Archives for category: Marketing

Often it’s just a nugget of information, a flash of a thought, or a sideways comment that provides the inspiration for one of my short posts.

So what is blogworthy? What idea, opinion or story is worth a pauldilger.com blog post? Firstly, it’s got to be robust enough an observation that I can spend a minimum of four short paragraphs on it. You can cast your eye over the previous 900-plus blog posts, but I don’t think I’ve ever written one less than four paras.

Secondly, I sometimes invoke the rule that if I don’t remember it, it’s not blogworthy because it’s not memorable enough for me to retell. I don’t often invoke the rule though, because I’m middle aged and my brain can’t retain thought like it used to, especially if I’m concentrating on something else at the time.

These days I almost always write down the blog title, on my phone or a scrap of paper. Usually the title on its own, sometimes an explanatory sentence or two if the title is a little cryptic.

Thirdly, if I can’t remember the central premise of the short descriptor, I don’t write it. How could I?

I’ve lost far too many blog post ideas to try and hold them in my head. When you’re nearing the 4-figure mark for total posts you can’t keep dipping into a finite well.

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I like the newish thing with Ryanair where you can add a buck to your flight price to offset your carbon footprint for the journey. It’s a token gesture I know, but it’s heading in the right direction. I wonder how Ryanair passes on the buck to the relevant authority or worthy cause?

I took a flight with Ryanair the other day, accompanying my mother to the UK. She took a can of juice and I took a can of soda. Towards the end of the flight the stewards came with the white plastic bags to take away rubbish. It looks like everything goes into the bag.

I asked the steward if they recycled, since I had two aluminium cans and two plastic cups to get rid of. No, he said, shaking his head in a rather embarrassed fashion. I said I would take them with me and recycled them at my Mum’s place.

Maybe he was wrong, but maybe not. With Ryanair it’s all about process. They’re massively process-oriented, striving for operational edge and, as I write this post, seeing their profits dwindle and talking about flight crew layoffs. I can’t imagine how they think that taking away rubbish in one bag and recyclables in another bag is a good use of their resources. To them they’d rather take the slight hit to their brand. Short term goggles to stay in the game over long term loss to the planet.

Action and reaction are equal and opposite of course, as Newton’s third law goes. Someone’s going to take the hit eventually, just not in your or my lifetime.

You can tell a lot from a handshake. First impressions and all that.

It’s not that the handshake is the only component of greeting someone. It’s the accompanying smile, the eye contact, the body facing the other person.

I once attended a corporate speaking engagement where the guy said the optimal time to clasp someone’s hand in a business handshake is 2 seconds. Anything shorter is a touch disrespectful, anything more is uncomfortable for the other person. Then there’s the angle of hand of the person leading the handshake. Palm down is a power play, palm up is subservient but also friendly.

As I said, it’s not only the handshake. It’s about eye contact, a ready smile, and physical engagement. I’ve seen people line up a handshake and actually be turned away for the moment of contact as they move onto the next person or thing. Not good.

When I shake someone’s hand, I extend my hand upright, with the arm at three-quarter length. A straight arm and they’re too far away, half arm makes them come into your personal space, another power play. My fingers are slightly splayed to stop someone gripping too soon and getting your fingers and none of your hand. I smile, face the person properly and apply a medium grip. If someone has a strong grip I increase my grip pressure; if a weaker grip I ease off on the grip. I don’t bother to adjust the angle of the power player’s or servile/friendly hand, as you’re advised to do. I simply go with it. Ladies and Gents, a medium grip is the minimum really. You don’t want to offer some a wet fish, and you don’t need a handshake like a docker’s vice to assert your personality.

Always good to say one’s name slowly to help the other person remember it. Telling them it’s good to meet them never hurts either.

Ask any business leader what their primary business challenge is and you’ll often hear words like ‘demand’, ‘pipeline’ or ‘more, better leads’. There are very few businesses that can rely on a never-ending stream of inbound enquiries from prospects or customers looking to buy.

Generating demand is generally the domain of the marketing department, although in business-to-business environments it’s not uncommon for the sales people to be expected to find or develop about half of the demand themselves. Many businesses therefore take a well resourced, scientific and automated approach to being in the right places with the right content to engage those people looking to fix a problem or exploit an opportunity.

Despite what you might have read from the minority of practitioners who’ve written or published ‘how to’ books, blogs or videos on the subject, while the principles are straightforward the practice is hard, especially when the business has a relentless demand for high quantity, high quality expressions of interest to keep its costs of acquisition at manageable levels. What often happens is that instead of demand generation you get demand degeneration, by which I mean a lack or shortfall of pipeline for your products and services.

What are the reasons for this? As you might expect, they’re many and varied. Incorrect market sizing, poor segmentation, a lack of understanding of the customer, inferior or inappropriate content, and insufficient or manually dependent activities are some of the common reasons. There’s also a requirement to stay current with trends and technologies in demand generation, since ways of engaging with customers have a natural lifecycle that means they won’t always be productive and will be replaced by new ways.

It takes a relentless drive and relentless inquisitiveness to engender relentless interest in something. That’s a pretty tall order to avoid demand degeneration, and the good business will recognise this and have in place parallel activities like customer advocacy to keep the pump primed.

The goal of underlying sales and marketing technology is that it is the slave, not the master, to your organisation. Automating your processes will enable you to embed and reinforce best practices throughout your organisation. The collection and inputting of good data and managing interactions for the complete customer journey will ensure you have visibility into your organisation, give you the insights to do accurate business planning and allow you to demonstrate your compliance.

Customer Relationship Management (‘CRM’) systems fulfil these responsibilities for your organisation. They are the machine to power your business, but are limited by the fuel you give them – in this case the quality and accuracy of information you import, enter and store. You can customise many CRM systems to suit your own business processes. You can also enhance them by integrating additional specialist software from third party organisations.

The CRM industry is extremely cluttered and competitive. There is a vast array of CRM systems, which vary appreciably in cost, functionality, reporting, flexibility, ease of use and size of their third party software ecosystem. It’s important to select the system which offers the best fit to your requirements and the long term vision you have for your organisation.

These 8 aspects will give you a solid structure to define your technology requirements, before shortlisting the alternative providers:

  • Your objectives for the technology
  • The functions within your organisation
  • The tasks you want to automate
  • The information you want to record
  • The metrics you want to measure
  • The users you want to enable
  • Their requirements
  • Your budget to accomplish these things

Think about your requirements as deeply as you can before you take the plunge. Companies often find that once they start using an implemented system there are additional things they didn’t think about that would have further influenced either their choice of system or how they customised and implemented it.

How good are your sales people? How do they manage the sales opportunities and their existing accounts? You won’t be surprised to know that sales people need skills for the whole customer journey.

Here are the first 12 aspects that come to mind when selling to a new customer:

  • How they prospect
  • How they qualify
  • How they prepare
  • How they manage the calls, meetings, presentations and demonstrations
  • How they challenge the customer and manage objections
  • How they strategise on the opportunity and the competition
  • How they navigate the customer organisation
  • How they stay focused
  • How they win the customer
  • How they negotiate
  • How they close
  • How they hand over to implementation, support and account management

Within account management, the business of selling to existing customers, another half dozen aspects emerge:

  • How they grow the account
  • How they ask for referrals within the customer’s business and outside it
  • How they make the customer an advocate for the organisation
  • How they renew the customer’s business
  • How they do account planning for their key accounts
  • How they do account planning for their other accounts

Command of these different areas corresponds directly to the trust that the sales person establishes with their customers and the esteem with which they are held in the organisation and their industry.

Brand is the summation of everything we feel when we come into contact with an organisation, a product, a service or even a person. It’s a function of what we, see, hear, feel and consume. As such, brand is more than a logo. It is everything that helps form the customer or stakeholder experience. It manifests itself in its people, its products and services, and its interactions with you, the customer.

Profile is a function of how the brand is packaged and presented to the public domain. Public relations departments and agencies are responsible for managing and controlling profile in a way that’s consistent with the organisation’s mission. Here are a few things you should think about if you’re planning a launch or refresh of your brand and profile in the marketplace:

  • The vision for your organisation
  • Your mission to get you there
  • Your visual identity and accompanying strapline
  • The design guidelines around your identity and its products, services, promotional materials and documentation
  • Your current profile
  • Your desired profile
  • The activities you need to have in place to achieve your desired profile
  • Budget and timeframes for executing on the plan

This is also a great shopping list to take with you when working with a brand or image expert.

It’s the start of a new half year! Where better to begin than with the job of figuring out what makes your ideal buyer tick? A customer or buyer persona is a collection of the characteristics common to buyer types in your target organisation. Figuring out your personas allows you to market to many like-minded individuals with the same messaging. This is in stark contrast to when you have a specific customer in mind – effectively a market of one organisation – because then you can message directly to that person, rather than to the persona construct.

Crucially, there may be more than one buyer persona you need to engage with in your target customer: lifestyle people; money-makers, corporate ladder-climbers; business heads, finance people, procurement. These personas may well fulfil multiple or different roles in the decision-making unit of your target organisation: decision-makers, budget-holders, influencers, users, and other staff.

You should gear all of your marketing and messaging to your personas, and adapt it to each persona. Framing your personas comes from research, which might be based on quantitative or qualitative information. Where to go for that information? It’s what you already know, it can come from interviews, calls, or meetings, from your sales teams, or from your customer database.

I’ve found the following list of headings to be useful when building a persona:

  • About them: gender, age profile, education, family, job role, experience?
  • Personality: approachable or aloof, prefers emails to calls, passionate, dispassionate?
  • Goals: commercial, personal, emotional?
  • Challenges: resources, politics, regulation, competition?
  • Hangouts: where do they go for their information? Websites, social media? You need to be where they are…
  • What can you do for them? Help them hit which goals, meet which challenges, be recognised?
  • Objections: what might stop them working with you? Time-pressured? Locked in to a supplier?
  • Message: how might you best message to them? Productivity, growth, compliance, morale?

Giving each persona a name, even a picture, and hanging their profile on a wall will keep them front and centre.

Sample customer journey

A sample customer journey

Great sales and marketing execution starts with strategy, defining the ideal customer journey from prospect through to delighted customer advocate, and then mapping your own selling organisation’s processes to that journey.

You can think about optimising your organisation for the ideal customer journey as a function of 3 things. It’s about people, process and ‘tech’. It all starts with your people at the centre, as they are the living, breathing caretakers of your culture and brand. If you have great people, they will acquire and take care of great customers.

Your target customers have a staged process they will want to follow to evaluate, invest in and hopefully review your offerings. You need to understand this, define it, and get some friendly customers to validate it for you. You need to design your own process stages around this 360-degree customer view. Finally, you need your marketing, sales and management techniques to deliver on this process, all of which you embed in your CRM technology, which becomes your online manual, reporting mechanism and data record for the various customer journeys happening all the time.

I find this diagram useful because it puts people at the middle of the picture and gets organisations thinking about the resources, activities and skills they need in place to manage the lifecycle of their target customers.

Are you in the 90% or the 10%? 90% of the organisations I’ve worked with were focused on their organisation and their products and services. In their calls, meetings and presentations they led with themselves and what they do. This is the wrong way round. Your prospects and customers are not interested in you, or what they do. They are interested in solving their problems and capitalising on their opportunities. What’s in for them? That’s your guiding star. When you start with yourself, it’s too hard for them to see the return on this investment of their time.

10% of organisations are market-led. Everything they do stems from the markets they’re serving and the target customers they’re trying to sell to. They earn the right to tell customers about themselves once they have demonstrated their knowledge of the market and their experience making similar organisations more successful. They lead with the market and the customer, and follow up with why they make organisations better. In their calls, meetings and presentations they start with their customers, and finish with themselves and how they can make the difference.

Customers are organisations filled with people like you and me. How you define and segment your market, your organisation’s business model and its routes to market are governed by the personas or specific people you’re targeting. They drive everything you do and you must maintain this mind-set – and stay in the 10% – to stay close to why your organisation exists.