Category Archives: Marketing

Sage: Trade Show Marketing how it should be done

I was at the Business Start-Up Show recently, a trade show with seminars and over 300 exhibitors targeting the small and start-up business market. I stopped by a number of stands that day, and although I was there as a ‘punter’, I couldn’t help but keep putting my B2B Marketing hat back on to critique their performance.

One business that stood out as the most impressive that day has to be Sage. As you’ll see below, from a delegate perspective they were excellent, but as a B2B Marketer myself, you could tell they had a clear and structured plan for engaging with their audience before, during and after the show:

Before:

I had pre-registered for the Business Planning Workshop that Sage were running as part of the extensive seminar programme. I was booked onto the 10.30am slot, on the first day of the show.

I got to Earls Court early, but had to take a phone call that I didn’t want to take in a queue of people, so was only able to join the substantial queue at 09.45, with doors opening at 10.00.

By about 10.15 it became clear that the queue wasn’t moving (except in length) and I was hoping that someone inside was listening when I tweeted:

Clearly, the marketing team at Sage were geared up for engaging with customers and prospects, and tweeted back, which started a conversation with the brand before I had even got into the building.

Fortunately, soon after, common sense prevailed and the organisers started letting pre-registered delegates through en masse without signing-in. I managed to get through to the Sage stand where I was met with a friendly smile and a member of staff that personally escorted me to the Business Planning Workshop, which was about to commence.

During:

The workshop was very useful, and with free planning software as a giveaway, I definitely wanted to find out more about what Sage offered as I had traditionally associated them with accounting software.

Their exhibition space was well laid out, open and inviting. There were well signposted zones for information on various product types, and I found the people friendly, knowledgeable and engaging.

Sage stand at Business Start Up 2011, Earls CourtSage stand at Business Start Up 2011, Earls Court (2)I received a demo on Sage Act! from a member of staff who was extremely patient as he ran through the demo and answered my questions.

It would have been the easiest thing in the world to push for a sale, after a 40 minute demo, but it felt to me like the strategy for the day was engagement and lead generation. I happily gave my contact details and agreed to receive a follow-up.

After visiting maybe a dozen or so other stands (and walking past all others), most appeared to lack any kind of clear strategy.

So impressed was I with my Sage experience, that on the way out, I tweeted the following, which was amplified across the business show audience by 6 retweets:

After:

A day or two later, I got a follow-up email from someone introducing themselves as my account manager, with their contact details should I have any other questions.

A couple of weeks on, I received the attached follow-up email to invite me to a webinar, the creative linking back to the exhibition and signposting a discount offer unique to attendees of the show.

Screen grab of Sage email follow-up, including show-specific discount offer

I signed up for the webinar, and had another demo today. For me, the picture is complete and I now have all the information I need and will be buying Sage Act! at some point soon.

Get a life! Why are you reviewing a trade show?!

All too often in my experience, exhibitions are criticised as a waste of money, time or both. From what I saw on the day, I’m sure for many exhibitors this was true.

However, as Sage have shown, the key to successful exhibition marketing is to have a strategy for engaging with your customers and prospects Before, During and After the show, exhibition or event.

Well done Sage, and thanks for supplying the photos of the exhibition stand and agreeing for their use in this post.

What do you think? Are you in sales or marketing and have any trade show marketing tips to share? How does your business maximise the return on investment from trade shows? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Marketing lessons from Benny Hill?

Actor Benny Hill
Image via Wikipedia

It’s not often that Benny Hill is quoted in management or marketing textbooks, but this short clip highlights some of the dangers in making sweeping assumptions, and still makes me smile even today.

I come across many young people who are thinking of starting out in business through my work as a volunteer Business Mentor with the Prince’s Trust. We work with them through the Exploring Enterprise Programme to help them make sure there’s a market for the product or service they are looking to sell through their business.

The Market Research Society defines research as

“one of the most useful tools in business, any business. It is the way in which organisations find out what their customers and potential customers need, want and care about.”

Good business and marketing decisions come from good insight- developing a solid and compelling fact base about your target customer that allows you to understand their needs and wants better than anyone else. “Gut feel” is great, but any business that runs on this alone is a risky one in my opinion.

As it’s the weekend and the sun’s shining, I’ll hand over to Benny, to explain the dangers of assumption…

Has the world gone QRazy?

A giant QR Code linking to a website, to be re...

Image via Wikipedia

There’s been a common-sense bypass for many in the recent race to use QR Codes in marketing campaigns. Sadly, as is often the case in the profession I love, common business sense goes out of the window in the rush to implement the latest cool and shiny thing.

A recent article in Marketing Week revealed that only just over 1 in 10 consumers had used a QR code in the past, less than half of whom found them useful and would like to see them more widely available. Apathy was found to be a barrier to adoption, cited by 23% of respondents to the survey.

I know how they feel. In the right circumstances, for the right type of application, QR Codes have very interesting potential, but only if:

  1. The objective is to drive offline customers online for deeper brand engagement or to convert them (to sale, to registration, to download)
  2. There is a high penetration of smart phone owners amongst your target audience
  3. The placement of the code is conducive to easy/safe scanning and represents a better customer experience than responding via other channels

So, there are two recent examples that have left me scratching my head.

Firstly, my local authority  recently announced they are “trialling QR codes on our signs to keep people more informed about road works.” The facebook photo shows what appears to be a sheet of A4 paper sellotaped to a road sign.

I’d argue that the vast majority of people inconvenienced by road works are motorists. So how easy or safe is it to scan a QR code when driving, never mind how legal? A-ha, they’re one step ahead of me:

“The technology can only be used by pedestrians or cyclists, as users need to scan the code with their mobile phone, so it suits schemes like temporary pavement and cycleway closures.”

I’m not convinced.

Then I saw what appeared to be a poster ad for Investec Bank, who have for a number of years used a Zebra as part of their visual identity.

Closer inspection revealed that it was actually a poster for Intel under the “Visibly Smart” campaign, where a QR Code had been made to incorporate the Zebra’s eye. This would have made a great magazine ad creative…for Investec, but a roadside poster for Intel with an unscannable QR Code?

Do you have any examples of particularly good or bad practice in this area? Will we still be talking about QR Codes in 12 months time, or is this a fad for bored marketers with post-recession budget cuts and ‘free’ toys to play with?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

When moving marketing jobs, what qualities do you look for in a manager?

Having done a reasonable amount of recruiting for a broad range of marketing roles in my time, I’m used to defining what kind of candidate I’m looking for when briefing HR or a Recruitment Consultant.

I’m keen to turn the question around and understand what qualities the marketing talent of today are looking for in a manager when deciding to move on.

For me, it’s a blend of the following:

  1. Personal chemistry: Can I see myself enjoying working with this person?
  2. Commitment to personal development: Are they prepared to invest time, energy and money in developing me as a person?
  3. Can I learn something from them?: Learning is a lifelong process. Does your potential new manager have a skill or expertise that you can learn from?

If you work in marketing, I want to understand what are the most important qualities that you look for? Please take my poll and let me know…

Groupon therapy anyone?

I’ve long resisted the urge to externalise my confusion around the hype surrounding Groupon. It feels like there’s this growing bandwagon that is building momentum, and like any high-profile and growing channel, it sometimes takes bravery to put your hand up and say “sorry, I don’t get this”.

After reading three excellent articles in The EconomistNew Media Age and Marketing Week this week, I’m left scratching my head and wondering if I’ve missed the point somewhere. I’m now feeling brave, so up goes my hand…

My understanding of Groupon was that its power came from a combination of reach and relevance. Targeting very localised offers would help promote local businesses and encourage product/service trial through a sales promotion.

So I signed-up. I commute into London, but my home town isn’t on Groupon. So I chose London as the nearest City, which is a compromise in itself. Here’s an example of one of these ‘local’ offers I received on day 2.

Some speed-boating fun off the Kent coast, which doesn’t feel either well targeted or relevant for my interests. I confess to having a low irritation threshold for things like this, but I’m sure I’m not alone.

But before the ‘localised’ model has been fully scaled, it seems that the strategy may be changing, and that Groupon is positioning itself as ‘an alternative form of marketing to TV or Press’, with a daily reach via email in excess of 5 million (NMA). So with the potential change of direction to focus on major and high street brands, I decided to do some maths on the recent ASOS deal, by way of an example: 

  • ASOS Sells 50,000 £20 vouchers for £11 each (Cost of discount £9 x 50,000 = £450,000)
  • According to The Economist article, Groupon ‘typically charges businesses half of the discounted price of a voucher’ (50% of £11 x 50,000 = £275,000)
  • Total cost to ASOS = £725,000. My maths tell me this works out to be a cost of £14.50 per £20 income generated (72.5%) from each of the 50,000 vouchers sold

Now, maybe the average online order value for a brand like ASOS will be able to absorb this kind of cost per acquisition within the increased basket value of the final order (I’d love to see a case study on income and profitability outcomes from this promotion).

BUT how many small, local businesses (who I thought were at the core of the original Groupon idea) can afford to spend £72.50 to attract £100 of revenue? Those that think they can may not be there to take advantage of any future business from loyal customers acquired through this channel.

Can someone enlighten me? Have you got any real-life Groupon deals where you’ve become a loyal, repeat customer off the back of a heavily discounted offer? My gut feel is that most Groupon customers are transient bargain-hunters. Or, in the words of one of my Twitter contacts, “…it’s not sustainable reach, granted – but who am I to argue with my £150 spa treatment for £24.”

Stop! I’m not (sales) ready yet!

I’m becoming nervous whenever the phone rings at the office these days. Beads of sweat start to form on my brow. 2nd ring. No number showing on the caller ID. Third ring. It’s just flashing “BT”, taunting me. Fourth ring. People around me start to give me that “aren’t you going to answer that?” look.  Get a grip, Steve. Too late. It’s gone to Voicemail. Again. 

No, fortunately, I am not being targeted by nuisance callers. So why does it feel like I am? 

There are two distinct categories that these calls seem to fall into:

1) Cold calls from agencies and suppliers who have got my name from reception or a colleague.

2) Follow-up calls from businesses that I have engaged with (e.g. by downloading a white paper, attending a webinar etc) 

My earlier post on B2B Telemarketing will tell you where I stand on the first group of people. If you’re acting on this advice, and I’m in your target audience, maybe you’ll have found this blog. 

For those businesses in the second group, you should give me the option to say “I’m just researching your category, call me in 6 months” (or similar) when I download your white paper. Yes, you’ve got my attention and I’m interested enough to want to find out more, but if I have no confirmed buying need or budget when you call, then why try to progress me through the funnel to a meeting?

Stop!

As the classic Grolsch TV ad series said; “Stop! (I’m not ready yet!)”.

So what should B2B Marketers engaging in a lead generation programme via white paper download do to improve the experience and make sure only ‘sales ready’ leads get progressed through the funnel? I suggest the following:

1) When you ask your prospect to give their contact details (and permission) to download the paper, offer them ways to tell you how ‘sales ready’ they are. If they have no budget or established buying need, your sales team will not be happy you’ve set up a meeting with them. So don’t bother just now.

2) Before the first contact, give them a reasonable amount of time to digest your paper and work out if/where/how it fits into their plans. This is a hard one to get right, but use the information they’ve given you in 1, above, and make a sensible call on a suitable timeframe.

3) Your telemarketers have two ears and one mouth. PLEASE train them to use them in that proportion. There is no greater turn-off for a B2B buyer than not being listened to. This is where ‘structured follow up’ can cross the line into ‘nuisance call’ territory.

Creativity and Innovation- a practitioner’s perspective

I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by Thomas Brown, Head of Insights at The Chartered Institute of Marketing, on the subject of Creativity and Innovation within Marketing.

To see the article in full, which will be sent to c.18,000 members of the Institute’s Continuing Professional Development programme, click below:

Creativity and Innovation- A practitioner’s perspective

For further reading on this subject, including  the views of Brant Long, Global Brand Director at Jones Lang LaSalle, see March’s CIM CPD Update .

Should marketers act like they own the business?

I’ve been in marketing for over a dozen years now in a number of different B2B sectors and businesses. One of the constant challenges throughout my career to date has been the variability in how marketing is perceived by ‘the business’ (the collective noun that marketers often use to describe non-marketing stakeholders and decision makers).

 More often than not, when perceptions are negative, it’s down to the fact that the marketing function has failed to demonstrate and communicate the value created through its efforts. Often, there is no direct alignment to the business strategy and objectives.

This isn’t a new problem, and I can’t say I’ve not been guilty of this at times in my own career, but the scale of the challenge is as high as it has ever been.

A recent CIM/Deloitte survey revealed that a mere 7% of respondents ‘always set KPIs clearly for each initiative’, and only [maybe the same?] 7% ‘always set clear accountabilities for objectives’. 

By my maths, this means that a staggering 93% of Marketers must be hoping for the best when embarking on marketing programmes. If we don’t know what to expect and we don’t know who’s responsible for success or failure, it is no surprise that marketing teams sometimes struggle to articulate the value they create.

Is acting like you own the business the answer?

So, should Marketers think (and act) more like shareholders when developing marketing programmes? I believe so. If you think (and act) as if you owned the company you work for, and imagined it was your money you’re investing in marketing, would you sign off on the investment?

Here are three ways that marketers can demonstrate they are thinking (and acting) like the owners of the business when building and implementing their marketing plans:  

1) Aligning marketing objectives to business strategy will help to tangibly demonstrate the value you are adding to the business. This isn’t easy (only 37% of organisations ‘think their business strategy is clearly translated into marketing objectives’ according to the CIM/Deloitte survey) but it shouldn’t stop us trying.   

2) Define truly SMART objectives that demonstrate the clear line of sight between business strategy and marketing strategy. Set the right metrics and make sure you take accountability for achieving them.

3) Communicate your plans and progress in the context of how it is supporting the achievement of the business strategy.  Keep communication open and two-way. Tell the broader business what you are doing, how it is going, and gather feedback from functions that are critical in the achievement of your objectives (sales, finance, operations etc). Repeat.

I’m keen to hear your views on this. What are the benefits and drawbacks of thinking like a shareholder? What are the challenges of adopting such a mindset?