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Keeping Promises to Your Customer: Marketing Strategies that Work

How to tell your company’s story to inspire trust, remain agile to customer needs

In Seth Godin’s recent blog, he says: “My take for the last 15 years is that marketing is merely storytelling and promise making/keeping, and in fact, everything the organization does is at some level, marketing.”

I couldn’t agree more. But how can a new company or an existing company ensure that they’re telling the right stories and making promises they can keep? Using The Center for Business Modeling Business Planning Framework will help. And the best thing about it is that it is an iterative process: If your story doesn’t gel or your promises start to feel flimsy, using the framework will help you adjust.

Agility is Critical

A post by Margaret Rouse writing on techtarget.com provides an excellent definition of business agility. She outlines the ways that a company can keep changing by “assessing priorities and progress frequently”—not just at the end of a project. Her post mostly discusses agility in the context of project management, however, isn’t your business plan the most important and impactful project you undertake?

Using the Framework has helped me crystallize my stories and ensure my promises are kept to my clients in three major ways:

I Can Do Anything Better Than You

1) Brand integrity- I used to tell the story: “I can do anything you need in PR and marketing” and it’s just not true. I don’t have certain skills but then again, one of my strongest attributes is being clear-eyed about that. If one of my clients gives me a project that’s not in my wheel house and hiring a contractor to fill in the gaps is cost-effective for both the client and my company—it’s full steam ahead. However, I need to be very careful when doing so—most of the skills I need help with come with a pretty hefty price tag. Working with my client to find a more effective partner brings them more value in the long run—and makes me more of a business consultant in their eyes. That’s the new story for me—“I will do what I’m best at and if it’s not my strength, I will make sure I hook you up with quality people.” My product and services roadmap (based on the CBM Framework) was adjusted accordingly.

What No One Wants to Hear About Business Ownership

2) Keep your promises to yourself- As a marketing and PR professional for many years, I spent a lot of late-night hours catching up on work because I made sure to make the evening football and soccer games when my kids were in school. When I opened my own company, I tried to opt out of business trips (when possible) that included a lot of travel, paid awesomely — but would upset my work/life balance.

Sometimes, I just had to leave and do my job—and that involved breaking promises to my loved ones rather than to my employer or client. Today, I walk a fine line with keeping client promises and promises to myself about how present I will be for my grown daughter and my youngest son. I believe that any business plan that ignores an entrepreneur’s personal life will fail in the long run—so when using the Framework, I make sure to adjust my plan to the impact on my personal life. I might lose some revenue, but I gain energy and commitment for the projects I choose to take on—because I know that they are congruent to my values. No one asks for their checkbook balance on their death bed.

What’s the Story?

3) Telling a valuable story- The CBM Framework shows you how to tell your company’s story and also to remain agile enough to change your story when the customer is not responding. This is where content marketing metrics come in—how are you reaching your customers and what are you telling them to ultimately turn them into “paying customers”? Your marketing strategies are always evolving based on their needs and your business goals.

Keeping promises. Telling compelling stories. These are the two core activities of any business, anywhere. I love feeling confident that I’m doing them well. Let CBM’s Framework make you confident, as well.

How to Validate Your B2B Go-to-Market Plan

What are we selling? This is where we determine the specifics of our offering, not just in terms of product features and functionality, but also in terms of uses, pricing, messaging and offers. Following the minimum viable product (MVP) strategy, we create as little of the product as necessary to prove its economic viability. In fact, there are ways to do this without actually building the product, which I will explain in a future article.

Who are we selling it to? At this stage, we do persona mapping — determining the demographics and psychographics (personal and business) of who we think will purchase our product or service. Remember that who you think will purchase and who actually purchases may be quite different, so it is important to test this in the early stages of the launch.

Go-to-Market-plan
Why do our prospects need this? Given all the ways our prospects can spend their money (or not spend it), why is our offering something that will grab their mind share and wallet share? What are the compelling factors that will make them overcome inertia and hit the “buy now” button or engage with a sales representative?

Where can we reach them? This is where you determine where your prospects hang out, what they read and who they listen to, and also where you discover which media are the best at reaching people who may not currently know who you are or why they may need you.

How do we go to market?  I’ve written a lot about marketing and sales models, including this recent post where I discussed sales models as a core component of marketing and sales alignment. There are four major types of B2B models, including direct, telesales, channel and online, with dozens of hybrids and variations. There are ways to test these models at very low cost, with the goal of achieving a consistent and repeatable go-to-market model as you scale the business.

When should we launch?  Okay, to confess, the “when” isn’t as important as who, what, when, where, why and how, but I needed it to complete the set. Actually, “when” can be important when you consider the impact of seasonal purchasing and competitive product launches. Enough said about this.

Marketing research does have its place in your go-to-market plan validation, but usually as a form of pre-testing. Conducting research online or at the library — or asking someone whether they would buy a product at a focus group – is not the same as proving whether there is a market for your product. Better to spend some time and a few dollars on the type of testing that really counts – whether your prospects will actually purchase of what you are selling.  That’s the type of testing that gets me excited!

Reprinted with permission from Great B2B Marketing. To view the original post, click here.

Three Ways to Disrupt Your Business Model

Technology is no longer the key disruptor:
Your Business Model is—So it “better be good”

David Skok is one of my favorite business writers because he tends to change the way I think about my business. He helps bring new ideas to entrepreneurs like me, who barely have time to do our jobs — let alone keep up with the latest in business model innovation. I know when I visit a Skok blog or SlideShare, I’m not wasting my time.

Take this recent statement from David in a SlideShare titled, “Business Model Innovation: The New Trigger for Great Start Ups”: “Unlike in the past where technology innovation was the primary driver of startup innovation,  in the last ten years it has frequently been innovation in new business models that has caused the disruption to create the opening for new companies.”

The 79+ page Slide Share brought me to some great conclusions about where my company might be headed. David uses awesome examples to show how the “business model as innovator” concept works in practice. Here are some of the most valuable insights:

1. Watch your CAC (cost to acquire a customer) – According to Skok, start-ups using the new model—spending money to get customers to your website and then monetizing the site with offers, etc—doesn’t take into account how much money it will cost to acquire not only a visitor– but a real customer. By monetizing a portion of the customer base and using free software to acquire customers cheaply, startups can keep their CAC more manageable—and make more money.

I learned this lesson the hard way. I loved attending the big, fancy conferences when I first started my company. I thought I would network with the big money clients—then, once they met me, of course they would hire me—voila! That $2,500 conference fee paid for itself.

When I finally broke down the average number of clients I obtained from attending twice a year, every year for three years, I came up with five clients that yielded about the same amount of money as I spent on the conferences. I deicided to cut down attendance to once every two years and spend my new business money on people who were already in my network.

I still go because I love to learn about my discipline. I just don’t spend as much in acquiring customers there. And even though $5,000 a year doesn’t seem like a lot to you, it was a lot of money to me back then. Today, I’d rather spend it on something that yields client contracts on a regular basis.

 2. Keep Track of Buying Behavior – Skok says that outbound marketing annoys your customers and is increasingly not working. Today, buyers use Google search, reviews, free trials, blogs and other content sources to learn about the offerings they need. The key point Skok makes resonates with start-ups in particular—you need “inbound marketing thought processes.”

 I see so much content “thrown at the wall until something sticks” by start-up companies. They “know” they need to be certain places online but they don’t pay thoughtful attention to what they want out there; who needs to be saying it (I love customer testimonials as a buyer and as a business); and where they need to be (to build a social following) basically, how to “educate and entertain.”  Spend a lot of time on this part. It’s worth it.

 3. Be a “New World” Business – The older business model had us charging for everything, even demos. Demos and trials are still widely used. But to move into the “new world” of innovative business models, you have to figure out how to simply give it away. For free. And only monetize a fraction of your customer base to make money.

Granted, your customer base has to be pretty big for most of us to afford the mortgage, the car, and our kids’ tuition with this model. But if you are watching your CAC carefully; writing and posting targeted content in accordance with how your buyers really behave (and not how you wish they would); and figuring out how to give it away while monetizing enough to feed your family and please your investors—Skok says you can get there.

Use the Center for Business Modeling SWOT tool to figure out your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in these three areas. And then get to work disrupting your market.

How to Find Your Total Addressable Market

Businesses love talking about total addressable market because it’s exciting for them to see the available opportunity for their product or service. So exciting, in fact, that they often clammer to craft specific campaigns or shift messaging around new potential markets. However, if this is done hastily or without thorough research, it can turn into a waste of time and resources.

Determine Your Ideal Customer Profile

To find your total addressable market, you first need to determine your ideal customer profile, then find look-a-likes that accurately fit the mold.

Determining which data are relevant to your total addressable market is a challenge. With so much data available on both current and prospective customers, it’s hard to distinguish the signal from the noise.

The traditional way of figuring out significant information was to look at the accessible firmographic data. Firmographic data includes basic information such as industry, location, size, and revenue. While this is useful to include in your analysis, this type of data is only the tip of the iceberg. Additional business signals that are harder to obtain, such as web savvy or social presence, may actually be better predictors of success.

Let’s pretend for a moment that you are a point of sale (POS) system looking to sell your product. Perhaps you target restaurants, because they fit your ideal customer profile. You may have performed well with them in the past, so you continue searching for other look-a-likes in the same industry. But what happens when you throw a new industry in for comparison?

addressable market

On the surface, with solely the firmographic data taken into account, the mechanic appears to have a lower success rate than the restaurants. This is where most marketers end their targeting exercise and launch campaigns targeted solely at restaurants. But look at how the success rates change when you add additional business signals:

addressable market

With the additional signals taken into account, the business in a new and unexpected industry has a significantly higher likelihood of success than a formerly considered look-a-like.

This example reveals that before you deeming a category unfit, make sure you are looking at the best possible predictors of success. This advanced segmentation uncovered a more effective go to market strategy than the original idea to sell to restaurants.

In this case, social media presence was more indicative of success than industry. 

The restaurant segment performed well because restaurants are more likely to be socially savvy than other small business industries. This new perspective with additional business signals revealed almost as high of a success with mechanics that were on Facebook as with restaurants on Facebook.

Discover the Size of the Market Opportunity

Once an ideal customer profile is solidified, the next step is to figure out how large the market opportunity is that fits the description.

Understanding your total addressable market will help you answer 4 key questions:

  • How long will my sales pipeline remain satisfied?
  • What is the real size of the market?
  • How many prospects can I expect?
  • What is the potential revenue for a particular quarter or year?

You can think of your total addressable market as the sum of your ideal buyer profile look-a-likes.

Let’s look at two scenarios to help understand how valuable it is to understand total addressable market for a product or service.

In this first scenario below, you have a segment that has a very high success rate compared to your typical conversion rate. Here is a highly targeted segment with an impressive success rate of 85.7%:
addressable marketsegmentation

It is clear that this segment will perform well. However, the addressable market opportunity – as shown in the number of new and open records – is small. This segment should still be used, but it will soon need expansion to provide a full sales pipeline and fuel sufficient business growth.

Below is another scenario for comparison with one signal removed to widen the net of potential businesses.

segmentationsegmentation

In the second scenario, you have a segment that converts at a lower success rate, but with a much larger market opportunity available to target – as shown in the number of new and open records. Even though the success rate is lower in this scenario, it still has a high success rate at 67.7% – and is well worth targeting. The sheer volume of the potential in the new and open records make up for the slightly lower success rate.

The results from the second scenario are more helpful in determining the size and scope of the total addressable market because it is scalable. Continue this analysis process with additional high performing segments that have ample market opportunity to effectively visualize your total addressable market.

Conclusion

Estimating the size of your market used to be a struggle that involved informed guesswork and complex calculations. Now, there are tools available to businesses that automate the total addressable market discovery and execution process. Taking advantage of these tools gives marketing and sales teams confidence that they are focusing on the right market segments and opportunities. Marketing organizations in particular need to be more strategic in their analysis because their efforts span a large scale that requires significant resources. Gaining a realistic understanding of your ideal customer profile and your total addressable market will help your entire organization become more targeted and effective.

The images in this post are of the Radius product. If you would like to learn more about Radius, click here.

To view the original post, click here.

SWOT-to-unlock-your-brand

Use SWOT to Unlock Your Why Before Your Customer Will Buy

Run a SWOT to unlock your brand promise and build better customer relationships

When you are planning how to reach out to the marketplace, there are some newer marketing theories that can be the key to building meaningful relationships with your customers. Yes, I said marketing theories. These are the rare theories that can be tested and put into practice immediately. For me, the most impactful of these was shared by Simon Sinek during a Ted Talk. He said: “Your consumers don’t buy what you do –they buy why you do it.”

This amazing quote came to my attention through a really cool blog by Michael Brenner. In it, he offers several insights about how to plan to reach your customers—to deliver your company’s core belief to them rather than just your product or service. He tells us brands are three times more successful when they promote their raison d’etre – and how to personalize your marketing efforts to potentials using your “brand purpose.”

How would I do it? I would use CBM’s SWOT analysis tool to identify my company’s Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities and Threats. After delineating these, I’d look for ways to deliver them to my audiences. Start a conversation. Build a relationship. Let me break it down:

  • Worth it to My Reader My core belief for my communications company is—everyone needs to hear my story (content) because I don’t waste their time with stuff they don’t want to hear. Whether it’s a technological white paper on manufacturing IT or a media pitch for a pair of cool headphones, I have done my research. I know who I am talking to. My strength, then, is making sure my content is targeted and meaty enough for the people I get it in front of- so that it won’t waste their time. That’s the S in my SWOT.
  • Too Cute By Far My weakness is my ability to write fun, fearless copy. Yup—I often refuse to make it dull or clog it up with business speak to please a review board at a client company. In all fairness and in their defense, they are in the serious business of selling their products or services through the content I write. The problem with that is this: Sometimes, their audience expects the material to be cut-and-dry, with dry being the operative word. I learned that not everyone has to be amused while swallowing good, important information. I got myself a good editor at an hourly rate and told her about this issue of mine—we even have a code-edit for when she spots me being too “cute” for certain clients. That tells me to tone down a phrase and make it more business-like for my serious clients. I can usually edit myself with these kinds of clients because I am an excellent writer—and I still don’t bore people because I use juicy verbs and shun the passive voice. Weakness transformed!
  • Opportunity, Don’t Knock It The opportunities in the way I present my core belief—you need this, you should read this, you’ll be happy you did — have given me an edge in certain kinds of content—blogging is one and social media is another. My colorful use of language shows my clients that I can excel in these arenas—even business-to-business blogs and social networks are people-to-people, aren’t they? If I continue to sell my blogging and network posts and broaden my reach to new prospects, I can realize a great jump in profits—people need lots of blogs and tweets/shares these days — they’re among the most in-demand content I write.
  • Why Am I Not Scared? The Threat to my r’aison d’etre? The economic realities that my clients face as small businesses serving medium-to-large companies. Their marketing officers are suffering from “next big thing” fatigue—they are expected to jump on every social media or newest flavor of content bandwagon and then show an ROI on these untested tactics. The threat to my core belief—you need this, you should read this—is that it doesn’t get to the person who’s ready to hear it—or they can’t find it—or the company that hired me to write it doesn’t know where to put it. Or worse—we can’t prove that it worked. This threat is met square on by me—by being up-to-date on cost-effective content strategies and educating my clients on these. By becoming an ROI-KPI detective about these approaches to ensure that they can explain them to their bosses. And by really, truly knowing their customer wants and needs before I put one finger on the keyboard. See, that wasn’t so scary.

You can probably see yourself in some of my strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Run a SWOT on the why of what you do before you sell your what. It’s key to building a lasting relationship with your customers.