Archives for category: Marketing

Back in 2002 I was in England working for a software company, in a sales and marketing capacity. I was in a meeting with the MD and we were discussing go to market strategy for a new product we were launching.

‘OK,’ he said, ‘let’s do a drains up on the product and we can prioritise next steps.’ I’d never heard the phrase before, but it seemed so apt. When you’re having kick-off meetings you need to get everything out on the table, warts and all, good and bad, so that everyone in the group is in possession of the same information and viewpoints.

Imagine lifting up the drains of a building to see what you’ve got. People aren’t shy about getting the good news stories out there for all to see, but they’re a bit more hesitant about revealing the sludge, muck and general detritus from things that haven’t gone as well.

Once you really know what you’re dealing with, and everyone sees the universe of good and bad, then you can list it all out and put the priorities in rank order. It gives you focus and the right order of things to tackle.

You hardly ever hear the term drains up in Ireland, and I don’t know if they use it in the US. You may prefer ‘brain dump’, ‘information transfer’, or ‘download’, but I like drains up. You know to know what you’re dealing with, eliciting both good and bad, and ‘drains up’ encourages that process and desired outcome.

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I’ve written before about the need for product manufacturers to design and deliver the whole product solution, or in other words, the entire customer experience, rather than just their product.

This includes the packaging, the accessories, everything you use when you consume the product.

A case in point is the squeezable marmite jar. You either love it or hate it, as the advertising goes, and I’m one of the lovers when it comes to Marmite, always have been. The unmistakeable branding, smell, consistency, taste and round glass jar. In the last few years the Marmite folk have taken to using a squeezable plastic jar to deliver their gooey goodness.

The trouble is, the stuff is so damn viscous that you can’t get more than 70 or 80% of the product out of the jar; the jar won’t squeeze down enough. I purchase a replacement jar – glass – before I realised a good bit of my purchase was yet to be consumed. To get value for your money, and who doesn’t want that, you have to twist the top off and collect the stuff from the inside of the top and the mouth of the jar. It gets everywhere, and leaves your kitchen cupboard, the jar and your hands a sticky mess. Not a good experience.

All the stuff outside of the product itself is an important part of the overall experience. You have to get all of it right, or you risk turning away first-time triers and seasoned customers.

I caught one of those winter colds over the holidays, the type of thing that comes along every holiday period, and spreads like wildfire, felling thousands in its path as it wreaks its havoc.

All of a sudden it seemed like everyone across the country was getting sick as a huge miasmic stain rippled through the landmass. It got me thinking about how a virus is properly viral, in comparison to what we’re used to seeing in cyber security and social social media circles.

Then again, Internet malware and viruses do move pretty darn fast as well, now that I think about it. Social media memes or other concepts move rapidly too, but not with quite the accelerating destructive force of Internet-borne badness we’ve been used to seeing in the noughties and early teens of this century.

As business people, or people seeking to influence consumers, we long for our own thing to go viral, hoovering up support like a giant tornado, getting ever stronger and increasing our wealth accordingly. The physical reminder of seeing and experiencing real physical infection at speed served to remind me of the power that important new ideas have.

One of the things my Dad used to say to me when he was coaching me on how to take a good exam was this: read the rubric. He was the only person I know who regularly used the term.

It pays to read the rubric, or the instructions on how to do something, even if you think you know what you’re doing. If the exam tells you to answer any 4 of the following 10 questions, and they’re all worth the same points, then be sure to answer 4 of them and spend about a quarter on each one before moving onto the next. If it says you must answer all questions, answer them all if you can. If one question is more points than others, make sure it gets the right amount of time allocated to it.

Sometimes the rubric or instructions are simply too long to bother reading, like a car manual’s. This is why a lot of good companies also now produce a quick start guide, a much shorter document that gets you up and running and gives you the really key stuff.

Read the rubric. It gets you in the right frame of mind for the task ahead. Unless you’re absolutely sure what you’re doing, a quick double check never hurts.

Remote working, teleconferences, videoconferences, skype calls: they are the new norm, with many companies now embracing the idea of some of their staff working from home or satellite offices some of the time.

It’s very efficient too, for both parties, cutting down on overheads, time and travel, and reducing the effects of poor weather on schedules. You have to work harder to overcome the communication and confusion issues that can arise when you’re not in the same physical room as someone, but that’s OK.

However, to get the best out of working relationships, the absolute best, nothing beats face-to-face. You’ve got body language, facial expressions and the sheer presence of someone next to you on your side. If you want to sort out a disagreement, or clear a misunderstanding, get people together. When it comes to sales and marketing of products and services that carry a decent value, and a decent trust element, nothing beats seeing the whites of each other’s eyes.

It doesn’t have to be face-to-face all the time, simply once in a while will do it. Last month I caught up with 2 groups of people I’d been meaning to catch up with for a long time. Now we’ve met, we’re more front of mind for each other, the priorities have risen up the stack and we’re moving projects forward.

Like I say, even when or if we become used to hologram drop-ins and clone stand-ins, nothing will beat face-to-face.

I saw the headline of an article the other day, and clicked on it, because it looked of interest. Except I had clicked on for the wrong reason, or at least my analysis was wrong.

The headline was: When is a Sale a Sale? I thought it was a cool article about defining when you have successfully closed a sale; some new insight on sales methodology. What we would call closing a deal in B2B. Is it a sale because the customer commits to the order verbally? Is it the receipt of the PO or the contract? Or is it the payment of the invoice or the handover of the cash?

In fact it was nothing of the sort. The article was a consumer-focused piece about what constitutes a selling event, the other kind of sale. It was about the retail industry trending towards a state of permanent sales and how difficult it is now to differentiate a true sales event and a retail status that is claiming ‘special’ sales status when it really isn’t.

Not to mention how difficult it is for retailers to get out of that sales spiral and protect their margins.

So, two different kinds of sale, and I clicked through under false pretences, but an interesting skim-read nonetheless.

Well, a happy new year to you, if you, like I, follow the western Gregorian thingamabob.

2019 marks the seventh year during which I’ve blogged – not yet my seventh year blogging if you follow the distinction – since I put my first blog post down in September 2013. Since then it’s been a 3-times-a-week, Monday-Wednesday-Friday thing, regular as clockwork.

By the end of this year, I’ll be about a dozen posts short of 1,000 blog posts. Once you get into 4-figure territory, that probably puts you in the top 1% of bloggers in terms of output. I don’t think I’ve ever been the top 1% of anything, yet I’m willing to bet that it will feel exactly the same in early 2020 when I hit that threshold.

If you’ve read at least one of my blog posts in each of those 7 years, then I thank you, and I also admire you in equal measure.

If you’re still reading at this point, I’d like to wish you a most healthy and prosperous 2019. May it bring you almost all, but not absolutely all, that you hoped for. Stay hungry – not literally.

When we’re taught the rudiments of writing a press release, we’re sometimes encouraged to get to the ‘five w’s’ in the first paragraph. Who, What, When, Where, Why?

Why is often the last W to be addressed, and it’s probably the most important W. Why are we doing this? What impact are we hoping to have?

I remember an ad campaign for a national newspaper a few years ago, for a broadsheet rather than a tabloid, which was all about the why. I thought it was a great campaign. The answer to why is this happening or why did this happen is the most informative answer.

Why is a very pertinent question to ask in business as well. Why are we doing this? Why are we in business? This is a concept popularised by Simon Sinek in his book Starting With Why. I hadn’t heard about the author or the concept until a good friend told me about it some time ago. It’s a really simple and profound way of thinking about your business or your organisation and what its purpose for existing is.

I love the concept, but I haven’t read the book yet. It’s sitting digitally on my Kindle, working its way up my list and I’ll get to it over the holidays. What we do is something every company knows. How we do it is something that a smaller proportion of them knows. Only the very special ones understand, throughout the organisation, why they do what they do, why they’re in business in the first place, and that’s where great organisations should start. If you don’t have the time or the inclination to read the book, take exactly 5 minutes to watch this abridged TED talk, it’s well worth it.

Then you can ask yourself the question why are you in business. And if you don’t have a good answer, maybe start a new organisation with a new answer.

 

 

A while back I wrote a post called Churn or Growth for Startups, and referenced the excellent content from the VC blogger Tom Tunguz. The answer was churn.

What should be the focus for the SaaS company looking to scale its business and grow at a rate that attracts heathy valuations and juicy multiples for an IPO or an exit? It’s grown by bringing on new companies and keeping them, so surely it should keep adding new logos, right?

The beauty of the SaaS model is that on the first of the year you can count on the revenues for all your customers who are renewing their annual commitment. Going from $80m to 100m in one year may seem like a giant jump, but the successful SaaS company has close to the €80 coming in during month 1, so it’s not such a big leap and, indeed, many such companies see themselves growing at phenomenal annual rates, far in excess of the 25% in my example.

The scaling company should focus on keeping and growing its existing customer base.

Have a look at this post from Mr Tunguz, which he said in an email recently was far and away the most popular post he did in 2018, 10 times more popular in fact than the next most popular post. Which is intriguing, since the post he links to is from 2016…

So startups should focus on preventing churn, and more established companies should focus on renewals, which is to say they should focus on preventing churn…

I was asked the other day what the average SaaS customer length is. I responded confidently that I thought it was about three-and-a-half years. My customer disagreed, though not without some uncertainty, and felt it was longer.

So I checked online, as you do, and I couldn’t find my three-and-a-half years statistic anywhere. Perhaps it was a customer I’d worked with previously that I was misremembering as an average. Anyway, I couldn’t find an average figure for customer churn anywhere. That’s because it depends.

It depends, of course, on the amount of customers you lose, otherwise known as your churn rate. Your average SaaS customer length is 1 divided by your churn rate. So if your churn rate is 5% per month, your average customer length is 20 months, which isn’t great. If it’s 10% per year, then your average SaaS customer length is 10 years, which is a whole lot healthier. Naturally, you can only make these calculations with a good body of data and some history behind you.

If you’re new to the game, then you need to do some research around average churn for the sector you sell into, or the size of company you sell into. To generalise grossly, churn rates tend to be lower the larger the customer you work with, since the deals tend to be bigger, more complex, more embedded, with a higher cost of sale, to generalise on the reasons as well.

If you want to read more on this, you might find this article, this one and this one useful.