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There’s a song from the musical/movie Evita that starts “And the money kept rolling in from every side.” Well, it hasn’t exactly been money, but the awards and honors? They seem to keep on coming for us here at VantagePoint, and for that we’re very, very grateful.

We were recently honored to learn that BtoB magazine, the journal for business-to-business marketers and agencies, named VantagePoint to their national Top Agencies list for the third time. Criteria for selection included b-to-b client percentage, new clients, innovative work, and service capabilities.  What makes the honor that much more exciting to us is that we were one of only four marketing agencies in both North and South Carolina to be named to the list.

And just this week, we learned that we’ve won at least one award from the South Carolina chapter of the Public Relations Society of America. (We’ll get the final results later in April.) Add in the Addy award we won a few weeks ago and last fall’s 31 BMA Carolinas awards, including Agency of the Year, and it’s been a good season for us.

We’re truly grateful for our clients that let us do outstanding work, and equally as grateful when that outstanding work leads to great results for our clients.

When I reflect on the time between my teenage years and now, I realize that I’ve used at least a dozen different tools to communicate with others – house phone, pager, snail mail, e-mail, chat room, instant messaging, cell phone, texting, tweeting, facebooking, video sharing, and blogging. While some of these tools have phased out, others are beginning to emerge and grow.

As on a personal level, there are several ways to communicate professionally. It is important to remember, however, that whichever method of communication is selected, your message must be clear and easy to understand. None of these tools are effective if you cannot convey your message correctly. Read the rest of this entry »

Allow me to climb on a soapbox for just a minute. Here’s my beef: the people you market to? They’re just that — people. They communicate all day long in people words, words like “take out the trash” and “what time is dinner” and “hey, stay in your lane.” But for some reason, when it’s time to communicate a principle in business, we find it necessary to use some other language, language like:

“The foundation of Website conversion optimization is content that maps to your prospects’ needs in key buying cycle stages.”

Huh?

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You probably know who your top competitors are, but do you really know what they are up to? Keeping an eye on the businesses that compete with yours is key to winning.

Think about professional sports. You would never show up for a game/match without researching and knowing your competition first. For example, you know their record and who the strongest players are on the team. You also know their strongest skills and any weaknesses. Applying the same principles to B-to-B marketing can be an advantage, too.

Think about the following:

What is their record? In the business world, this would be a company’s success or performance. Have you looked at their financial reports and other key indicators, like number of clients or customers? What percentage of the market do they hold? Find out what your competition is doing to promote its brand and engage with its audiences.

What kind of equipment are they using? Which tools in the toolbox are they using? Are they utilizing channel programs to support sales? Are they engaged in communities through social media? This may surprise you, but Twitter and Facebook are no longer just for teens and B-to-C marketing. Don’t forget to check out their websites from time to time. Stay informed on any blogs, news feeds, or other updates they are making.

Here’s a hint: subscribe to the competitors’ RSS feeds and set up Google Alerts. These tools will do the heavy lifting for you.

Where are they playing? Research the web and trade publications to see the coverage they are getting. Is it positive or negative publicity? What type of advertising are they doing? Try to find out if these efforts are effective. Don’t forget to take note of where they are not appearing, as it may be an opportunity for you.

What’s their advantage? Are they offering something unique in the industry? Do they have a product or service that is a new concept? Could this be an opportunity that you are missing? If so, take note and act appropriately.

Taking a close look at your competitors can be a way to generate new marketing, PR, and sales ideas or programs. If you don’t, you may just end up playing on the losing team.

The One-Two Punch of Customer Relationships

Are your current business relationships strong enough to survive this new economic environment? Will a competitor be able to get some business by offering an incentive or discount? Do your marketing and sales people understand how to cultivate relationships to prevent this? This is an ideal time to analyze relationships to see how “competitive proof ” they really are.

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I have to focus hard not to roll my eyes when I hear for the umpteenth time about how customers buy holes not drills…

Even with this knowledge drilled into me for years as a development engineer and later as a product manager (thankfully no holes), it is still so easy to fall into the rut of defining products based on how the customer need is currently satisfied instead of focusing on the customer need. This narrow focus can limit you to incremental product improvements and blind you to substitute products.

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Day after day, B2B product manufacturing companies discuss the best way to increase their top line sales and improve their brand penetration. Often the discussion ends around the product improvement, a new business blitz, or on how they can move into new market segments to attract new customers. As the old proverb goes: the first place to look is at your current birds or customers.

Let’s look at increasing customer equity as a tool to enhance sales. In plain terms, customer equity is the sum of the lifetime value of the customer. An existing customer is much more valuable than a new customer; in fact, it costs four to seven times more to replace a current customer than to keep one. It is also very typical that a customer that is exceedingly satisfied with your product and their customer experience will promote you and your brand to his peers and contemporaries tenfold. Yes, a Bird in the hand is worth 2 in the Bush.

Okay, so your loyal customers are more valuable, they favor your company and product, they will pay a premium, they are much less receptive to competitive advances, and they often forgive your mistakes more quickly. So why do we spend so much of the budget on customer acquisition and practically nothing on retention? There certainly must be some way to enhance customer equity. Tune in later; we will talk about that another time.

The Associated Press Stylebook is considered to be The Bible of the newspaper industry. It even says so on the cover of the copy I have sitting on my desk. There are not many occasions that I do not pick it up to check the correctness of my writing. With hundreds of pages of entries on grammar, spelling, usage, and more, it is nearly impossible to remember them all. Here are a few of the entries that I find most useful:

As any good creative does, I’m constantly on the lookout for ideas and inspiration from others in the B2B space. True, there’s plenty of inspiration in the consumer space as well, but sometimes you just want to see what ideas another B2B marketer came up with while facing similar challenges.

Here are 5 of my favorite B2B creative marketing executions I’ve stumbled across recently. You can click on most of the images to see a larger version.
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About VantagePoint

VantagePoint's integrated approach to b-to-b marketing combines keen insight with bright ideas to strengthen your brand's market impact, no matter what the economy. Let us help you get a fresh perspective.

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