Posts Tagged ‘marketing consulting’

Why Look in the Rearview Mirror?

October 18, 2016

bluetooth_rear_view_mirror_hands_free_car_kit

 

 

 

 

What’s the point of looking back? 

As CEO, what can you learn from looking back?  For Marketing Matters (FMM) starts year 10 this week. Given that milestone, I have been reviewing the past 9 years to update the business plan to grow and move forward. Part of that work has been ‘eating my own dog food’: updating and revising FMM’s marketing messaging and positioning.  It is from this place that I have been looking in the rearview mirror.

4 Key Takeaways from Looking in the Rearview Mirror:

  1. What a long, strange trip it’s been:  Revisiting the past 9 years by reading business plans, positioning, and reviewing clients has been fun! The path has taken many turns – some planned and some not. People I have met over the years, distant clients that helped launch FMM, and networking organizations that I was involved with. While time flies by, this is the longest ‘job’ now on my resume – wow!  So while it has not felt long, it has been strange! Some strange people along the way, but that is part of any journey! And with the strange moments being a blur in the rear view mirror it is actually comical to recall…and worthy to recall and learn from.
  2. The Cobbler’s Kids…I am a classic example of the Cobblers Kids not having shoes. So my takeaway is to not be so consumed with work that you don’t MAKE time to work on your own business strategically.  We are our clients’ outsourced marketing department. We develop and revise marketing messaging, design and build websites and keep all marketing materials current. Yet we (FMM) have gone years (yikes!) without updating our own website and our own marketing materials. Key takeaway – make it happen before year-end. I am now on a mission as this is embarrassing.
  3. Go Back. It is not wasted time. It really is enlightening to go back and review the journey. Where have clients come from? What networking efforts are bearing fruit? Make the time to go back and review your journey with an open, inquisitive mind.  There are key nuggets to affirm, to remember and to bring with you as you go forward. And if you are a Kenny Chesney fan like I am, listen to his song I Go Back as you take a stroll down memory lane and take notes.
  4. Celebrate. Celebrate progress. Celebrate accomplishments and how far you have come.  Whatever your milestone, take a step back and acknowledge the progress and the hard work that has taken you this far. It is not easy. However many years you have been doing it, feel good about how far you have come. Reflect on what you have built. As business owners we push ourselves and we work hard. A key takeaway for me is to pause and feel good about where FMM is now and how it started. I encourage you to do the same.

Looking in the rearview mirror has helped create a renewed sense of focus and energy!  Now I look forward to the road ahead and the journey to partner with more savvy CEOs of small and medium-sized growth-focused businesses.  I hope you too find benefit in taking a look in the rearview mirror for insight to help you move forward. And another final takeaway I have come to learn…enjoy the ride.

 

Assess these 10 Things to Start 2016 Strong for your Business

January 4, 2016

2016-new-year-ss-1920-800x450The first full business week of 2016.  Time to clear out the holiday cobwebs and kick off 2016!  So what will the year bring for you and your business?

 

 

 

 

10 Things to Assess about Your Business to Start 2016 Strong:

  1. Your Customer/Client Base: are you in an acquisition mode, expansion mode or retention mode?
  2. Value proposition: the corner-stone of your company’s marketing foundation.  Is it solid? The 3 C’s of a solid value proposition:  is it clear, compelling and consistent? Do you need to revise/update/enhance for the new year to address competition or logical evolution of what you offer in terms of value?
  3. Target audience: compare your ideal target audience to your existing customer base. What did you learn in 2015 that affects your ideal target audience? How can you better appeal to your ideal target audience in 2016?
  4. Your dream list: is your dream list in good shape going into the new year? Do you have a workable list of clients, prospects and suspects? Do you have a scalable process to manage and update?
  5. Sales Tool Kit by sales stage: what elements in your sales tool kit need to be updated? What elements are used most effectively?  Where are the gaps that sales needs to more effectively move potential sales through the funnel?
  6. Client stories: what successes in 2015 have not been documented? How valuable could these stories be to support your goals in 2016?
  7. New employees: did you have new hires in 2015? Are you planning new hires in 2016? How are these employees being effectively on-boarded to know, understand and represent your brand? Who owns bringing these people onboard other than on the job training?
  8. What went well in 2015 that you need to ensure continues to go well in 2016?
  9. What did not go well in 2015 that you need to fix?
  10. Offerings/Products: any changes/updates to existing offerings? Any planned new offerings this year? What is the timeframe? What needs to be developed and prepared to effectively launch?

The start of a new year is a fresh start. We are bombarded with messages about making resolutions, planning for the new you. As you launch the first full week of the new year, make the time to take a step back, assess the above components that represent key elements of an effective marketing plan.  Use these 10 items to help you organize and prioritize a plan for 2016. Make this a great year for your business.  Make time for marketing. If it is part of your core expertise, leverage it. If it is not, don’t be a DIYer, secure the marketing talent you need to develop and execute a plan to get you to where you want to be in 2016.

Happy new year.  Go get ’em.

Hey Mother Nature – take this!

March 8, 2015

Mother Nature made her impact.  This is a winter many of us won’t soon forget:  record-breaking cold; record-breaking snow; roof collapses; the MBTA and commuter rail service in Boston struggling to operate. Roads in Southie changed to one-way streets due to the massive snow piles limiting the space for two cars to pass. Let’s face it, Mother Nature has been on a rampage.

Mother Nature making an impactThis winter has had a broad effect on the economy.  Your business may be down because of Mother Nature.  Auto sales were way off in February.  Restaurants have been hit hard due to so many weekend storms and cancelled reservations.  I met with an insurance sales guy last week and he indicated business was down due to so many snow days that made booking and keeping appointments a challenge.

So what do you do as a business owner?

 

How can your business fight back?

Focus.  Plan.  Execute.

The recommendation is not new.  It’s very simple.  Simple to state, but not easy to do.

When we get beat up and business may be down, it may be tempting to get distracted with any new shiny object and get off track.  Don’t!  The key is to get back to basics.  Focus on what’s most important for your business and put together a phased, logical plan and then execute.  This is what any good marketing department or marketing agency should be doing for you.  But, if you are not investing regularly in marketing and instead treating it as a project, that is where you need to make a change.  You are wasting time and money with limited impact.

What should impact look like?

Monthly measurable results.  Just like we measure wind chill and snowfall amounts, measure the impact of your marketing efforts.  If you are not getting detailed, metric-laden marketing reports, you need to evaluate the value you are getting.

Some examples of the impact reported to For Marketing Matters clients in their February Impact reports (return on marketing investment):

Brand:

– New logo with tagline completed for a client; branding standards established; email signatures created for all employees

– New designs and messaging materials developed

Awareness:

– Online reputation management; response to positive and negative postings

– Social media posts, growth, reach

– # blogs written and exposure/reach achieved via these posts

Credibility:

– Customer success stories written and communicated to prospects/clients

– Speaking opportunities secured; award submissions

– # press releases distributed and coverage secured

Leads:

– Total Leads and leads by lead source as compared to target leads needed (client has monthly leads exceeding target so leads are not an issue; converting leads is the issue); # web leads including if prospect has budget approved with majority of leads having urgency of less than 30 days to act. (does your sales team get leads that give you this level of information?)

– New sales tool kit materials completed and available for sales team to use (including this month internal FAQs to help sales consistently and completely respond to questions; two new sets of PowerPoint slides addressing industry standard and opportunity for prospect to earn LEED credits)

– Ideal Target Profiles completed and distributed to sales to enhance targeting and shorten sales cycle

– Detailed website analysis; new web content developed and stats including SEO results and ratings

– Detailed email marketing results with lead reports for sales to act on

 

The above is an overview of the type of impact that we make in a month.  Impact is client-specific, but normally falls into the above categories.    Whatever your priorities, your marketing department or agency should be managing, measuring and reviewing IMPACT with you monthly.  Not activity, but impact. It is important to make that distinction so you as CEO are not wow’d by  activity.  To quote, Joe Friday from Dragnet, “Just the facts ma’am. Just the facts.”

Marketing is an investment and like any investment you should expect a return. If you are looking to fight back and make an impact, start with assess what marketing is doing for you. If your business priorities involve increasing awareness, gaining credibility and building leads then the marketing function plays a critical role. If you are not seeing the monthly impact from your current marketing investment, take a good hard look at what you are doing and who is doing the work.

Don’t let Mother Nature be the only one making measurable impact.

 

The joy of saying no.

January 27, 2015

Keep-Calm

A few month’s ago I wrote about ignoring my ideal target client profile and the resulting angst that ensued.  I am happy to share that I learned from that experience and had the pleasure of saying no to a potential new client last week.  Ah, the joy of saying no!

The reality is I still could have done better and made the decision sooner.  That is why I am writing this blog as perhaps others could benefit from this recent experience, too.

A dear friend introduces me to this prospective client.  She has been a dear friend for years and I was intrigued with the sector and the value proposition that this company had to offer.  I knew For Marketing Matters (FMM) could help them get a solid foundation in place and build awareness and a solid pipeline for them.  An initial phone conversation happens; I follow-up and follow-up and struggle to get commitment for a meeting. The CEO conveys how important marketing is to him, but is so busy with other priorities (initial hint that I ignored). Finally get a face to face meeting. Many other stakeholders in the room.  Good discussion.  Many head nodders agreeing with my proposed approach and methodology. CEO emphasizes sense of urgency and requests proposal to get started.  Proposal prepared and initial feedback from other top stakeholders is favorable.  Follow up and radio silence – for weeks.  Then the week before Christmas, CEO must have a meeting with me – can not wait.  So I shuffle schedule around, we meet in person and during the discussion there are all kinds of red flags flying (big hints, but I persevere).  I think after the meeting: I can overcome that.  I can work with that.  So I jump through hoops to get proposal written and turned around to client in one business day and guess what happens?  You know this story – nothing.  Radio silence again for two plus weeks.

A light goes on with me.  I come out of my fog and realize:  This is not my ideal client. In fact, this is not even close to being a client that I am going to enjoy working with.  The only item in the PRO column to go after this business is that I would have the opportunity to work and help my dear friend.  The CON column is long with all kinds of good reasons to ditch the work.  The fog has cleared.  I stop the silliness and let the prospective client know that I will not be moving forward to provide marketing services because it is not a good fit and it not set up for success – his or mine.

Boy did that feel good.  I did what was right for me and For Marketing Matters and I know I did what was right for his company.  He was not committed to making the investments in the right areas that needed attention.  I shared the story with my business coach.  As always, she provided such incredible insight and commented, you have given him a gift.  Huh?  That thought had never crossed my mind.  She went on to explain that this decision is one of many points of feedback that he is likely getting.  There is a chance that over time he may connect the dots and realize he needs to change how he is leading the company and where he is investing in expertise.  His head of sales and head of business development (partner channel) both had recommended he accept my initial proposal.  He ignored their advice and instead chose the dabbler approach:  work on marketing tactics only and ignore the need for a strong marketing foundation.  If that business approach was literally the physical structure of the business today, the physical building would likely fall n the face of Juno, our raging blizzard.

My key learning and the point of this blog today:  use your target profile to evaluate potential clients; listen to your gut when it tells you to run; thank your friend for the introduction (in this case she was fully supportive and understanding why I was not going to move forward) and be true to who you are and the value of the services you offer.  If others don’t value it, that is ok.  There are many who do and it is so much more enjoyable to work with those that are wise to invest in marketing expertise (in my case) and value the real impact it has on growing their business and driving real value.  Just say no.  It feels really good.

 

 

Know when to walk away, know when to run!

November 14, 2014

I am not one to quote Kenny Rogers frequently, but boy does this line capture it for me.  Not all business is good business.  Not all revenue is worth it.  We all learn the hard way and with hindsight being 20/20, we commonly look back and think – should have walked away.  So what does this have to do with marketing?

Everything!

A solid business has to start with a solid foundation.  For Marketing Matters has 13 essential elements to be on solid ground and the first two are:

#1.  Define your value proposition.

#2.  Develop your target profile.

If you have completed #2 and I mean documented as clearly as you can EXACTLY who you want to be selling to and working with, then you are in MUCH better shape to assess prospects and decide whether the opportunity is a good match for you and your business.  Congratulations if you have this in place.  Most small and medium-sized businesses skip this step.  Responses include:  Oh, we know that.  Sure, we have done that…. so, I ask them for a copy.  Uh, Oh, it is in our heads.  We don’t have to write it down.

I have a documented target profile and I ignored it.  I was introduced to a business owner, referred by another business owner that I have a lot of respect for and admire.  As a potential source for referrals, I wanted to help his client out and show what FMM can do.

As a marketer, I ignored my target profile, my notes from my initial meeting and my gut. Complete idiot. This business owner did not fit my profile at all.  He is a classic dabbler:  not interested in strategy, just marketing tactics.  His priority was getting an email blast out the door.  He was looking for a silver bullet and I took the bait.  I should have RUN.

Of course, the project (note to self – my business model is NOT to engage in projects, but to earn serving as the outsourced marketing department) had a tight timeframe and details were sketchy.  Again, RUN.  Just this once I will deviate from my core business strategy.  I was referred and I want to deliver.  I left the initial meeting with such clarity of how we could help his business have a clearer, stronger go-to-market plan.  So, I respond with “Sure, we can start with a project.”  In my mind I would still develop some of the core marketing foundational work that he really needed as part of the project and, of course, he will see the benefit.  In my mind, I will help him and it will be all ok.  Doh!  So not true.

To avoid reliving a nightmare of a project, this blog is focused on how you can learn from my stupidity.

Document your target audience.  Don’t skip this step.  This is NOT simply a title and industry.  Dig into the details of what are they like, what is important to you about this company and this individual. My ideal client is MARK.  Not because he is a man, but because he or she wants to make a Mark in this world – they are passionate about what they do and they invest in their business.  They are not dabblers.  They are not do-it-yourselfers.  They are smart, passionate, focused, driven and committed to growing their business.  To do so, they surround themselves with professionals to have the expertise and insight that they need and value.  They are optimists (working with pessimists is a drag for me). They know what they don’t know and they are not nickel and dimers.  I am their partner, not a vendor. They get ‘it’ and they appreciate accountability, hard work, insight and they value results.  They value having a plan to stay on course, but are open to evaluating what is working and what is not.

Once you have this type of target profile clearly defined, convert it into questions to evaluate prospective clients!  Once you have the profile and the associated questions to evaluate prospects, use it.  Be consistent.  I ignored my notes.  Not because I wanted to work with the business owner and his business, but because I wanted to deliver on the referral.  Stupid.

Then leverage your written target profile to help you and others in your company consistently and clearly evaluate prospective business.  Not all business is good business.  Not all revenue is worth it.  Not only will it help you RUN AWAY from potential clients that are not a good fit, it will help you scale your business to have more business development folks evaluating potential business in the same way. Make it part of your sales process.

If you don’t have a target profile developed, get this done.  In the meantime go with your gut.  I know a great marketing company that can help you grow…but you’ll have to fit the ideal target profile!

 

Size matters – how customer service unravels

December 15, 2012

In your small business, who manages customer service?  If you are a small business owner, maybe you do.  It is truly the buck stops with you.  As you grow, how do you continue to manage and have a pulse on customer service?  Many large companies seem to completely lose any sense of how to deliver quality customer service.  They are lousy.  The poster child of lousy service is cable.  Until Verizon Fios came into the area, cable was essentially a monopoly.  So, I stuck it out with Comcast.  This week, they proved again that changing their trucks to deemphasize the Comcast brand and to lead with XFinity does not change the fundamental issues this large corporation has with service.  Paint the trucks with whatever name they like – who cares?

They do not have a handle on serving their customers.  Their services are ‘bundled’ but they can’t service you in a bundled way.  Is that logical?  You have to speak to different technicians when you have an issue even if your issue is with both high-speed internet and TV.  The automated phone system does not allow you to choose both – really?  Does that make sense from a customer point of view?  How hard would it be to tell there is an outage in an area by address/location in this world of GPS and Google Maps?  If multiple people with similar street addresses have called over a short period of time to report problems, shouldn’t Comcast be able to figure that out?  They can’t.

So, what does that mean for SMBs?  Most of us are committed to high quality service and to growth.  How do you scale your business AND keep the sense of focus and commitment on serving your customers?  What is it that makes large companies be so stupid in how they operate?  One aspect is organizational structure works against quality customer service.

When your customer have a question or an issue, are they faced with your organizational hierarchies?  Are they handed off to another person?  Do you make it easy for them to know who to speak to?

We all seek to grow.  Growth is good.  Usually.  Thinking small, maintaining a customer perspective is key.  I don’t miss corporate America at all.  I just wish I had a small local cable company to work with to avoid having to deal with Comcast.  As you grow, don’t lose sight of the customer.