Archives for category: Planning

I carried out a detailed study in pubic transport the other day. Actually, it wasn’t that detailed, it was a data point of one, one journey.

I went to visit my mother, who lives near Bristol in England. I live near in Galway in Ireland. It’s perhaps 300 miles as the crow flies, if even a crow can fly that far, except that there’s the Irish Sea in the way.

I had decided to go via public transport, rather than a car. Normally I would drive to the departing airport and hire a car from the destination airport. The public transport option was cheaper and better for the planet. It would simply cost more of my time, a very precious commodity as far as I’m concerned, but there you go.

These were the legs of the journey:

  • Walk to local train station, 10 minutes
  • Train to Galway, arriving 45 minutes before coach trip to airport
  • Coach from train station to airport, supposed to take 95 minutes, but took nearer 120
  • Arrived at departing airport 2 hours before flight
  • Flight to Bristol airport (1 hour)
  • Bus to Bristol city centre (wait 10 mins, 30 minutes journey)
  • Bus to my mother’s neck of the woods (no wait, 45 minutes journey)
  • 10 minute walk to mother’s house

Total elapsed time via public transport: 10 hours exactly

Total elapsed time if I was driving both ends: around 5 hours

I think 10 hours is far too much to travel from one neighbouring country to another. So do most other people I guess, judging by the amount of people who, if they have access to a car, take one.

 

 

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.

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.

In this last post in the series on scaling a business, we look at the checklist of ’10 Rockefeller habits’. Once more I borrow from the Growth Institute in this fascinating piece on how the 10 habits of the fabled businessman are the only framework you need to scale your business.

Working from the principle that success comes from the combination of goals and discipline, and you must have both, rather like strategy and execution, the article provides a detailed description of the 10-item Rockefeller habits checklist, which I summarise here:

  1. The executive team is healthy and aligned
  2. Everyone is aligned with the #1 thing that needs to be accomplished this quarter to move the company forward
  3. Communication rhythm is established and information moves through the organisation quickly
  4. Every facet of the organisation has a person assigned with accountability for ensuring goals are met
  5. Ongoing employee input is collected to identify obstacles and opportunities
  6. Reporting and analysis of customer feedback data is as frequent and accurate as financial data
  7. Core values and purpose are “alive” in the organisation
  8. Employees can articulate the key components of the company’s strategy accurately
  9. All employees can answer quantitatively whether they had a good day or week
  10. The company’s plans and performance are visible to everyone

These habits only truly come alive when you read the narrative and case studies that amplify them, so refer to here for the valuable detail. You’ll get the how to implement and who should implement that will send you on your way to scaling a business successfully.

 

This post continues the series on scaling a business, this time defining the exponential organisation. An exponential organisation is a company that scales rather than grows. In other words it grows at an exponential rate – d’oh!

Jacob Morgan covers how to create an exponential organisation and why you would want to in this excellent piece. He leans heavily on the work of the innovator Samil Ismail, one of those lucky souls who can find his first name in his last name…

Ismail’s research into exponential organisations leads him to identify ten commonalities in companies successfully hitting the stratosphere.  Five factors are external, and five are internal.

The five external factors equal the word SCALE:

  • S, staff on demand
  • C, community and crowd
  • A, algorithms
  • L, leased assets
  • E, engagement

The five internal factors spell the word IDEAS:

  • I, interfaces
  • D, dashboard
  • E, experimentation
  • A, autonomy
  • S, social

To find out more about each factor, and what combination of them would suit your ambitions, have a deeper look at the article.

 

In this second in the series of posts exploring scaling the business, let’s look the differences between growing the business versus scaling the business. What better source of authoritative information than this piece from the Growth Institute.

There are some fantastic insights in this piece. Here are just three of them:

  • Companies that scale successfully don’t set out to grow their business, they build it for scale from the outset
  • A scaling company grows at twice the industry average but its expenses are roughly the same
  • When I was at business school, a company’s growth was a series of steps, where you go through a plateau period before you slingshot up the next level. Nowadays the scaling curve is a series of ‘valleys of death’ through which each company must pass in order to dominate its industry

The Growth Institute identifies four scaling stages:

The percentages of companies that make it through each of these stages are horrifically small, so if you’ve got scale-up ambitions it’s important to go in eyes wide open, and also read the Growth Institute piece, and the ‘how to navigate’ guide, in more detail.

Recently I wrote a short post about scale-ups and scaling a business. Now I’m going to start a short series that continues the theme of scaling.

If the trend watchers are to be believed, the start-up and dot com has had its day. Maybe that term is a little out of date these days, since the emerging start-ups of today all seem to be dot ai anyway. Apparently it’s all about becoming a larger sustained company now, while also avoiding being copied, outdone or annihilated by the likes of GAFA: Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon.

But if you want to catch the wave and forge something that lasts, what technology bandwagon should you be hitching a ride on? This piece from PWC explores in detail what they see as the eight essential emerging technologies.

The eight technologies are:

  • Artificial intelligence
  • Augmented reality
  • Blockchains
  • Drones
  • Internet of Things
  • Robotics
  • Virtual reality
  • 3-D printing

The thing that makes this tricky for start-ups is that you need boat loads of cash to dominate them. They’re not a niche that you can easily protect.

The PWC article groups these eight technologies into five converging themes:

  • Embodied AI
  • Intelligent automation
  • Automating trust
  • Conversational interfaces
  • Extended reality

For information on which technology or theme you can embrace to harness your scale-up company ambitions, see the article.

Scaling a business is hard. Sometimes it must feel like you’re literally having to scale the business, in the sense of climbing up it, or order to scale it in the sense of growing it out, sustainably.

Scaling a business is perhaps the third stage in a company’s existence. At first you’re a solution to a problem, trying to get traction. In the second stage you’re a company with product market fit. People have a need for what you provide, and if you took what you provide away from them they would be in trouble.

Scaling the business is the third stage, where you’re building the business in a way that it can keep on building. Whereas you can see how a business moves from first to second stage, it’s less clear cut how the transition works from stages two to three. There might be a gaping chasm to cross, which calls to mind a very famous business book from two decades ago.

A scale up is defined as a company that grows by 20% or more for three consecutive years, starting from a base of at least ten employees. So, where a company can move quickly from stage one to stage two, getting to scale-up stage is a significantly longer investment, of time and money. Furthermore, by the time you’re getting close you may not have in place the right structure, the right foundation and the right people that got you from one to two, and almost to three.

A while back I wrote a post called Are You Working In or Working On? Working in the business is a ‘head down, bottom up’ thing where you’re getting stuck into the everyday tactical stuff. Working on the business is the strategic, directional side of it.

I want to tweak that question slightly in this post, to this: are you working on something, or towards something? This to me is a pretty fundamental question. There’s no right or wrong answer. In fact, I think you have to do both.

Working on something means you’re in the moment, dealing with the present tense, getting it done. Working towards something means you’ve an eye to the future, or to a destination. It’s like the difference between the journey and destination. A means in itself, or a means to an end.

If we don’t know where we’re going with something it’s hard to shape what we’re doing right now. Conversely, if we don’t know where we’re going with something we can learn from the journey. After all, we can’t necessarily see the finish line but we can see the next few hundred yards and that’s enough to keep us on track.

Keeping an eye on what we’re working on sets us up for what we’re working towards. Keeping the other eye on what we’re working towards improves the quality of what we’re working on. Sounds like a pretty virtuous circle to me.

 

Funnel and Hubspot Flywheen

Funnel and Hubspot Flywheel

For decades we’ve been talking about funnels – or hoppers – to talk about how we manage sales, especially in B2B circles. Marketing throws leads into the top of the funnel, perhaps helps leads advance down the funnel, and sales pushes them down through the bottom until they emerge out of the funnel as a customer, a sale. It’s also assumed that the funnel has holes in the sides, since leads and opportunities get qualified out or are lost during their journey, but that’s not really talked about and not what I’m talking about either.

Then there’s the flywheel. The flywheel analogy and image is a Hubspot creation, – at least I think they originated it – and aims to better integrate the customer, ideally the delighted customer, into the selling process from an advocacy point of view. After all, with the funnel, once the opportunity emerges as a customer there’s not a natural way for it to come back into the funnel as a repeat customer or as an influencer to a new customer.

I like the flywheel approach, although I prefer a wheel analogy myself, and I can see where they’re going with the idea that a flywheel increases in speed due to the rotational energy of delighted customers feeding fuel to the marketing and sales engine.

Hubspot acknowledges that you still need funnels in a business that measures its success, and argues that you can put funnels within the various stages of the flywheel. That doesn’t seem particularly elegant and they don’t even try to present it visually. But, viewing your customer’s buying journey as a circle rather than a straight line certainly helps you keep your focus on developing your existing business and leveraging customers to bring in new business.