Should You Promote a Legacy Brand Name, or Move on with the New One?

branding iron representing a marketing brand or brand name
How to promote a legacy brand name
Consolidation, acquisition, and merger activity among corporations can create a challenge for local marketers, such as a distributor or representative. The dilemma concerns the value in continued promotion of the legacy brand name.

Here is the scenario. You represent the small, specialized, successful manufacturer of a product. A large company with an international brand acquires the small company you represent. Once you clear the hurdle of whether the new owner will maintain the current sales channels, there is then the question of how to present and promote the new brand to your customer base. It is likely that the legacy brand name is well known in the market, but conglomerates will have interest in the promotion of their own brand which may encompass the products of numerous other companies they have acquired. Here are some things to consider.

  • If the principal abandons the legacy brand name, you can still maintain a legacy brand name presence on your website and social media channels. This can help customers unaware of the brand change make a connection with your company. A legacy brand name page on your website, a blog about the brand name change, other social media posts will all help customers link the legacy brand to your company and the new brand name. Effectiveness will be attained through repeated posts about the brand name for however long it takes to establish the new brand in place of the old.
  • If the principal adds their name to the legacy brand name, similar to a hyphenated surname for a spouse, your interests may be best served by promoting both names separately, as well as combined. The newly created combo name will, by itself, have little recognition in the initial stages, and brand development efforts by the acquiring company may not produce the results needed to foster your local sales and promotion efforts. Solid branding does not develop overnight. It takes time, sometimes lots of time. Figuratively hanging some legacy brand name signs on your website and social media channels will enhance search engine performance and bring visitors to your sites where a transitional move toward the new brand name can be implemented.
  • If the principal maintains the legacy brand name, an example of which would be "Legacy Brand Name, a division of Big Company" or something similar, you can mostly maintain your marketing status quo. In this case, the acquiring company is placing significant value on the brand name that they purchased (smart), and you should maintain promotion of the legacy brand.
There are an unlimited number of variants to the three simple scenarios shown here. Your relationships with your principals are the lifeblood of your business. If they provide direction or guidance on how to promote a new branding, it is probably best to conform. 

Brand names that enjoy widespread recognition, good reputation, and identify with a narrow range of products or applications can have immense value. Unless there is a specific prohibition to continuing to provide a connection between your customers and principals through your company by using that legacy brand name, I generally recommend you maintain its useful presence throughout your digital marketing. Though, with a view to the future, keep in mind that younger and new entries into your potential customer pool are unlikely to share the connection strength of industry veterans to the legacy brand name. Over time, which could be years, you should transition your sales promotion to synchronize with whatever path the acquiring company uses. 

Follow, comment, contact me with your questions directly at CMS4i by putting @TomO in the message section. At CMS4i, we help small companies build their brand and web presence, so contact us anytime.

Should You Blog About Products You Don't Sell?

think differently about social media marketing
Sometimes, going against your long held beliefs can be helpful.
The relationships between you, my technical sales representative and industrial distributor friends, and your principals can be convoluted. Manufacturers prefer that you not handle products considered competitive with theirs, but it is inevitable that some overlap will come into play. As a work-around solution, it is common for a rep to handle only a portion of a manufacturer's product line. There are a number of other possible scenarios that may leave you authorized to sell less than the entire product mix. This creates something of a challenge when designing your website, but even more so when selecting topics for frequent blog articles.

Some blog posts come pretty close to being product advertisements, and close is generally acceptable. I keep these points in mind when I write about a product.

  • Keep promotional speech minimized (preferably missing entirely)
  • Tie the product to an industry practice
  • Focus on technical aspects of a product or process
  • Relay how it may be different
  • Show how it can deliver benefits or improvements to the reader's work or process

Working toward these goals helps maintain your post as a useful and interesting piece. The goal is to provide value for the reader, netting benefit to the writer as a result of the reader's fulfillment.

You want your company to be noticed, discovered, found by individuals with common interests, since these are the people you will do business with in one form or another. If getting noticed or discovered is your goal...
Does it make sense to blog about things you do not sell, but are related to your business?
Of course it does! Remember, your goal with your social media portals is not to sell products, it is to "sell" your organization, by increasing subscribers and reinforcing their positive impressions. The more subjects you cover, with keywords for search engines to find, the better. It is useful to keep in mind that your potential customers have professional interests beyond your company's product offering. This takes a conscious effort. It is easy to myopically blog away about the products shown on the company website, and that's not entirely without merit. But there is more to write about. Being the source of interesting and useful information, being the "go-to place" for news or updates on a subject, adds tremendous social media value to your company. Here are some guidelines and ideas to consider.

  • Avoid blogging about competitors directly, but be mindful of their concepts and approaches to solving customer challenges. You may be able to write about the generic concept without mentioning the competitor by name. Compare and contrast your company's approach to a similar issue.
  • It can be productive to blog about facets or products of a brand that are unavailable for you to sell. For example, blog about a company's flow meters, even though you only handle their level controls. As long as you do not handle a competitive flow meter, getting the brand name out there can still be positive for you through links back to your site.
  • Write about legislative and regulatory current events. There is a continuing flood of this information being released by federal, state, and local jurisdictions. Keeping up with it is difficult for your customers. Your position as an information source can yield positive benefits through followers and subscribers.
  • For industrial settings, cyber security and safety are looming issues with universal impact. Find good sources of information and share them through your social media.
  • Share an original viewpoint from someone in your company. It does not have to be the CEO. People that work in cubicles, people that turn wrenches, may have some very interesting and valuable things to say. I recommend you work an article such as this as an interview. Getting people to talk to you is generally much easier than getting them to write for you.
  • Go completely off topic once in a while. If you have something to share that would be of interest to your industry or audience, but may not be directly related to your company's business line, publish it. This should be an infrequent event, to avoid having your blog appear unfocused.
  • Write about things you do not sell, but are used by your potential customers. Your article can be non-partisan and provide insight not usually delivered by those that sell the particular product.
I think you see it now. The purpose of your writing is to serve the reader. If you serve the reader well, the reader will read another article or click on one of your links, increasing their recognition of your organization. That is your goal.

Follow, comment, reach out to me with your questions. I can be contacted directly at CMS4i by putting @TomO in the message section. At CMS4i, we help small companies build their brand and web presence, so contact us anytime.

Should You Keep Your Employees Off LinkedIn?

LinkedIn logo and LinkedIn logo with red line through it
Encourage your employees to use LinkedIn, or not?
I have been a proponent of having employees on LinkedIn. From my viewpoint, there is value associated with a network of industry invested individuals providing social network connections between their employing company and other industry related individuals. Creating and nourishing pathways for your company to be discovered is a very positive thing, right?
Surprise, Marketer, not every business owner thinks so.
CMS4i does not have a brick and mortar presence. Everybody works remotely, so we arrange to meet periodically to accomplish things better done face to face. Recently, we invited a customer to meet with us, provide some feedback on our social marketing services, and allow us to generally interrogate him (not  really) in an effort to learn something valuable. One of the striking points made by our esteemed customer concerned his desire to avoid having employees active on LinkedIn. Of course, this is near heresy to a social media marketer and, after regaining my composure, I queried as to his reasoning.
Workforce protection.
My customer viewed LinkedIn as a human resource market, where his competitors or other industry related companies could find his trained and experienced employees, then target them for recruitment. True, LinkedIn certainly is a go-to venue for both hiring managers and job seekers. The business owner seemed to have a valid point.

Surely, there was some analysis that could be done, some balance to be struck? Not in this case. The business owner valued the human assets represented by his well trained technicians far in excess of any marketing sizzle that could be delivered by extending his LinkedIn reach. As a marketer, I needed to recognize that there may have been other strategic or tactical goals than mine. There was more to a business than just getting business.

The takeaway here is to remember that, as a marketer, we view and participate in only a small slice of the businesses we serve. We need to be flexible and accommodative with other facets of the business in our pursuit of growth.

Follow, comment, contact me with your questions. I can be contacted directly at CMS4i by putting @TomO in the message section. At CMS4i, we help small companies build their brand and web presence, so contact us anytime.

Do It Today! - Review Those Inbound Links!

Lightning representing inbound links to website
Let me quickly establish, once again, the target audience for my articles. I write for technical sales professionals and marketers, modest in size, that operate in the commercial and industrial arenas. A more focused description can be found in my previous article Signs You Might Be On The Wrong Social Media Marketing Track.

Two primary functions of your social media efforts are:

  • Discovery, by providing multiple paths through which your organization can be found on the internet.
  • Presence, which can be thought of as your public facing digital business front.
An important part of both is the inbound links that bring visitors to your web pages from web pages that are not yours. If your company represents or distributes for ZZZ Manufacturing (a fictitious company), ZZZ might have a link on their site that leads to your site. This makes sense because your company is a vendor source from which ZZZ products can be purchased. The link to your site on ZZZ's site is an inbound link to your site. These can have substantial value because potential customers may be directed to your website, even though they were not specifically searching for your company.

You should review known inbound links on a regular basis. How often you do it should be a function of what you find. If there are numerous errors or omissions, frequency should be higher until everything appears in order. There are some basic things you should do.

  • If possible, have an inbound link from every company for which you sell products or services.
  • Where inbound links exist, make sure they go to the correct landing page on your site.
  • Take steps to try and get incorrect or missing inbound links remedied. This can be challenging in some cases, but the effort is worth the investment of your time.
  • Inbound links should generally land on your website pages that will not be deleted or have their URL (the page address) or subject changed when your website is periodically updated. It is possible to map old web page URLs to a new site, but if the operation is omitted the links could be lost forever.
  • Reciprocate to those providing inbound links to your site with a link from your site to theirs. Many of you already have examples of these on your sites (a link to the website of a company your sell for).
While your are checking for inbound links from your represented companies, review how they might portray your company on their site. If there is a listing for your distributor firm, click on every link shown and review what your potential customers will see. One of our customers was listed on their principal's site along with a click that would ostensibly show the distributor's place of business. The site did not contain actual photos of the distributor's place of business, but used a sort of Google Earth setup to show what was located at the address provided for the business. In this particular case, the map service returned and displayed a picture of a vintage looking donut shop, clearly not our customer's place of business. This is an example of the potential inaccuracies you need to discover and take steps to have corrected.

Do it today. Have someone else at your company do it today. If you put it off, it's too easy to forget. Inbound links and listing information about your company will be the first impression some have of your business. You need that impression to be as positive as you can make it.

Follow, comment, contact me with your questions. I can be contacted directly at CMS4i by putting @TomO in the message section. At CMS4i, we help small companies build their brand and web presence, so contact us anytime.

Signs You Might Be On The Wrong Social Media Marketing Track

A small departure before I get to my subject for today...

Marketing is not as glamorous as many believe it to be. Many of my business schoolmates leaned into marketing because they thought it would not involve much of the math that tortured them all through school. Surprise! Marketing, at least beyond the smallest scale operations, involves lots of math. How else are you going to determine if what you are doing is working. You gather data, crunch it like a mouthful of peanuts. It tells you something. Then you need to crunch some more to try and determine if the answers you just got are actually usable. Do they apply universally to your target market, or are they somehow related to something else, some other smaller set. We like to think that mathematics delivers certainty, oh yes, that one plus one equals two feeling. Too often, there is a nagging element of uncertainty and doubt in the numbers. But, even on its worst day, stark quantitative presentation and analysis grounds our decision making on something other than pure intuition.
Marketing is tough and demanding because it is intangible, and requires dedication and discipline to make it work.
computer keyboard with special Learn button for social media marketing

Now, to what I really intended to write about today. 

If you have read other articles in this series, you probably have come across a description of my target audience. In case you missed it, I have poached it from a previous article and deliver it here.
Technical sales firms and professionals conduct their business with a high level of personal contact. The products sold by these professionals generally require consultation between buyer and seller to establish the suitability of the product for its intended purpose. Technical sales is strictly a B2B endeavor, with customers relying on recommendations and expertise that the sales rep brings to the relationship. I write for them, to build their comprehension of modern social media marketing activities and how their business can benefit from thoughtful application of these techniques.
I write for small to modest sized distributors, tech sales rep firms, and manufacturers, mostly in the industrial process measurement and control space. Many have owners that work at the business everyday and perform many functions throughout the operation, including marketing. For them, and possibly you, being aware of unproductive behaviors and activity on the marketing front can be helpful. Here are five items that keep coming to my mind.

  • Commenting on other blogs or social media, especially those of your competitors, with a reference or link to your website.

    Face it. You are trying to climb on somebody else's marketing train. Do not do this. Patiently and diligently build your own following through your own social media channels. Making productive or informative contributions is acceptable, but leave any references to your website or company out.
  • Not generating original content on your social media channels.

    Believe it or not, your customer base and anyone interested in doing business with you wants to know what you think is important enough to write about and share. This is an important component of your brand, your company image. It is good to share relevant useful content that you find, but be sure to mix in your own presentations of thought, opinion, even entertainment.
  • You are not at least considering producing some video content for your social media channels.

    Let me summarize. Video is the king of content.

    Though many do not realize this, everyday something happens at your place of business that is content-worthy. Remember, what may seem commonplace to you might actually be a valuable revelation to someone outside your place of business. Businesses are specialized. They do unique things. Learn to recognize the unique tasks performed at your business. Learn to make short and simple informative videos showing what you do. There is likely more interest out there than you imagine. I also wrote an article about DIY video that may be helpful in getting started.
  • Not connecting the dots between social media, inside sales, and field sales.

    One function of social media is to serve as a vehicle for establishing and maintaining connections between your customer facing people and your customers. There are many paths to follow in this realm, but the important element is creating some synergy among the sales staff and the social media marketing. The sales staff boosts the social media exposure and the social media exposure attracts more prospective customers. If you are not doing this, there is opportunity awaiting.
  • Not actively soliciting useful ideas from employees at every level of your company.

    Figuring out the next move to make. Building more efficient ways to accomplish necessary tasks. These are the things that build the value of your business and assure its longevity. Accept that you do not know everything and that the viewpoints, ideas, and opinions of the other people immersed in your business along with you have value. Getting your employees to take an active contributory role can be a challenge, but the results could be staggering.
If you get the feeling that I am writing about you, instead of to you, this may be your call to action to make some changes.

Follow, comment, contact me with your questions. I can be contacted directly at CMS4i by putting @TomO in the message section. At CMS4i, we help small companies build their brand and web presence, so contact us anytime.

Are You A Marketer?

welding sparks
The spark of a new idea
I write for a somewhat limited, or should I say targeted, segment of the business world. Technical sales firms and professionals conduct their business with a high level of personal contact. The products sold by these professionals generally require consultation between buyer and seller to establish the suitability of the product for its intended purpose. Technical sales is strictly a B2B endeavor, with customers relying on recommendations and expertise that the sales rep brings to the relationship. I write for them, to build their comprehension of modern social media marketing activities and how their business can benefit from thoughtful application of these techniques.
Are you a salesperson, or are you a marketer?
How would you answer this question? Your job title probably implies that you are a salesperson. When hired, the job description likely focused on bringing in business, getting purchase orders. Your performance is quantified in terms directly related to revenue generation. You may feel that marketing is an admin or office function, while you are the one in the field making the personal contact necessary to secure an order. So, are you a salesperson, or are you a marketer?
The answer to the question is .... Yes.
You, as a technical sales rep, are responsible for securing business for your company. You are also an integral part of two brands; one of the firm that employs you and the other of the company represented by your firm. Everything you do creates an impression on someone that relates back to those two brands. That is what makes you a marketer, too.

Keeping your marketing function in mind, capitalizing on it, will help you boost your personal and company presence in the minds of your customers. The goal of your marketing efforts is to have your customer base associate and think of you whenever they think of the types of products you sell. To the extent that you build and nurture that association throughout your customer base, you will succeed. Ever hear the adage "It's not what you know, it's who you know"? Remember this....
It's not what you know or who you know, it's who knows you.
Certainly, if your products are poor quality or do not meet customer needs, you are not going to do well. The reality, though, is that most products are of adequate quality and do fulfill the needs of their targeted customer. As a product specialist, you should be adept at matching your product offering to your customer's application, also at differentiating your products and their attributes from those of your competitors. That is tech sales 101, and there is one significant limitation to that activity. It relies upon the timely connection of the sales rep and the customer, and it is difficult to impossible for the sales rep to know when the time is right and to get an opportunity to make the connection with the customer.
What makes the difference between getting the order and not getting the order?
 And the answer is....being known, at least being discoverable. This is where your marketing efforts, especially those on social media, serve to directly boost your revenue generation. Conduct social media activities that make you visible and showcase your professional skill, knowledge, and interest in your industry. Serious customers want to deal with serious sales reps. Be persistent in your promotional activities because the impact of a single activity can fade quickly. Make social media marketing a part of your personal business plan, or your firm's plan, to increase sales performance. Here are some points to start you thinking about your own plan.
  • If you do not have a social media presence, make one. Start with Twitter (What You Should Be Doing With Your Twitter Account EverydayMaking Twitter Part of Your Success - You Gotta Do It ), then expand to LinkedIn (LinkedIn - The Value You May Not Realize), Facebook, and others you select on your own.
  • Produce or find content (articles, books, pictures, videos, and more) that are interesting and useful to your customer base. Whether your customers may have already seen the article is not important.  That they associate your name with interesting and useful content is.
  • Be consistent in your posting. You want your customers to see what you are doing, so you need to post well and post often.
  • Follow other social media sites and personalities that are relevant to your industry. It is a good way to see examples of valuable content, but be sure to seek out some unique sources of your own.
  • Find and follow customers with whom you have a justifiable business relationship. Be aware that on some sites, like Twitter, it's generally acceptable to follow anyone and you do not need their permission to do so. Other sites may require the permission of the other party to create a connection and you may be looked upon unfavorably for your exuberant efforts to connect with people who do not recognize you.
  • Mention some aspect of your social media presence to your customers when you speak with them. If you want to send them a useful article that was mentioned in a conversation, send a link to your Twitter or other post that contains the article. Your goal is to build connections with potential customers that will expose them to your posts, building your stature as an industry professional.
We are always in search of ways to turn the slope of our sales revenue line upward. Being the tech rep that is contacted to help solve a problem or participate in planning an upcoming expansion is what we all crave. Incorporating an effective social media strategy into your personal business plan has a high probability of getting you known and keeping you top of mind, producing increasing returns for you over an extended time. You are a salesperson. You are a marketer.

Follow, comment, contact me with your questions. I can be contacted directly at CMS4i by putting @TomO in the message section. At CMS4i, we help small companies build their brand and web presence, so contact us anytime.

Work Your Company's Social Media To Make It Work For You

clock with logo time for social media on the face
Let me set the stage for this article. This post, while generally applicable for all interested in social media marketing, is mostly for smaller firms engaging in technical sales. My definition of technical sales...
Technical sales is the art and practice of promoting products requiring consultation between buyer and seller to assure that the delivered product or service will meet the requirements and expectations of the buyer.
If you are a technical sales practitioner, you speak with your customers directly about their challenges and work toward a solution that matches specific products to each application challenge. Your challenge, as a sales professional, is to be known, be the person that gets called to help develop a solution.

Social media can repeatedly reach out and touch your potential customers with a level of efficiency you, as a breathing entity, cannot even hope to achieve. It will put your company's name and brand in front of your customer base, reinforcing your presence and keeping you top of mind when the time comes for your customer to reach out for assistance. Sounds good, right? There is a catch though.
You, technical sales rep, must promote your company's social media presence in order to get the most personal benefit from it.
If you are a tech sales rep for a company, you are a stakeholder in that company's social media marketing program. Increases in recognition of the company brand, products, and capabilities will translate into more opportunities for you to ply your craft directly with potential customers. A successful social media effort requires nurturing on a continuous basis to keep it visible, relevant, and useful. Here are some activities that you can (and should) do:

  • Be a registered follower of every company media site. Your marketing coordinator will gladly provide you with a list of links to every one.
  • Once a follower, start liking and/or commenting on company posts. Your comments should add something interesting or useful to the post.
  • Follow all of the manufacturers and suppliers your company represents.
  • Follow trade groups and other accounts that post content that is relevant to your industry.
  • Find and share good content on your company's social media accounts. You will likely need to coordinate with marketing folks to do this, but the recognition you will receive will be worth it.
  • Mention the company's social media presence to your contacts and encourage them to follow one or more accounts. There is an art to doing this without being boorish. Start small and develop a useful delivery. Keep in mind that your contacts are more likely to follow your recommendation if it provides something of value. The value will likely reside in the content you recommend, so make it useful or interesting.
  • Mention the company's social media presence....I said that already. Do it twice as often as you think you should. It is the most important part of expanding the reach of your company's social media presence.
None of this is difficult, but it takes discipline to incorporate these tasks into your baseline activities every day. If done well, your efforts will win recognition from your employer, as well as your contacts. You can become a go-to source for industry and product news, with your contacts recommending you to others. 
Don't overthink this, just do it. It will work.

Follow, comment, contact me with your questions. I can be contacted directly at CMS4i by putting @TomO in the message section. At CMS4i, we help small companies build their brand and web presence, so contact us anytime.