4 reasons why you still need a company brochure

woman-brochureThough marketing efforts in recent years have been focused online, professionally designed and printed brochures still play a vital role in engaging prospects, nurturing leads, and closing sales.

Here are four key reasons you should have a high-quality printed brochure:

1. Brochures are a great sales tool.

A well-designed print brochure is a valuable leave-behind after a sales meeting. It gives prospects information they can refer back to long after the face-to-face meeting is over. In addition, when your brochure is picked up at a trade show, it can be shared with others, which increases engagement and keeps your company top-of-mind.

2. Brochures get noticed in empty mailboxes.

Because marketing has moved to digital over print, there’s less clutter in physical mailboxes. A brochure gets your message literally into the hands of decision makers. Prospects often hold on to printed materials, and they continue to engage with them over a much longer period of time than they would with an email or social media post.

3. Brochures support purchases.

Your company brochure is a high-value takeaway for a buyer in the evaluation stage of the purchase process. Buyers want and need a brochure to support their purchasing decisions. A professionally designed and printed brochure instills trust in your company and its products.

4. Brochures drive traffic to your website.

A brochure isn’t a product encyclopedia, that’s what your website is for. A well designed brochure gives enough information to entice prospects to visit your website where they can learn more about your company and products.

What’s the takeaway here?

No matter how important digital marketing becomes, company brochures can still have a significant impact on your sales and marketing. Take advantage of this now underused medium to stand out from the crowd.


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Uncover the hidden profitability of your indirect customers

You may not realize it, but marketing to your indirect customer may have a significant impact on the purchasing decisions of your direct customer. Whether you’re a cabinetmaker, millworker, furniture maker, or lumber company, you may have indirect customers who can help increase your sales.

Let’s start by defining direct and indirect customers:

  • Direct customers are those who actually purchase your products.
  • Indirect customers don’t purchase your products, but they can have an outsized influence on those who do.

Once you have identified your indirect customers and figured out how to communicate with them, you can begin to leverage them to grow your business.

How targeting indirect customers grew my business

Here’s an example from my days as a business owner in the wood products industry. In those days, I sold mouldings, doors, and millwork. My direct customers were building contractors – residential, commercial, and institutional. While I did market to contractors, I found that they were not the best target for my efforts. I discovered that marketing to my indirect customers – architects – proved far more profitable. Why? Because when architects specified my products in their blueprints, contractors were more likely to buy from me.

By marketing to my indirect customers, I also gained four unexpected and valuable benefits:

  1. Enhanced credibility
    Having my company and products named in blueprints gave me legitimacy. My company was associated with some very well-known architects, and their trust in my products increased my credibility.
  2. Market expansion
    My products were appearing in projects in many other states. Suddenly I had sales in markets that would have been difficult to capture otherwise.
  3. Greater visibility
    Every blueprint specification increased awareness of my company with contractors to whom I was previously unknown.
  4. Increased sales
    Being specified in blueprints resulted in getting a higher percentage of those jobs. Builders know that top architects don’t want their product choices changed.

Big brands market to indirect customers

Most large national wood products companies like Andersen, TruStile, or Merillat market to both their direct and indirect customers. One smart way they reach their indirect customers is by devoting entire sections of their websites to helping them with their specific needs:

  • Homeowners find help with design, planning, and inspiration.
  • Contractors find detailed product information, installation guides, and care and maintenance instructions.
  • Designers find design tools, product documentation, and customization information.

These companies know that every marketing interaction with indirect customers will strengthen the connection to their company, build product loyalty, and influence the purchasing decisions of their direct customers.

How to find your indirect customers

Identifying your indirect customers may not be easy or obvious. Don’t just look in your core market or industry; consider opportunities in other segments and industries. Brainstorm, be creative, and look for tangential relationships.

A good starting point would be your customer’s customer. If your customer is a builder, a homeowner would be their customer. Homeowners hold a lot of sway with their preferences, and builders will find it hard to go against their wishes.

You might find indirect customers in other trades, even in other industries. An architectural ironworker, for example, could make a strong recommendation for you to a general contractor needing to source a specialized product, like Ipe, for their project.

And think about design professionals like architects, kitchen planners, and interior designers who may be good indirect customers. Their confidence in your company and products carries considerable clout.

Capture profits through your indirect customers

Don’t underestimate your indirect customers’ ability to positively impact your sales. They can play an important role in influencing the purchasing decisions of your direct customers. When it comes to marketing, sometimes your indirect customers are your most profitable targets. When you tap into the power of your indirect customers, you can expand into new markets, gain credibility, increase your sales, and grow your business.


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Connecting to your customers through content marketing

Old-school methods don’t cut it anymore.

The world of sales and marketing has changed for businesses large and small. Cold-calling doesn’t work anymore. Traditional advertising based around touting the virtues of your products and services doesn’t cut it these days. Today’s buyers are just not responding to old-school methods.

So what does work these days? It’s a smart strategy called “content marketing.” But, unless you travel in marketing circles, there’s a good chance that you may have never heard the term content marketing. It’s possible that your wood products business may already be doing some content marketing, and you just didn’t know that there’s a name for it.

Whether or not you’ve heard of content marketing, it’s important to know that in recent years content marketing has exploded. Once considered a nifty add-on, content marketing has evolved and matured, and it’s now widely regarded as an essential core component in any company’s marketing strategy.

So what exactly is content marketing?

According to the Content Marketing Institute:

Content marketing is the art of communicating with your customers and prospects without selling… Instead of pitching your products or services, you are delivering information that makes your buyer more intelligent. The essence of this content strategy is the belief that if we, as businesses, deliver consistent, ongoing valuable information to buyers, they ultimately reward us with their business and loyalty.

Simply put, if you, as a wood products manufacturer, provide helpful, non-promotional information that your customers can truly use, you will become more valuable to those customers, and as a result, they will likely buy from you instead of someone else.

Content marketing is not about selling; it’s about solving your customers’ problems. It’s about educating your customer, creating value and building relationships. The main goal is not to sell your products or services, but to pass on your knowledge and share helpful information that your customers can actually use.

Examples of content marketing in the real world

Content marketing takes many forms. Blogs, e-newsletters, social media, webinars, case studies, white papers and videos are all examples of content marketing. Here’s a look at content marketing in action:

  • Let’s say that you’re a do-it-yourselfer whose pretty handy with car maintenance and repair. You need information on how to replace your oxygen sensor, so you search online. You find an informative how-to video on the Auto Zone website. What’s more, you discover that their website has scores of other DIY videos. Those videos are content marketing.
  • Or how about this? The holidays are coming, and you want to spruce up your dining room before your guests visit. You go to the Sherwin Williams website to look at paint colors. While you’re there, you find helpful painting tips and advice that teach you how to achieve great-looking results. Those painting tips and advice are content marketing.
  • Take a look at this example from the wood products industry. StairSupplies sells stair parts, treads, handrails and more. In addition to product information, their website features relevant blog articles on subjects ranging from installing a cable railing system to a checklist of the tools needed for a staircase redesign project. Those blog articles are content marketing.

See how content marketing works? In the examples above, each company is using content marketing as a vehicle to connect with their customers, providing relevant and useful information without the hard-sell.

How content marketing helps your business

google-490567_1920You’ve just read how content marketing can be really great for customers, but how can it actually help your wood products business? Here are just some of the ways.

Strong content marketing can help increase your company’s visibility with search engines. Having quality content such as blogs, videos or how-to guides on your website helps search engines find you, and that means that buyers can find you. The more onsite content you have, and the more relevant that content is to your customers, the better your chances of getting found online.

Content marketing improves your chances of reaching buyers in the early stages of the buying process. Today’s buyers start by researching online to get the information they need. Consequently, most buyers are “nearly 60% of the way through the purchase decision-making process before engaging a sales rep,” according to CEB Marketing Leadership Council. Content marketing allows you to give buyers the important information they need when they need it, and that can increase your chances of getting the sale.

Content marketing builds your company’s reputation and promotes customer loyalty. Buyers are looking for solutions to their problems. If you provide content that’s helpful and informative, you’ll create value in the minds of your buyers, and they’ll perceive you as an expert in the industry. The more they rely on you to help them solve their problems, the more they’ll trust you, the deeper their engagement, and the stronger their connection will be to your company. When it comes time for those buyers to make a purchase, you’ll be at the top of their list.

How to begin content marketing

marketing-1466315_1920Blogs, e-newsletters, videos, webinars, case studies – where should you begin with content marketing? As a manufacturer, you may find it a bit overwhelming. The key is to remain reasonable about what you can do.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Start with just one platform. It’ll be easier to manage, and you won’t have to create a lot of content all at once.

Be sure to have a goal. Know why you’re doing content marketing and what you want to accomplish. Is it getting more sales leads, creating awareness, improving customer loyalty or something else?

Remember that content marketing is all about your customers and helping them to solve their problems. It’s not about your products and services. Focus on your customers’ needs and create helpful content that educates them or addresses their concerns. You’re the expert. You have a lot of knowledge to share, so let your customers benefit from your professional expertise.

Not sure which platform to start with? A good choice is email marketing. A tried and true performer, email marketing is still one of the most effective tools for building customer relationships. Consider creating an informational monthly e-newsletter targeted to the specific needs of your customers. Remember to keep it informative and to deliver real value. What’s great about email marketing is that it gives you a lot of control – it’s trackable, customizable, and it gets delivered directly into your customer’s inbox.

With content marketing, persistence pays off

The real beauty of content marketing is that it gives you the opportunity to connect with and educate your customers. According to the Content Marketing Institute, “One reason why creating informative content is such a powerful strategy is that when customers are well-educated on a subject, they can make better informed purchasing decisions.”

If you’re not ready to tackle content marketing on your own, you can always work with a professional company who can help you with email marketing, blogs and other forms of content marketing. Whether you do it yourself, or work with a professional company, you need to know that content marketing requires patience.

Don’t expect instant results. Content marketing is a long-term strategy that requires commitment and dedication. Its success depends on the consistent delivery of quality content to your customers. Stay focused, remain diligent, and be sure to give your content marketing efforts enough time to take hold. Your persistence will pay off, and you’ll start to see positive results for your manufacturing business.


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6 reasons why email marketing should top your list

email-tabletIf you’re like most business owners, you’d like to get more sales. You may have heard the saying: “Sales keeps you in business, marketing keeps you in sales,” but you may not even know where to begin with marketing. Especially now, because there are so many competing marketing options: direct mail, search, mobile, event, content, social media, video, webinars, etc., etc. The choices are overwhelming.

Fortunately, there is one very good option, a tried and true performer – email marketing. It’s not the newest “shiny object,” but it has a formidable track record for effectiveness.

In this article, I’ll give you 6 compelling reasons why email marketing should be at the top of your list.

1. Email is how businesses communicate.

Sure, there’s LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, but not everyone in business is active on social media. Everyone has an email address though, and that means your prospects and customers are just a click away.

2. Email marketing is measurable.

The old adage about advertising and marketing goes, “I know that half of my budget is wasted, I just don’t know which half.” There’s not much point in investing in something that doesn’t produce results. With email campaign tracking, you get very accurate information about what works.

Email service providers like Constant Contact and iContact make it easy to see who has opened your email, at what time, which links they clicked, and how many times they viewed your email. This valuable information lets you see what’s working and what isn’t, enabling you to adjust your marketing message as necessary.

3. Email marketing is very inexpensive.

When compared to other marketing options, email marketing is extremely cost effective. With no printing or postage costs, you can send your message to 100, 1,000, or even 10,000 people or more for very little money. With its good R.O.I., it’s no wonder that email marketing has continued to be a top tactic for business-to-business (b2b) marketing.

4. Email marketing is effective.

As you can see from the chart, email marketing is the most effective digital marketing tactic. It’s a great way to maximize your marketing efforts, and is one of the best ways to maintain relationships with existing customers and to build trust with new prospects.
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5. Email messages can be targeted.

With email marketing, you can target customers by type, location, position, purchases, etc. You can tailor your message, and send information that is meaningful to your target audience. The more you target your message, the more effective it will be.

6. Email is read on mobile devices.

More people are using smartphones and tablets than ever before. In fact, more email is read on mobile devices (55%) than on desktop (19%).(Source: Litmus 2016.) Email marketing can reach customers wherever they are, and that’s important to delivering your message.

If you can do only one thing…

With so many marketing options available today, it can be overwhelming deciding which to use. If you can only handle one tactic, email marketing would be the smart choice. It’s measurable, inexpensive, effective, and it delivers results. It may not be the sexy newcomer, but it’s still a powerful workhorse. Email marketing deserves a top spot in any company’s marketing arsenal.


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9 ways to improve your customer’s website experience

man hands laptop blueprintsHow do you know if your business website is effectively serving your customers? Your website may look good, but is it really working? Is it giving your customers what they need? Is it providing the strong content and useful information that encourages your customers to browse your site longer?

Your website can be a valuable resource for your customers as well as a powerful sales and marketing tool for you, but only if it’s equipped with what it needs to create a quality user experience. We’re going to look at nine tools and tactics that can help you to improve your customer’s website experience. After you read this, take a look at your business website and see how it stacks up.

Website tools and tactics to create a better customer experience

1. Customer-focused

Your customers come first. Your website should be built to serve the specific needs of your customers and provide the content, features, and functionality that create a quality user experience.

The overwhelming majority of buyers first research products and services online before personally contacting a business. Your website is almost always your prospective customer’s first point of contact with your company, so you want to be sure your customer has all of the information he or she needs to make an informed decision. Your website should demonstrate that you understand your customer and that you can solve their challenges.

Put yourself in your customers’ place. Are you presenting the information on your site in a way that best serves your customers, answers their questions and addresses their concerns? Is the language clear and conversational? Are you providing easy access to your product information?

laptop screen2. Quality content

Your customers need specific information, and they’re searching online to find it. Relevant, credible web content is one of the main factors that search engines use to determine your search rankings. The success of your website – and its ranking in search engine results – is determined largely by the quality of your content.

Be sure to keep your website content relevant and customer-focused by incorporating these tactics:

  • Provide detailed and accurate product information to your customers so they keep you in the running during their research and buying phases.
  • Include other helpful content (how-to guides, blogs, etc.) that serves as a resource and keeps customers on your site longer.
  • Add fresh content on a regular basis. Sites that are updated regularly help to promote customer engagement and generally rank higher with search engines than sites that remain stagnant.

Are you getting the same questions over and over again from your customers? That’s a sign that your web content could be improved and that you need to update your site with answers to those common questions. What if that information is already on your site, but your customers aren’t finding it? Moving that content to a more obvious location on your site may solve the problem.

3. Professional design

First impressions matter. A professionally designed website creates a positive first impression, establishes your company’s credibility in the eyes of your customers, and reflects the quality of your products and services.

Professional web design is an investment that pays off. A professional web designer knows how to create an attractive design and communicate your message for maximum visual impact. But the benefits of professional web design go well beyond aesthetics. In addition to looking good, a professionally designed website incorporates user-friendly navigation, easy-to-read fonts, logical organization, and quick load times, which all contribute to a better user experience.

Equally as important, a professionally built website has clean, proper coding and is optimized for search engines, helping to boost your website’s online presence.

Look at your website as if you’ve never seen it before. Is your website making a favorable first impression? Is it creating a sense of trust? Is it presenting your company in the best possible light?

woman holding smart phone4. Responsive website

A responsive website is one that is built to automatically resize and adjust to fit a tablet, mobile phone, laptop or desktop so your site looks good and performs well on any device. If your website isn’t responsive and your customer is using any device other than a desktop computer, your site may not display properly, forcing your frustrated customer to zoom, pinch or scroll sideways to see your web pages. Even worse, your customer may abandon your site altogether because it’s difficult to interact with.

Here’s one more compelling reason to have a responsive site. Responsive sites actually rank higher in Google search results because they provide a better user experience. If your website is not responsive, you’re likely hurting your search rankings.

Take a look at your website on your mobile phone. Is your site displaying properly? Is it providing the same user experience as a desktop?

5. Calls-to-action

Your customers are coming to your website. Now what? You need to tell them what to do or where to go next. Calls-to-action (CTAs) lead your customers to perform a specific action while helping you to capture information and generate qualified leads.

Calls-to-action can be for whatever action you’d like your customer to take, such as subscribing to your newsletter, downloading a how-to guide, and signing up for a free consultation. In exchange for getting useful information, your customers provide you with contact information such as their email addresses, which you can use as sales leads.

Another type of call-to-action doesn’t require your customers to sign up or give any information. These CTAs can be used as a tool to establish trust, create more visibility for your company, and position yourself as an expert. This type of CTA usually directs customers to take action such as “read more” or “share now.”

The most effective CTAs are in the form of a button on your web page. They should be brief, attention-grabbing, and explain very clearly what your customers are getting when they click on your call-to-action.

Are you using calls-to-action to generate leads? Are your CTAs enticing enough for your customers to provide their contact information? Are your CTA buttons well-designed and strategically placed?

tablet showing Google6. SEO

You want prospective customers to find you when they search online. That’s where SEO comes in. SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the process of improving the ranking of your website in search results on Google and other major search engines. When combined with strong and engaging content on your website, SEO helps to boost your online visibility, so you can get found by your customers.

SEO is a complicated topic which cannot be explained in just a couple of paragraphs. However, one very important thing you must know about SEO is that it cannot guarantee that your website will appear on the first page of Google or any other search engine. What SEO can do is help to increase your website traffic and your chances for better search rankings.

There are a number of SEO best practices that you and your web developer can follow to optimize your website for search engines. They encompass a wide range of technical and tactical strategies, including how your website is set up; the types of links you’re using on your site; the quality of your content; and even the quality of your website’s user experience. Incorporating a multi-faceted approach to SEO will go a long way toward helping to improve your search rankings, which, in turn, helps your customers find you.

Does your website follow any SEO best practices? Are your images optimized for web use? If you’re unsure if your site is optimized for search engines, contact your website developer and ask what SEO practices were followed when your site was built. Implement whatever SEO practices you can to improve the effectiveness of your site.

7. Clear navigation

Simple and clear navigation on your website is essential to providing a good customer experience and is one of the key elements of good web design. Your website’s navigation should be obvious, allowing your customers to easily and quickly find the information they’re looking for without having to “figure out” how to move around your site. Ideally, your customers should be able to find the information they’re looking for in three clicks or fewer.

Your website’s navigation should provide a clear path, enabling your customers to know where they are and to move seamlessly from page to page without getting lost or disoriented. Easy, intuitive navigation creates a positive user experience, which encourages your customers to view more of your web pages and spend more time on your site.

Is your website’s navigation providing clear pathways? Can your web visitors go from page to page without having to hit the “back” button or go back to your home page? Is information accessible in three clicks or fewer?

girl at computer8. User-friendly CMS

As far as your customers are concerned, useful and accurate content is the most important part of your website. Keeping your web content up-to-date is essential to maintaining a positive user experience.

Your website’s CMS (content management system) is the suite of tools that allows you to create and manage your web content. Your CMS should be user-friendly, allowing you to quickly and easily add, update, delete, publish and organize your web pages. Your CMS should give you a certain amount of flexibility for displaying and formatting your content, but it should also provide the appropriate built-in protections that ensure that page design, fonts, colors and styling remain consistent across all pages of your site. This ensures a consistent experience for your customers.

Every website has its own specific content needs, so be sure that your CMS is customized to best serve the needs of your business. If your CMS is developed to suit your needs and is easy to work with, you’re more likely to add and update content on a regular basis, which is key to keeping your customers engaged and providing a good user experience.

Is your CMS giving you the control you need to manage your website content? Can you easily update your website or is the process too time-consuming and tedious?

9. Social media share buttons

Social media “share” buttons offer an easy, no-cost way to help you reach a wider audience, promote your web content, and build your online presence. Using share buttons on your website for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media channels can contribute to a positive user experience and increase visitor engagement.

What makes share buttons so valuable is that they make it easy for your web visitors to pass along information to their social media networks. When your web visitors share your content, they’re helping to spread the word about your business, build your company’s credibility through social “proof,” and drive more traffic to your website. One of the biggest benefits of using share buttons on your website is the potential to reach a new pool of prospective customers who may not even be aware of your business. And those prospective new customers could share your content with their networks, expanding your reach even further.

When properly placed, social media share buttons act as friendly prompts, encouraging your web visitors to share your photos, videos, product information, blog articles or helpful tips. This social sharing helps to establish your company as a trusted and knowledgeable resource.

Are you helping to promote your business through social media share buttons? Is your web content shareable? Are your social media “share” buttons prominently placed for maximum effectiveness?

How does your website stack up?

If your site is incorporating all or most of the tools and tactics above, congratulations! You’re maximizing your website’s value and providing a positive user experience. If you’re only using half of the tools and tactics, you probably should consider how to include more of them to improve your customer’s user experience. If you’re using almost none of the elements above, you need to formulate a strategy for incorporating these elements into your current website or seriously consider a website redesign. After all, your website is one of your most important sales and marketing tools, and an ineffective website can actually hurt your business through lost sales and lower search rankings.


Think of your website as your top salesperson. Read more.


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