker gave me invaluable advice and guidance as we set up Virgin Atlantic, while my mum has been a mentor throughout my life. Nowadays, I find mentors inside and outside of Virgin every day. If you ask any successful businessperson, they will always have had a great mentor at some point along the road. If you want success then it takes hard work, hard work and more hard work. But it also takes a little help along the way. If you are determined and enthusiastic then people will support you.

At let’s not forget that you’re never too old to learn. That’s right, more and more companies are beginning the process of what is called reverse mentoring.

Picture it, Sicily 1930. (If that made you giggle, then I know you’re a part of my generation.) But seriously, picture it: the older men and women who’ve been with your company for decades. They are revered. They are respected. They are terrified of social media. That’s where reverse mentoring comes in!

From “Reverse mentoring: students teach executives about social media, tech and more” via the Miami Herald:

The wave of 20-somethings heading into the working world know how to amass Twitter followers. They know how to text-message with their eyes closed. And they know how to digitally connect with influencers who can send business their way. Now, older workers must look to them to teach us how to be innovative.

In a trend called reverse mentoring, companies are pairing grizzled veterans with young up-and-comers. The arrangement works to retain eager millennials and keep older executives technologically and socially relevant. It’s going on at big companies including Cisco, Johnson & Johnson and Mars Inc., where formal programs are in place. It also has taken off at small companies, where informal reverse mentor relationships are born from mutual respect and candor.

Reverse mentoring is gaining traction for all the right reasons, says Terri Scandura, a professor of management at the University of Miami School of Business Administration. Even baby boomers who might bristle at the idea of being mentored realize the value in learning what motivates Gen Y and how to market to them, she says.

Last week, Citibank became one of those one of those businesses to tap into the digital wisdom of the younger generation. It launched a program that will pair 15 senior executives from the bank’s Latin America regional office with 15 graduate and undergraduate University of Miami business students. The duos will meet at least once a week for six months to work on specific projects that will take a fresh look at mobile payments, communicating with millennial generation customers, social media, the digital retail business and creating compelling job pitches for young talent.

“Our senior executives need to clearly understand trends and what motivates the new set of young professionals,” says Jorge Ruiz, who is based in Miami and is the head of digital banking for Citibank’s Latin America office. “They are not just our future clients but also our next leaders.”

The bottom line: No matter what your age, a mentor can be just the thing you need to push you in the right direction. These relationships only stand to improve your organization’s workforce and productivity.

Four Rules of Effective B2B Emails

About how many unsolicited emails do you receive per day at work? How many of these do you actually open? If you’re like most of us in the B2B marketplace, the former is north of five and the latter is probably zero. To be completely honest, the ones that make it past my spam filter are usually relegated to the trash folder as quickly as they appear.

But what about the flip side to that equation? Almost all B2B companies use email as a part of their marketing and lead generation campaigns. If we’ve already established that most unsolicited emails go directly into a big digital black hole, what does that say about the emails that YOU are sending? More to the point, how do you avoid the abyss?

Here are some of our most tried and true methods for ensuring effective emails:

1.  Always call first.

If you’re a follower of our blog, you know that here at Connects Marketing Group, we are all about personal connections. As such, we don’t buy into the current marketing automation trend- meaning we are not advocates of pumping out emails to prospects we haven’t reached out to by phone first.

A personal connection trumps a cold email every time. But if you’ve not been able to get through to a prospect on the phone, and you’ve left an introductory voice mail (with maybe one or two follow-ups), then an email is perfectly acceptable. In fact, a kick-ass follow-up email should ALWAYS be sent after a voice mail.

So, AFTER you’ve tried to reach out and actually speak to a prospect, and you’ve left no more than three voice mails, onwards to the perfect email…

2.  Read the subject line you just wrote. Would YOU open this email?

There are oodles and oodles of blog posts, articles and other things out there that tell you how to write compelling B2B subject lines. But your litmus test should be simple- would YOU open this email?

If you know your target market, and you’ve done your homework on your prospect, then you should know what’s more important to them. Is it price? Quality? Production Time? Something else?  Whatever it is, focus on it.

Let’s say your target works for a large OEM that manufactures food and beverage equipment. And just for kicks, let’s say your company manufactures hoses for this equipment. Which one of these two email subject lines would be more effective:

Get the Best Prices and Highest Quality from XYZ Company’s Line of Hoses

or

Our Hose is First to Obtain 3-A and FDA XYZ Approval for Dairy Processing

3.   No bad jargon! I repeat: No. Bad. Jargon.

Nothing makes me cringe more than bad business jargon. This blog post from DigitalRelevance is one of the best things I’ve read on the topic in a long time. Have a look at an excerpt here:

Exclusionary jargon is the “bad” jargon. Rarely does it impart more useful information than simpler, plainer speech. Instead, it transmits a message about the speaker: I am a business professional. It’s an easy way to establish one’s qualifications — even for the unqualified.

  •  It has become improper to say, “Let me ask my manager.” Instead, a customer’s problem is escalated. Really, though, this is just passing the buck.
  • That old software that really ought to be replaced with something better isn’t antiquated, outdated or obsolete, it’s legacy software
  • A business isn’t trying to sell you a product, it’s offering a solution.
  • Instead of having a product to sell for a particular price, companies have deliverables with a price point.
  • Those deliverables aren’t categorized, ordered or sorted, they’re bucketed.
  • Employees come away from meetings not with tasks or even a “to-do list,” but with action items.

Inclusive jargon is the “good” jargon, a business shorthand that encompasses complex ideas and multi-step actions. It’s inclusive because it binds people of the group together to discuss complicated issues. Inclusive jargon is difficult to fake because, given any industry discussion, it will soon become clear if someone really doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

  • sales funnel is a useful bit of metaphor that encompasses the entire complex array of consumers, from the general public to business leads to prospects to customers, each of which involves a different type of interaction.
  • Organic traffic—something we’re quite concerned with at DigitalRelevance—might sound like something from science fiction, but it’s a useful term in the SEO industry that describes website traffic that is earned without spending money on advertisements. That traffic comes from a lot of places: search engine results pages, blog links, social media referrals and more.

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Bad jargon can make any well-intentioned email come across as canned and insincere. Just don’t use it. Period.

4.   Lay out what happens next.

Always end an email by clearly stating what happens next. (Notice how I didn’t say call to action?)

Here’s a great example:

Please let me know if you would like to speak with Joe Smith, our Director of Engineering.  He can explain how our solution is helping Big Hospital and other hospitals and discuss if it would be a good fit for you. In the meantime, please visit our website or join us for an informative webinar:  Title:  Subtitle, on January 17th at 10:00 am .

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Sincerely,

Your Name

And another:

Here is a great link to an interview with our founder that explains the service our company provides: Link

I’ll give you a call later this week to discuss setting up a demo of our network.

Regards,

Your Name

The bottom line: Emails are one of the most powerful tools you have to reach potential customers. When done well, they can be the key you need to open doors you never thought possible.

 

Lead Generation: Strength or Weakness?

61% of B2B marketers say that generating high-quality leads is their biggest challenge. (Source: B2B Lead Generation Marketing Trends Survey 2013)

I hear it all the time. Year-in and year-out, in trade article after trade article, B2B marketers lament that their biggest hurdles are generating high-quality leads. Lead generation is the biggest weakness in their otherwise successful marketing efforts. So why not put everything you’ve ever been told about B2B lead generation out of your head and try something new this year? Read on to find out how you can turn lead generation into your biggest strength.

First Things First

The most important aspect of a B2B company’s marketing program, especially in today‘s digital marketplace, is the people delivering the message. The human component is an unquantifiable element of greatest priority because it is in the chemistry between those delivering a company’s message and the potential customers where the relationships are developed- or lost. Because real people make business decisions on the customer end, every point of contact you have with them makes or breaks the potential connections you stand to create.

While more and more purchasing decisions are in fact being made online, your customers and prospects should have a real-live person, face-to-face or over the phone, to discuss their particular needs. This is especially true in most B2B scenarios, where complex engineering or technical situations are critical.

For instance, an engineer designing an aircraft engine isn’t going to spec in your part simply because he interacts with your company online. He should have a good feel (read: brand awareness) for your company, and hopefully have been given all of the technical information he may have needed, but at the end of the day, he‘s going to want to speak with an actual person, probably R&D and sales, to get to the meat of his product needs. The same is true for a vast array of highly technical, engineering-based industries.

Do you have the dedicated sales staff at your disposal to accomplish this? Do they have the time to cultivate and nurture each prospect or existing customer in their territory? Or are your salespeople bogged down with too many other things?

But I Don’t Need All That; I Have Inbound Marketing!

Inbound marketing is the process of creating quality online content that draws your target audience to your company, where you can convert them to loyal customers over time.

Inbound marketing is definitely where it‘s at. It outperforms outbound in most categories. But alas, there is no such thing as free marketing.

So many marketers get swept up into the social media and content creation wave, thinking they‘ve found the golden ticket- the loophole that will allow them to market like the big boys, but on a shoestring budget. Companies should be completely honest with themselves about the true costs of these activities.

In considering inbound marketing, there are two aspects that warrant special attention: the cost of content creation and actual online traffic numbers.

Companies today are expending huge amounts of energy creating content and marketing in the digital space. We believe that digital media is very passive. The content is great, but really puts the onus on your customers and prospects to find the information that is most valuable to them.

But, at the end of the day, your prospects and customers, especially in the B2B arena, want to talk to a PERSON; their projects are too important and often too complicated to base their product decisions on daily emails or a great website, no matter how functional.

Build Your Lead Generation Machine

B2B industries are generally more technical and more in-depth than those in the B2C space. We believe that if you can figure out in a B2B world how to give someone a B2C experience, you will own your marketplace. It is our job at Connects Marketing Group to help you achieve this goal.

The heart of what we do is B2B lead generation. We keep your pipeline filled with highly qualified leads so your sales people can spend their time closing deals. Our team has the ability to understand your business and complex technology and then take the right action to ensure your sales success.

We begin by:

  • Engaging the right point of contact within the targeted company
  • Having a candid dialogue that supports future communication
  • Identifying true opportunities for your sales team
  • Determining the logical next steps for your sales team
  • Establishing a firm foundation for a long-term business relationship

Typical types of lead generation campaigns might include:

  • New customer creation
  • Email or direct mail campaign follow-up
  • Territory expansion
  • Web-based inquiries
  • Trade show registrations or inquiries
  • Webinar registration or follow-up
  • New product launches

We believe B2B lead generation should be about the Three C’s: Contact, Communication and Connections. They are the foundation of our success. They matter. We do them right, each and every time.

So why keep on doing the same thing, rehashing the same marketing tactics, with the same results? Why not let Connects help you increase the number of quality leads you hand off to your sales team exponentially?  In the same way you wouldn’t make a purchase on Amazon without checking the reviews, have a listen to what some of our clients had to say about us.

“Connects Marketing Group has exceeded my expectations. The quality of their employees is unparalleled. They have learned our business and pivot quickly offering us valuable feedback from our customers and prospects. The effectiveness of our campaigns came from Connects taking the initiative to learn our industry, when we did not have the time to train them. They are an integral part of our sales process. I highly recommend them.”

Roger Parks, VP Business Development & Co-Founder, doxo, Inc.

“CMG as a partner is tenacious and always deliver what they promise. They can take a complex concept or sale, break it down methodically, and have a targeted message to share with the prospective customer while speaking the party line of our company. Working with CMG gives us the ability to turn up or dial down activity in a program offering without additional sales and marketing costs being incurred. We‘ve utilized them for lead generation and are pleased they offer so many additional relevant B2B Business Development services. We see them as an extension our on-staff sales teams.

CMG‘s greatest strength is their smart and highly engaged people and how quickly they get a sales management program launched. It takes a special breed of people to pick up the phone and clearly communicate the marketing message. If you are going to spend money on a tradeshow, you have to take advantage of the leads and do the follow up. The best way to get ROI of any tradeshow is to utilize Connects. Within a day or two they will literally touch every lead received from a tradeshow. CMG leaves no stone unturned and that is key in turning prospects into customers efficiently and quickly.”

Jeff Heier, Security Solutions Strategist, CA Technologies

The Bottom Line: Generating quality sales leads doesn’t have to be your biggest weakness. Let Connects make it your biggest strength.