Category Archives: Marketing

Making the Right Choice: Dive in or Engage with a Market-of-One

Major accounts, be they global or national, require special handling for organizations to develop a deep enough understanding that drives business across the organization. Thinking about the account as a market of one and approaching it from that standpoint by both your marketing and sales team is the best way to uncover, tailor, and deliver value that deepens the relationship and drives revenue.

Typically, an account plan is developed by sales, with some small piece provided by marketing. It typically has an inside-out focus: what your organization has to sell first, and who we are going to sell it too second. The weakness in this approach is directional. It should start from the outside-in: focusing on the account’s market imperatives and business drivers, its goals, objectives and initiatives first. Then moving to step two: thinking about how your organization can provide assistance and value in addressing those factors, and how to message your relevant solutions and capabilities to just those individuals within the account that have responsibility for the initiatives.

Given the mandate to drive quarter by quarter results, the plan for major accounts typically focuses on the here and now – without a full, 360-degree view of what the account could develop into over a longer time horizon, with a defined joint sales and marketing strategy. So many organizations who decide to adopt a major account initiative, create a list of their biggest accounts and just dive into the nearest account planning process.

There are multiple processes and templates available that can help you cobble together a really impressive account plan document. Yet, senior management is often disappointed when they discover that this isn’t really enough to create a sustainable path to long-term growth. The crucial component of a major account strategy is co-development by your account team and your marketing team. Do this piece first, and then review it and refine with the customer themselves.

The real key to reaching and engaging a market of one, your account, is to make the investment of time and effort to craft the right solution set that is driven by customer initiatives – a sales “play” that is customized by a deep understanding of the customer’s situation. To drive it home, there is another extremely crucial input that many account teams don’t take into consideration: the secret sauce provided by marketing. For an approach that really delivers customer engagement, an account-based marketing approach should be included to create a value proposition and story to message directly to the key decision makers, recommenders and influencers for the initiative(s) you are planning to target in the account.

An account plan that is all tactics without a clear cohesive strategy and direction, socialized with and contributed to by the customer, is just a basket of hopeful tactics. And hope is not an account plan that drives deep engagement and revenue. When you have an account plan that is all about tactics, it is also highly likely that the tactics are not connected to each other in a meaningful way. They are almost always short-term in nature (read as “this quarter” or “this year”). The account will just rise and fall from year to year – as opposed to moving forward in a way that fosters both your company and your account become increasingly valuable to each other for long-term success.

Key Steps for Successful Large Account Engagement

1. Go Deep

a. Analyze their market including current state, issues, changes (current and future), and any disruptors on the horizon.

b. Learn how they are currently handling these market/business imperatives. What initiatives are in play to address the most important ones?

c. What are the top 3-5 main strategic objectives/initiatives the account has set for itself?

2. Orient Yourself

a. Conduct a review of the account’s buying patterns and installed products/services to determine trends, pattern and gaps you might fill that directly address the account’s key imperatives and initiatives.

b. What kind of opportunities are currently in the pipeline for this account? More of the same, or are there any new or strategically significant factors that you might build on?

3. Get Personal

a. What key account relationships exist and can be leveraged going forward?

b. What relationships need work or are damaged and need repair?

c. Who are the decision makers, recommenders and influencers for the initiatives you are aiming at? Are you connected to all of them?

d. What new relationships do you need to build within the account to help further the account’s objectives?

4. Gather the Village

a. Define and include all your staff (not just sales and marketing) that will directly impact the account’s experience with your organization and include them in the planning process.

b. Give team members a clear path on how they can participate and where/how you want their insights. You need both their experience with the account, their brains for ideas and solutions, and their buy-in.

5. Plan for Success

a. Give each participant in the account team some advance work/research to bring to the table at a planning event. The work done out of the room has a direct impact on the work that will be accomplished in the room.

b. Invest in an objective facilitator who can get your account team through the process efficiently, and stop you from drinking your own Kool-Aid, or worse yet, spilling it all over your plan.

c. Make sure that the strategy has been fully developed and agreed to, before moving to the tactical elements of the account plan.

d. Include the account’s key players in the process. It doesn’t necessarily have to be from the very beginning – but before the strategy gels, get them involved.

5. Plan the Work & Work the Plan

a. Develop a targeted value proposition and story for each key initiative you select for the account. A market-of-one means making sure the story that you tell is addressed directly to those individuals in the account with ownership of the initiative(s).

b. Create a campaign plan that will serve up this new messaging with the right set of tailored content assets at each stage of the buyer’s journey. Tailored content with a story that to the key is directed at the right people makes for campaigns that directly impact account activity.

c. Be sure to build in all the steps of an real account plan launch and roll-out, and regular account reviews with a process that drives action and is not a drag on execution.

d. Make sure that the account plan moves with you through the plan period. If you have to dust it off even once, it’s clear that you are winging it again. Go back to the plan – does it need an update or do you have to get everyone back on track – or both?

e. Include plan reviews as a key part of your regular monthly or quarterly business reviews. Is your strategy in tune with current trends and customer direction? Any changes needed? Make sure you weave them in, or rip and replace where necessary.

So instead of just diving in to your major account planning process, consider an integrated marketing and sales approach to really drive account engagement. Finally, don’t just review revenue results to determine if the account plan is working. Look at progression along several elements – in relationships, opportunities, and direct engagement within the account. A 360-degree view of the account’s progress turns into a road map that drives account satisfaction and repeatable revenue growth.

Find out more about what buyers really want in a targeted value proposition to really set the stage for large account success. Download the infographic here.

KA blogMajor accounts, be they global or national, require special handling for organizations to develop a deep enough understanding that drives business across the organization.  Thinking about the account as a market of one and approaching it from that standpoint by both your marketing and sales team is the best way to uncover, tailor, and deliver value that deepens the relationship and drives revenue.

 

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Sales Leads: 3 Great Paths to Conversion

KiteDesk1

                                              (image: KiteDesk.com)

 

The path to closing a deal with a big-time prospect is never a sure thing. However, the probability of converting a sales lead increases the more qualified, simplified, and decision proof you can make your buyer’s journey.  For some tactics on how to make this happen, please read my recent post on this topic, on KiteDesk’s blog!

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The Missing Piece in Content Marketing

Lisa Dennis Content Marketing“While content marketing is one of the most effective and interesting marketing tactics to come down the pike, I have to confess that I have a bone to pick with it.  Content marketing isn’t only about marketing.  While marketers have all the responsibility for strategy, creation and execution, which is no small thing, there is another very important aspect that’s missing…”

I recently wrote this while pondering the strengths and weaknesses of content marketing, and why it has not been fully embraced by sales people.  I came up with a few ideas on the matter that I’d like to share with you.

Click here to read my entire article on TechTarget’s Mktr2Mktr site.  Thanks!

Is Your Pitch Pitchy? Why Reading Aloud Works

ReadingAloud

Please check out my new blog post regarding the importance of reading your writing aloud before putting it front of your customer’s eyes, recently posted on Pipeliner CRM’s blog.

Marketing is Just as Important as Sales (but you knew that, right?)

IMG_1264Here are 5 reasons why marketing is as important as sales.  I say that as someone whose professional focus is BOTH marketing and sales.

Of all the reasons listed in Sara MacQueen’s article, Marketing vs. Sales: Why Marketing is Just as Important As Sales, the one that resonates for me the most is this: we can’t assume that sales reps are the only path to the sale.

A good example is inbound marketing, which often plays a major role in moving a prospect down the sales funnel.  Thinking that lead generation is marketing’s job is one dimensional. It doesn’t really leverage all of what marketing brings to the table in a world where B2C customers research and buy directly from websites, and B2B customers research, learn, attend webinars, download content, and develop a short list of vendors before ever talking to a sales rep.

It is so past time to stop thinking about marketing and sales as two separate entities. What might this look like 10-15 years from now?

7 Steps to SMARTEN UP about Your Biggest Accounts

raising_handPlease raise your hand if you are a sales leader that has ever been blindsided by one of your biggest customers buying something from a competitor that your company offers, and you and your team had no idea they were even in the market for it.

You’re doing a good amount of business with this customer. So how come the account executive wasn’t on top of this?  Why didn’t we know? Why weren’t we considered or asked about it?  It’s one of our best accounts and we missed a great opportunity to open a new line of business with them.  Now the rest of the account may be in jeopardy!

If you’ve been there, let’s talk about how to keep it from happening again.  If it hasn’t happened yet – well, listen up because it’s highly likely you’ll find yourself there when you least expect it!

Being consultative, at its core, is about two things.  The first is about conducting “discovery” on the account on a regular basis.  The second is about developing a living account plan that includes a solid strategy, and not just random tactics.

Is this rocket science?  No.  Then why do we still have these challenges?  Because it takes a lot of both work and patience – and with our quarter by quarter mentality, we just keep executing tactics to drive short-term revenue. We’re insanely busy and we just don’t have time to be “strategic.”  Plus, we already did a pretty thorough discovery exercise on this account.

As we move into the second quarter of 2014 sales leaders are grappling with two challenges

  1. Our prospects and customers are asking us to be more “consultative.”
  2. Many of our sales people are transactional sellers and are leaving money on the table at our most important accounts.

Group of unidentifiable business peopleBoth of these needs boil down to a hard truth:  we simply don’t know enough about the accounts we are already engaged with, and our accounts know it.

Wait a minute – accounts that we already have?!  

Right – I’m talking about accounts that we already have sold to, and maybe have even done quite a bit of business with.  The good news is that we have them. The bad news is that we may either be assuming we know more than we do, OR the sales executive is comfortable with what he/she is generating, and doesn’t want to risk rocking the boat on that account by pushing for more.  But the reality is that you don’t have time NOT to be strategic; limiting yourself to one round of discovery is the reason you had no clue that other things were happening in that account.

 

So here are 7 Ways to SMARTEN UP about Your Largest Accounts

  1. Define The Buyer’s Journey
    To get from point A to point B, you can wing it, or you can get your hands on a map.  The landscape inside of big accounts is not simple, and it gets more complex every day.  Consider developing a Discovery Matrix that outlines the stages of how your account’s customers typically buy from them.  This is the horizontal access on your map. Then list all the business needs that their customers might have that your offerings could help the account deliver on. This is your vertical axis.  Have you noticed yet that this buyer’s journey is more account focused than “sales” focused?  Unless you are helping them through their own buyer’s journey, then you aren’t consulting to help their business grow – you’re just selling, like everyone else.
  2. Map What You Already Know
    Now do a brain dump on this map about everything you know for sure about this account.  In what areas of the buyers’ journey are you already contributing?  What do you know about other any other areas, which you haven’t broken into yet?  Is someone else in there? If so, what are they doing?  What business needs have you already addressed or are currently working on?  What new opportunities, challenges or goals do they have that you are aware of? Populate this matrix with everything you know or are aware of.
  3. Identify and Analyze the “White Space”            
    In the white space, the areas in the account for which you have no information, lives potential opportunity.  There may be entire areas where you could be creative with how your offerings can help.  There may be extensions from where you are now that link to new ways to help in other divisions or solutions or offerings.  Are there any patterns in your map that might help define a path for account growth?  Most importantly, this mapping of the account shows you clearly and visually the areas where you don’t know enough to really grow the account.
  4. Do Your Research – Even if You’ve Done It Already
    So it’s back to doing some more homework.  Discovery is never done.  Why?  Because your account is never at rest.  They are trying to grow and expand themselves, which means they are constantly changing.  And their customers are changing, as well.  So what you knew last year, or even last quarter, doesn’t mean you’re on top of things today.  AND if there are areas in the account that are untouched by your company, then I KNOW you need to do more research to learn what’s going on in there. Does it take time to do this?  Yes. Stop complaining and get on with it!  What you don’t know is keeping you from penetrating and expanding the account.
  5. Develop Your Discovery Questions
    Mapping? Check.  Research? Check.  Now you can start to make some strategic decisions on where you want to begin to move further in the account.  You need to prepare strong discovery questions around the “white spaces” to continue to learn, and to demonstrate you’ve done some homework.  This moves you to starting a much more consultative conversation than you may have had with them in the past.  But good questions aren’t random.  Give some thought to what you want to ask and why.  Be sure it’s about true discovery, and not rhetorical questions that can only be answered by your products or services.  You are not going to pitch in this conversation – you are going to learn.   (Repeat that sentence twice!)
  6. Conduct Discovery Conversation (and Shut Up!)
    A good discovery conversation happens when you sit down with a person high enough in the organization to have an idea of the bigger picture of the company’s goals and objectives.  Be sure you are not with someone who doesn’t have insight into that view.  Share that your organization has been able to deliver more value in several key areas with other customers, and you have some specific questions you’d like to ask to determine where that additional value might be gained.  At that meeting, ask the questions, and SHUT UP AND LISTEN!  You don’t need to respond to every point.  Just take it in, write it down, and plan on going back to the office to think about it, talk with others, and come up with some ideas that you will come back and discuss. This sets the stage for the second consultative conversation.
  7. Define Strategic Account Goal, Top 5 Objectives and Action Plans
    At this point, you should have a good handle on what the account is trying to achieve, and you will have discussed some ways to help them deliver.  Now you’re ready to define a meaningful account strategy, set an aggressive goal, and define the top 5 objectives to get you there.  This forms the account plan that will focus your tactical action plans in a clear and well defined direction.  Strategy first, then tactics.  Account expansion relies on this.  The obvious sales opportunities are never enough to really go deep and wide in an account, and build a solid partnership.

Being consultative with your best accounts means “being in the know.”  It’s up to your account team to stay on top of what’s happening and to ask smart questions that will inform as well as bolster the importance of this strategic account, and show how committed you are to helping them achieve their goals.

—  Lisa Dennis

Resistance: Let Me Count the Ways

At this moment, where ever you are, you are resisting doing something.  It may be something you “should” do, or “want” to do, or “need” to do.  Whether you are actively resisting and digging in your heels, or just nursing a vague push-back that keeps you from doing it, it’s there. 

This morning, I’m resisting writing a blog post – know I should do it, want to do it, need to do it.  But there you have it – RESISTANCE.    What to write?  I always have ideas when I’m not sitting down to do this.  But they evaporate when I sit down to do it.  So I started googling “ideas for blog posts” and came up with all sorts of things that ultimately will be helpful.
Help

 

This morning, it’s the resistance that I am most thinking about.
I love to write.  I have been writing all my life – and it’s often a large part of what I do in my business practice.  But the resistance is there nonetheless.  I saw an interview about a month ago with Steven Pressfield, the author of The War of Art.  The premise here is resistance is the block to creating things, or outcomes – and it really resonated for me.  Here’s a partial list from the book that sets the stage:

RESISTANCE’S GREATEST HITS

The following is a list, in no particular order, of those activities, which most commonly elicit Resistance:

1) The pursuit of any calling in writing, painting, music, film, dance, or any creative art, however marginal or unconventional.woman on ball

2) The launching of any entrepreneurial venture or enterprise, for profit or otherwise.

3) Any diet or health regimen.

4) Any program of spiritual advancement.

5) Any activity whose aim is tighter abdominals.

 

Number 5 made me laugh, but I found that all of the first 5 were pretty spot-on for me.  There are 5 characteristics of Resistance that outline what we’re up against.   Resistance is:  invisible, internal, insidious, implacable, and impersonal.  Oh, and it’s a major pain in the butt (that one is from me).   I’ll just share Pressfield’s comments on the first characteristic because it is the part that always gets me.

RESISTANCE IS INVISIBLE

Resistance cannot be seen, touched, heard or smelled. But it can be felt. It is experienced as a force field emanating from a work-in-potential. It’s a repelling force. It’s negative. Its intention is to shove the creator away, distract him, sap his energy, and incapacitate him.

If Resistance wins, the work doesn’t get written. 

That is the bottom line for sure.  Whether you are creating something, marketing something, selling something, the barriers are the same.  What are you resisting doing that will create opportunity for you personally, professionally, and organizationally?   I am focusing on mine – and now my blog post got written.  What are you resisting and how will you overcome it?

Picture This

If you had to draw an image of your company’s value proposition, what would it look like?   I just read an interesting article in the Harvard Business Review that connected the “pitch” with cartoons – which I think is really interesting.   In Draw Your Elevator Pitch, the authors make a key point which is that images resonate more quickly and longer than text does.   For marketers and sellers who really think about the words they will use to convey the value of their offerings, this can spell an interesting path to a clearer, more concise way to communicate the value proposition.  They recommend humor as well – which is another take, and may garner additional attention in a very creative way.  I worked with a client once who launched a product both internally and externally by developing a mini-comic book and an animated short video.  Some people loved it, some people thought it was making fun of the offering.  Either way – it garnered attention!

So think about it – what would your graphic look like for your value proposition?  An image that I use in many of my public speaking engagements is one that I think sums up what your graphic should do.

Think about your value proposition as if it were a:

                                                                                   mirror1

Now answer this question:  

Whose face should be showing there when someone looks at your value proposition?  

mirror customer

 

Seem obvious?  Well, look at your existing value proposition and decide whose face is reflected back.  If the face your buyers see is really that of your own company, then you’ve got a problem.  Why?  Well, the fact is that most companies are too busy showing off what they can do, rather than articulating an honest understanding of customer needs.  Frankly, most of them are not that compelling and don’t clearly show their understanding of the buyer.  Buyers are interested in themselves – so harness that interest and get back to the drawing board on your value proposition!

 

— Lisa Dennis

The 5 Step Value Proposition Check-Up

Not sure that your value proposition is really delivering the message that you intend?  So many of us in marketing and sales are expected to create value propositions, but the majority of us have never received any kind of training on how to do it effectively.  Here’s a quick check-up that can help you identify points at which you can refine your value proposition so that it is truly ready for customer engagement.

 

customer

Step 1 – What is it about?

Does the value proposition focus on your product or services, or is the focus on the potential customers’ need, challenge or pain?  Your targets are short on time and patience, so putting the focus on your own company, rather than their issues leaves them to figure out for themselves if you are relevant.  I’m sure you can guess which of the 2 choices above will be more attractive to them.

Step 2 – Who is it addressing?

Many value propositions try to cover multiple target audiences.  Yet, one-size-fits all usually fits no one. So if I was your prospect, could I easily tell by reading or hearing your value prop if it is addressed to me specifically?  If you are thinking that you have to have a broad one because you have multiple targets, think again.  Consider developing a core one, and then multiple targeted value propositions that speak to key players in the buying decision.

Step 3 – Is it Understandable?

Use of acronyms, technical language, internal jargon, and “marketing speak” can completely derail the clarity of the message you are trying to drive home.  This is a frequent issue that many value propositions fall prey to.  Keep it clear, crisp, and in customer language.  If your prospects have to translate it to understand – they won’t.

Step 4 – Is it Provable?

The very essence of a value proposition is about making a “claim” of value.  Given that the claim is coming from your company, most buyers will automatically be skeptical.  You’re trying to sell them something, after all.  So consider offering objective, third party (i.e. not YOU) proof that the value delivered is real.  Testimonials, case studies, survey results, research results, analyst reviews. No proof?  Get some or your value proposition will be just words on a page.

Step 5 – Is it Quantifiable?

Many value propositions include key attributes such as increased productivity, lowered costs, additional revenue, and the like.  There are a handful of key buyer imperatives that your prospects are typically looking for.  The sticking point is that if you include an imperative, you need to put a stake in the ground and tell me by how much.  The amount or % that your offer delivers is key to putting the oomph into your statement.  Afraid to actually use a number or %?  Then reconsider the inclusion of that imperative.  If you can’t make it specific and real, then it’s just a claim like millions of others.

By now, you should be getting a good idea on the strengths and weaknesses of your current value proposition.  Resist the urge to start over from scratch.  Instead really think through where you can make improvements that will speak directly to the customer.  The value proposition as a marketing and sales tool can be thought of, metaphorically, as a mirror.  When your prospect looks in that mirror – make sure it’s their face they see, and they will step forward.  Differentiate yourself as a vendor by making it all about them.

— Lisa Dennis

Gaining the CEO’s Trust

Just read an interesting blog post on KISSmetrics.com about why CEOs don’t trust marketing.

Netting it out, they trust sales and finance exponentially because they are measureable – and speak the language of CEOs.  Marketing needs to be able to do the same. business-metrics

So how does one go about that?  KISSmetrics offers 7 Keys to Success in 2014 that marketing can use to up the ante and deliver the information CEOs need to hear.  In particular, there are 3 keys that I think are really relevant to increase credibility and effectiveness in communicating with your CEO.

The 3 Keys that I really like are

#1 – Create a Plan that includes digital marketing,

#6 – Set and Maintain a Strategy, and

#3 – Set manageable objectives and KPIs (in that order).

Sales and finance have got it nailed when it comes down to developing, delivering and articulating a plan with relevant and timely updates.  We in marketing need to bake in that same approach to how we internally communicate with the CEO and the rest of the senior management team. I believe building a marketing operational framework that integrates with Sales’ approach, and ties into how finance reports revenue is key to increasing trust and credibility.

All 7 keys are good – but if you focus on these 3, I think you’ll make headway with your CEO in 2014.

— Lisa Dennis

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