Category Archives: Marketing

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

Relationship Stages and Buying Stages

ImageSome thoughts after reading an interesting discussion of the challenges of relationship marketing in the B2B arena:

Putting the relationship back into B2B marketing for real means balancing the imperatives of both customer relationship stages and buying stages.

Often these two things are regarded as the same when in fact they are connected but quite different. A customer relationship develops over the course of multiple buying cycles. It is not driven by an individual deal, or a stream of nurtured content. It is the sum of a range of relevant and relationship stage-appropriate activities and actions.  It moves across a continuum of states: from attraction to cultivation, then engagement, and finally collaboration.

The strategy for driving real customer relationships requires a relationship marketing framework that delivers a means for assessing/benchmarking the relationship, and a strategic and tactical set of maps to plan the optimal mix of both marketing and sales activities, content, and approaches to drive movement across the lifecycle of the customer.

 Lisa Dennis

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

Value Propositions Must Evolve With the Buyer

I read an interesting article the other day, called “How to Write Your Value Proposition.”value

This is good foundation information, but the buyer environment has undergone radical changes over the past 5 or 6 years.

The advent of the ‘hidden sales cycle’ (the stages of the buying process that buyers are conducting on their own, without sales people) have made the value of the  age-old value proposition formula become less and less effective.  Buyers are engaging with sales later and later in the process, getting to a short list of vendors before ever speaking to any one of them.  The pithy one sentence value proposition that is product or service focused does not work as well in that environment.

Rather than just delivering a description of the value your company brings to the buyer, we need to communicate the value the buyer seeks in achieving their goals or solving their challenge – in their language.   Buyer-centric, not product- or service-centric.  To engage the buyer in the hidden sales cycle, we must rely more and more on effective content marketing because the sales process is happening there without the sellers.  This results in an evolved value proposition creation process that fully feeds all the content needs.

We have been working with customers on developing their own value proposition playbook to deliver a messaging platform that feeds the content needs of buyers.   The game has changed – and the value proposition development process needs to move with it.

— 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

Business Tip: Don’t Annoy Your Customers!

angry businessmanI recently read an interesting article called 10 Surefire Ways To Annoy Your Customers.

As I reviewed each of the 10 ways, I was easily able to identify a company or two that fell into at least one category.  Some pretty prominent ones, too.

In the rush to get campaigns out there, and execute, execute, execute, these blunders get skipped, or not planned for.  Check them out – is YOUR organization inadvertently making your customers and prospects annoyed?

If so, cut it out!  Correct these errors now!  Don’t wait until you notice customer defections!

 

— Lisa Dennis

Most Effective Testing Methods for Value Propositions

Marketing Sherpa just republished a chart that outlined some research on how organizations test this key marketing asset.

One area that they overlooked entirely is testing by conducting live interviews with your existing customers about the value proposition.  This kind of conversation with customers can provide important information on what resonates, what is missing, what proof points are needed, how it is perceived comparatively with your competition, among other vital attributes. While online testing via landing pages, email, and other electronic options provides good data – nothing replaces live customer feedback.  In crafting messaging that brings the value proposition to life, a customer voice is essential.

Here’s the whole article.  What do you think?

 

— Lisa Dennis

The Value of Your Value Proposition

In a recent article I wrote called Time for a Value Proposition Reality Check, I discussed the three most common types of value propositions, including the most common, and least effective, type, which I designated as the “Me, Me, Me” version.  You know the kind…one that only talks about your own company and products.  Sadly enough, this is employed by businesses in the vast majority of cases. Why is it used so often, then?  Because it’s the easiest one to construct, which may not be the best reason for the choice.

So here we are.  You need to buy a product (or service), and I am trying to get you to buy mine.  You have choices.  You can buy my product, or you can buy my competitor’s product.  I want you to buy mine, so in order to get you to do so, I am going to tell you all the wonderful things I can think of about my product, and my company, and the outstanding people that I employ in order to create this great product that I want you to buy.

Now, how could you NOT want to buy my product?  You now know how great it is, because I told you so.  We can’t imagine anyone else having nearly as great a product, because they don’t have this great a company, and they can’t have the best people because I told you, WE have the best people.  So, how many of our products do you want, hmmm? While this may seem a bit sarcastic – the reality is that many value propositions do, in fact, include this type of pitch.

Obviously, the problem here is that it does not take into consideration any of the prospective customers’ needs, feelings, experiences, or knowledge.  We are not selling in the abstract here,  nor are we selling to Generic Customers.  We are selling to individuals, each as different as each of the “great people” we’ve employed.  Therefore, talking only about ourselves is not going to sell the product unless we related that greatness to what the prospective customer is seeking.  And in order to know what that is, we have to get to know the prospective customer, and see the world through his/her eyes.

The “Me, Me, Me” value proposition sees the world through the business’ eyes.  That works for a Friday afternoon internal company pep rally, but does very little to entice an educated customer.  This customer wants to know, given specific needs and particular circumstances, why this product is the right choice.  Everything else, frankly, is irrelevant.

Lisa Dennis

Hey, Get off of My Property!

I am amazed at some of the shenanigans that businesses that should know better try to pull.

Today, I received an email from Don Draper.  You know, the studly advertising exec on AMC’s TV hit, Mad Men.  But the email didn’t originate from AMC.  It came from MarketingProfs, an otherwise great resource for marketing and social media content and information.  It was somewhat clever, in that Mr. Draper, who is known as an old-school ad man grappling with the changes in the world occurring in the early to mid-1960’s, stating his reasons for NOT attending MarketingProf’s B2B Forum 2012.  You know, because this forum will be touting new ideas for marketing, and Don is a dyed-in-the-wool (or grey flannel) old school marketer.  Get it?

But to me, this kind of thing does HUGE damage to MarketingProf’s reputation!  I mean, is this what we’re supposed to do now?  Just help ourselves to other business’ intellectual property, because the fame of another business’ creation might somehow boost our own sales?

You know, it’s one thing if a small, bootstrapping organization does something like this out of ignorant exuberance.  But when a business that makes its money by providing marketing advice and services does it, it just blows my mind.  I am no intellectual property expert, but I did spend a good portion of my career in a business that provided IP research to law firms and businesses interested in protecting their IP rights.  There is the concept of Public Domain, where creative works are open to use after a certain period following the death of the work’s creator.  But Don Draper is a current – and hugely popular – work of fiction, and it seems to me that use of his name and persona should be the exclusive right of the business that created him, and made him so popular.  I would have been a lot more comfortable with this zippy little email if it had “The character Don Draper is owned by AMC, Inc. and is used with permission” written at the bottom, even in the tiniest type.

— Chuck Dennis

Devil in the Details

This morning, I received an automated business email from an organization that a colleague had once referred me to, as a source of a potential project.  After reaching out to the CEO – a good friend of my colleague’s –  several times about this opportunity and never hearing back from him, I simply dismissed the whole thing as something that was just not meant to be.  No harm, no foul.

However, I had been placed on the company’s mailing list, but since I get roughly 8 zillion emails a day, I didn’t bother to remove myself from it.  Who knows, maybe the project opportunity I was seeking might rear its head again.

So this morning, I noticed the email from this company.  They recently modified their business name, and started utilizing a spiffy new email application to communicate with their audience.  Since email marketing is one of the services I provide, I opened the email to see what how they were doing with it.

Now, the whole reason that email marketing applications like Constant Contact, MailChimp, etc. have a process for “personalizing” the email greeting is that, on a psychological level, recipients feel a little more comfortable receiving and reading an email when it is addressed to them by name.  It gives the impression, or illusion, that there is a relationship of sorts between the emailer and the emailee.

However, this warm & fuzzy illusion is completely blown, right from the get-go, when your email begins “Dear Dennis, Chuck,”.  My name is not Dennis, Chuck.  No one calls me Dennis, Chuck – at least not anyone who knows me.  Certainly, our mutual friend does not refer to me as Dennis, Chuck.  If this sounds like I am just being grumpy about having my name messed up, that misses the point.  I really don’t care about that.  But as a businessperson who has chosen to utilize electronic communications to engage his customers and prospects, this CEO should care a lot about this.  And you should, too.

Too many businesses shoot themselves in the foot by overlooking or dismissing details like this.  Your mailing list is one of your business’ most precious assets; it warrants your attention to detail.  It should be reviewed for accuracy and formatting.  If it is not, it sends the message, loud and clear, that your business does not care OR it is simply incompetent when it comes to communicating with its intended audience.  Neither impression inspires customer confidence.

— Chuck Dennis

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