Early in my sales career I was given some of the worst advice ever – it nearly destroyed by career. “It’s a numbers game,” I was told. If I could rid the world of one destructive, commoditizing thought it would be that piece of advice.
This philosophy shows up in a number of places. Most recently, it has shown itself as more and more businesses are turning to “social media” to drive the outreach programs. As more and more small and mid-size business (SMEs) executives and salespeople are looking for new ways to stand out, they are experimenting with things like LinkedIn groups, Facebook pages and Twitter. I applaud this effort – however, please stop demeaning yourself by begging and peddling for “fans.” (For those that are not familiar with these tools, fans simply means people that decide to follow your posts and/or be alerted anytime you put something up on one of your pages.)
I’ve lost count of the number of requests I’ve received recently asking me – no, begging me – to become a fan or follower of their new endeavor. This idea is clearly rooted in the idea that if more people are “fans”, then you must be more successful. In reality, this is just another example of modern businesses taking a quantity/volume approach over a quality/profit approach. I am not impressed by the number of followers you have,nor is any reasonable person that I am aware of. I am, however, impressed by the quality of followers you have. One of the ways I judge that is by judging the quality of your content.
It’s funny, I’m a big (BIG) Bruce Springsteen fan – seen him more than 30 times and I’ve got tickets to see him several more times this year, plus I’ve turned on hundreds of people in my life to his music – and he’s never once asked me to become his fan. He takes the harder route – he did (and continues to do) something great and I became a fan. I’ve found this principle exists in business today – those that ask me to become a fan provide the least value; while those that provide great value never feel the need to ask. The more we pursue fans (remember, that’s short for fanatical) who are not really fans, the more we reduce the impact of having actual fans. When that happens, no one is better off – actually, it’s one of the reasons that marketing professionals are in the trouble they are in.
I guess it’s human nature to look for the shortcut – the easier route. Look getting people to click a button to become a “fan” is relatively easy – it’s a lot harder to build a true fan base; a community of people who are connected to what you do and care – passionately – about what you and your company are. It might look better to have thousands of people signed up to be your “fan” – but I’ll take the few that really, truly care.
I’ve been thinking a lot of the title of a book. Three months ago on a trip to visit a client in Buffalo, I came across Jack Trout’s new book, In Search of The Obvious. (Please note that I have not read this book and while I like much of what Trout has written, I’ve also taken him to task for some old thinking.) While I haven’t read the book, I’ve been obsessing about the concept of the obvious.
Here’s what I’ve come to understand. Experts hate (HATE) obvious, because, well, it just doesn’t require any expertise to understand. Any six-year-old can understand the obvious. There’s no nuance in obvious – and experts love (LOVE) nuance. Here’s how Dictionary.com defines obvious:
I guess it violates cocktail party manners to “lack subtlety.”
Since I’ve been thinking about obvious, I’ve become shocked by just how difficult salespeople and entrepreneurs make it for people to understand them. We use complex words (too many and too embarrassing to mention), complex drawings, and complex concepts to highlight what need to be obvious conclusions.
Here’s the thing, unless you are selling a pure commodity to a fundamental buyer, your buyer has a lot more in common with a six-year-old than an expert. The more obvious the better. Obvious doesn’t mean stupid – quite the contrary. Obvious requires genius. Obvious is different. Obvious requires that you occupy the mind of your buyer, that you make your buyer feel understood. Obvious means you care.
Increasing sales and building a business have very little in common with cocktail parties; so drop the nuance and the subtlety and be obvious. It’s the key to fast, sustainable, profitable growth.
In my last post, I introduced The New Marketing Funnel and defined the phases of the process. In this post, I want to share how to utilize this process as the filter for every marketing action or investment you consider.
One of the great advantages of The New Marketing Funnel is that it finally puts to rest the age-old question: How does the selling function differ from the marketing function and where and when do they meet. Since (what seems like) the beginning of time, sales and marketing have been in a pitchfork battle – exemplified by the Harvard Business Review article The War Between Sales and Marketing. The New Marketing Funnel clearly shows how sales fits in the marketing function and how marketing both supports and stimulates the sales function.
With a clear understanding of each phase of The Funnel, the first question to ask when considering or reviewing a marketing activity or investment is which part(s) of the funnel is the activity designed to support. A fundamental key to effective marketing is to ensure that every effort is measured and assessed for effectiveness. While some marketing activities are easier to measure and judge than others, The Funnel makes it easier to assess any activity when you’re clear about it’s purpose.
Take blogging for example. I’ve been a blogging advocate for years, and I’ve encouraged many a businessperson to start blogging. That said, I know many people who started blogging only to quit because, “It didn’t produce any results.” I asked them what results it was supposed to produce. After much conversation (which I might add demonstrated that they had no clear objective to begin with), it came down to: we couldn’t measure any new business we were getting as a result of blogging – it was a big waste of time. Further clarification led to the realization that they wanted their blog to support lead generation.
Had they understood The New Marketing Funnel before they began to blog, they would probably have realized, before they started, that blogging would not “pay” if measured by lead generation effectiveness. (In my personal experience with this blog, I’ve found very little lead generation impact). The interesting thing about these companies is that their biggest problem wasn’t a lack of opportunities in the market, per se. The problem they had was getting prospects to understand their value proposition, and to get prospects to engage in conversation. Their direct sales efforts struggled overcoming the “relevancy barrier” (answering the question in a prospect’s mind why they should stop what they’re doing and listen to the salesperson).
The part of The Funnel that addresses this issue is lead cultivation. Had these companies focused on the objective of lead cultivation, the topics they wrote about would have been different, the salespeople would have leveraged the content to soften the market for lead conversion and the bloggers would have given the effort the time it needed. Why? Because they would have been clear about the purpose.
The Funnel doesn’t just work for blogging and other social media (though it will clearly define the power of such tools and tactics), and it doesn’t just work on the pre-sale portion of marketing. The Funnel helps direct actions that lead to increased word of mouth. Since before I ever had a thought about starting my own business (I was probably 6 at the time), I knew that the “best advertising” was word of mouth (WOM). Most small and mid-sized business enterprises (SMEs) rely on WOM for a meaningful portion of the new business efforts. Yet, few companies actually address the issue directly. The Funnel helps you focus those efforts.
Putting The New Marketing Funnel To Work
So, how can you utilize The Funnel to make sense of your marketing efforts? Here’s a 10-step plan:
- Identify and list all marketing activities that you conduct (big or small).
- Clearly connect every activity to at least one of The Funnel’s phases (it’s fine to have more than one – for example, blogging supports cultivation, selling, and loyalty & belonging for me).
- Any marketing activity that is not directly supporting at least one phase of The Funnel should be immediately eliminated.
- Describe how the activity supports the phase it has been assigned to (if you find the task of writing that description to be more pain than it’s worth – that marketing activity should be immediately eliminated).
- Define success – if the activity works what value would it provide; what’s it worth?
- Calculate the costs (time, money and energy) for each activity.
- Do a return on costs analysis – does the definition of success (step 5) provide a reasonable multiple for the costs. Any activity that does not should be immediately eliminated.
- Monitor your activities and compare the results to your expectations.
- Adjust accordingly.
- Identify phases of The Funnel that are not fully support and create activities that support those phases and meet the criteria in steps 1-9.
If The Funnel has done it’s job, you will a) be much clearer about your marketing efforts, and b) you will have cut some marketing activities. This biggest, most common marketing mistake I see SMEs make is they try to do too much. Better to do fewer things excellently than several in a mediocre fashion.
We have a tool called The Packaging Audit™ that can support this analysis. If you’d like a copy, send me an email (or leave a comment) with your contact information. I’d be happy to provide it to you.
The marketing function (at least as most business executives define it) has been undergoing substantial change over at least the last 10-15 years. Traditional communication mechanisms are no longer sufficient to create the environment to make profitable sales. The reasons for this are multi-pronged. Increased competition, information, commoditization and complexity have formed a great barrier to a company’s ability to connect with its desired customers.
In this two-part post I will share you with a new paradigm of marketing – what I call “The New Marketing Funnel” – that will enable you to transform old, ineffective forms of marketing to critical drivers of growth. In this post I will focus on introducing The Funnel and highlighting some critical errors of more traditional approaches. In my next post, I will share how to put The Funnel to work in your business.
While this post highlights my experience and take on this issue, I did not originate the idea (my apologies for not being able to remember the people who inspired this insight – I’d like to give proper attribution). Various marketing prognosticators have been talking about the need to focus on customer niches, establish connections and to co-create. This post, and my approach, is unique because it looks at how The New Marketing Funnel connects to the pre-sale phase, the selling process and the post sale process.
Traditional marketing has focused, almost exclusively, on only the first part of The New Funnel – lead generation. It then paid lip service to lead cultivation and conversion. The reality in most small and mid-sized business enterprises (SMEs) is that the area between lead generation and the selling process could best be described as The Land of Mutual Mystification. This resulted in a poor definition of lead generation and resulted in accelerated commoditization.
Now, let me define the phases of The New Marketing Funnel:
Lead Generation: Any activity that “leads” a Best Few Client™ to become actively aware of your company and/or your offerings. (Please note that while the buyer is actively aware of you, in the lead generation phase you may have no idea of the buyer’s existence.)
Lead Cultivation: The activities that allow your business to build a connection with those who are aware of you. This is where your positioning is established – where you have the opportunity to truly differentiate yourself (many times this is the only place where you have the opportunity). This is also the place where you can create demand. Lead cultivation should be designed to attract the right buyers to your offering – while repelling the wrong ones.
Lead Conversion: This is the point in the cycle where a selling and/or buying process is kicked off. The nature of the conversation changes from the general to the specific. Problems are clearly identified and the conversation becomes focused on key problems and issues.
This is the point where traditional marketing let businesses down and accelerated commoditization. While sales and marketing departments were talking about “lead generation,” companies defined a lead as one who was willing to enter a sales conversation – this is lead conversion not lead generation. This is why marketing communication became more about the “we-do’s,” features and stuff that businesses did, rather than on enabling buyers to feel understood. The focus on the conversation (and most websites) is too far down the cycle.
Selling Process: This clearly defined process is where buyer and seller are in a direct conversation about uncovering, understanding and solving problems.
Satisfaction, Loyalty & Belonging: Post sale is another place where traditional marketing let businesses down. Sure, it paid lip service to satisfaction and loyalty, and marketers discussed things like enhancing the client experience, but it never really lived up to the promise. The post sale process is where you secure your customer/client base and stimulate loyalty and word-of-mouth. The problem with most word-of-mouth is that it happens by accident and isn’t guided. Effective post sales marketing stimulates and guides effective word-of-mouth.
In the next post, I will share with you how to utilize The New Marketing Funnel to guide your strategy and tactics.
For quite some time, the word differentiation has been driving me crazy. Similar to the term “brand,” the term “differentiation” is a result that has been turned into a mean by marketing consultants seeking to create revenue streams.
- It has become a verb – “I want to differentiate my offering.”
- It has become a value judgment – “We are more differentiated than our competitors.”
- It has become a battle cry – “Differentiate or Die!”
The reality is twofold: a) we are by definition different, and b) differentiation correlates with success, but it is not the cause of it. People do not buy things because they are different, they buy things because they perceive them as better.
I recommend that we replace with word “differentiate” with “uniqueness.” I like unique better – it’s clearer. You’re unique or you are not – you can’t be “a little” or “very” unique.
With the Super Bowl over, the conversation is certain to focus to one degree or other on the commercials. If you follow any marketing commentary, you have certainly heard debate over the last week about whether the $3 million paid for a 30 second ad was worth it.
My opinion on the matter (as I’ve written before) is that there are typically far more effective things companies could do with that type of money to make connections with buyers and grow their businesses. Though I do understand that there are strategic reasons that one would advertise on the Super Bowl, it is the one place left in America where people of all demographics and psychographics are together.
The point of this post is not whether or not your should spend $3 million for an ad – it’s what are you going to do with any money you spend on advertising, promotion, or community building. The vast majority of readers of this blog would not even consider advertising on the Super Bowl, but I see them make the exact same mistake that Super Bowl advertisers make – and they do it with money more precious to them.
The mistake is highlighted with the annual homage paid to the famous Coca-Cola commercial featuring Mean Joe Greene. There was even a remake of the ad last night.
What’s the mistake you ask? After all, it won awards, it’s remembered and loved. The mistake (at least according to Sergio Zyman, the Chief Marketing Officer of Coca-Cola who pulled the ad) was that it didn’t increase sales – and that is the purpose of advertising and marketing.
Some of the ads last night were funny, most were inane and none stood out. I did an informal survey of my guests at halftime and while people could remember the ads, they could not remember who advertised.
Too often, companies of all shapes and sizes chose to do the popular and/or predictable thing rather than the effective thing. Let’s face it – it’s easier to make a commercial (or a message) that’s funny than it is to make one that is effective. To be effective, you must:
- Clearly focus on who you are trying to communicate with
- Fully understand the person you are trying to communicate with (this, by the way is the most difficult thing to do), and
- Clearly communicate why the person you are trying to communicate with should care what you are saying.
The reality is that if Super Bowl advertisers did these three thing alone, there would be far less controversy about spending the money to advertise. The point for executives of small and mid-sized companies looking to connect with growth opportunities is that it doesn’t matter how much you spend, you must do the hard work or you are wasting whatever money you do spend.
Those who know me know I loves me some good quality steak – especially a medium rare New York Strip. They also know that the only thing that doesn’t go well with steak (IMHO) is a commercial pitch. So it is rare that I find myself enjoying a great steak at a business function.
Last night was the exception, as I had the unique privilege (thanks to the Washington Chapter of EO) to enjoy a fine steak at Morton’s and hear a presentation from Morton’s very own Chairman, CEO & President Thomas Baldwin. Mr. Baldwin was hospital, gracious, entertaining, and very insightful. I highly recommend the Morton’s experience. They made me feel welcomed and served me as an individual, even though there were more than 70 present.
Enough with the commercial – now to the point of the blog. Baldwin provided insights that every fast growth executive should keep forefront in their mind. Here are the highlights – ignore them at your peril.
- The road to good service is paved with mistakes – well handled (that insight is worth the costs of a year’s worth of Morton’s dinners).
- In response to how a premium offering deals with today’s recession: I can’t worry about the recession – I can only worry about the things I can control.
- In response to how Morton’s is managing during the recession: We’re controlling our costs, cutting overhead where we can, executives are not getting raises or bonuses – but the guest hasn’t seen any of it.
- Food is wine, wine is food – that’s our philosophy (it’s also probably why Morton’s averages 15-20% more per head than its competitors with little advertising).
- If it’s not perfect, we don’t send it to the guest.
- The whole idea is to be genuine.
- They train and reward – maniacally (my word, not his).
- People who work with you will fail. I will fail. The key is to keep it a minimum – and when it happens, fix it.
All those tidbits and a great NY Strip to boot – who could ask for more?
Too many websites miss out on the demand creation potential of the web – thus contributing to their own commoditization. One of the smartest (and wisest) pieces of advice I ever received from a coach of mine was, “Doug, remember that everybody wakes up in the morning with one goal in mind – to get through the day without meeting you.” While he was certainly being facetious (maybe), there is a lot of truth in the statement.
People go through life pursuing their objectives and not considering yours.
What does this have to do with websites, you may ask. Quite a lot. I’ve been involved in several projects reviewing websites and working with my clients in the creation of new ones. The biggest “intent” mistake that I see with websites everyday is that they are designed almost exclusively for those people that are going to your website on purpose.
The problem with this approach is that you are only communicating with people who already know who you are, believe they know what you do, and believe they know how they may need to use you. There is certainly value in this function, but the hidden (and real) value of the web lies in those people who “accidentally” find your website.
The web is a powerful “answer” mechanism. People regularly search for answers to their questions, or (dare I say) solutions to their problems. (Side comment – when I say solutions, I DO NOT mean products/services/ offerings posing as solutions – I mean the intelligence and knowledge of HOW to solve their problems.) Now understand when your prospect is searching the web they are not “looking” for your website – nor are they looking for your services. They’re looking for – well – whatever it is that they are looking for.
In my experience, you need to keep three things in mind if you want to make the accidental visitor a repeat visitor – and eventually a customer:
- You must make you website a resource. Highlight your knowledge – not just your offerings. The most effective question I’ve used to assess whether your site is supporting this aim is: What reason would an accidental visitor have to bookmark your site?
- Remember that your web visitors view the world from their perspective – not yours. This means that you need to be careful how your label your site. You may know what “custom services” mean, but it’s a good bet your accidental visitor doesn’t. Next time you view your site, view it through the lens of someone who knows nothing about you.
- Stop making your visitors work so hard to understand what you do – they can’t. Drop the we-do’s. Your biggest competition isn’t someone (or some company) who claims to do the same things you do, your biggest competition is noise and clutter. You job is to break through the noise. You do that, not by bragging, but by demonstrating that you understand your customers, instead of forcing your customers to understand you. Demonstrate your competence by demonstrating the intimate knowledge you have of your desired visitors.
I realize that it’s a lot easier to develop a website for your “on-purpose” visitors – but the real marketing leverage comes when you turn the accidental visitor into the on-purpose visitor, and then a customer.