Tag 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.”

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?

Do Customer Charters drive great Customer Service?

At the end of my last post, I suggested that Veolia Water should give NatWest Bank a lesson or two in Customer Service. It was meant to be a tongue-in-cheek sign-off, but it turns out I was right…

I’ve been a NatWest customer for many years and, until recently, have been very happy with the service they gave me.

I won’t bore you with the details here, but it’s that all-too-common sorry tale of:

• Bank takes charge for something they shouldn’t

• Customer notices, and contacts Bank (17th December 2010)

• Bank says they’ll get straight onto it, so the charge won’t hit my account

• Charge hits customer’s account (29th December)

• Customer contacts bank on 31st December. Is told refund will be in account by 12th January 2011.

• Nothing happens. Customer calls Bank and is told that Bank has escalated it to their Card Services team, but they will ‘monitor daily’, whatever that means.

• As at today (30th January) still no refund, and still no sign of it…

Now I know that this isn’t exactly headline-grabbing stuff here. Most people reading this will have their own (and probably far worse) version of this chain of events. Having spent the last ten years working in banks, I have seen first hand how internal systems and broken processes can sometimes stop the good people in branches and service centres from delivering great service.

So, I turned to the NatWest Customer Charter (http://tinyurl.com/6a2anbz) to find out more about their mission to become “Britain’s most helpful bank”.

It tells us in committment 14…” We will actively seek your thoughts and suggestions on how we can become more helpful. We will launch a new Customer Listening Programme to ensure our staff, including Executives, can hear first hand about the needs and frustrations of our customers.”

All to often, there is a huge gap between the promises of Customer Charters and the reality of day to day service delivery. I have two suggestions that would help avoid the tale of woe above for many customers like me:

1) Give your people the tools and systems to break down internal barriers to great customer service. In my experience with Veolia Water, every single person I spoke to had a record of my previous conversation and actions arising. I have spoken to three different people in NatWest and still my problem isn’t resolved.

2) Empower local office and call centre staff to resolve complaints at the first point of call. Whether NatWest Card Services or NatWest Bank gives me back my £48 isn’t that important to me. Sort it out, refund me and do the internal paperwork afterwards.

I’m not sure if NatWest will reach its goal to become “Britain’s most Helpful Bank”, or how it’ll even know if it does. I just hope that someone, somewhere really is listening.

Excellent customer service alive and well in….Utilities?!

If you’re anything like me, when you need to contact a utilities company, your heart sinks. Expectations are low from the outset. You need to prepare…

  • You take deep breaths as your eyes search for the customer services number
  • “Flashbacks” to previous encounters of a hold queue that took 37 hours to escape still haunt you as you pick up the phone
  • Your fingers shaking now, you try to remember the combination of buttons you need to press to speak to a human being within 23 minutes (normally 1,3,4,4,3,2,3,3,#,@,5,5,3,6)

Ahem, maybe that’s just me.

Anyway, Veolia Water have gobsmacked me over the last few weeks with their proactivity, efficiency and service (3 words you don’t normally associate with Utilities):

Proactivity: Upon noticing our water usage was rising, and had been for the last year or so, they phoned us to ask if we’d been using more water, or if there was any more people living in the house as (it turned out our toilet was sporadically leaking water like a running tap).

Efficiency: They suggested we could apply to be considered for a Leak Allowance, as our bill was HUGE. They explained the process and sent the forms which arrived next day. Every subsequent contact was painless, with well trained people on the end of the line who had access to up to the minute information about who I last spoke to, and the status of our enquiry.

Service: The people I dealt with were friendly, competent and gave me reassurance that our discussions would be acted upon. I had confidence. In a utilities company! The happy ending is that we got a refund on some of the lost water and the money was in my bank account the day after I received the letter!

Well done Veolia Water. You have one extremely satisfied customer. Any chance you can speak to my Bank now and show them how it’s supposed to be done?