When Your Head Is Buried In Your Product, Your Ass Is Towards Your Customers

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When your head is buried in your product – your ass is towards your customers

It is true that without your product or service you would have no business, it is why your business exists. At some point, someone spotted the business opportunity to develop the product or service, and around that, the organization grew and became the business you know.

It is no wonder that your universe revolves around your product.

It is also true that without your customers you would not have a business, without them there would be no need for your product or service. And your customers’ universe revolves around them – not you.

Many companies, even entire industries, are in danger from adopting complacent thinking – if they haven’t already adopted it. Too many do not see the need to operate any differently than they have always done. Why rock the boat?
Think about banking, or insurance, or even many retailers out there – for years nothing much has changed in the way they operate. Why should they change? People need banks, insurance, and shops right.

Yes, people need banks, insurance, and shops – they just might not need yours.

While you were busy optimizing your processes and justifying increasing prices while decreasing service, you did not pay attention to your customers. Suddenly it hits you like a ton of bricks, your customers have started banking with the small local bank, or they are shopping online instead of into your stores.

Don’t become the next BlackBerry

We are in the age of the customer – and that goes for both business-to-consumer and business-to-business. Before you even meet your customers, they know your products, your service, your pricing, and your reputation. And so does your competitors by the way – there is nothing stopping them from copying or undermining your products and your go-to-market strategies.

No industry has realized this predicament more forcefully than one of the newest industries out there – software-as-a-service. This business model relies on customers keeping their subscriptions for long periods of time. It is not uncommon that breakeven on CAC happens after a year or more. It is therefore imperative for these companies to keep retention rates high.

There are two main strategies for retaining customers, you can increase switching costs, which virtually locks-in customers, or you can create products that your customers truly love.

Increasing switching costs is tempting and very effective – at least in the short-term. But remember, your reputation is public knowledge, and few things are more frustrating for your customers than experiencing high switching costs. When customers feel you are intentionally making their lives difficult by placing barriers that limit their ability to move freely, it creates a great deal resentment. Ultimately, it can lead a customer to not only leave you for good, but also warn everyone else from entering into business with you.

Creating products that your customers truly love is easier said than done. Love is fickle – just because you gained their love ones, doesn’t mean you’ll keep it for long. Just ask BlackBerry, they had tremendous success and lost it all because they failed to understand the fickle nature of customers’ love.

The worst part about the BlackBerry story is that it wasn’t a matter of not asking customers what they wanted. They did ask, but they believed they knew better and therefore didn’t act on what they heard.

Taking the first step on the road to customer love

Understanding your customers’ experience with your company holds the key to igniting and maintaining their love. I mean the entire experience, not just the moment of sale. Understanding every touch-point between you and your customer offers insight into many less obvious areas with room for improvement.

Does your website claim white-gloved delivery service, when in fact it’s just two guys with a truck? Do you say you deliver in weeks, and then it ends up taking months? Do customers misunderstand your billing and call your support in frustration? There are undoubtedly many areas within your business that could benefit from being analyzed from a customer’s perspective.

Forrester Research authors; Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine, have written an excellent book on the customer experience discipline of thinking Outside In (also the title of the book). One of the tools they highlight is using a customer journey map to build a visual representation of all the channels and touch-points that make up what they call the customer experience ecosystem.

For every interaction between a customer and your company, there are a number of activities that take place behind the scenes. Without mapping the entire customer journey, you could easily lose sight of the forest for the trees. Problems affecting customers’ perception of your company often involve several departments within your organization to be resolved.

For example, increasing the level of customer service in your retail outlets, could involve implementing new hiring policies in your HR department, screening new candidates better for positive service attitudes. Or maybe your legal department’s policies are so restrictive it is preventing your service technicians from fixing customer problems efficiently. Outside In features a case study in which technicians could not help customers because they were not allowed to touch customer owned hardware.

Customer journey maps exist in all shapes and sizes, and there is no one right way to make them. From the Ideation inspired wall of sticky notes, to the pristinely designed slide deck, all that matters is you decide the format that works for your company and you take the first step.

Here are a few resources that can help you get started:

Start by watching this video featuring Kerry Bodine talking about customer journey maps at MozCon 2014

Canvanizer – a great FREE tool for creating sharable and great looking customer journey maps

Why “Why” Matters

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Why do you go to work every day? To pay the rent? Because no mullah no fun? Really… is that it?

We spend nearly 90.000 hours of our lives working. That is likely more time than you’ll spend doing anything else. And most of us seem to believe we do it for money.

So is it worth spending so many hours of our lives chasing money? Behavioral Psychologists have studied the effect of money on things like happiness, performance, and sense of fulfillment. Funny thing about money is that it works, to a degree, then it plateaus and the effect from there on is minimal, actually some things get worse.

No money certainly sucks

When you have no money or little money, gaining some will certainly make you happier, you will feel less stressed and therefore be more productive and have a greater sense of fulfillment in your life.

There is a saying that money doesn’t buy you happiness, but that is not entirely true, there is a clear correlation between having money and feeling happy. Money affords you a certain level of peace of mind, and that is indeed very valuable. But more money does not equal more peace of mind or more happiness.

Daniel Kahneman, a renown psychologist, actually found the dollar amount that correlates with the highest marginal utility of money in terms of income. The magic number is $75.000, after that every extra dollar has less and less impact on overall happiness. Of course, the amount varies depending on where you live and how much $75.000 is going to get you. As with all things in life, this too is relative.

Another famed psychologist, Dan Ariely, studied the effect of money on motivation and performance. The results showed that sure enough, if you dangle a carrot in front of people, they work harder to earn it. But the quality of their performance decline with the increased size of the carrot. It simply becomes much harder to think creatively and critically, because the carrot is stealing the focus.

People become much more prone to unnecessary risk-taking and lack perspective in their decision-making. Sounds familiar? Hello financial crisis! No wonder Ariely was not invited back to speak at the annual bankers’ conference after he presented his findings on this.

So if money can only make you so happy, and only make you perform so well, is that enough value to warrant spending 90.000 hours chasing after it?

Well most of us don’t really have a choice. Gotta bring home the bacon right!

And that is why this word is so incredibly important – Purpose. The reason we do what we do. The stuff that gives stuff meaning. The big WHY.

Why money is not enough

Most people can tell you what they do, they can likely also tell you how they do it. But ask them why they do it, and an awkward silence tends to happen followed by lack-luster replies like “I do it because it is my job” or “I do it to make money”. Not terribly inspiring replies, not the kind that makes you think “wow – I wish I had your life”.

To give people a more satisfying and fulfilling sense of why they go to work, we need great leadership. Leaders that are able to communicate why our work is meaningful, inspire us to find our own sense of purpose. When we feel we are part of creating something together, something none of us could accomplish alone, and we know our contributions counts – and of course we are adequately and fairly compensated, that is when work makes perfect sense spending 90.000 hours on.

Too many leaders mistakenly believe the purpose of business is making money. Following that logic, then the purpose of life should be eating or breathing. Yes, businesses need to make money in order to survive and thrive, the same way humans need food and air to survive and thrive, but it is hardly the purpose of it. Purpose is something bigger and more meaningful, it has substance.

We do not all need to work in some fantastically innovative field to find inspiring answers to why we work. Imagine you made nuts and bolts for a living, not the sexiest thing in the world. But what if you did it because your nuts and bolts made sure airplanes were assembled so they can bring people safely from A to B. Suddenly, your nuts and bolts have a clear and meaningful sense of purpose and you can feel proud of your contribution to aviation security. It’s just an example, but you get the point right.

I love the vision statement from Toys R’ Us “Our Vision is to put joy in kids’ hearts and a smile on parents’ faces.” Now if that doesn’t give you a sense of purpose, I sure don’t know what would.

Of course great leadership is more than a heartfelt vision statement. If it only pays lip-service then it has little to do with leadership to begin with. But if it is the foundation and the reason why every person in the company do what they do, then it is inspiring, unifying and altogether awesome.

Great leaders show us the path, they give us a map with a desired destination, and instill the confidence in us that together we can make it there.

Simon Sinek, an American business consultant, says that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. The same is true for your employees. They do not love their jobs because of what they do, they love their jobs because of why they do it.

And that is why “why” matters.

Still competing for the future

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The Future

I recently read the business classic by Gary Hamel and C.K. Prahalad “Competing for the Future” and even though the book is 20 years old, a lot of its wisdom resonates with me today.

20 years ago was back in the day when Bill Gates was viewed as a computer industry challenger, where CNN was the radical innovation and where Motorola was king of mobile. Perhaps not the labels you would adhere to them today, but still they have each had a tremendous impact on their industries and on virtually every person on earth’s lives.

I want to share some of Hamel and Prahalad’s wisdom with you – and save you reading some 330 pages.

Lesson nr. 1 – Learn to forget

A fundamental life lesson really, is the ability to not become a prisoner of ones past experiences, an ability that can dramatically enhance your life, and an ability that for business managers can mean the difference between existing tomorrow or become categorized together with tyrannosaurus X.

Every manager carries around in his or her head a set of biases, assumptions and presuppositions about how their industry is structured. How one makes money, who the competition is, what the customers want, what technologies are available and so on. On top of that comes the cultural mental framework of beliefs, norms and values. Together these preconceived notions of “how we do things” can form a bomb under the very survival of a company if they are allowed to become too settled, too ingrained, too much part of a company’s dna.

In 1994 Microsoft might have been the new kid on the block, but by 2007 they were famously the old “stuck in their way” company that laughed at the iPhone because it didn’t have a keyboard. Business is always changing, fall asleep at the wheel, and you will surely crash.

As, Peter Drucker, another revered business scholar has expressed the need to learn to forget “The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence; it is to act with yesterday’s logic.”

Learning to forget is incredibly hard, but fortunately businesses can learn to do this and re-code their corporate genetics.

Lesson nr. 2 – Be a rebel

Do not allow industry conventions and best practices to go unquestioned, to re-code corporate genetics managers must dare to ask questions about everything. Including questions about themselves.

Managers have a knack of elevating their own knowledge to equal fact, believing that what they think and do is, by virtue of their status, inherently correct. And when managers gather they are incredibly adept at confirming this notion with one another, spawning a general acceptance of business as usual and delivering little more than a blurb of sameness.

This creates the perfect opportunity for a rebel to make his or her mark. Companies that create the future support these rebels. They encourage their subversive behavior and celebrate their passion for breaking the rules. It’s the rebels that spot the white spaces and the blue oceans, because they are not prepared to accept established dogmas and traditional industry boundaries. Back in 1994 it was companies like The Body Shop or Swiss watchmaker Swatch that celebrated these rebels, today it’s companies like Google and Airbnb.

Lesson nr. 3 – Dare to sound a bit wacky

Since customers are notoriously lacking in foresight, companies have to lead the way. To re-code company genetics, managers must become leaders. They must be able to envision the distant future and communicate their vision, even when the response is rolling eyes and ridicule.

In the book, Hamel and Prahalad provides their 1994 contribution to visionary thinking by proposing that, instead of having to drive all the way to the supermarket, hike across vast parking lots, wander endless aisles and wait impatiently at the checkout, why can’t the supermarkets just mail us a weekly cd on which we can wander a virtual supermarket and place our order? Now in 1994 that was CRAZY talk. Now, in 2014, of course the only crazy part about that is the cd! I buy 50% of my groceries, 80% of my shoes and 100% of my books online.

Companies that create the future offer more than incremental innovation and feature enhancements, they amaze customers with new products that they didn’t even know they wanted. Not saying that listening to your customers is not important, of course it is, it is vital in order to stay in business today, but to carve a path to the future you need incredible foresight.

To me it seems the recipe for foresight is one scoop deep industry knowledge, two scoops knowing your customers and three scoops of imagination. It’s a fine art being able to balance knowing what could potentially be possible and recognizing the limits of it. Rush off in some headless burst of innovation enthusiasm and you could find yourself hurtling over a cliff. On the other hand, stay constant and watch your business become obsolete. Boy, business ain’t easy!

Lesson nr. 4 – It takes a village

As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child, so too does it take a community effort to bring innovations to life. Hamel and Prahalad speak of a company’s strategic intent as being the underlying point of view that emanates throughout the company, a shared belief in the company’s long-term vision and a communal sense of direction.

Lacking a compelling sense of direction, few employees feel an urgent sense of responsibility to contribute to the company’s future competitiveness. Most people won’t go the extra mile, if they don’t know where they are heading.

Unfortunately businesses are too often caught up in a quagmire of bureaucracy, designed to keep checks and balances and preventing people from turning left and right. Bureaucracy blocks initiatives and creativity by constraining the range of available tactics. Managers become frustrated by orthodoxies about which channels to use, the definition of products and markets and the lack tactical freedom.

The point is; companies have to trust their employees enough to give them a map marked with a desired future destination, and then let them discover the best way to get there. Appeal to every person’s internal explorer, let them relish in the joy of discovery, and you will cultivate a sense of destiny in your employees that will make them feel like they are part of building a legacy – something that is bigger and more important than anything anyone could accomplish on their own.

I think Hamel and Prahalad are as relevant today as they were 20 years ago. I am fortunate enough to live in a country that celebrates freedom and work in a company that celebrates the team as well as the individual.

Still every day I think about how we can become a lot better at daring to do different.

4 Amazing Examples On How Easily Manipulated We Are

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behavioral economy

The last couple of weeks I have been knee-deep in books, blogs and videos on behavioral economy and social psychology. They are fascinating subjects; a look in to the underlying psychological factors that shape the decisions we make. What strikes me the most is how unbelievably easy we are to manipulate.

I, for one, like to think I’m pretty much in control of the decisions I make. I have worked in sales and marketing for years, I think I can spot the “tricks” a mile away. No .9 charm price is going to sway my decision. I know the fresh fruit and veggies are placed at the entrance to the supermarket, it won’t fool me in to thinking that the rest of the supermarket is an abundance of freshness.

It is easy to spot the “bigger” persuasion techniques, such as .9 pricing and “deal of the day”, they might draw your attention to a product, but I think most of us will base our decision to buy on a weighing of costs and benefits, and not just because it had a .9 price or was labeled a certain way.

It’s the small little manipulation techniques that have me completely intrigued and perplexed at the same time.

Want someone to like you – hand them a warm cup of coffee

Our brains work in mysterious ways, the interconnected neural network that inhabits first floor does not seem to be very good at separating seemingly unrelated events.

For years, Professor John Bargh has proven how easily we can be primed to feel a certain way. In numerous experiments he has tested the effect of having someone hold a warm or cold beverage first and then ask them to rate a stranger’s friendliness afterwards.

The people who were given the warm beverage, felt the person was kind, friendly and when asked if they would hire the person for a job, they said they likely would.

The exact opposite was true for the group of people who held the cold beverage, they were much less inclined to hire the stranger and they had a much lower opinion of the stranger’s friendliness.

How on earth can this be true? Well, according to Nathalie Nahai, author of “Webs of Influence”, the part of our brain responsible for processing physical temperature, is also involved in processing interpersonal warmth, and the same area also plays a role in our social emotions, such as empathy, trust, embarrassment and guilt.

Our brains simply can’t distinguish between these unrelated events, because they are processed by the same area of the brain. This explains why these experiments keep showing the same results time and time again, even when people have been forewarned that external influences are at play.

As a public service I’d just like to say – beware of politicians and salespeople handing you warm cups of coffee!

One word makes all the difference

In a fascinating TEDtalk psychologist Elizabeth Loftus talks about false memory. She describes memory as a bit like a Wikipedia page, we can construct pages ourselves and add new information – but so can other people. A bit scary really.

In an experiment they constructed a scene of an accident and showed it to people. Afterwards they asked half how fast the cars were going when they hit. The other half were asked how fast the cars were going when they smashed.

Just by changing one single word, hit/smashed, the results were remarkably different. The “hit” people estimated that the cars travelled at 34 mph and the “smashed” people estimated 41 mph.

Moreover the “smashed” people were more than twice as likely to say that they saw broken glass in the scene, when in fact there wasn’t any.

All it took was one single leading word and suddenly the whole incident was more dramatic and more violent.

I don’t even want to start speculating where evil people could and do use techniques such as this!

The power of default

If you really want people to choose a particular option, make it the default.

A study done on the percentage of a nation’s population willing to donate their organs to medicine after death showed some remarkable results.

Opt-in opt-out study

It seem the people of Denmark are particularly cold hearted and unwilling to donate organs, whereas the good folks of Sweden are much more inclined to donate. How can this be? Denmark and Sweden are culturally similar nations, as are the Netherlands and Belgium, and Germany and Austria. How can it be that some nations are so much more willing to donate than others?

Turns out that when the questionnaire was handed out, the countries on the left hand side were asked to tick a box to opt-in if they wanted to donate their organs.

The countries on the right hand side were asked to tick a box to opt-out if they didn’t want to donate their organs.

And what did people do? The exact same thing – they didn’t tick anything! Resulting in dramatically different results.

So can you trust statistics? Well, only to the degree you can trust the person who designed the questionnaire or the form you are filling out, as the design will have a dramatic effect on the end result.

As Benjamin Disraeli, 19th century English Prime Minister, said “there are lies, damned lies and then there is statistics”. Seems he might have been on to something…

It is for this same reason that 42% of people click on the first result on search engines result pages and only 8% click on the second result. We choose what is served, whether out of laziness or a blind trust in other people’s choices, I don’t know. What is truly remarkable is, that even if you switch the first and second search result around (which should then serve you a lesser quality result first) people still choose the first option!

Want something to look fantastic? Place it next to something inferior.

My favorite behavioral economist, Dan Ariely, gives in his book Predictably Irrational some startling examples of how attractiveness really and truly is relative.

For example, did you know that restaurants can increase their overall revenue by including high-priced entrées on the menu, even if no one buys them? How can this be, I hear you ask. Well, people will typically not choose the most expensive dish on the menu, but they are inclined to choose the second most expensive dish. So by including a high-priced dish, you can lure people into choosing the second most expensive dish.

The same persuasion technique comes in to play in many product displays. Imagine you were looking at buying a new TV, and you were presented with these three TV options:

  • 36 inch Panasonic for $690
  • 42 inch Toshiba for $850
  • 50 inch Philips for $1480

Which one seems like the better deal? Is the Panasonic a better deal than the Philips? $1480 might be a bit hot, and 36 inch might be a bit small. Likely you will choose the middle option, because next to the other two, this one seems like the best deal.

And finally, my favorite, imagine you were going on a vacation, you have to choose between Rome and Paris. It’s a tough choice, both vacation packages come inclusive of hotel, breakfast and sightseeing tours.

If your travel agent really wants to sell Rome, he will include a second but inferior Rome option, like Rome without the breakfast. You will immediately recognize that Rome and Paris all inclusive are similarly attractive options, and you will also recognize that Rome without breakfast is an inferior option.

What happens is that this inferior option makes Rome with breakfast seem even better. In fact so much better, that now Rome with breakfast looks even more attractive than Paris with breakfast. And next thing you know, you have booked your vacation in Rome – with breakfast.

I hope you have enjoyed these few examples of just how easy we are to manipulate. I don’t really like the word manipulate, it is a very negatively charged word, and I don’t think these techniques are only for “evil” use by any means. I am simply fascinated by how seemingly small and insignificant things can have a huge impact on the choices we make, and I think we would be wise to slow down sometimes and think before we act.

What’s the deal with Innovation?

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Innovation Idea

It sounds sexy so it must be good

Innovation is the business equivalent of sex. Everybody wants it, many claim to be doing it in abundance, only few actually are and if you are not careful it could end up killing you (bye bye Blockbuster, Kodak and Motorola)

Innovation is confusing. It seems to mean something different to everybody and it’s practiced in a million different ways. If you search Amazon it will deliver 61,733 books with innovation in the title and Google serves up a discrete 250,000,000 results.

So what’s the real deal with innovation? What does it even mean and is there some way of making the topic at least somewhat manageable?

Let’s start with definition. The word innovation originates from the Latin word innovare, which means to alter, renew or restore. I find this puzzling; the definition is not as dramatic or action packed as I thought it would be. If all that is required to innovate is to alter something, then no wonder every Tom, Dick and Harry are prancing around claiming to be doing it.

All innovation is not created equal

Innovation seems to be suffering from hyperinflation; the reason for this is to be found in the immensely lucrative promise of this word. Some of the world’s largest and most successful companies have risen to their stardom on the back of innovation; think Apple, Google, Amazon.

Who wouldn’t want a piece of that pie? Unfortunately, the desire to be associated with this kind of success has led to the extensive overuse of the term. When innovation is treated as a commodity, its meaning becomes diluted and the respect this fine art deserves dwindles.

Fortunately we do not all have to be a Steve Jobs, Larry Page or Jeff Bezos to be innovative, but we do have to actually contribute with something new that creates value in order to rightfully apply the term to ourselves.

The operative word here is value. Innovation without value is “just” an invention. Try searching “most useless inventions” and you will get a very long list of more or less bizarre contraptions from shoe umbrellas to baby-mops. I’m sure the inventors thought they were fantastic, but the market decided they did not provide sufficient value to become viable products.

Innovation is all about the practical application of inventions; it is about making the most of already invented technologies and making them better. “Better” can be many things, it can be smarter, faster, cheaper, tougher, simpler, easier etc. “Better” means supplying new or additional value to consumers.

If a product fails to deliver new or additional value, then consumers will reject it and it will not be an innovation.

The Innovation Map

Consider innovation as a map with four corners, four directions a company can take their innovative processes in. Imagine that North and South represent the innovations that aim to either create new markets or aim to manage existing markets respectively. Then imagine that East and West represent the amount of alterations used in the innovation, ranging in the East from minor change to, and sometime even a reduction of, technology, to the West where there is an extensive change in technology taking place.

Innovation Map

In the Disruptive North-East corner, we find the innovations that come sneaking into well established industries and disrupts them. Often by offering very similar products or services, but in a simpler and/or cheaper version, effectively making it possible for a completely new segment of consumers, who previously either couldn’t afford them or found them too complicated, to use the products.

In the Radical North-West corner, we have the innovations that dramatically change industries and/or societies. These are the true game changers, they take how things are usually done, and turns them on their heads, creating new market opportunities with new technologies and new products.

Then we have the South-East corner, if any position on the innovation map has a lesser status, it must the this corner. This is where Incremental innovations take place; the daily battle for survival for many companies, where innovation can seem like an overexerted attempt to remain relevant in the eyes of the consumers. Every new flavor, scent, color and shape that companies spew out of their production lines fall into this corner.

In the last corner, the South-West, we find the Sustaining and sometimes Breakout innovations. This is where good products are made even better. It is a bit of a tricky corner; the innovations that land here are the ones where the added value in terms of new technology is too great to be considered Incremental but not different enough to be labeled Radical.

The Innovation Map is a guide that can help you locate a particular innovation. Bear in mind that innovations by nature are ever evolving creatures, therefore products may well wander from one location on the map to another over time. For example when the first Smartphone saw the light of day, it was a radical innovation, it changed the mobile phone into a computer. But every new version of Smartphones since then have been innovated in order to manage the existing market, it has mainly done so by adding more and more features to the products, therefore the placement of the Smartphone has changed from initially being Radical to now being Sustaining.

I hope the Innovation Map will help you get some clarity on the subject of innovation and I would love to hear your take on it.

 

 

Is customer service differentiation ok?

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customer serviceThere has been a lot of talk lately around here about the way banks treat their customers differently depending on the amount of business they give them. Many feel that customers without great financial means are treated poorly, given a lesser service and are not valued as much – which is seen as unfair, undemocratic and unethical.

One bank even had the audacity to be quite frank about it, and openly stated exactly how much service they intended to give to customers of various business brackets. If you didn’t like it, you could choose to either do more business with them and get better/more service or find yourself another bank. Here, in Denmark – one of the world’s most egalitarian countries, that was regarded by many as a really big deal and very controversial.

Many took serious offense. Personally I was a bit surprised at the strong response, I thought it was kind of nice to hear something that sounded almost like honesty from a bank…

The heated response this situation caused, might also have been fuel by the fact, that the decision was directed towards private customers, I doubt we would have seen the same reaction had the bank just wanted to get rid of their unprofitable B2B customers.

But is it ok for businesses to say to customers that they don’t want them, or give them a lesser service, because they don’t make enough money off of them?

This is a question you had better be prepared for a hefty discussion about if you dare ask. At least if you happen to be in Denmark…

It is difficult to defend treating people differently when the only thing that sets them apart is money, nonetheless I have, in business, without a shadow of doubt done it myself plenty times.

Have I rescheduled small deliveries, and thereby inconvenienced another customer, in order to accommodate a big one? Yup. Have I held the store open after hours for somebody with a fat wallet? Oh yes. Would I do that for all customers? Hell no.

Of course all customers are important, and all should be treated with a high degree of service, I would never advocate poor service, but fact is that some customers are just more important than others. And what makes a customer more important – well the amount of money they spend. That’s how the cookie crumbles – it’s not personal, just business.

I didn’t always see it this way. Back in the good ol’ days, before reality hit me, when my naive (but beautiful) Scandinavian belief in fairness and equality for all still prevailed, I would have been pretty horrified by even entertaining the idea that it could be defended to treat people differently, based exclusively on how much money they were spending.

But that was before I became responsible for the financial success (or failure) of a business.

Why Lead Nurturing is the World’s Best Pre-sale Service

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Lead nurturingFirst off, what exactly is lead nurturing?

According to Forrester it is “ a process by which leads are tracked and developed into sales-qualified leads”

When you are standing in the supermarket with a chocolate bar in your hand, you might not need very much nurturing before you decide you are just not yourself without the Snickers. Your sugar cravings will take care of all the nurturing required.

But if you are an accountant sitting in your office already dreading next year’s tax season, you might be looking around for some software that will make your life easier. Now the tax season is months away and you have to convince your boss to invest in the software first, so you wouldn’t exactly be in a position to click the “ad to cart” button quite yet.

So lead nurturing is everything that happens in the time between a potential customer’s first interaction with a company and the time when they are actually ready to purchase.

As a marketer the last thing I want to happen is that you (play along with me – you are the accountant) visit my website, receive tons of great information and then forget all about me and when tax season comes along my company name rings no bells and some schmuck runs off with the sale.

So what happens in the time between your first visit to my website, and tax season being just around the corner?

Well it is not uncommon that the chosen path would be something like this; I’ll send an email thanking you for your interest and asking for a meeting or time to talk.

Then what? I drum my fingers on the desk for a week and then I send another email asking if you are ready now. And if I’m super annoying I’ll pick up the phone and bug you at some inconvenient time and pester you with a sales pitch that you’d rather be without.

After a few more rounds of this, I start to resemble a kid on the backseat of a car constantly pestering the parents with “are we there yet”.

And guess what I am very likely to get out that whole exercise? Nuttin! Except the status of royal pain in the ass… not really what I was aiming for.

That’s where lead nurturing comes in.

To nurture means to care for, help and/or encourage someone or something while they are growing or developing.

That is just touching… in one single sentence I managed to transform my field of work into something truly noble. I’m welling up and feeling all proud… and getting totally sidetracked!

The point here is that you (remember you are the accountant) are not ready nor able to make the purchase on the first visit, but what you would like are buckets full of enlightening and compelling information that will help you sell the idea of purchasing the software to your boss.

With the right lead nurturing system, I will be able to see what areas of my website you have visited, what information you have consumed and what type of media you prefer.

Don’t let that give you the heebie-jeebies and think it is awfully big-brotherish. If you were in a shoe store looking at pumps, you wouldn’t want me to come over and start telling you about winter boots would you? Same thing, except online I can only see what you are looking at if I can track you. Maybe it’s the word tracking… it’s kinda off-putting, like I’m spying or something, which is not the intention at all.

Good lead nurturing should be like the experience you get in a good restaurant where the waiter manages to top up your glass every time you are just about to run out of wine. Now how is the waiter going to know you are running low on dancing juice if he can’t observe you? And God forbid he tops up your glass with water instead of wine! The horror!!

Think about it, the more I know about your particular interests, the better equipped I will be to give you the exact information you need, when you need it and in the format you prefer.

And before I start growing some sort of halo above my head, yes this is all done in the name of making a sale.

I represent a company, not a charity, and we need to sell stuff to make money in order to survive. All of a sudden I don’t feel so noble anymore, but that’s ok cuz it was never the intention to begin with.

What I do want is to provide you with information that you want, when you want it and how you want it. I want that when you get that sales call, you will be like “Man I’m so glad you called – tax season is just around the corner and my boss really want us to upgrade the software!”

I believe lead nurturing is awesome service, and I’m a sucker for awesome service. How about you?

Oh and just for you numbers freaks, here are a few eye-opening stats:

  • More than 25% of leads take seven months or more to close
  • 73% of leads are lost because they are sent to sales before they are ready to buy
  • Companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales ready leads at 33% lower cost
  • Nurtured leads spend 47% more on purchases than non-nurtured leads

5 Low-Budget And Effective Tools To Keep Your Marketing Top-Notch

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The right tool for the right job
Marketing

Finding the right mix of marketing software is essential to keep your work efficient and on the mark, and there are many very useful options available out there, in fact there are so many it can be a bit daunting sorting through the seamlessly endless can’t live without tools.

Marketing software is often created by marketing people, which is a good thing since they know what they are talking about, but good grief they talk! (said the marketing person who is now talking….) The thing about all this well written and professional talk is that it sounds pretty convincing, well at least a lot of it does, and so you are left with a gazillion must have choices and pulling your hair trying to figure out which you should actually use.

Where I work, price is a rather large deciding factor, we are a small software start-up and so we have to penny-pinch a bit, we do not have the luxury of buying fancy software that covers all bases, and so we have had to try and test our way through a bunch of different tools available – that’s why I loooove free trials!

I can’t say what will work for you, but here are 5 tools that I find very useful

1- Zoominfo

Zoominfo is a prospect database, here you can always source the most up-to-date contact information for targeting and lead generation. They offer a number of paid packages that are quite pricey, but I use their community edition which is free and still gives you access to an impressive amount of contact info. You can search by company name, person’s name, title or a combination and find phone numbers, email addresses and company info. Very useful in those cases where you really want to establish contact with someone and they haven’t reached out to you yet.

2- Hootsuite

Hootsuite is a social media dashboard that allows you to monitor multiple accounts from one place; Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn are just some of social media platform choices. The free edition allows you to monitor 5 accounts. Very useful if you are responsible for posting updates on several platforms, and the ability to schedule tweets and updates is immensely handy. It is also good for monitoring specific keywords or phrases as you can build streams that only show tweets containing the words you are interested in. Since Google doesn’t index much of what is said on social media, Hootsuite can help you not miss a beat.

3- Google Alerts

Talking about not missing a beat – Google Alerts are super nifty. No more endless searching to keep up-to-date on what is going on, whether it is keywords, industry news or competitors, you can create a Google Alert and receive notification direct to your inbox when any of it is mentioned online. There really is not a simpler way to stay informed.

4- Tout

If you ever wonder what happens to your emails after you have clicked the send button and it frustrates you not to know who opened and who clicked, then Tout is for you. Tout not only lets you see who opens and who clicks on links in your mails, it will also take you through to your website and let your track the actions taken on your site, with the Live feed you can actually see all of it happening in real-time. When you Tout your emails you have more control over the effectiveness of your email communications, and so you are better equipped to refine and enhance your writing. Tout works by adding a small trackable pixel to your emails, this means that in order to work the recipient has to allow images from you. Since it is possible to read your emails without allowing images to show, the numbers aren’t 100% reliable, but at a cost of as little as $1 a day it is a very useful tool.

5- Unbounce

If you, like me, love HubSpot but can’t afford it, then look at Unbounce to get that HubSpot feeling for you landing pages. Unbounce lets you create professional and conversion optimized landing pages with easy drag and drop; so now you can build, publish and A/B test your landing pages without involving IT – sweet. Unbounce offers a huge collection of landing page templates, so even if you are creatively challenged you can build awesome looking pages. In addition Unbounce is (like HubSpot) a source of great information and links to other fantastic resources and tools, here I simply have to mention Copy Hackers which must be the most informative, creative and funny site for learning how to write copy that converts.

There are so many other great tools available, if you have discovered some hidden marketing gem, please share I would love to hear about it.

A digital future for an analogue industry

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furniture digital marketing

Times are changing

The furniture industry has a reputation for being an Ol’ Boys club with a lot of face-to-face interactions and many industry trade shows to attend every year. My own experience from the industry more or less supports this reputation, as with most reputations they are often founded on at least some degree of truth, as they say “where there is smoke there is usually fire”.

Many industries have undergone great transformations over the past ten years, as they have had to adapt to new buyer behaviours with the shift from bricks to clicks retail. I have previously touched on the subject of e-commerce evolution, where we ten years ago found it unlikely that online retail of things like shoes or clothing would ever become popular, today we love it and most of us have at least at some point shopped online for these items.

I wanted to find out more about the general attitudes towards the use of digital tools as part of sales and marketing among the furniture retailers where I live; in Denmark. I wasn’t able to dig this information out from the corners of the internet, so I set out to conduct a survey on my own, and although it has to be said that my survey carries zilch statistical validity, it does give a good indication of certain trends and attitudes prevalent in the furniture industry.

 

So where is the furniture industry heading?

It is doubtful that the furniture retailers can remain behind their fortified arguments about their products being unsuited for online retail, due to their bulky nature and relatively large price-points, for very much longer.

Although the vast majority of sales still takes place in a physical store; roughly 3% happen purely online (USA & Europe combined data), it would be very unwise to ignore the impact the web has on the industry today. According to a study done in the UK by the Javelin Group the web has a direct impact on 42% of sales and this number is expected to increase to 69% by the year 2020.

So even though you might conduct the actual transaction within the four walls of your showroom, whether or not the customer will even venture into your store in the first place is very much influenced by what they experience online.

Furniture could be one of the last remaining online retail frontiers – so when will they conquer it ?

Probably sooner than many furniture retailers are prepared for. I spoke with many retailers during my survey and I got a clear feeling that most are aware that e-commerce is something they need to include in their business strategy, but they are very unsure of what exactly they should do to make it a success.

I understand where they are coming from; when you venture into uncharted territory where there are very limited established best practices to follow, you must have the guts to set the rules on your own. And that’s scary stuff when you have existed in an analogue world for donkey’s years.

Many fear that online trade will cannibalize in-store sales. This is my advice to them; with limited growth predicted for the industry at large over the next 5 years, and the only discernible growth is taking place on the web, online trade might very well eat away at in-store sales, but if you don’t cannibalize your own store someone else is sure to do it.

When Retargeting Smells Like Stalking

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http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photography-woman-peeking-blinds-image28298072Ever had the eerie feeling someone’s watching you? How do they in mysterious ways keep bumping into you no matter where you go? Pop! Right in your face – again. Ugh, it’s down right freaky.

I often feel this way after a good dose of online window shopping. The next many many days, the stores that I have visited just keep showing up on my screen everywhere I go. Constantly I must be presented with the same jackets, shirts, shoes or whatever I have been looking at. I know what they look like thank you very much, I was the one who found them remember, I don’t need to see them again every 10 minutes.

I know the idea behind retargeting, as this (at times super annoying) marketing tool is called, is to nudge and remind a store visitor of the items they looked at in the hope that they will return to the store and complete the purchase. But there is also such a thing as frequency, which is the amount of times you present these little nudges to your potential customers, and boy do some online retailers get this wrong!

In particularly I find online clothing retailer Zalando to be overly zealous in their deployment of retargeting. They seem to be hunting rather than targeting, and I am apparently the prey. As is common with us prey, we don’t much care for our hunters, so we hide and make sure we never ever cross your path again. Which in your case, Zalando, means you have freaked and annoyed me sufficiently that I will not visit your otherwise very nice online establishment again for fear of being hunted days on end with the same images over and over.

Took me less than 10 minutes to bump into these 3 ads (4 actually since one ad was not enough in one of them) and this has happened non-stop for well over a week now.

Zalando 123

Sometimes less really is more. I’d appreciate a little friendly nudge now and then, maybe with a nice discount incentive to encourage me to return and make the purchase. But this kind of frequency has the opposite effect, I don’t want to go back because by now I’m fed up with Zalando.

As a marketing professional myself, I also appreciate that frequency can be a particularly difficult beast to master. I think what I would do, would be to test my way forward. Split test different frequencies and pair them with different buyer profiles.

Hopefully that should prevent campaigns from being are so far off target it resembles some kind of “shock and awe” strategy.