Archives for category: Sales
"Streets Clock Acrylic Orange 2" by Individual Design is licensed under CC BY 2.0

“Streets Clock Acrylic Orange 2” by Individual Design is licensed under CC BY 2.0

When you’re publishing something, or thinking about publishing something, it’s great to have images to lift and amplify the message. Better still are those copyright-free images you can use without having to go to the photo stock library vultures.

If you’re getting an image that’s in the public domain or is free to use, you want to be able to attribute it properly. After all, some generous soul is putting out their creativity for you to use gratis, so the least you can do is to give them the proper thanks via the proper shout out. This can be tricky to do:

  • You have to find the image
  • You have to check the copyright or licensing for it, to make sure it’s OK to use for your purposes
  • If it fits your requirements you have to collect the name of the image, the author and the type of creative commons license it falls under

This is fiddly, especially if you’re sourcing a lot of images. Enter the Creative Commons automated image attribution feature. You can access it here. As I write this it’s in beta, and it hangs and falls over a fair bit, but who cares? It’s invaluable. You search for your image, click on the one you like and the entire attribution text is pulled together for you in 3 different format options, like in this example.

A massive time-saver. Genius.

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I’m a fan of LinkedIn. It’s a great networking platform, and really good for staying in touch with people as they move around the place. Also, people tell me the Navigator premium enhancement is worth it for prospecting. Furthermore, I’ve found the LinkedIn Adwords more expensive than Google Adwords but better quality in terms of leads that go somewhere.

I tend to connect with people I either know or have worked with, at least on some level. I generally don’t connect with someone who I’ve never heard of, although I must confess that very occasionally I might try and reach out to someone influential that I don’t know, which I admit is hypocritical.

Then there’s the LinkedIn news feed. That’s another story. It’s hard to see the value of that. The majority of the news feed items are of the Facebook-type, Look-at-me! variety. Most posts come under the heading of:

  • Here I am at this event
  • Here’s a presenter from an event I’m associated directly with
  • Aren’t we great? We just got shortlisted/awarded/commended for this thing
  • Come to my event
  • And so on

There’s very little helpful content along the lines of here’s how to do something, here’s the inside track on something, here’s an introduction to something, here’s a resource you might find useful.

Good marketing is about putting out content that’s useful to the people you’re trying to reach, via a place that you know they hang out in. The direction is pulling interested people to you, not blasting out stuff to people who aren’t interested.

The majority take the me, me, me approach, or the us, us, us approach, when they should be talking you, you, you.

 

I travel on Irish trains a lot. You might too. In fact you might be reading this on the train. Central Dublin, for example, is far easier to reach by train and LUAS than by car, and you can work on the train, obviously, or ‘obvs’ as the young people of the world write in their SMS messages. I always book my train ticket online in advance, unless I’m heading somewhere local like Galway and I’ve left it too late.

The booking system is very straightforward, and they always offer you a choice of manual or automatic seat selection, as well as whether you want your name or your booking number above your seat. 19 times out of 20 I will choose automatic seat selection, opt for the booking number display – some kind of English, under-the-radar thing no doubt – and sit where I like.

On this occasion, I manually picked my seat – A26, a rather pleasing rear-facing aisle seat in the lead coach – and also opted to have my name up there. Why not, I reasoned.

The following morning the train duly arrived, and I hopped onto the lead coach to locate my seat. I couldn’t see my reservation for A26. There was no name up there, and none for the chap sat close by me who was travelling by train for the first time in ages.

I sat somewhere else, like I normally do; the train wasn’t busy. 30 minutes into my journey, I realised that the train was back to front. I was in coach E, not coach A. The lead coach, the one that arrives closest to the station exit, is normally coach A. Not on this occasion. It’s also not that easy to know which coach you’re on. You have to get on and wait for the coach ticker tape to tell you, by which time on a normal busy service all the good seats are gone.

Later that day, on the return journey home, I made a point of going to the exact seat I had booked, on the correct coach. They were no bookings at all showing on the train.

Both journeys kind of defeat the purpose of booking, I thought. I might go back to my 19 times out of 20 thing.

A good while ago I wrote about how strategy and execution are joined at the hip, but that one tends to attract a higher consulting rate than the other. It’s hard to have one without the other. If you have little or no strategy and you execute like mad, you will have some success, but not as much as you might have hoped. If you don’t execute on a good strategy, you don’t really have anything.

I was reminded of this in a recent post by Tom Tunguz on the importance of execution. He referred to an HBR article from over three decades ago about ‘hustle’ – or the concept of getting it done – as the strategy. The central premise was – and still is – that it’s really hard to get competitive advantage, let alone sustain it, so you’re better off executing your plan better than everyone else.

I think a lot of people who work in areas where it’s hard to genuinely differentiate will identify with this approach. You still need to plan well, hire well and measure well, however.

Execution is what separates the men from the boys, the women from the girls, and the growing companies from the struggling companies. It’s about following through, staying the course and closing the loop. You need to just do it, repeatedly.

Are you a taker or a maker? There are those of us who make stuff, and those of us who take stuff.

You can look at this at two levels. At the first level it’s simple commerce, the transaction between buyer and seller. A manufacturer makes something and the customer or consumer takes it, for an agreed price. It’s a fair exchange, in most cases, otherwise it often ends up being the last exchange between those two parties.

In the wider sense there are those that make something. They create something, they offer it up. It might be their time in the form of volunteering. It might be a form of social enterprise to benefit the community. They might invent something that they give away. Then there are those that take that something. They use it, consume it. Sometimes they thank the maker, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they don’t pay it back, in other words make something for somebody else to take and give back. They leave a debt to the community, they’re in debit. The makers create something for the community, they’re in credit. Sometimes the makers object to this and stop making. Sometimes they don’t and carry on making.

So the question remains: are you a taker or a maker?

 

Digital marketing is one of those terms that has tended to confuse people over the last few years. It’s become very high profile of late, to the point where people believe that digital marketing is all of marketing, and all there is to do in marketing. That’s not the case though.

Sure, it’s an important part of the marketing mix, but to focus on it simply because all people seem to talk about these days is social media or mobile is short-sighted.

Digital marketing is really about electronic marketing, a form of marketing that is received through an electronic device, hence the term ‘digital’. More often than not this means online marketing, using the Internet as the medium, as in on-the-Internet marketing.

Under this banner we can put types of marketing like social media marketing, search engine optimisation marketing and pay-per-click marketing – like good Adwords – to name a few. Email marketing, a good bit older than my three examples, comes under this heading too, since we’re talking about the device through which you deliver and consume the marketing.

There are other forms of marketing that are digital but not necessarily online. These might be electronic billboards, on-screen demos and good old-fashioned telly. For more examples of digital marketing and a good definition of it, go here.

Digital marketing gets the headlines and its fair share of budget but it’s just one part of the marketing pie, alongside traditional marketing and hybrid forms of the P that is promotion. You’ve got events, non-electronic advertising, direct mail, public relations among others, and we haven’t even got to the other three P’s of the 4-legged P stool – which sounds a bit unappealing – namely product, price and place.

We all go through lean periods. From a sales perspective, a winning perspective, business, pleasure, whatever. You have to have downs for there to be ups, so you can appreciate the ups.

Sometimes, when you’re in that trough, or on that plateau, it’s hard to see your way out or over, respectively. The one thing that keeps me going, however, is this.

Stuff comes through for you. It always does. If you keep working, making the effort, doing the right things, eventually stuff drops your way. It works out for you.

As Gary Player is thought to have said: “The more I practice, the luckier I get.” Luck is one thing, but working hard, working well, and working with your eyes wide open reaps its rewards.

It’s no more, and no less, than you deserve. Your just deserts.

 

 

I’ve spent the last 14 months or so working in the food sector. Not exclusively, but a few days a month, enough for it to form a sizeable chunk of my workload and recent experiences.

So here’s what I’ve learned about food. Not food itself – after all I’ve been a consumer of it for the wrong side of half a century – but the food business. I’ve listed 6 things I think are important, at least for new or small players in the industry. The FMCG business is a whole different ball of wax, I imagine

  1. Location, location, location. Not where your store is, we all know that one, but where in the store your product resides. The easier it is to spot or find, the more you’ll sell. You need to bolster a poor location with something eye-catching if possible
  2. Taste. Taste is the number 1 driver for consumers. If the food doesn’t taste good, it’s really hard to shift. Even superfoods struggle to move if they taste less than appealing
  3. COGS. Control over your Cost of Goods Sold – or COGSĀ  for short – gives you options. The lower your COGS, the greater your gross margin. If you can’t lower your COGS any further, your back’s against the wall
  4. Distribution. Distribution is key. You need to get your product onto shelves, but then you’ve got to get it off the shelves and into shopping bags. A good distribution partner is a key element of this, and the key to scaling. A bad one will just wait for the orders to come in, leaving you to work hard with the retailer while all the time giving your wholesaler margin that haven’t really earned. The more the players in the distribution chain, the more margin you have to give away, which feeds into point 3
  5. Badges. You need the badges for premium products. The organic, sustainable and vegan check marks and accolades are important credibility nudges, and prestigious awards help a lot too
  6. Graft. It’s a lot of graft building and sustaining a product line. Almost everyone, especially lean model companies, has to do the graft and sell it themselves to start

The role of marketing is to generate demand for a product or service, and positively influence the chances of a sale or a satisfactory exchange. The role of production or operations is to have it ready so that when a sale happens you can deliver.

Stand and deliver, as the highwaymen and a certain 80’s pop band used to say.

This is not as easy as it sounds. It’s helpful to know your sales cycle, the length of time between when you start creating the demand and the customer wants to buy. Sometimes the sales cycle is miniscule, like in ecommerce, so you need to be ready to deliver on the upsurge in demand. Otherwise, goodwill wanes proportionally to the amount of time you have to wait after you’ve placed your order.

Last year I ordered a rather nice brand-name top from a website I’ve used for a couple of years. They used to send me a daily email with their offers. They complete on value and totally wing the service and delivery side. I ordered the top the 3rd week of February and it arrived the second week of May. I don’t know why it took so long; the possible reasons are many. Once I got the top I unsubscribed and they get no more business from me.

In the business to business world, it’s also helpful to know how long it will take you to build your product or service, and also how long it will take for your people to be able to deliver and support the product or service. If you’re lucky, you can do some of these two things in parallel and save a bit of go to market time.

 

Partnerships, relationships, company. All of a sudden it’s not about what you want, or what your company wants. It’s not even about your end customer. It’s about the person that holds the key to the end customer.

With partners you’ve got somebody else’s priorities to think about it. This is why people that consult on partnerships emphasise the importance of lock-step, being aligned with your partners and making sure their goals are your goals.

You work really hard to get a partner on board, an agent, a distributor, a reseller perhaps, and then the hard work really starts. That’s when you figure out how important to them you really are. If they’re calling you, they’re getting pull from their customers, what you have is easy for them to sell, and profitable too. If they’re not calling you, their priorities are not yours and they’re not going to bat for you. Simple as that.

It’s a bit like the domino theory I proposed in blog post number 1. You’re facing your partner, looking for their attention, but they’re facing their customer, looking for their attention. An entire supply chain can be like that, a line of dominos focused on their customer and ignoring their supplier.

Bottom line? Well, 3 bottom lines, I think. Your product has to be relatively easy for someone not in your company to sell, which you can help with, of course. Second, it has to have sufficient margin for it to be worth it to your partner, who will always seek the path of least resistance toward hitting their own target. Third, the end customer has got to want it, to pull it through the supply chain. How you achieve that pull? Well, that’s all down to you, your marketing, your budget, your staying power and your inventiveness.