Friday, July 31, 2009

 

What great marketing looks like

My first reaction when reading Andy's post on Klimpton Hotels today was "wow, that's great marketing at work."  Second reaction was, " I'm not sure many marketers would recognize this as marketing to begin with."

How many marketers think marketing is about the Web site, the collateral, the signage, the newsletter, and activities strictly focused on marketing communications?  Marketing is far more than that.  It's the entire experience you give your customers.

Klimpton has done a lot to create great experiences for their customers, with lots of buzz-worthy features.  And as Andy points out, even when they screw up, their response is genuine, transparent and fast.

That's all good marketing.  The unfortunate truth is that not only do many marketers not see this as part of their job, most organizations don't realize the impact on revenue these "operational" experiences have.  The experience and operations is the marketing for service-oriented businesses like Klimpton.


Thursday, July 30, 2009

 

Capturing daily feedback from your team & industry

From Verne Harnish's excellent weekly newsletter comes this idea for capturing daily feedback from your sales team, customers, prospects and the market in general, all at the same time. Nik VanHaeron, president of Canadian-based Uvalux Tanning & Support, shared this:

"I thought I'd share with you one of my favorite management tools. I call it our Highs, Lows and Need to Knows. These are my "tea leaves"... I see a lot of trends, allows me to celebrate successes, find out what's bogging our sales department, and what they are hearing in the industry.

"Everyday, I send a simple survey to our sales team. It has three simple questions on it. What was your high point of the day? What was your low point? And anything you heard that management should need to know? It arrives in their inbox at 4:55pm every day, so the last thing they do before they go home is reflect on their day and get things off their mind. I use Constant Contact to send the survey. It's the first thing that I read in the morning, and I love it. It gives me any key items that I have to look at first thing in the morning. We discuss it at our huddle, and get it done! It's about seeing trends sooner than your competition and the market."

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

 

Starting with Why

Too many sales & marketing messages, unfortunately, talk about “what” and “how”.  And at the front of the sales process, that’s a shame.

You’re proud of what you’ve built, which is great.  You have six new features in the latest version, awesome.  But if you lead your pitch with a description of what you’re selling, or how it works, you’re skipping the most important part of the conversation.

Why the customer cares.

When you write about why, you’re addressing your customer’s world.  You’re speaking their language, feeling their pain, building credibility by associating with the challenges they face.  Those challenges, that pain, is what drives demand for your product or service.  It’s why people buy.

If your prospect doesn’t have that need, or you haven’t established or created that need, selling the prospect on what you have and how it works isn’t going to help.  You’ve done nothing to build value, and given the prospect no context for which to understand why they need to talk to you in the first place.

In the end, it all comes down to why.  Yes, you may eventually get to a product demo and operational training of how to get started.

But the top of the funnel is all about why.


 

Five ways to create innovation throughout your life

Braden Kelley was kind enough to let me guest-post on his excellent Blogging Innovation blog today.  He (as well as his contributors) cover a wide variety of innovation-related topics specific to the workplace, but I wanted to explore how those same concepts apply to several other facets of our lives.  Check it out here.


Monday, July 27, 2009

 

B2B lead generation: Four better measures of success

If you work for or with a marketing team that drives leads for a sales team, it’s likely a mistake to measure your success based on lead volume.

Lead volume doesn’t matter.

What matters, of course, is revenue. Your job as a marketer is to give your sales team the best opportunities possible to close business, increase sales, and grow the value of the overall business. To that effect, there are far better ways to measure marketing success instead of pure leads. Here are four I like in particular:

  • Lead Quality: Leads are only good if they represent individuals or companies who can buy. Sit down with your sales team and agree on a common definition for a qualified lead. This can include things like company size, title, industry, purchase timeline – whatever you agree on. Leads you generate that aren’t quite “in profile” aren’t necessarily bad – some will still have revenue in them – but your primary job is to focus on optimizing volume and cost of the in-profile leads first.
  • Pipeline Contribution: Simply put, how many of those leads generated become active sales opportunities? Sure, this step requires work by your sales team, but it’s another good indicator of lead quality. This step also requires marketing to work collaboratively with sales to get the job done. No more passing leads over the wall and walking away. Marketing’s job includes helping the sales team continue working with new prospects until they’re ready to buy.
  • Deal Size: If you look deep into your lead generation metrics, I guarantee you’ll find trends that help you increase deal size at the lead level. Do particular industries buy more? Do certain titles tend to buy more products? Certain company sizes, geographies? Find the trends that lead to bigger deals, and find ways to generate more leads like that moving forward.
  • % and # of Deals from Nurture Database: If a lead isn’t ready to buy, but hasn’t said no, it’s marketing’s job to nurture that prospect until it’s ready to be passed back to sales. How well does your marketing team drive interest and urgency with your nurture database? How well does marketing identify when nurtured prospects are ready to buy? This is a great way to ensure your marketing team is innovating ways to drive urgency among your prospect database, and many of those urgency drivers will work in primary lead generation channels & campaigns as well.

Last but not least, there's of course cost per lead all the way through to the sale. Too many B2B marketers measure cost per lead (and sometimes even cost per in-profile lead), but fail to look at relative marketing cost of the opportunity and sale. A certain lead source can look great based on cost per lead, but if the conversion to opportunity and sale (not to mention lifetime value) is too low, leads that cost more can actually be better for the business after sale price and renewals are factored in.

What success measures work for your marketing team to drive focus on revenue?


Friday, July 24, 2009

 

Design with purpose

I had a great meeting with Nic Wildeman of Lionfish Creative this morning. Check out their Web site and you’ll see that they’re very good at creative and design – their work is fresh and engaging, it “makes you look.”

But what I particularly liked about Nic and Lionfish is their perspective on design, summed neatly by Nic’s comment below:

“The best creative work in marketing must serve a client's business purpose, else it is art for art's sake, and that is not our business.”

These are exactly the words you want coming from your brand’s creative shop. Every facet of your execution – including strategy, copy, offer and design – needs to align with your purpose and objectives. Too many creative resources – both in-house and via agencies – focus on creative that wins industry awards, which is nice for the agency walls but not as helpful for the client’s sales goals and bottom line.

But the blame here isn’t always with the creative shop, but too often also with the client. When you fill out the creative brief, do you describe how you want the ad to look? Sure. Do you also describe the brand’s revenue or market share objectives, and how the creative needs to align to and deliver those results? Not always.

Your execution is as good as its weakest component. Don’t let it be the creative (and don’t always blame the agency or designers when it is).


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

 

The two most important questions in partner marketing

Most companies that start a partner or channel marketing strategy ask the following questions:
The companies with the most successful, profitable partner marketing programs don't ask these questions. They instead focus solely on two questions:
Do what's right for the customer, and the rest will follow.

 

Restaurant marketing basics: Five tactics to get you started

I get a lot of restaurant owners asking about how best to market their businesses, and the answers typically boil down to two specific objective:
  1. Gain new customers
  2. Retain current customers
Below are a few starter concepts that every restaurant should employ on both counts. Most if not all can be executed with little to no out-of-pocket cost. Most are also focused on driving repeat business from existing clients, as your best marketing channel for incremental revenue as a restaurant are the folks walking into your door every day.

With each new diner, you have an opportunity to win their business again, and win their pass-along recommendation to countless other potential diners in their network.

These ideas are just the tip of the iceberg, but you've got to start somewhere.


Web Site
If for no other reason than to ensure prospective diners can find your contact information when searching for somewhere to eat tonight, you need a Web site. If you don't have one today, you can register a domain with GoDaddy.com for eight bucks a year, and use their WebSite Tonight tool to put something up with basic information, a phone number, your hours, and even a menu.

Better yet, add online ordering and reservations to the site. There are companies like ClickEats that will do this for you quickly and inexpensively. The more you can help prospective customers not only learn more about you, but also immediately engage, the more likely they are to come for a visit.

Testimonials
Testimonials and user reviews are the lifeblood of good restaurant marketing. Sure, your menu looks good. But what have others said that have already tried it? Sites like Yelp make it easy for customers to review and rate restaurants, but don't count solely on third parties to control and aggregate your testimonials.

Ask your happy customers for a simple sentence or two after they're done dining. Put those testimonials near the front door (along with their picture would be a nice touch), and add them to your Web site as well. There are countless ways to collect and leverage testimonials, but if you're not asking for them today, get started now.

Come Back Coupons
You want that first-time diner to come back, right? Why not give them a simple coupon offering something discounted or free on their next visit? Put it underneath their receipt when they leave, or simply stamp a message right on their take-home receipt as a reminder.

This in-person coupon distribution is extremely cost-effective and will drive both direct and pass-along new business (do you really care if those diners give the coupons to someone else? In fact, that's even better!)

Free Samples
When diners sit down for a meal, why not give them a sample of either an appetizer or dessert? It's unexpected, appreciated, and a great way to start the experience on the right foot. Plus, it will likely drive more diners to purchase those appetizers and desserts to increase their overall ticket.

Take it a step further and give them a sample to-go when they leave - either something new to the menu or something you think they might like next time based on what they ordered today. Again, unexpected and appreciated - and I guarantee it'll help them remember you and want to come back.

Collect Email Addresses
Email addresses collected with permission of your customers is one of the best ways to maintain an ongoing conversation with them between visits (and to encourage more visit frequency and pass-along to their friends as well). When collecting email from customers, make it worth their while - offer a free dessert, or drawing for a free lunch, in exchange for their contact information. Also be clear what the benefit is of being on your list - exclusive offers, birthday and anniversary surprises, new menu additions, etc.

With that email address, collect special event dates as well - birthdays, anniversaries, and even preferences on food & drink. When customers volunteer this information, they're more likely to respond when you come back with related special offers and invitations.

There's much more to do here, simple & easy things every restaurant owner can do to accelerate customers and revenue with little to no out-of-pocket cost. I'll post more ideas soon.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

 

Seven reasons to shop local

I’m a big believer in supporting local businesses.  In these economic times especially, it just feels right to do so.

The Kirkland Reporter recently published a short piece I wrote highlighting seven specific reasons why shopping local can save you time and money.  Check it out here.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

 

Three ways to set up a BIG sales month

It's mid-month. How are you doing against your monthly sales goals? If you're on track or ahead, congrats (and don't let up). If you're behind, you're not alone. In this market especially, getting traction on deals throughout the month can be a challenge. In many selling environments, especially those with a relatively short sales cycle, the single most important thing you have control of to have a big sales month is what you do at the beginning of the month to set up above-quota sales through the rest of the month.

Here are three things you can do the beginning of every new month to hit your sales goals:

  1. Focus on Setting Appointments: In the first couple days of the month, put a concerted focus on setting appointments with leads you already have. Use an external incentive or accelerator if need be, but work hard through your existing contact or lead list to create new appointments and presentations for the next few days. More appointments means more active opportunities that can close by the end of the month.
  2. Incentives for Quickly Closing Slipped Deals: Every new month starts with a handful of deals expected to close the previous month, but that for some reason slipped. Most sales organizations dump these into the overall "expected to close" bucket for the next month, but why shouldn't these deals close within the next few days? Put a focus on closing slipped deals immediately to give yourself a jump on your sales goal and to goose momentum for the month overall (for yourself and the rest of your team)
  3. More Leads Timed to Start of Month: If you're marketing for a sales organization, do everything you can to generate new leads towards the start of the month (or quarter, depending on your typical selling cycles). At the beginning of the month, sales professionals are the most focused on building their pipelines. Leads that come in at the end of a month are more likely to get ignored as sales focuses on closing existing opportunities.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

 

How to profitably generate leads and sales from trade shows

Trade shows represent the marketing channel sales & marketing people everywhere love to hate. High costs, LOTS of time (before and during the event), typically followed by less-than-exciting leads and few converted sales.

But as much as I also typically shy away from trade shows as a front-line marketing channel for demand generation, they do have their place in delivering solid, profitable revenue. You just have to get a few things right. This list is by no means exhaustive, but it’s a start in the right direction.

  • Pre-show expectations: First and foremost, make sure you understand what trade shows can do, and what they likely cannot do. Trade shows are busy, attendees are scattered and flustered on the show floor, so having a lot of high-quality conversations that lead to short-term revenue isn’t likely the expectation you want to set. Fast deals are bluebirds, with the majority of attendees earlier in the buying cycle which means a longer lead time to being ready for your sales pipeline. Most trade show revenue, therefore, will be long term. Go into the show with that mindset and you’re already a step ahead.
  • Establish & estimate required ROI: Before going any further, do the napkin math to make sure your fully-burdened spend (including out-of-pocket budget, travel costs, as well as the opportunity cost of the team’s time) is worth the expected sales. Know up front, before the show is green-lighted, whether it has a chance of being a profitable effort, ideally with an expectation of exactly how many sales need to come directly from attendees. More often than not, this ROI will either keep you from wasting further time on a show that’s destined to be a failure, or at minimum will give you guidance on the investment and strategy required to make it a success.
  • Pre-show buzz and "appointments": Get a copy of the attendee list if possible, and give expected booth visitors – before they're inundated with messages at the show – a reason to stop by. This is where knowing your audience and their pain points well can make it easy to map that knowledge to an offer or message that prioritizes a trip to your booth over others. If they plan for it, they’re more likely to not only stop by but invest a little more time in your presentation.
  • How you approach prospects: At the show itself, how do you engage traffic? How do you get browsers to break their gait, pause in front of your booth, and engage with your staff? The answer is likely not a cheap giveaway or in-booth game. What message or offer can your booth staff deliver in three seconds or less to a passing attendee that will get at least 50% of them to stop? It’s likely something related to your value proposition – a sample, a no-risk trial, or even a challenge. These types of offers will likely generate the most visitors and better prospects.
  • After-show follow-up: Sadly, this step is ignored, forgotten or just plain dropped by many sales and marketing teams. But it’s arguably the most important step of all. You’ve just invested a significant amount of time and money to capture sales leads early in their purchase cycle. At the show itself, they were overwhelmed with messages. And few of the other exhibitors will do anything coordinated to follow up. Think in advance, before you attend the show, what you want your follow-up to look like. Whether it’s all from marketing, or combined with some sales team follow-up directly, plan for this in advance so your team can hit the ground running as soon as the show is over. Even if you decide to give attendees a day or two to get home first, having this done beforehand will ensure the plan is well executed and measured.
  • Nurture nurture nurture: Knowing these leads are early in their buying cycle, make sure they are added to your broader lead nurturing efforts. If you don’t have one, come up with a plan that “touches” these leads on a regular basis with relevant information, messaging and offers to ensure you stay top of mind well after the show. If you made a good first impression at the booth, that’s a great start. If you fail to follow up and build momentum on that early start after the show, your expected ROI will fall as well.
  • Track results regularly and long-term: If you know going in that collected leads will likely take longer to close, you’re less likely to deem the event a failure after just 30 days of follow-up. But no matter how long your sales cycle, measuring conversion and close results from collected leads is critical. If you’re a Salesforce.com user, putting all collected leads into a unique Campaign is your best choice. But no matter what you use, have the patience and discipline to watch conversion over time.


Monday, July 13, 2009

 

How good marketers are like good poker players

Watch some of the world’s top poker players and you’ll notice two things.

One, they’re very aggressive when they need to be.  They play the blinds, raise often, and take calculated risks with their money.

They also fold.  A lot.

World-class poker players, in this context, aren’t too different from smart marketers.  Both know what success looks like.  Both get creative and aggressive when need be.  Both play a lot of hands.

But if they’re smart, both poker players and marketers get out of the game quickly when it’s clear they’re not going to win.  They get out quickly as soon as they realize (or measure) that the game is lost.

Good marketers and good poker players aren’t afraid to fail.  In fact, they know that failure is a key part of getting to the next game, learning something about what works and what doesn’t, cutting their losses, and being that much smarter for the next hand.

Failure, for both marketers and poker players, makes them smarter. 

As a marketer, are you playing enough hands to know what works?  And are you watching close enough to know which hands to fold?


Saturday, July 11, 2009

 

Five tips for better customer-centric selling

When you're selling, your first challenge is always to connect with the prospect - build rapport and a basis for why they should care about you and what you have to offer. But too often, selling companies approach this conversation in a seller-centric way - fronting with what the company has to sell vs. what the customer needs.

Turning this around to focus more on customer-centric sales - especially at the front of the process - can be relatively easy. Below are five initial ways to pivot quickly to a customer-centric selling approach.

· Use "you" instead of "I": Many sales people and marketers default their writing and speaking to the first-person, and focus their messages on what you (the seller) have and want. The next time you write a call script or sales letter, use "you" at least twice as often as you use "I". Make statements that address the customer and their situation & needs directly. It makes for a far more customer-centric approach that will attract and engage your readers more effectively.

· Treat the first sales call like an interview: Even if you've already qualified the prospect, your first call should still be about them. Even if you only have a few minutes in person or on the phone, ask smart questions to not only better understand the prospect's situation, but also get them to directly admit the challenges and pain currently faced by life without your solution. In your first call, ask a handful of smart questions and spend at least 75% of the time listening. With the right questions, many prospects will walk right into the sale.

· Align yourself with existing customer priorities: Too many sales professionals waste hours of time trying to sell something their prospects don't need. And even if they would benefit from it, you must align your solution with an existing problem or initiative in the organization. Your prospects are too busy to start juggling yet another priority not already on their plate. But by aligning your solution with something they're already trying to address and solve, you have a much better chance of being heard.

· Respect their time: Assume your customers are at least as busy as you are. Just because they're interested in what you have doesn’t mean they have an hour to hear you talk about it. Be brief, ask up front each time if they have a few minutes, and think of ways to condense your information into less. Send less but more important collateral to review. Condense the hour-long Webinar to a 1-2 page executive summary. Find ways to get information to your prospects without taking up much time. They'll appreciate you for it.

· Let your current customers sell for you: Case studies and success stories should be your most prominent and effective selling tool. Help your prospects envision what success with your product looks like a few days, weeks or months after they've bought it. Put those customer success stories in a variety of format - print, audio, video, Web - and make it easy for prospects at various stages of the sales process to engage with them. Even if you're the best salesperson at the company, your customers have more credibility and will sell better than you. Get them in front of your prospects more often.


Friday, July 10, 2009

 

Hire your customers to do customer support (and pay them nothing)

That's essentially what Intuit did with its latest edition of QuickBooks.  According to a recent Business Week article, Intuit has created a community of its most active and rabid fans to support other QuickBooks users.  It's not too different from a variety of product forums across the Web, except in this case the forum is run by the company, not individual customers.

The result?  Intuit claims that 70 percent of customer service questions are now answered by other QuickBooks customers.  These are customers volunteering to answer questions Intuit used to pay employees to answer.

There's a lesson and opportunity here for your business as well.  How are you harnessing the power and passion of your best customers to help not just your business directly, but other customers as well?  It'll help your brand, increase satisfaction, likely impact retention, and will save you money.


 

How baseball clubs can increase profit margins this year

Let's say you own or manage a professional baseball team.  Your costs for the year are relatively established at this point, but every day you play another game.  And every day, there are seats that are both empty and unsold.

This means that every time you fill that seat with a paying customer, you make money - and most of those dollars at this point go right to the bottom line.

Given this, what could a baseball team do to get more aggressive in filling those seats?

Below are some ideas.  And remember, as opposed to the opera or a play, for a ball club the revenue opportunity is as much about at-game revenue (concessions and souvenirs) as it is about the ticket.  So you can get creative about both ticket prices and cost of acquisition.  For example:

  • Want to sell more premium seats?  Get others to buy premium tickets for returning military as a “thank you” for service.  Or, get others to buy premium tickets for families of those still deployed.  It's a great PR move, could be tax-deductible, and fills your most expensive and visible seats
  • What if premium seat buyers could go onto the field after the game?  Would you let them throw a few pitches from the bullpen?  Have the team photographer take pictures of them in the dugout?  High perceived value in these low-cost incentives.
  • How many teams have established and coordinated relationships with hotels, car services, restaurants and concierges?  Couldn't these travel-related services be more actively recommending a trip to the ballpark for both business and pleasure travelers?
  • How could you turn part of the ballpark into a singles bar?  Perhaps it’s a section or “terrace” that has plenty of good drinks but is also a gathering place for the town's young, single and looking crowd.  Make the ballpark a place to see and be seen.
  • What about youth baseball teams and summer day camp groups?  Could you offer them a short on-field basebal clinic after the game?
  • For particular sections that don’t sell well on a regular basis, how can you get them filled more often, even with really low priced seats, so those visitors are also buying concessions and other game-day elements to drive incremental revenue?  Things like:
    • Get in free for your birthday:  Get a free upper-deck ticket for a home game during your birthday month (will get friends/family to come too)
    • Students - $1 tickets day of game w/ ID (do you think you'd make it up with college students buying a few $6 dollar beers?)
    • Active military – free ticket when the rest of the family comes too

The opportunities go on and on.  What would you recommend?


 

I Can Haz Synergy

In late May, the popular humor site ICanHazCheezburger announced that it wanted to bring its fans together for a Seattle Mariners baseball game.  Last night, more than 1,200 fans of Cheezburger’s family of sites crammed into three entire upper-deck sections of Safeco Field, with some traveling from across the country to hang out with other fans.

Think about this from both sides.  The team at ICanHazCheesburger just got their fans to pay to attend an event together, an event that generated a ton of buzz for the brand and is sure to garner significant post-event PR and pass-along from those who attended.

The Mariners, on the other hand, just sold three sections worth of upper deck tickets that may have gone empty otherwise (let alone revenue from concessions, souvenirs, etc).

Sounds like a win for both sides.

Your business likely tends to look like one or the other – either you have a business with fans or customers, or you have a venue (a sports arena, restaurant, hotel, conference center, whatever) that isn’t always full. 

How could you court the other business to make a win-win?  The opportunities seem endless…


Thursday, July 09, 2009

 

Act like an entrepreneur: Five key characteristics

I briefly followed a Twitter conversation yesterday afternoon that attempted to define what a real entrepreneur is.  It stemmed from one individual’s frustration that some small company employees considered themselves entrepreneurs, even though they did not own or start the company.

I wonder if it matters.  Furthermore, I love the idea of employees – at big companies and small – thinking of themselves like entrepreneurs. 

Forget about the technical requirements of an entrepreneur for a minute.  What constitutes a set of entrepreneurial attributes that employees could emulate?

-          Customer-Centric Thinking:  Successful entrepreneurs are obsessed with their customers – what they want, how they want it, and their reaction/feedback to everything big and small.  Successful entrepreneurs talk to customers every day to get feedback, build relationships, and help the customers themselves help evolve and grow the business.

-          No Unnecessary Spending:  Entrepreneurial employees treat every dime as if it were their own.  Do we really need those extra printouts for the trade show?  Is that marketing channel really working?  Is it generating not just leads but sales

-          Creative Problem-Solving:  For entrepreneurs, there is no box, and nothing is off the table.  Entrepreneurs are attempting to do something no one has done before, which requires a new way of thinking and doing.  It also requires bucking the norm, the creative “control”, and often going against what is known and understood.  That takes guts and discipline to do day in and day out.

-          Tolerance (or Immunity) To Fear:  Fear, as I’ve said before, gets in the way of growth and innovation.  Successful entrepreneurs know little to no fear, and certainly don’t allow any element of fear to cloud their judgment, creativity or courage to achieve what they know is right.

-          Acceptance of Constructive Failure:  Smart people actually fail a LOT, in part because they try a lot of things that aren’t yet proven.  Not only do they try and fail often, they learn from that failure and get better – and never let that failure keep them from focusing on the ultimate goal.

If I had a company full of people who acted like this, they can call themselves entrepreneurs all day long.

 


Wednesday, July 08, 2009

 

Reaching new customers with LinkedIn Groups

LinkedIn’s relevance not only as a professional networking tool but as an active social media marketing tool is increasing at a rapid rate.  Among the various ways to network and reach customers on LinkedIn, the Groups feature offers significant, measurable opportunity for smart companies.

In a nutshell, LinkedIn Groups are opt-in set of individuals who share a common interest.  There’s an extremely long tail of groups on LinkedIn, covering a wide variety of subject matter.  Chances are, whatever market you’re in or product/service you’re selling, there’s at least a handful of groups on LinkedIn focused on it.

They may not all have thousands of members, but these individuals each represent not only a prospective customer, but an influencer who can reach others in their own networks – beyond the confines of the specific online group.

Using these groups to grow your own business won’t work immediately.  This isn’t direct marketing with immediate response and revenue, at least not likely.  To benefit from these groups, to provide value to other members and earn their confidence, respect and business, you need to take the time to become a respected, valued member of the community.

But with time and focus, LinkedIn Groups can deliver thought leadership, new customers and even new brand ambassadors for your business.  Here are a few recommended steps to get started.

-          Join relevant groups:  Do several wide searches in the Groups section to see what’s available and relevant to you, and your business.  Don’t think like a marketer or salesperson, think like a customer (and you’re the customer).  Where can you provide value?  For which groups do you have something constructive to add (not just a sales pitch)?  Those are the groups where organic participation will be easier and more effective from you.

-          Post articles of interest:  Start building a presence for yourself in the group by posting articles of interest.  Do not post articles from your own site or blog, at least not initially.  Build credibility with the group and for yourself by offering purely educational and value-added content from across the Web that other members will appreciate.  These articles will not only appear on the group home page, but also in email digests sent to the majority of members.

-          Participate in discussions:  Look for questions you can answer, or questions worth introducing to the discussion board.  Be educational, and do not sell.  Recommend ideas, solutions, other services or products beyond what you directly offer. 

-          Reach out to individual members:  Once a member of a group, LinkedIn gives you the ability to send and receive direct messages from other members without either party revealing their direct contact information.  If you see comments in the discussion board that could use a direct vs. group response, use this feature to contact the individual member.  This is a great way to start building an individual relationship with a member who may be a good sales prospect, but do so based on providing value and earning trust.

-          Invite your customers to participate:  The best way to start introducing your product or service into these groups is not through you directly, but through your customers.  Invite a handful of your customers to join the LinkedIn Group with you.  Their engagement with other members on a variety of topics will give them the credibility to – when the time and context is right – introduce and recommend your product. 

 

 


Tuesday, July 07, 2009

 

Four tactics for getting started with lead nurture marketing

Earlier today the team at Marketo offered a great overview and comparison of Nurture Marketing and Closed Loop Marketing.  Both are strong & viable strategies for more effectively managing different types of B2B leads through a sales funnel through to close.  And Marketo’s right, nurture marketing is great but closed loop marketing is better, and typically generates better results by more directly matching sales touchpoints and messages to specific prospect intent and behavior.

But achieving lead follow-up nirvana is a long ways from reality for many organizations.  A survey earlier this year indicated that a mere 10% of companies were actively using lead nurture strategies as part of their demand generation and pipeline management marketing.  Even for those 10% of companies, implementing a more complex closed loop system may feel intimidating and out of reach.

But for the other 90% of organizations, going from whatever they’re currently doing (likely a variation of treating all leads equally) to executing a complex lead management strategy doesn’t have to happen in one giant step.  For these organizations, achieving a strong nurture marketing strategy (let alone the next step to closed loop) should be seen as a multi-step process.  Below are a few recommendations to start migrating to a better way of triaging and working leads, which should result in more opportunities and more sales over time without changing lead generation tactics or budget.

·         Define an ideal lead, and treat them differently:  Create a relatively simple definition of an ideal prospect, and start with two buckets – do they qualify or do they not?  For example, does an ideal prospect need to come from a company of a partiuclar size?  From a particular titled contact?  From a particular industry?  Set just 2-3 criteria, and start triaging leads accordingly.  Even this simple first step can ensure your sales team is working with the best leads more aggressively (and treating lower-priority leads as such)

·         Start a single nurture campaign for all leads:  Sure, it would be great to have different nurture segments by industry, expected close date, reason the deal may be delayed, etc.  But if you’re just starting out nurturing leads, start with a single nurture campaign for all leads.  A monthly newsletter, or a regular Webinar offer, or even an occasional free white paper offer can keep you top of mind with prospects not yet ready to buy.  Get complicated later, but get something going to those latent prospects right away.

·         Establish qualification questions to segment leads into status buckets:  Are you talking to a decision-maker?  Does budget exist?  Is there an internal compelling event to make a decision soon?  These are questions you can ask in a lead registration form, a follow-up survey, or even in a call script your sales team uses.  In any case, there are likely a handful of similar questions (no more than 4-5) that can be asked of prospects up front, recorded in your CRM system, and be used to triage leads further.  If nothing else, your sales team will love having this data to manage predictability of their short-term pipeline.

·         Be honest about expected close dates, and set sales team follow-up expectations accordingly:  As new leads get contacted and qualified, get your sales team in the habit of establishing an expected close date.  Your leads could fall into three buckets- immediate oppportunities, medium-term opportunities, and nebulous “future” opportunities.  Understanding how quickly your prospect may make a decision can help determine the strength and frequency of your follow-up communication.

 


 

No plastic needed

Urban Coffee Lounge in Kirkland, Washington - like a lot of coffee shops - offer pre-paid cards for buying coffee and breakfast treats. But this great coffee shop makes their card more customer-friendly by not requiring the card.

When you buy your first card, they put your name in their system. Just show up next time and give them your name (ideally with some ID), and they give you your coffee.

It's a tiny thing, granted, but it's one less piece of plastic I need in my wallet and it's a very customer-centric move. Smart.

How are you making it easier - and more convenient - to buy? Little things can make a difference.

Friday, July 03, 2009

 

The Key To Innovation And Growth Is Ignoring Fear

Special thanks to Matt at SmallBizBee for including a guest post today I wrote on the subject of fear and risk - especially for business owners and entrepreneurs. Check out the short column here.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

 

Build brand and sell more with effective storytelling

Marketing has become more analytical than ever. We have at our disposal an incredible amount of measurement tools to evaluate the success, profitability and ROI of our efforts.

But those metrics can be a slippery slope. It's really easy to focus so much on the metrics, that you forget the creative. Focus so much on identifying the opportunity gaps, that your strategy for approaching customers in that gap is an afterthought.

I was reminded of this the other day when Jon Rimmerman from Garagiste was talking about storytelling. Jon started Garagiste to sell wine to his friends. His business? He sends emails talking about wine. If you want some, you reply with how many you want.

You can't buy wine on his Web site. His emails do not feature photos of the wine bottles. His emails tell stories about the wine - where it came from, its history, and not just how it tastes but what it's like to taste it.

Jon says the last thing on his mind when he writes his emails (which nearly 100,000 customers receive every weekday) is selling. Instead, he wants to tell a story. He wants to help the stressed-out executive take five minutes to relax and take a mental journey with him to Italy, or France, or Spain every day.

In the process, Jon sells a LOT of wine. A little less than $30 million a year worth, largely from telling stories.

Storytelling as an effective marketing tool is everywhere. Trader Joe's is another excellent example. While their competitors flood the market with full-color newspaper inserts that feature nothing more than photos and prices, Trader Joe's publishes the Fearless Flyer. Here's their own description of what it is:

The Fearless Flyer has been likened to a cross between Consumer Reports and Mad Magazine. We're not sure who said that, but we think they pretty much got it right. The Fearless Flyer is kind of like a newsletter, a catalog and a bit of a comic book all at the same time. It’s our chance to give you loads of interesting (hopefully) information about our products. And along the way, we like to toss in some witty (we try) tidbits and even a few old-fashioned cartoons.

Trader Joe's has created an intensely loyal following, with a unique set of products and unique marketing that focuses almost entirely on storytelling. It's different, evokes the customer's imagination, and it's effective.

All of us can do a better job telling stories - stories about our products, our brands, our customers. Math and analytics tee up the opportunity. To convert, you have to start talking, and what you say is as important as how you say it.

 

Where's that IT guy?

In-house IT and helpdesk staff occasionally have the reputation of being rude, arrogant and inaccessible (not everyone, of course, but even Saturday Night Live thinks so).

So when an IT professional is the exact opposite, he stands out.

Take Ken DeMaria, IT Director for PayScale in Seattle. He's an incredibly busy guy, but knows his relationship with the rest of the company (not just those in IT and development) is important. To make himself more accessible in a very fun way, this flowchart is posted on his door. It explains his possible (sometimes likely) absence from sitting right at his desk, but also makes it clear he's accessible to all and happy to help.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

 

How to build a list of your competitor's customers

To gain market share, of course, you either need to bring new customers into the category, or get existing category customers to switch from your competitors.

Switching customers can oftentimes be faster and easier, as you don't need to sell the customer on the need for the category in general - just that your product is better, faster, cheaper or more effective.

Getting your hands on that competitor's customer list is another story.

But in today's world of empowered consumers armed with a plethora of online social communication tools, seeking out your competitor's customers may be easier than you think. True, getting the complete list may be next to impossible, but here are some tips for finding who's using "the other guys", and which of them might be ripe for a switch:

Trolling and pulling prospects may be a quick way to use these channels to find "switcher" business, but each channel also represents a fantastic opportunity to engage the broader community of users & participants with your own brand, content and offers.

Simply starting a conversational presence in these places (to build credibility, not just to sell), is an easy and cost-effective way to directly target both an immediate and long-term stream of prospective new customers.

Do you have examples of successful switcher campaigns from the channels above, or other competitor list-finding best practices? What are you doing to actively find, engage and convince your category's other customers to switch to you?

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