Posted on | May 15, 2013 | 1 Comment
That title is a (kind of) round about apology. To myself.
You see I’ve been meaning to update this blog for the last, well, several months. I’ve thought about it. I’ve planned it. I’ve even set aside some time to do it. But it never happened.
The last several months have been, well, fast. I mean really really obnoxiously fast. They have flown by. I can’t believe it’s May.
Part of it is personal. I’m getting married in a couple of days, and like any good event, time seems to drag and then speed up like an F1 car coming out of the pit lane. I blinked and it was May. I’m pretty sure when I closed my eyes it was January. May 21st (feel free to send me a bottle of wine) seemed a long way away in December, and now I am sitting here and it’s next Tuesday. Wow.
Part of it is the stage of business we are currently in. We’re scaling. And with increased scale comes increased…well…everything else. We have more people, we have more computers, we have more projects and we have more responsibility.
Having more of everything sounds good, doesn’t it? It sounds like what I set out to do, and in many ways, it is.
But scale brings new challenges as well.
How do you ensure you continue to deliver the quality you expect?
How do you manage a team of people to deliver?
How do you ensure you have enough new work to cover overheads, now that overheads have gone up?
How do you manage your people to maximise productivity AND enjoyment?
How do you get more sleep at night?
It’s been quite a ride over the past couple of months. I’ve learned some interesting new lessons. I’ve made some difficult choices. I’ve discovered a great team.
I think the next 12 months are going to be exciting. This is my flag in the sand. We have a phenomenal team. We deliver an incredible service. We make a massive difference to our clients. We have a focussed strategy for growth. We have a niche proposition. Everything is in place now, and it’s heading the right way.
Now I just have to make as few mistakes as possible.
You coming along for the ride?
Posted on | January 16, 2013 | 1 Comment
I don’t really want this to be a “guy gets shitty service at an airport and sits down to write an angry blog about his experience” type of post. Unfortunately I can’t escape a few simple facts.
I am in an airport.
I did receive shitty service.
I am annoyed.
So that’s me admitting a potential fatal flaw in this post. I’m not in the best of moods, so some of my logic may indeed be flawed. I’m willing to accept that risk. (I’m big that way)
Does anyone really have brand loyalty anymore? I mean real brand loyalty? I’m not talking about buying brands because you like the image or the supposed statement about you. I’m not talking about buying a BMW because you think it makes you look cool or Gucci jeans because you want to show you can afford them. Or any other, somewhat superficial, reason like that.
I’m talking about brand loyalty.
Let me give you an example. I used to feel a real sense of loyalty to some brands. I felt like I was part of their culture, part of their team, and I would go out of my way to be involved with them. These weren’t necessarily the ‘cool’ brands. There was no extra credibility to be gained by my association. I wasn’t being looked at as having more money, more sense, more sex appeal, or more power if I used these brands.
I’m talking about banks. I’m talking about airlines.
In fact, let’s talk about airlines.
Who remembers when an airline used to have customer service? I do. Granted it was a long time ago, but I remember talking to a BA customer representative once and her approach was “let me see if I can do something about this”. I was a customer. Her approach was to help.
Does that exist anymore? Is the drive to efficiency and systems killing a genuine customer focused approach?
Let me tell you about today. It’s actually a minor story. I’m not that annoyed at it, and it doesn’t really inconvenience me. But I found it made me think of the idea behind customer service in some of these institutions.
I’m currently sitting in Birmingham International Airport. I’m flying to Glasgow in 2 hours. I don’t live in Glasgow, but at the time I booked we thought we needed to drive to the airport in Glasgow and we could drive back. It turns out, we didn’t, so now I’m stuck flying to Glasgow and taking a late train home. I won’t get home until 01:00. It sucks, but it’s not that big a f*cking deal.
But on a whim I decided to saunter over to the FlyBE customer service desk and ask if I could get on the flight to Edinburgh instead. Hey, you don’t ask then you don’t get.
Now the answer I used to get from the airlines was: “Let’s see how we can help”. Sure you may need to pay a small charge, but let’s see if we can accommodate you.
Were there any seats? Good news! Yes there are! The bad news? I have to buy the ticket. Brand new. £183.00 of brand new.
Glasgow here I come.
Now I get it. They have to make money. They have a pricing model. They have a system. But I can’t help feel that this system is killing their customer loyalty. The system is taking the human element out of the equation. The human element that can see there are seats left, I have a fully paid ticket for another flight, and they could do me a deal on a swap.
The woman across the counter might as well have been a machine for all the interaction we had. She looked it up and she told me the price. That’s the extent of our engagement.
It’s the same with banks these days. What purpose do Business Advisers and Bank Managers serve anymore? Well, that’s easy. They exists to sell products. But they don’t exist to provide a relationship with their customer because they can’t! Want a loan? They can’t approve it. It has to go to a central, dehumanised, credit risk centre. Faceless people following set rules that are applied regardless of circumstance.
Faceless people following set rules that are applied regardless of circumstance. Sound familiar?
This isn’t really a rant about FlyBE (although screw you for the late night ahead of me) or about the banks. It isn’t. It’s about the fact that I realised I have no real brand loyalty to anyone anymore. I may be part of their ‘frequent flyer’ programme but I’m not part of their culture. I’m not part of their brand. I don’t care about them. They don’t care about me. I no longer have a feeling of wanting to fly with a particular company or bank with a particular bank. I don’t care. I have been driven to be fickle.
And that’s the point. To me, these companies have actually driven me to be a fickle customer. They have driven me away from brand loyalty. It is not about price. It’s about the simple fact that they no longer have a human relationship with me.
These companies are always talking about how they are losing customer loyalty. They act like it’s us that are cheating on them. Look in the mirror my friends, you are driving us to it.
Enough ranting. I want to go home.
Posted on | January 14, 2013 | No Comments
What I can say. My Holiday involved two things: a lot of work and a lot of watching NetFlix. Hence the title of this (first in 2013) post. Tom Cruise ain’t much of an actor in many ways, but I do love me some Mission Impossible when I’m working late at night.
Why so much work, you ask? Well, partly because I love my work and the holidays give me an excellent chance to take stock of where we are and where we are going. That’s definitely part of it. The second, and slightly more pressing, reason was even simpler: we had a deadline for today. That we made. But only just.
Nothing focusses the mind on what you are doing with your business quite so much as focussing your mind on what other people are doing in theirs.
(I read that sentence back three times. I’m pretty sure it works, but I admit it’s a bit of a mind twister)
One of the challenges we always have when we develop new strategies for our clients is how we deal with their enthusiasm for getting new business. of course this enthusiasm is good! We don’t want to dull their anticipation or their desire to expand. But enthusiasm can’t get in the way of focus, and that’s normally where we run into some problems.
There are some businesses that only deal with one type of client. They make one product (or supply one service) and it’s aimed at one type of client. That makes everything really simple to understand. Unfortunately that doesn’t normally work for most businesses. Most companies I know have a range of products or services they supply and, more often than not, they can apply these to an extraordinary amount of businesses or consumers. Think about it. How often have you asked someone who their ideal client is and you have received the standard “well anyone who…” answers.
So I have a New Year challenge for you. Pick three. That’s right. Three. Pick three focusses for your business development this year and commit to doing them as well as you can. Don’t flit back and forth. Pick three sectors, three business types, three regions…whatever the three things are… pick three of them and focus your energies on them.
Don’t get distracted with new opportunities (unless it’s so good you need to change your three).
Don’t chase after every opportunity that comes your way.
Don’t be afraid to say no.
Any idiot can set up a business. Growing it into a sustainable and scaleable enterprise takes a lot more skill. And luck. And focus.
I can’t control how much skill you have and luck comes and goes on its own. Focus is something you can control.
So take the Designate ‘Pick Three’ challenge (copyright 2013 Designate Strategy Limited ;-)) and start 2013 off with a focussed path for your business growth. You’ll thank us for it.
Wishing all of you a healthy and happy 2013.
Posted on | November 30, 2012 | No Comments
Well, it’s that time of year again.
Designate is hiring.
I have to be honest, I’m not sure exactly who is going to join the company in the new year. In essence there are two positions going. One we’ll need to start at the end of January, and the other is likely to start in April. They are both very different positions, and I reserve the right to make my first choice on the quality of the people we meet. We need people who are all-rounders. People who will learn new skills and work hard to improve the company. We’re a small company so you can make a BIG impact.
So the nitty gritty:
1. Project Leader – Salary between £25-32k. This is a client facing role. We work with people across the UK. It’s exciting, hectic and fun. Lots to learn. Lots to manage. You need to be able to get things done and to make sure we are getting projects done on time. You need to be comfortable meeting people and comfortable being in charge. One of your projects might be with a plumbing company and one might be with a new technology company. It will vary. You need to adapt. You need to be excited by new things and new challenges. You need to be responsible. You need to be driven. You need to want to help this company grow.
2. Marketing Co-ordinator – Salary between £18-22K. This is more of an internal role. You need to support the team in delivering for clients. You’ll need to be quick to learn and quick to get work done. We have a lot of work on. You’ll need to jump from task to task. You’ll get an opportunity to learn a load, and to progress in the company as far as you want to. You’ll need to be able to do research. you’ll need to write reports. You’ll need to be able to deal with people and projects all at the same time. You’ll need to want to work in a fun company. You’ll need to want to work hard.
What’s it like working here?
Busy. Exciting. Fluid.
This is a growing company. We all have to be a bit of an all-rounder. Some days we’ll be working on launching a new product and other days we’ll be talking to franchisees down in London on how they can drive new sales in their region. It changes. You need to be flexible. You need to look ahead. You need to be quick and be precise.
This is a fun company. We work hard when we need to and there can be long days and long nights. We also have fun. There’s a lot of banter. There is a lot of curiosity. We get to know our clients. We get to meet new friends.
Every week is different. Every project is different. We make a make a big impact on our clients, and it’s a big responsibility. It’s also a big privilege. We get to see the fruits of our labour played out every week.
What type of skills will you need?
Yes I know. I said right from the start that you’ll need to be a bit of an all-rounder. And that’s true. We are a small company. We don’t have room for people who can’t accomplish a lot of different tasks. I’m also looking for someone who will fit into the company dynamic – we are a young, growing, creative, ambitious company.
But there are skills we need:
- Account/Project Management – we deal with our clients on a monthly basis. We work long-term with each of our clients, which means that there are always projects to manage, clients to speak with, and research to be done. At present we are currently developing a new brand, helping to develop a new product, launching a new customer loyalty scheme and developing new marketing materials. All of these have multiple tasks and milestones to be hit. We sit in the middle, and we are the ones responsible for making sure it all gets done.
- Responsibility – We travel a lot for the company. We’re out and about creating new business opportunities and meeting with new people. You will have to be able to be responsible and be able to work on your own at times. I need someone I can rely on to get the work done on time and correctly.
- Curiosity and creativity- we are a creative company. We develop marketing strategies for businesses and we do it really well. I want someone who will be curious and creative. Someone who wants to learn a new way of working and will bring a strong creative outlook to the business. Equally, someone who is willing to make suggestion; bring their ideas and their perspectives; open and anxious to improve the processes we already have in place.
- Communication skills – this really should be obvious, but we are a marketing company and it’s essential that you have good communication skills. You’ll be working directly with clients, creatives and our strategic partners, and when you do, you represent the company (and me personally).
Why work for Designate?
Well, first off, there is a salary and room to move up. As we grow, so will you. But I’m not really interested in hiring someone who is only in it for a 9-5 pay check. This is a growing company. I want someone who wants to play a big role in an exciting business. Someone who wants to make an impact and see the real value in the contribution they make. As we grow and spread our wings, we’ll be taking you along with us. There is a lot of scope to develop your role and I’m always happy to help my staff develop.
In short, I prefer to work with someone who wants to take responsibility, who wants to be passionate about where they work, who wants to try new things and who wants to make a difference to my company and our clients.
What I can promise in return is a fun working environment, an exciting and challenging opportunity to learn and my full support.
If this sounds about right to you, or you feel you know someone who fills the bill, drop me a line:
Posted on | November 15, 2012 | 1 Comment
Can anyone guess what the number one frustration I have in my work?
Go on…give it a shot.
It’s probably not what you think. I’ll let you in on a little secret: the thing that really gets me worked up is seeing good strategies be poorly implemented. It drives me nuts and, a lot of the times, it’s a pretty easy thing to fix.
The problem, as I always see it, is simple. Most people are stuck in a certain way of doing things. They do the same actions and the get the same outcomes. Then along comes a new strategy and…BAM! They suddenly expect new outcomes. They get jazzed up about it. It’s exciting.
But their actions…their every day actions…usually need to change. And this is where it all falls down. It’s one thing to decide on a new strategy, and it’s another to make it happen. In order to make it happen, you need to develop the new habits, activities and behaviors that will drive the strategy forwards.
Before we begin creating a new strategy for a company, I normally have this conversation with them. The analogy I use is one that pretty much everyone can understand. A few of years ago I had put on a lot of weight. I had a business I was working all the time on, I was under a lot of stress and strain, and it was too easy to come home from the office, pop a pizza in the oven, open a bottle of wine, and continue to work away. And that’s exactly what I did. This healthy lifestyle, combined with a distinct lack of exercise, was exactly what was needed to keep me at my ideal weight. Alternatively, it was exactly what was needed to put on three stone. And I did.
I got sick of that, and a couple of years ago I decided to change. I decided I needed to fundamental overhaul of my personal life, and my physical wellbeing was top on my list. To do this, I needed a new strategy. And more important, I needed to make that strategy stick. You see I realised that in order to make my new strategy work, I was going to need to change almost every part of my lifestyle and behavior. I was going to have to change what I ate, what I drank, how I exercised and how I lived. So I had to create a structure that would force me to do it. And I did. It was hard. But I did.
It’s the same in business. It’s one thing to have the goal. It’s one thing to have a strategy. But somehow you need to make that strategy exist. You have to find a way of changing the behaviors of everyone in the company so that they all point towards the new strategy. And that’s not always easy to do.
One thing that does help is having the right systems and processes.
The first first step: a good CRM.
You’d be amazed how many people fall into the following two CRM categories:
A) They don’t have one. Easy to fix.
B) They have one, but aren’t using it properly. Harder to fix. We need to fix behaviors.
You see a good CRM system is critical to being able to drive a marketing strategy forward within your company. But only if you use it properly. I am constantly meeting clients who have invested money (and it doesn’t have to be a lot) into a CRM system and are basically treating it like a glorified calendar or address book.
Why? What’s the point. If that’s all you are going to do, just use the free calendar and address book that comes with your computer. Don’t waste your money. The value in a good system is not that it can store your data in a coherent way, it’s that it can help you to interact with your data in a meaningful way.
- It can help you understand your contact database and prioritise your connections, letting you see who you should be speaking with and who will bring you the most value.
- It can help to manage your sales pipeline so you don’t miss anything or let anything slip. How many times have you missed out on a sale because you forgot to follow up with someone? It’s easy to do, and easier to fix.
- It can help you understand the relationship between people you know and help you use that to your advantage.
- It can help you develop a stronger customer/contact relationship by creating a communication process that you can just follow.
But it can’t do any of those things if you don’t use it.
We do a lot of work in franchising, and we have had the great fortune of being able to work with the folks at Franchise Manager to help them develop a customised system for the sector. Helping to build a system from the ground up is eye-opening. You see the tremendously complex relationships that are presented in a simplified way. You see the value of being able to automatically apply a whole series of actions and activities at the click of a button.
With the present economy stagnating, a lot of businesses out there are trying to develop new strategies for growth. We’re helping companies all the time. But beyond the new strategy, you have to ask yorself a more fundamental question – how am I going to ensure that this new strategy sticks. How do I make sure that we create a working environment with the new strategy at the heart?
For me, one of the most fundamental parts of this is figuring out how to systematise it. You need a system, a set of processes and the discipline to carry it out across your organisation.
Let me know if we can help.
Posted on | October 11, 2012 | No Comments
Having completely neglected this blog for the last two months, it may seem particularly appropriate that I have titled this entry “Spinning around in circles…”. Sorry. Not going to work. I haven”t been spinning around at all. In fact, exactly the opposite. I have been winning more clients than I ever have before, and I’ve been flat out working. Honest.
Part of what has kept me so busy is the ongoing development, and increasing popularity, of our Franchise Marketing System. We’ve been kicking off with more and more franchises, of all shapes and sizes, and it’s given the whole team a chance to see our hard work finally pay off.
It’s also given us a great chance to work with a whole range of different franchise owners from a range of different franchises.
I love working with individual franchise owners. I really do. There is so much satisfaction in being able to work with someone to directly increase their profitability on a monthly basis. We all get a buzz from it. But working with individual franchise owners also gives us a much wider perspective. You see, every franchise owner really is different. The personalities, the goals, the abilities and the determination. Everyone is unique and we get to discover the best way to work with each individual person. It keeps it fresh and it keeps it interesting.
It also lets us see some common challenges that are faced by a franchise owners from all types of franchises.
One of the most common things that I see in small business owners is the tendency to treat all activity as good activity. It’s a dangerous area. I know it was the same with me when I started Designate in 2005. I spent a lot of time just…well…doing things. I would go to networking meetings and feel satisfied that I was doing a lot of work to develop new business opportunities. But was I? Were the meetings useful? Was I using them correctly?
The problem stems from the fact that most sales people tend to give this formula out as standard (or something like this):
Actions lead to sales which makes you profit
Well, to be fair, they aren’t wrong. You do need to, you know, do things to get sales to come in. You very rarely get to sit back and wait.
No the problem I have with this formula is that it doesn’t define what these things should look like. Do all actions lead to sales? Of course not. Do all sales lead to profit? If only that were true. The reality of business is something very different, but where this becomes a problem is it fools people into thinking that filling up their days with actions will set them on the road to profitability.
I see it all the time when I watch sales managers (and sales coaches) talk to their sales reps. The focus is on quantity. The focus is on actions.
“what actions are you doing next week?”
“what actions are you doing next month?”
The focus on action isn’t wrong, in itself, but it is only correct if the actions are worth doing. When we work with our franchise owners (or any of our clients) we give them all a tweaked version of the traditional formula. The Designate version goes like this:
The RIGHT actions lead to the BEST sales which makes you the MOST profit.
Now that I can get behind (and we do, every month).
You see we always focus on definable actions with our clients, but that’s not the start or the end of it. Before we focus on what actions we want to achieve, we first have to understand what actions are needed to achieve what our goals are.
Take networking for a moment. I’m a big believer in building your network and, when I first started in business, I went to almost every networking event I could find. I did breakfasts, lunches and dinners and I made appointment after appointment. The result? I grew my network, I developed some business, but I spent a lot of time meeting with people who were never going to be a real referral opportunity either way (I believe in giving as much as getting). I spent months (years) before I realised that I was letting the tail wag the dog. I was letting the actions I was doing dictate the type of business I was getting.
Let me repeat that: I was letting the actions I was doing dictate the business I was getting.
How sensible is that?
The breakthrough for me, and what we bring to our clients, is the understanding that actions aren’t’ everything. Before action has to be an understanding of the goals and what we want to achieve. Once we have that we can look at what actions we want to do, on a consistent basis, to drive us towards our goals.
So today’s mantra is simple: stop spinning your wheels. Stop doing actions that aren’t leading you towards a goal. Take a breath, pause for a moment, and determine the outcome you want. Then you can go about deciding on the actions you need to complete and who you need to complete them with.
It’s a lot simpler than you think.
Posted on | August 14, 2012 | No Comments
It’s been a busy old month. I know I seem to start every post like that, but give me a break, there are only so many hours in a day…
Anyways, I’ve been spending a lot of time lately helping businesses work up realistic growth scenarios, and the more I do it, the more I’m seeing a general trend I’d like to correct.
What do I mean about growth scenarios? Simple. First you take your target and then you figure out how to achieve it. Pretty easy, right?
The problem, as always, is around the execution of the plan. Most businesses that I meet set goals. Goals can come in a lot of shapes and sizes. It can be turnover, profit, client numbers, client acquisition…pretty much any metric you want to set. And goals are good. Goals help us to sharpen out minds and prioritise our actions. Goals help us define a vision for where we want to go and what we want to achieve. I believe in setting these targets. 100%.
But it can’t stop there. You see a goal is an abstraction. It’s, in some ways, meaningless. I can set any goal I want and, as laudable as it is to do, there is nothing that really ties that goal to the realities of growing my business. Say I set a goal to add grow turnover from £250K to £350K in one year. That’s an uplift of £100K that I have to figure out how to get. And that’s on top of keeping the existing £250K i’m banking on already. That’s potentially a very achievable goal. But it’s an abstract one. What does £100K of new business look like? How much can I get, from where do I get it, and what tactics do I use to do achieve it?
You see £100K is just a number. What does it mean to me? Does it mean adding five new clients? Possibly, if each client is spending £25K each. But what if some types of clients spend £10K and others spend £60K?
I assume you see what I’m getting at. Setting an abstract goal is step 1 – it’s aspirational and should be constantly assessed and measured to see how you’re progressing. But it’s only step 1. You have to pair that with a realistic scenario that looks at how you’re going to achieve that goal.
When my company works with clients, we tend to develop 6-12 month sales plans. These plans break our sales goal up into bit-sized achievable chunks. They let us prioritise the growth we want to achieve and create reasonable and achievable action plans to achieve them.
What we include in our planning:
This is the headline goal. It’s the aspirational bit. It’s what we want to achieve. In this case, let’s say it’s a turnover of £350K for the year.
- Income Stream Breakdown
How does this goal shake down in relationship to our income streams? It’s not enough to talk about getting new business in, we need to prioritise what type of new business this is. Where is the income coming from? Which income streams are we focussing on?
- Monthly Client Acquisition Rate
Some income streams will take longer to sell than others. Some will be quick wins, some will be slow burners. Some will be hugely profitable, others will just supply you with cash-flow. How are building this profile up over the 12 months? How many of each income stream are we getting and when are we hoping to get them? There is no point in banking on getting five new clients if the lead time is five months to get each of them. You’ll run out of cash first.
- Targets & Tactics
Once you’ve developed your monthly acquisition target, you’re ready to start assigning targets and tactics. This gives you a direct understanding of what business you’re looking to get and who you are getting it from. It also lets you prioritise the tactics you’re going to have to use to achieve this growth.
The final, and sometimes most crucial, aspect – the actions. This is where the whole exercise comes together and delivers because you need to look at the sales activities you need to be doing that month to target your prospects effectively. This should be broken up into weekly actions you can assess and track.
Posted on | July 17, 2012 | No Comments
Or should I say: which came first, the chicken or the egg?
When you’re planning out your marketing, let me give you one simple hint: don’t put the cart before the horse.
The question you always need to ask first is not “where” or “how” but “what” and “why”.
Let me give you an example. I was speaking to a company the other day. They were giving me a brief on their marketing activities to date, and they proudly listed out some of the new ideas they have developed and implemented over the past three years. They listed out website re-developments, new brand identity, new advertising campaigns and new customer relationship processes. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? It’s not a bad list they’ve created and, in truth, I think they’ve done a pretty good job at executing what they set out to do.
I do, however, have a fundamental problem with the direction all of this is taking them.
And I explained why (to a very annoyed CEO).
The activities they have engaged in aren’t wrong, but they aren’t pointed at the right target. They’ve decided on what they want to do before making sure they are happy with who they are targeting and what they are trying to achieve. This poses a fundamental problem. Over the past three years they have probably invested over £100K in this new marketing direction. That’s good commitment and I’m happy to see them taking it so seriously. Unfortunately they haven’t really come to grips with where their most profitable income streams are and how they can go about targeting them. In this case, that means their £100K+ of new marketing expenditure (hooray!) is being aimed at customer bases that aren’t that profitable and take a lot of convincing to buy (boo!). What’s the win here?
If they’d paused for a moment before dashing off in a new direction, they could have taken the time (ahem, we could have taken the time for them) to really look at what their most profitable income streams were, and worked backwards to develop ideas for how to target them.
Let me make that clear.
Step 1 – understand where your most profitable business is and where your focus should be on.
Step 2 – figure out the way your can reach these income streams in the easiest and most effective manner.
Deciding on what you want to do in Step 2 before figuring out Step 1 is insane. It’s stupid. It’s counter-productive.
Unfortunately it’s hugely common amongst growing businesses.
Don’t put the cart before the horse. Figure out the direction you want to go in before you look at the tactics you needs to use.
It works, I promise.
Posted on | July 3, 2012 | No Comments
I got into the office a little early this morning. I’ve had a lot on my mind and I needed a few minutes to myself. I like getting into the office early. It’s quiet, and I can think. It also gives me a chance to browse around and see what everyone is talking about. Now I rarely click on the ‘top news stories’ on LinkedIn, but one of them actually caught my eye. I clicked, I read, and I’m very glad I did. Everyone pop over and read this refreshing little article by Patrick Spenner on Forbes.com.
He makes a good point. He makes a necessary point. I wrote yesterday about the frustration I have when clients fixate on one marketing tool over another. Right now it’s social media. Right now the buzz word is engagement. But that will change. Something new will come by (ahem…mobile) and we’ll get to see the business world go into a tizzy about the next latest greatest marketing craze that promises to revolutionise your business. It never fails.
The article is good and the point is a much needed breath of fresh air. But is also needs to go further (which, to be fair, I’m sure Mr Spenner could do).
It’s never one or the other. It’s never just this or just that. Marketing is a science and an art. It’s qualitative and quantitative. It’s hard and it’s soft.
The problem is that engagement works. It really does. But it works for some companies in some ways. There is no universal that you can apply. There is no proven method that you can use. Anyone who tells you differently is selling you something.
But the wider point that Mr Spenner’s excellent article made me think about was how important it is to pick your battles when it comes to your company’s marketing. Let me put it another way. If you really want to, you can win almost any battle that you chose. You really can. You focus, you plan and you make the outcome happen. It’s not that hard to do, really.
No the key is knowing which battles you want to enter. Knowing which battles are worth entering. Knowing which battles you need to enter.
That’s where a lot of businesses that I meet fall down slightly. They concentrate their efforts on fighting the battles they think they can win, without actually looking at the upside of winning the battles.
I’ll put it another way. A more personal way.
About five years ago (or so) I decided that my company, Designate, wasn’t going in the direction I wanted it to go. Yes we were winning some work and yes we could pay the bills, but we weren’t building the business that I wanted to run. We had spent the first two years getting started, and we fought every battle that came in front of us. We chased every lead and we followed every path. Winning work was the most important thing (and delivering it to 100% satisfaction), and we didn’t ever really pause to look at how profitable the work was, how much the business could scale and how much the business model was right to us.
That needed to change.
So I sat down and thought about it. I used the same process that I use for clients and I gently (read: brutally) took Designate apart and laid it bare in front of me. What business did I want to build? Who did I want to work with? What team did I want to build? How did I want to scale the business? What did I want to achieve out of it?
And, of course, what did I need to do to achieve this? What battles did I need to pick?
The result is very much a work in progress. But it’s progress that’s working. We have a brilliant team. We have a scaleable business. We are focussed on the right sectors. We are picking the right battles.
And we’re choosing the right marketing models that help us win those battles. That brings me back to the article.
What he says is very true. But it’s not necessarily true. It’s not universally true. It’s true for some companies selling to certain customers but it’s not true for other companies selling to…well, you get the idea.
The first conversations you need to have are around what battles you want to fight. Then we can pick the weapons and the strategy to win.
That’s what we do when we work with our clients. That’s what they need.
Posted on | July 2, 2012 | 1 Comment
Last week I met up with someone to talk a bit about social media. Admittedly that doesn’t sound hugely exciting, but considering the amount of travel and strategy I have been doing lately, an hour on social media felt like a bit of a break. It was a good hour. We talked a bit about what can work and what can hurt, and we got to talk about our mutual desire to broaden people away from only thinking about social media.
That almost makes me sound like a heretic, doesn’t it?
But seriously, we need to get a bit of a grip on this. If you travel around Twitter and LinkedIn, look at some of the current blogs and catalogue the ‘topics of choice’ at a lot of business networking meetings, you’ll see what we’re talking about. For the last couple of years the words ‘social media’ seem to be the only words that anyone wants to talk about. It also seems to be the only thing anyone wants to hear about.
I’ll put it bluntly:
It shouldn’t be the only thing you want to hear about.
Over the past seven years in business I’ve dealt with a pretty wide variety of companies. Some sell to businesses, some sell to consumers. Some sell in one city, some sell across the world. All of them have been very interesting businesses. All of them have been looking to grow their customer base.
None of them needed the exact same approach.
None of them used the exact same tools.
All of them needed to think about what would work best for then.
And that’s the problem isn’t it? Every business is different, every customer is different and every location is different. You can’t really have a universal tool that hits everyone in the right way all of the time.
Why would anyone think social media tools can accomplish this? How can any tool accomplish it?
Of course the truth is that they can’t. Social media tools are just that – a set of tools that you can use in a variety of ways. Some will work for your business and some won’t. Some will need to be tweaked. All of them need to be well thought out.
When we’re looking at the marketing mix for our clients, we lay everything out on the table. Nothing is discounted and nothing is automatically included. I’m not kidding.
You see the problem with automatically including (or discounting) something is that you are making a lot of assumptions about effectiveness without actually looking deeply into the guts of what it is you are trying to do. Strategically speaking, it’s insanity.
When we look at how to develop the marketing mix for our clients, nothing is off the table. We think deeply about what the end-goals are for the client and how every tool can help them achieve this. If it helps and can fit into what we want to develop, it’s in. If it doesn’t, it’s out. It’s as simple as that.
If you’re sitting down wondering what you should be doing in your marketing, don’t start with the tools. You need to start with what you are and what you’re trying to achieve:
- Know who you are
This sounds obvious, but it’s not. You have to really understand what the core proposition of your company is. If it’s a series of services, you need to know which ones are the most important ones. If it’s a series of products, you need to understand which ones will resonate best with your customers. The first thing you really need to do is understand who you are.
- Know who your customers are
Another obvious one, right? You’d be surprised. I’ve met so many companies that don’t really know the profile of their ideal customer(s). They don’t really understand why people are genuinely buying from them and why what they do is important to their customers. If you don’t know this information, you don’t really know where to begin.
- Know what you want
More sales? Sure…but from whom? Do you want to sell more to existing customers or find a new place to sell? Do you want to build up a strong loyalty with your customers or do people really use you for convenience? What do you want to achieve with your marketing? Everyone says sales. That’s not a good enough answer. You need to go deeper.
- Look at the tools
See? All the way down to step four before you even start to think about the tools you are going to use. You know why? Unless you know what you want out of the tools you won’t know which one(s) to pick. It’s like deciding you’re going to use a hammer before even deciding which job you’re going to work on. It’s great if you happen to be hanging a picture, but won’t help you very much if you’re wallpapering the hall…
We’re blessed right now. We have access to a huge range of marketing tools that put customers at the tips of your fingers. A lot of these tools are cheap (or free) to use. It’s never been so easy to communicate with customers.
Which is precisely why you need to understand what you’re trying to say first of all.
Let’s see how many ‘social media gurus’ will actually admit that?
- jkeep looking »