Category Archives: Business

The Bard of the Boardroom

Last week I attended a Vistage event in Boston, the annual All City event.  For those of you not familiar with the group, Vistage provides professionally facilitated, private advisory groups for CEOs, executives and business owners.  The event was held at The State Room (formerly the Bay Tower Room), a great venue with one of the best views in Boston.  One of the speakers was David Whyte , a poet, author, and organizational thinker.  He is the leader of the Institute for Conversational Leadership.

shakespeare_businessWhat is intriguing to me is that he is a poet, through and through.  And he has not only been successful at the craft, but he has been able to extend it into other things, and into the business world.  Mostly, I’m jealous – because what I wanted from a very early age was to be a poet.  I started writing in elementary school, and sent out my first poem to a publication when I was in 7th grade.  I was a poetry major in college, co-edited the college literary magazine, and wrote a volume of poetry for my college thesis.  I’m jealous because he took his poetry and extended it. I wasn’t confident enough, or clear enough, about what my life should be to keep the poetry front and center.  So I got a “real” job, got into marketing, went to business school, and basically wrote poetry behind all that for years and years and years.

I have heard hundreds of speakers, so it’s rare that I’m blown away by someone.  I had heard about Whyte many years ago, but had never had the opportunity to hear him speak.  He began his talk by reciting a piece of Shakespeare – and then he repeated it – beautifully, and powerfully delivered.  Then he broke it down sentence by sentence and provided the organizational context.  The room was full of CEOs, senior executives, and business owners – and you could hear a pin drop.  Everyone was riveted!  I love Shakespeare, so not an unnatural reaction for me.  But to see the entire room hang on his every word was incredible.   Poetry and business….really?  Yes.  Really.

A dynamic speaker, Whyte doesn’t lecture but recites dozens of stories and poems, including some of his own, to help bring to life the experience and emotion of change. Whyte says such poems help managers and other employees to rethink their daily habits and assumptions, thus stirring up some creative juices. One senior executive: “My first reaction was: What a waste of time,” he says. “I thought to myself, what could a poet possibly contribute?” But the executive now says that Whyte “helped us to think differently than we ever had before. We had to look inside ourselves.”

                                                                                            -Business Week

Check out this Harvard Business Review article, “A Larger Language for Business,” which is an interview that shares his approach and how poetry enlarges and simplifies the conversations we all need to have.  One of the things Whyte said during his talk was,Poetry is often the art of overhearing yourself say things you didn’t know you knew.”  That really resonated for the poet in me.

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There is nothing quite like that kind of discovery when you write. In a clear, honest, open, collaborative conversation the exact same thing can happen.  I think that’s the connection point between Whyte’s orientation and leadership.  And for the first time ever, I am envious of someone else’s career – in a good way.

— Lisa Dennis

“I’d Like to Add You to my Professional Network on LinkedIn”

sales handshake

Does that statement sound familiar?  I bet that you receive a number of these requests every month.   I got a handful of these this week – all using the exact same words and nothing more. The majority of requests were from people I did not know.  It’s great that they wanted to connect with me, but there is one major challenge with it.  I don’t know why.  I can look at their profile and decide if I want to be connected to that person or not – but I still don’t have any context for their request.

Let’s look at it another way.  Would you leave a voice mail message that simply stated “I’d like to add you to my professional network” and then just hang up?   Probably not!   So why do that using LinkedIn?

The highest and best use of LinkedIn is all about building professional relationships, not just playing a numbers game and collecting connections.  If I know you already, then just sending me the standard request is fine because we already have a relationship.  But if we don’t, then the standard request doesn’t deliver enough information to make an informed decision to connect.  The context of the request is actually very important.

So, let’s put our sales, or business development, or job seeker hat on and think about it from the point of view of the person you are trying to connect with.  What’s in it for them to connect to you?  If you let them answer that question by themselves, they could either guess or just dismiss it. Neither of  which is a great outcome.   If it isn’t important enough for you to spend a little time crafting a relevant request, it’s probably not important enough for them to try and figure out why you asked.

Here are some things to think about to craft a more engaging connection request:

  • Why specifically do you want to add me to your network?
  • What mutual interests might we have?
  • Have you read anything or heard anything about me that caused you to reach out?
  • Do you have any information, content, ideas, or referrals that might be of interest to me?
  • How would this connection benefit us both?

So before you send the standard request, step into the other person’s shoes. If they have to ask themselves why you want to connect, you’ve missed an opportunity to start a real conversation.

— Lisa Dennis

Business Models for Start-Ups Should be Grounded in Some Old School Principles

I read an interesting article the other day, about business models for start-ups.  While start-ups are not my typical client, I saw some ideas that I think could use a bit more fleshing out.  For instance, the article reads:

“The central area is the Value Proposition. In this section you must enter a value that you are determined to create and spread in the market, as well as the value you want to generate for your audience…”

I agree that the center of any new business model is a value proposition – but the reality is that there is a very mixed understanding of what that truly is.

valueIn particular, I’d like to suggest that figuring out what value you want to create FIRST, without identifying in advance the value needed/demanded from your audience is putting the cart before the horse.  Many a technology start-up has burned through their cash and shut their doors because they had a value proposition that spoke to the offer they wanted to sell, and not to what the buyer needed and was willing to buy. It’s the old “build it and they will come” theory which simply doesn’t work.

The value that the audience needs and desires comes before anything else in crafting a value proposition.  Then it should be translated into a modular platform that defines the value the audience is looking for, the specific offer(s) your organization delivers on the desired value, and finally, you need to define 1 or 2 rock solid differentiators that are quantifiable (with proof).   Smart start-ups will verticalize the value proposition into their different market segments as soon as possible so that it speaks in industry buyer language to specific industry issues, objectives, challenges.

So I agree that  business model  central area is the Value Proposition.  But it actually hinges on  a clear, well-articulated, customer-focused value proposition that is tailored by market and by audience.  Without it, the rest of the your business model canvas ends up being just busy work.

My best start-up advice is this:  start with customer, start with the customer, start with the customer.  Haven’t got a customer yet?  Vision who they should be – and work to define the value proposition they care enough to spend money on – then define/refine the offering.  Don’t waste your time and theirs on a cool idea that chases customers, rather than engages them up front.

So, what do you think is the rock that start-ups should be built upon?

— Lisa Dennis

How to Make B2B Content More Shareable

See on Scoop.itKnowledgence: Marketing and Sales

When it comes to creating content for a company blog smart social media promotion of your content is key. Here’s how to do it.

Lisa Dennis‘s insight:

Creating the right content has its challenges – and if you manage to deal with that, make sure you don’t shoot yourself in the foot by making it hard for your audiences to share it.  Part of creating good content is including in the design of the piece how it will be consumed and to offer a set of options for sharing to increase its reach. 

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Marketing and IT – Putting “Relation” Back into Relationship

There is such a gap between “need” and “want” – and the relationship between Marketing and IT sits squarely in the middle, driven in no small part by the onslaught of Big Data.

Take a look at this week’s CIO magazine article, “Building a Productive Relationship with Marketing”.  It offers 4 tips for IT to engage the marketing team that are worth considering, irrespective of which side of the fence you are on.

While I think improving this relationship is crucial to success, I’d suggest considering a 5th tip that applies to both teams. Start with the customer/prospect and work backwards into marketing and IT systems and approaches.  Instead of focusing on the internal gap, align around the needs of your target audience and work together to close that gap.  How does the buyer engage in the purchasing process, and how do the marketing/IT systems provide buyer intelligence that can inform marketing and sales strategies?  Joint pursuit of the answers to those questions will move the relationship between Marketing and IT into high gear.

— Lisa Dennis

Making the Choice: Marketing and Sales Alignment or Buyer Alignment

Two Hour Workshop by Lisa Dennis, President, Knowledgence Associates, and co-author of 360 Degrees of the Customer:  Strategies & Tactics for Marketing, Sales and Service

AMA Marketing Workshop

In the quest for new and repeat customers, the marketing and sales professionals in your organization have been in a push-me, pull-me struggle to align their processes, tools, approach and philosophies to get better revenue traction.   This ongoing challenge is gaining in urgency given the increasing propensity of buyers to take over the early sales process and leave us out of it.  There is an alignment choice to be made here, but it isn’t really about aligning marketing and sales with each other.  The increasing demands of prospects and customers alike all point to the critical necessity of alignment with the buyer.  The real choice for marketing and sales is about whether to align from the inside-out, or from the outside-in.  The highest performing organizations align from the buyer-in and keep the focus on engagement.

This workshop will walk you through how to build a buyer relationship framework to drive alignment within your marketing and sales teams. This modular and customizable approach will provide the road map and steps to integrating marketing and sales across all the key areas that drive new business.

Topics include:

  • Charting the Buyer Journey in your Key Markets
  • Building the Relationship Framework & Stages
  • Redefining the Buying Cycle & Pipeline Process
  • Identifying & Delivering  Tools that Drive Internal Engagement
  • Charting the Buyer Alignment Course Forward

Leadership Interview with Dan Pink

Six New Pitches for the 21st Century

From Dan Pink‘s new book, To Sell is Human


Social Selling

One of the bigger challenges facing sales people these days is the fact that buyers are not connecting with sales people until later in the sales cycle.

Frankly, they can self-serve and don’t need us for education and awareness any more.  So what does that mean for us sales types?  Social Selling.

Check out this great article in Forbes.  

Inbound Marketing: The Funnel is There for a Reason | Business 2 Community

See on Scoop.itKnowledgence: Marketing and Sales

When getting started with Inbound Marketing, it’s tempting to try to jumpstart your efforts by communicating every product, service and special offer your firm has. Fight the temptation! In Inbound Marketing, the funnel is your friend. Made up of top, middle and bottom of the funnel offers on a limited number of topics, the funnel is designed to keep your efforts focused and allow you to work prospects through to the sale.

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