How to Build Your Brand Online

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1 Hitachi Business Finance Inspire the Next Round of Growth MARKETING FOR FACTORS: How to Build Your Brand Online Thank you for downloading Marketing for Factors: How to Build Your Brand Online. This guide will introduce you to some of the challenges of marketing your factoring business in the digital age, and give you clear, actionable steps for strengthening your online presence, reaching your target audiences and building a loyal client base. Hitachi Business Finance All Rights Reserved

2 Table of Content CHAPTER 1... page 1 SUCCESSFULLY MARKETING A FACTORING COMPANY The Challenges of Marketing Factoring Services in the Information Age CHAPTER 2... page 4 SOCIAL MEDIA AND THE DIGITAL CONSUMER Relationship Building in the Digital Age CHAPTER 3... page 6 EDUCATE AND LEVERAGE CONSUMER BEHAVIOR Focus on the Right Networks The 80/20 Rule CHAPTER 4... page 8 LEVERAGE THE POWER OF SOCIAL MEDIA Engage Leads With Educational, Well Written Content Social Media Channels Social Channels and Their Targets Build Your Brand Online CHAPTER 5... page 11 LEAD NURTURING CHAPTER 6... page 13 WHERE TO BEGIN?: SUGGESTIONS Unified Feel and Positioning Statements Posting Frequency Company Blogs Keep At It! About Hitachi Business Finance - 2 -

3 CHAPTER 1 SUCCESSFULLY MARKETING A FACTORING COMPANY Marketing a factoring business isn t a straightforward proposition. Unlike retail or manufacturing, factoring companies don t sell a tangible product. To make things trickier, the factoring industry requires professionals to educate their clients on an often unfamiliar alternative lending solution, all while promoting their company as the best, most reliable, cost effective answer. To add another layer of complexity, factors don t have the luxury of focusing their marketing efforts on their industry alone. To market successfully, you must demonstrate a deep understanding of your own industry, along with an understanding of your clients industries. Your ability to creatively and consistently provide working capital to support and grow your client s business depends on you knowing your business plus theirs. That s a tall order. These layers of complexity mean marketing your factoring company won t fit into a neat and tidy box. But, most factoring professionals joined the industry because they didn t fit into one of those boxes, either! Factoring professionals find solutions where others see impasses, and discover opportunities when their associates are blinded by risk. So, a few layers of challenge when it comes to marketing shouldn t be a problem! - 3 -

4 If you re willing to apply what you know about your clients to proven marketing principles drawn from customer behavior in the digital age, you ll find that marketing your factoring business isn t that difficult after all. THE CHALLENGES OF MARKETING FACTORING SERVICES IN THE INFORMATION AGE According to a study by Factors Chain International the US factoring market showed a robust 16.6% increase from But as the factoring industry grows, the marketplace has grown increasingly competitive for factors of all sizes and serving all industries. As more factoring companies enter the market, consumers naturally have greater a choice in lenders. Not only does this make creative, targeted marketing more important than ever, it also makes it more challenging. Consumer behavior has changed drastically over the past five years. Building your brand online, across multiple social networks, is no longer an option. It is a necessity. Consumers no longer rely on brokers and factoring professionals for advice when researching their lending options. Instead, they educate themselves primarily on the Internet, oftentimes without ever contacting a factoring professional in person

5 CHAPTER 2 SOCIAL MEDIA AND THE DIGITAL CONSUMER Studies indicate that information found on social channels influences shopping behavior and enhances loyalty in 75 percent of respondents. Social media marketing is powerful, and if used wisely, can help businesses reach their target audiences in unprecedented numbers. If you re not convinced, consider the following statistics concerning social media marketing from AdWeek: 47 percent of Americans named Facebook as their top influencer for purchases. 97 percent of consumers rely on the Internet to discover local businesses. Facebook has nearly 1.5 billion active users. LinkedIn had 28 billion profile views in Q3 of 2014 On average, business-to-business marketers promote their brand on six different social media platforms. As a factoring company, know your clients are going to investigate your brand online, and make decisions before you ve even had the chance to speak with them directly. They ll also thoroughly research your competition, and make decisions by comparing how you stack up to the competition online. How your company conducts business and presents itself online has never been more important

6 Mike Semanco, President and COO of Hitachi Business Finance, says: Today s user habits speak for themselves in terms of how important being able to access online information is. The future of the web continues to trend towards mobile. Hitachi Business Finance responded to their clients demand for online information by creating a responsive website, which focused on the user experience. The features on Hitachi s mobile site mirror the desktop version including information regarding our easy and flexible financing products and services and remain accessible through any online browsers. All of these are excellent practices for relationship building in the digital age. RELATIONSHIP BUILDING IN THE DIGITAL AGE Although it s more difficult to achieve face-to-face, relationship building with the increasingly Internet focused consumer, it is by no means impossible. The digital behavior of consumers can be harnessed to attract targeted, high quality factoring clients. But this only occurs when factoring companies approach their clients and brand development strategically. If you have the opportunity to speak to a qualified lead, it will not happen by chance. It will occur because your thoughtfully crafted social media presence spoke volumes about the reliability of your brand. Your website will have educated the potential client, showing them something your competition did not. An online presence that provides clear, thoughtful answers, along with a website that is easy to navigate, demonstrates an overall picture of customer satisfaction and thought leadership, and places your factoring firm head and shoulders above the rest. When you spend time developing your brand online, you ll get the lead to nurture rather than your competitors. Marketing in the digital age is about how you position your brand online, and what you offer the consumer in terms of quality, educational content

7 CHAPTER 3 EDUCATE AND LEVERAGE CONSUMER BEHAVIOR Good marketers see consumers as complete human beings with all the dimensions real people have. Jonah Sachs FOCUS ON THE RIGHT NETWORKS In order to market effectively in the digital age, factoring companies must find their potential clients where they learn online, and begin forming meaningful relationships there. Your clients are will search for information about your company on your website, in combination with a wide variety of social networks, including: LinkedIn Facebook Twitter Google Plus Instagram Pinterest - 7 -

8 Each of these social networks has different characteristics, and all of them are important. However, there are general guidelines to think about as you spend time on each network. First, decide how often you re going to post to each network and try to stick to that schedule. Once a day is better than once a week, but quality is more important than quantity. THE 80/20 RULE When posting to social networks, use the 80/20 rule: roughly 80 percent of your posts should contain content that informs, educates or delights your customers. The other 20 percent can be sales oriented, touting your company and products directly. The 80/20 rule has been described as the cocktail party rule, because no one wants to hang around the guest who talks about themselves all the time, or tries to sell you something every time they see you. The most popular, likable guests are the ones who are interested in other people and don t try to push their agendas. The same is true for businesses. When your company uses its website, blogs and social media accounts to provide quality content that educates and engages, it s like being the best cocktail party guest ever. You re not hogging the spotlight, but proving you care about your clients, creating content that speaks to their industries, concerns and headaches. So, keep your audience coming back for more by varying your social media and website content. Don t over focus on selling, and you ll be rewarded with a loyal customer base and growing number of qualified leads

9 CHAPTER 4 LEVERAGE THE POWER OF SOCIAL MEDIA ENGAGE LEADS WITH EDUCATIONAL, WELL WRITTEN CONTENT Factoring companies can leverage the power of social media by correcting misinformation about factoring, engaging with their target audience and educating clients on issues relevant to their business needs. Make sure your website provides more than just standard questions and answers about factoring. Give users the opportunity to ask questions specific to their industries. Tailor your blog posts to the industries you serve or would like to serve, or have separate blogs for each industry you serve. For small business owners or first time factoring clients, the quality of the content on your site can make the difference between acquiring a new client, or losing them to a competitor. Small business owners interested in factoring often require a great deal of education. While an optimized website is a great beginning step in marketing towards these clients, there is no substitute for engaging clients on an individualized basis. Your marketing begins with your online brand, but doesn t end there

10 SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS All social media channels are important, but some channels may be better suited for your business and therefore deserve more of your initial time and attention. In determining where and how to split your time, energy and marketing dollars, narrow your focus by answering the following questions: Where do your targets spend the most time online? How do they learn best (videos, podcasts, white papers, etc.)? Where does your competition frequently post? Is there an untapped opportunity (e.g. network where competitors don t post)? How many channels can you create quality content for consistently? SOCIAL CHANNELS AND THEIR TARGETS LinkedIn LinkedIn is an excellent platform for brands looking to develop B2B and B2C relationships. LinkedIn is well suited to technical, educational, industry related posts which position your company as thought leaders, experts or leaders in your field. It s also an excellent platform for B2B advertising, networking and companies who want to deepen their client base through membership in a wide variety of professional associations. Facebook Facebook, with its massive number of daily users, is an excellent platform for developing a following and reaching a large number of users. Facebook posts are typically less formal than LinkedIn posts, and should follow the 80/20 rule. Studies show that Facebook is used throughout the day as a workplace distraction, and your company should capitalize on that trend! It s also a highly interactive platform where your company can educate, spark conversations and answer questions

11 Twitter Twitter is utilized by a variety of age groups and personas. Teens, businesses, politicians and celebrities all work hard to build their brands on Twitter. Top brands use Twitter to reach highly targeted audiences and widen their reach with great success. It offers companies a way to interact with their customers, start conversations and further develop their brand. Twitter messages are short (140 characters), and can include links and photos. To make every character of your messages count, use a link shortening service to reduce URLs. Google+ Google+ has been described as a slightly more formal alternative to Facebook, and is rapidly gaining in popularity. It relies heavily on keywords and search engine optimization. Link information on your company website to Google+, and use hashtags to increase visibility and SEO. YouTube YouTube is one of the fastest growing social platforms, with over 4 billion videos viewed per day. Businesses can engage their audiences with thoughtfully produced, educational content posted to company YouTube channels. Targeted advertising on YouTube can also be an effective B2B or B2C tool. YouTube is social, easily accessible on mobile devices and utilized by a large, diverse audience. Pinterest, Instagram, et al. Some networks are naturally suited to your factoring business, but don t ignore or rule out any network. You never know where you ll find a client. Social media s reach knows no bounds! Explore all of the platforms as your time allows

12 BUILD YOUR BRAND ONLINE As you develop your company s personal brand, the company s marketing materials, campaigns and messaging across all social media channels will need to become clear, consistent and strong. This message should convey why your customers should rely on you as experts, what makes you better than your competitors and exactly what your company has to offer. Factoring clients who self educate on the Internet often wind up with factoring companies who aren t the best fit. This is especially true for small businesses or first time factoring clients, who simply don t know what they don t know. But one way to leverage the self-education/digital trend is by wholeheartedly embracing it- because factoring companies focused on providing top-notch education for their target clients are in an excellent position to attract the right clients. Toby Dahm, senior vice president of Hitachi Business Finance advises factoring clients to, find experienced advisors that are willing to spend time with you and speak the truth to you. Factoring is, often by necessity, a business where deals happen quickly. But that doesn t mean factoring professionals should stop seeing their clients as people. The more you get to know your client s business, along with the problems they face and the hopes and dreams they have for their future, the better you ll be able to serve them and the more likely it is they ll continue to do business with you in the future. Mike Semanco, president and chief operating officer of Hitachi Business Finance understands the importance of relationship building. He says, If we can remain a relationship-based finance company and not just a commodity lender, we will have an advantage over our competitors. Lenders with attitudes these will continue to have loyal customers, even in a fiercely competitive market

13 CHAPTER 5 LEAD NURTURING It may be difficult to believe, but studies show that companies waste 71 percent of qualified leads, simply by not following up. If you work hard to build your brand online are find qualified leads online, don t drop the ball by not reaching out at the appropriate time! When you get a qualified lead, studies show they are contacted by a sales or marketing agent only 1.3 times. But, if you reach out to that same client six times, your odds of successfully closing them increase by 70 percent. Your company must have systems in place to nurture leads. If you want to turn an interested prospect into a loyal client, don t let that prospect drift away after they make contact. Waiting just five minutes to reach out to a lead generated on line decreases the likelihood of ever contacting them by ten times. This does not mean you have to (or should) reach out to each and every lead within five minutes, but it does mean you need a system in place to nurture all of your online leads. Decide when they receive an , call and follow-up. Who is responsible for following up and when? If you ve got a clear, actionable system for consistently nurturing the leads you generate online, you ll help your client base expand exponentially

14 For factors, lead nurturing is intimately tied to understanding the industry specific needs of your clients. When you make initial contact, your online lead generation tools should capture valuable information on your potential client. Call-to-action forms and landing pages can tell you your prospects city, title, industry, position in the company, etc. All this information can then be utilized in your initial phone contact, helping to focus your marketing efforts. Ask yourself how your factoring firm can best help this potential lead, and start answering those questions for them in your follow up. Hitachi Business Finance s President, Mike Semanco says, Business owners must know where they are today, and where they want to go. You must have a plan of action. You need to understand what type of capital you need, whether it is working capital, equity or another form of financing. It is that kind individualized attention and customer service focus that sets factoring firms apart, and will make your marketing efforts successful

15 CHAPTER 6 WHERE TO BEGIN?: SUGGESTIONS If you don t have much of an online presence, start small. Don t make the mistake of doing nothing because you believe you ve got too much to do! Begin by taking careful inventory of all the assets on your company website. A content audit will show you exactly where you need to beef up your site. It s often helpful to do an audit of your competitors sites as well, asking yourself the following questions: Is the site optimized for mobile? Does it have a site map? Is it keyword optimized? Are there social share buttons? What type of content is posted on various social networks? How often is content posted on social networks? What content does your website contain (blogs, videos, case studies, ebooks, white papers, infographics, educational tools, etc.) What is the overall feel of your website? (Are graphics and photos clear? Is the site easy to navigate?) UNIFIED FEEL AND POSITIONING STATEMENTS It s important to keep a consistent look and feel across all your social media platforms, your website and other company marketing materials. Use your company logo and color schemes to create a unified look and feel, and develop a strong positioning statement to use throughout your marketing, sales and social media posts. Your positioning statement should reflect your company s core values, what you do and why

16 POSTING FREQUENCY It s more important to post quality content (well written, engaging, educational, entertaining) consistently (once a day, once a week, etc) than it is to spread yourself too thin and post poorly produced content across all the networks. COMPANY BLOGS If you don t have a company blog, begin by brainstorming potential topics and creating a content calendar to schedule posts. Write as often as you can, but don t sacrifice quality over quantity. If you already have a company blog, read through your posts and consider their quality. Are they informational and easy to read? Do they provide content that shows thought leadership and demonstrates your brand s commitment to customer service and innovation? Long form content performs better than shorter blogs, so make sure you re posting blogs that will draw qualified leads to your site and increase your SEO rankings. KEEP AT IT! Keep relationship building, give your brand a clear, strong voice and begin to see your customers as people with needs only your brand can solve. If you stay steady and keep working to connect with your customer base online, your marketing efforts will naturally come together and place your factoring firm at the head of the pack

17 ABOUT HITACHI BUSINESS FINANCE Hitachi Business Finance provides business cash flow solutions to support a company s continued growth and success. A division of Hitachi Capital America Corp., we offer commercial and government A/R financing and lines of credit. Based in Rochester, Michigan, with an office in Atlanta, we provide easy and flexible financing to companies of all sizes across the United States. Learn more by visiting or calling (248)

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