Thursday, December 31, 2009


Avoiding failure with marketing plans and New Year's Resolutions

‘Tis the season to be ambitious.  Not just with your New Year’s Resolutions, but also with your new year’s marketing plan.

Many marketers will come to work next Monday having promised to do too much.  It’s not to say those goals aren’t worthwhile, or won’t help the company.  But your eyes might be bigger than your bandwidth, or your ability to focus and execute on so many priorities over the next several months.

We do this with New Year’s Resolutions every year, too.  So how can you ensure you’re not biting off more than you can chew?  These four tips can equally apply to your New Year’s Resolutions and your marketing plan:

Be Realistic:  The list of what could or should be done is always long.  As much as you want to do it all, be realistic about what can get done right now.  Just because you’re not focused on something in January, doesn’t mean it can’t be a priority in the second quarter.  Be realistic as well about the resources you have to get things done.

Be Measurable:  For everything you commit to do, make sure you know how to measure success.  The closer you can measure success back to revenue, the better.  But that’s not always possible.  Still, if you’re going to choose something on your short list of focus areas, make sure you know how to measure success, and make sure your team and your manager know what that is from the get-go.

Be Diligent:  Many New  Year’s Resolutions fade away because there’s little discipline in keeping them top of mind, and keeping them moving.  Schedule regular check-ins, at least with yourself, to gauge progress and next steps on every commitment you’ve made.  Do it with your team or manager to keep yourself even more accountable.

Be Flexible:  The path you envisioned on January 1st to reach your goals won’t always work out.  If you hit roadblocks along the way, be flexible and creative to find new ways to still meet that goal.   The more flexible you are, the more likely you are to find and stick to alternative paths to success.


Wednesday, December 30, 2009


What do you REALLY do?

If you're a book publisher, you're not really in the book business.  You're in the information business.  How that information is shared is largely irrelevant, as long as it creates value for your customers and can be monetized.

If you're a newspaper, you're definitely not in the printed news business.  Certainly not anymore, or at least not for long.  I read The Seattle Times more now than ever, but I don't get ink on my fingers.  I read it online, and read some of their bloggers multiple times a day.  Competing in the category of news will be difficult (or at least highly competitive) for newspapers moving forward.  But the opportunity to synethize large piles of complicated information into something that's understandable, relevant and actionable for me?  That has value. 

PR agencies shouldn't be selling access to the press.  They shouldn't put focus on press clippings or media tours.  They sell awareness, consideration and purchase intent for their clients.  That has value.

Of course, Starbucks isn't in the coffee business.  They're selling affordable luxuries.  Yes, they've had missteps along the way, but they know the physical assets they're selling doesn't equal what they really do.

Smart companies and brands define themselves not by what they produce, but by what that asset creates and/or enables for the customer. 

Take what you do, for example.  Keep asking the question "why does that matter" or "why would someone need that" or "why do my customers care about that" until you can't anymore.  The last answer you had?  That's what you do.



Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Five fundamentals of nonprofit marketing

We've been working more closely with several local nonprofit organizations lately, and the more I speak with those responsible for fundraising and donor relations, the more I realize just how similar the process is to creating and managing a for-profit sales process.

I'm also seeing the same fundamental needs for those marketing a charitable cause or nonprofit organization. The below five fundamentals of nonprofit marketing are a starting point, but should be at the core of every nonprofit's strategy.

Donor Profiles: There are so many worthy organizations out there. Which prospective donors are going to be most predisposed to support your cause? What do those potential donors have in common - their associations, their history, their demo or psychographic make-up? You don't need to hone in on just one specific donor profile, but you should have a good sense for the 2-4 profiles that are your primary target. The more you know about them, the more self-evident the messages, channels and tactics will be to engage them directly.

Defining Your Product: What are you "selling" to prospective donors? It's not the tactics of what you actually do, but the outcome of that work. All too often, nonprofits tell their donors about the operations, or what additional infrastructure or materials they need. But what is all that for? What are you enabling? How are you making lives better? What's the benefit, the result, the outcome of what you're doing? THAT is your product, and that's the kind of vision your prospective donors will be attracted to.

Storytelling: Spend less time describing what you do, and more time telling stories about the differences you're making. Tell stories about the recipients of your work. Share the before and after. When it's an option, let the recipients of your work tell the story for you - in print, on video, and in person. Stories make an impression far longer-lasting than mission statements and operational descriptions. Stories can communicate the emotion behind what you're doing better than anything else.

Mobilizing the Community: Take your product definition, your mission, and think carefully about the ecosystem of people, groups, organizations, communities and businesses that relate to it. How can those various individuals and groups help you spread the word, or even contribute directly? If you're involved in transitional housing, how good are your relationships with local real estate offices? Are they giving directly? Are the individual Realtors involved, and getting their own buyer/seller customers involved? Be exhaustive and creative about mobilizing related communities on behalf of your organization.

Creating Evangelists: You have them already. Passionate donors. Highly-involved volunteers and board members. A variety of individuals and groups who feel strongly about what you're doing. No matter their level of passion, they won't help spread the word as widely as they could if you don't help them. Give them reminders to do so, give them content to pass along, give them the facilities and tools to share. This alone can be so simple, but so powerful. Identifying, arming and mobilizing the evangelists in and around your organization can be the very foundation of your marketing strategy.

Over the next several weeks, I'll go deeper into each of these fundamentals with more examples and suggestions for action.


Put your marketing budget on a diet in 2010

We're all setting New Years Resolutions right now, and your marketing budget probably should too. If you haven't already been asked to do more with less, why not play the role of hero and tell your CFO you're putting your marketing budget on a diet?

There are countless ways to do this, here are five to consider for starters:

1. Combine PR and social media
Effective public relations has always been about building awareness and intent among your target audiences. Traditionally the best way to do that has been through third-party media. And many of those channels still exist.

But today, you can create and publish your own media. You can engage more of your targets directly, with and without the need for a media intermediary. With that in mind, why not combine PR and social media into a single cohesive strategy? I've seen this done many times in 2009 quite effectively.

2. Hire your customers into the marketing team
Are your best customers singing your praises to their own networks and communities? Are you using them as reference accounts for your best new prospects? Are their testimonials prominent on your Web site, and in a variety of formats - print, audio, video?

The more you can mobilize your customers to help tell your story for you, the less you have to do it yourself. Plus, your customers (let's face it) are far more credible than you are with your prospects. But even your best customers won't always talk about you unless you give them a reason to do so, and an occasional reminder to do so. Think about how you can more actively do that in the weeks ahead.

3. Use content to attract & engage inbound prospects
What are you offering prospects in exchange for lead registration? Are you paying each time for new leads? If so, why not switch to a lead offer that you pay for once, and that can scale across an unlimited number of new leads, prospects and other future customers and influencers for your business?

Most businesses are already successfully using packaged content (in a variety of formats) to attract the right kind of prospects to their business. If your content is relevant to the prospect, it can be more effective than thumb-drive giveaways and other offers that have an incremental cost each and every time a new prospect walks in the door.

This strategy works for online, retail and virtually any business. Think about what your customers need - not stuff, but information. That information is highly valuable, and is likely already in your head just looking for a way (and a format) to get out.

4. Join and participate in communities
Yes, you could pay to advertise in a trade publication's email newsletter. You could pay to rent a list from an industry association or consumer group. But most of those organizations also offer an opportunity to directly engage the same prospects in a community. For example, take that email newsletter. I bet the same trade publication you're spending money with today hosts an online discussion forum, or has a Facebook fan page, or a LinkedIn Group. Why not become a part of at least one of those, and start talking with community members?

Don't get up there and start selling. Talk about their needs, their issues. Answer their questions. Become a trusted expert and adviser, build credibility, then watch those same prospects start asking you want you do, and how you can help them.

This does take time to build and foster, but can be done at a fraction of the cost of for-fee advertising to the same audiences, and with the same or better output in new leads and closed business.

5. Build and launch remarkable products
The best marketing is always a great product. It fills a clear customer need, does so in a remarkable way, and compels customers to tell others about it. No matter your role in your organization, you have a responsibility to your customers to ensure their voices are heard every day to affect how the product or service is created, serviced and improved upon over time.

You don't have to boil the ocean or completely reinvent your product to get this customer reaction. Change a policy, introduce a new feature, do something unexpected. Small things that delight your customer can have a bigger impact on impacting, mobilizing and converting new customers than a whole slew of paid advertising.

So what makes sense for your business? How can you put your marketing budget on a diet in 2010? Or even just Q1?

Monday, December 28, 2009


Declaring backlog bankruptcy

I do a reasonable job keeping up with email, but there’s cheating involved.

For several types of emails, I’ve created distribution rules that automatically sort and file said emails into folders separate from my inbox.  For email newsletters I use these rules aggressively. 

Good news in this is that they don’t clutter my inbox (since none of them ever require immediate attention). Bad news is that they do tend to pile up.  As of this morning, I had more than 150 email newsletters awaiting my review.

Notice the past tense.  As of this afternoon, I declared newsletter bankruptcy and deleted everything prior to this week.  Sure, there may have been things in those newsletters I’d find valuable.  But is it worth my time to go back and read all 150?  Probably not.  I’m hedging my bets, but also triaging that against everything else I need to focus on to help my customers and make money for myself.

Where’s your backlog?  Does it make you anxious just to think about it?  It might be a backlog of emails, newsletters, magazines, blog posts to read, or basically any type of information that’s valuable but not critical to your life or business.

Is it time to declare bankruptcy and start from zero?  And would that actually make you not only feel better, but be more productive and get more done?


Genchi Genbutsu (if it's important, go and see for yourself)

First-hand knowledge is always better.  There's no way we can get it for everything all the time, of course, but understanding, learning about or experiencing something first-hand eliminates all other biases, filters and interpretations that can cloud the real story, meaning or implication of what we're seeing - and what to do about it.

Genchi Genbutsu literally means "go and see for yourself" in Japanese, and is a philosophy espoused particularly well by Toyota executives to understand and improve a particular automotive production problem.  Rather than rely on reports or spreadsheets, these executives would go see the problem for themselves.  Yes, it's a bigger investment in time.  But it can often lead to better decision-making and results.

We will always need to rely on others to observe & report for us on a variety of things.  But think about what's most important to you - for yourself and particularly for your business.  Which things do you currently rely on others to observe, analyze and summarize?  Which of those things should you, instead, go and see for yourself?  Some samples:

Eat Your Own Dogfood:  Are you your own customer?  If you're a software manufacturer, do you use your own software directly?  Have you personally tried installing or upgrading?  This alone can lead to significant insights and prioritization of future product improvements, new features, etc.

Direct Customer Observation:  How often have you watched your customers use your products or services?  I'm not just talking about in a lab or focus group environment.  Go to their natural environment, and watch how they use it.  Ask questions about how they're using it, what they're trying to accomplish.  Observe directly how well it works, how it could be faster & easier, or how it could more directly solve the primary problem or objective.

Secret Shopping:  What are your competitors doing especially well?  How do they market and sell their products?  Don't just research it - experience it!  Become a customer (or at least a prospect) with your primary competitors.  Experience first-hand how they sell, how they onboard, how they service existing customers.   You'll quickly learn (first-hand) where they're strong and where they're weak.

Answer the Phones:  What would happen if every executive on your team spent one day a month answering customer service calls?  What would they hear and learn directly, and how would that impact how they felt about what customers need and want, and how the current product strategy addresses that?  What other direct customer interactions make sense for your business, and how do you get more managers to see & hear that for themselves?

Sunday, December 27, 2009


Is direct mail poised for a comeback?

Have you noticed the decrease in direct mail volume to your mailbox lately?  Fewer credit card offers, fewer Realtor “just listed” postcards, fewer cell phone and Internet access mailers.  Now that you think of it, mail volume is lower at work, too, isn’t it?

More and more marketers are cutting way back on "snail mail."  Some are doing it for cost reasons - email, social media and other channels feel cheaper.   Plus, they’re certainly faster to market for organizations that want results right now, and want to measure impact the same day.

But with the right audience, offer and context, direct mail can still be highly effective.  And with so many marketers pulling back from the postman, is 2010 a good time to strategically add some direct mail back to your marketing mix?

Here are four specific examples of where direct mail might make sense:

Consumers: Like you, most consumers are getting fewer marketing messages in their mailbox these days.  But, also like you, they’re sorting said mail after getting home from a busy day – with dinner, kids, and other domestic duties awaiting.  You have less than a second to get their attention.  With consumers you know are relevant prospects, I’d stick with postcards, oversized, with a simple message and call to action.  Consider testing a free and risk-free offer that doesn’t require a purchase – just a registration or other value-added offer that gets more of the right consumers to take the next step, and enter into a direct conversation with you. 

Small Businesses:  Small businesses still get and receive their mail directly – no mail rooms, no complicated mail-routing systems.  With small businesses, focus on simple but core messages – make money, save money, save time.  Be respectful of their time by keeping content tight and focused on benefits & outcomes, not features and details.

Enterprise Decision-Makers:  Overnight packages (the envelope type especially) are a great way to get through the gatekeepers that restrict access to your executive decision-maker prospects.  You don’t need it to be overnight either – send it 2-3 day for cheap and it’ll still get delivered in a special package and/or separately from the regular mail.  Make the message short and simple, and test a big offer depending on your acquisition economics (I’ve been successful recently with Kindle offers in exchange for meetings for some prospects).  Send the same package to others in the executive suite at the same company, and tell them so at the bottom of your letter.  Then follow up via phone after a few days.  

Ready-to-buy Prospects:  If you know a particular prospect (or group of prospects) are ready to make a purchase decision quickly, what would you spend to get their attention?  What would it be worth to get them to try your product, speak to your sales team, or take a demo?  Don’t ignore the impact of direct mail (letters, packages, etc.) as an effective, cut-through-the-clutter way to get their attention and drive action.


Thursday, December 24, 2009


Focus on what you can control

Things don't always happen as fast as you want them to. Decisions are delayed, projects take longer than expected, products miss their launch dates, expected new sales miss their close date.

Things don't always happen the way you want them to either. Business plans, marketing plans, product plans are great until you start executing - then a variety of factors start to wreak havoc on your original, ideal scenario.

This happens all the time, and will continue to happen. But none of these things are an excuse for missing your number, missing a delivery date, or not achieving the same success you expect for yourself and your business.

You simply need to focus on what you can control. Letting things slip, or accepting lesser results, because something out of your control happened is the easy way out. It's easy to blame something or someone else, and accept the lesser results for what they are.

The more difficult but more successful path is to be creative, think outside of the box, and still achieve the results you've envisioned by doing things differently.

Define success by the outcome, not the path to get there. Empower and inspire those around you (both inside and outside of your organization) to think the same way.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Four keys to innovation while staying focused on today's revenue

Scott Cook, legendary founder of Intuit, discussed in a recent issue of Inc Magazine how today’s entrepreneurs can continue to incubate new ideas while successfully focusing on today’s day-to-day revenue generation.  His answer can be broken down into four keys to achieving both innovation and execution today:

Make sure employees know which output metric they are responsible for and how it is measured.  Focus on the metrics that matter most to growing the business (new customers, margin, top-line growth).  These measures will ensure proper focus on today’s business, and will also give employees a foundation from which to brainstorm and incubate new ideas focused on the same end-goal.

Enable all of your employees – not just a small group – to invest business ideas or product features.  Don’t predetermine which employees – based on rank or tenure or paycheck – will have your business’s next great innovation.  Oftentimes, it’s the frontline employees who speak with your customers all day, every day who are first to see trends and identify new opportunities.

Run cheap, quick tests to make sure you are on the right track.  The first step could be running the idea back by a few customers to gauge their feedback.  But don’t overthink these tests.  Get enough feedback to hone the idea and mitigate risk/exposure of taking it to the next step.

Think big!  For innovations to succeed, they must solve a large enough problem for the customer.  This doesn’t mean that every innovation is a new product, or new division, or fundamental shift in your business.  It just means, to succeed, innovations need to make a profound impact on the customer.  That impact can still be created by relatively small changes in policy, features, supply chain and more.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Eight ways your marketing will change in 2010

Augie Ray's first post as a new Forrester analyst took a long look at the changing influence and role of marketing in our daily lives, and in the end he offered eight specific ways marketing has changed, and/or will continue to change in 2010. His list is summarized below, but I recommend checking out his full post as well:

According to Ray, the role of marketers in 2010:

Monday, December 21, 2009


Is this a media shift or media expansion?

Everybody’s talking about shifts in media.  Offline to online.  You gotta be on Facebook.  Direct mail is dead.

I’m not so sure.  I still get (and often rely on) snail mail.  Yes, I’m using social media a lot more, but I still live in a very physical world.

This reminds me of a conference I attended a few years ago.  Big-budget marketers were in attendance, many of whom have relied on television advertising to build and maintain market share for their products.  They were concerned that television was “broken.” 

A speaker pointed out that television is, in fact, in fine shape.  More people are watching more TV than ever before.  But with the splintering of their attention across more and more channels, not to mention the expansion of digital video recorders, it’s television as an advertising medium that’s in trouble.  As a media channel that consumers enjoy, it’s just fine.

We’re enamored with Facebook and Twitter and the Web right now, and for good reasons.  But the physical world we live in isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and there are (and always will be) plenty of marketing opportunities there.

Countless studies have also shown that we’re not necessarily shifting our media habits.  We’re increasing them.  We’re spending more time online, in front of the TV, and consuming other media combined than the total time we’ve spent consuming media in years past.

That means more eyeballs in front of more advertising opportunities more often.

We may not have completely cracked the nut in terms of how to best monetize this increasingly fractionalized media world.  But the opportunity is expanding – not just shifting, and definitely not shrinking.


Help your customers with their New Years Resolutions

Whether they had a bad year or a great year, most of your customers will start January 1st back at zero.  It’s a fresh start, which depending on who you’re selling to, can mean your customers are also anxious about the ambitious 2010 goals & objectives they’re responsible for.

Those customers will be looking for anything that can help them get a head-start on those objectives, anything that will make it easier to make significant progress fast.

This is a great time of year to particularly align your product or service to those brand-new objectives.  Demonstrate clearly how you can help, and you’re in. 

And you don’t need to wait until January 2nd to have that conversion.  Those 2010 objectives are likely locked in already.  Talk to your prospects today to give them more confidence and peace of mind heading into the holidays.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


Six levels of managing sales performance

There are as many ways to manage sales performance as there are sales managers. But it still comes down to results.

If you're focused on managing a sales rep's performance & output, you start at the top and work your way down until you've found something to optimize. The cascade could look something like this:

1) Closed business (vs. quota or goal)
2) Pipeline (closeable business within current month/quarter/year)
3) Pipeline make-up (big deals, small deals, the right deals?)
4) Pipeline activity (next steps, demos, proposals)
5) Leads (how many, quality, which are next to become an Opportunity)
6) Activities (cold calling, new meetings, lead follow-up)

Individual sales rep review sessions can follow an agenda like this, with a focus on enabling/helping the rep to overcome obstacles and solve problems to exceed their goal.

The focus is ALWAYS on the top of this list. At the end of the day, it's all about closed business. But the elements below closed business are what get you there, and is usually where the roadblocks occur that lead to missing milestones.

What do you think? Are there critical steps missing? What's your preferred method of managing sales reps to maximum performance and closed business output?

Saturday, December 19, 2009


Combining gift giving and lead generation

The folks at Priority Marketing sent this holiday card email to their prospects earlier this month. According to the company's email marketing manager, it generated the highest response of any email campaign they've done this year.

What do you have that your clients want? What has value, and can be - perhaps for a limited time - be given as a gift to your clients and prospects? Note this campaign didn't require registration, which feels appropriate if the offer is positioned as a gift.

That said, Priority just got a bunch more of their thought leadership assets into the field specifically with their target audience. Not a bad way to combine a nice holiday message with distribution of what essentially amounts to sales & marketing materials.

Interesting side note to this story: The download link in the pre-header generated more clicks than the email creative itself. How are you using email pre-headers to increase response?

Friday, December 18, 2009


Five signs you might NOT be ready for Twitter

Twitter's importance as a communication and customer/prospect engagement tool is getting hard to ignore.  Still, especially if you're considering Twitter as a corporate communications and marketing initiative, it's important to know why you're doing it - for what purpose, to reach what audience, and to what measurable effect for the organization.

Equally important is to consider why you might NOT want to focus on Twitter at present.  Below are five reasons why you might not want to spend time using Twitter as a component of your marketing mix (at least not yet):

Your customers aren't using it:  Twitter is hot, but it's not Facebook (at least not yet).  It's usage is still somewhat limited, and thus it's important to know your target customers well enough to determine if, in fact, they're using Twitter in enough volume & frequency for you to use it as a channel to engage and mobilize same audience.  There are several effective & free Twitter search tools to help you ballpark this quickly.

You aren't willing (or don't have time to) reciprocate:  Twitter works best when it's a two-way street.  For every link you tweet out, you're retweeting or responding to 2-3 other tweets already in "the stream."  Active engagement with the Twitter community is the best way to be accepted, build credibility, accelerate your influence and followers, and ultimately drive action from your target audience.  If you can't engage, you likely won't get the results you're seeking.

You only want to promote your business:  Yes, you're using Twitter in the first place to grow your business.  Drive new sales.  Engage new customers.  But the best way to do that isn't to always promote your own priorities, goods and services.  Put yourself in the shoes of your customer, and tweet about what they care about.  Most of the time, this will likely mean publishing content that others have written.  Or content you publish that's purely educational, and not at all about selling directly.  Once you establish that you're aggregating and feeding back a steady stream of valuable content that's audience-centric, those occasionally-integrated product and lead generation offers will be better received and generate a higher response.

Your interns are taking care of it:  It may sound like a good idea to let the ambitious, tech-savvy interns launch a Twitter presence for your business.  And while they're with you, if they understand your customer and publish the right content, they might give you a great head start with good early results (measured by followers and clickthroughs).  But a few months later when they head back to school, what do you have?  And who's going to manage it moving forward?  Unless you have a succession plan once the interns are gone, be careful you're not investing in a strategy that's going to be mothballed.  A dormant Twitter business account, which makes you look like you've abandoned your community of customers and prospects, might be worse than one that never got started to begin with.

You expect miracles:  It's not going to happen overnight.  There are tools that can help you accelerate Twitter followers quickly, but follower volume does not mean immediate credibility, influence and follow-on activity for your business.  If you're getting into Twitter for a quick hit, you're setting yourself up for disappointment.  Know that you're making an investment in a tool that will not only take some time to grow, but that will become a growing and increasingly important asset that feeds your business for a long time to come. 



Thursday, December 17, 2009


The secret to SaaS success? Know your limits

Don’t make things more complicated than they need to be.

World-class CRM tools such as allow for an incredible level of customization, analytics, segmentation and long sales-cycle deal management.  It’s a highly complex program that can do amazing things.  Unfortunately, many users over-use it.  They add too much customization, use too many features, and make it difficult, cumbersome, time-consuming and expensive to use and get value from.

Similar story with Jigsaw, one of the industry’s best lead nurturing and marketing automation software packages.  It can allow an incredible amount of segmentation and customization for following up with countless different types of pre-sales leads.  But you can over-think lead nurturing too.  Do too much, and it’ll take way too much work to maintain and execute, especially if your organization isn’t big enough or you’re not staffed to support that work.

For CRM systems, marketing automation programs and many other SaaS products, I have two recommendations:

Start Simple:  Do the basics.  Forget segmentation at first.  Start with the simplest implementation and grow from there.  If you boil the ocean from day one, you’ll create confusion and frustrate your users. 

Don’t Overdo It:  As you expand usage and complexity, know where the point of diminishing returns is – for your investment, for how your teams are able to use it, and for the revenue & sales return you get out of the time/money investment.  If you go too far, don’t be afraid to pull back to what’s more comfortable and delivering the best return.


Thursday, December 10, 2009


Use the Five Minute Rule to get intimidating projects done

We all have big, intimidating projects on our plates that, frankly, are a little scary.  They either feel like a lot of work, or you’re not exactly sure how to tackle them.  So, we hem and haw and avoid them.

I’ve found that a fairly simple trick can help me get more of those projects done.  It takes just five minutes.

When I’m facing a big project or task, I tell myself I’m going to spend five minutes getting it started, and that’s it.  I’m either going to just do five minutes worth of that task, or just spend five minutes planning how to tackle it.

The secret of the Five Minute Rule is that I almost always keep going, blow past the five minutes, and get the task done in far less time than if I would have kept procrastinating.

It’s those five minutes that demonstrate how relatively quickly & easily the task can actually get done.  If you get five minutes of momentum, sometimes that’s all you need to keep going to the finish.  If you use the five minutes to brainstorm, it makes the task far less intimidating and easier to get done right away.

Find something on your list right now and give it five minutes.  Let me know what happens next.



Five tips to avoid call reluctance and reach new prospects

Most sales professionals hate cold calling.  Following up with existing leads sometimes isn’t much better or easier.  Even the best salespeople often have a strong case of call reluctance that’s difficult to shake.

But once successful salespeople get rolling, they often find it easy to keep that momentum and generate results – live contacts, interested prospects, new sources of closeable pipeline.

Here are five ways to get past that case of call reluctance and get more of your leads moving towards a sale.

Script the first 30 seconds:  Oftentimes call reluctance comes from a concern that the beginning of a conversation may be awkward.  Get past that fear by writing down, visualizing and even practicing the first 20-30 seconds of the call.  Have a specific script you will use printed out and next to your phone.  It’ll give you confidence that each call will be easier to warm up, and get right to the conversation you want to be having.

Have a great voicemail script ready:  Let’s face it, most of the calls you make will result in a voicemail.  Many sales pros leave a long, rambling voicemail with no direction, no urgency and no call to action.  Have a great voicemail script ready beforehand, and use it every time.  Leave something that’s no longer than 40-45 seconds, had a good pace, a sense of urgency, and a strong offer or call to action to get your prospect to call back quickly.  When you have a voicemail script like this, that you know works, it’s easier and faster to get through more of your calls (because you know those prospects will be calling back)

Turn off all other distractions:  You’ve done it too – you make the first couple calls, get a kernel of momentum, then check your email or Facebook page and it’s all gone.  When you’re ready to make those calls, turn off everything – email, your Web browser, RSS feeds, notifications, everything.  Get yourself into a zone where you’re making those calls and nothing else.  You’ll be surprised how quickly you get through the list, and drive results for yourself.

Get momentum, and keep going:  On a related note, have a strong list to call and keep going until you’re through it.  Do it at a set time, perhaps the same time of the day every day, and make sure those around you know you’re staying focused.  This can take discipline, even if you don’t have distractions.  You leave a couple good voicemails, maybe have a good conversation that moves a prospect along, and you want to get some more coffee.  Tell your manager.  Avoid these things, and make the next call.

Do it early, or do it late:  When you first get into the office in the morning, make those calls.  There won’t be firedrills, you won’t know what’s awaiting you in your email, and you’re more likely to get call-backs later that day from the voicemails you’ve left in the morning.  Next best strategy is to schedule those calls late in the day.  After 4:00, you’re more likely to catch your prospect in their office, doing their own catch-up before leaving for the day.  You’ll either reach more people live, or leave voicemails that will be returned first-thing the next day (getting your next sales day off to a great start)


Tuesday, December 08, 2009


Five fast steps to better relations (and results) between sales & marketing

Too often, sales & marketing blame each other for a lack of results.  The leads aren’t good.  Sales doesn’t follow up.  The excuses go on and on.

If this sounds familiar for your organization, there are things you can start doing right away to mend fences and start on a path towards not only better relations, but far better revenue results.

Call a sales & marketing summit, and don’t let anyone leave the room until the following five things are agreed upon:

Common Lead Definitions:  What, exactly, is a qualified lead?  What are its characteristics?  Get as detailed as you need to be, but make sure both sales & marketing agree on that definition.  That way, when leads are delivered to sales, they at minimum meet the basic criteria you’ve both agreed on to make them worth the sales team’s time for follow-up.

Initial Response Time:  If the leads are good (and meet the minimum qualified definition), you need a “service agreement” for how quickly those leads will get their first response.  If the lead is waiting for something (a white paper, for instance) response time should likely be no longer than 24 business hours.  In other cases, 48 hours may be acceptable.  Decide what’s right for your organization and customer, get sales management’s buy-in, communicate it clearly to the sales team, and put in place reporting tools to make it super-easy to track this on a daily basis (and send both you and the sales rep alerts when leads fall outside of the service agreement).

Lead Follow-up Steps & Channels:  How many times should a lead be attempted before the sales rep gives up and moves on?  Should all of those attempts be via phone, or should there be a mix of other channels – email, social media channels, in-person, etc.?  If you don’t reach agreement on this critical process, every sales rep will have his or her own idea of what’s right.   Some will call once, leave a message, and consider the lead dead.  Others will call the poor prospect 20 times.  Create a standard with sales not only to ensure leads are thoroughly vetted, but also to ensure sales is moving on to fresher opportunities if there’s nobody at home.

Clear Lead Stages:  A lead comes in.  The rep starts to attempt a call back.  They reach the lead and determine it’s a good prospect, or long-term prospect, or just not qualified.  How do they report this information to you?  What lead stages have you set up in your lead management or CRM system to not only make it easy and clear how you want sales to categorize their working leads, but also to report to management progress & quality of leads (not to mention improve your lead generation ROI performance moving forward)?  Don’t go overboard – 15 lead stages gets way too complicated – but 4-6 stages is reasonable and actionable for most sales environments.

Handing Leads Back to Marketing:  According to MarketingSherpa and others, the vast majority of leads generated by B2B organizations in particularly will buy – just not right now.  Those leads (once they’re identified as such) need to be passed back to marketing for active nurturing.  Make sure there’s a clear process for sales to do just that – ideally with the click of a button. 

Wednesday, December 02, 2009


The only math you need to make your ideas go viral

Getting your idea to spread like wildfire is simple.  Well, the math is simple.

You simply need a viral coefficient greater than one.  In layman’s terms, for every individual who sees your message, you need it redistributed to more than one additional person (on average).

Let’s say five people see your message.  Three read it and do nothing.  One sends it to two people.  Another sends it to four people.  That’s five readers who redistributed your idea to six people.  That’s six over five, greater than one.

As long as the coefficient is greater than one, your idea spreads.  And spreads.  And spreads.

Knowing this math alone isn’t going to help you create a more viral message.  But as you put new messages into the marketplace, you should be able to measure the economics of their distribution.  How many recipients, how many readers, how many retweets, and so on.

Know your customer, regularly create and publish messages & ideas customized to them, watch the results, do the math.  Watch what’s working, and do a heck of a lot more of it.


The difference between Word of Mouth & Social Media

Bob Troia today wrote the following:

Word of Mouth is the act of people talking.

Word of Mouth Marketing is giving people a reason to talk.

Social Media is simply one of many channels for Word of Mouth to occur. Just as is a telephone. Or standing around a water cooler. It benefits from the fact that it can scale quickly due to its online nature.

The point is, they are related, but different.

Well said.


Maria Geokezas joins Heinz Marketing

I was excited last week to announce that Maria Geokezas has joined Heinz Marketing. Maria and I worked together previously at HouseValues, and she brings an impressive resume of big-brand marketing experience (and results!) to our current and future client work.

You can read the press release and her bio on the site, but the best way to get to know Maria (and how good she is at customer-centric marketing) is to let her tell you her story directly. Here, then, is a little from Maria.

You’ve spent a lot of time in your career driving deeper relationships and revenue from existing customers. What have been the keys to that success for you across organizations and brands?

Knowing your customer, how they are connected to your brand, product or company is the most important thing you can do as a marketer. A great example of this is Harley Davidson Financial Services. In order to generate more value for the customer and ultimately for the company, we undertook a deep analysis of our customers that resulted in a customer segmentation model that allowed us to plan marketing efforts and spend, tracking results by customer segment. The segmentation allowed us to send different messages and offers to different customer segments. It also played a big role in redesigning the loyalty program component of the Visa card to better serve Harley-Davidson enthusiasts.

Once you understand your customers’ motivations, tailor unique experiences outside the paid transaction to reinforce the relationship and keep your customer engaged. For instance, if you have a customer segment that is motivated by convenience, make doing business with your company easy, let them transact seamlessly throughout the online and bricks and mortar channels. Offer them free services like express check-out, or express delivery. These are services that really matter to this type of customer segment. Similarly, if another customer segment is motivated by prestige, or being in the know, feed them information about your company before it is publicly available. Let them know about product launches prior to the actual launch, or invite them to an open house to view upcoming innovations. This type of value-add will keep this type of customer loyal.

How can companies get more aggressive about driving repeat business, renewals and referrals from existing customers in a thoughtful, respectful way?

Repeat business is all about the customer experience and if it meets or, hopefully, exceeds expectations. This is different from customer service. Customer service is a part of the overall customer experience, but differs in that it is typically a one-off transaction that is initiated because the customer has an issue with what was purchased. By having a customer-focused approach to your business, you view your customers as a financial asset.

Tom Peters asserts customers are a company’s most important asset. Most companies, however, are product-focused in that they have spent all their time and intellectual capital on design, product features and pricing analysis. They haven’t approached it from a customer perspective to ensure their designs and features fulfill a customer need or are important enough for a customer to pay a premium price. Just as important is the communication and delivery of the product/service purchased. Each customer touch point should be reviewed and analyzed to ensure they deliver a consistent customer experience.

What are the biggest opportunities for marketers heading into 2010?

Make the virtual world consistent with the online, digital experience. The experience a customer receives online, at the beginning of their experience with your company, should be consistent with that which is received when conducting face-to-face interactions. Comcast, Alaska Air and REI do a great job with integrating their social media presence with their business.

Businesses need to consider mobile marketing in their future marketing plans. Because everyone has a cell phone, it has created a situation in which you can get in touch with anyone from almost anywhere at any time. Businesses need to consider this when planning their future marketing mix and how they will use their marketing tools and channels to connect with customers and keep them engaged. For instance, REI offers an iPhone Ski and Snow report app. You add different ski resorts to customize the app for your needs, you can connect with twitter feeds from the mountain, and view trail maps and get driving directions.

Video will begin playing a bigger role in marketing communications. We are all using Tivo and DVR’s to watch the TV shows we choose. We speed through the advertisements to get to the program. Now that the internet is distributing more and more content (movies, TV shows, short videos) it has created an increased opportunity for video to drive awareness, adoption and accelerate conversion.

What three things can marketing do to build better relationships (and drive better results) with their sales and business development counterparts?

It’s simple really:

  1. Target the right customers
  2. Develop the right message/offer to get them interested
  3. Reinforce the message throughout multiple channels/points of distribution
  4. Track and measure results.
  5. Create a system that is scalable and repeatable. Don’t waste your resources recreating. Instead, create a continuous improvement loop, with every new campaign, or initiative, make incremental improvements.
  6. Track. Measure. Repeat.

The most powerful channel to influence new customers may be other, existing customers. How can organizations harness and amplify positive customer-to-customer influence?

Be interactive: ask for feedback and respond to it - - immediately. Starbucks has done a great job of this with the site. Customers are encouraged to make suggestions, other customers can make comments to the suggestions and Starbucks partners respond to each suggestion. The suggestions are categorized into groups (“Under Review”, “Reviewed”, “Coming Soon”) so that customer participating on the blog can see that their ideas are being heard.

Create Customer forums to bring customers together. For instance, invite your biggest and best customers to participate in a steering committee. Ask them to share best practices and discuss how the company can incorporate their feedback in product enhancements, communications, and policies/procedures. If you treat this group well, are honest and transparent with their suggestions, they will become evangelists for you.

The best relationships happen organically, but sometimes companies need to put a little “fertilizer” into the mix to stimulate conversation and input. By “fertilizer”, I mean value-add content that augments your core product/service and is consistent with your brand. REI has done a fantastic job keeping their customers connected to the brand by offering information on outdoor activities via their company website, links and mobile phone applications. Their value-added content enriches their customer’s outdoor experience. Not only because they sell the right equipment, but REI helps to make the connection to the right outdoor experience, positively reinforcing the purchase decision.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009


Giving presentations in 140 characters or less

When I conduct media training, we teach spokespeople to not just think in terms of sound bites, but to use those sound bites at the beginning of their answers.  That way, they’re not only more quotable, but you have a better chance that the reporter is taking good notes and gets your comment recorded for use in their piece.

Pretty much the same thing goes for presentations and Twitter today.

If you’re giving a presentation, make sure your script is full of tweetable content.  Think in terms of 140 characters or less.  As you’re preparing, literally write out those tweetable points to ensure they’ll fit with room for retweets to spare (right around 100 characters is about right).

If your goal is to share your story not just to those in the room, but their followers as well, this will ensure you’re getting maximum pass-along for yourself and your message.


Are you really listening to your buyers?

Fascinating study released this week from the folks at RainToday about the problems buyers encounter when choosing a new professional service provider.  The full report is worth a quick read (no registration required), but several points stood out to me.

Probably most interesting was a chart indicating the specific problems buyers encounter when engaged in the sales process.  The top reasons boil down to salesmanship.   The number one problem buyers encounter (nearly 4 of 10 buyers) is that the salesperson “did not listen to me.” 

These were followed by 30 percent of buyers indicating that the seller did not respond to requests in a timely manner, and did not understand their needs.

These are clearly problems that every sales & marketing organization can address.  Today.

At the very bottom of the list of buyer problems?  Web site.  Just six percent of buyers reported that information on and professionalism of the seller’s Web site was a problem.  With so many organizations spending tons of time and money fixing Web sites with the assumption that it has a significant impact on buyer perception and interest, this relatively low percentage should at least give marketers pause to possibly reconsider where their time is best spent to accelerate closed business.

Buyers want you to listen.  To respond quickly.  To understand what they need.

What could you do with your sales organization today to address and improve these issues?

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