Tag Archives: marketing

see the forrest and the trees

My catch phrase this week has been “Think like a Marketer, Act like a Salesperson”

A colleague went to raise $16M with a cunning plan. Two investors told him his plan was stupid, not cunning, and he pretty much threw his pitch in the bin.

See the forrest and the treesAnother colleague deployed some new infrastructure, based on market research for the demand. He blew his dough as it turned the research wasn’t nuanced enough. There was no demand for the new version of offering.

Now I have been a marketer and a salesperson, and what I have noticed is that most people have a tendency to think like a salesperson, and act like a marketer. However, success in business development tends to come from operating the other way round. What do I mean?

Sales people operate at the coal face, consequently their intuition and insight into how customers feel is excellent  – they are constantly altering their behavior based on feedback. However they tend to wear their hearts on their sleeve. If three customers in a row hate a new product, they will give up on selling it.  They don’t see the market, they only see the prospects. (Just see the trees, but can’t see the forrest)

Marketers have a much more dispassionate view of market places. They may estimate, as in the case of Encyclopaedia Britannica, that only one person in a hundred has demand for their product. Therefore logically, 100 people need to be approached to make one sale. However, they are always abstracted from customers, relying on research rather experience. After a while their gut feel becomes so disconnected, that they can be convinced that jumping into the fire is a good idea, if the data supports it.  (just see the forrest, but not the trees)

So, if you think like a marketer “I will have to speak to 25 investors to get one interested (a 4% response rate) then act like a sales person “I notice they wince every time I suggest it will only take 12 months” you end up doing the hard slog, but learning and refining every step of the way.  A winning strategy.

I think its an handy mental framework when trying to develop new business around new products and markets.

So, do you know a good Sales Manager?

Over the last 9 years of running the Churchill Club I noticed that every time we have an event with a sales and marketing focus, someone asks me that question afterwards. They sidle up beside me and pretty much use these exact words every time “So, do you know any good sales managers?”

Sales ManagerThe person asking the question is normally the founder / CEO of a small but growing innovative business. They wanted to grow faster by professionalising their sales and marketing activity or address at plateauing of sales. First stop is that they employ a Sales Manager who is very impressive. Around 6 months later they fire them for having no impact. They then repeat this cycle a couple of times hiring and firing, until they eventually ask me the questions “So…..”

So why does this pattern repeat itself? Lets set the scene……

  1. The CEO has traditionally generated business out of his/her own networks. Normally they have a strong background on the tools (whether it be tech, science, serving ice cream whatever)…They are well respected for being good at their job and consequently get plenty of business referred.
  2. Its easy for them to sell, because they are “the man” the person who can make a decision immediately, answer any question and fix a price or discount on the spot.
  3. They don’t particularly need professionalism of their sales and marketing activity, because new business effortlessly and regularly  arrives.
  4. Their business booms for a while (normally for around two years) before they start to run out of opportunity in their own network, which is when they decide to employ a Sales Manager.

Here’s what happens next…

  1. The Sales Manager gets the job because he or she is good at selling (themeslves to you). They have probably worked in the industry before and somehow connect with the CEO. They have previously held roles as a “Sales Manager” which you don’t yet realize is meaningless, because pretty much every salesman in existence has held the title “Sales Manager” but not done the job.  The difference between selling and managing sales is vast, but its confused by the fact that Sales Managers are usually a senior salesperson as well.
  2. Turns out that they are also poor pick for the job – because of you.  You don’t know what should be in their job description other than “sell stuff”, so you can’t recruit effectively.  Secondly if they are currently working for a competitor or similar business, you probably don’t uncover the real reason they want to join your business (which won’t be a payrise for them).   Hint – they are probably about to get fired!
  3. The new Sales Manager is not completely incompetent though – but then they find there is pretty much no sales and marketing infrastructure in place and your “hundreds of customers” is usually just a debtors ledger listing of 50 businesses that may or may not exist anymore.  Lots of hard work ahead for them.
  4. The Sales Manager is out of their depth because they just know how to sell but the job requires more.  There is no guidance from you, because it’s the blind leading the blind. They then spend a lot of their time out of the office “building a pipeline”. You don’t have formal sales meeting because you don’t know what to do and what to measure. You just occasionally ask “What’s going on?”
  5. You gradually become more and more nervous that you have picked badly. You barely see the Sales Manager because they are always out and your suspicion is that they may be going to Job interviews.
  6. You start undermining them by handling incoming requests yourself, as you no longer trust them to build your business.
  7. They then quit just before you sack them and blame you, bad mouthing your company as being “about to fail”.
  8. The cycle then repeats a couple of times because you think the problem was caused by you recruiting badly.

You then whisper in my ear “So……………”.

The real question you should ask though “is how do I get out of this cycle?”

Firstly you need to accept you don’t need to recruit a Sales Manager yet because you are it and will be it for a while  (don’t abdicate this role).  You do however  need a system, then a salesman you can manage, then replace yourself as sales manager when you validate your arrangements work. The system for selling could include:

A simple Strategic Marketing Plan – i.e. What you selling, who do you sell to, and why do they buy it? You will also know the way to find, sell and deliver (channels) to these people and what the market looks like you operate in. This however can start as a single paragraph that you improve and expand every time you revisit it.  It is your compass.

A simple Tactical Marketing plan. – ie. How you will generate leads, generate prospects, close customers, fulfill orders and account manage each of your solutions listed in the Strategic Marketing plan. This will hopefully have some nice measurable metrics and a budget attached (even if the budget is simply an apportioning of someone’s time ).  Its the framework for managing salesperson activity to deliver sales (the core of sales management).

Some Sales & Marketing Infrastructure should be put in place– Sales Collateral, contracts, website, reports, perhaps even a CRM system that actually has customer information.  The tools your sales people use to do their job.

A simple Job Description for a Salesperson  detailing what you want the Salesperson  to do. You should combine this with the metrics you will measure and judge them on. Eg. Perhaps they need to do 10 new business meetings a week.

You are then ready to recruit your first salesperson. Once you have a sales person, setup a weekly meeting with them because you are “The Sales Manager”. Don’t abdicate this role. You need to manage your sales person by gaining regular insight their performance (against the metrics), problem solve and innovate to ensure their success. When the sales person is successful, split the work and employ another.

Write up what you are doing as the Sales Manager as a Job Description.  You will need it for when you are ready to employ your replacement Sales Manager. The one that will be a highly effective and valued member of the team because; they know what to do, they are the right person for the job, and have the right resources.

Not that hard I think, but not much fun to learn the hard way.  If you can’t do it, help from someone who can.

A look at Lazy but Successful Businesses

Have you ever noticed that some service businesses are inherently weak at marketing themselves, but still tend to be very lucrative? Professions that tend to centre around compliance (and adding little direct value) such as legal services, accounting. However many other services, which may have a much more positive impact on your business and have enormous value, such as pretty much everything in the marketing domain, struggle to gain and keep customers and all to often go under.

You, like I, may ask yourself, “what the hell is going on here?”

I’ve been mulling this over and come up with a two by two matrix that I believe explains what’s going on, and can be useful to those finding themselves fighting this battle.

High Barriers to Entry ^ Architect        Solicitor

                       |                     

Low Barriers to Entry  | Marketing       Bookkeeping

                        ————————–>

                         Wanted           Needed

 

Firstly its about being Wanted versus being Needed

Some businesses supply what you need, and some what what you want. Insurance is something that you need, especially if you are bidding for a government contract. accounting services is something that you need, especially if you don’t want to get fined by the tax department, legal services is something you need, especially if you are being sued. Alternatively, training of staff, public relations, design services etc are just something something that you want, but can do without.

Secondly its about Barriers to Entry

Some services have high barriers to supply. You need 6 years of training before you can even think of specialising as a surgeon, you need a licence to be an electrician and you need to hold vast amounts of capital, before you can become licensed to loan money. Alternatively anyone can do their own bookkeeping, learning to write HTML is a free course on the web and you can buy press release templates and media lists online. Y

Positions in the matrix are not fixed in stone though, barriers are constantly dropping and new needs arising. For instance the rise of free online courses such as Code Academy and Scratch are lowering the barriers of entry to professions such as software engineering. Legislation can also create new professions and specialisations, such as mortgage brokers and financial planners. Note also that the “needs v’s wants” and “barriers to entry” attributes for your service business don’t have to be real, they just have to be perceived to be real. This creates an option of tweaking your business to make life easier. Consider:

 

You can move from “Wanted” to perceived “Needed”:

Robert Cialdini wrote about this in his seminal “Weapons of Influence” with techniques such as Reciprocity, Commitment & Consistency, Social Proof, Liking, Authority and Scarcity. Behavioural Economics also focuses on this when discussing irrational buyer behaviour. Examples of how this actually plays out include:

  • Fear Marketing – The perennial favourite line of consultants is “You will go bankrupt/be shunned/die unless you use me”.
  • FOMO – Or Fear of Missing Out. Grants Consultants use this technique to get customers to pay high success fees for money that they are led believe is just waiting for them.
  • Industry Statistics – Everyone loves a good survey that will tell you what your competitors are doing and why you are a loser for not doing it to…

You can also move from “Low Barriers to Entry” to “High Barriers to Entry”:

High Barriers to Entry can be real or just perceived to be real. For instance real barriers that you acquire could include:

  • Industry Certifications
  • Being the Local Node of a Global Network.
  • Being the sole licensee of a methodology or system in your region.
  • Owning registered designs, trademarks or methodologies.

Perceived barriers to entry could include:

  • Having access to individuals or relationships that others don’t.
  • Having unique insights.
  • Having a secret formula.

If you have value, are needed and have high barriers to entry, life becomes very, very easy.

how to moderate an event

I have probably moderated around 100+ events for the Churchill Club over the last couple of years, and have realised that I now have a bit of experience moderating panels, which can be hard to come by. Although I believe I have nothing on Narelle Kennedy of the Australian Business Foundation, who is by far the best moderator I have ever seen because of her ability to run a panel at a break neck pace and keep the panellists honest, I have some thoughts I wanted to share on how to be a successful moderator.

Before the event. Do some research on the panellists and the topic so you don’t look like a fool on stage. Have enough questions prepared to move things along if the audience Q&A is a bit slow. Have either an agenda for the event to travel along, or a list of points that you feel you need to have covered. Also, make sure that the panellists are fully briefed on the mechanics and the objective of the event. I have also found, after suffering some considerable pain, that its an excellent idea to have the panellists reconfirm their attendance the week of the event.

At the start of the event. Initially you need to have a mechanism to gain the audience’s attention, then introduce yourself. You need to outline the rules of play – How long the event will go for, when/how to ask questions, whether the bar is still open, as well as some simple mechanics like “turn our mobiles to silent”, or twitter feed hash tags. Finally, introduce your topic and panel without stealing their thunder. Continue reading how to moderate an event

sales, marketing, processes and lemmings

A popular misconception about Lemmings is that every once and a while, they all suddenly run off a cliff and commit suicide. Unfortunately, its not a misconception when talking about sales & marketing processes in a professional services environment.

As I’ve mentioned before, in any organisation, there is generally only 6 core Tactical Sales & Marketing activities. ie.

  1. Generate Leads
  2. Qualify Prospects
  3. Close Customers
  4. Delivery
  5. Account Management
  6. Analysis

Knowing this makes life fairly easy as you can then measure not only the effectiveness of each activity in your pipeline, but how the activities are connected.

I say this because the most common problems I see in organisations is the disconnect between the separate activities. I.e. one process doesn’t automatically handover to the next. eg.

  • Leads being generated, then not being qualified.
  • Prospects being identified, but not being sold to.
  • Sales been closed, but services not being delivered.

I was once involved in a campaign where we delivered qualified prospects to a car yard. People that were in the market for a new car and wished to test drive the model. The initial campaign failed as the sales team was hesitant to call the prospects “as they may have changed their mind, and that would be depressing”. Note the campaign was saved by changing our process to finish with a booked test drive, rather than just contact details of a hot prospect.

Recently I ran a new client engagement campaign for a professional services organisations. After running a series of events in an agenda, I found that the main sales person, who was also the CEO, was simply too busy to do anything with the new relationships we had developed.

Sadly, I can’t see this issue changing as the sales and marketing function of most professional services organisations never gets the focus it deserves, and as people are turned over, the lessons will be there to be learnt again and again. Like Lemmings, almost.

Ignoring your emails

Everyday I ignore your emails.

Everyday I receive around 100 emails to my newsletter mailbox. I sign up for anything that takes my fancy, but mostly around technology, innovation and entrepreneurship, but occasionally around personal interests such as kayaking and food. At the end of the workday, I browse the newsletter mailbox fairly quickly, to see if anything that has come in that interests me.

Because there is a lot of emails,with a lot of overlap in content, I only read the Subject line, before moving on. So which of these email’s do you think I read?

Sourcebottle Alert 25 July 2011

ScienceAlert-Latest Stories

or

Turbo-charge your team’s performance, Another clean tech collapse, HIA warns on contractor crackdown, Aconex and Baillieu family in court fight

Obvious isn’t it. Note the second one is from Smartcompany!

So here’s some tips…

  1. You don’t need to have the sender name in the subject line, because almost everyone configures their email client to show who the email is from.
  2. You don’t need to have the date in the subject line, because almost everyone configures their email client to show the date of the email.
  3. You don’t need to have volume, issue no. etc in the subject line, because the only person that cares is you, and you’re not the audience!
  4. You need to have a catchy headline about why I should read the content as my attention span is short and you have lot of competition.

So really, don’t put lots of effort into constructing your content if you are going to bugger up the execution. You’re wasting lots of your time, but almost none of mine.

Bloody Promotional Pens!

I got given a pack of promotional pens the other day from one of my clients. 50% of them disintegrated on use. I had a friend sit in my lounge last Friday, pull out a promotional pen he had been given a week before to find it had run out of ink.

Everybody knows this story. Promotional pens are mostly crap! Don’t buy them as you are just wasting money because they:

1. Never work well.

2. Consequently damage your brand.

3. Normally get thrown in the bin within a week.

Just because websites such as Alibaba have come on online and allow virtually anyone to become a supplier of promotional items, doesn’t mean you should buy cheap rubbish.

I have in my possession a mechanical pencil that was given to me when I joined a German company called Vossloh-Schwabe around 20 years ago. The pencil has an octagonal profile, was machined from aluminium and as is anodised black. You could punch holes in bricks with it – admittedly I am not sure why you would want to do this, but it sounds cool.

The point is that you keep quality promotional products for a long time. Cheap t-shirts get used as rags, quality t-shirts get worn until they die. Cheap folios and bags get thrown out the same day, expensive ones get used for years. Cheap backpacks go in the bin, quality units get used for storage of my kayaking gear on top of the bookcase in my study. And as already mentioned – cheap pens don’t last a week and just irritate everyone.

Next time you sign off on a marketing spend, don’t get seduced by large quantities of cheap promotional products. Its the same as throwing money in the bin. Buy less, buy quality.

The friend who sat in my lounge also relayed a disturbing story. He sat at a round table with a group of ten local CEOs a week before. They were each given a pad of paper and a promotional pen to take notes with. Not a pen at the table actually worked. They, the group of CEOs, discussed the matter and ridiculed the company supplying the promotional pens. Not a desired outcome!

Follow the Signs

About 10 minutes into the trip to Eildon Dam for a picnic lunch on Sunday, we realised we hadn’t put the Sat Nav in the car. Bugger. Its not that the map book doesn’t work, its just that we feel the Sat Nav is a higher authority – i.e. we don’t argue when the Satnav tells us the route. But “No matter” we thought, its sure to be well sign posted, which also helps avoid arguments. One of the thing’s my wife and I have noticed is that when you are in tourist mode, you see all the tourist signs that help you get about. The same signs that are completely invisible when you are not in tourist mode.

This got me thinking about signs as part of a marketing plan. What should be on them and what makes a good one. So I googled “basics of sign design“, and found heaps of interesting tips such as not crowding the sign, fonts and colours to use, and thinking about whether it will be exposed to weather or not. Unfortunately there was almost nothing about deciding which content I should put on a sign, despite the fact they have been around since the Egyptians were building the pyramids.

So because I like to have conceptual frameworks for structuring my thinking, and wanting a signage plan for the Churchill Club, I came up with the following thoughts on sign content. There are three basic types of signs that we can create separately or combine.

Information Signs

Information signs form the backbone of any customer experience. Online its the button that says “purchase tickets here”. Offline they say “Push Here”, “Staff Only” or “Queue Here” etc. Its probably a good idea to role play as a customer, to figure out what you need. Try roles playing both the dumbest and smartest customers you can think of to determine how to stop embarrassing mistakes but without offending anyone.

Branding Signs

Its said that nobody ever buys from a billboard. That’s true, but when they lookup options online or in the yellow pages, they say “hey, I’ve heard of that group” When deciding where to eat – they want to know your restaurant does Thai, or Indian or something without actually going inside, and online they want to know who you are and what you do without having to read pages of your website. Figure out where you’re potential customers are looking (just ask them), and place your branding signs there to give your business mind-share with potential customers.

Specific Offer Signs

At least four times a week I picking up a menu to decide what I want to have. I may have already chosen Indian food, put the menu gives me the specific offers. Online its pretty much the same thing. When deciding to purchase, most people want a hard offer put in front of them that they can either accept of reject. The pricing also needs to be upfront so they don’t feel they have been scammed.

So what does this mean for the Churchill Club? Well online we are pretty good, but offline there appears to be a problem. We already have a number of banner branding signs, but we are missing some information and offering signs. A common problem is that when an unexpected guest or two turns up without booking, its likely we can fit them in. However neither the ticket price or how to buy one is obvious. It relies on me greeting guests and telling them. This can lead to an embarrassing moment when those wanting a last minute ticket find the price a bit steep. The solution of course is a sign next to the entrance with “last minute ticket prices”, and information on how to buy them. The other common problem is when new guests arrive, they are unsure of where our function room is. A temporary “Churchill Club upstairs” sign needs to be put downstairs.

But back to the start of the story. So on the way back from Eildon, we managed to stop in and have a drink with friends at the Badger Creek Camp ground, which wasn’t actually in our map book. We found it just by following the signs.

Whats in it for the Elite?

I’ve been thinking about two sided markets a lot lately. Two sided markets are where two distinct customer groups are serviced by the same provider and the existence both customer groups provides value to the other. Eg Computer Games. Computer Game Developers need lots of consumers with a platform for them to be able to invest in game development, and, consumers with the platform need lots Game Developers to produce Games, for them to want to purchase the platform.

Conceptually this isn’t that hard. But what I have been trying to understand is the luxury goods market. Is it two sided? General consumers, where the sales and profits are, aspire to own the products because they value their “exclusivity” and the psychology of owning something that the likes of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie own.

What I don’t get is what’s in it for the “elite” that are the ambassadors for the luxury goods. I understand sponsorship deals like Tiger Woods recommending golf shoes. Sponsorships make up the majority of his income. But what happens when the sponsorship value is non-existent or immaterial? Certainly Brad Pitt doesn’t aspire to be Brad Pitt, and the sponsorship value is nothing compared to what he makes from one movie. Plenty of the elite also pay for their own goods.

Because this has been bugging me, I have designed a Churchill Club event for this Thursday to get people to talk on the subject. Note : Most Churchill Club events have a topic I want answered at their core.

My suspicion is that there is clear value to the “elite” in owning luxury goods, its just not obvious to me. When it does become obvious, I’m wondering where else the business model can be applied?

7 Lessons in Email Marketing

I got an interesting email the other day, by someone signing up to the free Churchill Club newsletter.  He hadn’t received a username and password for it and wanted to know why.   I explained by email that it was a free newsletter and you didn’t need one. This of course got me thinking about email newsletter marketing – and what I had learned to date.

When we started sending out a Churchill Club newsletter in early 2006, we (my brother Peter and I) pooled together all our contacts and started sending it out to a list of around 600 people. Over time this slowly deteriorated until it was going out to around just under 300 people by January 2009.

I then made quite a number of changes, and now the newsletter has grown back up to over 900 people and is currently growing organically by at least 10 people a week. So I thought I might share what I had learned to date.

1. Comply with Spam laws

First and foremost, become familiar and comply with the Spam Act . It not that hard and has 3 basic components.

  • Get consent to send a message

  • Clearly Identify yourself

  • Provide the ability to unsubscribe.

2. Make it an easy decision to sign up

We moved the newsletter sign-up to the top left corner of the home page (an optimal offering spot). We highlighted the fact it was free and we made it easy to sign up (you don’t need a username and password). We’ve had over 600 new people sign-up (not including Russians or Romanians) in 9 months without doing any deals or specifically marketing it.

3. Manage your software

Initially we used a Maximiser CRM based system, which sat on our network and caused problems for us as we had to manually sign everyone up and the newsletter system was clunky. We then transferred it all over to the free, web based PHP List which was fabulous as it allowed the system to be run from anywhere (even when I was home sick) and ran problem free.

Finally we transferred it over to the ACAJOOM system (cost around $100) as I wanted automatic integration with the Club’s new Joomla based website. People who signed up for a Club Event or Club Membership are now automatically signed up to the newsletter, but there is still a manual sign-up option on the home page.

If you are managing your own software, make sure you keep it up-to-date. If there are patches available you need to apply them quickly as it prevents your system from being exploited by others.

4. Email Construction

One of the early things I found was that although its useful to use HTML to make a newsletter pretty, don’t get too carried away. Just like web pages can appear differently to people depending on what web browser people are using (let alone Windows v’s Mac issues). Email clients also make things appear differently. I try to use basic HTML for the newsletter and not more cutting edge technologies such as CSS as its just easier to control the appearance.

I also found out the hard way not to embed images into the email, instead have the images sourced from your website and linked to from the email. Images embedded inside an email dramatically increase the size of your mail out (plus slow it down) and increase the chance things will go wrong.

5. Keep your list tidy

For every genuine subscriber I have roughly 5 Russian spammers sign up. On an almost daily basis I log in and delete anyone who hasn’t a). confirmed their subscription, b). Has a Yahoo, Hotmail or GMail account and c). has a dumb name such as “GanjaBoy60 <p57o48k.@gmail.com>” . Actually this problem has now become worse in recent times and I’m now investigating ways to automate things using a CAPTCHA solution or a Bad Behaviour plugin.

I also make sure I delete any subscribers immediately whose email bounces. I like my current 925 to be a real 925 and I don’t want to have to double handle bounced emails.

6. Make it regular

Initially I used to send out newsletters just when I had something to say. After a while I found this adhoc proposition didn’t really cut it. Most people need to see a marketing message multiple times before they recognise what they are seeing (I believe the TV rule of thumb is 9 times before awareness starts). I now send newsletters out every week regardless. Tuesday is the day, just after lunch. I like Tuesday’s as it gives breathing space before a Thursday night event (occurring roughly ever other week), plus I feel that you are more likely to get read on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. Note I haven’t validated this yet by moving the email around and tracking stats on how many people open it (but I could!).

7. Value Proposition

So despite the fact I am sending out a weekly email saying “come to our events”, that content doesn’t change much on a weekly basis (boring!) I therefore need to provide value to get people to open and or read the newsletter . So I decided to provide value in every email, along with the event marketing.

Every time I have a new event report, 22 plus times a year, I put the event report in full in the newsletter. Giving away this free knowledge is clearly valued as I get feedback almost every week saying a variation on “fantastic stuff”. I know that our newsletter is getting forward to to others and has unique content in a crowded market place. The value proposition is clearly there. On weeks where I don’t have something new to put it, I put in teasers to older content people may have missed with links back to our website. This content can also be accessed for free.

I’m figuring that, like TED , if I provide quality information for free, I will increase the numbers turning up to Churchill Club events to get it first hand plus enjoy the networking, and grog.

It seems to be working.