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Lessons from sales – part 2

May 26, 2010 Categories: Uncategorized

In a recent post I wrote about some of the lessons marketing can learn from sales. Now, moving once more into the breach, the Sales Executive Council has posted a list of the seven principals to bear in mind when developing any sales tool.

Sales is often supported by tools that help them, but sometimes there are so many that these tools doesn’t always take off. Because the same practical challenges are faced in most marketing projects, maybe there’s something we can learn from these too:

  1. Make sure you keep your focus on your end goal right the way through the development.
  2. Prioritize and feature requests and focus on those you think will impact success most.
  3. Early in the scoping, collect as much feedback as you can to base your decisions on.
  4. Communicate during the build why the tool will make a difference to the user.
  5. Ensure it’s easy to use. There’s nothing worse that thousands of features no-one can use.
  6. Conduct pilots prior to launch so if there is any feedback to react to you can
  7. Make sure everyone can get to the tool and use it when they need to.

See the link for more detail, but to say these rules are limited only to sales tools is pretty blinkered. Most of them are just common sense for just about everything we do. It never hurts to repeat good ideas, though.

We recently launched a set of four new propositions for one client, to be taken out by sales teams across EMEA. Eventually, as much effort and thought has gone into communicating how the sales teams could use the resources as in creating the resources themselves: bringing to life different sales scenarios; selling the value of the collateral; explaining how some of the newer presentation techniques can be used. And if all else fails, communicate directly with the market and create a demand for the sales team to meet…

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No comments | Posted by Chris Bailey

In-depth insight from Shell CIO Alan Matula

May 24, 2010 Categories: Uncategorized

McKinsey’s recent interview with Shell CIO Alan Matula gives some real food for thought in evaluating how you approach major enterprises (and hold on to them once you have them…)

When you consider that Matula is talking about IT transformation that has been going on for a decade (and is now looking for payback over at least 15 years from, for example, a new standardised HR system), it becomes clear why the long-term approach is the only one to take.

He talks through the different phases of the transformation, and what comes across most strongly is a ruthless focus on reaching a successful outcome. When it comes to selecting suppliers, it’s clear that only those most able to sign up to the corporate vision have been selected:

“We started with the idea that we wanted 70 percent of our spending to be external. Of that, we wanted 80 percent to be focused on the top 11 suppliers. We put those 11 into three groups: First, there are the foundation suppliers, those in which we make long-term bets—Cisco, Microsoft, Oracle, and SAP. Then there’s the infrastructure group, with three bundles—AT&T, HP, and T-Systems—for networks, end-user computing, and hosting of storage, respectively. And finally we have four application services suppliers—Accenture, IBM, Logica, and Wipro. What we’re doing differently is bringing all 11 of them together to work as a collective.”

It will be interesting to revisit the performance of this collaborative approach after a couple of years working. Shell is already noticing that traditional product/service divisions between suppliers are breaking down (movements like cloud computing and shifting to pay per performance models are exacerbating this at the higher level).

Matula’s closing comments illustrate 3 of his most significant priorities. Being able to measure the impact that IT has on the business. Having the skilled people available to manage relationships (internally and with key suppliers). And finally, avoiding failure at all costs – risk aversion is still top of the list.

“IT is more important and intense to the enterprise than ever before, and that essentially requires an ongoing effort to transform IT; there is always another phase. To support that mental model, the first thing is to never lose the perspective that you’re here to make the business more productive and more competitive. Our catchphrase, “business at the center,” keeps us grounded. Our position today is a reflection of the tight integration that we have with the business, combined with the efforts of key support functions like HR, finance, and procurement.

A second thing is that you’re only as good as the talent that you have. For instance, in the robust sourcing of infrastructure and applications we have put in place, the people at the interface are very important. They manage the critical supplier relationships with CEOs and top executives at these firms, and they have the technical know-how to help guide the suppliers.

Finally, if you don’t have the basics right, you won’t have any credibility. It only takes one bad “go live” on a project or a flaw in your basic delivery capabilities to set you back very quickly.”

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No comments | Posted by Paul Everett

Alan Sugar, Theodor Adorno, and the camping industry…

May 20, 2010 Categories: Uncategorized

tentWhat do bearded entrepreneur Alan Sugar and marxist philosopher Theodor Adorno have in common?

One answer suggested by last week’s episode of ‘Junior Apprentice’ is that neither would be much fun on a camping holiday. Lord Sugar set his ‘junior apprentices’ the task of creating a new camping product and pitching it to retailers. The episode is full of mentions of the lucrative size of the camping market, something that Adorno was writing about 40 years ago.

In his essay ‘Free Time‘, Adorno discussed the way that the culture industry takes our real need for ‘freedom’ and brings it back within the capitalist system (through organised hobbies and activities like camping), where money can be made and people controlled (‘recharging’ before another busy week at work):

“The naturalness of the question of what hobby you have, harbours the assumption that you must have one, or better still, that you should have a range of different hobbies, in accordance with what the ‘leisure industry’ can supply [...] It is linked to the inner needs of people in the functional system. Camping – an activity so popular amongst the old youth movements – was a protest against the tedium and convention of bourgeois life. People had to ‘get out’, in both senses of the phrase. Sleeping out beneath the stars meant that one had escaped from the house and from the family. After the youth movements had died out this need was then harnessed and institutionalized by the camping industry. The industry alone could not have forced people to purchase its tents and dormobiles, plus huge quantities of extra equipment, if there had not already been some longing in people themselves; but their own need for freedom gets functionalized, extended and reproduced by business; what they want is forced upon them once again. Hence the ease with which the free time is integrated; people are unaware of how utterly unfree they are, even where they feel most at liberty, because the rule of such unfreedom has been abstracted from them.”

I wonder how many of the junior apprentices were questioning their role in profiting from pseudo answers to people’s desire for freedom…

As an aside, Adorno also has interesting views on sun tans as we approach the summer holiday season. This section follows on from his analysis of the camping industry:

“Taken in its strict sense, in contradistinction to work, as it at least used to apply in what would today be considered an out-dated ideology, there is something vacuous…about the notion of free time. An archetyptal instance is the behaviour of those who grill themselves brown in the sun merely for the sake of a sun-tan, although dozing in the sun is not at all enjoyable, might very possibly be physically unpleasant, and impoverishes the mind. In the sun-tan, which can be quite fetching, the fetish character of the commodity lays claim to actual people they themselves become fetishes. The idea that a girl is more erotically attractive because of her brown skin is probably only another rationalization. The sun-tan is an end in itself, of more importance then the boy-friend it was perhaps supposed to entice. If employees return from their holidays without having acquired the mandatory skin tone, they can be quite sure their colleagues will ask them the pointed question, ‘haven’t you been on holiday then?’ The fetishism which thrives in free time, is subject to further social controls.”

If there are marketing lessons to learn from Adorno (and there may well be something in his insight around how an industry can identify deep inner needs and align its products to those – even if it’s not possible to truly answer the inner need), it doesn’t really seem appropriate to think about them. And the fact that we now spend our free time letting ‘the culture industry’ (in the form of programmes like ‘The Apprentice’) train us to be better business-people… well, it’s probably better that we don’t go into that either.

If there’s a lesson to learn from last week’s episode of the ‘Young Apprentice’, it’s that no amount of salesmanship can shift a poor product – and that the difference between a poor product and a good one can be as simple as 5 minutes discussing a target audience.

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No comments | Posted by Paul Everett

Lessons from sales – part 1

May 18, 2010 Categories: Uncategorized

It has been said, (if it hasn’t, then we’ll say it) that the best marketing is about taking the cream of your sales team’s capabilities in one-to-one sales and turning this into a mass-market lead generation machine. This tends to be why the best campaigns involve a close marketing-sales partnership to understand how to position offerings, view the competition, differentiate themselves and drive prospects through the sales funnel.

It’s also been oft repeated that the best marketing is about communicating the right messages at the right time.  So maybe we can bring these together into one grand unified theory of marketing-sales success? Wishful thinking maybe, but McKinsey this month published the results of their research into the buying habits of 1,200 decision makers in long- and short-sale cycles across the US and Europe. This insight into b2b sales draws a powerful conclusion: the top two turn-offs (comprising over half of those surveyed) that sales people could do were to have inadequate knowledge of their product/service and to try to communicate with them too often.

Timing + message. QED.

Fortunately, these two faux-pas are perfectly possible to remedy. But in the theme of this post, it’s not just sales that should learn this lesson but marketing too. And we bear this evidence out frequently – the most successful communications are the ones that tie a significant aspect of the product/service to a timely need of the audience. When this happens, the audience doesn’t see it as ‘marketing’ – it’s just a valuable part of their business day.

I’ll delve into another area where marketing can learn from sales in a future post, but maybe you have some experiences on this area already that you’d like to share?

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1 comment | Posted by Chris Bailey

Colin Cram on procurement in the public sector

May 14, 2010 Categories: Uncategorized

We’ve shared below the slides that Colin Cram presented at the recent Sales & Marketing Forum.

A founder member of the Central Unit on Purchasing (forerunner of the Office of Government Commerce (OGC)), Colin held senior procurement positions in the public sector for over 30 years, responsible throughout for shared services, outsourcing and organisational re-engineering, and third party spends of up to £7bn a year. His presentation steps through an overview of procurement in the public sector (scale, challenges, realities for suppliers…) and highlights some potential changes that could deliver savings of £25bn and fresh opportunities for suppliers…

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No comments | Posted by Paul Everett

Selling to the public sector…

May 14, 2010 Categories: Uncategorized

A write-up of our latest Sales & Marketing Forum (“A very public affair: Being an effective partner to the publc sector”) will be coming soon – but in the meantime…

We’ve had some great feedback on the latest forum (and one note to make the cocktails less strong next time – you can’t win them all…). While we wait for the ‘official’ writeup, here are a couple of related links:

The blog of one of our speakes, James Gardner from the Department for Work and Pensions: http://bankervision.typepad.com/

A link to Colin Cram’s IOD paper on potential savings in public sector procurement: http://www.iod.com/intershoproot/eCS/Store/en/pdfs/policy_article_towards_tesco.pdf

And some prescient and topical views on public sector IT spend: http://thefrontline.v3.co.uk/2010/05/tory—lib-dem.html and http://www.silicon.com/management/public-sector/2010/02/22/tories-to-wield-it-budget-axe-faster-than-labour-39745504/

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No comments | Posted by Paul Everett

When content marketing goes a bit fishy…(sorry)

May 13, 2010 Categories: Uncategorized

seafoodIn a post last month (“Waitrose – showing the way for B2B content marketing?“), I was full of praise for Waitrose’s tactic of taking over an entire ad break and turning it into a ‘mini cookery programme’ with Delia Smith and Heston Blumenthal. And I’d still stand by the opinion that it was a great example of content-led marketing that B2B marketers can learn a lot from (particularly those marketing to senior executives, who share some key characteristics with the Waitrose demographic).

But the recent coverage of Delia’s latest Waitrose recipe (‘I’d be ashamed to offer Delia Smith’s risotto to a guest‘) highlights the dangers of getting your content marketing (or perhaps your core service?) wrong. Complaints about the seafood risotto have been posted on the Waitrose website and featured on Watchdog and Have I Got News For You. So a slight wobble in execution perhaps – but for me, it still shows that this is the kind of marketing that is getting noticed and being talked about.

There’s a great round-up of other B2C ‘Branded Content’ campaigns on this AdAge blog. Towards the end of the article there’s a list (including Waitrose) of examples that provide some good food for thought.

We recently reviewed one of our most successful content-led lead generation programmes (it’s been running for 2 years now, draws 500 people each month to the content site and brings in details of 100 new contacts each month from a very restricted target market of EMEA enterprises across Telco and FS industries). (And we didn’t pay Delia and Heston £2m to create the content…). We’ll give a more detailed review of the campaign and our lessons from it over the next couple of weeks.

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No comments | Posted by Paul Everett

Marketing Automation: Eating your own dog food?

May 11, 2010 Categories: Uncategorized

dogfoodMarketing Automation Systems are a hot topic for many B2B organisations at the moment. But Ben Hanna argues in his blog that when selecting one, the feature list should not be your be-all and end-all decision point. Yes, the feature list should help you rule options in and out, but does all-singing and all-dancing really mean, all-importantly, that it’s the best choice for you. We’re using and looking into these systems a lot at the moment, so Ben’s argument is interesting to us. Gartner’s magic quadrant is a good place to start from when choosing a system, but Ben highlights four areas as having a major impact on usability and results that you might not immediately consider:

  • Customer Support
  • Online Help & Marketing Automation Training
  • Process for Rolling-Out New Features & Bug Fixes
  • Are You Impressed by How the Vendor Develops YOU as a Prospect?

The last point is the most interesting. Once you start using Marketing Automation Systems, you realise just how complicated they can be when used correctly. Done well – by which we mean completely, comprehensively and with buy-in and integration across your whole customer touch-base – they can be very effective. But it you’re trying to improve your marketing, you have to worry about vendors that let you slip through cracks in your own systems. Are the dogs trying to sell you a marketing automation system eating their own dog food? On the whole, we’ve seen some excellent examples of content-led marketing combined with accurate, timely targeting coming from a range of marketing automation vendors – we’ll share some of the high points in a future post.

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No comments | Posted by Chris Bailey