Science vs. Art…or both

I recently spoke to a few members of a Marketing team and although they had great Marketing ideas, they had trouble getting adoption from their Field and Channel Marketing teams. They couldn’t figure out why – great ideas, great team members, great product, great corporate revenue…

As I started asking questions, I quickly realized that they considered Marketing to Field and Channel a science. You do A and B and C will automatically happen. Unfortunately, they were wrong. Marketing to Sales people and Channel partners isn’t a math equation, it’s a lot more than that…I’d say they have half the equation down pat. But, the other half is completely missing and in 2015 it’s a shame to say they are definitely not the only Marketing teams that have this problem.

So what’s the problem? The “art” is missing. Marketing to Sales and Channel partners is also an art. You cannot have a team focused on creating Marketing programs that just push those programs out. You absolutely absolutely absolutely must have a relationship with those folks to whom you are giving the programs. I can’t emphasize this enough!!! You have to understand their goals, what motivates them, get their input and feedback and just know them. Believe it or not, it sounds easier than it really is.

I’ve been at many companies where the Marketing team has no idea who the Sales teams are and couldn’t name four Sales people. Marketing teams where they haven’t spoken to anyone on the Sales or Channel team in months, yet are focused on helping them sell more. Does that make any sense to you? I really hope not!

I don’t care who you are, where you work or what you do for work, if you don’t have a connection with people, your fantastic ideas will fail! It’s that simple! Anyone remember “new Coke“? This example might be a radical one, but you get the point. If you’re goal is help people, talk to them.

Field and Channel Marketing is both a science and an art. Metrics are important but you also have to have a relationship with the stakeholders. Doesn’t matter how fantastic your program is, if you don’t have end user buy in, it’ll flop.

Start With Turning on the Faucet

I have all sorts of blog ideas stuck in my head and some I’ve even put in draft form, but I just haven’t written a full one in a while. I have time blocked out every evening to write, but every evening I find something else to do and move the calendar slot to the next night. I love writing but for some reason, I am fantastic at procrastinating when it comes to writing.

I just got an email from IMPACT and it was a list of quotes to get someone past the writers block. This one in particular, got me motivated enough to writing something. “Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” – Louis L’Amour, Author.

Everything I write doesn’t have to be perfect, ground breaking or even interesting to everyone. I have to accept that and move on. As I write this, I realized that the same thing applies to my relationships to my partners, coworkers, friend and family. You don’t have to have a reason to talk to someone, just talk. Start by saying “Hi, how are you?” or “Hi, how was your weekend?” and the water will flow.

We get so caught up in our daily to do list that sometimes we forget to be human. I have to talk to this person about this, and that person about that. How about talking to someone just because you want to, not because you need to? Crazy concept, but when you go to someone for the heck of it and not because you need something, you might actually build a two-way relationship and get a lot more out of the conversation than you ever thought you would. Stop thinking about what you need from someone and start thinking about him or her. People aren’t action items, so make sure not to always treat them that way.

Turn the faucet on and the water will flow, relationships will build and in the end you’ll get all the water you need.

Check out the IMPACT blog here which will give you some quotes to get you writing…it worked for me.

Target is…on target

I had the day off a while back and I went into Target at the San Jose Market Center at 9am on a weekday.  I hadn’t had my coffee yet and didn’t want to deal with anyone.  I was walking through the aisles and heard this man’s voice and then a group of folks clapping and then the man’s voice again and then more clapping.  I was intrigued by what was going on and wasn’t sure if it was a recording or something real.  As I walked closer to the voices, I realized that it was a real voice.  I turned the corner from the home goods section and standing in the aisle by the groceries were about 15 Target employees.  Then I realized what was happening.  The team lead was giving his morning spcheel to his team but, as he was doing it, he was giving kudos to team members who had done exceptional jobs. He was also explaining that Perry’s counterpart was in town and “what does that mean?”  A few team members yelled out “it means we’re awesome!”  He replied that he agreed and as he started to explain what all that meant, I started heading in the other direction. 

What I liked about this was not that credit was giving and that the team lead was pumping up the team (kudos to him though for doing that), but that it was being done in an aisle and not some back office.  To me, this is important because those recieving kudos are getting somewhat of public recognition. As a visitor to the store, I got a completely new appreciation for the work that is being done there.  It was very obvious to me that those employees were proud of what they were doing.  How many times can you say that when you go in to a retail location?

After I checked out I stopped in the store’s Starbucks location and was once again shocked by what I came across. An exceptionally genuine, not fake friendly kid took my order.  i think his name was Aaron and he was such a pleasure to speak with. 

Kudos to the staff at the Target in the San Jose Market Center!  You made my morning and although I’m no longer living in the area, I’ll be back to shop there.

Employees Are Your Most Important Customers

I recently read “The Responsibility Revolution: How the Next Generation of Businesses Will Win” by Jeffrey Hollender and Bill Breen. The premise of the book is that companies are starting to (and should be) focused on the social aspect of their business rather than just selling more products.  The social aspect includes doing good for your community as well as the environment.  Throughout the book, case studies are given on companies such as Seventh Generation, Threadless.com, Southwest Airlines and Marks & Spencer to name a few. 

I found the book very interesting and it made me realize how important it is for companies (of all sizes) to be good to its employees, customers, community and environment.  So often companies are too worried about their bottom line.  Although it’s absolutely understandable, especially when you’re a public company and Wall Street is breathing down your neck, it’s still our responsibility to be good to all.

My favorite (and most relevant based on my customer reference and loyalty background) part of the book was chapter three which is called “Not a Company, but a Community – a Blueprint for Summoning People’s Potential”.  Former Southwest Airlines chairman Herb Kelleher is quoted saying “When you treat [your employees] right, they will treat your customers right. This has been a powerful competitive weapon for us.”  How powerful and true of a quote is that?!  If you have happy employees, it’ll be passed on to your customers.  Happy customers also lead to repeat business and increased referrals which then leads to increased profits and a reduced amount of spending on gaining new customers. 

Another section of the chapter refers to a 2008 Towers Perrin study which stated “71 percent of the respondents said they were ‘disengaged’ or ‘disenchanted’ at work.  The study reported that employees ‘care a lot about their work’ and they want to ‘learn and grow.'”  Eye opening huh?  What if we actually treated employees like our customers?  Not a bad idea.

Customers Reference Tactics When Companies are Acquired and Acquiring

We all know that customer retention is more cost effective and easier than customer acquisition right?  Well, we should know that.  It takes less money to keep a customer happy and have them tell others about how great your company is than it is to convince a brand new prospect that your product/company is fabulous.  Less time, money and manpower is needed when you’ve kept a customer happy.  You also get the benefit of a customer talking positively about you.  Word of mouth marketing (WOMM) is priceless.

But what happens when a company is acquired?  What happens to the customers?  In this case, the dynamics change a bit. 

I have worked with companies that have been acquired and ones that have acquired others.  It’s a difficult and very touchy subject – at least in a B2B scenario. In the case where I was working at a company that was acquired, the customers were very worried about their future.  The product roadmap was a concern for them because they wanted to know if the investment they had made in the acquired company would all be gone.  Will they have to buy new products?  And what about the support they were receiving.  Sometimes they were afraid that they’d turn into a little fish in a big pond rather than being a big fish in a little pond.

And for the times when I was working at a company that acquired others, the acquired customers felt the same but they were very hesitant to talk to me – the reference person.  They had thoughts like who is this new person from a bigger company asking for things?  What does she want? How soon will she forget about me? What’s in it for me?

In both cases, it is extremely important to talk to the customers.  Let them know what’s going on and if and how things will change.  Treat customers on both sides of the scenario with respect and let them know that they are still important. 

In some cases, you may find that newly acquired customers will be very happy initially but then realize that they are being fogotten. In other cases they’ll be upset, nervous and unsure and then become very loyal.  If you measure customer loyalty/satisfaction by your own means or via Net Promoter Score  (NPS) do you see a difference before the acquisition and then after? Keep a pulse on your customers and don’t forget about them.

We, as reference professionals, have a great opportunity at a time like this to be support for customers.  Take advantage of the opportunity and connect with customers if you’re getting acquired and touch base as soon as you can with customers when you have acquired.  Reach out, say hi and introduce yourself.   Let them know that you’re there for them.

Another aspect of a merger or acquisition is the employee loyalty level.  If employees speak negatively about the acquisition, it’ll be passed on to customers.  If employees speak positively about the acquisition, it’ll be passed on to the customers. Internal stakeholders are equally as important as external.  It’s a lot harder than it sounds, but keep all employees along the customer corridor happy.

Remember that customers are people first, then customers!  How would you want to be treated?

Pixar Knows Employee Loyalty

As a follow-up to one of my recent posts, I thought I’d give a good example of how a company is keeping its employees loyal.  We all know that you’re never going to have 100% employee satisfied, happy and loyal, but you can come close.

 

A few weeks ago my brother-in-law invited me up to Pixar. He has been working there for about two years (he’s still considered the new kid) and has always spoken highly of the company.  And, to reinforce what a cool company it is, my nieces are very very very proud to tell their friends and anyone who listens that their daddy works for Pixar.

 

Let me back up for a minute.  If you don’t know what/who Pixar is, think Steve Jobs, Toy Story, Cars, Ratatouille, Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc., The Incredibles…you get the picture (literally!) Okay, so now you’re with me.

 

My brother-in-law started his career at Pixar in the on campus theater. He was told to sit in the 6th row because that’s where all the directors sit.  He was told that he was a film maker (he’s in IT) along with everyone else at the company.  That’s everyone from the producer to the cafeteria person to the janitor to the graphics person. Everyone at the company is a film maker.  If that didn’t get him pumped up enough about his first day, Janeane Garofalo (the voice of Colette in Rataouille) was at the office. 

 

Sure, almost everyone likes their first day at the office, but Pixar has been able to keep employees happy and loyal for a lot longer than their first day.  As my brother-in-law was showing me around the office, I was surprised at the “un-office” feeling the company has.  Employees were zipping around on scooters, there were statues of characters from multiple films throughout the hallways, pictures of employees in the company dance, music, screen writing, fly fishing (yes, fly fishing) and art classes adorned one corner of the building.

 

In one section of the building I felt like I was back in college because some of the offices had a very dorm room feeling to them with two people per brightly painted, couch furnished room with the required lava lamp.

 

Three of my favorite aspects of Pixar are:

1) The conference rooms are almost like fish bowls with glass on at least two walls.  When you walk in the main door, look up and you’ll see conference rooms with the glass wall looking down to the “town hall” like square where people meet up and eat. This allows employees to literally see who they are making films for – talking about voice of the customer!

 

2) Being a movie production company, Pixar has access to lots of movies.  Their in house theater previews movies for employees and not always Pixar movies.  The day I visited, I was able to watch one of the movies up for an Oscar.  On a Friday night at 6pm, the theater was crowded!

 

3) Probably my favorite thing about Pixar is that children born during the production of a movie are listed at the end of the movie credits under “Production Babies”.  How cool is that? My youngest niece will be listed at the end of the next Pixar movie. 

 

There are so many different ways to make employees happy and loyal and Pixar seems to have captured it all.  From calling all employees film makers, to recognizing new babies born during production to offering free classes from movie writing to soccer to providing free cereal and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Pixar has captured the market on happiness. My brother-in-law being there two years is still one of the new kids.  That alone says a lot!

 

You can find Pixar jobs here but if you think you’ll have one interview and be hired, think again.  They carefully select only the top notch candidates to join their creative, talented, fun and energetic team.

The Importance of Employee Loyalty

Do you think that there’s a relationship between happy employees and customer loyalty?  I think yes and I’m not alone.  When I asked this question via Twitter I got some great answers back.  Here are some of them:

 

@joerawlinsonEmployee loyalty usually means a happier staff. When they are happy, they serve customers better. That grows customer loyalty

 

@wwcasey: “If you want to know why customers view the company the way they do, look at how the company views employees.”

 

@jasontryfon: ”It’s a proven fact employee sat has direct correlation on customer sat. Upset staff, upset customers : )”

 

@efrainm: “Fastest way to loose loyal customers is having them deal with an angry detracting employees.”

 

@michaelfieldcom: “For organisations, the first customer is the employee, the actual customer will be treated the way the employees are treated.”

 

Think about it for a second.  One place I hate going to is the DMV. Why?  Because I generally (sorry to the good DMV employees) get the cranky man/woman sitting behind the counter.  They don’t look up and definitely don’t give me the time of day.  After waiting in line forever, I finally get to the counter where the person only knows their job and can’t answer questions that don’t deal with “Line 4”.  What does all of this make me?  It makes me dread going to the DMV because I know that the cranky employees I have had to deal with are going to put a damper on my day.  If there was a choice to go to a non-DMV, I would but unfortunately you can’t renew your license at Starbucks.

 

So what would happen if all DMV employees loved their job?  They’d smile more and probably really want to help me.  Remember the days when companies would hand out mirrors to employees and tell the employees to smile and look at themselves in the mirror when they’re talking on the phone?  The smile goes through the phone. 

 

You might not agree with my example, but I think you get the point. Your employees are generally the first line to your customers so make sure that you’re treating your employees right.  Their attitudes will be reflected onto the customers.

 

Dr. Gary Rhoads wrote in his recent blog “Employee Engagement: An Essential Ingredient for Business Success”

 

“… found that one out of every 10 customers was hurt by disengaged employees. We also found that the work environment combined with employee attitudes has a significant impact on a customer’s perception of quality. For this reason, it’s important that companies lead with their strengths, emphasize the positives, and remove the barriers that lead employees to be disengaged with their jobs, their organization and customers.”

 

If you want to read an interesting case study on employee loyalty having a direct impact on revenue, read this case study “Top 11 Ways to Increase Your Employee Loyalty” provided by Allegiance.  One bullet in the report that struck me was:

 

“According to Target Training International, more than 60% of all customers stop dealing with a company because of perceived indifference on the part of an employee.”

 

Sometimes the answers to your problems are closer than you think.  Look inside your organization as well as outside when you realize that customers aren’t happy.