A Call To Action (For Fleet Providers): ‘Earning’ A Great Reputation Through Promotion and Education Reply

Published in Fleet Management Weekly, August 4, 2014 – http://fleetmanagementweekly.com

W. Edward Pierce, Principal, It’s The Arts

Before leaving last month’s topic of “earned” media (marketing communications your company pays to deliver in media that reach your prospects and customers), here are a few considerations that I promised to address in greater detail:

First, let’s talk about form and style of promotional messages by specific media tactics beyond advertising, which I spoke about last month.
As I did last month, I am borrowing concepts from some of our industry’s best salespeople, but establishing an effective relationship with a prospect or customer –especially in a B2B market — is adaptive. A great salesperson can shift easily from one type of sales approach to another based on the environment (exhibit floor, customer’s office, home office visit) and on-the-spot customer feedback.

Likewise, effective marketing communications must adapt to the situation. Last month, I noted that an effective ad provides a snapshot of product value in terms that are important to the fleet manager. But an ad can only promise value, it cannot provide enough substantiation to close a sale (again, in B2B markets). Direct marketing and trade shows also constrain the message.

Answer The Questions That Fleet Managers Want To Know
Enter public relations and, in this digital age, native advertising. They are the perfect opportunities for companies to explain the value proposition of their latest product or service in detail. These are the marketing tactics that build on the ad, exhibit hall display or the direct mail piece.
Why does this new telematics product bring greater value to the fleet manager? What are the applications for the product? What is significant about the technology? What other companies are using it? How much have they saved? What is the ROI and how does that compare to other alternatives?
Answer the questions that fleet managers want to know. Give them the ammunition they need to to sell up their organizations.

The objective of these types of communications – case studies, white papers, how-to articles, sponsor-funded articles or video, is to provide proof that is meaningful for each targeted market segment! In other words, a case study on a telecommunication company’s work truck fleet won’t mean much to the pharma company with a sales fleet. Focus your messages!

The Benefits of Education Rather than Promotion
In addition to product value, fleet managers finally decide on a purchase based on the company behind the product or service. Do they know your company by name? Do they know others who are satisfied with your services? Are you recognized in the industry for pertinent strengths? Have they read anything in the fleet press or trade association material to help them better understand a fleet problem, solution and alternative solutions? If so, the company name, or brand, can help close the sale.

Although marketing is seemingly all about promotion, it is about effective communications. In some situations, education – informative, objective articles – is the best approach to improving the company name. Here are fleet specific opportunities to educate and make your company look like a thought leader: NAFA I&E curriculum or CAFM program guide involvement or chapter speaking opportunities, NTEA resource contributions, AFLA white papers or Tech Notes.

The promotion may be limited to a byline or contributor acknowledgement, and there cannot be no overt product references, and there cannot be no overt product references. However, your next new customer may very well connect the lesson you offered when he or she makes the decision to buy.

In the next column, we will delve into the expanded opportunities available to fleet providers in the world of “owned” media. Just send an email to EdPierce@ItsTheArts.com. If you have a specific marketing issue or question, call me at 610–585-0801.

A Call To Action (for Fleet Providers) Reply

Published in Fleet Management Weekly, June 2, 2014 – http://www.fleetmanagementweekly.com

W. Edward Pierce, Principal, It’s The Arts Marketing

(This is the first Fleet Management Weekly-exclusive column written by branding and marketing authority Ed Pierce expressly for product and service providers who want to connect and influence fleet decision-makers.)

Having just eclipsed 21 years of fleet industry marketing and 40 years in marketing, I can confidently say this is the most exciting time to market your company, products and services to fleet decision-makers. As fast as technology is changing the fleet products and services you are promoting, it is changing the media that you use to promote them.

Twenty years ago, Marketing supported sales by creating awareness. No sales rep wanted to make a cold call or go to a meeting and hear, “Who is (name of company)?” Today, studies show that about 71 percent of enterprise purchase decisions in the U.S. begin with research conducted online. More so, business buyers do not contact suppliers directly until 57 percent of the purchase process is complete.

Obviously, awareness is now just the first of several critical marketing goals. In this age of the well-informed buyer, earning a great reputation, creating a differentiated position, providing quantifiable value, building a strong base of customer “advocates,” and delivering those messages effectively through multiple channels are your other important marketing goals.

Multiple Channels
Not that long ago, there was just one media channel, that was, “earned”. Companies either paid (advertising) for access or earned editorial coverage based on newsworthiness (public relations). Yes, you could disseminate a customer newsletter, but distribution was limited to customers and possibly a prospect list.

In today’s digital world, “earned” media has expanded to include banner advertising, Google Ads (AdWords), native advertising and more. Fleet Management Weekly was one of the digital media pioneers in any industry, and it is still a great example of how “earned” media must be an important part of your marketing mix. But the web has ushered in a second media channel, that is, “owned.” The “owned” channel includes your own corporate website, microsites, landing pages, video, blogs, social media presence, back links, and content marketing The “owned” channel provides completely new opportunities to effectively reach fleet decision-makers.

In the next column, we’ll take a look at trends and opportunities related to the “earned” media channel as they pertain to the fleet industry. I welcome feedback, questions, suggestions, experiences and differing points of view from fleet product and service providers as well as from fleet managers, corporate buyers, consultants, trade association and media representatives who want to help build better connections. Just send an email to EdPierce@ItsTheArts.com.

Shedding Light on Prismatic Marketing for Black-and-White Executives Reply

W. Edward Pierce, Principal, It’s The Arts Marketing

ImageIt isn’t surprising to any Chief Marketing Officer who might deal with a CEO or CFO as a peer, but most executives are focused on the black, as in the profits, the bottom line.  Yes, they can distinguish red, like a bull sees red.  Little wonder then that marketing people who report up through an organization seldom understand the lack of interest, and sometimes, the distain for marketing plans, rationales, and experts.

Marketers live in a world of refraction and diffraction. Prismatic marketing reflects the complex nature of the calling. Straight lines seldom go anywhere. Target markets aren’t homogeneous.  Marketing channels are as varied as a fluvial landforms, and as hard to navigate.  User needs are as complicated as the topic of persuasion psychology.

However, since good marketers always consider persuasion psychology in their work, they should remember to employ those techniques in dealing with C-level executives.  What are their prime motivations?  Know the company’s strategic plan.  What do they hope to gain?  Power. Prestige. Profits. What do they want to reduce?  Costs. Waste. What do they want to be?  Recognized.  Authoritative. Respected.  What do they want to do?  Win!

After having climbed up with corporate ladder for many years or fought to start a successful business, a savvy executive is nothing if not focused.  In order to be persuasive, a successful marketer will “un-refract” the rainbow hues of marketing strategies and messages.  An argument must shed light on the black.

Colors may abound, but how does the plan deliver more sales and more profits?  How does marketing increase share value?  And, how much?  Why is native advertising more efficient than print?  How will the recommended marketing support the strategic plan?

For us, marketing is a never-ending source of excitement, lessons and conversation.  The colors reflect the possibilities.  For an executive trying to lead a business, marketing is overhead.  There’s your starting point for that next pitch!