ClearVerve Marketing, LLC

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Posts Tagged ‘Service marketing’

How do you get people to care?


Last week, I had the opportunity to listen to Rich Meeusen of Badger Meter speak at the Milwaukee Rotary Club. Listening to Rich speak is always an experience. He is funny, energetic, and at one point or another probably managed to offend nearly everyone in the audience!

At the end of the presentation, Rich was asked why homes are not built with the same water-saving technology that is used in vehicles such as boats and campers. Rich responded that he believes it is probably because consumers are not demanding it. This is partially because consumers are charged the cost of delivery for water, not for the value of the water. That’s why water in Milwaukee is more expensive than water in Phoenix. In Milwaukee, water is plentiful and should be inexpensive, but the cold winters mean that pipes break and our system requires more maintenance. In Phoenix, the pipes are newer and require little maintenance. People generally don’t value things that are inexpensive. If water has little monetary value, there is no reason to conserve it. If there is no reason to conserve it, people won’t care about conserving it. We have other things to worry about.

Many of our clients deal with the same challenge. How can you get someone to value something they don’t understand? If someone doesn’t understand the value of your service, how can you compete without resorting to competing on price? If you’re marketing a cause (such as water conservation), how do you get people to care?

The answer is education and patience. For a cause, such as water conservation, the answer is a lot of education and a lot of patience. Rich shared a story in which his father threw a bag of trash from McDonald’s out the window of the car while he was driving down the road. His father thought it was his right to do such a thing. Rich, who grew up with Woodsy Owl and Smokey Bear, would never have dreamed of littering like that. Rich admitted that he runs the water while he brushes his teeth but his granddaughter shuts off the tap. Sometimes it can take a generation or more for the message to sink in. Of course, as an organization you may not have the time to wait for an entire generation of people to grow up so that your message can be heard. But some messages are big enough and important enough that it could take an entire generation for the message to sink in. Be patient (when you can). Remember that no matter what you do, some people may not be receptive to your message. Sometimes the best strategy is to simply focus on those who are.

Christina Steder is the President of Clear Verve Marketing and works with clients to plan, create and execute marketing campaigns. Follow her on Twitter as @clearverve.

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Power point fail


Recently, I attended a large networking event that featured an out-of-town speaker who had been brought in to share research results on a very important topic. (Vagueness added to protect the not-so-innocent.) I had been looking forward to this presentation and was ready to take notes in hopes of blogging about the insights I gained.

Instead, the speaker committed two of the biggest power point sins – her slides had lots of words on them, and she READ them to us. This was a room full of approximately 600 intelligent, thoughtful people. I’m pretty sure we all knew how to read. After a couple slides, I looked around the room and noticed people were talking to each other, checking their phones, or daydreaming.

Power point has been around for many years and at one time, it was common practice to pack each slide with tons of data. Not anymore. We are a much more visual society. Speakers are competing fiercely with mobile devices for their audience’s attention.  Many times, they lose.

So how can you win? By leaving information OFF your slides! A couple months ago, I delivered a presentation at the Junior Achievement National Empowering Success Conference. My presentation is below. Notice anything? The slides don’t say much. If you want to know what I said, you need to download the presentation so you can read my speaker’s notes. Everything I wanted the audience to know was in my notes, not on the slides.  During this presentation I was not only competing with mobile devices, I was competing with LUNCH. But because the slides didn’t say much, the audience paid attention to what I said, the presentation got great reviews, and everyone stayed awake.

The next time you have to make a presentation, challenge yourself to leave much of the information off your slides. This more visual method will keep your audience engaged.

Christina Steder is the President of Clear Verve Marketing and works with clients to plan, create and execute marketing campaigns. Follow her on Twitter as @clearverve.

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Be unexpected


I recently had a completely unexpected lesson in effective communication while attending church.

There we were, sitting in our pews waiting for the service to begin. At the invitation of Pastor Meredith, someone from the congregation headed up to the front of the room to make a few announcements. We sat there silently and waited.  Suddenly, a whistle blew in the back of the room and everyone turned around. There stood Pastor David, wearing an apron and carrying a shepherd’s crook. Behind him were several women wearing aprons and carrying pots and pans. After them came a drummer.

The pot and pan brigade marched to the front of the church to a drum beat and sang a song in traditional army style about how fun and easy it is to volunteer for coffee service on Sundays. The song was a bit silly, the group looked funny, and Pastor David was having a great time twirling the shepherd’s crook. The entire congregation was paying attention. And smiling. Even the teenagers. It was completely unexpected and everyone was watching.

When you need to communicate something, the traditional route often feels the safest but might not yield the best results. How many people would have paid attention of Pastor Meredith had just rolled the “volunteer for coffee service” message into the rest of her announcements? Maybe a few, but not everyone. I guarantee there was not a single person in church that day who did not know that we needed volunteers for coffee service, and it’s likely that the sign-up sheet is now full.

The next time you need to ask someone for something, think about how you can make your message appealing and unexpected. Remember, if you can’t get someone’s attention, you can’t communicate anything.

Christina Steder is the President of Clear Verve Marketing and works with clients to plan, create and execute marketing campaigns. Follow her on Twitter as @clearverve.

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2013 is the year of content marketing


According to a recent survey, 79 percent of marketers are now reporting that their companies are shifting into branded content either at a moderate or aggressive pace. The portion of the marketing budget dedicated to creating content is up 13 percent over the past two years.

Content marketing is using the creation of content as a marketing tool. It can take the form of blogs, social media, or website content. It can be video or email. It also includes traditional forms of content such as books, printed newsletters, or whitepapers. Anything your organization does to inform and educate your audience, with the exception of advertising, can be considered content marketing.

In the professional services world, content marketing is something that has always been done. Most accounting firms, insurance companies, health care organizations, and law firms have been producing newsletters for years. However, the number of mediums for distribution and the speed at which content must now be created is new. This poses a challenge for many organizations, as evidenced by the fact that 56 percent of brands are now outsourcing content creation. It is a necessity, but is outside the skill set of many professionals. If your organization can afford to outsource content, it provides many advantages. Content is created consistently and is of higher quality. However, if you can’t afford outside help, you can still participate. Here’s how:

  • Set realistic goals. You don’t have to blog every day. Shoot for once a week or twice a month. Just be consistent.
  • Produce the best content you can. Better to produce a smaller amount of high quality content than hundreds of gobbledygook posts nobody will read.
  • Remember, it’s not advertising. Inform, don’t sell. Your goal is not to make a sale, it is to educate your audience and demonstrate your knowledge.

Get multiple people at your organization involved. If everyone only needs to write one or two articles per year, it can get done.

Christina Steder is the President of Clear Verve Marketing and works with clients to plan, create and execute marketing campaigns. Follow her on Twitter as @clearverve.

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The ROI of content marketing

The ROI of content marketing

Saturday, July 7, 2012 — 


According to a recent study by Kapost and Eloqua, content marketing generates three times more leads per dollar than paid search. Consumers are suffering from ad overload and are increasingly tuning out all forms of advertising, including paid search. Marketers are increasingly turning to content marketing to break through the clutter and develop relationships with consumers. Even giant companies like Coke are betting the farm on content marketing and investing millions of dollars to generate content that will make connections with their customers.

Here are some interesting statistics from the study:

The major cost of content marketing is the dedicated staff. This can be good or bad, depending on how you look at it. If a company decides to implement a content marketing strategy with existing staff, it can be seen as a no or low cost strategy. However, when a marketing strategy is seen as no cost or low cost, it is often seen as less important or expendable. It is important for businesses to realize that content marketing is an investment and rather than buying ad space, they are buying time and ideas.

Content marketing efforts need time to grow. One chart in the study showed that on average, it takes over a year for an audience to build.

In the first five months, costs per lead drop 80 percent. Like the fact above, businesses need to remember that content marketing takes time. The cost per lead will drop, but not in the first five weeks. According to the study, that takes an average of five months. It may take even longer for you, depending on your business.

For small businesses, after 24 months, content marketing costs 31 percent less than paid search. Enough said.

The study’s authors acknowledge that content marketing is a commitment. For our promise marketing clients, it is a natural extension of what they’ve always done, share knowledge. But even for professional service providers and nonprofits, content marketing takes time and effort. It’s a commitment, but it’s well worth it.

Christina Steder is the President of Clear Verve Marketing and works with clients to plan, create and execute marketing campaigns. Follow her on Twitter as @clearverve.

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Three ways you can be more innovative


Innovation is not something reserved exclusively for creative types. While it can be more difficult for some businesses to innovate than others, here are three ways you can be more innovative.

1. Find new ways to use what is already around you. Many people think that to be innovative, you have to be inventive. The truth is you don’t have to invent something new or find a completely innovative way to market it. Look around you for ideas. How can you use an existing product in a new way? What is a new way to use your existing product or service? When you see other companies execute an innovative marketing strategy, even if its not a company in your industry (especially if it’s not in your industry) think about how you can tweak that strategy for your company.

2. Take action. It’s impossible to know if any new idea will work. This prevents many people from trying something new. Rather than letting fear paralyze you, see if you can find ways to test your idea or implement it in a small way. Or, take the beginning steps towards implementing your idea while continuing to think about the end steps. You might change your mind and decide to change course. Or, you might discover that your idea isn’t so scary after all, and you will be that much further than any of your competitors.

3. Believe it can work. As a firm that works primarily with professional service providers, we know that this can be a challenge. Our clients are the types of people who are successful because of their ability to anticipate problems, question everything and follow the rules. However, this type of thinking must be temporarily suspended or your company will only engage in marketing by imitation or “safe” tactics, which generally prove to be less effective.

If you want to get noticed, you need to be different.

Christina Steder is the President of Clear Verve Marketing and works with clients to plan, create and execute marketing campaigns. Follow her on Twitter as @clearverve.

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Three reasons why your firm can’t cross sell


Most professional service firms complain that they have many clients who could use other services their firm provides, but they just can’t seem to cross-sell these services. There are three reasons for this challenge:

  • Your service providers are mistakenly thinking that their clients understands the wide range of services provided by your firm. In most cases, this simply isn’t true. When clients think of the services your firm provides, they think of the services THEY receive and nothing else. Clients have their own problems, they don’t sit around all day thinking about you. You need to remind them of everything you know how to do and uncover their problems before they engage someone else to solve them.
  • As service providers, you get wrapped up in solving the problems your clients have presented to you, then moving on. Unfortunately for service providers, your clients won’t face every problem at the same time. So cross selling isn’t a same-time sale. It’s not like the fast food worker asking you if you want fries with your meal. It’s more like the waiter at a fancy restaurant checking on you after dessert to see if you’d like an after dinner drink. You need to keep in touch with your clients long after your services have been rendered in order to sell them something else.
  • The originating service provider can’t explain the other services offered by your firm, or doesn’t understand how to recognize the cross selling opportunity. Just like clients think about your firm as doing for everyone what you do for THEM, service providers think about clients needing what they know how to provide. Without a good understanding of what your own firm can do, you can’t see these opportunities.

The solution to these problems is content marketing. By sharing information about other services your firm provides, your clients will be exposed to these services. Your clients will recognize themselves in your case studies, blog posts, and newsletter articles. If you read your own firm’s case studies, blog posts, and newsletter articles, you will learn more about how to describe these services in plain English. That way, when your clients ask you about what they have read, you will be able to answer the question, or at least direct them to the author of the article.

The trick with all of this is to be deliberate and consistent. Without a communications plan tied to your organization’s goals, you’re just talking to make noise. Think about how your firm wants to grow and build your content marketing plan to match these goals. This will tell you what to write about and where to publish the information. Then, force yourself to be consistent. People need to hear messages more than once before they sink in. But with time, a well-planned content marketing strategy can help your firm cross sell without turning your service providers into “salespeople.”

Christina Steder is the President of Clear Verve Marketing and works with clients to plan, create and execute marketing campaigns. Follow her on Twitter as @clearverve.

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Get 100 Ways to Build Your Business


Have you ever tried to think up new ways to market, manage, or build your business and found yourself at a complete loss for ideas? I think it happens to everyone. I have to admit, it even happens to us, despite the fact that we’re a marketing company. I’m not sure if it’s because we spend so much time being creative on behalf of others that we just run out of gas for ourselves, or if it’s because we spend so much time dreaming up new ideas that it’s hard to come up with something that feels truly revolutionary for ourselves.

Well, we’ve solved that problem! Last year, we came up with the crazy idea of trying to get 20 of our favorite thought leaders to share five ideas that would help businesses innovate, grow, or manage themselves better. We contacted a few people, who loved the idea, and our big project for 2011, 100 Ways to Build Your Business in 2012 was born.

After several months of hard work, we’re pleased to share these great ideas with you. The book includes thoughts on marketing/PR, web/social media, management, and video/photo, so you are sure to find something that is applicable to your business! Best of all, you can also sign up to receive a monthly tips from the ebook for the next year. (Because seriously, who can remember or implement 100 ideas all at once?)

You can download the free e-book and sign up for the monthly emails at the 100 Ways to Build Your Business website.

Our best wishes for a busy and productive 2012!

Christina Steder is the President of Clear Verve Marketing and works with clients to plan, create and execute marketing campaigns. Follow her on Twitter as @clearverve

Are you afraid of public speaking?

Thursday, October 27, 2011 — 


As a marketing company that specializes in working with service providers, we are always advocating that our clients take advantage of or make their own opportunities to speak in front of potential clients or referral sources. Of course, many of them resist. We understand. Lots of people are afraid of public speaking. Here are some things you can do to try to make it easier:

  • Use your slides as notes, not as a script. You wouldn’t get up on stage and read a book, would you? People who read their slides to the audience often think they are bad speakers. They may not actually be bad speakers, but because the audience can read faster than they can speak, they may be BORING. Don’t read your slides!
  • Practice. This sounds obvious, but many people don’t. Practice gives you confidence. Even professional athletes practice.
  • Remember, you are the only one who knows what you were planning to say. If you say it differently, who knows except you? NOBODY!

Public speaking is an excellent way to build your client base and establish your expertise. It is a long-term strategy that may not yield immediate results, but the prospects you get from speaking are often easier to turn into clients because you have already established your expertise. Take advantage of opportunities to speak whenever you can.

Christina Steder is the President of Clear Verve Marketing and works with clients to plan, create and execute marketing campaigns. Follow her on Twitter as @clearverve

Walk in your client’s shoes : How ethnography can fit into your business


I recently attended a meeting of the American Marketing Society where the speaker, Jeanne Meyer, presented how GE Healthcare uses ethnography to help develop and market the company’s products. Ethnography is research in which a company immerses itself in their buyer’s culture. At GE Healthcare, this meant that the company spent four months studying the education needs of nurses in order to develop effective training solutions. The result, of course, was an extremely well thought out set of solutions that are likely to be well received in the healthcare industry.

Unfortunately, most businesses we know believe they don’t have the time or the money to do this type of extensive research, think it is not necessary, or that it couldn’t possibly apply to their business. None of those things are true. Need proof? The following challenges shouldn’t hold you back.

“I don’t have the time or the money.”
Ethnography doesn’t have to involve expensive research. One of Jeanne’s examples of ethnography in use occurs at Harley Davidson. All executives at Harley are required to attend motorcycle rallies. Spending time at rallies helps them relate to their customers and see their products in use. Try to see how you can spend time observing how your services are used in the real world.

“I don’t see how this applies to my business.
This is an easy one, especially for companies like the ones we work with. Most service providers offer something that is either technical, government-regulated, or part of a lengthy process. If you’ve ever tried to explain what you do and had the person you’re talking to look at you like you’re speaking a foreign language, maybe you could benefit from spending some time with your clients.  An ethnography mindset, even if you aren’t doing a formal study, can help you communicate without the jargon and gobbeldygook that consultants can easily end up relying on.

The next time you have a communications challenge or need guidance to help make a business development decision, try asking yourself, “How can I put myself in my client’s shoes?”

Christina Steder is the President of Clear Verve Marketing and works with clients to plan, create and execute marketing campaigns.  Follow her on Twitter as @clearverve.