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.


I Love You, but I’m Not IN LOVE With You!

We’ve all seen the movie where the girl or guy turns to their significant other and says “I love you, but I’m not in love with you.” Sometimes it’s hard to believe while other times you want to yell at the TV and say “Duh!!!!!” Shouldn’t the recipient of the news have known? You can tell when someone loves you compared to being in love with you right?! Most of the time I think it’s pretty obvious.

Companies often fall into the same situation when you change the first “love” to “satisfaction” and the second to “loyal”. Companies tend to think that satisfied customers are enough, but it’s not. You want loyal customers! Companies also tend to think that satisfaction and loyalty are the same.  They are very different!

To read more, please visit my guest blog for The Insight Advantage.

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?

Why Running a CRP Isn’t Like Starbucks – and That’s Okay

Go into a Starbucks any day of the week and you’re bound to hear someone order some crazy concoction…a grande no fat, extra hot, double shot, low fat whip, two pump….you get the idea. Starbucks prides itself in giving you the exact coffee you want – no matter if it’s a plain drip with room or a twenty five word description of you coffee.

Running a customer reference program is similar yet can be vastly different from Starbucks. Although in both cases the customer/prospect may make a very specific request, when running a reference program it’s okay to not give 100% what the prospect is looking for. Sounds pretty crazy huh? Here are some reasons:

Set expectations: Let your prospect and/or sales person (whoever comes to you with the request) know that although you will aim to get exactly what they’re looking for, it might not be possible. Many times I’ve received very granular requests – even down to the area code! Seriously. When it gets that granular, I go to my next step…

Find out what’s the most important thing(s): We’d like to give everyone exactly what they want but it might not happen. After you’ve set the expectation, find out what the most important things the prospect is looking for. Maybe it’s the same type of deployment or someone with the same vertical yet the deployment doesn’t matter. Still, it might be the product deployed that’s more important. Find out exactly what’s going to be the deal breaker and work from there.

Get timing: If you have 3 hours to get a very detailed reference, it might not work. However, if you have two weeks, you might have time to get exactly what’s being asked for. The timing of the reference can make all the difference.

I’ve said over and over, running a reference program is about finding the most appropriate customer for each opportunity. That doesn’t mean it’ll always be a 100% match, but you can get close enough that the reference will be a great match.

Why is a Customer Reference program important for a company?

There are many different groups within a company that benefit from a Customer Reference Program but generally there are two groups that have the most impact – Sales and Marketing. These are the teams that tend to raise the most amount of noise as it benefits them the most.

On the sales side there are two main reasons for a Customer Reference Program. The lesser of important reasons is to promote customers “like us”. Prospects generally want to speak to a customer who is in the boat as them – same IT budget, same network setup, same employee size, same industry. By giving them customers to speak with who are like them, they can better see the value of your solution.

But, by far the most important reason for a Customer Reference Program from a Sales perspective is to let Sales focus on selling. It’s not always easy finding a customer to fit the need of the prospect and sometimes it takes 5-10 emails and 5 calls – and that’s just for one reference request! Now figure out how much time it takes to do each of those tasks, multiply it by the amount of time it takes to actually find the correct person to send the emails to or make the calls to. That, over the course of a week or quarter or year, can add up to a lot of time. Now, if you were the VP of Sales would you want to be able to hand over that task to someone who is specializing in finding reference or would you want your Sales person to waste valuable selling time looking for customers? (I hope if you’re a VP of Sales that that wasn’t a difficult question.)

Marketing folks tend to like reference programs because it helps to build brand recognition. By announcing customer via press releases or case studies or media opportunities, people start to find out more about your company. And, there’s no better way to promote your company than through third party validation. Me saying that I’m the coolest person I know doesn’t really hold a ton of value. But if Joe Shmoe tells everyone that I’m the coolest person he knows, then there’s more credibility there.

Having a person focus solely on customer references also reduces the chance of a customer being overused. If Sales person 1 and Sales person 4 are using the same customer for a reference call and then the Public Relations team jumps in and asks for a press release and the Field Marketing team asks the customer to speak at a seminar, there’s a good chance that the customer will become tired or irate. It is easily forgotten that you are not the only vendor the customer is working with so you have to be mindful of his/her time.

A centralized Customer Reference Program also allows for the most appropriate customer to be used for the most appropriate opportunity. With one person, or a team, focused on references it’s easier to keep track of the critical details of the customer so that all references given are the best references for that specific opportunity.

At the end of the day, the benefit of a Customer Reference Program is increased brand awareness and sales which then lead to increased profits. Are you sold on it?