Posts Tagged ‘sales’

How Training for a Half Marathon is Like Committing to Incorporating Marketing Into Your Business

October 25, 2016

13 weeks. One quarter. A lot can happen in that timeframe. This blog tracks what can be accomplished in 13 weeks with parallels between training for a half marathon and incorporating marketing as an ongoing, integral part of growing your business.

Half-Marathon View:  13 weeks ago I committed to training for my first half-marathon. I hadn’t been running much during the summer – maybe 3 or 4 miles every once in a while. I was working out regularly so I was fit, but not running fit. In late July, I worked out with a friend who inspired me to go for it. She encouraged me that I could train and run 13.1 miles. The farthest I have ever run in a race is the Falmouth Road Race – a 7 miler. This was (in my mind) doubling the distance – I know math, but seriously. I don’t buy the thinking that if you can run 7 you can run 13. I know if I can run 7 miles,  I can run … 7!

I printed out a training schedule and I had just enough time for what they recommended – 13 weeks.

The 13 Week Plan

My 13 Week Training Plan

However, that assumed you had a base of 8 miles per week. I didn’t. I had to build it so I ignored that minor detail of having a base and started ticking off the plan, day by day, week by week.

 

Business View: Set a goal for the next 13 weeks. It may seem daunting, but you can do it if you put your mind to it. What’s the goal? For this blog, the goal is you are going to (finally!) incorporate marketing into the ongoing fabric of your business. Stop dabbling with unfocused random marketing tactics. (The equivalent of running a few miles here and there) Stop putting off investing in your business and convincing yourself you will do this next year, when you have more sales, when there aren’t so many other demands on your time. You know that will never happen. You too are starting with no base as your company has not been investing in marketing (really) so off you go! Commit to the goal and get started!

Half Marathon View: Training – the first few weeks. I was not used to running so my week did not have that time baked into my calendar. I had my weeks planned with work, personal commitments, and my gym workouts. There was little ‘free’ time that I was looking to fill. Now I needed to make time for adding more exercise and specifically incorporating running into my days. Every week I mapped out which days in the week I would run and planned the longer distance run to be done over the weekend.

Business View: Training – the first few weeks. Marketing is not on your calendar either. You are the CEO – you wear many hats. You aren’t looking to add more things to your calendar. You are busy. Your days are also booked solid running a business. Where is finding the right marketing partner going to fit in? Just like running, you book time in your calendar and you make the time to evaluate your options. You wisely realize you don’t need full-time expertise so hiring makes no sense. You are looking for a marketing partner – one point of accountability that brings the team needed over time to scale as you need it. Work on the plan to identify partners to evaluate. Start building your base.

Half Marathon View: Summer vacation. I packed my sneakers and my running watch. There was no extra time in the training plan for a week off. As it was I was starting behind with no base. I could not afford to lose any time and risk injury by ramping up too quickly. I had to keep building endurance and getting the miles in. While going to the pool after a busy day of sight-seeing was really appealing, I laced up and went out for runs along the San Diego coast.

Business View: Summer vacation. Maybe I can skip a week and play golf, lay in the sun and get away. I have survived this long without focused, consistent marketing integrated into my business. Business is a bit slower this time of year anyway. After all, it is summer, I can let this slide a bit and skip a week right? OK, I know, Labor Day is around the corner and we need to get going now to build the fundamental marketing foundation we will need for a strong final quarter of the year and a strong next year strong. I will not take time off – I will work on evaluating potential marketing partners to help me get a marketing strategy and plan in place. I build a short list and keep working on it.

Half Marathon View: Building Weekly Miles and running distances I have never run. The plan is becoming a bit daunting. The mileage for this week includes a 10 mile run. I have never run 10 miles at once in my life. I am psyched out. What if my plantar fasciitis starts acting up? What if I can’t do the miles? What if it is hot on Saturday and I run out of steam? Out the door I go to run 10 miles. I am wiped out when I finish the run, but have achieved an important milestone. I have run double-digit miles!

Business View: Your trusted advisors are turning up the heat – have you selected a marketing partner? You are down to five weeks to present a clear, actionable marketing plan for the rest of the year and for 2017.  Pressure is mounting and time is running tight. There is no room for not completing your ‘homework’ required as key input into the marketing strategy. Where are the 3 top initiatives and supporting goals and milestones due this week? You select your marketing partner. You commit to investing in marketing to help strengthen your team to drive future growth. A milestone is achieved! You are relieved and encouraged.

Half Marathon View: Final weeks. Building confidence. Visualizing achievement. Going from 10 miles to running 11 multiple times to running 12 miles. Focused. Committed. Slightly nervous, but prepared. Eat well. Get sleep. Don’t get sick.

Business View:  Final weeks. Feeling prepared for the upcoming meeting with the board. The bulk of the hard, strategic thinking is done and now it’s fine-tuning with your trusted marketing partner. You are seeing the benefits of securing a team bringing their proven marketing expertise to the table. You’re excited about the potential for the business now that a solid marketing team and plan is in place. You feel confident in the health of the company and the solid footing it is now on. The time and investment will pay off. You can start to sense it as can the other members of your team.

Half Marathon View: It’s Game Day. It’s windy. It’s cool. No chance of rain. My play list is ready. I have my chews to take every 3-4 miles for energy. I am ready. My only concern is the wind and not being too cold or hot. My #9 hat for Ted Williams (my Dad’s favorite player) is well-worn, but it is my running hat. I have affixed 3 things to the hat that mean a lot to me: an American flag pin, a pink ribbon for breast cancer and a dark blue ribbon for colon cancer. I wear a bracelet for Alzheimer’s.

My Running Hat

My Running Hat

 

I change my outfit twice. My friends convince me to start the run wearing gloves. I have trained for 13 weeks. Off I go! I complete my first half marathon by sprinting to the finish with a big smile on my face. Mission accomplished. I never walked. I did it. Wahoo!

Business View: Game Day. You are ready for the board meeting. Your marketing partner is well-prepared, confident and poised. The planning and thinking and strategizing over the past 13 weeks has come together. Initial marketing plans have been implemented to build momentum and are showing results. The company is stronger and your management team is stronger. The past 13 weeks has made a difference in your business. You set a goal, you built a marketing base (foundation) and you and your marketing partner crushed the meeting with the board. You executed on the initial plan and now you have the expertise and strength to rely on to build and grow your business with your ongoing marketing partner. Wahoo!

Mary Honan, For Marketing Matters

Mission Accomplished

Choose your words carefully

May 27, 2016

chess move strategy

One of my favorite parts of marketing is developing the brand through the careful selection of words.  I am a nerd. I readily admit that and am totally comfortable with that label.

This past month has been great spending strategic time on words. We made considerable progress for one of our clients in further development of the company’s messaging, positioning and terminology. In the past month we announced a new product and all the various efforts of preparing for that launch led to pages of notes, questions, and points of clarification. Additionally, and true for any small, rapidly growing company, the message naturally evolves over time. Two of us on the For Marketing Matters team led the charge to document standards to solidify and clarify positioning, messaging and word choice. Over the course of two meetings with the CEO we honed in on specific word selection to discuss, confirm and document standards including examples and explanations for the word selection. This document is a tremendous resource for our marketing team, but also for the company as a whole. The sessions with the CEO resulted in further clarity and alignment to the point the CEO requested the asset be included in the board package for this week’s meeting.

Why words matter (and how you could benefit from this same effort):

  1. Alignment.  How aligned is your team? For this client, the management team is geographically dispersed across the globe working at a rapid pace. This poses a real challenge for broader, strategic discussions to occur across the management team on a regular basis. We literally kept a running list of inconsistencies and questions to bring the challenge to light while developing press releases, sales tool kit materials, web content, technical specifications and sales presentations. As engineering was finalizing the product, operations was selecting final exterior finishes and sales was building the pipeline and the risks of mixed messages was high. Everyone had the right intent, but it felt like herding cats.
  2. Ownership. Words should not be casually selected with little to no grasp of the implication it can have. Example.  I was on a call reviewing a PowerPoint presentation and an idea was casually raised wondering if we should edit a bullet n the PowerPoint to describe the product as a “smart device”. I literally almost dropped the phone. Huh? This is not a casual edit to then move onto the next bullet. This type of descriptor needs to be thought through in terms of the implications to the product positioning and to the market and target buyers. If you are a CEO, ownership of messaging and the resulting choice of words needs to be made clear – this is not to be casually edited by anyone in the organization to decide they want to jump on the bandwagon of ‘smart devices’ or ‘Made in the USA’.
  3. Clarity. Literally don’t leave it up to chance. Don’t assume other employees are on the same page. Get it in writing and then distribute it – especially valuable if key personnel are geographically dispersed and don’t have the benefit of being in the same office, picking up important tidbits throughout the day.
  4. Scale. Just like the old telephone game played at many a sleepover as a kid, the message gets distorted with every person added to the chain. If scaling your organization is a priority to achieve your growth goals, don’t ignore the critical role that words have in enabling your company to scale. Capture the words you want employees to use; capture the words you want customers/clients/prospects to hear and understand. Use this asset as part of your on boarding plan.

focus definition in dictionary

 

Some tips to help you build, expand and manage this asset:

Ground rules:

First, it is important to recognize and embrace that this asset is never done.  It is a working document and marketing should own it. If you don’t have senior marketing expertise on your team, you need to. They don’t need to be fulltime, but you still need the expertise.

Second, this is not distributed for review and comment!  The danger of everyone in the company feeling they have a voice in weighing in on word choice is not realistic nor recommended. Marketing owns messaging. Marketing is not part of everyone’s job description. Working closely with the CEO is critical, but the reality is that others in the organization are most likely not well-suited for the nuances of word choice and let’s face it we all have our view of the world (remember those old posters where Boston would dominate the Globe, or New York etc.?)

What to include in establishing messaging, positioning and terminology standards:

Messaging – should include company-level and product level. Include the elevator pitch.

Terminology – document the terminology that is critical to your value proposition. Use examples of how the terms are to be used and what terms should never be used.  Example – for this client, the product is NEVER referenced as a ‘device’.  If this makes your head hurt, secure the right expertise to facilitate this investment – it will deliver a ROI if implemented correctly across the organization. No doubt.

Trademarks and registered trademarks – from a branding perspective, develop standards of how TM and R will be used. Again, consistency and clarity builds the brand. Don’t leave this to others in the organization to know how to handle. Document it and distribute across the organization.

Let’s face it most small, entrepreneurial companies don’t have a lot of overhead. They are nimble organizations. Many have not secured an outsourced marketing department like For Marketing Matters to develop and manage such assets to enable scaling of the brand and the organization. The reality is we can’t review every manual, document, proposal, client report that goes out the door for this client. We can build standards and manage the brand as part of the team and ultimately serve as the internal police to protect the brand.

So what words matter for your company?

As CEO, do you cringe when a team member uses a certain word that you never want used? Do you have a visceral reaction when a client is referred to as a customer or serving a customer is described as ‘dealing with the customer’? If your word choice is not clear internally, how can you possibly be well-understood by the market?

Watch this great Inc. video of how Dermalogica focused on words to build their brand.

The nerd in me celebrates the progress made in establishing standards in terminology this past month.  It feels great and paves the way for scale, efficiency, clarity and consistency.  The ROI is unquestionable.

 

 

 

Are you on target?

February 6, 2016

Target-Audience

Know your audience.  Marketing 101 stuff, right?

So, when was the last time you reviewed your documented ideal target audience? If your answer is vague and reminds you of how you answer the dental hygienist when asked about flossing, it’s time to review it.

Why should you bother?

  1. Are you hiring this year? If so, a current ideal target audience will help shorten a new sales person’s learning curve. Time is money.
  2. Are you evaluating events to speak at or attend? Your marketing team will be more effective in evaluating the right events to prioritize where the investment is spent if they can efficiently evaluate the event attendees against your ideal target audience.
  3. Messaging. Basic, I know, but really important to make sure your marketing message is revised and refined to speak to the ideal target audience.
  4. Media. Is PR part of your marketing strategy for awareness and credibility? If so, a documented target audience will help your marketing team or your PR agency fine-tune their media list and prioritize the media to target for coverage.
  5. Social media. Directly linked to messaging, but too many companies waste time with an unfocused social media effort. Groups (e.g., LinkedIn)can be a very effective way to dramatically increase awareness and credibility but you need to know who you want to reach for the social media specialists to develop the right content, hash tags and engage with the right groups to attain ROI.
  6. Alignment. This probably should be #1 on the list as having an ideal target audience in someone’s head does not scale. At a minimum sales and marketing (hopefully not the same group nor the same people!) work together to develop the ideal target audience and then revisit and refine with feedback from sales on a periodic basis.

This week we worked with one client to updated their ideal target audience. It had been a year.  It was great to see the progress in how much more we (marketing and sales) know about our ideal target audience in 12 months! The clarity of the refined target audience is already making an impact as we just today passed on an event given the target audience was not aligned with our priorities (time and money savings).  With new sales folks joining the company, this is a great way to help them prioritize their contacts in their iPhones/Rolodexes to help them get started with a targeted sales plan for their territory.

If you have never documented your ideal customer/client, do that first.  In no particular order, write down everything that makes your ideal client ideal. Then convert that list of characteristics (include key parameters including but not limited to geography (if relevant), industry, company type, size, attitude/outlook, needs, title/role) into your first documented ideal target audience. At least annually, review it. I bet you will be amazed at what you learn and how it helps you and your business.  After all, having an ideal target audience is fundamental to building a business on a solid marketing foundation.

 

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!

 

Hey marketers! Stay in the race to prioritize the leads you are generating!

September 26, 2014

The hand-off in a relay is a critical point in the race.  Valuable time can be lost if the baton hand-off is not precise or even worse, the race can be lost if the baton is dropped.

Baton handoff

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The hand-off of leads from marketing to sales is like the relay race hand-off.  Not only can time be lost, but revenue can be lost.

Ways marketing can help with the hand-off of leads to help sales and sales management (while also helping marketing in its efforts):

1.   Gather information to help qualify the lead.  For example, with a web form, design the submittal form to gather important information that will help ‘qualify’ the lead.  Work with sales to identify desired fields and then balance what is reasonable to ask while keeping the form short.  Example:  For a B to B client, we designed the web form to enable the individual to indicate if budget is approved, timeframe a decision will be made (having pre-defined timeframes set) and enabling files to be attached to the lead to provide further specifications.  Forms can be designed to test layout and number of fields required and option to determine what will work best for your industry.

Know your audience (marketing 101) – give your prospect flexibility; while for one client we would like to gather phone and email, the reality is our target audience is more likely to prefer email over phone.  Knowing that, we do not require a phone number at the risk of receiving no leads vs. leads with less information than is ideal.

Benefit to sales: marketing is handing off leads that have quality indicators that assist them in further qualifying the lead:  budget approved (yes or no), timeframe of need, specification files attached.  Level of detail in the form submitted assist sales in acting on this lead quickly with a focused list of questions.

2. Too many batons…Any other marketers out there frustrated that leads generated are not being followed up on?  Uggh!

Years ago when initially getting started with a particular client, the client acknowledged they lacked leads.  There was NO inbound activity.  The company was solely reliant on its existing customer base with little to no new business being generated.  The sales function was largely an order taking function.  Fast forward, we get the marketing foundation in place, start executing an integrated marketing plan and the tables turn.  Leads are coming in the door and guess what?  Sales is now having a tough time prioritizing and keeping up!  Now leads are not being followed up on and sales is complaining that the volume of inbound leads is too much.

How can marketing help with this challenge?  Stay in the race after handing off the baton.  What I mean by this is, marketing run alongside sales as they work the leads to learn more about what is happening to the leads.  Gather the facts (not hearsay) as to how leads are being assigned, what leads are not good and why, and help contribute to solutions vs. walking away and categorizing the issue as a sales problem.  Gathering facts will help you determine if there is an opportunity to refine the lead generation activities and reduce overall volume while maintaining or improving overall quality.  Running alongside sales will also shed insight into raising the important issue of leads not being worked at all.  As part of the relay team, do your leg of the race well and then support your team members in getting to the finish line strong.

3. Offer insight into Prioritizing Leads

Not all leads are created equal.

Many would argue that prioritizing leads is squarely in the court of sales management and not marketing.  I would agree, except For Marketing Matters’ clients are small and mid-sized businesses.  Organizational structure and responsibilities are not always as defined as we have seen in our corporate experiences.  So while staying in our lane, marketers can provide great insight into working with sales to help prioritize leads.  Specifically, marketing as keeper of the brand has developed the ideal target profile, is aware of and well-versed in entry-level products/services and those that help build a loyal and committed customer.  Marketing offers great insight into what should affect prioritizing a lead.

If there are not parameters in place for prioritizing leads and you as the marketing team are generating leads, develop a straw man to work with sales management to finalize and agree to.  If sales is not working all leads or loses sight of past leads that were important, but are no longer on the radar screen, get a simple yet clear prioritization process in place.  This helps get some leads to  “NO” quicker and helps sales and sales management clearly understand what leads deserve attention and what ones take a backseat.  Not all leads are created equal.  Don’t allocate time equally across leads.

How to get started:  Use a simple prioritization indicator such as A, B, C, D or use 4 star, 3 start, 2 star and 1 star or 1,2,3 or 4.

If prioritizing is an issue and sales is losing sight of where to spend their time, marketing can get this prioritization underway, agreed to and incorporated into pipeline reporting.  This helps marketing show the quality of leads that they are generating and it helps sales learn how to allocate their time and sales management can mange the pipeline and coach to this prioritization.  With an agreed to prioritization, you can also address head with facts the quality of the leads being generated by marketing and by sales as all leads should be prioritized in the same manner no matter the source.

 

The revenue generating engine in any company includes marketing and sales.  Instead of throwing leads over the fence, handoff the leads and then stay in the race to monitor, learn, and refine.  Marketers should be an active participant in generating revenue.  Then when the baton comes back to marketing for lead generation, you are in better shape to run your leg well and greatly contribute to overall success.

This is not a good sign

March 23, 2014
The importance of alignment

The importance of alignment

Is this an accurate image of how your marketing and sales groups operate? Each headed in their own direction? If so, you as the CEO have a fundamental problem and it is not just an internal issue.

Alignment is required. I use this term “alignment” consistently when working with my clients. For all of my clients a marketing plan is in place. As we make measurable progress building awareness and generating leads, the client conversation naturally leads to the importance of alignment with sales. What specifically do I mean by alignment? Visually it would mean moving the sales sign in the above image so it is right under marketing and headed in the same direction. The direction is defined by the company strategy and priorities.

1. Why under marketing? Simply, marketing builds the top of the funnel through its efforts focused on building the brand awareness, generating leads for sales to then nurture and close. Sales leverages the marketing message to retain clients, expand business and handle leads from marketing to convert to clients.
2. Why in the same direction? Honestly, this seems like it should be obvious. Do you want marketing focused on acquiring new clients through lead generation efforts yet sales is only focused on expanding existing clients so there is no appetite or bandwidth to work the leads that marketing is bringing in? The two groups need to be aligned to the priorities of your company. I have clients that struggle with the ‘alignment’ word. Some clients prefer ‘partnership’, but to have a partnership you first need to be aligned.

Alignment is key. Alignment between marketing and sales MUST include the following:
Strategy. Make sure you have alignment at the strategic level. In other words, if your growth strategy for 2014 is based on acquiring new clients while retaining existing and expanding within existing, there is a direct implication to the role that marketing will play to reach BOTH existing clients and new and that naturally affects the sales organization and how it develops its sales plan for the year.
Goals. The goals for both marketing and sales need to support the strategy. These should be measurable and tracked consistently for both groups.
Incentives. Many companies only have a sales incentive plan. Why don’t you have an upside for marketing that is ‘aligned’ with the behavior you need that is also then aligned with sales? Make sure you are not equating aligned with the incentives being the same! Marketing should have incentives tied to the top of the funnel while sales should have incentives tied to the middle and bottom of the funnel.
Priorities. As CEO are you confident that the quarterly and monthly priorities within marketing and sales are in alignment? Are they pulling in the same direction or working against themselves?

The reality is that all your functions need to be aligned, working like a well-oiled machine. I am focused on marketing and sales because there is SO MUCH opportunity for companies to grow by getting these signs aligned and headed in the same direction. The upside is HUGE.

How will you as a CEO or President get the signs headed in the same direction starting in Q2?</strong>

At the risk of thinking about this as an organizational exercise, keep in mind the real negative impact of having these two groups not in sync is felt by your clients and prospects. They are the ones getting mixed messages. That should be enough reason to work on this intersection and make it a priority.

Do you have stuffed olives?

January 16, 2014

Image

As you kick off the year and focus on having a great 2014, take a step back and ask yourself – What can I do to better serve my customers? 

The best way to answer this question is really quite basic. Put a feedback loop in place.  Make sure you have a communications process in place to ask your sales people, your waiters and waitresses, your customer service people, your delivery people – anyone who has interactions with prospects or customers:  What do they ask for that we are not providing?

So what do stuffed olives have to do with this blog? 

I can’t take the marketer out of me. I can’t put my customer-centric mindset aside – whether it’s watching TV and analyzing the commercials, driving by a commercial vehicle on the highway and noting the poor branding or unreadable graphics, or going out to dinner with my family. I see opportunities. I see simple ways to improve customer service, simple ways to improve one’s message, be consistent with imagery and ways to “wow” the customer. The example to highlight my point is stuffed olives.

When we go out to dinner, I know what the request will be of the bartender or waiter/waitress before we leave our home. My husband will ask – “do you have stuffed olives?”  as he orders his martini. The best and hoped-for answer is – “of course” and then indicate they stuff them with fresh bleu cheese. Nice! The evening is off to a good start. The most common answer, however, is an immediate, no hesitation “No”. The missed opportunity is that 90% of the places have olives and they have bleu cheese. The sad part is no consideration, no offer to take the pimento out and put some bleu cheese in for voila, a stuffed olive!  They simply and quickly say ‘no’ and move on to taking the drink order. Lesson #1 – clue your employees into the simple missed opportunity; the opportunity to say yes and make it happen without a lot of effort or negative impact on margins. Pretty simple stuff.

Lesson #2 – As the owner, President or CEO, are you even aware of what your customers or prospects are asking for and getting the answer of ‘no’?  This is the part of the dinner where I get on my soap box – I comment to my kids and husband that I bet them that no one ever shares with the manager or the owner that people are even asking for stuffed olives. The feedback loop is likely nonexistent. Do you have an easy way to gather more info so you are in the know and can make an informed business decision about whether you will choose to offer your business equivalent of the ‘stuffed olive’ example? Suggestion: put a feedback loop in place for 2014! In this example, a waiter or bartender could simply leave a note or post an email every day of requests they receive that aren’t met. For other organizations, a sales person could share in a weekly call or put in their call report. Customer service could have a simple email that they capture the patterns of one or many. The point of lesson #2 is this feedback loop does not have to be complex or process-heavy. Make it happen – I bet you you’ll identify something that you can do in Q1 of 2014 to improve how you are serving your target audience.

This overused acronym does apply here (sorry)  K.I.S.S. – Keep it simple stupid. Put in some consistent process that enables you to have a better handle on what your customers are looking for and then deliver it. Don’t treat this as a New Rear’s Resolution as if you do, like most resolutions, it will not last until Valentine’s Day. Just do it consistently and let your team know it is not a fad, but a smart way of doing business. Listen. Don’t say no – work on saying yes more.

Go find out what the equivalent of having stuffed olives is for your business. It may surprise you and help 2014 results. Cheers!

College Visit – A Marketer’s Perspective

July 12, 2013
The first impression

The first impression

Last week we combined a family trip to DC to start looking at colleges as my son will be a junior in high school.  Despite being on vacation – having the out of office email messages set and clients informed that I was away – I could not refrain from wearing my marketer’s hat while in the information sessions and touring each campus.

Colleges are in a very competitive market.  Students have so many choices of where to apply and the common application has made the process easier to cast a wider net than when I was applying to college.  Colleges need to have a clear value proposition, understand their target audience, present their brand clearly to parents and students – it is a classic marketing opportunity to do it really well or to miss the mark and lose the prospect. 

We sat in 4 information sessions and took 4 campus tours in the course of two steamy days in Washington DC.  Data points from the marketer:

– Two admissions offices had snacks and bottled water readily available along with umbrellas- a nice touch and nice attention to detail given the heat.

– 3 out of 4 used video and PowerPoints for their information session – they were professional, presented their value proposition and their points of differentiation well.  I was amazed that one school’s information session was in a large room with no visual aids – it was the worst information session and was especially boring.

– Facts:  it is great to share statistics.  What was noticeable, however, was inconsistent numbers!  The presenter in the info session would share one stat and the tour guide’s numbers were slightly different.  When my 11 year old picks up on how the numbers did not match, it is time for the message to be revisited and the numbers to be consistent!  The inconsistency plants seeds of doubt.  Get the message straight and then ensure all ‘touch points’ are on message. 

– only 1 tour went by the school book store!  Wow!  What is the best indicator of if a prospect is interested in your school?  They buy a t-shirt or sweatshirt after the tour.  Kudos to Georgetown University for designing and orchestrating a tour that ended at the bookstore.  We left with a bag full of Georgetown stuff.

– You have one chance for a first impression.  Tour guides can make or break a college visit.  We can all learn from carefully evaluating, screening and training team members to ensure they represent the brand.  One of our tour guides was so incredibly nervous, it was painful to listen to him after a while and watch him twitch and shift his weight and fumble over his words.  I had to tune him out and my son’s comment as we exited the tour at our first chance was that he ‘was annoying’.

 – Personal follow-up!  This is sales 101 basics – sell the school to the parents and the prospective student!  One student tour guide wrote and mailed and personal thank you to my son that arrived shortly after we returned from our trip.  Kudos to Catholic University for a well-planned tour, impressive tour guide, and great follow-up.  We knew nothing about this school, and all 4 of us were very impressed after our visit. 

Marketing a college successfully demands a solid marketing foundation – knowing the competition, knowing the target audience, presenting the message clearly, concisely and consistently and continuing to follow up with prospects to inform and nurture the relationship.  Finally – none of the tours asked for feedback from the parents or the participants! What a missed opportunity.

For these schools’ marketing department, there are more lessons to be learned.

Getting ‘it’

May 7, 2013

Marketing is as effective as sales.  Sales is as effective as customer service.  Customer service is as effective as operations.  Bottom line – it takes coordination, integration and a lot of work to build a brand and execute on the brand promise.  Your efforts are always dependent on someone else doing their part.  There also seems to be a ‘special sauce’ – people who get ‘it’.

I often speak to my clients about their employees who ‘get it’; sometimes training can help; other times it is that innate, natural ability to do the right thing – no need to have a written process, procedure, manual or training session.

I love meeting people who get ‘it’.  I love experiencing people who get ‘it’.  It is refreshing, it is encouraging, it is exhilarating!

Big kudos to DiMillo’s restaurant in Portland Maine.  They get “it” – beautiful views from their unique floating restaurant in lovely Casco Bay, great food (best lobster roll I have ever had – little to no mayo – what restaurant puts the number of calories on the menu for the lobster roll?  Never seen it anywhere else but DiMillo’s can because it is chock full of lobsta – as we Mainers say it!), free parking to all patrons who get their parking ticket stamped – nice touch, and friendly staff.  They have the whole package and that comes from leadership and from people who get ‘it’.  Steve DiMillo could have done what many restaurants do when they don’t get ‘it’ – they offer a free dessert to the person celebrating a birthday.  Nope – not the case.  My mom’s birthday lunch (a lobster roll – not that it matters but people who don’t get ‘it’ may have chosen not to based on the meal ordered) was on the house after he stopped by our table to chat, learned it was my mother’s birthday and graciously engaged us in conversation for several minutes.  When the waitress later brought the bill by, she wished my mom Happy Birthday and shared that the lunch was on the house.  Nice touch.  Nice gesture.  Will I forget it?  No way.  Thanks Steve.  You made a special birthday lunch for my Mom even more enjoyable for me the marketer.  I work with my clients on all aspects of the customer experience and raising the bar, doing the right thing, going above and beyond and you epitomized what can be an elusive goal for many.

When you get ‘it’, you do the right thing.  When you get ‘it’, you experience your business as the customer, not as the owner or head of customer service or sales or marketing.  When you get ‘it’, you think long-term and you perform random acts of kindness to surprise your customers, to wow them, to be nice and to treat others as you would want to be treated.

‘It’ is powerful stuff.  I love ‘it’.