How’s that social channel working for ya?

July 6, 2016

If you are a social marketing professional and haven’t checked out #SMChat on Thursdays, you may be interested in this week’s installment. Chris nicely sums up the preface to this week’s chat with the existential question: what’s it all worth?  He includes some helpful self-test questions for practitioners to assess the value of their social channel efforts.  Hope to see you on the call!

Here’s Chris’s article…

 

Most social networks are built without a design. We follow, we like, we get followed, and *POUF* we’re connected to lots and lots of people, some friends and quite a few strangers. Now what? What value can be gained? That of course is the main unsolved riddle of social media for most people. The initial […]

via Building A Social Network: Value, by Design — #SMCHAT


Which KPIs to Measure, and When

January 14, 2016

Maybe you’re the CMO (Chief Marketing Officer), the Chief Sales Officer (CSO), or the one doing it all (sing: C-I-E-I-O). In any case, you are deeply involved with setting strategy, goals and KPIs that will help you make your number. Which measurements matter most, and why? Are you swimming in data and metrics, and confused by the options? You are not alone. Here’s why, and how to solve it.

Today, almost all of a buyer’s journey happens online before they speak with your company.  Often you aren’t even aware, although that can be fixed too (separate forthcoming post; follow this blog).

This means Marketing and Sales have to jointly engage potential buyers over a longer period of time, using multiple touchpoints, to reliably focus on helping the most needy customers and likely buyers.

Geting Organized

Knowing what to measure, and when to measure it, for each Tactic (video, whitepaper, etc.) and each Buyer Journey stage (people ask different questions as they proceed through to a decision), helps you optimize your relationship building efforts and improve sales and service.

The dizzying array of measurements and KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) often hinders progress, so we have reviewed the results of a number of client engagements to bring you an easy single-page reference table that you can use with any CRM system to guide your setup of meaningful measurements, accurately gauge progress, and know where your next sale is coming from.  Your own circumstances may be unique, but this is a start.

A Handy Funnel / KPI Planner Tool

Marketing Funnel KPI clip PreviewClick the spreadsheet snippet here to preview a .pdf of this free organizer tool that guides you through the most important KPIs to set for each Funnel stage, each Goal, and each Tactic you use to make customers and happiness happen. Sales and Marketing people across a number of client projects have tried this tool and liked it.

Get the Actual Working Tool – it’s free

The native file is much easier to work with than the Preview.  It is an ordinary Excel spreadsheet, and I have pre-set it with split windows so you can scroll right to reveal over 30 KPIs that apply for each Stage, Goal and Tactic, without losing sight of the main row and column headers. Check the last box on the list on this online order form to order your free copy.

Get the KPI planner tool - free

Over to You

Try it! I welcome your reactions, comments and suggestions. This KPI Chart will be added to our Resources page shortly, after it has been “out to play” among you for a little while and we have gathered your feedback. Of course, you will be notified of those updates, if you have downloaded the file.

As always, we couldn’t do what we do in this blog without your input, and from the valuable experience we gain working with clients and the many CRM, sales force automation and “social hive” tools we implement for them, too numerous to mention here.  Thanks!

Cheers, ~Ed


Why Blogging Works: Influence and Reciprocity

January 8, 2016

Once more, with feeling.  Blogging is just about the best way to influence buyers and build loyalty.  Here’s why.

Why blogging works - highfive for reciprocityIn re-reading the book “Webs of Influence” by Nathalie Nahai lately, just to refresh on some principles of User Experience, I am once again appreciating the depth to which she lays out the basic human principles behind online influence. Side note: I really like that Ms. Nahai highlights a “Make This Work for You” segment in each book section (multiples in each chapter) where she outlines a real world use case, bringing her writings beyond the realm of theory and science and into the world of practical use for you and me.

Triggering Social Obligations

In her book, Ms. Nahai quotes social psychologist Robert Cialdini’s statement “There is an obligation to give, an obligation to receive, and an obligation to repay” in human society,  explaining that the easiest way to initiate reciprocity is to begin by offering a gift.  At any dance party, are you waiting for someone else to make that first move?   Be that first mover.  Your gift can of course be a blog article, where you offer free advice to your audience.  Importantly, Ms. Nahai mentions that the gift you offer must actually be something of value. Upshot: skip the listicle theme and the pleas to “like” your content, and just offer authoritative, helpful content.

Gift Ideas that Build Reciprocity

If you’re not yet an active blogger, other gift ideas might include a free Skype session or Webinar, a free eBook or PDF, a special Subscriber benefit such as access to exclusive premium-value content, or a concession or compromise such as a discount on published prices in exchange for deeper insight or other value.

Online Presence Establishes Credibility

By now you probably know that diligent people check out your online presence (LinkedIn, website, social media accounts) before they decide to offer you the gig. By offering a free Resources page on this blog, as well as making blog articles searchable by topic, we establish credibility and facilitate the reference check process, building confidence in the client that s/he has made a wise selection in selecting us.

All of this may sound obvious, but bear in mind that closing the loop of reciprocity begins and ends with you.  It begins with acknowledging when a prospect or customer has visited your blog, downloaded free content or some such action.  It continues when you thank them personally (not just auto-reply) and continue the dialogue toward helping them solve their challenge, whether or not they buy.  If they buy, good; if they don’t, they still may become a referral source, a colleague, and perhaps even a friend.

Case in Point: Closing the Sale

We recently were hired by a financial services firm to help with a combined website content refresh, social channel buildout, and CRM transformation project. Closing the sale was easier because they acknowledged they had received substantial value just from our blog articles and from a handful of conversations where we discussed the practical application of our knowledge to their set of challenges. In essence, the Discovery phase of the engagement, for which we typically charge a fee, had already been substantially accomplished through that preliminary dialogue and resource exchange.  When we pointed out this concession, the Prospect agreed about the value they had already received, as well as their comfort with the progress of that dialogue and their assurance that we present a wise choice. Reference check done. Confidence assured. Deal done. Bam.

Accelerating Sales through Reciprocity

In preparing for the coming year, our team reviewed our own CRM reports, looking at the Sources of client revenue, analyzing the specific events that helped advance dealflow to successful sales.  We found a high correspondence between deal closure and the Reciprocity loop that involved prospects accessing our online content, combined with our follow-through in highlighting value already delivered before asking for the sale.  In situations where the reciprocity relationship was rather more tenuous, the client interactions seemed marked by more tentative, hard negotiations.  In deals where the Reciprocity was high, we also saw a greater incidence of multi-year client relationships.  This is the year we build on making Reciprocity a standard, repeatable process.

Over to You

As fellow humans, how can we build better reciprocity into relationships to help one another discover and solve challenges?  Can we improve on the habit of acknowledging others’ contributions to our relationships?  As sales professionals, can you use your online presence to establish credibility, begin the Reciprocity loop, and close it with your own follow-through? Love to hear your comments and stories.

Cheers, ~Ed


The Real Meaning of CRM

November 11, 2015

human and robot hands

Credit: Phillipedia Files

I often joke with clients and audiences that the acronym CRM may be widely accepted as shorthand for “Customer Relationship Management”, but we know what it really stands for: “Can’t Remember Much”.

Before you dash away from this article thinking it’s all jokes, let’s analyze the kernel of truth behind that chuckle.

Some parts of your work could be automated.  CRM is just one tool. That’s the good news. Implemented well, CRM can free you to spend more time applying your expertise on more creative work and expediting decisions on exceptional cases instead of tedious, rote activities like cataloging and retrieving information.

Take the free CRM Readiness Assessment

The main challenge is human adaptability. It is natural to find comfort in routine, but when that same routine becomes unnecessary or a competitive disadvantage, you must adapt or face potential loss. Buggy whips, anyone?

To be sure, the economic benefits of automation include labor savings, but nobody is suggesting that all human-involved work goes away. Instead, your work might become more cerebral in nature. Amazon’s Kiva warehouse robots can stock shelves and fulfill shipment orders far faster and commit fewer errors, and Quill can produce narrative reports from raw data whose resulting output is hard to distinguish from a human-authored prose piece, but they are not existential threats.  Your ability to create, decide, interpret and act on information is a product of your judgment and experience; analyzing the risk and opportunity inherent in any decision is downright, intuitively messy. And we humans are surprisingly, inimitably good at it.  We just need our CRM solution to have proper care and feeding, including clean, accurate, relevant data.

It’s not just low skill, low wage work that could be automated. Many highly skilled types of work could have aspects of certain work processes delegated to automation. Scheduling, producing reports and aggregating data can be automated to synthesize new discoveries, flag exceptions and highlight decision options directly at their point of use – – the factory floor or the boardroom – where a judgmental human can use discretion to suit the desires and needs of a customer.

What does this mean to the business leader? It means we need to use our creativity and judgment to study developments in new automation solutions and assess how and when we might sensibly adopt them to maintain a competitive edge, or perhaps or discover a new one.

Technology of any kind is usually only a temporary advantage, but human creativity and productivity are hard to beat. You definitely want more creative humans on your team – especially creative ones who can interpret your needs and help you find the automation solutions to fill them. That’s where a CRM expert comes in. Shameless plug alert: luckily, you found us.

Additional Resources

Four fundamentals of workplace automation (McKinsey)


The ROI of Social Media

October 16, 2015

There are two ways to measure social media ROI: (1) direct profit that results when people act on an offer you publicize on a social channel (a promo code, a coupon, or the like); and (2) the contribution to profit and value that results from people engaging on social channels to chat, research, converse, and generally form a positive impression that inclines them to buy, recommend, follow, and stay loyal and satisfied.

Social BI cover

Click to view on SlideShare

We help clients focus on that second, far more lucrative metric, also known as Customer Lifetime Value, or CLV. Ever heard of that? It’s a measure of the profit you can expect to generate from a customer as long as they remain a customer. It includes initial sales, renewals, upgrades, referrals, and other sometimes non-monetary indicators of buyer satisfaction.

How do you measure contribution to CLV? The slide deck linked here offers a glimpse into some of our client work that answers the question.  If focuses less on the technology that underpins the effort, although we do provide a resource list, but more on the types of things you can measure and the ways you can capture the upstream inputs to do that measurement so you can determine what works and pivot to do more of that.  We hope you find it helpful.

How do you measure social media ROI? Love to hear your stories.  Comment below, or really open up the chat by sharing on your favorite social channel!

Cheers,

~Ed


Connected Customers are Transforming Your Business – again

December 1, 2014

Recent seasonal business and commerce reports announce that the smartphone-toting Connected Customer, known affectionately as “Generation C”, now outnumbers the in-person buyer – and not just in retail stores.  Generation C has higher expectations elsewhere, too; they expect their relationship with your business to evolve beyond a series of first dates – – a long-held expectation in the B2B space.

Fan Foundry Service Options

What’s your challenge?

To our delight, some industries are transforming to get in front of the trend (think: media, music, entertainment, phones), partly to compete but also to survive against disruptors, born in the digital age, who find new ways to free up inventory (Uber, AirBnB, Netflix, Spotify, Khan Academy).  Meanwhile, many long-established industries risk extinction or deep disruption (encyclopedias, libraries, record stores, taxis, newspapers, education).

Turn your Digital Channel up to 11 (a free playboook)

Nobody said transforming your business to serve the Connected Customer would be easy.  Indeed, it is often underestimated and under-resourced.  Analyst reports repeatedly cite CXOs admitting that their modernization and transformation projects are failing to deliver expected ROI, with some projects even failing outright. But if you wish to survive, transforming to take advantage of speeds and feeds is essential.

Our clients, by contrast, almost uniformly report success in making the digital transformation, often with results that vastly exceed their expectations. What do they have in common?  They consider the interconnected influences, impacts and perspectives I have outlined in this free e-book, whose insights are gleaned from dozens of client projects over the past 10+years.

Turn Digital Channel up to 11 free offer banner

Getting Started

If your future vision for your business involves the competitive advantages of empowered people, deeper insights, greater customer loyalty, and improved efficiency, that transformation is indeed possible.  It just requires careful planning.  Having that transformation initiative fail is not an option in the eyes of your Connected Customer.  The hardest part, getting started, involves assessing your people, process and technology challenges in light of the opportunity.

I hope you find this e-book useful in planning a successful transformation.  As always, I welcome your comments and questions.

Cheers,

Ed


Are You the Toast of Your Customer, or just Toast?

October 28, 2013

on Sales & Marketing tech as core competencies

Spoiling customers rotten is the new black, the new mantra, the new grail quest.  Worst case: it seems out of reach, and you are toast.

champagne or toastWe see it everywhere.  We have come to expect each next interaction with our product and service providers to feel like progress, not another blind date.  Is that too much to ask?  It certainly has become a new watershed basis for satisfaction.  Ask any Amazon customer.  Examine your banking relationships.

As William Gibson famously said: “The future has arrived – it’s just not very evenly distributed”.  It seems that every day we are yanked between extremes. At one moment we are marveling at modern convenience, and the next moment we are musing about its glitches and unmet expectations, as if somehow entitled.  Maybe we are.  Maybe your customers think so.

Measuring up

Some organizations are equipped, focused and successful at doting on their audiences and customers.  Are you?  If so, great.  If not, why not; what’s keeping you from getting started?  The answer: a lot less than you think.  Of course you could cite the usual hindrances like people, time and resources, and yet today competing at selling, serving and pleasing customers is not an option or a choice, or even a competitive advantage. It’s a baseline expectation.  Table stakes.

Right now, as you read this, your business is either delivering value before, during and after each transaction, or you risk being replaced by a phone app (yep, there’s an app for that).  You can prevent ending up in that scrap heap by making up your mind to compete – affordably, and at scale. The tools are becoming easier to use and more sophisticated.  You just have to be motivated to change.

Our inflated expectations

Before even getting into a discussion on Sales CRM or Marketing Automation software, let’s look at one simple example of how tech tools have changed our behavior: the lowly appointment calendar.

Today, you can easily set your calendar software to remind you ahead of each appointment and keep you punctual, reliable and prepared. In business, we use it to update meeting schedules, locations and agendas, synchronize participants, and keep progress on track. Without it, we risk gridlock, confusion, wasted time and missed opportunity.

Getting and staying in calendar-sync, in some organizations, is a baseline expectation – not a choice. Indeed, for some, being on time is a core part of the business model. From Fedex to Comcast to Delta, we can now know precisely when the next step will occur, often within a time window measured in mere minutes.

Likewise, you can program your Sales CRM software and your Marketing ARM software to notify you when a potential buyer or customer is visiting your website, asking a question, mentioning your brand name in an online forum, or complaining.  If you’re not listening and participating, that’s the same as ignoring.  Is that the reputation you want?  Wouldn’t you rather be as aware as everyone else when your customers praise or complain?  Are you making it difficult for people to buy? Are you even listening? Isn’t ignoring a customer complaint posted on a social media channel the same as ignoring their emails and phone calls?

Expand your capacity

This seemingly new competitive edge – marketing and sales automation – has actually been going on for years in leading organizations. If you are not using CRM or ARM solutions, admit it:  you are limited by human scale and fallibility. You have limited visibility, difficulty forecasting, an over-reliance on intuition and guesswork, and are probably making costly but avoidable mistakes.  What’s worse, you don’t even know the extent of your self-inflicted damage because you aren’t equipped to pay attention.

Conversations today are rife with examples of fumbled relationships and millions of dollars in lost deals that could have been prevented, if only the right hand had known what the left hand was doing. Has this ever happened to you? If you answered no, how can you be sure? Do I smell burning toast?

Quick quiz: assess your readiness for CRM

Imagine what’s possible

With a tuned, integrated “software layer” embedded in your business, you can:

  • create self-guided online experiences, complete with landing pages, call/response email exchanges, up-sell and cross-sell processes, social media engagement incentives, and other valuable interactions;
  • detect the faint signals of purchase intent or dissatisfaction, and intervene to guide decisions;
  • enable your customers, prospects and suspects to research solutions, evaluate yours, and even whimsically waltz among various decision stages and feedback loops toward eventually deciding whether to inquire, pay, receive and use your offerings, all with minimal human intervention; of course you can program it to notify you at key junctures, so you can intervene and assist.

You might think this online commerce model only makes sense in big businesses, large catalogs, complex workflows or servicing a previous purchase, but not in yours.  On the contrary; just about any organization can benefit from marketing and sales automation to help you scale up, optimize your business, and use the reports to discover ways to simplify, improve service, and get better results.

Put simply: there are 7 billion humans, and not enough time or resources to do each task by hand.  It’s time to automate.  Put differently:  we are now all technology companies.  From Amazon and Nordstrom to state and federal government services, we expect technology to facilitate everything from transactions to relationships.  Right?

So, how big is it?

Virtually all the major business analyst firms, from Gleanster and Aberdeen Group to Gartner Group and Altimeter Group, report that top performing organizations are performing better partly as a result of adopting marketing and sales process automation solutions.  Personally, having spent over 15 years programming these customer decision journeys for companies large and small, using a broad palette of tools (see right sidebar),  I have seen the transformation firsthand: clients scaling up to cost effectively satisfy more people, to more cost-effectively and efficiently manage buyer, customer and user interactions, discover customer and buyer behaviors that indicate satisfaction or need, and more.

CRM and ARM software can make you more productive and competitive, freeing you to focus on the creative, intuitive and intellectual  aspects of improving your business, and support you in making better-informed decisions.  Marketing, sales and service organizations are doubling down on tech; indeed, analysts and industry forecasters expect Marketing and Sales organizations’ tech budget growth to outpace Information Technology departments in coming years.  This isn’t necessarily a replacement of the IT organization; rather, IT can be your closest ally when evaluating tech options.  Knowing one another’s agendas can help you transition more effectively to a premises / cloud blend of agile business resources.

The choices

So, if you’re feeling bogged down in drudgery, overwhelmed by the escalating demands and expectations of your customers, outpaced by better performing competitors, working harder yet not gaining ground, or possibly even mystified about flattening or declining business, please know that it doesn’t have to be that way.  You can enhance your chances of growth and success by having the right systems in place.  Consider investing in Marketing ARM and sales CRM tools.  Or not.  The choice is yours.  There’s that burned toast smell again.

Take this quick quiz to size up your growth opportunity.

As always, I welcome your comments, questions and suggestions.


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