Tuesday, March 30, 2010


How to turn customers into ambassadors for your business

Guess what? You already know how, because you’re already doing it.

More specifically, your best customers are already doing it. You may not know it, you may not know exactly who’s doing it, and you may not know how they’re doing it or how they got that way. But it’s happening.

Some of your customers went from prospects to new customers to happy customers to ambassadors. Your job is to find out how and why, and establish that path for more customers moving forward.

In other words, don’t artificially engineer a path to make customers happy. Don’t create an incentive program or a loyalty program or other customer success initiatives out of the air. Find out what’s occurring naturally, what’s already driving higher loyalty and ambassadorship among your customers, and build processes to make it happen more often.

The first step is to segment your ambassadors from your “average” customer. Then ask the following questions:

  • What was their path to becoming a brand ambassador? How did they get there?
  • Who’s on that path today, and where did it start? What were the important milestones?
  • Are there shortcuts or catalysts on that path? Are there experiences, results, features or otherwise that accelerate the path to advocates?
  • Who helped those customers along the way? Who were their mentors and/or guides? Who (besides you, besides your company) can help show them the way?
  • What are those ambassadors doing to share their passion with others? With either other customers or prospective customers?

Many of these questions you can answer by looking at past behavior and performance. Dig into your customer database and analytics, and find out what your ambassadors have in common.

You will find ambassadorship accelerants that will surprise you. That are easy to replicate. That cost next to nothing.

This analysis can take some time, but it’s worth it. In the meantime, do the following:

  • Underpromise and overdeliver.
  • Respond. Quickly. Personally.
  • Be accessible.
  • Be human.
  • Make things simpler.
  • Focus on results.

These things always work. And notice most of them are about service, not product. Even in a product-oriented business, service can mean everything. And much of what will work is faster, easier and cheaper to make happen than you may realize.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


How customer loyalty is your ultimate competitive advantage

It’s not a secret that loyal customers are good for an organization or brand.  You don’t see too many executives saying they don’t want more of them.  But what’s interesting to me is how few companies truly acknowledge, take care of and leverage those loyal customers in a way that measurably accelerates market share and recurring revenue while mitigating competitive risk and reducing sales & marketing costs.

New customer sales & marketing?  At most companies that means a meaningful lead generation budget, a full sales team, lots of support and attention.

Existing customers?  A newsletter, maybe some training, and an 800-number if they have questions.

This is a broad generalization, but you get the point (and you’ve seen it, both at companies you work with and for, as well as directly as a customer of others).

How are your current customers perhaps your most valuable competitive edge?

·         Treat them right – deliver a fantastic product or service – and you can count on their business for life

·         Be remarkable, and they’ll tell their friends and colleagues about you as well

·         Earn their trust, and they’ll tell you exactly what they’re seeing in the market – your competitors, new innovations, etc.

·         Engage them regularly, and they’ll tell you when you’re wrong, when you screw up, and give you time to fix it

·         Actively listen, react to their feedback, innovate when they ask, and they won’t go anywhere

·         Create an army of ambassadors, and they’re an extension of your sales force in situations you have zero access to today

·         Make them your eyes and ears, and they’ll give you the earliest heads-up possible to any competitive threat on the horizon (with enough time to react, adjust, and cut competitors off at the knees before they can get momentum)

·         Ask them to brainstorm with you, and they’ll give you far better, more creative ideas than you’d ever come up with yourself

·         Surprise them with your responsiveness, speed and approachability, and they’ll treat you like a loyal friend

You can do this.  You can do all of this, and most of it doesn’t cost any more than a change in how you manage your customers.  How you talk to them.  How often, with a different message, a different tone, and both more frequency and thoughtfulness.

Your customers desperately want this from you.  They’ve made a commitment to you (in a big or small way), and all they ask is that you return that commitment to them.

There’s no question in my mind that every business has significant and measurable revenue potential with greater focus here.



Hunting Bigger Sales: Best Practices from Tom Searcy

You should be closing bigger deals. Tom Searcy can show you how.

I've seen Tom speak twice now, at two separate Inc Magazine events, and he's focused on helping clients hunt and close big sales. What makes Tom's ideas particularly valuable is that he's followed them himself many times to close whale accounts, and will be the first to tell you he's directly made many of the mistakes he now addresses and overcomes in his books and presentations.

After seeing Tom again last week at Inc's Growth Conference, we sat down to talk a bit more about how companies and sales organizations can get smarter, more confident and more successful at closing large accounts.

Matt: A lot of business owners, even salespeople, get intimidated when thinking about going after the big sale. How do you recommend they get beyond that?

Tom: Let's first define big. A big sale is whatever YOU define it to be. For many of the people I speak to and work with, a Big Sale represents an account ten to twenty times the size of their average account. For most companies, this still represents a new account that will be less than 5-10% of their total revenue. This makes the result significant, but usually not too intimidating. Second, knowing what characteristics in a prospect or potential company client you want in advance of the sale gives a sense of control. If the opportunity does not meet those characteristics, then you don't pursue that opportunity, regardless of its size. Third, I find that most everyone feels better when they have a plan to follow. In my book, "Whale Hunting: How to Land Big Sales and Transform Your Company," I really focused on a defined plan so that when you are going after that big deal you have a clear map to follow.

M: Should organizations go after big deals in lieu of the smaller deals, or is there a balance that’s more ideal?

T: For most people and companies I recommend a portfolio approach to selling deals. Similar to an investment portfolio, you set out a percentage of your revenue that you want from big deals, mid-size deals and small deals. Accompanying this is your estimated time investment that you are planning to make in the pursuit of these different size deals. It is like an investment portfolio in that you are looking for a balanced approach to your investments and returns. Most of my clients put at least 20-30% of their time into large account selling. They hunt another 30-40% of the time for mid-size deals. The balance of their time is spent working with the smaller deals. This investment in small deals is in part because they know that small deals sometimes grow up into bigger deals, so they make an investment in the future by developing relationships with these smaller opportunities when they see the potential for growth.

M: From the buyer’s mindset, why would they choose a smaller company over a big one to power the product or solution they’re seeking?

T: Bigger companies love to work with smaller companies...who feel and act like big companies. They hire smaller companies because they are innovative, service-oriented, fast and responsive. Big companies like the fact that they have leverage in the relationship- everyone wants to be your most important client and big companies get that attention from small companies. It is our responsibility to supplement all of those great advantages that we bring to big companies with ways to make them feel safe in hiring our smaller company. Smaller companies can feel risky to a big company. They have questions about whether you are stable or not. Will you be around in a year? Do you have the resources to really do the job? And on and on. In the sales process we have to anticipate what those possible concerns are and then show that we have those bases covered.

M: What advice do you find yourself giving sales organizations most often, based on what they’re currently doing and need to do better to get the big deals?

T: Several pieces of advice that I offer frequently include:
  1. Hunt fewer deals - Companies need to trim their pipelines back to "real deals" rather than deals that are possibly a bad fit or have little not chance of closing. Focus on those deals that have your characteristics.
  2. Change the way you talk about your product or service - Of course it should be framed as a solution. But beyond that, you need to shift from your own language of service, quality and price, to their business problems of time, money and risk.
  3. Hunt heavier - In order to make companies feel more comfortable buying from you, they need to meet your people, see your resources, talk to your alliance partners. Big deals require a bigger team at the table.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


How to integrate social and traditional marketing

I’ve heard this question three times in the past two weeks.  Companies are wondering how to not just build out their social media presence, but how to integrate it with the rest of their marketing strategy.

My advice?  Stop thinking about them as two different things.  Distinctions between social and “traditional” marketing are meaningless, or at least temporary.  Why?  Because your customer doesn’t care.

Your customer doesn’t differentiate between their social media time, their Internet time, their mobile time, and then their “traditional” media time.  In the real world, all of these experiences blend together, happen in rapid sequence, and often happen simultaneously.

Your customer experiences all of these things at different times and possibly on different platforms, but their impression of you, your products, and your brand is singular.  Their awareness, preference and action towards what you’re doing and selling is not divided between media platforms and marketing divisions.

Remember 10-12 years ago when your company created a separate Internet advertising department?  Even that feels a little quaint now.  Eventually, progressive brands realized that distinguishing between channels was contrary to the way their customers thought, created first & lasting impressions, and made decisions.  The same goes today for social media.

But if you’re still faced with the reality of separate teams or efforts managing your social marketing from everything else, take a moment to step back, forget about your internal divisions for a moment, and think about the customer.  What is she doing?  How is she interacting with your brand, with those that influence her, and with the critical decision and touchpoints that compel her to make a purchase decision?  How are you organizing your marketing strategy not by channel or platform, but by the purchase cycle she follows, as well as the information and sources she naturally gravitates towards at each stage of the research, discovery, preference, trial and purchase process?

I’m not saying you still don’t have to integrate how you manage your marketing.  I just think that when we talk about how to better manage cross-platform programs, perhaps we’re starting with the wrong question.



Best practices for finding and closing CleanTech business

Demand generation and sales pipeline management in the CleanTech space isn’t significantly different than most other enterprise and/or B2B industries. Yes, many CleanTech buyers & sellers are motivated by environmental or resource-saving interests. But the general CleanTech economy (including enterprise buyers, venture funding, etc.) is still driven by making money and driving measurable value and ROI for both sides of the deal.

With enterprise CleanTech sales & marketing in particular, you can combine effective enterprise selling strategies with tactics specific to what is still an emerging category where early adopters may still need extra convincing.

Here are several strategies and tactics to use in CleanTech enterprise sales & marketing to be more effective at finding, managing and closing new business.

Sell first to organizations with an existing green or carbon-neutral goal. Few people think burning less carbon isn’t a good idea. Few people want to use more resources than are necessary. But unless there’s a corporate focus on resource reduction, it’ll be hard to get your product at the top of your buyer’s priority list. Focus first on those organizations where a “green goal” has been stated and made public. Not only are you more likely get your sale at the top of the priority list, but the PR and marketing opportunities for the buyer (to demonstrate progress towards their goal) is higher as well.

Sell first to organizations with a CEO mandate. This is different from a corporate goal. Some organizations create a focus on going green and reducing resource use, but for a subset of those organizations this focus becomes a personal priority for the CEO. In this case, you have the extra advantage of appealing to the buyer that they can measurably demonstrate to their boss that they (and their team) are directly contributing to the CEO’s goals. That makes your buyer look good, and will help get your project prioritized.

Do the math, and predict the future. Help your buyers make a case for your product or service by making the “napkin math” ROI case easy to calculate and understand. Are you helping them reduce energy waste? Prove it. Is it based on a per-truck gas savings in their transportation fleet? Do the math for your prospect, and help them understand specifically how much savings is possible for them personally and directly. Do the math for them, or distribute easy-to-use “ROI Calculators” that can be customized and forwarded around the organization. These tools, measurements and predictors can be powerful motivators inside an organization by predicting the cost savings (or revenue potential) inherence in what you’re selling.

Sell the benefits, not the features. You’re not selling smartgrid technology, you’re enabling greater profit margin and low-cost expansion (which leads to even more margin). You’re not selling energy management software, you’re selling eight-figure annual cost savings, a great PR win, and a competitive differentiator in a crowded market. Get away from selling what you actually do, and instead sell based on the benefits from your buyer’s point of view. With CleanTech businesses in particular, moving from features to benefits can be especially powerful.

Contact multiple decision-makers, and leverage the groupthink. One of my most successful past enterprise CleanTech marketing campaigns was a simple letter delivered to a C-level prospect via an overnight package. The letter was brief, focused on the opportunity and benefits, and at the end referenced the other senior executives in the organization who received the same letter. In an organization with a corporate and/or CEO goal of resource reduction and responsibility, this tactic creates urgency for your prospect to respond and both lead and take credit for the new idea, initiative, product or service you may be providing.

Different targets, different motivations. If you’re selling CleanTech products, your primary target may be a CIO or CTO. But others in the organization could be equally interested in what you offer, but for different reasons. The CIO may want a more efficient network consuming fewer resources (and may want to look good in front of the CEO). But the facilities manager pays the energy bill, and wants to demonstrate cost control. The VP of Marketing likes the PR story you could help him tell. The head of HR wants to use your more active environmentally-friendly operations as a means of recruiting and retaining employees. Customize your story to the benefits each individual target wants to hear, and could both realize and benefit from in their own corporate world.

Become a trusted, independent news source. If you’re selling a CleanTech product or service, you likely know far more about the space than most of your customers and prospects. Are you sharing that insight with them? Are you demonstrating your expertise and thought leadership? Are you filtering and aggregating the news that your prospects need to hear and read, but don’t have time to filter through themselves? This is a great way to attract new prospects, but also to keep and nurture deals in your pipeline that are taking longer to close than you’d like.

Make it a safe choice. Nobody got fired for choosing IBM, the old adage goes. But CleanTech purchases aren’t always as cut and dry, or proven. There’s risk for the buyer – risk that it won’t work, risk that the results won’t be there, risk that someone else is better at it than you are (especially true in emerging markets). What can you do – unique to your category, product or service – to make it easier for prospects to say yes?

Monday, March 22, 2010


Leveraging Social Media to Enhance Customer Service

I’ve been publishing sales & marketing briefs for the past several months on Focus.com, an excellent community of sales & marketing professionals.  Many of these briefs are extensions of content originally posted on this blog, but this afternoon’s brief on Leveraging Social Media to Enhance Customer Service is exclusive to Focus.

You can read the full brief here, check out my past Focus briefs here, and browse a ton of great additional content here.


Sunday, March 21, 2010


Is your "thank you" page a dead end?

Marketers spend plenty of time thinking about their lead generation landing pages. What will it say, what's the offer, how many questions should I ask while maintaining a high conversion rate, etc. All good questions. But for prospects who complete the form and click submit, what do they see next?

Lead generation "thank you" pages are typically at best an afterthought, and at worst a dead end. Too many "thank you" pages say basically just that, and give the prospect little else to do but move on to something completely different.

What a waste. You have an interested prospect, on your site. What do you want them to do next? This landing page from Buyer Zone does a nice job of several things:

I'd love to see it also give viewers an immediate response option (i.e. if you want to speak with someone right away, call this number...). But there's plenty here to like, and emulate, for the rest of us.

Friday, March 19, 2010


How to teach and reinforce consistent messaging with your sales team

It's one thing to get your company's customer and benefit-centric messaging right in an email, blog post or other marketing campaign. But how do you take those same messages and successfully get an entire sales team to speak from the same playbook?

Scripting isn't the answer (more on that below). You need every sales rep to understand, believe in and use the messaging that will best resonate with your customers, generate higher response and move more business forward.

Below are several recommendations for marketing & sales managers to get every sales professional on your team using the same language.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Why you can't hire anyone to write your elevator pitch

There are plenty of expensive consultants you can hire to help with your elevator pitch.  And make no mistake, a great elevator pitch (short, crisp, value/benefit-focused) is critical to opening numerous doors and opportunities for growth.

But consultants can’t write it for you.  I can’t write it for you.  There’s no way you can successfully outsource something this important.

Not because outsiders can’t help.  They just don’t know your business, your customers and your industry the way you do.  For your business, like it or not, you’re the key to writing a great elevator pitch.

What a good consultant can do is unlock the elevator pitch within you.  You need someone to help you ask (and answer) the right questions, question your biases, and second-guess your assumptions.  Through a process of discovery, where the answers come from you, an outsider can help you edit and rebuild your elevator pitch so that it immediately engages new contacts and leaves them wanting more.

Monday, March 15, 2010


Mapping how you sell to how your customers buy

Your customer started buying long before you started selling.  And most of the time, your customer started buying before they even consciously knew they were buying.

Take real estate.  Most real estate agents market their services to active home buyers and sellers.  They’re looking for people that want to buy or sell soon.  But research has shown that buyers & sellers choose a real estate agent towards the end of their buying cycle, and that the cycle can last for two years overall. 

That buying cycle doesn’t start with looking for homes, researching neighborhoods, or talking to agents.  It started with experiences.  Getting tired of the long commute, feeling a little more crowded in the existing house with a couple kids, etc.  That’s the very beginning of what becomes the purchase of a new home.

At the beginning of every buying cycle are experiences.  These experiences eventually become needs, gaps, pain.  Those needs become a search for a solution. 

Most companies create and manage a sales process based on the way they want to sell.  Smart companies create a sales process based on how their customers buy.  But even fewer companies build a sales & marketing strategy that reaches way back to the beginning of when the customer need, gap and pain materialize.  That’s when they start looking around, doing their own homework, and educating themselves on the topic.  And that’s where you can build value.

Mapping how you sell to how your customers buy teaches you everything you need to know (and do) to build awareness, preference and demand to increase close rates and accelerate your own selling cycles.

You may already know a lot about your customers – what they do, what they need, how they work.  But do you understand how they buy?

Saturday, March 13, 2010


The surprisingly easy secret to unlimited success

Tom Douglas gave the lunch keynote at a marketing conference in Seattle this past week, and over the course of 40 minutes shared the exact blueprint to his significant success.  Douglas has several popular restaurants in Seattle, a series of cookbooks, a line of cookware and dry rubs, has been featured on Oprah, Top Chef, Iron Chef and more.  He claims his success has come from three things:

1)      Quite a bit of luck

2)      Being a very good chef

3)      Lots and lots of hard work

As he explained examples of all three, it became clear his success is mostly about #3.  He’s a tireless worker, thinks about his business seven days a week, is aggressive about trying new things, learning from his mistakes, and staying on his feet.  He’s a self-taught chef without a college degree, yet he manages one of the most diverse and successful personal chef brands in the country.

He works hard.  Every day.  That’s basically it.  And he’s not alone.

Look at most individuals at the top of their game and industry, and behind them you’ll see years of hard work.  Long days, long nights, occasionally more time away from family than they’d like.

Yes, you need luck to get to the top.  But luck accelerates when you give yourself more chances to be lucky by working hard and executing often.

Yes, you need to be very good at what you do, but that often comes with repetition, focus, discipline and more hard work as well.

There are very few overnight successes.  There are very few easy roads.

The road you’re on today may very well lead to greatness and unlimited success if you stay on it.


Thursday, March 11, 2010


How to be more productive with your other 8 hours

Many of us don’t exactly work a 40-hour week. If you love what you do, that might be fine, but it can leave little room for family, down time and the other non-work priorities we all have. Making the best use of our time – both at work and away from work – is becoming more important than ever.

There are plenty of books available to help you prioritize and focus, but Robert Pagliarini’s latest book does a nice job of tackling this problem from a professional and personal perspective. In fact, The Other 8 Hours spends more time helping readers get better control of what happens after 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday night.

I asked Robert to address a few questions about work/life balance, staying in control, and regaining perspective in the midst of another day of firedrills.

Why do some people have such a hard time focusing on the right work and projects every day? Why does our time get so far out of control?

It comes down to two things: focus and distractions. I’m not much into sports, or sport’s analogies, but here it goes. We have to know where our end zone is (i.e., focus) and we have to navigate through all of the people trying to tackle us (i.e., distractions).

So, first be clear on focus. You can have a lot of goals, interests, and projects, but you can only do one thing at a time. It’s up to you to sort through the 101 things you could do, and focus on the one thing that is most important. Start with your three year goals - that’s your direction and your end zone. Now take a step back and focus on moving the ball closer - those are your daily actions. I like to have a list of all of my next possible actions. If I have a five minutes before a meeting, I’ll scan down my list and tackle something that I can bang out quickly. If I’m flying cross-country or have a block of uninterrupted time at the office, I’ll jump look at those actions that are deeper and will take more time.

Most successful professionals wish they had more time with their family, but have a hard time making the work/family trade-off. How do you recommend these professionals balance more effectively?

Greed. You have to be greedy with your time. This means you have to protect your calendar at the office and in your personal life. Don’t accept meetings, commitments, or responsibilities without first asking yourself if it makes sense in the bigger picture. Everything you say “yes” to is something else you say “no” to. If you value family time, make it a priority and start saying no more often.

In the middle of a busy day - surrounded by fire drills and interruptions - how can one get focused, centered and quickly more productive on what matters most?

What’s the next action that will move me closer? This is the question you should be constantly asking yourself throughout the day. That single question cuts through all of the bull and gets you to focus on that one thing you can do right now. If you have to put out fires for half the morning, re-group and focus on the next action.

How can effective management of weekend time help us be more effective & efficient during the weekdays?

I think generally be conscious of time and disciplined in how we use it - whether that’s during the week or on the weekend - is a positive step toward getting the most from our day and our lives.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010


How fewer sales can lead to more customers (and higher revenue)

There are any number of ways to turn a prospect into a sale. If they’re not quite ready to buy, you can apply pressure and get them to buy early. You can create false urgency to get a quicker sale. You can give them a guarantee, or a trial period, or do something else to get them over the line.

Sales organizations do this and more all the time. Especially at towards the end of the month, they’re classic ways to pad bookings and get past quota. On paper, these sales organizations look like they did their job.

But that’s the only sale they’re going to get. If the buyer wasn’t ready, they won’t be as successful as they could have been. If they’re not truly qualified, the likelihood of a bad experience is high. If they were expecting more and got less, they’re unhappy.

Those buyers are one and done. They likely won’t renew, and they certainly aren’t going to help bring you new business from their peers and broader network.

Bring in the right buyer – at the right time, in the right context, with the right expectation – and you’re far more likely to multiply your money. Sell only to those who are qualified, ready to buy and need what you’re offering. Sell to those who are ready to get started, ready to be active customers and partners.

Could you drive more short-term sales with harder, higher-pressure tactics? Sure. But the long-term impact of immediately happy and successful customers leads to renewals, repeat purchases, and word of mouth that translates to fast and cost-effective incremental new sales in the months and years to come.

Monday, March 08, 2010


Last-minute baseball season ticket sales ideas

We’ve had the pleasure of working with a handful of professional baseball organizations over the past year, and March is crunch-time for season-ticket sales. Although season tickets are sold throughout the year (with renewal campaigns mostly done by now, and mini-package sales ranging through most of the season), this is the last chance to get full season tickets sold before most teams start playing for real in April.

Sales teams are reaching deep into their playbook by now, but here are a few additional ideas that might help get even more fans into the ballpark this year.

· Social Media Mining: Every team – in the Major and minor leagues – has a vast ecosystem of social networks, blogs, Twitter streams and other social content devoted to their every move. How effectively is your team mining that stream of content for prospects who are ripe to buy tickets? Is your team participating as an active member of these communities, offering inside information about the team peppered with occasional ticket offers?

· Past Customers: Not just renewals, but those who were once season ticket holders but have been dormant for awhile. How far back does your database go? How many past customers might be interested again, and just need another phone call to get them over the hump?

· Fans of Other Sports: What about a co-marketing opportunity with the local football, basketball or hockey team? Football season is months away, college football is too. Season ticket holder of those sports need something to do until late summer. Why not give them a deal on a baseball package to keep them occupied? Could you partner with the other organization (professional or college) on a joint marketing campaign? Would you get creative about the ensuing revenue to make it worth their while?

· Corporate Incentive Programs: I worked at a start-up that had four season tickets to the Seattle Mariners for years. Those tickets were most often used as incentives by the sales team to drive performance. Which organizations in your market could use season tickets to drive employee, sales team or customer behavior? How can businesses in your market use season tickets to make money? The possibilities here are vast.

· Charity Contributions: What if for every season ticket sold this week, you donated a % of the ticket costs to a local charity? What if the featured charity helped promote this offer to their own lists? Could the buyer get a tax deduction for the % of the ticket price donated to charity? Could the charity and contributors be recognized in a pre-game ceremony sometime in April?

· Food Vouchers: Buy season tickets today and get $X00 in concession vouchers to enjoy throughout the season. There are countless ways you could play this, but the end-game is incremental revenue. Better to sell that empty seat and get some income. Plus, you know well-selected food vouchers will lead to additional food and other concession purchases at that and future games.

· Little League: Little League and other youth baseball organizations are gearing up for the season ahead already. Could late season ticket sales also be a fund-raising opportunity for the local Little League organization? For every ticket sold, a % goes back to the local Little League. Or, if at least ten season tickets are sold to people within a specific local Little League organization, a team from that league will get an opportunity to come onto the field before a game, meet a player or coach, etc.

· Season Ticket Sharing: Are there groups who could buy a set of season tickets and share them with their communities? Would a condo building do this? What about a retirement facility, or the yacht club, or a local union? How could you make it easy for them to buy, maybe even give them tools to help organize and split up their tickets?

· What about April?: The season starts, and fans are filling into the stadium. How many of them have bought just an individual ticket? Do you know who those fans are? How do you reach them, register them, and follow-up with them with a compelling package for the rest of the season, or at least a mini-package? Could you make package purchase offers that expire after the ninth inning? Every game, especially early in the season, is an opportunity to capitalize on your best sales tool – the product on the field – to upsell those fans into more great game experiences.


Turning ignorance into innovation

If you don't know what you're doing, are you actually more likely to succeed?

If you've never done this or that before, aren't you more likely to ignore the biases that have dictated past execution and instead react to how the market works today, and what's needed to drive value there in real-time?

If you never studied it in school, are you more likely to respond to what's happening in front of you, vs. relying on what a textbook taught you years ago?

This economy is creating conditions for rebirth at organizational and individual levels.  That means lots of people and businesses trying things they haven't done before, that in many cases haven't been done before.  But rather than assume these innovators don't know what they're doing, perhaps we should watch them more closely.

Sure, their work might have a higher margin for error.  But their work is also a real-time laboratory for new ideas, new ways of building products, going to market, attracting customers, engaging loyal fans. 

Plenty of business and marketing leaders around us, executing without experience or biases, are already creating better, more efficient and more successful practices.  We should watch closely, as their work may be the new textbook for what's working now, and could work in our own businesses in the years to come.



Sunday, March 07, 2010


What I learned from PR+Mktg Camp (creating a customer-centric team)

Last week, Wade Rockett from Weber Shandwick and I moderated a session at PR+Mktg Camp Seattle on the organizational alignment of PR, marketing and social media functions. I shared my thoughts on the topic prior to the event here, but we had a number of good conversations in this session as well. Here are a few key points:

It’s not a big enough question: We were asked to discuss the alignment of PR and marketing teams in organizations, but there’s more to it than that. Who owns social media? If we were to start over, would customer service be a marketing function? And who cares about the organization anyway? We should be answering this question based on what’s best for the brand and for the paying customer, not based on which desks are where.

It’s about the customer: If we were to blow up the way we work today – organizations & agencies – how would we reorganize to strengthen our brands and make money (for ourselves and our customers)? The new organizations would look very different, would likely be more directly driven by revenue objectives, and would be far more customer-centric. Your customer doesn’t see your organization as 16 separate units (customer service, PR, advertising, sales, etc.). Sure, those are different roles played by different people, but how do you make that seamless to the outside world? We’re not doing that very well today, but we should be.

Executive support is key: Better alignment of PR & marketing around customer needs must to be supported at the highest levels of the organization. No reason why this effort can’t start as a groundswell, but the cross-functional work required to create a more effective, externally-seamless execution just won’t work unless it’s supported by the people who manage the overall direction and focus of the organization and brand.

Align everyone behind common outcomes, goals and rewards: This one is simple – if everyone is measured by the same outcome, there’s no choice but to work together on common campaigns, seamless execution and cross-media ideas that make sense and build value, preference and action with your customers.

My favorite comment of the day was from the founder of a local start-up, who said he’s “making up” how to build a PR and marketing function for his company, because, as he said it, “I don’t know any better.” Well, if he’s doing so with an eye towards what makes most sense for the business and for the customer, he’s probably building a model the rest of us should pay close attention to.


In a sea of things to read, here's what I never miss

Among all of the written sources of information we try to consume on a regular basis, there are those few sources that break through, that we don’t miss.

What are yours?  Here are some of mine:

Blogs:  I subscribe to a few dozen blogs, flipping through most of them via headlines in my RSS Reader, but I always read the latest from Seth Godin, Andy Sernovitz and Jackie Huba.  I also keep up with TechFlash religiously, to make sure I’m up on the latest news in the local tech community.  There’s a similar blog in your market (and in your industry), don’t miss it.

Newsletters:  I have them automatically sorted into a separate “reading” folder in my inbox, and many of them I read periodically.  But every week I read Verne’s Insights for great, cross-functional advice on helping great companies grow faster.

Magazines:  I read Inc Magazine cover-to-cover.  Even if you haven’t owned or started your own business, you can act like an entrepreneur wherever you are.  I also read the Puget Sound Business Journal every week.  It’s easy to assume much of the content isn’t relevant to me, my focus, my industry within this market.  But if I don’t know what’s going on elsewhere, I can’t grow.

Books:  Most books are one-and-done (i.e. you read them, then they collect dust on you bookshelf), but there are a few I go back to again and again.  Books by David Allen, David Meerman Scott, Chris Brogan, Jim Collins and Chip & Dan Heath I find myself referring to again and again for inspiration.

What are yours?  What reading material do you never miss?


Friday, March 05, 2010


How to reach and influence prospects (the Chris Brogan way)

If you're still trying to figure out social media (how it applies to you and your business, how you convert social media activity into business results and revenue), I highly recommend paying closer attention to Chris Brogan. He's on the cutting edge, keeps things highly customer-centric, and does a nice job bringing everything back to what's going to be a win-win for both sides of every customer-business relationship (including the all important "how you make money from all of this").

His new book Social Media 101 is a fantastic primer for anybody looking for new ways to leverage the social Web to build credibility, community and audience attraction online.

Below, with permission, is an excerpt from Chris's new book. This segment focuses on how to reach & influence prospects.

How to Reach and Influence Prospects

We talk about how social media like blogs and podcasts and social networks will help us grow our business, yet we are hampered in several ways. Some of our customers won’t provide testimonials. Others will take a while to actually execute a project. Still others have stumbled onto your site, and it’s up to you to keep them. Let’s talk about these prospects first.


There are, of course, tons of ways to think about who your potential customers might be. David Meerman Scott talks often about buyer personas as a way to better understand those you’re hoping to reach. In my examples that follow, I’ve picked only three types of prospective new customers. You have many other people interacting with your media, and it’s up to you to balance your efforts such that they align with the relationships you need. Here are three prospect examples.

Private Customer: In the example cited here, GirlPie’s customers don’t really want to refer her. This means she has a private customer. You could say that SEO and search marketing professionals often have private customers as well. In these cases, your audience doesn’t want to tout your skills, because they don’t want to admit their prior weakness, or they may have other reasons to stay quiet.

Newcomer Customer: Some of us have customers from larger companies who are very new. They’ve been tasked with adopting an online strategy, or a social media marketing plan, or something like this. These customers are browsing the Web, grazing through keynote searches, and hoping to gather enough information to convince their senior team that they understand enough to make some starter moves. This audience will recommend you, but only after they’ve launched their project (and sometimes that’s along while after you could have used their recommendation).

Clean Slate Customer: Several people find their way to your site by way of search. Perhaps you rank high in Google for blog topics (that’s my constant number one search term), so someone searching for topics for their blog will land on your site and wonder what to do next. In this case, these potential customers might need a bit more content and guidance before they become actual prospects (and remember, we’re talking business in this post, not community or other reasons for doing social media).


In all three of the aforementioned cases, different tools will have a different impact. Here are some suggestions:

Private customers. Consider an e-mail newsletter with discrete information that reinforces your benefits. In that newsletter, encourage forwarding. E-mail is much more intimate than a blog setting. Consider a private online pay forum that allows for anonymity, if that’s also useful.

Newcomer customers. Along with your media posts (blogs, podcasts, etc.), create specific-to-their-industry informational documents (or recordings or presentations), with an eye toward empowering your contacts with information that will convince their senior team to take action.

Clean slate customers. In many ways, the simple answer here is to provide great content that’s useful, evocative, and invites further inquiry. From there, if you see any responses that match your business offerings, reach out. Send an e-mail. There’s no harm in exploring a potential business relationship, should you see signs that a person has a need you can help fulfill.

You’ll note that I didn’t mention social networks much in this instance. The way I use social networks is to build relationships. I do any business prospecting by way of the media I create. I’m on the networks to connect, to be helpful, and to learn new things. Hopefully, that distinction makes sense.


The social Web has enabled all kinds of new opportunities to communicate. Business and sales are just one portion of a large spectrum of ways we connect and transact. As with everything you and I talk about here, it comes down to clarity of purpose. If you’re selling something, state it. If you’re looking for customers, talk about it. If you’re there to educate, that’s fine, too. They’re your tools. Use them the way you want. Just be clear and open about it. What’s your thinking on all this? Have I identified your prospect type here? If not, tell me in the comments at http://chrisbrogan.com/comments-from-101, and we can open the question to the community. What’s your thinking?

Excerpted with permission of the publisher John Wiley and Sons from Social Media 101; Tactics and Tips to Develop Your Business Online. Copyright (c) 2010 by Chris Brogan.

Thursday, March 04, 2010


Why I want to be on your mailing list

I’m the crazy guy that likes to get more email.  I want to sign up for as many Webinars as I can (even if I can’t attend them all).  I want you to put me on your mailing list.

Why?  I want to learn from you.  What you’re doing, why you’re doing it.  I want to see what new ideas you have in your campaigns – your copy, your offers, your channels. 

Some of it is spam, and I learn from that.  Some of it is completely irrelevant to me, my family or my business.  I learn from that too.

By watching what you do well and what you do wrong, I’m learning what to incorporate and test next in my own campaigns (for myself and for our clients).

It’s a daily feed of real-time case studies.  As long as I can filter and sort through it quickly, it’s an incredibly valuable way to see and learn what others are doing right now to market and sell their own products & services.


How to treat PR like a sales pipeline

This is a metaphor, but an important one I think.

Many companies manage PR in spurts.  They occasionally have news, and they have press lists.  With that news, they spam the press list, make calls, and expect to get coverage.  It’s on the company’s clock, not the reporter’s.  Resulting coverage is random and sparse.

Smarter companies think about PR more like a sales pipeline.  Salespeople, for example, know that most leads, though potentially qualified prospects, aren’t yet ready to buy.  But if you stay in touch with those leads, until they’re ready to buy, you’re more likely to increase your overall sales and territory penetration over time.

Same goes for PR, really.  If you want more coverage, you have to keep talking.  Keep publishing.  Stay in front of the reporters and publications you care about most with valuable information.  Know that most won’t cover you right away, but create value and interest, and more will cover you eventually.

PR today is still more about stories than relationships, but relationship-building in PR is really predicated on creating and fostering a long-term storyline that differentiates you and creates more opportunities within a publication or reporter’s editorial calendar.


Wednesday, March 03, 2010


Why sales is such an emotional job

If you’ve spent any time working with sales, you know it’s an emotional job. Highs and lows, oftentimes a lot of drama, and a high-touch role to manage (both for sales managers as well as from peer to peer).

Those who have never held a sales role probably don’t understand exactly why sales is so emotional. But it’s that very emotion that makes the best sales professionals so good at what they do. It makes them push through the rejection, the cold calling, the hard work every day to make money.

I asked a good friend and top sales pro why it’s such an emotional job. Here’s her answer:

What other department in a company puts a board up on the wall and writes for everyone to see if you are doing your job well? If you look at any sales board in any sales organization you can tell who’s having a good day, week, month and year.

One of my favorite managers of all time called it “the self esteem” board. In sales you make a choice to step out and be willing to fail in front of the whole company. When you choose sales, you choose being vulnerable.

Why would you want to do that? Because the feeling of success is so much better because it is written on the board. It’s taking a risk and winning that makes me choose sales.

You need more sales people like this. You need more people throughout your company like this. I’ll take the emotion all day long if it comes with sales and results.


Nonprofits: How to get more value from your Board of Directors

Every non-profit I speak with wishes they could get more value from their Board of Directors.  It’s not that their directors aren’t engaged or interested, it’s just often difficult to get more of their time and specific, focused attention in between board meetings.

Here are several recommendations for how nonprofits (and any organization with board members and advisors) can get more value from these important partners.


·         Give them smaller, contained tasks:  Make it easier for them to execute, and get things done for you.  Big multi-stage projects can be intimidating to tackle, but if you break those requests into smaller, more attainable tasks, things will get done more quickly

·         Tap into their networks:  Find out who they know, and how they can help you.  Help your directors feel good by making connections within their network to other people, resources and organizations that can also help you get things done

·         Leverage their specific expertise:  I’m surprised at how few non-profits do this.  Know what your board members do well – what they’re passionate about, where they have experience – and make sure you tap into that

·         Use them for ideas, not execution:  This is more natural and achievable for board members, but the key is to not only let them be wildly creative – but to write everything down, capture all ideas, then triage, choose and execute the right ideas, right away

·         Maximize meeting time with them:  The more time you prepare, the more you’ll get out of it.  Have a set agenda and expected outcomes, give board members materials to review in advance, be focused during your time, record next steps and follow-up

·         Track and hold accountable on commitments:  Your board members are well-intentioned, but they can get busy and forget.  Send them email reminders, set deadlines, and help hold them accountable.  They’ll appreciate that you do this

·         Choose new board members wisely:  As board seats come up for renewal, make sure new candidates understand the commitments.  You want folks who are passionate about your work plus willing to help execute

·         Reward them:  For non-profits, monetary compensation isn’t a part of the picture.  That said, you still can offer introductions within your own network that will benefit them personally and professionally, give them awareness and public recognition for their time, etc.

·         Get their families involved:  Invite their family to recognition events, and give families a chance to donate time together for the right projects.  Help the rest of the family feel good about the director’s involvement and contribution.  It’ll make those couple extra hours your directors spend on a particular project or task easier to swallow

·         Give them tools to work:  This can be online collaboration tools, CRM systems, whatever is necessary to help them work faster and easier





Invite a fresh set of eyes to a familiar problem

You are biased.  So is your team, so is your boss.  So is your industry.

You do this every day, which makes it particularly hard to see clearly what’s working, what’s not, where the new opportunities are.  You bring with you every day the tangled past – all of your experience, observations and biases that color how you see the world today.

We assume too often that we need people like us to help us.  That the next superstar on your team has to have been a superstar on a similar team in the same industry before.  But that’s not necessarily true.

If you find smart people with a different perspective, many things happen.  They bring a fresh set of eyes, untangled from the past (and present) in which you’ve been living and working.  They bring with them fresh ideas that have worked for them elsewhere, that may have never been tried in your company, your market or industry.  They bring fresh energy from an entirely different source.

If you’ve been staring at a problem for a long time, invite someone completely unfamiliar with the problem to review it with you.  I guarantee they’ll look at the same picture and see things you simply cannot.  They will find opportunities and solve problems – quickly – that your biases and tangled past have hid from you in plain sight.


Tuesday, March 02, 2010


Keep promises and be polite

Had lunch today with a good friend and mentor.  Towards the end, we ended up talking about common fundamentals to good business.  What makes people, and businesses, successful in any context?  What are the commonalities?

He listed his requirements - just four things, which finished with the following:

Keep promises, and be polite.

The first you hear occasionally in a business context, the second rarely.  But show me a context where these two attributes aren’t universally accepted & appreciated, where they don’t today make you stand out, where they don’t lead to long-term, mutually-beneficial relationships.

These attributes work at a personal and a corporate level.  Does your business keep its promises?  And what about your manners?

Interesting to think about.

Monday, March 01, 2010


Lead registration forms? Don't make people think!

Most marketers assume that a long lead registration form is a bad thing – i.e., the more questions you ask, the more likely the prospect is to abandon the form altogether.  And this is true.

But it’s not all about length of the form.  The biggest obstacle to higher response rates with your lead registration form is when you make the prospect stop and think.

By the time your prospect gets to a form (to ask for a demo, or get a copy of a white paper, etc.), they’ve already done as much thinking as you need from them at this stage.  They’ve been to your Web site, read the ad copy offering the white paper, or done something else to compel them to want to learn more.

Your form, therefore, merely needs to capture as much information as you need (and no more) to help that prospect or buyer to take the next step.

Asking for name, title, company, email address – those don’t require thinking.

But most sellers want further qualification.  When are you going to want to buy?  How many will you need?  What’s a good time to schedule a follow-up call?

These questions require thinking.  And the more you make your prospect think, at this specific stage in the lead generation process, the more likely the prospect is to abandon the process altogether.

The job of the registration form in a lead generation campaign is to quickly capture the interest generated by the prospect from the previous step.  The form is not there to sell.  It’s there to capture.

Every business and campaign strikes a balance between quantity and quality with lead generation.  How many leads vs. leads who are ready to buy right now.  The truth is, you need both.  And if your ad campaigns and copy have done their job in clarifying the value proposition and lead offer, it’s far more valuable to allow the registration forms to capture as many prospects as possible.


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