There is, slowly but surely, a growing awareness in the B2B marketplace that, (thanks to the web-driven commoditisation of pretty much everything), it’s not your product, your service or your price that makes the difference, it’s your relationship.
You’d think that a business such as Amazon, huge marketing spend, highly skilled, totally focused on driving out all the return it can from it’s customers (and crucially, their data) would be pretty slick.
Which is why I was surprised to see them making some of the fundamental errors that can move any organisation, instantly, from the customer aware, tailored, informed, targeted, trusted-advisor role and out into the marketing Death Valley of badly constructed, poorly managed, blitzkrieg mailing.
They know a lot about me do Amazon, they know that I buy and read a lot of books! they know which ones! which authors! which genres, which formats I prefer! they know how often I buy stuff! and they’re pretty good at predicting what I might want to buy next! often they’re right.
They also know my name, my address my credit card details, my friends, (the ones I buy stuff for and the ones I recommend stuff to) they know my email. So how is it that they send a generic mail to my email, but address me as “Dear Amazon.co.uk customer”, and deliver the exciting news that I like “books“.
Really? no kidding! what insight, what a personalised approach.
There’s a lesson for all of us here, I allow them to use my data because I get value from that, if they fail to treat it with intelligence and respect, they’re failing to live up to the deal.
And that’s a relationship killer when we, the customers, have choices, and voices…
So, you’ve built a successful business, you’ve a base of loyal and appreciative clients, with all your investment in creating a good customer relationship it makes sound financial sense to exploit it by selling as many complementary offerings as possible, it’s good for both customer and seller.
This has been the driver for so many companies, of all sizes, to expand their product ranges, sometimes by R&D, often by acquisition.
It’s good theory but in practise the range of offerings can easily extend beyond the capability of the sales teams to understand them all. And as we all know if they aren’t comfortable selling the new, they tend to stay in their comfort zone, to focus on what they know well, inevitably missing out on many cross-selling opportunities.
Fortunately, as salespeople (and buyers) are becoming increasingly tablet-enabled, this is an area where technology can help; a few really interesting solutions that dramatically increase cross-selling capabilities are emerging.
As more and more service companies today seek to grab the high ground, they are developing portfolios of niche providers, often of complex services; trouble is that niches require familiarity to sell, service offerings can be complex, “all customers are different” and it’s all just too much for a busy sales team.
In the real world, time to become familiar with new offerings is limited, so training is rarely an option. Specialists may be available but sales folk still have to know when to bring them in and must be competent enough to identify the need. Often, the “show them what we can do” monkey lands screaming on the back of product management who respond to it with reams of mind-numbing technical documentation, impossible to navigate unless you’re the author.
A classic response is to use software but just making all this bumf available electronically via a portal or Sharepoint can build even more confusion as the numbers of documents multiply.
Imaginative ways of addressing the problem need to be found.
What sales people need is something pragmatic and functional, that cuts through information overload. Intelligent enough to guide a busy salesperson through the options available and capable of displaying just enough information, the relevant, nothing more. To be interactive,to allow a dialogue, to relate to the sales opportunity, to step through the sales process.
Above all it’s got to be sales focused, able to communicate those powerful nuggets of information that the most successful sales people use, just when they’re needed. Support a business-level dialogue, about benefits and proof statements not volumes of functional, contract or technical detail.
Amongst the many glossy electronic brochures that add little real value some solutions with this necessary intelligence are starting to emerge. We’re working with CoToCo, a highly flexible framework that has enabled us to develop a customised sales application with real interactivity, the intelligence to select and the ability to display what’s really important for a specific sales opportunity. Delivery is obvious, the web,smartphones and tablets, it is the 21st Century after all.
We’ve seen this sort of application effectively used in two ways, either as an aide-memoire before a meeting to “mug up” on what might be appropriate or used in conjunction with a prospect in the meeting, this has the advantage, (unlike a projected dumb slideshow) of getting salesman and prospect shoulder-by-shoulder, working together to identify problems and agree solutions, that’s good body language.
We’ve been working with MySQL. They have the interesting challenge, needing to sell without a core sales team, as their base software is available without cost, customers only pay for service and extras. We’ve developed a tool for their partners to help them cross-sell where it’s appropriate and to show them how to make money from Open Source Software. Take a look at it at http://mysql.cotoco.com It’s still evolving; so we’d be interested to hear what you think of it.
We strongly believe that sales people need to focus on the relationships they are developing, not the endless search for the information they need to make a case. Applications like this give them the ability to effortlessly navigate the data-swamp rather than drown in it.
“In these parts, a mans life may often depend on the smallest scrap of information” Clint Eastwood (Fistful of Dollars)
When asked why his company kept on sending out vanilla, generic e-mails that didn’t get much response a CEO of our acquaintance replied, (with a commendably straight face), “yes, I know we would benefit from a targeted, focused approach but the internal changes required to make that happen are just too much, it stays in the ‘too difficult’ box”.
His situation is not unique!
There are both real and pretend difficulties in changing the way a business does stuff, usually an all too human reluctance to change creates the nebulous excuses but the real obstacles might stem from practical issues of infrastructure, process and resources.
Infrastructure and technology can be real showstoppers; if your data is spread over several systems and can’t be segmented your brilliant ideas for targeted campaigns won’t get off the drawing board.
Like it or not, we’re competing in a noisy, vocal, opinionated and discerning marketplace, increasingly intolerant of below-par marketing initiatives. It’s critically important to manage, as one, all the threads of an initiative whether they be social media, web landing pages, mobile solutions, in-app pointers, direct mail or any of the wonderful range of communication available to you.
This is where the problems start, initiatives spread across different systems become difficult and time-consuming to manage. Integrating an external e-mail service with telemarketing call-tracking using spreadsheets is bad enough, then add in website activity and links to the sales team on a clunky CRM. Multiply this by the many flavours of initiative to finely target specific groups of prospects and it’s not surprising that ‘just turning the handle’ is easier.We’ve seen three approaches taken to overcome these obstacles, with varying degrees of success
- The “Enterprise class” route – If the investment is there to support it an advanced marketing application that’s already integrated with a CRM (such as SalesForce and Eloqua) certainly provides a solution. Unfortunately,it costs, especially when setup and the experience required to manage the inevitable complexity are taken into account.
- The “Girl Friday” approach – By mapping out a well-defined process for your initiatives and taking some pragmatic decisions on the systems used and the level of integration it is possible to execute initiatives that work. But it’s labour intensive.
- “DIY”– If the expertise exists in the organisation it’s amazing what can be done to tie relatively basic systems together to implement rifleshot marketing affordably. This level of expertise, however, is rare and as with any specialist skill there’s always the risk of it disappearing.
There is a better way, especially for small and medium size companies that need to manage quite sophisticated lead generation initiatives but have tight budgets. In conjunction with our customers, we’ve developed an affordable platform for Rifleshot marketing, based on the proven Adara Pipeliner. It’s used “out of the box”, takes minimal setup, and addresses all the difficulties commonly experienced:
- It’s one fully integrated system, a CRM and mailer, with landing pages easily integrated with web sites and social networking.
- It uses a simple “initiative Planner” to ensure campaigns are thought through and incorporate best practise.
- It uses advanced workflow automation and templates to make it easy to define and then run, many different initiatives.
- It’s easy to find out exactly what’s going on so action can be taken in real time to manage and optimise initiatives.
Take a look at this short video of our approach to lead generation using the Adara Pipeliner, even if it’s not for you, you might gain some good ideas, just click here to view it.