CAT | Marketing
Goals. You gotta have goals….
Although customer reference programs rarely operate to a ‘one-size fits all’ model, you now know some of the key areas you need to consider to gear your reference program for success. So what next?
Presumably (arguably?), your reference program is being built to increase the number of customer proof-points available for use across sales, marketing, and possibly PR and analyst relations. The strategy for any program should be aligned to where you want to take your business; not only supporting sales and marketing/comms with their current opportunities, but also mapped to future need. Often strategy and tactics get confused or are treated as interchangeable, but it’s incredibly important to get your strategy correct, before setting goals and objectives to deliver against it. Here’s the indomitable Jeremiah Owyang’s view on the two areas: Difference between strategy and tactics
Once you’ve determined your overall strategy, you can set clear goals to ensure focus across the business. Here are some pointers to help you develop these:
- Create references in support of business objectives (short-to-long term)
- Provide an emphasis on quality, not just quantity
- A focus on thought leadership/strategic is often helpful in elevating your message above that of your competitors
- Map your information alongside your customers’ journey and align to future aspirations
- Increase transparency into the reference pipeline and provide ease of access across your business for new and existing references
- A Collaborative approach – development and consumption of references – often pays dividends
I hope this has been helpful, and I look forward to meeting you at Ice Blue Sky’s Customer Reference event [https://events.icebluesky.com] on the 16th April. In the meantime, watch out for my next blog!
This week we have a guest blog from Claire Grove, EMEA Customer Reference Manager from Juniper Networks.
Claire will be dipping in and out of our blog with some handy tips, in the lead up to our event on April 13th – look out for an invite or email me.
Welcome to the big time!
Look at the jobs on LinkedIn and a host of other jobsites; listen to the voicemails from recruiters. Yep, Customer Reference Programmes (CRP) finally seem to have made it to the big time, and are coming into their own as a recognised marketing and communications discipline. To be fair, it’s certainly been a part of many organisations’ marketing departments for a while, but dig a little deeper and you’ll often discover poor budgets and a junior-level person running the program (and for this I am truly grateful; it’s the way I fell into customer referencing), without much real support from elsewhere in the business. All of this is sometimes accompanied by scratching of heads by Execs, and a lofty wave of the hand with a murmuring of “we need case studies”.
Of course I’m being flippant, but certainly when I got into customer referencing this was more the rule than the exception. However since then, it’s been great riding the crest of a wave with other CRP managers, feeling our way from ‘just’ case studies to where the best CRPs are today:
- Providing a mutually beneficial platform for company and customer alike (without resorting to bribes, err I mean incentives)
- Adding value to an organisation, by first understanding what that value actually looks like and then delivering against it
- A philosophy of ‘Think Customer First’; you are the gatekeeper, funnel (for multiple requests from across your business), and salesperson all rolled into one when you are a CRP manager
In this guest blog series for Ice Blue Sky, I’m going to give you some (hopefully) handy tips and insight – garnered through 15 years of customer reference experience in one guise or another – to help demonstrate how CRPs can move from being a ‘nice-to-have’ to a commercially imperative programme.
So, how do you gear for success from day 1?
1) Find out what your company’s business goals, objectives, strategy and tactics are (GOST model)
2) Do a Gap analysis. Speak to stakeholders, find out what’s working, what’s lacking and where you need to be within the next year and beyond
3) Set expectations. Show what you intend to deliver; have a 90-120 day plan in place in addition to your yearly objectives. Short-term wins are important in establishing a trusted programme
4) Design your programme to scale and flex to changing business needs. Your goal isn’t to have a CRP that works well for the next 1-3 years, but is eventually rendered obsolete by changing priorities
5) Measure results. Not just the number of assets created, but what that has meant to the business in terms of impact to the sales achievement/PR coverage/reputation with industry analysts/social media impact/marketing programmes support, or whatever goals you have selected
6) Communicate those results to all interested parties. Get support for your program. If you have achieved XXX results with the budget and staff you have, imagine what can be achieved with more investment and focus from the business.
It’s worth noting that we rarely work within ideal scenarios 100% of the time. Budgets are cut, people are busy, customers say no; but if you are clear about your overall strategy and direction, these issues are rarely insurmountable.
What do you see as your challenge here?
I look forward to your comments, and look out for the next blog in the series – coming to you soon.
This week we have a guest blog from Sarah Lafferty, director at Round Earth Consulting – Sarah is one of my favourite people – she really knows how to cut right to the point and get results!
Persona based PR – just common sense?
I’ve worked in PR for 22 years now and have always held that Marketing, PR and Sales functions in many companies need to work together more closely towards shared goals, even if it means killing a few sacred cows (I promised Charlotte no horse meat jokes). The closest most companies come to this is sharing so called ‘best practices’. Call me a child, but like, isn’t that the whole point of forming a company in the first place?
Anyway. A trendy new best practice has cropped up called ‘persona-based marketing’ that I would like to rebrand ‘common sense’ or as my people say, ‘motherhood and apple pie’. The idea is that you get to understand the different types of people to whom you flog your goods and services (ideally by actually listening to them) and then you fine tune your marketing activities so that these people trust you, identify with your offer and want to buy it. I wonder how we managed to evolve as a civilisation without having thought of this before?
So what’s the story?
And yet, in the industry I work – enterprise software – motherhood and apple pies have been off the menu since, well, pretty much the whole time. The terminology companies use to describe its ‘solutions,’ the patronising, hyperbolic and hyperactive language used to describe ‘features and benefits’ I can promise you mean absolutely nil to the vast majority of numerate, introverted, pragmatic, fire-fighting IT ‘decision makers’ who are trying to compare your ‘solutions’ to others in the market. I know this because I used to work in Centrica’s massive IT department. Incidentally, the ‘business users’ have only a marginally better clue of what you’re on about.
So call it what you like, I am thrilled that persona-based marketing is coming soon to a theatre near us and has already premiered in Leicester Square. Now, going back to ‘best practices’ and common goals, if you are a marketing executive who is also responsible for PR and has decided on a persona-based strategy, I urge you to support your PR team in this as well. Unless your PR people or agency staff have been hibernating in a cave for the last ten years and managing never to communicate with journalists and other third parties who influence your market, they have probably been trying to convince various authority figures that persona-based PR is the only way forward. Despite this, many PRs are being horsewhipped (sorry!) to meet very siloed and meaningless ‘KPIs’ like ‘sending out x number of press release’ and ‘organising x number of briefings’ when the CMO breezes through London to visit his Aunt and catch Les Mis.
So how do you do it?
Unless you happen to be Apple and launching the new iThing, persona-based PR involves packaging every piece of correspondence so that it is tailored, exclusive, newsworthy, grammatically correct, free of hype and irritating jargon (read this!) and with a concrete offer at the end. One senior business journalist I met on a course recommended that PRs should spend two hours on every major pitch and in my experience if you really want an outcome, that’s about right. It does NOT involve spamming every journalist with the same press release and a lazy introduction in the vain hope that some of it will stick. All this will do is get your PRs ‘blacklisted’ and you’ll never communicate with that influencer ever again. I’m not making this up. Or you might find an irritated journalist talking trash about you on Twitter or on their blog. Do you really want to be featured on the #PRfail hashtag?
When it comes to presenting to analysts it means understanding how they view the market and frame their research reports and adapting your material accordingly; not pushing out the same presentation to each one with the same messages and depending on them to figure out how it fits in to these. Can you imagine if salespeople took this approach with their customers?
So to summarise, here’s a cliche, for all the right reasons: PR needs to measured on outcomes not output and quality over quantity. A big part of this is freeing your PR team to do its job in a professional, persona-based way. Give them time and space to provide your influencers with highly personal service and information that can help them get their jobs done. Your reputation and market awareness won’t grow overnight, but if you stay the course with a persona-based PR approach, the benefits and outcomes will grow faster over time and require less effort.
Now where’s that apple pie? All this ranting is making me hungry!
I love stories. I was reminded a few days ago of the power of stories to communicate the benefits of technology. However sometimes I have trouble persuading clients that storytelling is the BEST way to communicate a complex, potentially boring (sorry!) message, and to persuade people to share it.
What’s my story? I was at a cloud computing conference not that long ago. Why? I love what the cloud can offer businesses, we use many cloud applications ourselves, and many of our clients offer cloud based solutions. I also find it very useful to see how new technology works in practice. Also, the opportunity to meet new people is one of the most enjoyable aspects of my job.
While I was listening to a presentation and Q&A session, I received a text. It was from our virtual answering service letting me know that someone had called asking about our services and requested a discussion. This is always music to my ears! Unfortunately the caller left their name and company, but no phone number.
I wanted to leap on the opportunity before the prospect had a chance to talk to anyone else. Marketing is a highly competitive industry so it’s very important to respond quickly. However, I was at a conference, sitting right in the front row and listening to a captivating presentation. I’d been in this situation before: out of the office, unable to log into the VPN to access my email, only being able access LinkedIn contacts through a frustrating series of logins and re-directsand having to wait to send documents until returning to the office.
Fortunately over the last few months we executed a cloud application strategy, transforming everything from our finance (Xero), to job management (workflow MAX), email (Corporate Gmail), task management (Remember the Milk, Evernote, Skitch) and document management (OpenKM). So I was curious to see whether this, along with the introduction of the new, improved LinkedIn App, would improve my ability to track down this prospect remotely.
Sure enough, within five minutes I was able to find the prospect on LinkedIn, request to be connected, send a message through the app and talk to him on the phone (after discreetly slipping out of the front row!) and firm up a meeting. Over the subsequent five minutes I fired up Gmail, LinkedIn and online search, as well as our cloud-based storage system to find and send some examples of our work. I then summarised our call in Evernote and added in a couple of to-dos to prompt me to follow up more extensively when back in the office.
I was able to manage all this from my smartphone quickly and easily. And apart from the actual call, I managed to catch most of the presentation without missing the business opportunity. So in a wholly unexpected way, this conference truly illustrated to me the power and convenience of the cloud!
Learning from the master storytellers
I hope this anecdote illustrates how powerful stories are in communicating the benefits of technology. If it has piqued your interest, I encourage you to check out this article in Harvard Business Review, which eloquently illustrates how to capture hearts and minds by using stories in business.
One of the best storytellers I have ever heard present was Allan Leighton, the man who sold Asda to WalMart for around £6.7bn. Each of his PowerPoint slides consisted of one word on a white background and brought to life by a powerful story told with energy, charisma and conviction. I have never forgotten any of the lessons he taught that day. I also went out and ordered his book from Amazon that evening.
Why not share your story in the comments or propose a guest blog?
I wish you all the best for 2013 and raise a toast to this year’s stories!
What a week, lots going on, and lots of ideas bubbling away for 2013. Met with a client yesterday who are now sponsoring a premier league football team – unusual for a B2B brand, but in this case absolutely on message. We had a lot of fun exploring ways to maximise the opportunity around upcoming events – now tell me B2B has to be boring!
As usual, we’ve been finding some useful resources for you all – this week we’ve been exploring Pinterest - you can follow me here to see for yourself. It’s great for sharing visual information such as Infographics and SO easy to use. If you sign up, be sure to install the “Pin It” toolbar, makes life a lot easier!
Some useful Infographics to help you build the business case internally!
Upcoming Ice Blue Sky events
(email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested in coming along!)
January (yes, we changed it!) – tips to aim for less than 10% drop out rate at events - featuring large software company – name to follow shortly
February – Customer Referral Programmes – SO much more than case studies! Featuring Juniper Networks!
Have a great weekend everyone!
We’ve found a few more interesting B2B resources this last week, even though it’s been hectic running the QlikView Business Discovery Event which happened on October 23rd!
Just so you know, if you join our group on LinkedIn you can see these resources as we find them: Access the B2B Symposium group here!
Read these handy tips for killer call to actions, from HubSpot.
Twitter have launched some great changes, giving you some great creative options for your page – especially if you’re a business. Read this article from Social Media Examiner if you’re wanting to create more Twitter engagement!
We’ve been experimenting with Google +, still early days but there are some great tips here. Join us on Google + here!
So, there you have it – a few resources that make for interesting reading!
Upcoming Ice Blue Sky events
(email me at email@example.com if you’re interested in coming along!)
End of November – tips to aim for less than 10% drop out rate at events
February – Customer Referral Programmes – SO much more than case studies!
The Grange Tower Bridge Hotel is the latest addition to the London hotel chain’s portfolio and it opened its doors for the soft opening in the first week of June. Situated five minutes’ walk from Tower Hill tube station it has some impressive views (from upper floors) across the river and of the nearby Tower of London and Tower Bridge.
Why did we go?
To experience the hotel and see how it feels compared to other hotels in the chain.
What did we do?
We stayed for one night in June about four days after it opened its doors.
Look and feel of hotel:
The ‘soft’ opening means that the accommodation and restaurant are open, with other facilities such as conference space and spa still being completed. There was also quite a bit of landscaping to be completed outside so the initial impressions are of a building site!
The lobby has a very sparse, almost industrial look, which wouldn’t be to everyone’s taste and is quite different to a lot of hotels we have experienced. It feels very spacious with lots of open space and high ceilings, but with stones floors and pillars, ‘cosy’ isn’t an adjective that would fit here.
Once up on the 7th floor, the feeling changes completely and this is the first time it really felt like a 5-star hotel, with deep carpets and immaculate decor. Our room also felt very plush with floor-to-ceiling windows, extremely thick curtains and excellent quality furnishings. The bathroom was also great quality with separate shower and different light settings.
The bedroom had everything you would expect from this level of hotel, including robes and slippers, although we did only have one set. The media connections are very good with a panel across the top of the desk containing different mains sockets for different countries and connections to all the media in the room (iPod etc) so very good for business travellers. Interestingly the mini-bar was empty and it wasn’t clear if this was the usual situation or if it had never been filled.
It is worth mentioning that although the hotel pool and spa are not due to open until September, guests are able to use the facilities at the nearby Grange City Hotel for a charge of £10 per person.
This was the area where it was most obvious that this is a new hotel and they were certainly having their share of teething problems. Upon arrival there were about six staff behind the check in desk and all seemed busy trying to sort out problems with new arrivals. We had a bit of a wait but the actual check-in was very quick and efficient.
Breakfast the following morning was a bit of a shambles. They have a huge restaurant but clearly not enough staff to service it properly, as there was not a single table that had been cleaned when we arrived, despite many tables being clear of guests. We, along with a few other people, were therefore not able to be seated until the head waiter was able to track down a colleague to clear some tables.
Eventually we were offered a seat at a dirty table while we waited, which was not a good suggestion. It would have been better to stand rather than stare at the previous diners’ debris. However, once we did have a table, the food itself was very good with plenty of choice, although we did have to ask more than once for some tea.
This has all the makings of a really good hotel for leisure or business, with a great location, especially for those who want to be close to central London as well as the City. A lot of the staff appeared to be trainees and they will naturally have a learning curve, however if a hotel markets itself as 5-star it should be able to operate at this level from the outset. Judging by some of the comments on TripAdvisor, we got off quite lightly!
It will be very interesting to return to the hotel once the conference space is open to see how things have changed and to experience the service levels once the staff and the systems have bedded in.
Most B2B businesses would say they don’t have an e-Commerce website … they don’t have a shopping cart and for good reason; B2B purchases are often high value items or service contracts.
I propose that most B2B sites ARE eCommerce sites, it’s just that the final transaction takes place off-line. The site plays an important role in a longer sales process. For this reason research and complex decision-making dominate the B2B user experience rather than a shopping basket and checkout. B2B sites have to offer in-depth information that you’d never normally find on a B2C site.
So B2B sites are just another form of eCommerce, but, there’s one big contrast between B2C and B2B – pricing. You rarely find it on B2B sites. In recent B2B research by the Neilsen Norman Group, wanting to get pricing (or an indication of cost) was rated as the most important information needed by B2B site visitors (29% higher than product/service availability which ranked 2nd).
The research shows that in order to make a decision to further the buying process, B2B visitors want a basic knowledge of products and services from their initial research that includes an idea of the cost.
So what’s your excuse for hiding your price?
We’ve all seen them, the square box, with some random black squares arranged within – gradually beginning to appear on consumer products and advertising.
We’ve been thinking about how to use them in a B2B environment.
The most obvious one (to us anyway) seemed to be to pop it onto our business cards:
All you have to do is download a Barcode Reader app to your smartphone of choice, then use that to take a picture of the QR Code, and your phone will automatically register the contact details and should prompt to save as a V Card.
From a B2B perspective, we think it would work well in the following scenarios:
1. Email marketing & Events – include a QR code image in HTML emails that people can scan to download event venue details, someone’s contact details, special offer information etc ( as they can be scanned from on screen as well as in print)
2. Include a QR code in print ads – really handy for tracking responses as you could share a “secret” URL only accessible by scanning the code
3. Include a QR code in printed direct mail – especially great if marketing products – if you go one step further and develop your own app (if relevant) you can integrate the two to enable product reminders and ordering.
4. Web – using QR codes on the website can be a great addition to a contact us page, or to share URLs
5. Well, that was the business card idea
Want to know more about they work? The below link takes you to a great blog that has the top 14 things you should know about QR Codes:
If you’ve any other ideas for use in a B2B environment, please comment below!
The one group of businesses I expect to have their unsubscribe process spot on are retailers – especially online retailers.
I don’t think I’m being unreasonable, they are completely customer focused, familiar with technology and have been using the internet for some time now!
I think someone needs to let play.com in on the secret – sorry guys!
In a New Year clearout I decided to purge my personal email of subscription emails….it’s a dumping ground email address for me when I buy things online, but I finally tired of all the scintillating offers and decided to decamp. This soon became an odyssey of critiquing Unsubscribe processes – teensy bit relevant to me as we run many email campaigns for our customers, and frankly, I’m a bit nosy.
Firstly, the myth of bigger companies and retailers being more on the ball – how wrong could I be!
Art.com impressed me the most, not only was the process painless and quick, they’ d taken the time to create an appealing page that said how sorry they were to see me go. Very sweet (didn’t stop me, but I would still buy from them, which is the point).
A few sites from very small retailers impressed me with their painless unsubscribes..and then I clicked on the Play.com one.
Step 1: I was presented with a login screen – well if I’m unsubscribing, I probably haven’t bought anything for ages, and I’m damned if I can remember that password!
Step 2: Yup, you guessed it, so then I had to go through a multi-step forgotten password process (I won’t bore you with that one)
Step 3: (Correct, I am persistent) finally get logged in and am presented with an Account Settings page. The Unsubscribe feature is in a box called Change Newsletter Settings, placed at the bottom of the page, below the fold.
Step 4: Radio button located, I selected it. Sentence appears confirming update (but no acknowledgement that I had unsubscribed, or would be missed – sniff)
Then to top it all off, the next day, guess who I received a newsletter from? Yup, you guessed it, my good friends at Play.com!
This isn’t a diatribe against Play.com – they do the selling bit very well!
But, it is just lack of attention to detail- Unsubscribe is not something that’s hard to get right – just place what the customer wants at the heart of the process, make it easy, make it fast and tell ‘em you’ll miss em!!!