How to Get More Customers Using Engineering as Marketing

Using Engineering as Marketing

Using engineering as marketing is building tools that people use that lead them to tell others and to become a customer themselves.  I have done this only once before and forgot about this altogether.  So I have to give credit to Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares whose book called “How Any Startup Can Achieve Traction” for reminding me of this and providing some contemporary examples.  While this whole concept seems most appropriate to software companies, it can be used by many companies to develop a useful calculator, widget, or educational website.

My example was to create a calculator that led the user through the process of determining the value of using a customer relationship management (CRM) system.  It asked questions about the value of customers, how many customers went away each year and so on.  It was very helpful in getting potential customers to be able to put some rough numbers around something so intangible.  So if you develop a usefully tool, you can host it on a single purpose site where it is easy to find and use but also has links to your main site to sign up for more.  In a perfect world, you would pick a domain name for the site that includes one or more words people would use to search for such a tool.

Google’s keyword tool is ostensibly about finding out how much traffic a set of keywords might generate as well as to identify more keyword ideas.  But once you use it, you are much more likely to use AdWords to get some traffic going to your site.

Another strategy is to develop a bare bones version of your product and offer it free.  You just need to have enough functionality that it is useful as it is.  But because you have so many more features in the paid version, once users like the bare bones version, you will get a healthy proportion to upgrade to a paid version.

The key lessons here are:

The tool or capability needs to be close or directly related to your core business or product.

Even if free, it has to offer genuine value with no strings or expirations.  As a small business consultant I can tell you that it needs to prove its worth right away before the user looses interest.

So consider using engineering as marketing as part of your marketing strategy and your marketing plan.

How to Get More Customers Using Speaking Engagements

Speaking Engagements are good for Marketing Consultants but not for Everyone

Speaking engagements are not for everyone or for every type of company.  If you are seeking to build your credibility and/or you have a relatively complicated message to get out, speaking engagements can be effective.  I have mentioned many uses such as speaking at conferences or holding seminars but there are many more.  So how to you get selected to be a speaker and what kinds of things should you talk about?

Marketing consultant

Speaking Engagements

In order to get selected by event organizers to speak, you first have to get their attention. So if you have a good idea that you can talk about in your area of expertise, you can just pitch it to the event organizer.  After all, they need to get a good lineup of speakers to attract attendees.  While this will include some well known names, new names doing new topics are also needed.  You can also reach out to event organizers and ask them what kinds of topics they want to have a speaker for.  Then you can make a pitch around one of their ideas.

Start with Speaking Engagements at the Local Level

While there are regional, national and even international events, it is usually easier to get into a local event and then build up from there.  You may have to submit your ideas months before the event is actually held so this requires some planning.  I sometimes get invitations to come to events that highlight certain speakers and topics six months or more in advance.  It does not mean that all speakers are signed up by then or that the presentations have been finished but you need to be deliberate.  You can also begin by getting some speaking events at non-profits, business organizations to which you are a member or even co-working sites.  I have been a speaker at all of those types of events as well as doing seminars at the various Chambers of Commerce where I am a member.  I do topics such as how to develop a marketing plan, a business plan or how to connect your business and marketing strategies to your web strategies.  After all what kind of company does not need more customers?  If you do a good job, people in the audience will seek you out to speak at their events.

Provide Insights from Your Experience

When you start to talk, the audience wants to know why you were selected to speak and what you are going to tell them that is worth their time.  You need to tell a story.  Tell them why you are doing this (and say it with passion!) and present insights that they are not getting anywhere else because you are drawing from your experience or expertise.

If you want to do a lot of speaking, come up with a few good topics and get really good at telling your story.  Make it modular so you can do short, medium, or long presentations while just adding or removing slides.  This way, you are preparing only once for each topic.  You can also record your presentation and then make it available.  You can also try to engage your audience real time over social media during the presentation.  Finally have some call to action.  Ask them to sign up for something or take some simple action that will be valuable to them and easy for you to fulfill such as getting them on a mailing list for a newsletter.  As a small business consultant, I can tell you that most importantly, your presentations need to be engaging!  So consider using speaking engagements as part of your marketing strategy and your marketing plan.


PS  My next speaking engagement is going to be at the Southern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce on January 18th. at 12:00 and includes lunch.  It is free and all are welcome and you don’t have to be a chamber member to attend.  The topic is a “Profitability Checkup for Your Small Business”.  Also speaking will be Mark Collins on “How to Get Your Website to Rank in Google on Page 1.

Content Marketing Trends That Will Help Your Small Business Thrive In 2018

Rates of Facebook Post Engagement

This article covers some key marketing trends for 2018.  One of the most important is the movement to personalized content.  Unfortunately, true personalized content requires that you know something about your customers individually and are able address them individually.  This requires at least some basic data.  Many small businesses don’t have this.  What you can do without this data is make your content valuable, relevant and consistent.  This will go a long way to increasing customer engagement.  Content should be a key component of both your marketing strategy and your marketing plan.


Getting More Customers – Using Partners

Partnering With Other Companies

With partners, you are partnering with other companies to get customers where both partners get something out of the deal.

These are the different forms partnering can take:

Regular Partnerships – Two companies work together to give better benefits to the consumer by having the products work together.

Joint Ventures – Two companies work together to create a new product.

Licensing – One company wants to hook up with a bigger well known company to take advantage of the bigger company’s well known brand.

Distribution Deals – One party distributes a product through a company that has customers  that could use the original company’s product.

Supply partnerships – This helps a company that needs a source for a key input (ingredient or component) to their product while the supplying company needs to move the product they are supplying.

For partnerships to work effectively, each party needs to have a clear understanding of each other’s objectives.  You want a mutually beneficial relationship with each party having an incentive for it to work.  You want metrics to see if it is working and set goals for the metrics with timeframes and volumes expected.  You should have a way out if it does not go as planned.

To get going, you need to identify some potential partners and ask yourself these questions:

What does the partner need to be more successful?

Will my product or service meet that need?

How can a deal be structured to make both parties happy?

With the above questions answered, you are ready to make your pitch. Then you need to identify who in the potential partner’s organization would be the right person to make your pitch to.  Then go for it!

One last point, work on several partnership deals at the same time as lead times can be long and you want a fallback position that does not take too long to come to fruition.  This way if the first potential partner walks away or offers you a deal that does not make sense for you but by that time have become desperate and need any deal, you have a backup plan.  So consider using partnerships as part of your marketing plan.

If America’s Economy Is Winner-Take-All, Why Are Some Smaller Businesses Thriving?

Niche Marketing

This article discusses how the retail landscape has changed over the last 30 years.  However, it points out that margins have increased and that many small businesses are thriving by providing a better customer experience, a niche product or serving a hard to serve market, points that I make every day to my clients.

See the complete article at

Getting More Customers – Using Viral Marketing

Viral Marketing

Viral Marketing is the process of motivating your existing customers to refer others to your products or services in large numbers.  In the startup world, going viral means that every customer you acquire brings with them through referral at least one other customer.  When you get there, you have exponential growth!  Just be sure you have scaled your product or service for this level of growth before you get there.  See my page on scaling at  I have worked with lots of companies that called me after they rapidly expanded, then fell back because they could not scale up to meet that demand properly.  Not only does this damage your reputation but can leave you with too much fixed cost and too little revenue.  Now we can be talking turnarounds.  You can see my page on this at .

Viral marketing begins by creating a viral loop that works for your customers and then getting customers into the loop.  A basic loop can be as simple as (1) a customer is exposed to your product or service, (2) that customer tells other potential customers and (3) those potential customers are exposed and some portion buy from you.  Then the process continues with the new customers.  That’s the loop part.

There are different types of viral marketing:

Word of Mouth – This is the old fashion kind.  The product or service is so great that customers just want to tell all their friends.

Inherent – The customer only gets value by inviting others.  Think of Skype or Snapchat where the product is not useful until the people you want to communicate with are also customers.

Collaboration Based – The product may be useful for a single user but is much more useful when used in a group context.  Think Google docs or sheets where multiple people can edit at the same time and see each other’s changes.

Imbedded in Communications – This is where the use of the product makes others aware of the product.  Think about sending emails from your phone and having Sent from my iPhone or sent from Verizon appended to every message.

Incentivized – The customer gets an incentive to tell others.  Think about Airbnb, where you can get account credit for a referral.

Imbedded Buttons or Widgets – The supplier embeds buttons or widgets in the product that make it easy to share.  Think Facebook or Twitter.

Social Networked – The customer’s activities (including the use of a product) are broadcast to others.  Again, think Facebook.

So what does viral mean?  Well, if the number of others that each customer recommends who actually sign up is greater than 1, then you have viral growth.  That is, you get one or more additional new customers for each customer you acquire.  That is going to be really fast growth.  If you get one additional new customer for every two customers you acquire, that will be very helpful but not viral.

The other thing that affects your growth rate is the speed at which the loop occurs.  Your growth will be markedly different if the cycle time is 3 days or 3 months.  You will need to do everything you can to shorten the cycle time and to keep people from dropping out of the loop.

So to be effective using this channel, try to build a loop into your product or service.  Then make it easy (reduce friction) so people don’t drop out and make it as short as possible.

Getting More Customers – Using Search Engine Advertising

Search engine advertising (or search engine marketing-SEM) is the process of placing ads that show up depending on what keywords are being searched for.  They appear at both the top and bottom of the search page results bracketing the organic listings. This is also called pay per click (PPC) because the advertiser does not pay for the ad unless the customer clicks on the ad and is taken to a landing page associated with the ad.  So if you place an ad that you want displayed when someone types in “Business Consultant” and you bid enough for it, it can appear on the first page of Google.

To get started, you need to come up with keyword phrases that someone might use to find your product or service (in the same way you might do this for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) discussed last week).  Again, you can use Google Keyword Planner. The next step is to group keywords into groups of similar terms.  Using Google’s advertising platform AdWords, you write ads that will attract customers to click on them.  The ads need to have different ad copy that directly relates to the keywords in the group.  You can have has many groups of keywords and ads as you want.  You can relate various groups to a single campaign.  You then run the ads.  Potential customers click on the ads and are taken to your website and hopefully follow through with an inquiry or purchase.  To be most effective, the search keywords in the group need to directly relate to the ads which need to directly relate to the landing page.

AdWords measures the clicks you get as a percentage of the number of times the ad was shown.  This is called the click through rate.  When you set up the ad campaign, you decide on various bidding strategies as part of your ad budget and the maximum you want to pay per click for that ad.  When someone searches for your keyword, Google’s algorithm has the effect of having all people with the search term in their group bid against each other until the top three (for the top of the first page) have beat out everyone else because the bid went above all the other bidders max budgets.  You can see how advertisers with deep pockets have a big advantage here and can drive up the cost per click of the most popular search terms.

To be profitable for you, the cost per acquisition (CPA) of a sale (or customer) has to be less than the profit you are going to earn on that sale (or customer) in order to leave some profit for you.  The cost per acquisition is simply the cost per click divided by the conversion percentage.  So if you pay $5 per click, and every tenth person buys your product (i.e. you have a ten percent conversion rate) you need to have a gross profit of at least $50 on that sale because you will have paid for the ad to be clicked ten times before you get a sale ($5×10=$50).

The good thing about paid advertising is that you can bring in customers right away to get things going.  You also learn quickly about the keywords that customer’s use to find you which can inform all your other messaging and advertising.

There are a million things to learn about paid advertising to really optimize it but these are the basics.  I will write more in later posts.