Archive for TRUST

Sales Tool Helps Buyer Parrots Lay Golden Purchase Orders in Your Hands

Posted by on July 12, 2013 with 1 Comments

golden egg hand

 

In a recent post about are your salespeople calling on power or parrots I shared how your sales success or failure may be in the hands of the parrot buyer’s ability to present and sell your solution to decision makers and influencers within their organization. Time and time again a salesperson reports back after “good meeting’s” that they will win the purchase order. Weeks turn to months and the buyer has gone dark. What is happening with the order we expected? What can we do to shorten this sales cycle? What can we do to insure we win the order? In this post I will share one technique to help you, help parrot buyers lay golden PO’s in your hands.

 

Buyers today are doing a tremendous amount or research on the internet. It is estimated that as much as 60%-80% of the sales process is over before the buyer contacts your salesperson. Now more than ever we must find ways to help our buyers buy. Often buyers are actually trained buyer parrots that accumulate and repeat information they have heard to key decision makers and influencers in their organizations who have the power to buy. Here’s the problem; do you want your sales results, your team’s ability to achieve your sales growth targets, your income at the fate of a buyer’s ability to present and sell your product and or service? Ya…I didn’t think so.

 

How can we equip and empower buyers to effectively present and sell our products and services to decision makers who have the ability and power to approve purchase orders?

 

One technique I have used in a number of industries is to provide the buyer a presentation slide deck that speaks to the specific buyer persona’s of those who do have the power to approve the purchase. So what is a buyer persona? Per one of the leading thought leaders in buyer persona’s Adel Revella;

 

“Buyer personas are examples of the real buyers who influence or make decisions about the products, services or solutions you market. They are a tool that builds confidence in  strategies to persuade buyers to choose you rather than a competitor or the status quo… insightful buyer personas readily inform strategies for persuasive messaging, content marketing, product or solution launches, campaigns and sales alignment.”

 

If you want to learn more about buyer personas I recommend you download and read; The Buyer Persona Manifesto.

 

In one company we found we were presenting buyers and those buyers had to gain the approval of the; CFO, CEO, COO, and Engineering. We spent some time interviewing these key decision makers and identified what was important to each, the criteria they used to make decisions, and what they needed from us to make those decisions. For example;

 

CFO- they made decisions based on number, return on investment, mitigating risk for the least cost, insuring the investment supports the strategic vision of the organization. They hope and plan to be CEO one day. They want to make smart business decisions that demonstrate their ability to move into this job when the time is right. They want to avoid decisions that jeopardize or could limit their plan.

 

CEO- frequently from an accounting and finance background with strong understanding of operations. Sets the vision and is constantly looking for anything that could be a roadblock in achieving that vision. Responsible to shareholders, often the owner, they are about growing the company profitably and investing in equipment and services that support that growth.

 

COO – operations focused, key words; efficiency, production, productivity. Often grew up through the manufacturing ranks as plant manager, may have had some purchasing and quality control experience. Focus is on meeting the needs sales has sold as effectively and efficiently as possible. In this example we kept hearing the desire to reduce manufacturing variance.

 

Engineering- They have a laser like focus, all data no emotion to solving the problem to be solved with this purchase. Needs to make sure you clearly understand the problem they are solving. They not only need to see and hear your solution but also see the information and decision process you used to make this recommendation. They want information and ideally open communication with your engineers to have the ability to speak with someone highly educated like themselves and not someone trying to sell them.

 

 

Based on the above we created a slide deck of 10-12 slides. The first two slides were basically a requirements summary sharing our understanding of the problem to be solved. The rest of the slides provided what each key decision maker with power needed to commit to purchase. In addition to the slides we provided an appendix that included product data sheets, engineering drawings, key content web links, engineer contact information within our team, and a deep dive in data should an engineer wish this information. For example, we provided a ROI on the product and shared expected returns. We provided testimonials from other well known companies in the same industry. We established a cost on doing nothing and a weekly cost of not purchasing. The last slides clearly mapped out the steps and expectations of how to commit, what they should expect when. Ideally we always asked to present these slides in person, via web conference, but worst case we have now equipped the buyer with a sales tool to gain funding to support the purchase.

 

What will surprise you most is we did not talk a great deal about us, if all as much as the problems we solve, who we have solved them for and provided what we have learned others have needed to make informed buying decisions.

 

How about your company….

 

Do you provide tools to help buyers sell your solution internally? Or do you count on your brochures to do that?

Do you understand who the power decision makers are in the buying journey your customers go through? If so who are they in your industry?

 

What tool(s) have you created to help educate and inform key influencers in the buying decision?

 

While the statistics show buyers and influencers feel 97% of their interactions with possible vendors are not worthwhile, isn’t it time your company becomes one of the rare 3% who proactively provides useful, relevant , insightful information in a way and language your influencers need to lay golden purchase orders in your hands?

Fix Sales Performance; Stop Playing “Marko Polo “With Your Buyers

Posted by on January 23, 2013 with 1 Comments

When we were young we often played the kids game Marko Polo in a pool or any body of water for that matter. The person who was “it” would close their eyes and shout “Marko” and all the others in the pool where not it would yell “Polo” . The objective of the game was if you were saying Marko to locate and tag others who said Polo and you win. Far too many salespeople today act like they are “it” and blindly shout out features and benefits to anyone in their market who will listen , just hoping one of their buyers yells polo and they can reach them fast enough to make a sale before the buyer moves.

Salespeople who do not allow buyers to play “Marko Polo” achieve and surpass sales goals.

I was asked to help a top sales star on a large elephant sale he was working for over six months but for some reason has not been able to close. I asked to meet with the buyer to try to understand what was preventing this salesperson from closing this order that could make his, and his companies’ sales year. On the drive to the account the salesman shared how he saw this opportunity as pretty straight forward. The buyer contacted him about six months ago and wanted to meet to discuss products and get a quote that may be able to fix a problem she was having. The sales person went on to say how every time he follows up on this proposal, the buyer changes something and needs to speak with someone new or adds another criteria that is very important and this has stalled the sale.

We met with the buyer and she shared that she did in fact contact the salesman six months ago because she found his product on the internet doing some research, asked around in her network and felt it would be a perfect solution to a problem her company was having. She asked for a quote and she went on to say how the salesperson did a great job of sending her a quote for what she requested within 24 hours. I could feel something was definitely off in this salesperson – buyer exchange so I started asking questions. I wanted to clearly understand the problem and the buyer was more than willing to share and actually take us both on a tour and showed us the situation. (this was the first time in six months this salesperson had been beyond the meeting office adjacent to the lobby) As I continued to ask questions I found the salesperson was firing features and benefits that could possibly solve the question …”Marko”. The buyer would then grow quiet as the salesperson played feature and benefit bingo just hoping something he was trained to say would stick and help close this big sale. I would start asking more questions and the buyer invited me to meet with their chief engineer who was in charge of the technical application and integration of whatever product they decided to purchase. I continued to ask questions and this engineer brought up new criteria and expectations the buyer had yet to share. I asked if anyone else was involved in the project and the buyer and engineer smiled and said “well this is Bob’s plant and nothing new goes into this plant without his blessing”. So I asked if we could meet Bob and they said he is typically a really busy guy who does not meet with vendors, but we will try.

Bob was in his office, perch if you will over looking the entire facility. The engineer asked if he had a minute and he saw all of us in his doorway and quickly said no, just gather their information and email it to me. So I stepped forward and introduced myself and said the reason we wanted to meet him was we understood this was his plant, and we were quoting this project to solve the problem we discussed and wanted to make sure we completely understood the problem from his perspective and wanted to make sure we gathered all the requirements . Bob agreed to give us 5 minutes and an hour latter we left his office.

When we returned to the buyer’s meeting office the salesperson moved into an awkward at best close. He even went as far as saying he could probably get a discount since their prices were going up in 30 days. REALLY? I could not believe he was using a tactic that might work on his small mom and pop accounts on this multinational corporation. The buyer grew quiet again. I quickly asked if we could meet again next week and present the ideal solution based on everything the buyer, engineer, and Bob shared.

The trouble with this sale is what I call “Marko Polo sales”.

How do you know if your salespeople are “Marko Polo selling?

  1. The buyer asked for a quote of a specific product and that’s what they received.
  2. Your salesperson does not know or understand the problem the buyer wants to solve.
  3. Sales has not identified all the decision makers and influencers
  4. Sales quickly provided a quote “Marko
  5. Every time the salesperson follows up something new comes up or someone new has to approve the quote “Polo
  6. The buyer is often not sure what the entire problem is to be solved so they are gathering information and share new criteria on each call. “Polo
  7. The sales person plugs the opportunity into their CRM system and calls the buyer every 2-3 weeks to see if they have made a decision? “Marko”
  8. Often the buyer goes dark and fails to respond to email or voice messages.
  9. Sales proceeds to get more aggressive trying to close and calls the buyer more often “Marko
  10. Ultimately the buyer makes a decision to buy your product or leave the pool “Polo

Unlike the child’s game if you catch someone leaving the pool you yell “fish out of water” and win….in sales you lose. Chances are the buyer found another salesperson who took the time to clearly understand the problem and their quote just felt right.

If you ask your sales star why the deal everyone thought he would close fell though he will say Price, Availability, and my particular favorite the competitor’s product had a feature ours did not have. In reality, if you do win loss calls buyers will tell you why they did not buy and price is not even on the list.

If you want to Fix Sales Performance; Stop Playing “Marko Polo “With Your Buyers!

We returned to the account a week later and presented an different solution and we asked our product engineers to also attend to answer any technical questions that may arise and after the presentation we took Bob and team to a near by installation so he and his team could speak with someone using our products. My client won the sale and went on to win all their facilities from what I understand over the next few years.

Are your salespeople playing “Marko Polo” with your buyers?

Have you lost a large order you thought you were going to win in the last six months?

Why did your salesperson say you lost this order?

Did you conduct a win loss call with the buyer to verify?

One of my early mentors used to say “time kills deals” The longer a possible sale drags on the less your probability of closing. When salespeople do not understand the problem being solved and just quote what the buyer asked for they run the risk of playing Marko Polo and having experienced buyers just leave the pool.

How Do We Heal “Brand Damaged Buyers” and Get Them Buying Again?

Posted by on September 17, 2012 with 1 Comments

By Mark Allen Roberts

If you provide a product or a service you are going to experience buyers who have a bad overall buying experience at some time. Market leaders will take this opportunity to turn lemons into lemonade and actually improve their relationship with their customer. Market losers will play the blame storm game, refuse to take ownership, repeat the mistakes over and over again  and ultimately cause buyers to suffer  Brand Damage and stop buying all together. Once an account is lost it is very difficult to win their trust back, however it is not impossible. Once a market hears enough negative feedback from a variety of sources the market can become brand damaged.In this post I will share;

How Do We Heal “Brand Damaged Buyers” and Get Them Buying Again?

What is the best way not to break your buyer’s trust and lose future business? Well I see it proudly displayed in factories, lobbies and desk tops across the clients I served;

“Do what you said you would do”

Why do I like this simple no smoke and mirrors approach phrase so much?

  • I have seen it work time and time again
  • Market leaders all live by this rule
  • It is time tested
  • It’s biblical
  • It establishes trust and reinforces it every time you execute

However the reality is we all make mistakes. How do we rebound from those mistakes? Can we ever rebound from those mistakes? I recently read a great article: America’s Nine Most Damaged Brands. This article shares how; the true causes of drops in brand value are folly and arrogance. 24/7 Wall St.’s review of nine brands that were badly damaged recently shows that even the most powerful brand cannot survive horrible decisions. So an element of hubris plays a part in brand damaged markets.

My own personal experience has shown mistakes only become Brand Damaged Buyers when we refuse to admit we made them or correct them. Let’s face itwe all need to be tuned into our market and listen for unresolved problems, …even if we find we caused a few of them.

So let’s say you have been experiencing some of the symptoms I discussed in my last post of companies that have brand damaged buyers like:

Sales failing to meet plan objectives

Competitors sales growing

Decrease in market share

Profit decrease due to field discounting

Customers you have lost refusing to meet with you

You are losing large key accounts who have

…as well as others.

Let’s say you have decided you need to “Heal Brand Damaged Buyers” so they start buying from you again, where do we start?

First we need to go back to the fundamentals of building a brand customers can trust, we start executing the 10 Commandments of Marketing as discussed by Derrick Daye.  We need to clearly understand positioning and our desired intentional differentiation in the perceptions of our buyers. A lot of companies struggle in this area so I suggest you down load one of my friends and mentor’s books: Your Brands Position by Dick Maggiore. You can download a copy of my book: Branding Backwards that shares how we need to intentionally brand our product or service or the market will and we will be branding by default. You can visit the article ; 3 ways to build brand loyalty and start from scratch again. Last, make sure and watch Jack Trout’s “5 tests of obviousness.” Jack Trout goes on to share how we must never waste a crisis but use it to make tough changes that often results in re-positioning.

So you’ve done your homework, you feel pretty good about what you’ve seen and you want to experience the benefits of market leading companies like; sales growth faster than industry average , gross profits over 30% higher than the completion, and increased customer satisfaction and loyalty? Where do you start? Ask a simple question in everything you do:

Is it true?

I went and heard an amazing author, speaker, thought leader named Byron Katie speak and the foundation of her work is the simple question: Is it true? Her content was so simple yet so brilliant I sat for hours after the conference with my mind racing as to all the applications in the business world.

So let me ask you: Is it true?

Everything you say on your web site?

What your salespeople are trained to present about your product or service?

All your marketing literature?

What your salespeople say about your competition

Printed content on your product packaging and owners manuals?

What your marketing team believes are the problems your product or service solves?

What your mission statement and vision statement say?

Do you have a “passion statement” and are you walking the talk?

Everything your team is saying at sales meetings, strategy meetings?

Was the product you launched on time last week ready to be launched

Next you must start rebuilding trust with your buyers and one way to do so is admit your past mistakes and apologize and let the buyer know their relationship with you is important and you want to win back their trust. Ask your buyer how he or she would do that if the roles were reversed. (Their answers may surprise you)

Last you must build trust in all the small things;

Follow up when you say you will follow up

Under commit and over deliver

Arrive on time

Keep meetings to buyer approved time window

Follow up meetings with email that reviews they key points of your meeting

Launch new products when they are ready and tested

When we break the trust our buyers have placed in us we create Brand Damaged Buyers. If an error or an over promised feature and benefit go unresolved too long, we loose a buyer’s trust. If your team has been experiencing some of the above symptoms of brand damaged buyers it will be a very difficult path winning buyer trust back to where it once was. Trust is emotional and that is why it is so much easier to not violate it in the beginning of the relationship and so hard to repair later.

Have some of your products broken trust with your buyers?

Have any new products failed to perform to what you promised in sales presentations and your web site?

Are your sales people making promises right now ( as you are reading this) to close a sale, that are not true?

Have you discovered any other steps to rebuild trust and help heal brand damaged buyers?

As I shared, you need laser like positioning in the market today and as you consistently deliver on what you promise you build a brand. If you fail to deliver you are also branding and you create what I call brand damaged buyers. If you find yourself with brand damaged buyers you are not alone. The key is to clearly understand the market’s perceptions of what you offer today and if needed re-position your offering based on your buyers ,market and competitors today.  The first step is being humble enough to listen to your market and stop assuming your positioning is relevant and resonates with buyers today.

Are Your Buyers Suffering From “Brand Damage”?

Posted by on September 13, 2012 with 7 Comments


by Mark Allen Roberts

As I shared in my first book Branding Backwards, your brand is your promise, your flag you plant with laser like positioning in your market that shares the problems your product or service promises to solve and is established over time. Companies can have intentional brands like Volvo that will always mean safety. Market losing companies let the market decide what their brand stands for and I refer to this as; Branding by Default. Like it or not your company, your products, your teams have a brand perception in the minds of the buyers in your market. The harsh truth is; your buyers’ perception of your brand is reality. Your brand emerges after executing your positioning well or poorly over time. It can take years and a considerable amount of money to establish a brand, and one terrible experience that breaks that promise (trust) and destroy it.

What happens when your brand promises something you do not execute?

Your buyers become “Brand Damaged “

Once buyers in your market become brand damaged their trust in your company, its products, salespeople, channel partners is broken… often permanently. I heard a great quote recently and I am not sure who said it but here goes; People do not buy from people they like, they buy from people they trust.” Your brand is something you must treasure, reinforce and protect. Your brand is what you are promising if someone buys your product or service. It becomes the foundation of your future relationship of trust with your buyers.

Markets establish and adjust perceived brand images  much quicker  today since the internet has become an open forum for good as well as poor buying experiences.

When I have worked with companies wanting to increase their sales and profitability, one of the first things I do is go out into their market and meet with their current customers, customers they would like to have and customers they have lost. In these meetings I am trying to quickly determine their market’s perception of the companies’ positioning and brand . I am not judging what I hear as I am just gathering market information…market truths if you will. The next step is interviewing the companies’ sales team, distributors, and channel partners specifically listening for what they are promising the market. The last step is I spend time with the corporate team and dive deep into their marketing communication, their positioning and are they intentionally building a brand. What I am looking for is any disconnects, any promises the corporate group is making that buyers have experienced are not true in the market today. I emphasize the word “today” since what I often experience  is the perception of the companies’ product positioning and brand at the corporate level was once true, but experiences  occurred that have changed buyer perceptions and broken buyer trust.

In every interview with customers, prospects , suspects, distributors and team members they all have an opinion, a perception of what your brand represents today. Does the brand promises shared by the companies’ team and their marketing message match the market’s perception of the companies’ brand? In most cases the root of the brand promise is consistent; however once in a while I find a company that has Brand Damaged Buyers.

What are some symptoms you have Brand Damaged Buyers?

  • sales failing to meet plan
  • competitors sales growing
  • competitors gaining market share
  • profit decrease due to field discounting to “win the business
  • channel partners, distributors afraid to sell your products
  • past customers you have lost refusing to meet with you
  • you are losing large key accounts who have “been with you forever”
  • you consistently have missed new product launch dates
  • high turnover of star salespeople
  • you consistently miss product ship dates
  • customers embrace a new product and it fails
  • new products introduced before they were  ready
  • decrease in web traffic
  • buyers share “its all about price
  • current customers not embracing/supporting new products for 6-18 months after launch
  • current customers stop sharing problems they are experiencing
  • increase in product returns and or warrantee claims
  • increase in customer deductions off your sale invoices
  • sales fails to sell new customers
  • sales can not even book meetings with targeted market leading new customers
  • trade associations complain frequently about your company, service , and products
  • your web site and marketing brochures promise things that are not true with buyers using your product
  • unhappy customer experiences are found on web

I can hear some of you saying; “come on Mark, be realistic, anytime you sell a product or service you are going to have happy customers and unhappy customers. Customers sometimes are unhappy for no reason of our own and I don’t think it’s correct or fair to say they are brand damagedYour right, not all “unhappy” customers become brand damaged. If you have a clear path of communication and you are aware of problems in the buying experience and correct them, your buyers do not become damaged. It is the case when you keep beating buyers upside the head in sales presentations, webinars, your literature and web site with what your corporate team believes to be true, ( often wishes was true) that your buyers perceive ( have experienced)  as not true that they become Brand Damaged.

A quick way to determine if your buyers are suffering from Brand Damage is to ask yourself two questions;

As you read the above symptoms, how did it make you feel? Worried? Defensive?…you have brand damaged buyers in your market.

As you review the above list and you say “yes” to more than 5 of the above symptoms…you have brand damaged buyers in your market.

So how about your company…

Do you have Brand Damaged buyers in your market?

How do we heal Brand Damage in our markets and get back on track to creating profitable sales growth?

Once you have broken trust it is difficult to win it back. Buyers want to find brands they can trust. However when companies or representatives of companies keep selling the company line with their Kool-aid drinking mustaches still fresh on their faces, buyers become brand damaged. Brand Damaged buyers shop until they find another company who’s brand promise is true. In my next post I will discuss how to insure the brand burned into the minds of your buyers is the one you intended and how to heal brand damaged buyers.

Miracle on 34th Street and The Golden Rule Of Sales

Posted by on December 24, 2010 with 0 Comments



Miracle on 34th Street and Lessons in Serving (not Selling) your Customers

It’s the holiday season and my family and I are watching our favorite movies on television; Home Alone, A Christmas Carol, A Wonderful Life, Christmas Vacation, and the classic…Miracle on 34th street. A clip ( the one above) caught my attention as a sales lesson we can all learn from this movie that was released in 1947.

The Golden Rule, applied to managing people, helping buyer’s solve their problems, will never let you down.

Does your sales team set out to passionately solve your customer’s problems or just hit their numbers …selling what’s in their bag?

If it’s the later, you may want to watch A Miracle on 34th Street at your next sales meeting. It’s often not about doing one big thing, but an overall culture of doing many little things , very well.

Golden Rule of Selling :Serve your customers….Don’t Sell Them.

Merry Christmas!

Want to Jump Start Sales and Morale? Write a “Passion Statement” For Your Business….

Posted by on May 24, 2010 with 6 Comments

 

Business leaders for years have been taught to write a mission statement, a values statement , distinctive competence, and their Unique Sales Proposition. Leadership teams are sequestered off to three-day retreats to write these statements only to often return and go right back to practicing what prompted the retreat in the first place…Why? The reason is far too often is the “work” they did at the retreat was all “head work” and lacked “heart work”.

The quickest way to jumpstart sales as well as the morale of your team is to create a “Passion Statement”.

 

So what is a passion statement? A passion statement is something I help my clients to create that explains;

  • what problem your product or service solves?

 

  • who do we solve it for? Who are our buyer personas?

 

  • what emotion does our solving the problem create in our clients?

 

  • what emotion does solving our clients problems create for us?

 

If you study companies who have become market leaders they very seldom set out to build huge profitable companies. In the majority of the cases they saw a problem that someone had and set out passionately to solve that problem. Their focus was not as much a business as it was a quest.

For years we have heard; “fake it until you make it” , unfortunately however you can not fake a passion to serve your clients and your market.Your customers will quickly detect inauthentic commitments to serve.

An authentic passion ( quest)  to serve your markets unresolved problems takes your business to another level in the minds and hearts of your market.

 

Let me give you two examples of companies I have helped. One is a typical stale example without passion often find after interviewing their team and their customers, the other a passion statement we all can rally behind.

Example A

 “our business’s purpose is to create wealth for our owners and shareholders. We plan to accomplish this by charging the maximum price the market will bear for our product and service and we plan to hold our employees and partners accountable to this objective…” ( don’t worry once the CEO understood this was his teams’ perception ( and his customer’s) of why they were in business we helped them to change this )

 

Client Name not shared for obvious reasons

 

Example B

 

“Our passion is to helping consumers with physical disabilities from the waist down experience the rush and  freedom that results from riding a motorcycle.We are committed to helping our clients connect to their passion or riding”

 

Mobility Conquest

 

 

Which company would you like to buy from?

Which company would you like to work for?

Which company is “selling” you and which company is “helping you buy”?

 

If you had to state your company’s passion statement today…is it more about what you want? Or is it about serving an unmet need of your customers? ( by the way, I do not mean the statement written on posters, shared in quarterly meeting …I mean the mission your team ( and your customers) perceive it to be)

 

Who would you rather compete against… company A or B? Why?

Ok …I hear you CFO’s and bottom line driven CEO’s out their saying …”Ya… but…” so let me assure you that if you study the most profitable market leading companies they have a passion statement.

Still not a believer? In my next post I will share the signs that you need a Passion Statement.

Entrepreneur Best Practices: #15 Beware of “Smores”…Social Media Whores

Posted by on October 10, 2009 with 13 Comments

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As I meet with entrepreneurs I am amazed at the number of people professing to be experts that are preying upon entrepreneurs struggling to grow their businesses. I discussed “marketing tools “in my previous post; who they are and how to quickly spot one so you don’t get burned. A new entrepreneurial predator has emerged that is referred to as “smores” or social media whores. In this post I plan to share how social media, social marketing, is a key component of any businesses overall integrated marketing, and how to quickly spot the smores so you do not get burned.

Last week I had lunch with David Barnhart a local thought leader in the social media space here in Arizona and we were discussing my post about the amount of “marketing tools” that are out there preying upon trusting entrepreneurs. David shared with me the new predator he sees is what he called a smore”. I did not want to show my ignorance as I had not heard this term before so I let David keep discussing this topic that was obviously a subject he was deeply passionate about.

What he described as “smores” are self professed social media experts who take large retainers from unsuspecting clients, they over promise and under deliver. They chase shiny social media objects but lack business acumen.They are familiar with the tools of social media, but they are not master craftsmen in marketing and business growth.He went on to say how this new marketing tool gives others who practice social media with a focus on helping clients achieved desired outcomes a bad name. Guy Kawasaki refers to smores as opinion leaders so I am a bit confused.Eventually I had to ask….why do you call them “smores”? He explained, “Oh that’s easy,… it’s because they are social media whores”. So for this post smores are social media whores who understand social media tools but lack an understanding of how to apply these tools to solve the business problems of entrepreneurs.

So what can an entrepreneur do to add social media to their integrated marketing and not fall prey to smores? Most of the entrepreneurs I work with value the benefits social marketing can provide, however they lack a clear plan and a desired goal for this tool and do not know how to determine the marketing tool smores from the strategic social media partners who will add value to your business.

 

So I thought I would create a post, based on my admitted limited knowledge in hopes of starting a discussion on this growing problem.

 

You may be dealing with a smore if…

 

 

 

 

Knowledge

If you are going to make the investment in social media do some research first. I am shocked how quick some entrepreneurs are to cut checks but not crack open a book, read a few blogs, or do a little googling. I am not a social marketing expert but there are expert’s readily available, thought leaders in the space. Before you start investing in social media I recommend you read David Meerman Scotts two books : The new rules of marketing and PR, The World Wide Rave, and spend some time on his blog Webink and watch the following free webinar.

 

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In addition I recommend you read the book Groundswell by thought leader Charlene Li, and the book by Seth Godin tiled : Tribes to gain a baseline understanding of this thing everyone is calling “social media” and learn how you can use it for your “social marketing” efforts.

 

In my view, social marketing is about creating relationships and leveraging those relationships that ultimately results in revenue.

 

 

If someone in the social media space does not know who Guy Kawasaki, Charlene Li, David Meerman Scott or Seth Godin is…you may be dealing with a social media whore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cost

I hear smores saying social media is free…They are often correct in that you may not be cutting checks to ad firms for creative or media buys, and you may not be paying a $5,000 PR monthly retainer, however one common challenge all the entrepreneurs I work with have is time. Your time, the time of your team members has a cost. You may capture it as a fixed cost, or variable for outsourced contractors, but there is a cost. Often the biggest cost is not the hourly rate your time is worth, but the opportunity cost. When you engage in an activity you have strategically decided this activity ranks higher and will produce greater outcomes than other activities you could be doing.

If someone in the social media space tells you that social media is “free” you may be dealing with a Smore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Goals

Everything you do should have an objective, a goal that is in alignment with the flight plan for your business. I think it was Einstein who said “if you can’t explain something to a six year old you probably do not know it yourself”. Before you invest, your time or hard costs with a social marketing out sourced partner make sure you have a clear set of objectives and goals in mind that you can clearly explain. Do not invest until you can explain what you are about to do , or have a social marketing partner explain what you are about to do, so that a six year old can understand it.

If you meet with someone in the social media space and they want to talk about “putting you out there” without discussing goals and some measurement of those goals… you may be dealing with a smore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Location

Social Marketing is about marketing you, your business in areas that build relationships that offer the optimum return. Social Marketing strategic leaders like Elizabeth Hannan will discuss with you the creation of “outposts” in which you strategically plant yourself and begin building relationships. Each of these outposts has specific demographic patterns and their own educate. You will also want to cross pollinate your outposts once they are established.

For example, I chose Linked In, Twitter, Facebook and Freindfeed and my blog as my initial outposts that I wanted to develop based on targeting entrepreneurial leaders. The location of the outpost you choose is based on those who participate in those communities. You will want to have your strategic partner clearly explain with the use of techno graphic data how your buyer personas use technology and this will guide you to the right social marketing tools.

If you meet with someone in the social marketing space and they talk about putting you “everywhere” as opposed to strategically placing you in outposts based on your market and buyer persona’s…you may be dealing with a smore.

 

 

 

 

 

Your Brand

Before you begin your efforts in social marketing you must clearly understand your brand, your brand promise, and the problems you are promising to solve for your market. Decide the voice you wish to have that would resonate most with your buyer personas.

For example, back in the day …one of the market’s I opened for the plastic packaging company I was serving was libraries. Librarians are highly educated amazing underutilized resources for entrepreneurs in the area of research by the way. They are proficient at finding and researching areas of interest for themselves and those they serve. The voice we chose to use for this buyer was a very detailed explanation of our products and how they specifically solved issues for librarians like the protection of their VHS movies being returned in drop boxes that also has large books falling thought the trap door. We listened to their pain points, and we clearly explained how we solved them, and provided additional data on the type of resin we used, the molding process, and so on.

Our brand promise was “video packaging designed for libraries” when our competitors focused on the other industries they supported and their message was…”if it’s good enough for Hollywood video it would work for you”. Within 24 months we dominated the library packaging space and this new adjacent market produced over $4 million dollars in incremental revenue and profits 20% higher than our primary market.

If you meet with someone in the social marketing space and they do not spend the time on the upfront to understand your brand and your brand promise….you may be dealing with a smore.

 

 

 

 

 

Establish Key Performance indicators

As market leading entrepreneurs you know the value of inspect what you expect, and “a goal that is not written down is a dream”. So establish clear measurable indicators that you want as outcomes for your social marketing efforts. These objectives will be different that typical goals like sales by region, by client.

For example you may want to measure the number of followers of your blog. You will want to connect with Google analytics and quantcast so that over time you can gain insight into who is visiting you, what is their demographic, key words searched for , how they came to find you and your bounce rate. I attended a workshop recently by Jennifer Maggorrie who is an obvious key strategic partner in the social marketing space and she discussed some other goals may include; the frequency of repeat business, number of new prospects by month, number of new inquires, and establishing things like Yacktrack.com and Google Alerts to see what people are saying about you, your business and your other team members.

Social marketing is about establishing and leveraging relationships. A key component of any relationship is trust. Your social marketing efforts help to establish trust much earlier in the relationship and therefore it is my theory (and I may get blasted by David Meerman Scott for saying this) but I believe a strong social marketing effort will reduce the selling cycle for your products. So determine the current cycle and measure the cycle over time after the implementation of your social marketing initiatives. With every engagement ask your prospects and clients how they found you and increase you efforts in the areas that rise to the top and reduce or eliminate your investments that do not bear fruit in relation to your objectives.

If you meet with someone in the social media space who says you can’t expect a return on your social marketing investment …you may be dealing with a smore.

 

 

So back to Jennifer Maggorie… not only has she been recently recognized in the business community, but in her workshop she clearly articulated a six step process on how she serves her clients with social marketing. (Even an old sales guy like me could understand it)

 

I have listed a few of the strategic social marketing thought leaders that I have gained knowledge from but in no way am I an expert in this space. I am someone who helps entrepreneurial leaders reach and exceed explosive growth in revenue and profits and I recommend the use of social marketing as a key component of a team’s overall marketing strategy. I have a strong respect for social marketing.

 

 

 

 

love sale

 

 

 

How about your organization….

 

 

Have you decided to make an investment in social marketing?

 

 

 

How did you pick your outposts? Strategically with an appreciation for techno graphic data or did you just jump in and hope?

 

 

 

How do you feel about establishing goals for your social media efforts? Do you feel it’s unrealistic to have an ROI expectation? If so let me know why…

 

 

 

Do you have a smore preying upon you right now? Was this post any help?

 

 

 

As entrepreneurs we have enough to keep us busy and we cannot afford to engage with self proposed experts who we learn after months of paying retainers are actually marketing tools and whores.

 

#11 Follow the leader is a dangerous game, particularly when you follow Hippos…

Posted by on September 29, 2009 with 8 Comments

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Entrepreneurs often make the mistake of focusing the majority of their attention on what their competitors are doing instead of gaining first hand market data. When entrepreneurs play “follow the leader” they are playing a dangerous game that assumes the perceived market leading competitor is connected to the needs and pains of market buyers.

Market leaders are aware of competitor activity; however they plan their strategy with first hand market data.

 

Market losers set out to do what their competitors are doing…but better.

 

When you copy what your competitors are doing you are making one key erroneous assumption: that your competitor knows your market, your buyers, and your buyer’s buying process. ( which is often not the case)

If we recognize most marketing is developed at board room tables with gut , intuition and “back when I was in the market…” information following your competitor is a dangerous game to play.Or as David Daniels put it in his eBook : Is your Product Launch Doomed?…” Mimicing a competitor can lead to lost market opportunity, misdirection of resources, and loss of focus…”

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More often than not marketing strategy is made by HIPPOS; the Highest Paid Person in marketing’s Opinions.

 

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For example, I had to run some errands in Mesa Saturday and imagine my surprise when I returned to my car and I saw a sea of purple windshield fliers in the parking lot creating marketing litter. In my recent post I discussed how we must make sure when we Chase new business we do so in a way consistent with our brand and our brand promise.

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I shared how Chase Bank used a purple windshield wiper flier to drive new accounts at month end in my last post. Do the leaders at TCF Bank think Purple windshield fliers ( Like Chase Bank) is an industry best practice since one of the market leaders does it? Or was the nimble , much smaller TCf Bank’s efforts the reason Chase Bank tried this strategy?

You have been in those meetings…everyone on the cross functional team share their views , and then the highest paid person in the room (hippo)  calls an audible from left field based on their gut and or what a market leading competitor is currently doing ( after they are real smart right?). The cross functional team is left scratching its collectives heads as strategy direction is made based on the gut and past experience of the highest paid person in the room.

 

Market leaders gather first hand market data and shape their strategy based on current information.

 

They say ; “rational people, if given the right data will make rational decisions” .What we learn in “rational choice theory” that people make decisions about how they should act by comparing the costs and benefits of different courses of action. Patterns of behavior will develop within the society those results from those choices. The society in this case is competing suppliers battling for market share each day.

 

 

Decisions made with first hand current market data drive successful strategies.

 

 

Strategies that are initiated based on what market leading competitors do often fail.

 

 

How about your organization….

 

 

Are Hippo’s calling an audible that lacks market data justification?

 

 

Does your marketing team kick off campaigns that mirror what market leaders in your industry are doing?

 

…how’s that working for you?

 

  

Are your sales tools built by corporate Hippos who have not met with a customer in over six months…twelve months?

 

 

Playing follow the leader is a dangerous game, particularly if your Hippos insist you mirror a competitor with the assumption the competitor must know what they are doing.

 

Smart entrepreneurs are aware of what the 800 lb gorilla in their market is doing, but do not blindly mirror their strategies and tactics.

 

Smaller competitors are often more connected to the needs of their market and more nimble.

Have you mirrored a competitor and it drove sales that surpassed your ROI goals?

Can you share a Hippo based initiative that mirrored a competitor and failed miserably?

Besides,when you choose  follow , competitor and or a Hippo,the view rarely changes,..ad the outcome often stinks.

 

Entrepreneur Best Practices: #10 “How” you “CHASE” New Business Matters….Do you want pepperoni with that new checking account?

Posted by on September 27, 2009 with 2 Comments

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I have heard entrepreneurs say; “any marketing is better than no marketing at all…” and they can say this…but they would be wrong! Entrepreneurial leaders must insure the marketing vehicles and tactics  they use support their brand and do not create an interruption.

 

 

Market leaders understand their buyers, their buying process and buying criteria.

 

Market leaders create sales velocity because everything they do has continuity with their brand.

 

 

Market losers create a variety of marketing tools and “throw them against the wall” of their market and wait to… “see what sticks”.

 

Market losers scare business away, and their energy and budgets are used to grow competitors’ businesses.

 

I Love being a Chase Bank customer.

 

I have used a number of banks over the years…Bank of America, Key Corp, and so on. However the service I get from Chase Bank seems to feel different, it’s as if they know me, and they answer my questions before I ask them. Just yesterday my wife and I met with Dennis at our local branch and he was obviously trained to serve his clients. When other banks have made us feel like we were putting their associates out , Dennis was like the Van’s Golf employees name tags that say “sure not problem” Even the experience of walking into one of their locations “feels” different in how you are greeted and guided to the right person to help you. So imagine my surprise after a doctor appointment to come out to my car and see a windshield flier under my wiper from Chase Bank. This was an interruption for me.

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Marketing interruptions make current customers pause…and bad things happen when customers pause.

 

For example, at first I smiled and threw their flier in my trunk to throw away later. As I drove to my next appointment however my mind wandered…

I have been reading about banks in trouble

 

Is my bank…Chase Bank, in trouble?

 

Should I maybe check out Wells Fargo or maybe open an account with Bank America again just to play it safe?

 

Didn’t I just read they were downsizing?…. ut oh

However my mind quickly came to terms with what has a higher probability of truth; It was the end of August ( end of the month race to hit numbers), and some salesperson , a hunter by nature ( which is awesome) needed business. So as opposed to sitting in the branch waiting for business to come to them, they took initiative and made some purple fliers and more than likely spent hours in the 104 degree Arizona heat stuffing them under windshield wipers in hopes this would drive new business. I had a pizza shop as a client years ago that could ramp up or down his sales by the number of windshield fliers he would have his drivers place. It became a predictable outcome for him over time.

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However, the way a pizza shop or even a gas station chases new business is significantly different than what I would expect from my trusted bank, and the two should never be confused.

As I discussed, entrepreneurial leaders have bad things happen when they “assume”. “Well if windshield fliers work for pizza shops and gas stations…why not…” The “why not” is whatever you do must be intentional and have continuity with your brand image, your brand promise in the minds of buyers in your market.

In defense of Chase Bank, I have had rogue sales guys and even sales managers do much worst over the years. As I said I have to smile that at least they tried! Leaders, no matter what the size of their organization, must remember;

If marketing does not create tools that help salespeople hit their objectives, sales will create their own…and although you appreciate their “be a part of the solution” attitude it may cause your market to pause. When markets experience a pause, an interruption in the brand image …bad things happens.

 

 

How about your company…..

 

Are your salespeople creating their own tools to hit their numbers?

…Are you sure?

 

What policies and procedures do you have in place to insure your brand image is protected and reinforced?

 

Have you ever had your salespeople create their own tools…tell me about it.

 

 

From the number of fliers blowing around in the parking lot now as “marketing litter” I could tell most of the people who had fliers under their wipers did not value this communication attempt by Chase Bank. I would be interested to know from Chase Bank if this tactic is a marketing approved new business program or if I was correct a local branch went off the marketing reservation. If this tactic does in fact drive needed new business at moth end that is greater the negative impact it has on their brand in the mind of the market.

Market Leaders Don’t Just Serve Their Markets…They Create Movements; as Illustrated by The Ohio State University

Posted by on September 2, 2009 with 1 Comments

 

When you encounter a market leader you know it.

They walk, talk and act differently. Everything market leaders do is different; you know them by their actions more than what they say.

When the competitors are all focused on themselves and how to beat each other, and share why they are incrementally “better” … Market leaders create Movements.

If you are blessed to meet (work with) market leaders as I have, their mission is more of a quest, than a business plan. Their salespeople do not use “why our competition is bad selling”.

My son has a dream of returning to Ohio some day and attending The Ohio State University Law School, and he sent me the below video. (giving me time to figure out how to swing the finances)

 

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n3Z52GKONPc&hl=en&fs=1&]

 

 

 

 

 

 

Instantly I recognized a Market Leader.

Market leaders don’t just serve their markets, they create movements…..

 If a University can create a movement, why can’t you?

How about your organization…have you started any movements lately?

Are you on a Quest, or just trying to sell more and Hit Your Numbers?

How did the above video make you feel about The Ohio State University?

 What if you made your customers (and those you want to be customers) feel the same way about you?

 I hope you enjoy this as much as I did….and when my son earns admittance to this school I will find the funds. You see …market leaders are discerning about the customers they choose to serve and they command a higher price.

Their buyers (like me) will work hard and we “find the money” just to be associated with them.( maybe you)

                                                  GO BUCKS!

Brutus