On March 3, 2017, I had the opportunity to speak at Dscoop Phoenix on the Main Stage of the Wonderlab. Thank you to everyone who attended. For those who couldn’t make it out, I’ve got the topic here, ready to go!

The key to developing sustainable, profitable, and consistent services is an offensive approach to developing new business. We all know the challenges and consolidation our industry has seen over the last couple of years. I don’t think it’s necessary to dive into it any further. As a practitioner, someone who sits in your seat in my businesses, my focus is on how to move forward. I want momentum. We can’t do anything to change what has happened and there is only so much cost-cutting you can do. As business leaders, we have all taken steps to right-size our business and find ways to create efficiency, but at the end of the day your only chance at success is developing new business. You’re not going to do it by being the low-cost provider.

So my goal is to share with you a framework we’ve used to 4x our business over the last six years. I will show you a framework that has been successful for us. I hope it inspires you and gives you some direction, so that you too can get on the offensive. 

But first, let me tell a story…

We had a large opportunity we were pursuing, and we had the client on the hook when it just stalled. We couldn’t figure out why; we had gotten through the pricing stage and our team had done a great job of countering and keeping us out of the low-cost provider conversation. It appeared everything was done but we just couldn’t get an agreement in place. Now I know the immediate reaction is to continue to follow up and check on the status of the decision. This was different. The CEO of this company was the second generation to lead the group and he was trying to move the business to the next phase by outsourcing all of their production needs to a partner. They had built a very strong niche service business and he was trying to get out of the production side that the business was originally built on. This was a human problem. He wanted to move the business forward but didn’t want to be the guy that screwed the pooch by not doing it the way they and, more importantly, his father had always done it…

Sound familiar?

Once we realized we were dealing with a human problem, not a business problem, I started to leverage what digital and social marketing tools we had to better understand the situation. I quickly learned that the CEO was a big college sports fan and had a specific school in Florida that he was a huge fan of. I quickly hopped onto Amazon, grabbed a couple branded items of that school, and had them overnighted. The next day we received a call and within an hour had a deal in place with jobs en route.

Why do you think that was? We didn’t buy the deal; I mean we are talking about $50 here on a million dollar direct mail contract. It’s simple. The fact that I would put the time into understanding him as a person gave him the confidence that I would be equally invested in his best interest, and that I would not let him fail trying to transition his business.

So what does this have to do with leveraging digital marketing techniques to grow your print business?

It’s time we focus on leveraging the same tools our clients leverage to make decisions on us to create efficiency in our sales funnel. It’s time to shift from an outbound to an inbound approach. I learned this the hard way. I mentioned earlier that we 4x’d our business over the last six years, but I didn’t mention that we did it while cutting our outside sales force down to me plus one. In the beginning, we were in the same conversations many of you have been in or may still be in: we had built an impressive operation and were attracting sales people. Everyone was coming to us with a book of business of ‘x’ and we were gobbling them up, even trying to develop our own new sales reps. The result? We drove our overhead faster than the associated revenue. We were stuck in a model where every step of growth had a very expensive cost we could not sustain.

Something had to change or we were going to be spiraling downwards faster than we could handle. We took a step back and asked ourselves “who are we providing the most value to and how do we attract those particular clients?” This is where we started to build out our idea of a ‘yes client’ and structuring a framework around it that would help us reduce overhead, cut out smaller jobs, and ultimately work with high dollar, high value clients.

So here is the framework we use. Now, I want to point out that this model can be applied to any business but each application is unique.

Framework

Yes Clients

This is the first distinction: your ‘yes clients.’ The first step in any strategy or framework is defining exactly who your target client is. This is the easiest step to skip but I will tell you right now that nothing else in this framework matters if you don’t dedicate time to this step. If you can’t tell me who your target client is in five points or less, you don’t have one. If you don’t have one, you don’t have a competitive advantage and most likely you are relying on price to develop new business. You cannot leverage the power of social and digital strategies if you don’t understand your target; you can’t mine the data at your fingertips if you can’t define what you are looking for.

We define ours as a:

  1. Mid-Market Business
  2. West-Coast Geographical Concentration
  3. Defined Set of Marketing Assets
  4. Multiple Locations Served
  5. Desire to Create Efficiency Through Marketing/Print Automation

While this is very important, it doesn’t have to be overly complicated. You are simply identifying those you bring the most value to so you can find more of them and grow sustainably.

I have an article about figuring this out which comes with a free worksheet to start the process.

Blog/Website

You probably already have this going for you, but this discussion is about what you’re doing with it. There’s a good chance you’re familiar with terms like content marketing and account based marketing. These are very simple concepts that we as marketers enjoy making sound overly complicated. I break these concepts down to two words: relevant and intimate. Content marketing is about delivering relevant content to your target client via media that is intimate to them. Market to them as though they want to be marketed to, not as you want to market to them (what I call the “Platinum Rule of Marketing”). In order to do this you need to take an account based marketing approach and deliver relevant, intimate content, not just to the account but to the individual stakeholders who can make and/or influence the decision to use your product or service.

The foundation for this framework is a strong website that is focused on the value you bring to your target client. You want to tell them why they want to use your products/services, and you do this by providing answers to the questions they are asking when making a purchasing decision. Remember this is less about you and more about them. Our industry is notorious for marketing the things we like about our business. It’s not about us; it’s about them. They are less concerned about your equipment set and more concerned about how you have helped other clients similar to them.

Social Accounts

Two things here:

  1. Your social strategy is very dependent on your business. There are some similarities between different types of businesses, but overall the strategy for an e-commerce business versus a commercial service provider are and should be very different.
  2. I won’t give you the typical “what you should post, how often you post” BS that most social marketing conversations cover. Your social accounts are an extension of your marketing strategy and should reflect that.

We focus on leveraging social 3 ways

  1. Research
  2. Distributing Content Efficiently
  3. Brand Development

You can see in our funnel how we rank the social accounts.

Twitter

We cast the largest net on Twitter. We really only use Twitter to distribute content efficiently and specifically by using relevant hashtags. The key here is focusing on using hashtags that your client would be searching or following. So instead of using hashtags associated with just print work, use ones that are related to the problems you are solving. For us, these are hashtags like #directmail, #marketingautomation, #marketing, as well as #print.

Instagram

We use a similar strategy for Instagram with the only real difference being its visual nature. This lends well to an industry that is so visually oriented. You can use it to feature your work, your plant, your team, and build an overall sense of brand image. You can establish pretty good engagement through the use of hashtags. It is rather difficult for distributing content outside of the images because it can be difficult to share links to outside applications.

However, you can do a lot of storytelling through imagery if you get creative. The image quote is a very powerful way to tell a story about your brand through imagery.

Here are a few ideas you can use with your Instagram posts:

  • Image quotes featuring staff
  • Image quotes featuring clients
  • Introduction of staff
  • Advertisements
  • Behind the scenes action

YouTube

Video is all the rage right now and there are two simple reasons why. It’s the most effective way to tell a story and make an impression because it engages more senses than any other media (other than print). And it’s cheaper and easier to create quality content and easily distribute it than it ever has been.

Ideas to consider:

  • Video tours
  • Interviews with staff
  • Interviews with clients
  • How-to Videos
  • Product Feature Videos

Facebook

How many of you have ever sold anything over Facebook? How many of you have anyone engage with your Facebook content other than employees, friends or family? This is the challenge with FB. Facebook very closely manages/influences what you see in your feed. Unless you go to the trouble of changing your news feed to “most recent,” you are probably fed a constant feed of ads that you engage or search with across all applications, including your messaging apps.

So why did I put it further down my funnel? Two reasons: research and paid advertising. It is the most popular platform by far. In terms of paid advertising, this is the best bang for your buck hands down. You can place targeted content in front of your exact buyer at very low cost. But my company is not B2C. We’re B2B, and companies aren’t making transactions for goods and services off of Facebook ads. Zero. People in key positions do, and odds are the people who are making and influencing the decision to use your goods and services are on Facebook. And the average American spends somewhere between 30 minutes to an hour a day on FB depending on the demographic. So if you could get your content or ad in front of a person with the title of ‘CMO’ or ‘VP of Marketing’ who has an interest in print and lives or works within 30 miles of your metropolitan area, would you be willing to throw a couple bucks at that campaign? Damn straight you would. But here’s the trick (and this is where the research comes in): You can’t just place that ad then sit and wait for the call, email or subscription to come in to make the sale. You need to watch the engagement: the likes, the comments, and the shares.

For example, one ad I put out on Facebook a couple years back targeting executives and administrators in the Arizona and California region. I had it run for four days and I monitored it during its up-time. It managed to land some engagement, and one of those likes happened to be the CMO of Behr Paint.

Unfortunately, we never made any business from it, but the point to take away here is that these ads work. I don’t ever want to hear anyone say you cannot sell B2B on social media or Facebook. In four days and with $100, I managed to find the CMO of a very large possible client and learn enough about them that I could really freak them out if I didn’t want their business.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn we use somewhat for recruiting and branding, but our primary focus is research. LinkedIn has many of the research capabilities that FB has on the targeting side which, when you combine the two together, becomes a very strong lead generation tool.

This is the first time we are going to take outbound action in this entire funnel. We utilize LinkedIn as the business research social platform once we’ve found leads via the above-mentioned platforms. This is where we go in, find out who holds what position in the company, what their company does, and figure out whether or not they fit into our ‘yes client’ mold. Once those have been defined, we bring them further down our funnel.

Predictable Revenue Model

Now it’s time to get on the offensive. Since we are building this database of people that meet the ‘yes client’ definition, we place them into our version of the Predictable Revenue Model. If you are interested in email marketing for lead generation, this is a must-read book and you can pick it up on Amazon for like $10. Go buy one for your entire team. It’s written by Aaron Ross and Marylou Tyler, and it tells the story of how Aaron Ross built Salesforce’s Enterprise Division to $100 million in recurring revenue without a single cold call.

The best part of this book is it’s a very easy read and he pretty much lays out the entire formula for you. This is the PRM portion of our funnel, or as we call it, “the machine.”

At this point we are making contact with someone we know a great deal about and feel can benefit from our organization’s services. Once we make contact, we have a history and a library of content focused on their need to validate our reaching out to them. Then they can immediately go to the internet to figure out who we are.

This is the new cold call. This is how you build a machine that  makes over 300 business development contacts a week with only 2 people.

H2H

This brings us to the final stage of our funnel and a quote from a man by the name of Bryan Kramer.

“There is no more B2B or B2C. It’s H2H: Human to Human.”

Throughout this entire process, our goal is to establish a human-to-human interaction with our leads. We want to reach out and connect with people on a very human level and show them that our organization cares about solving their business problems. This is why our ‘yes client’ model is so important. We understand who it is we can provide the most value to and then get out there to look for those very specific organizations. Once you find out who we should be connecting with, we draw them down our funnel in hopes of landing a conversation that ultimately leads to a long-lasting relationship. And the means of doing it is simple: be human.

Everything about our funnel, from the ‘yes client’ model to the philosophy of ‘marketing onto others as they want to be marketed to’ stems from this idea of H2H. We don’t just lay out our services to whoever the hell wants to pay us for them. No, we make sure that who we are connecting with can genuinely benefit from what we can provide for them and ultimately will stay with us through the long haul because we understand their needs so well.

All of this to help you understand how to stop playing the price game and start playing the value game. This is just our way of doing it, but you can take and adapt this framework to fit your organization’s model. The main takeaway from all of this is learning how to adapt digital marketing strategies to create connections with the right people and bring in the right business so that your company can play the game at a higher level.

If there is anything in this discussion that you’d like to know more about, feel free to reach out to me on any of my channels and I’d be happy to answer your questions. Thanks for reading!

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