Content, context, discontent and disconnect…

Websites, they’re still important, pundits opine that we’re seeing the death of the traditional homepage, that social media are now effectively the route for people to find our inspirational content but it’s rare these days that we arrive at a business meeting without our prospect having a pretty good idea of who we are, what we do, where we sit and they’ll have formed that opinion based on our web presence.

It’s tempting, as social media becomes the focus of marketing fashion to treat the classic website as an online brochure, a project for the intern or a must-have that just needs maintenance. But we’d suggest that’s not a good idea.

It’s very easy to create a website “they” say, and “they’re” right.

It’s easy to pop into WordPress and grab a template and add some words,cobbled together from your latest brochure, to stick a couple of images up, to make something that looks ok, and so very, many folk do just that.

I’m not advocating spending a fortune on the highly skilled HTML buffs in the pay of the multitude of increasing desperate web agencies, I am however pointing out the pitfalls, three in all, of this DIY approach.

1. There are people who find spelling errors, poor grammar and a casual approach to the language a turn-off, they might be potential customers, but you’ll never know that they’ve discovered a split infinitive, and they’ve split.

2. Content is increasingly the lure that brings people to your website,to any website, they’re looking for something of value and you’re looking to give them something of value, something fresh, they’re not enthused by that three-year-old case study or your turgid white paper explaining your thinking of last year that the cloud is a no-go area for smart businesses.So you have to keep it fresh, current and valuable, and that takes time, effort and a quality approach to content production.

3. Same old, Same old. Few of us are lucky enough to be gifted creative thinkers, no matter what our mum had stuck on the fridge, we’re not as good as specialists and we’re not keeping up to speed with the latest developments in user involvement and retention.

I’m not saying that using WordpScreen Shot 2014-06-04 at 15.18.18ress or Blogger as your weapon of choice is wrong, au contraire, there’s a lot of functionality built in, not least in terms of search engine optimisation but I do advocate a couple of things:

Firstly, involving an objective creative eye, a third party, a good graphic designer to spend a few days making it look good.
Secondly, if you’re not one of those unfortunates who can’t read past a misplaced colon: find a professional proofreader or gifted pedant and ask them to review your words.

I’m not advocating sticking lipstick on a pig, I am saying, quality matters, and it’s often worth investing in those who can ensure that you present yourself, your business, your clients and the work you do for them, in the best possible light.

I’m now going to sit back and see how many errors the internet grammar police can find in this epistle and the Adara websites, fair enough, bring it on.

Moving the spotlight from products to customers

Bite-the-bullet

Perhaps one of the more positive aspects of the recession (there I said it) is that many companies are now finally biting the bullet and thinking seriously about what it is they sell and how they sell it.

In good times it’s easier to succeed with a product-led sale, setting out your stall and letting customers buy from you. In tough times, buyers are scarce, investment is limited, no-one buys ‘nice to have’ and this can easily lead to commoditisation and loss of control as the initiative moves from supply to demand.

The term “solutions” has certainly lost much of it’s meaning with just about everyone using it for just about everything but that doesn’t negate the fact that there is, for many, the opportunity to regain control of their destiny by changing focus from, “what we’ve always sold” to “solving a real customer need”.

Sure, Apple has become the most highly valued company in the world by developing and marketing products that entice customers to queue up and buy. Which is nice, but what works in the B2C world does not always apply in the high value, B2B marketplace where most of us trade; increasingly we’re competing on financial value delivered not bells and whistles. Few have the luxury of a “killer app” that will sweep all before it, the new battleground is customer intimacy, it’s about knowing your customer and meeting his needs better than your competitor.

If you’re still following a  product-centric strategy it’s probably reactive, few businesses can afford to create demand, so, you’re dependent upon your customer to work out what they need, and then buy it, hopefully from you. But business today is faster moving and rarely that clear-cut, there may be many different ways to solve a problem and if a competitor gets in there first you can get locked out.

The glib answer, (and we hear it all the time), is “to become more customer intimate” but that’s a concept that’s rarely explored or understood to the level that can generate the much needed change of mindset. It’s not a trivial challenge, it requires getting to understand customers better than anyone else and then doing something for them that helps them in a unique way, something they’ll value. But, if you can do this, if you can develop a relationship where they’ll trust you to help solve their problems you’ll get back in control and can start being proactive in developing business.

The steps needed to make this happen are blindingly obvious, there’s a general agreement on what they are, they’re just really, really difficult to do in practise:

  1. Understand who your customers are and get to know in detail what needs they have, identify the ones  that you can do something about
  2. Be clear about what you can do uniquely well to meet these needs, what differentiates you from your competitors, why they should buy from you; then articulate it in a clear, consistent, compelling manner
  3. Identify where you’ve been successful, which customers will sing your praises, research those market sectors where you can replicate your success
  4. Seek out new customers in these sectors with similar problems to those you’ve solved. Calling is easier, you’re not trying to foist a product on them, you’re offering to help in the same way you’ve helped someone else with the same problem, someone who’ll endorse your success
  5. Do whatever it takes to ensure that your sales team truly understand the problems of their prospects first, it’s easy and wrong to jump to convenient conclusions. But once the client agrees you’ve got it, (and only then) develop a proposal that in client terms, shows conclusively and unarguably why they should invest in your solution. What’s in it for them?

Working with many companies making this transition we’ve found three areas that are most challenging.

Firstly, taking the time to do steps 1 and 2 in an honest, dispassionate manner. It requires activity that’s completely divorced from “business as usual”, some clear thinking, an open mind and a structure to get a result. Invariably objective facilitation is required.

Secondly, producing the tools that marketing and sales will need to take this new proposition to market in a consistent, compelling manner, and make sure it gets heard. Not easy, being customer centric is a different mindset and creativity is required to get above the noise of a busy marketplace.

Finally, the customer facing team have to learn to build interest, ask questions and, hardest of all, listen. It’s the opposite of doing a “demo” at the first meeting, it’s about building confidence by having meaningful business discussions with top management. Not all sales people can do it, and those that can usually need time and support.

If these are some of the challenges you face then we should be talking, getting it right sooner rather than later can have a dramatic effect on the bottom line…

As the “Sales Pipeline Engineers” that’s what we’re all about.

 

“When the promise is clear,the price gets easy..”
Jim Rohn