Author Archives: Mike Richoux

The Fractional CMO

We’re hearing the term “fractional CIO” more often these days in business circles. For small organizations that can’t afford top-level IT talent but still need a strategic, long-term IT plan, it makes great sense to hire a consultant to fill that role. They’re getting expensive talent for a fraction of the cost, for a fraction of the time.

The same concept can be applied to marketing. Many of the companies we work with can’t spend $200,000 or more for a full time marketing executive. If they pay less than that they’re bringing in someone without the right experience or credentials to play a leadership role. But whether or not they already have an in-house marketing team, they need big-picture guidance: someone to create an integrated road map for media relations, communications, web presence, ad campaigns, trade shows and more. Someone to make sure the company’s following that plan and someone who’s adjusting it accordingly over time.

Another reason people go the fractional route is if their needs don’t require a full-time resource. It would be next to impossible to hire a marketing professional with a high level of talent for a part-time position. And even if you could, chances are that person would get bored with its limitations and move on within a year or so.

Hiring a fractional CMO allows you to engage marketing expertise on demand. It’s flexible. Maybe you need 20 hours a month. Maybe you need 50. You don’t have to sacrifice talent or bend to the whims of an outsider. Unlike one-time consultants, a fractional CMOs can truly immerse themselves in your company and its culture; they can embrace big challenges and think strategically about sales problems while keeping you on target year after year.

The best marketing professionals are visionary. They can go into a boardroom and persuade top level executives to examine their challenges and consider the most effective solutions. They hold everyone accountable. At the same time, they can see what new problems lie ahead, and can help the company adjust to a changing economic climate or shifting competitive landscape.

With a fractional CMO you can have that kind of leadership for a few thousand dollars a month—nearly a quarter of what you’d pay for a fulltime CMO. Just as a point of comparison, consider the PR agency that only focuses on media strategy and public relations: A reputable firm costs $10,000 a month.

In a world where more and more services are being outsourced, the fractional CMO can be an economically sound choice for companies that need executive-level support and guidance as well as visionary market perspective driving their growth strategy.

To learn more about our Fractional CMO services, contact us today.

In-House or Outsource: Finding Your Marketing Formula

Marketing tends to be a low priority for small businesses. You have fixed overhead and not a lot of flexibility in your budget. Why should you devote limited funds to marketing when you can give this work to someone on your payroll?

Yet in many situations this approach is too cavalier to be effective. Is it better than nothing? Possibly. Is it delivering the return you desire? Almost certainly not.

Typically marketing is not a core competency in your business model. You may, however, have some skillsets to draw from. Perhaps there’s someone who can manage organic social media accounts, or someone who can write snappy copy for the company website.

Where do your assets reside? Look at the employees you have, their total compensation, the time they spend on their given operational tasks and consider the cost of diverting them. Factor in any uncertainty about their ability to perform the job and the cost of lost opportunities and compare that to the hourly rate of a marketing firm.

No one wants to use the wrong resources for a job, whether that job is accounting, sales or IT. You wouldn’t throw unfamiliar work at a random employee, simply expect them to figure it out and hope for the best. The same should hold true for marketing.

A marketing firm with experience in your industry can either supplement or take on all of the marketing duties needed within your organization. Resources don’t need to be spent on training or managing payroll or vacation days. There’s no investment in equipment, and it’s quick to onboard a firm that already specializes in this type of work.

Outsourced work can also be much more efficient. An outsourced team has an eye to the bigger picture—messaging, branding, full-fledged marketing campaigns—and can keep the efforts consistent and coordinated. It’s also a flexible solution—you pay only for what you need.

In an ideal world, you’ll have a hybrid model, with some tasks handled internally and others handled outside. You might bring in a firm to help develop an overall plan and strategy, create effective and tested messaging and help delegate tactics to in-house staff. In this scenario, efforts should be expertly coordinated. You might be simultaneously running a blog, creating conference swag, running print ads and pitching stories to a newspaper—you want all of these activities to be integrated.

In most cases, management of a hybrid model is best left to the experienced consultant who can be held accountable for working to a plan. The firm can also be responsible for managing metrics and analytics and measuring your ROI.

At the end of the day, your marketing investment—whether in house, outsourced, or hybrid—should be worth the dollars spent.

For more information download our whitepaper or contact us at to learn how Lion’s Share can help you determine the right formula for your organization.

How Press Releases Help Small Business

Something really, really big has happened at your company and you’re ready to shout the great news from the rooftops. Maybe you landed a huge new client or partner. Maybe you’re introducing a long-awaited product or unveiling an enhancement to an existing product. Or maybe you just hired a highly respected figure in your industry. Unfortunately, even the tallest rooftops don’t get you too far in the digital age. If you want the press and general public to know about it, you’re going to want to draft a press release.

Most small businesses don’t have a PR firm engaged to help with media outreach, so they need assistance with this process. Writing a press release isn’t rocket science, but it does take some mastery of the form. They’re structured in a specific way to convey information as clearly as possible. Most importantly, the press release has to have value for the reader and it must contain new information. If you have to question whether an item is significant enough to merit a press release, it’s probably better shared through social media or a blog.

Of course, simply writing a press release is not enough. You also need to distribute it, preferably through a digital service, to guarantee some buzz. Chances are, at the very least, a regional or industry publication will pick up the news and broadcast it. With more luck, you’ll get a story in the business or mainstream press. Remember: If you have customers or resellers you can mention it’s an easy way to also get them more coverage which gives you more fodder for doing business in the future.

From there, it’s a matter of leveraging that press release in your sales efforts. Be sure to post a PDF version on your website and have your sales team share it with existing and potential customers. If a customer is already considering buying your product or service and you can show them a press release, it may be enough to tip them over into the buy category. After all, everybody has a brochure and a website, but your good news may be that extra piece of validation needed to convince the customer that this is a worthy investment.

We suggest our clients put out at least a few press releases a year: It shows you still have a pulse and keeps the company’s name in the news. When posted online, press releases also have the added advantage of helping boost your search engine rankings and attracting more visitors because you’re adding keyword rich content to your site. Lion’s Share works with companies to develop press release strategies designed to ensure that dissemination of each release is timed for maximum effect. We also make sure the brand messaging is consistent across all communications channels—carefully crafted to drive sales without pushing it into used car salesman territory.

When handled correctly, ideally by a communications professional, press releases are an inexpensive way to achieve a number of goals and there’s no reason why any small business should not be taking advantage of this virtual megaphone.

Find out how Lion’s Share can help you with press release development and management. Contact us today.

The Work Behind a Workhorse Website

In a previous post we discussed the benefits of what Lion’s Share calls workhorse websites—websites that reduce labor costs and valuable employee time while serving a critical function for your business. Whether you need a website to engage customer service, enable information exchange, deliver software updates or to perform other heavy-lifting tasks, the workhorse lives up to its name and can help generate sales to boot. But not every website development firm is up to this potentially quite complex task. How exactly do you go about creating such a site and what sort of skills do you need in your arsenal?

Unlike billboard websites, workhorse websites require more than just great design and site architecture—though these are important, here, too, of course. Workhorse websites tend to be infinitely more variable in the development process and demand a nimble, technologically savvy team.

Helming that team should be a project manager who can translate requirements between the various languages of designers, coders, stakeholders and end users while keeping the ultimate goal in mind: increased, reliable functionality with an easy-to-use interface.

You also want someone with the experience to recognize what works and what doesn’t; what’s realistic and what’s not. We’ve found that when people try to expand their website beyond the simple “billboard” they often struggle to ground their ideas into attainable goals. You may have a hodgepodge of millions of great ideas, but you can’t build a hodgepodge into a website. As with everything, simplicity rules here. Your site will be most effective with a few key functions. Part of the website’s project management is managing expectations and anticipating complications.

This is one situation where you definitely don’t want a Yes Man. You don’t want a contractor to agree to all of your ideas simply because a bigger site means more work hours and more money. We’ve seen cases like this where the resulting site’s design is confusing, its functions unnecessary and its overall efficiency is subpar. A key quality in a contractor who will help you build your site is the ability to edit, even if it means focusing on just 20 percent of the imagined site. In the end, you will have a stronger product.

Before your workhorse website can do its job, there’s much work to be done. But with the right team in place, you’ll be thrilled with the results.

To learn more about Lion’s Share’s workhorse website services, contact us today.


Does Social Media Work for B2B Marketing?

The short answer to this question is sometimes. But when it’s an appropriate fit, this marketing tool can be extremely effective. The benefits of social media for B2B include spreading the word about your business and products, driving more traffic to your website and providing a forum to engage in an informal dialogue with your market, which can help you learn more about who they are and what their particular needs might be. Regular posts will also improve your website’s SEO ranking, critical to any organization.

When we say “social media,” we’re largely talking about blogs, creating a predictable stream of educational content that can be shared over the internet through channels such as Twitter and LinkedIn, and perhaps to a lesser extent, Facebook.

Certainly, if your business is technology based, social media marketing can be a boon as many of your clients and customers are online and looking for the latest and greatest information.

For any industry, blog posts are an ideal space to give an in-depth explanation of your product/service and its benefits and features. This establishes your company as an authoritative voice, and gives your business customers more insight into the ways your product can be used to simplify or improve their own work. Technical posts can be extremely useful to readers, and are likely to earn more shares and page views over time.

A blog can also be a great means to provide live coverage of a trade show, sharing information with those who can’t attend. We’ve also seen blogs where employees talk about their industry or work culture to humorous effect. These types of post can help bring personality and color to your marketing efforts. Or a blog can be used for news items that are not quite important enough to merit a press release, but still might interest readers and customers. Better still, mix it up and keep the content varied over time.

No matter what content you post, it’s very important to know your audience, and to frame your social media efforts accordingly. On which channels are your customers likely to read content? Where are they in the buying cycle? What are their barriers to purchasing your product or services? Also, just because your blog is primarily designed for a B2B audience doesn’t mean you have to only speak to that audience. It’s fine to use that space to occasionally address consumer concerns.

One closing piece of advice: If you do start a blog, it absolutely must be kept up to date. Don’t just slap up some posts and hope you’ll get into a rhythm. There should be a long-term plan to keep it fresh and active. We suggest posting at least once a week to ensure readers return.

Contact us to learn more about how Lion’s Share can help you with B2B social media marketing for your organization.

A Balancing Act: Running Your Business While Marketing It

Running a small business requires you to wear many hats, and not all of them comfortably. If your business is to thrive, sooner or later, you need to think about business development, which means putting a marketing strategy in place.

Small businesses like yours share a number of challenges. You’re a diminutive fish in a huge pond—the pond being a marketplace oversaturated with messages and products. To sell your wares, to make your product a known entity, you must first be noticed.

If you possess a natural affinity for reaching and connecting with your target audience, or the bandwidth required to manage a multi-tiered marketing strategy, then you very well might be suited to the task.

However, you would hardly be alone if you lacked the know-how or time and energy to create and implement a marketing plan. Most company leaders have little to no understanding of the nuances of marketing. The tools and tactics change on a regular basis, and homing in on the right customers in the right way takes skill and research. What you don’t know can hurt you—or at the very least, it can waste your time and money. Don’t try to fake it.

You know your product inside and out. You know it better than anyone else. However, if you’re the brain trust behind the product, you’re not necessarily in the best position to communicate its benefits outside of the boardroom. All too often, we see tech innovators losing out on sales opportunities because they can’t speak in a language their business customers understand.

Conflating sales and marketing is another big mistake small businesses make. You may already have a sales team in place but don’t expect them to come up with your marketing strategy. Marketing is not the same as sales. Marketing is the engine driving sales. Your customer should have access to the right information at every point of the sales process and your marketing should communicate that information.

By the same token, having a good marketing strategy is worthless unless someone can actually close the deal. If your marketing strategy is not strategically and tactically funneled through to a sales objective you’ve wasted your time and money.

Almost every business can benefit from a third party assessment from an outside firm to take an objective look at what’s working and what’s needed to take sales to the next level. The exact formula, of course, is going to be different for each business and each company but it may well be the roadmap to your company’s future.

For more information download our whitepaper or contact us at to learn how Lion’s Share can help you determine the right formula for your organization.

Finding Your (Content) Voice

Content marketing—that is, using media and content to create brand awareness and build your consumer or client base—is critical in a world where people have become immune to traditional advertising. It’s a way to reach out and communicate, engage customers in a dialogue, without giving the hard sell. Finding the right voice to do this effectively is critically important.

Potential customers are constantly looking for more information and quickly. The more value you can offer, through relevant and timely information, the more you become a trusted source. Strong, consistently delivered content can also help you reap better results from search engines. It goes without saying that there must be content in content marketing: valuable, savvy insights, and not just empty platitudes or sales gimmicks. The content should be strong enough to stand on its own, because if it’s something you wouldn’t read then chances are your customers won’t be interested, either.

Naturally, the content voice you choose will depend on your communications strategy and business goals. Are you trying to reach out to a new group of consumers? Are you looking for more B2B transactions? Would you like to inspire loyalty from existing customers? Or are you educating clients about the problems your services can solve? Who are you talking to, and what are they looking for?

It will also largely depend on the platform you’re using. Are you writing a blog with a series of informational but friendly posts? Are you communicating on less formal channels such as Twitter and Instagram? Or are you creating a series of white papers that are meant to establish your authority as a thought leader in the field? Every business has different needs, and most can use some combination of communications vehicles.

Each of these formats will dictate a different tone and vocabulary. You might adopt a more rigorous writing style in a case study, while relaxing your language on social media. At the same time, however, the messaging needs to be consistent across all communications. It should also be relatively distinct and memorable while serving your brand.

It’s your story to tell, of course, but you want your content voice to do it justice. Lion’s Share works closely with clients to develop content marketing materials that showcase their companies’ personalities while hewing closely to their communications goals.

These are sometimes subtle distinctions, but when it comes to setting the stage for sales, they can make a deep impression on a potential customer who will either see you as either the next great thing or another also-ran. Make sure you get it right.

Find out more about your content voice, and how Lion’s Share can help you connect with more customers. Contact us today.

How Well Do You Know Your Market?

Chances are, if you’re a small business, you don’t know your market as well as you could, and should. You’re probably operating on instinct, based on conversations with a small number of clients. But you haven’t expended extensive time and resources researching existing and potential customers.

Finding out what your customers want is important for any business: How can you possibly provide a solution, if you don’t fully understand their unique pain? Why do they need this product or service? What have they used in the past? What are their expectations around working with your company?

Equally important is understanding what your customers really think of you. Why did they select your company’s service or product? What were their first impressions and how did they evolve through the sales process? How do they interpret your messaging and communications? How did you inspire confidence in the customer?

When you know exactly how your signals are received you can fine tune them accordingly. Maybe the tone of your social media is too strident; maybe customers are turned off by a particularly inept salesperson. Maybe they perceive the competition as much more established and professional. Maybe your proposal didn’t go far enough. A customer may have chosen not to buy your product simply because they didn’t like the way your slide presentation looked. If these types of issues are costing you sales, you’d want to know because they can easily be addressed.

Likewise, if a customer is going to give you a very positive testimonial, that, too, is useful information. What made your company stand out? How did your value proposition meet your customer’s needs? You’ll likely want to use some of this data in your marketing communications. Perhaps you could also ask the happy customer to participate in a case study. Regardless, you’ll know exactly what is working well so you can continue doing it.

Ultimately the best way to get these answers is by conducting a win/loss or post-decision interview, designed for onboarding customers or customers who have decided to find their product or service elsewhere. Ideally this interview is conducted by an independent party for the most unbiased assessment and most efficient analysis of data. People often mistake the win/loss interview as a customer survey but it’s a much more detailed and focused look at customer behavior. And the results are almost always incredibly illuminating. What you don’t know about your market really can hurt you.

Are you ready to know what your customers are thinking? It’s time to start asking these questions. We guarantee you’re in for some surprises.

For more information on how Lion’s Share can help you get in touch with your core audience, contact us today.

Tune Into Your Customers and Grab Market Share

What if there was a simple way to see your business from your customer’s perspective? And what if such information could guarantee you a substantial increase in market share?

Win/loss analysis is a systematic way of gathering critical intel that’s absolute gold for business development. Sadly, the majority of startup businesses don’t deploy this invaluable tool, even though these are precisely the organizations that could benefit most from using it.

That’s too bad, because a Gartner study found that organizations that conduct formal win/loss analysis with an appropriate degree of rigor can improve their sales win rates by up to 50%.

When you conduct win/loss analysis you’re opening a direct line of communication with your customers and asking questions about their buying cycle—specifically, why they have purchased your product or why they are choosing not to. You ask for feedback on your own sale and marketing processes, including your strengths and weaknesses; what worked and what didn’t. Questions can include everything from their decision-making process to pricing, presentation and your ability to address their concerns.

Very often, you’ll find that the answers you receive might be quite different—even diametrically opposed—to what you anticipated. Almost always, you come away with crucial nuggets of data that can be transformative in shaping your approach to sales, marketing, product development and customer support.

Even better, you can gather information about your competitors and how their products stack up against yours. Whether it’s adding relevant features or simplifying your sales process, these insights inform your future efforts to improve your business operations as well as your products or services.

There are other, less tangible benefits to win/loss analysis as well. From the customer’s point of view, such communication demonstrates that you care about their opinion—that you’re listening and open to hearing about ways you can improve and keep their business (or win it next time). Don’t be surprised if you hear the customer say, “Wow, no one has ever asked me this before.”

Be warned, however: This isn’t a one-time task. In an ever-changing business climate, effective win/loss analysis must be conducted constantly in order to consistently keep your finger on the sales pulse. When you initiate win/loss analysis, at a minimum you want to be conducting four to five customer interviews a month. In time, that number can be reduced, but you always want to maintain that contact so you can address customer expectations, change your product accordingly and meet their needs head on.

By the way, the same Gartner study states that the most effective way to conduct win/loss analysis is by engaging an independent third-party organization that can maintain the impartiality needed to ensure that the information is as accurate as possible. Use it to your best advantage and you’ll see far more wins than losses.

To inquire about Lion’s Share’s services and how we can help you leverage your customers’ experience, contact us today. 

You Have a Great Product, but No Customers. What’s Wrong with This Picture?

So many businesses come to the table with good—even genius—ideas for products or technologies. When it’s time to bring that product to market, however, they have no idea how to go about attracting customers.

Good ideas, it turns out, are not quite enough. And that’s okay. We wouldn’t expect a homebuilder to have a real estate license so why should we expect an entrepreneur to have innate marketing skills?

Whether you’re buoying a startup or sustaining an established company, the fact remains: If you’re in charge, you have to focus on your core business and developing your product. You most likely don’t have the time and energy to generate novel ideas for getting your name out there. Yet without a sound marketing plan to fuel sales, the growth of your customer base will be dependent on word of mouth referrals—something every business needs to an extent, but it’s not a long-term strategy.

If you don’t have the resources, skills or insight in-house to handle marketing duties, it may be time to consider outsourcing this service. Even if you do have an in-house marketing team, you might benefit from some outside assistance to bolster company efforts.

An effective marketing firm brings the objectivity of a third party to the table—the perspective of someone who isn’t immersed in your daily operations and who can help you communicate your ideas to a wide-ranging audience. (This can be especially true for tech businesses, which often struggle to make their concepts relatable to the layperson.)

A marketing strategy can help you position your company for success, find the right customers and deliver what it takes to seal the deal.

A good marketing firm can also point out the tactics that would most benefit your business, whether it’s B2B social media, public relations, website development, webinars or the creation of marketing content like whitepapers and blog posts.

At Lion’s Share, we understand the constraints under which small businesses are operating, and we work with our clients to help develop a marketing strategy that makes the most of their resources while building brand awareness, generating product buzz and drawing customers into the fold.

After all, marketing in and of itself isn’t the point. Good marketing drives sales—it’s as simple as that.

You’ve got the great idea part down. Now it’s time to get it out there.

For more information on how Lion’s Share can help your small business succeed, contact us today.

What’s Content Marketing?

In a nutshell, content marketing is sharing relevant and useful information to attract and retain customers. Thanks to advances in technology, content marketing has moved from a peripheral support role to a central and strategically-driven tactic, underpinning other marketing activities in use today. Following are some of the forms content marketing can take:

First Stop: Your Website
Customers, prospects, employees, investors, media, analysts and anyone else that has or wants a relationship with your business will visit your website. That’s why it needs to contain compelling messages, search engine optimization strategies, clear calls to action and helpful content. Ideally, there will also be some continually changing content (see below).

Blogging: A Stream of Fresh Content
You’re the best subject matter expert for your product or service. Blog posts are a phenomenal platform to connect to your target audience, showcase your product and educate the public on its finer points. Of course, a blog’s effectiveness depends on an audience, and you have to cultivate your audience through ongoing posts so your readers have a reason to return.

Articles and Whitepapers: Showcase Your Expertise
Demonstrating your considerable expertise through articles and whitepapers allows customers to understand how you resolve their pain points and why your business is the one they should be connecting with. Almost as important as the content itself, is a plan to distribute it.

Case Studies: Endorsements by Customers
One of the most effective ways to inform future customers about your product and why it’s the best in your market is by telling another customer’s story. A case study is a customer’s account of how your product or service solved their business problem. Case studies are a powerful endorsement and can be used in a multitude of ways to promote your business.

eBooks/Playbooks/Workbooks: A ‘How To” Guide
eBooks, Playbooks and Workbooks all provide instructions that guide customers through a recommended process or activity to use your product in the most effective and efficient way. For your customers, this is an added value and evidence of your commitment to them.

Presentations: Wowing Your Prospects
For many small businesses, part of the sales process involves a formal presentation of your products and company to your prospective customers. A presentation that conveys the information your customers need while addressing their pain points will help win that business.

Videos: Seeing is Believing
Product videos, training videos, customer videos, recorded webinars—all should contain content that is relevant and useful to your customer, while driving them to the next step with a clear and integrated call to action.

Whether it’s a well-researched whitepaper or a smartly scripted video, content marketing can be a powerful tool for driving sales and inspiring customer loyalty. At Lion’s Share, we create a content marketing strategy and plan that addresses each of the different stages of the buying cycle. We determine your customers’ information needs and create powerful content that elicits action—and keeps them coming back.

Looking to promote your business through high quality content? Contact Lion’s Share now.

What’s a Workhorse Website and Do I Need One?

For some businesses, a static website—what we think of as a billboard—suffices. It tells customers the information they need to know. It puts the company on the (cyber) map. It’s a storefront that displays the company brand, but does little else.

These days, however, most small companies need more than just a billboard. They need a website that carries some of the company’s workload—what Lion’s Share calls a “workhorse website.” They might require a working e-commerce site, or a platform to engage and nurture prospects. Perhaps the website needs to serve as a portal for delivering products and services directly to customers or to facilitate information exchanges between employees. Bottom line: Virtually all small businesses are resource-constrained, which means their website should do more than just exist.

I’d like to share two examples of Lion’s Share clients that have benefited from investing in a workhorse website.

One client, a captive insurance group, used its site to deliver information, forms and content to their clients, which consisted of a college system, its 16 member colleges and their respective employees. Clearly, this company already understood the concept and value of a workhorse website. Unfortunately, however, their site was difficult to access and manage. Clients had difficulty navigating the site and couldn’t find specific information they wanted. There was no way to segregate college-specific data, so the company couldn’t use the website as a central repository for all the information their clients needed. As a result, staff spent hours on the phone answering client questions and sending emails with the information clients had tried to find online and couldn’t. Lion’s Share redesigned and rebuilt the site. A new design streamlined and reorganized content so users could easily locate information. New user permissions were established, which meant sensitive information could be added and only authorized people would be able to see it. And a new content management system made it easy for staff to manage the website and keep it up to date.

A second client, a software company, wanted to use its website to deliver new software releases to customers, receive extremely large data files from customers, and host interactive support sessions between customers and the company’s product specialists. The company’s old website had been used to deliver software releases only. Lion’s Share redesigned and rebuilt the website, giving it far greater functionality and making it the focal point for customer support. A new software release mechanism allows the company to provide targeted releases to customers, including different releases for each version of the software. Clients can use a secure upload utility to send massive files of sensitive data directly to the company so they can receive personalized support for specific problems. Clients can also request and receive live support via the site, and, if needed, allow support staff to directly access their computer and fix problems immediately. The result is more responsive, personalized support for every customer. And since clients now initiate support requests through the site, they’re also regularly exposed to information about other software products that the company offers.

Whether it’s an interactive tool or a platform for customer engagement, a workhorse website does a massive amount of work for you, which means that it reduces staffing requirements and makes your company more efficient. And if it’s designed correctly, it will also drive sales—which is exactly the kind of result all small businesses need.

Do you need a workhorse website? To find out more about what your website could be doing for you, contact us today.