It’s satisfying to come up with new and exciting ways to market your company. But sometimes your best bet is to borrow someone else’s smart idea. Whenever I see a company that’s doing something effective in its marketing, I think about how other companies can apply it to their own businesses.
Here are three ideas I’ve seen in the past year that are well worth stealing:
The gift of advice
The idea: Just before the holidays last year, Canadian human capital solutions company Knightsbridge asked business people to share a tip, quote or story on how to be a more effective leader. For every piece of advice received, the company donated $25 to the United Way.
Why it was great: I loved this idea because it was inexpensive and engaging, and it was easy for people to participate. The campaign allowed people to support a good cause and reminisce about their own successes. For Knightsbridge, it helped the company communicate what it does: help business people become even more effective leaders. As well, it helped build the firm’s position as a thought leader. And last but not least, it was far more engaging than just sending out a generic Season’s Greetings email. (How many of those do you immediately delete unread?)
The results: Hundreds of people responded and the idea got a ton of PR. Plus, it ended up being the gift that kept on giving: after the campaign, Knightsbridge sent out a great infographic that turned into a key marketing tool.
Steal it: Ask people to share their thoughts on something relevant to your industry and company. Try a fun spin; humour is a great but underused marketing tool. Then use the responses you receive to provide valuable info and insights back to your entire audience, and to keep the conversation with them going.
The 48-hour Sales Blitz
The idea: A commercial division of a major bank chose two days for each of its sales managers to book six high-priority meetings with current and potential clients. Sales VPs cleared their calendars and went to all the meetings they could.
Why it was great: Everybody works better when there’s a deadline. Having to focus on those two days really energized the sales managers, and their customers loved getting unprecedented access to the bank’s higher-ups.
The results: The sales team booked more meetings in a two-day period than they typically did all month. The blitz was so successful that the bank decided to carry the idea over to the following quarter.
Steal it: Energize your sales team—and your customers—by running a contest or campaign to book sales and introductory meetings with high-potential prospects in a set period of one or two days. Make senior people available for this time frame. This will boost productivity, guaranteed.
Use research as a marketing tool
The idea: Many companies conduct research among their current and prospective markets in order to plan growth. They typically do so in order to better understand market opportunities, identify issues buyers are facing and determine which products and services are most needed.
Market research is often costly and demanding, so companies should get all the mileage they can from it. It’s great when they use research to develop expansion plans and product development road maps. But research can also have another powerful use: as a marketing tool.
Research can be turned into phenomenal thought leadership like white papers and articles that can be disseminated through social media, conferences, webinars and press releases. Of course, you have to be careful not to disclose any confidences, but if you structure your research and the content that you develop as a result of that research well, you can get major bang for buck.
Why it’s a great idea: Two birds, one stone. This simple idea uses something that your company has already paid for—market research—and turns it into a valuable marketing asset.
Steal it: Business people want to know what their peers are doing and where trends are headed. Build goodwill and engagement by packaging up your knowledge into content you can share with current and potential customers. In return, ask them to share some information with you so you can build new contacts and nurture relationships, for example by asking people downloading your content for their name and email address. Using research as a marketing tool is a great way to position your company as a thought leader and get the word out to the people you want to reach.
So there you have it. Three simple marketing ideas that have worked beautifully for the companies that have used them. And they can work for you too. Steal away!
Lisa Shepherd is author of Market Smart: How to Gain Customers and Increase Profits with B2B Marketing and president of The Mezzanine Group, a business-to-business strategy and marketing company based in Toronto. She was the youngest female CEO of a PROFIT 200 company in 2007 and 2008 and is a frequent public speaker on B2B marketing strategy and execution.
More columns by Lisa Shepherd