On Monday, it was announced that Halliburton will buy Baker Hughes for $34.6 billion in a cash and stock transaction. This marks one of the biggest oilfield services mergers ever. You may be thinking to yourself, “Now what? How can my company compete with this industry giant?”
Some small firms compete in markets against major multi-national firms and face the daunting challenge of having to develop strategies to build and maintain a competitive advantage. They are Davids taking on Goliath.
However, in our experience, it is possible for smaller companies to market themselves like the industry giants and increase revenues all the same. All it takes is a well thought out strategy, industry leading tools, and best practices to create a competitive advantage in your industry, whether that is manufacturing, oilfield rentals or seismic software.
Identifying your company’s strategic competencies that differentiate you from the competition is very important. An advantage of smaller companies is a more personalized service and less overhead for corporate policy. Clients tend to appreciate this characteristic in smaller companies.
We also find many companies in the industrial sector are transitioning faster to the online world and realizing the future is moving away from traditional marketing like advertising at golf tournaments. Acknowledging the need for your company to go online and finding external resources to help with the transition is also important.
We have compiled a few tips and advice to help you compete with giants and win.
- As we all know, industry giants take time to implement any kind of change. As a smaller company you have the advantage of acting faster.
- You can also use this principle with your blog and case studies. Blogging makes your company a thought leader in a particular application or technology. Also, targeted case studies in a geography or special situation are a great way to show your expertise in the industry.
- State your differences as positives. Point out the clear differences between your offerings by presenting them on your website and make sure it is obvious why potential customers should choose you.
- Finally, the last competitive advantage your company should emphasize is your credibility. A professional website and branding does not cost that much and can be worth it’s weight in gold in making you look like you are as good as the giants, but better because you specialize. Also, any certifications and awards you have won or were nominated for will really push your credibility and give you an edge over the competition.
Overall, we have a lot of experience in the industrial sector, we know smaller companies can compete head to head with industry giants if they have the right tools and leverage their competitive advantages, especially online where YOU can be found.
Many of our industrial clients and prospects come to us asking about email marketing. They heard about it at a conference or a colleague was explaining how it helped generate sales. ActiveConversion has recently released a new marketing tool to allow companies to send and track email marketing campaigns.
Our software allows you to send email and track visitors that open and click your link. But what differentiates us from other software is that you can also track where else visitors go on your site and identify potential products and services they are interested in. This will allow you to identify leads and generate sales in the long run.
The main reason why companies don’t use email marketing is because they think the process is complicated or they don’t have the time. ActiveConversion was created with our users in mind and is extremely user friendly and easy to use. Below is a ‘how to guide’ to creating an email campaign.
Step 1: Identify Potential Recipients
Current customers could be thinking of other products or services they need, but haven’t had the time to call you. By nurturing existing clients by creating regular points of contact and sending useful information, they will keep your company top of mind and, in the end, buy from your company.
You may have attended a tradeshow recently and have a whole stack of business cards on your desk. Email campaigns are a great way to educate potential leads and to start a relationship with them, hopefully ending in a sale.
Step 2: Organize Your List
ActiveConversion allows you to upload multiple lists from a CSV file, anytime you want. This will allow you to segment your master list into smaller more manageable ones. You can then customize content to send certain groups, allowing you to send relevant information and make it feel more personable.
Step 3: Build Your Email
Build professional looking emails quickly and without any IT experience using ActiveConversion’s email editor. Either choose one of our customized industrial templates or use HTML code to customize your own. We have made it easy for you to create an email by easily inserting images such as headers or logos, and changing the font or colour scheme to match your brand.
Step 4: Email Testing
Before sending out any type of correspondence, you should always perform quality tests. This will allow you to see exactly what the email will look like in your mailing lists inboxes. ActiveConversion allows users to preview the email right on the email creation screen, and send out test emails beforehand.
Step 5: Schedule Your Email
ActiveConversion allows users to either send the email campaign right away, save as a draft or pick a time and date in the future to send automatically. This allows you to create emails ahead of time and send them at any time of day.
Step 6: Tracking
You need to analyze and track every marketing effort you try. You will know for the future what works and what doesn’t. ActiveConversion allows you to see how many people open the email, how many click your link and where else they are going on your website.
Step 7: Follow Up on Leads
Once you have tracked the email campaign, you can start following up on leads that have opened the email. ActiveConversion allows you to see every page a visitor looks at and where they came from, whether it is Google or an email campaign. This allows you to identify which products or services they are interested in and is a great conversation starter for when you contact them.
The trick for email marketers these days is threefold: to avoid being categorized as spam, to get read, and to inspire action. Admittedly, hitting all of these targets sounds a bit daunting, but take heart: because of their relative low cost, online marketing generally has a better return on investment than traditional marketing techniques, and email in particular consistently provides one of the highest ROI among online tools. So it is possible to engage in successful email marketing. Let’s talk about how.
First up, your contact list. Specifically, how to grow your list organically:
Grow Your List:
- For the love of all that’s good, stop buying mailing lists. These are not targeted contacts. Sure, they might fit some general demographics, but they aren’t necessarily anyone who’s ever heard of you or has any interest in your services. It’s likely you’ll be flagged as spam; if this happens enough, you could be blacklisted. Instead…
- Leverage existing contacts. Encourage forwarding and sharing. Include social media sharing, email, and subscribe buttons in your emails.
- Present calls-to-action on your website. If you’re offering valuable content (whitepapers, guides, e-books, etc.), put this content behind a registration form on your website. If a visitor wants to access certain content, they’ll have to provide a valid email address. The downside: this might turn some visitors away. The upside: the ones who do provide an address will likely be very interested in your content and, by extension, your industry and services.
- Collect addresses through events and partnerships. Whether online (like a webinar) or offline (like a tradeshow or conference), give everyone you network with an opportunity to join your mailing list. Do the same for partnerships or shared projects. Be sure to follow up the event or joint venture with a personal email to solidify the effort and add legitimacy to future email outreach.
- Social Media. Share quality content and contacts will follow.
Remember to keep your registration process simple. Don’t ask for more than three pieces of personal information (such as name, company, industry, website, or location). Be sure to ask for the information that you can best leverage to nurture leads.
As you grow your list and get engaged, here are some best practices for solid results.
- Set goals. These can be relatively soft (offer industry-relevant content to educate readers and grow reputation); or more quantifiable (increase website click-through rate by X%, grow email list by X subscribers, lower unsubscribes by X%). It is best, when possible, to set goals with specific numbers. This will provide clarity and make it easier to quantify your successes.
- Don’t give a sales pitch. Let your content do the talking for you. If it’s relevant and high quality, it will sell you without the risk of a hard pitch pushing the reader away.
- Set a schedule. There’s no single right frequency. It will depend on your content and audience. Just make sure you’re predictable and dependable. If someone signs up for a weekly newsletter, make sure you’re sending a weekly newsletter.
- Find the right topics. Your content should be relevant to your mailing list and be consistent with your brand messaging. Topics should consist of:
o Announcements. Let your audience know about new content (e-books, whitepapers, etc.) and upcoming events (webinars, conferences, speaking engagements, etc.)
o News. Something big going on in your industry or your firm? Keep your audience in the loop; you never know when one of these developments is in line with their needs or interests.
o Hard offers. When the time is right, offer your audience the opportunity to engage with you more closely—not a hard sell, but something like a free consultation or review.
- Calls to action. In other words, give the reader something to do or a deeper way to engage with you. These can be fairly distant early in the marketing process, like giving the reader a link to a new blog post. Deeper engagement-level calls to action include participation in webinars or consultations. Here are a few best practices to ensure your calls to action are effective but non-intrusive:
o Limit one call to action per email.
o Repeat it. Present it twice, possibly three times in longer emails.
o If there’s a deadline, point it out. Create a sense of urgency.
Remember, the more your potential customers know about you, the more likely they are to trust you—and to understand the ways you can meet their needs. Grow your list organically and keep your content relevant and high quality. Your emails will become a valued and actionable contribution to your audience’s inbox—as well as a way of building relationships and growing new business.
About the Author:
Sylvia Montgomery is a Senior Partner at Hinge, a marketing and branding firm for professional services. At Hinge, Sylvia provides strategic counsel to national clients. She is a co-author of Inside the Buyer’s Brain and Online Marketing for Professional Services. You can follow Sylvia on Twitter @BrandStrong.
Many B2B companies operating in the industrial realm have longer and more drawn-out sales cycles. So, how do you know when a lead is ready to buy? Our Sales Pipeline infographic shows you exactly how you can use marketing automation to turn website visitors into customers.
Follow step-by-step down the pipeline to see how you can find out where leads came from and when they’re sales-ready. Automating the process allows you to focus on what’s most important – generating sales!
How many times have we heard of the love/hate relationship between Marketing and Sales? The two entities can sometimes take on an “it’s complicated” relationship status instead of a harmonious one. We’ve all seen the stats saying the number one reason couples fight is due to money and finances. This could be said about Sales and Marketing.
Sales can be yelling to Marketing about generating terrible leads and spending money frivolously. In return, Marketing is yelling back at Sales to get off the computer and start working on closing leads.
So how do we patch up this train-wreck waiting to happen? Let’s start by identifying what makes this relationship complicated in the first place.