Thursday, December 29, 2011

End of Year Musings: Outputs or Outcomes?

What kind of outcomes did you generate this past year?

To me, it's a red flag when a marketing consultant, department or any marketing/PR professional stresses "outputs" of their service offerings - meaning the volume of programs they help generate (number of press releases, amount of creative materials designed, volume of marketing plans delivered, volume of outbound direct marketing programs executed, number of web sites launched, number of tradeshows managed, etc.)  

While marketing output serves as a way to measure activity, it is usually a poor measure of performance. 

Outputs represent the programs or services produced and not the results generated from those outputs. 

In marketing and PR, one gains insight when seeing how folks might describe themselves. The following types of output-based statements serve as an example: 

  • A PR specialist positions her performance by the number of press releases she writes,or amount of speaking engagements secured.
  • A web developer describes his performance by the number of websites launched over a certain time period.
  • A marketing consultant stresses a laundry list of service offerings such as volume of plans delivered, number of social media programs managed, number of campaigns launched.

What's the Result?
What is far more important is to consider the outcome – the impact or results from those outputs.

  • A PR specialists might stress  performance over the past year by how press activities increased media placements, increased web traffic, or changed attitudes of audiences. Outcomes from speaker placements might include closed sales or more qualified lead generation. 
  • A web developer demonstrates how launched websites improved key metrics like time on site, reduced bounce rates, or increased page views. 
  • A marketing consultant's services quantify the metrics showing increased direct marketing open rates, engagement via social channels, expanded business development, increased quality of the pipeline, and ultimately increased sales. 

In Relation to Grant Writing
This perspective is familiar to me from the years writing and obtaining grants for various clients.   

Output vs. Outcome positioning is quite common in the grant writing projects I’ve done for business clients and non-profits.  This focus is paramount because grant making organizations don't evaluate a grant application based on outputs.

Organizations award grant money for programs most likely to produce measurable outcomes.  They must be sure that grant dollars result in true effectiveness in terms of outcomes, or results. 

Considering Content
The "output vs. outcome" topic is also critical for anybody in content marketing.  
It's a challenge to create marketing collateral that stresses how a product or service results in positive outcomes.  

Take a look at a company's b-to-b marketing content (such as advertising copy, case studies, web copy, eNewsletters, direct marketing).  Very often the content stresses outputs (number of people served; number of years in business; laundry list of product features), but that's not the value proposition that motivates the prospect.  

A prospect  evaluates a product or service based on what it can do for them, or what result can be achieved.  

A previous post refers to this marketing content as "we we" text... To paraphrase that previous post, marketing content must stress the outcome or value provided. 

A Bias for Outcomes
When it comes to marketing, let’s not focus the New Year on outputs or deliverables.

My hope is that 2012 be the year of "outcomes" or the results and value our outputs truly achieve. 

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Here Comes 2012: Survey Reveals Top B-to-B Marketing Priorities

It’s that time of year for the pundits to weigh in on 2012 marketing programs, goals, and resolutions.

This makes for worthwhile reading.  In fact, the B2B Blog joined in the fray with “2011 marketing resolutions” posted about a year ago.  (Look for a follow up “year in review” post in early 2012.)

Revealing Findings

The topic this time, though, is insight gained from a recent StrongMail survey.

Last month, StrongMail posted the results of its 2012 Marketing Trends Survey [PDF] -- revealing how businesses plan to spend their marketing dollars in the upcoming year.

The timely survey of 939 b-to-b marketing professionals showcases planned marketing budgets, priorities & challenges for 2012. Key findings include:

  • 60 percent of respondents will raise email-marketing budgets
  • 54 percent will invest more in social media
  • 37 percent will increase mobile and search budgets 

The Power of Email Marketing

(One caveat:  it is worth noting that an email-marketing vendor sponsored the survey.) 

That said, continued investment in b-to-b email marketing is no surprise.  Print direct mail programs are expensive and results are hard to measure, so of course respondents are backing off print programs.  The companies surveyed are likely already doing some form of email marketing, and it is always easier to continue an on-going program than to launch a completely new effort. Email marketing is easy to understand, and can be implemented with a wealth of affordable tools. (MailChimp my current new favorite!)  

Ease of measurement is also likely a big factor here. Metrics like open rates, click through rates, and completed forms are fairly easy to assemble, and intuitive to understand.

What do marketers hope to achieve with email marketing in 2012? According to the survey, goals include:
  • 48 percent: increasing subscriber engagement
  • 44 percent: increasing segmentation and targeting
  • 32 percent: increasing email opt-ins (subscribers)

More Social Media

Email marketing is not the only game in town for 2012.

39 percent of respondents will strengthen their Facebook campaigns, 25 percent will focus on social media management technology, and 24 percent will increase Twitter activity.  I don’t see any mention of LinkedIn on this survey, which is surprising.

Integration will be a key factor in 2012. An impressive 68 percent of respondents look to further integrate their social media marketing directly into their email programs.

Not so Mobile?
It was a surprise to read that only 29 percent of those surveyed plan to move to investing in mobile applications, especially considering the increased use of mobile data access.  But again, this is a survey sponsored by an email-marketing vendor, so this is just one data point.
The 2012 Bottom Line
The take-away here is that 92 percent of businesses surveyed plan to increase or maintain their marketing spend in 2012.
Let’s wish them a fast ROMI, meaningful metrics, and business development success!  Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Whither the Press Release?

There’s an interesting discussion this week via the Forbes website about the role social media plays when considering the tried and true press release. It’s a topic a few clients have recently discussed, as well.

The post is a worthwhile look into the future of the traditional press release, and whether social media channels play a role in the distribution of such content.

A Communications Convention
It’s clear that the press release still plays a crucial role in business-to-business communications and PR.

When issued consistently with a regular cadence, the “lowly” press release is a conventional communications vehicle that serves as the foundation for expanding awareness, engaging relevant media and fueling public relations.   It helps with credibility, SEO and signals a company’s current business activity.

A press release powers other efforts (media placements, reporter contact, web content, blogging, marketing content development, etc.) and has a place in any b-to-b marketing program.

100+ Years and Counting
It’s interesting to note that the first press release was created in 1906, and stayed about the same until the 1990’s when newswire services began to appear. 

Now, PR pros select from a myriad of distribution channels and online news aggregators (PitchEngine for example), many covered here in this blog such as the “one sentence press release” from  (and yet another recent discovery called “WireTiger”)

An Erroneous Assumption
What bugs me about the headline of the Forbes post, though, is the underlying assumption that social media is another “broadcasting” channel to distribute press releases.

Of course press releases are an important tool for a client to shape the news and create awareness.    It’s unfortunate that some PR folks use social media as a broadcasting tool for sending out press releases and recent client news, and that misses the mark. 

Instead of a “bullhorn”, social media is a powerful listening and engagement tool. 

Social media is all about relevance in message, and relevance in community.  Twitter and LinkedIn facilitate real-time interaction, not just a one-way information flow. 

PR guru David Merman Scott puts it this way in the Forbes article:
Press releases are not a good idea for social networks, the formality of a press release with headline, sub-headline and text is not the sort of formal communications that works well in social networks.  Don’t use a press release format, re-purpose that content into a more informal piece of content, from a blog post, which is what I recommend.”

2012 Predictions
The press release will live on in 2012 and beyond.  It will always play a pivotal role in business-to-business communications.

What should not live on, though, is the assumption that social media is another “distribution channel” for the press release.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

LinkedIn Reality Check: 5 Questions to Ask about Your LinkedIn Presence

Recently I’ve been discussing with one of my clients, a professional service provider, the value of LinkedIn.  He knows that LinkedIn can have a tremendous impact on his business development efforts.

After all, 125 million business users are active on LinkedIn.  A new member joins LinkedIn approximately every second.

Unlike other social marketing platforms this professional service provider might consider, it’s safe to say that the LinkedIn community is made up primarily of professionals, business-minded people, professional organizations and others interested in business-related networking.

He’s been up and running on LinkedIn for a few years, but it might be time for a LinkedIn Reality Check with 5 questions to ask about his LinkedIn presence.

1) What’s your goal?
As with any social media platform, this professional should consider his goals for establishing and maintaining a presence a LinkedIn.  Why bother setting a goal?  Because that way success of the program can be measured and optimized over time.

Typical goals a b-to-b company might establish for their LinkedIn program include:
  • Generate leads
  • Solicit interest in webinars or multi-media content
  • Expand awareness from interested prospects
  • Share product knowledge
  • Engage customers, facilitate customer feedback
  • Recruit talent
  • Increase traffic to company web site
Once a goal is established, set up a metrics program to measure effectiveness over time.

2) Are you doing all you can?
This professional should take a hard look at his company page – does it serve as a “magnet” that attracts relevant LinkedIn visitors?  Or does he just have a personal page and not a company page?  If so, it’s time to get on board with a company page.

Company Overview Page   - Think of the company overview page as a “reception area”.  Is it welcoming?  Is the page complete with keyword-rich descriptions, including the URL to your company website? Is the content concise so the keywords appear high up on the profile?  Do you use photos to humanize the page?

Careers Page  – If a goal is to recruit talent, is the careers page current and reflecting the most recent job openings?

Products/Services - this is a great page to solicit engagement, and expand upon service offerings.  Is it complete with multi-media content, and other useful links back to the company website?  Are relevant web pages highlighted that showcases products/services?

Be sure to solicit recommendations from fellow professionals. When LinkedIn members visit a Products & Services Tab, they see how many and which of their professional connections recommend your products and services.

3) How active are you?
Does the professional regularly post “Status Updates” and keep his profile current?  Are new products reflected on the products/services page? 

Does he join groups and associations and stay active in the discussion forums?

Are status updates providing value in the form of relevant, business-related communications to your followers?

Status updates should offer valuable information, link back to the company website, blog or other relevant online content. RSS feeds are a good option to automate this process.

Consider asking interactive questions or polls, and sharing content related folks have created that is relevant to your core followers and business.

Remember, don’t over use the Status Update feature – a few posts per week is optimal.

Note:  an active LinkedIn program should take only 10 or so minutes a day.  This blog post from SocialMediaToday shows in detail how to manage multiple social media programs in only 20 minutes a day.

4) Do You Measure & Monitor?
LinkedIn offers a robust analytics tab that is accessible only to the page administrator.  Reports show how company pages perform, the number of visits over time, and demographics of visitors.  Review reports a few times a week to note trends.  

Take the time to create a Google Analytics “content segment” on your website to track the behavior of visitors who find your website via LinkedIn.  For instance, one of the LinkedIn programs I manage pulls high conversions from those who visit the site via LinkedIn. When in Google Analytics, simply view Traffic Sources > Referring Sites > to monitor their behavior. Of all web visitors, it is the ones who visit from LinkedIn that are more likely to provide their contact information in exchange for a white paper or other piece of marketing collateral.

5) Do You Attract New Followers?
In LinkedIn, the larger the reach, the higher the chance you will meet the goals you set for your program.  Be sure to cast your net wide among relevant followers, to maximize your chance for success on LinkedIn.

Remember to include your LinkedIn URL on outbound emails, your business cards, your website, and in other printed materials.  Ask to connect with associates, customers, partners and others after meeting them at conferences.

Consistency is Key
As I’ve said to my client, LinkedIn needs tending and consistent effort.

One will be successful in attracting new followers over time, and meeting LinkedIn goals.

Learn More

The LinkedIn Resource Center offers tremendous resources, including this Company Page Guide (pdf).

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

What is a Realistic Optimist?


My Twitter bio includes the phrase “realistic optimist” and somebody recently asked me what that means.

I carefully included that descriptor when establishing my Twitter account.  Twitter bios are designed to be extremely short at 160 characters.  The two terms use up a precious 18 characters with space, so why include it?  And more importantly, what does it mean?

The term ‘realistic optimist” appears in my bio for both crass reasons, and more lofty, altruistic ones.

Crass Commercial Reasons:

The term ‘optimist” is a critical keyword. 

Twitter bios are searchable. That means folks use keywords when they seek other like-minded Tweeps to follow on Twitter. A bio is a form of SEO (search engine optimization) for connecting with fellow optimists via Twitter. 

Yes, pretty slick, eh? Crafting a Twitter bio to attract fellow optimists!  And you know, it works!  

Lofty, Altruistic Reasons

Nearly two decades ago, I read a seminal book about optimism by Martin Seligman entitled “Learned Optimism.” The practical strategies shared in that book have become a way of life for me.  I reread it annually. 

In a nutshell, Seligman’s scholarly work makes the case that optimism can be learned; and has everything to do with “explanatory style” and framing situations as a way to optimize energy and outcomes. 

Thus, including the term “realistic optimist” in my Twitter bio reflects the “true me” and patterns of thought I aim to cultivate.

So What Does It Mean?

Realistic optimists …believe they have to make success happen — through things like effort, careful planning, persistence, and choosing the right strategies. They recognize the need for giving serious thought to how they will deal with obstacles. This preparation only increases their confidence in their own ability to get things done.

I would modify that description as follows, weaving in key themes from Seligman’s research:

A realistic optimist cultivates an energy-affirming mindset, consistently seeking to frame obstacles as temporary setbacks, forging ahead by taking the best course of action one can at the time, as best as one realistically can. 

Well, that’s a tad wordy. Let's try this definition instead: 

A realistic optimist does the best one can, where one is, with what one has.

And that, dear reader, explains those two terms in my Twitter bio.  What’s your take on realistic optimism?  

And more importantly, what words do you use to describe yourself in your Twitter bio?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

LinkedIn 101: Three Tips to Get You Started

For such a Twitter fanatic, it’s interesting to consider that I’ve been active in LinkedIn longer than other social media platforms. 

But it has only been in the last few months that I’ve witnessed the awesome power one can garner from into this business-oriented social networking site.

LinkedIn Usage
A recent report by found that 93% of business-to-business marketers are engaged in social media marketing. Twenty-six percent of the survey’s respondents cited LinkedIn as their most important social channel  See research here.  

LinkedIn usage facts of note: 
                LinkedIn has more than 60 million members
                A new member joins LinkedIn approximately every second
                Executives from all Fortune 500 companies are LinkedIn members

Given this growing enthusiasm,  how does one get started with LinkedIn? Here are three easy steps to begin, and make the most out of LinkedIn.
1) Build a Profile with Punch.   Join LinkedIn for free and start with your professional profile.  Be as complete as you can with professional history, education, a professional headshot and references. Remember, for those in the LinkedIn community, or even those who are not in LinkedIn and view your public profile, the profile page is the main content they will see. Make it count with relevant URLs, keywords, and by all means, keep it current over time.

2) Build Your Network of Connections.  Reach out to past colleagues, clients, industry associates by searching for them under “people” in the search box.  Chances are, they already use LinkedIn.  Ask to “connect” with them to build a relevant LinkedIn network. Ask those who truly know you, your company and its products or services, to write recommendations for you. These references, once you approved them, will appear in your profile.  As you attend conferences, remember to ask for LinkedIn connections to keep building your network.
3) Tread Carefully with Status Updates. Actively updating your LinkedIn status signals that you stay current and active in your field.  Yet beware! Status updates should offer relevant, professional content or link to industry-related content. LinkedIn isn’t a personal blogging platform.  It is a professional social network. Appropriate updates might include links to your professional blog, your website, industry events, articles by other thought leaders in your industry. Remember, don’t post too often.  In my mind, it’s a big no-no to post every Tweet as a LinkedIn update.  Don’t do it!  Multiple Tweets posted throughout the day look like spam on a LinkedIn page.   You will quickly lose you favor with your connections when you clog up their status update page.  (This is a rant, but hear me out: Tweets belong on Twitter.  Professional updates belong on LinkedIn.) 

Ramp Up Existing Activity
Have you been a member of LinkedIn for a few years now?  Why not try the following in 2012?
  • Make time to join groups, follow companies of interest, post in discussion forums, and other activity.
  • Keep track of third-party applications to help monitor activity, create content, engage with relevant connections, and build your network., Slideshare, and TripIt are only a few to consider.
  • Monitor LinkedIn new features. As an example, LinkedIn Events now provides users with event recommendations of interest based on profile information such as location, industry, and those in a network.

Parting Thoughts
LinkedIn offers tremendous power to those in marketing, or any business. 
Ignore at your own peril!

Friday, November 11, 2011

3 Useful, Recently Discovered Twitter Tools

What a wonderful Twitter world it is!

It is a privilege to now manage Twitter accounts for three different business-to-business clients (one under the auspices of Markit Strategies & PR), as well as my own Twitter presence

As previous posts have described, I’ve found Twitter to be a powerful social media tool for businesses to engage, connect and relate to relevant communities.

Each Twitter program I manage has its own goal – but at the most fundamental, in each client’s case, Twitter serves as a “micro-blog” tool to do the following:
  • Connect with relevant communities
  • Follow other like-minded organizations or individuals
  • Actively engage, listen within those communities
  • Share information in ways that the client itself might not through its website or other more traditional channels

There’s An App for That
As the graphic to the left shows, there are numerous third-party application tools that help make Twitter more productive.

The graphic organizes the tools by their function such as applications that help with collaboration, measurement, content development and so on.

Three out of a Million
Incredibly, in the last few months, the amount of Twitter third party applications has reached over one million!  

These applications help with reporting, following, content scheduling and much more.

A New App Every 1.5 Seconds
According to a post on the topic, "Application developers play a fundamental role in helping people get the best out of Twitter," the blog post said. "A new app is registered every 1.5 seconds, fueling a spike in ecosystem growth in the areas of analytics, duration and publisher tools."
That means in the time it is taking me to write this blog, hundreds of new apps will be developed!

Three out of a Million

So before too many more Twitter productivity apps are invented, here are my current favorites, recently discovered applications:

How far did your tweet travel?  This free, easy tool lets you search for a URL, Twitter name, phrase or hashtag. TweetReach analyzes tweets that match your search. Easy to read reports display the reach and exposure data for those tweets.  As an example, in one week, 31 Tweets including the handle of one of the accounts I managed reached over 20,000 people.

No matter the size of an account's followers, every once in awhile, it’s good to clean one’s Twitter feed! TwitCleaner is free. It scans Twitter followers and lumps them into groups, suggesting the folks one might want to stop following.  The categories are interesting – for instance, see the “snobs” who hardly follow anyone back.  See other folks who don’t ever Tweet or interact with anyone else.  There’s even a group flagged as “Self Obsessed (talks about themselves 50% of the time) and others who post nothing but links. By seeing these “undesirables” one can cull followers for a more fruitful Tweet experience.

Previous B2B Blog posts address tools that measure Twitter ROI and impact.  (Yes, I’m addicted to measurement applications!)   And here’s another one! TwitSprout (love the name) is a free tool now in Beta, delivering custom branded dashboards depicting historical growth, change in followers, influence indicators and other key usage metrics. Reports are free and useful for social media team members to measure actual Twitter engagement.   

Have you discovered favorite Twitter tools lately?  Share them here!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

5 Reasons Business-to-Business Organizations Should Blog

I am not an early adopter of blogging.
There, I said it. In fact, a few years back, I was fairly hostile about the idea.  Who cares what somebody says in his or her blog?  It amounts to a lot of blah-blah-blah-ging, I would snidely guffaw at any opportunity.  This t-shirt posted to the left made its way to a few colleagues as a way to illustrate the point.
I stand corrected.
In business-to-business marketing,  blogging has emerged as a powerful tool.
Yet many businesses don’t fully comprehend the critical importance of a blog. 
Key Considerations
Should YOU start a blog for your business, Mr. or Ms. Business Owner?  You should if you answer “yes” to the following questions:
---  Do you sell a product or a service?   
---  Are you an expert in your field?  Do you possess insight, tips, and knowledge about your field you wish to showcase to prospects and the larger community?
---- Do your prospects use the Internet?   (According to experts, 80% of b-to-b prospects’ questions are answered before interacting with sales.  That means prospects are hungry for online content about you, your brand, your product or service.  They are LOOKING for content to learn more about what you offer, before they even connect with you!)  
So Why Blog?
After one full year and over 40 posts for my own B2B blog post, and dozens of blog posts created on behalf of clients, here are five reasons business-to-business orgs should blog.
1)    Reinforces Thought Leadership.  A blog illustrate your expertise and leadership in your field.  Short, concise content providing tips, lessons learned and other insight  serves as an excellent way to build your brand.
2)     Communicates Value Proposition.   By sharing your expertise in your blog about timely issues related to your business, those related to your industry gain true value.  You’re essentially “giving away” your expertise. This works to build trust and good will.  A blog entices folks to seek your service/product, or engage with you to further the dialogue.
3)    Fuels Social Media Programs. A blog fuels social media like Twitter and LinkedIn, since content from a blog post makes a great Tweet or update on LinkedIn.  Your followers and connections will perceive you as an active expert, engaging in dialogue about relevant issues.
4)     Enables Engagement.   A blog lets you connect with clients, prospects, industry thought leaders, colleagues, media, partners and others in your community.  It has been an educational process for me – I’m always surprised when a colleague or associate mentions a B2B Blog post they’ve read.  This same experience has taken place with my clients. While posts might receive a lot of comments, Google Analytics data shows that web and blog traffic increases any time new content is posted.
5)    Expands Business Development. A blog helps expand business development efforts. As an example, from an SEO perspective alone, blogging is a smart way to go. You want people to find you up high on a search result. Google puts a priority on finding new and updated content. Sites with more frequent updates get more priority. Blogging with a regular cadence means there is fresh content on your site. If a blog post has a call to action (download a paper, sign up for a webinar), this fuels business develop and lead nurturing even more.

Can’t get enough B2B Blog posts about blogging?  See related post: 5 Lessons Learned from Blogging)    --- And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter for Tweets about Tweeting!  

Thursday, October 27, 2011

In Work & In Life: Fail Faster, Succeed Sooner

In order to succeed, you must fail, so you know what not to do the next time.

That’s a powerful and fitting quote that came to mind after reading a recent Wired article entitled “Why Do Some People Learn Faster?”

The Wired article makes the case that "education isn’t magic. Education is wisdom wrung from failure."

The key in my mind, though, is taking the action to “wring” a lesson from failure.

Faster, Sooner
It isn’t enough to “Fail Faster” as many pundits suggest.  The difference is to be mindful of the lesson the mistake (or “Fail”) teaches us.

Certainly David Kelley's "Fail Faster, Succeed Sooner" is a useful axiom, popular with engineers, industrial designers, creative folks and others.  

For me, the concept of "failing faster" impacts everything from my work life as a marketing consultant (Which marketing programs work? Which programs don’t? Email subject line resulted in poor open rates? Try something new next time.), to dog training techniques (Puppy is still pulling at the leash, time to try a halty), to the weight loss journey I am on (Still “failing” with mindless snacking during those challenging hours between 4PM – 7PM), to dealing with teen-aged sons.  (Well, I don't want to make this blog post too long so won't attempt any illustrative examples.)

A Way That Works

Failure is inevitable. The faster we move and learn through failure, the faster we find a way that works.

This is a powerful idea: doing things wrong is a prerequisite to doing things right. Move through the failure quickly, learn the most you can, and move on.

I Must Have Been Mistaken
At the end of the day, it would be a mistake to try to avoid all mistakes.

But it’s a mistake not to pay attention to the lesson the mistake offers.

“Fall seven times, stand up eight.” ~Japanese Proverb

Monday, October 17, 2011

5 Tips for Work Teams: Lessons from Ethel the Dog

It was only a matter of time before Ethel infiltrated this blog.

We adopted Ethel, a black lab mix, as a 7-month old pup this past summer from the Alcona Humane Society up near our cabin in Northern Michigan.  

Before she came into our lives, Ethel spent her entire life in the shelter, lovingly cared for by the dedicated staff and volunteers at that well-run organization.

Ethel is a wonderful office-mate.  She listens when things get tough, and she shares her wisdom to keep me focused and on task each day.

Although still a puppy, Ethel knows a thing or two about the business world,  with specific wisdom for work teams.  

5 Lessons 
To be effective, any team - whether a department, a project team, or even a team of volunteers --  must set and maintain shared goals.

For marketing teams, one shared goal might be to expand market awareness for the product/service. Another shared goal might be to deliver quality leads to the sales team.  Yet it’s easy to get off course. 

Thus, here are five lessons from Ethel about being effective in our work lives.

1) Keep your focus – Nowhere is focus more clearly displayed than right before Ethel receives a bone or treat, or during a game of fetch with her ratty Frisbee.   Work teams must cultivate and maintain this same quality of focus to be effective.  Ignore those daily distractions, and keep a consistent focus on overall business goals.

2) Run, romp, and play daily – Ethel is a lot easier to be around when she gets to have 'fun time' each day.  Work teams are wise to keep those countless projects humming along, but don’t forget to insert some fun into each day.  There’s a lot of value in making fun a priority for a high performing work team.

3) Never pretend to be something you’re not – With Ethel, what you see is what you get. Not sure of how to perform a task or meet the next project benchmark?  Come clean, do the work needed to get up and running, and be authentic with your teammates.

4) Avoid biting when a simple growl will do – We encourage Ethel to think before she acts. When things get stressful, keep your cool!  Certainly speak up for yourself and be assertive, but tone down the aggression.

5) If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it – Ethel is a tireless digger when she’s exploring the sandy beach on the big lake. Sometimes teams can get off course; a project goes awry due to an underlying issue.  Work hard to dig into a solution, discover the underlying cause, and remedy whatever process issues there are in order to work more effectively.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The B2B Summit Recap Part II: Do You Cultivate a Customer Mindset?

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about “mindfulness” lately - more related to my personal life than professional.  But in fact, mindfulness has a place in business-to-business marketing.

At its most fundamental, mindfulness involves paying attention “on purpose” with a conscious direction of awareness.  Significantly different than simply being aware, a mindful mentality has purpose and focus.

A Mindful Focus on the Prospect
Last month’s MarketingSherpa B2B Summit offered a wonderful chance to meet and listen to Kristin Zhivago, a powerhouse marketing guru and author of several excellent books including “Roadmap to Revenue: How to Sell the Way Your Customers Want to Buy.”

Zhivago advocates cultivating and maintaining a “customer mindset” or in other words, developing a mindful focus on the prospect.

Zhivago delivered an inspiring keynote on day two of the conference, which stressed the importance of aligning sales and marketing to the buying process. Essentially, she suggests a company reverse-engineer their recent successful sales, in order to manufacture new sales in quantity.

Ask and Ye Shall Receive
The process involves in-depth Interviews of customers and prospects to find out what their needs are, and the promises they want a company to keep. She then helps a company make and keep those promises with products, people, and processes.

Zhivago’s premise is powerful:  only a company’s customers can tell a company how they want to buy what the company sells.

There’s a lot more to her message, but the bottom-line is the importance of putting a mindful focus and awareness on the customer.

Roadmap to Revenue
The bulk of the book “Roadmap to Revenue” analyzes a customer’s buying stages, not a company’s selling stages (like that typical “sales funnel” everybody uses).  Zhivago  provides an overview of the buying cycle organized by levels of scrutiny a buyer gives a product or service (light; medium; heavy; intense).  She then delves into the marketing methods effective for each one.

It might be tempting to only read the buying process that applies to a particular scrutiny level, but be advised:  there are universal truths in each level.  

Scrutinizing Scrutiny
For example, a medium scrutiny seller can learn from light scrutiny techniques, and vice versa.  It is quite informative to read through each level and understand the marketing mix that applies to each one.

For those in the “intense scrutiny” buying cycle, Zhivago notes that referrals play a more significant role than in other categories.  The buyer decision is so important, with so much at stake, that the credibility of the referrer plays a greater part in the buyer’s decision to pursue a relationship with a specific vendor or company.

Zhivago then links this finding to an action:  she suggests building a database of satisfied customers who don’t mind being contacted by prospective customers, and keep track of how often their names are given out as a reference, so they don’t get “reference fatigue.”

The Power of Insight
Both Zhivago’s presentation at the conference, and her book, are a powerful reminder of the power and knowledge companies can glean from their happy customers.

In all, Zhivago has much to offer business-to-business marketers who are caught within their own four walls, guessing at what might motivate and inspired their prospects to buy.

Instead, she advocates paying attention “on purpose” to customers and prospects. A conscious "customer/prospect mindfulness' leads to positive business outcomes.

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