Tag Archives: postaweek2011

Thinking about B2B Social Media? Dot your i’s first.

I hear a lot of people ask about the relevance of social media in B2B Marketing. Normally these questions follow presentations by industry  commentators that have contained high-profile, consumer examples of brands that have successfully engaged with their customers through these channels.

B2B businesses, whatever their size, need to answer some basic questions before they decide to jump in. This is by no means exhaustive, but there are three important i’s that need to be dotted before you even think about embarking on a programme:

insight– who in your target audience is using social media, how and how often? Are your competitors there? How are they using it? What sort of conversations are taking place? In what tone? Can you answer any questions being asked? Are people discussing problems or issues that you can help with? If so, then think about joining in the discussion, but do not sell- you need to build trust and respect first.

investment– although many of the social media tools available are ‘free’ in monetary terms, you will still need to make an investment in time and energy to take part in the communities which interest you. Although tools such as TweetDeck allow you to schedule twitter updates to be sent during the day automatically, don’t over-use this. Make sure you balance them with timely ‘human’ contributions throughout the day.

integration– how well do social media activities ‘fit’ alongside your other marketing activities? Are your staff online? Do you have subject matter experts within the business that can write compelling content to share with your customers and prospects via blogs and other online communities? One size rarely fits all, so consider the mix of communications you will employ and their respective impact on lead flow and sales before putting all of your eggs in the social media basket.

If you’ve dotted these three i’s and feel you’re ready to go, please make sure you review this excellent list of 10 considerations from Mack Collier first. Although ‘Social Media Policy’ sounds scary and corporate, these are common sense and practical considerations that you’ll ignore at your peril.

Advertisements

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…

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?

“Old school” Customer Service

Well, following my last post I’m pleased to say that NatWest came good. I confess I adopted a ‘belt and braces’ approach and sent a letter to my branch with a copy of my blog post attached (old school).

Now maybe the snail mail chain will catch up and enlighten me as to who/how/when this was picked up but at least the issue is now resolved.

 

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?