Tag Archives: B2B

Watford Workshop featured on Radio Verulam’s The Business

Watford Workshop logo

Over the last few months I’ve been doing some volunteering for Watford Workshop, helping them with some B2B Marketing activity.

The charity helps disabled and disadvantaged people to develop work skills and allows them have greater independence, become more integrated into the community and where possible move them onto mainstream employment.

To achieve this, Watford Workshop delivers comprehensive, high quality and competitively priced services to its commercial customers from their workshop on Century Retail Park.

The broader issue of disability in the workplace was covered by Radio Verulam’s Trevor Merriden in a recent episode of The Business. The programme features the work of the charity along with interviews with some of the staff, which you can hear again below:

If you would like to find out more about the types of services offered, take a look at www.watfordworkshop.co.uk or drop me a line.

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What Spongebob Squarepants taught me about Social Media

SpongebobIf ever a picture told a thousand words, it’s this one, which recently appeared in my timeline on Facebook- sadly because a ‘friend’ had ‘liked’ it.

The complex relationship between God, cancer and Spongebob Squarepants must have passed me by, but it illustrates the beauty and the curse of socially referred, user-generated content- quality control is only as strong as the weakest link in your network.

It’s annoying when spam appears in your timeline from large brands, but this is no more annoying than an ad and you tolerate it because of the huge benefits that ‘free’ access to a tool like Facebook brings. Plus, you know it’s an algorithm’s ‘opinion’ rather than one of your nearest and dearest actively engaging with the content by clicking ‘like’.

I can’t help contrast this with my LinkedIn timeline. No doubt helped by the removal of automated twitter feeds into LinkedIn, the stream of updates from my professional network of over 550 contacts on LinkedIn (some of whom are also Facebook friends) doesn’t suffer the same pollution of ‘like spam’.

Accepting it’s not in any way scientific, there appears to be a clear difference in behaviour by the same people on Facebook as on LinkedIn. Hardly ‘hold the front page’ stuff, I know, but with more and more talk of the drive from “B2B” (business-to-business) to “P2P” (person-to-person) communications being fuelled by social media, there’s clear evidence to me that people do fluctuate between their “work” and “personal” self, and use separate social media platforms to power these dual personas. For this reason, I struggle to see how Facebook will ever evolve into a truly valuable social media tool for engaging B2B audiences.

Maybe 2013 will be the year Google+ really starts to take off. The segmentation possibilities that its ‘circles’ functionality give you help alleviate some of the issues I’ve touched upon above.

How do you use social media tools? Do you have different platforms for your ‘work’ and ‘personal’ self? In what ways do you manage your digital personal brand using social media?

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?

B2B Telemarketing: 3 critical success factors

In a recent B2B Marketing Magazine feature on Telemarketing, I was interested to see that 70% of respondents to a survey of 200 B2B Marketers said that the technique was either ‘critical’ or ‘very important’ as part of their demand generation activities. With such a high number, I am still amazed to experience so many examples of it done badly.

Having managed both in-house and outsourced Telemarketing teams in the past, I have seen first-hand how powerful this technique can be for lead generation and appointment-setting campaigns. I also know how hard it is to do consistently well.

Having recently moved jobs, I have been inundated with cold calls from a wide range of marketing service providers. Some of them get the firm’s name wrong, and too many try to close an appointment without establishing if I have the time, appetite or budget to enter into any form of dialogue, no matter how exploratory.

In my experience, successful B2B Telemarketing depends on a number of critical success factors:

  1. Start with good quality data  We all have data challenges, but how have you gathered that this person is in the market for the goods or services you are about to try to sell to them, and how confident are you that the demand might be there? 
  2. Enhance it with research  I know that outbound telemarketing is often seen as a numbers game, but the art is in making the recipient of each call not feel like it is! Take time to do some basic research into the company AND the individual you are trying to target, BEFORE you pick up the phone. If you get the name of my firm wrong (as happened to me recently), this is unlikely to impress me.
  3. Hire and retain only exceptional people who are capable of building a credible rapport on the phone, sometimes over a period of several months. Demonstrating that you understand and are actively listening for information that can help me to solve a business problem will always help.

Does any of this resonate with you? Have you been on the end of great (or dreadful) B2B Telemarketing experiences? How did they make you feel, and did they win your business?

Digital- hype or high potential?

I was delighted to be asked to join a panel discussion on a recent CIM Webcast earlier this month entitled “Digital- what hasn’t happened yet- the shape of digital to come?’

Moderated by Thomas Brown, Head of Insights for CIM, the panel consisted of Mark Stuart, Head of Research for CIM, Mark Inskip, Digital Director EMEA, Accenture, and myself in the guise of a B2B Marketing practitioner.

The webcast can be accessed from this link, hosted by Thomson Reuters http://tinyurl.com/33xpsvq.

Whilst there’s no doubt that the online environment will continue to evolve at pace, there are some basic questions that any business needs to ask itself before embarking on a digital engagement programme:

1. Do I have a detailed profile of my ‘ideal’ customer[s]? 

If not, build one and make it personal- give them a name and refer to them in internal meetings and agency briefings.

2. Do I understand the media consumption habits of my ideal customer?

Do I know what they read, where they read it, and how they read it? Are they online? How much, and for what purpose? Which sites and/or social networking platforms do they use, and why?

3. Does my product/service really lend itself to using these new channels for communication and engagement with my target audience?

 I love this cartoon by Tom Fishburne http://tinyurl.com/39m5t9v which I believe should be compulsory viewing for everyone thinking about embarking on a social media journey.

This by no means exhaustive, but unless you answer ‘yes’ to every question, you should stop and reconsider.