Your company may face challenges similar to the Seattle Seahawks & the Denver Broncos

Gecko Jones 125
You don’t have to be a sports fan to know the Seahawks and Broncos dominated pro football last season. They could continue that success this year, but not without increased challenges.

 

Successful companies are like winning sports teams. They attract attention and they face stiffer competition. Here’s how:

  1. No more sneaking up on teams (other companies in your industry). Competitors know you exist and what you can/can’t do well.
  2. You won business because you were better (people, tactics, product/service) than others. But, they now know they have to “step up their game”, whether it means improving their talent level, tactics or product/service. You’ll have a tougher challenge in the new season (year).
  3. Some of the things you did to defeat competitors have now been exposed. Many will start doing exactly what you did (similar marketing, expanded focus into channels and distribution, product/service attributes, etc.). It will be harder for you to stand out in the market place.

That means changes are necessary and making further improvements in all aspects of your company is vital. Anytime your team looks to you like it’s coasting, you can be sure that other vendors are gaining ground.

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    Two problems with frequent buyer programs

    Gecko Jones 124Have you been asked to consider implementing a frequent buyer program in your company? Be aware of these points:

    1. Your regular customers are the most likely to sign up, so benefits you offer will cost you money without giving you a return on your investment.
    2. Most B2B purchases (except for supplies) don’t happen often enough to motivate non-customers to sign up and help make your program pay off for you.

    Unlike Seinfeld’s Elaine Benes, customers are not going to buy products they don’t like just so they get a bad product for free.

    Airlines are an exception, as they surely maintain loyalty when a flyer is halfway toward a major benefit. However, airlines are raising the requirements to qualify for benefits and reducing what they offer. Whether it’s on purpose or through mismanagement, their programs are weakening.

    I’ve written before about keeping an open mind when you revisit previous things your company has done that may not have worked. However, it was a no-brainer to ignore resurrecting a frequent buyer program that one CEO asked me, as his new head of marketing, to do. It hadn’t worked before and wasn’t going to work then.

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      How your products and services must evolve

      Gecko Jones 123It isn’t only new products and services that are needed to breathe life into your company and extend the upside of the business. Existing ones need to be enhanced. Let’s look at two real world examples:

      Case One – Product – Online Storage

      We’re not talking about online backup, where data folders are automatically backed up in case a server or workstation fails. We’re talking about the many online storage providers who want you to consider their cloud-based repositories to be active, external hard drives for your computer.

      Originally, these vendors let individuals (often consumers who didn’t want to buy and learn to install new physical devices on their PCs) store and archive files for which there was inadequate space on the user’s device.

      Then, there was the ability to share files with friends, relatives or co-workers. Access was assigned by the original file owner.

      Suddenly, security became a major issue. There was intellectual property to protect, as well as industry secrets. HIPAA guidelines for medical records and others (like financial institutions) who had to ensure their customers could trust that personal information was safe.

      Today, there are significant next enhancements that are “needed” by customers and will soon become “must offer” features from vendors. (We’ll see which vendors figure this out first.)

      Case Two – Service – Streaming Music

      Initially, the Internet began delivering streaming music by having radio stations post “Listen Now” links on their websites. Before long, non-traditional stations (with no ground antennas serving local markets) appeared.

      The market place advanced (iHeart, Pandora, Groove Shark, etc.) to sites/services offering songs by genre (jazz, classic rock, gospel, etc.). Along the way, these streams were delivered not only by HTML browser, but also by smartphone/tablet apps.

      Even these services are losing their appeal to repeat users. I personally like the tweet from one customer who asked “What do I do once I’ve listened 10 times to songs I remembered liking years ago?”

      Current services have expanded their options for that type of listener, playing songs that are from artists whose music is similar to other performers whose recordings you previously preferred.

      Now, we have companies, such as Spotify, who can help set moods for you with channels like “Summer Party”, “Workout” and “Your Favorite Coffee House” (my personal favorite).

      Bottom Line

      Never assume your product or service is maxed out, or that current market niche leaders can’t be defeated with innovative thinking.

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        Do you think you can put marketing on auto-pilot?

        Gecko Jones 122A company’s sales executive explained it this way:

        “The CEO decided our ever-increasing lead generation success was essentially a new plateau that he could personally take over, manage and build upon. He would get to do what he considered to be fun stuff, while saving a salary.”

        “Sadly, leads dropped the very first month and it was clear to our sales team this was no coincidence. When he asked me weeks later how he could help us meet our revenue goals, I told him he should get our lead level back to where it was. Instead, he stopped doing the things he obviously wasn’t good at, reducing leads further.”

        Marketing does not operate in a static world. Far from it. Just maintaining performance levels requires constant adjustments and brand new initiatives. Raising the bar demands an order of magnitude of fresh achievement. Here are some of the reasons why this is true:

        1. You need to expand your audience
        2. Your competitors take new approaches
        3. Stale campaigns will turn off your ongoing audience
        4. Media & events come and go
        5. Marketing platforms you use can change the rules or options you have available
        6. Creativity requires new thinking, not me-too advertising
        7. Skill sets of your team fluctuate, giving you more and different techniques to apply

        You’ve likely heard this famous quote: “Business is like riding a bicycle. If you don’t keep moving forward, you will fall off.”

        The same goes for marketing. Without constant adjustments, changes, adds, deletes and powerful new creative ideas, your lead generation and sales close rates won’t even stay level…they will drop.

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          The most important marketing measurement of all

          Gecko Jones 121There are a number of vital measurements marketing teams must constantly monitor, including:

          • Website visitors
          • Unique visitors
          • Website conversion rate
          • Lead count
          • Qualified leads
          • ROI on each activity (trade shows, webinars, seminars, user group meetings, PPC ads, banner ads, print ads, direct mail, etc.)
          • Performance against budget
          • Sales conversion rates

          Nevertheless, when I sit down with a new team or recent hire, I make it clear that the most important number of all is…(drum roll please)….total sales revenue.

          “Wait”, you say. “That’s the same number the VP Sales is measured by.” Absolutely.

          “How can that be?” you ask. “Doesn’t Sales often say they aren’t getting enough leads, while Marketing suggests the reps aren’t doing an adequate job of closing business?” That does happen a lot. Here’s the catch: Marketing also has a responsibility to help reps close deals.

          Business is a team sport. Except for unethical conduct, nothing disappoints me more than seeing departments act as competitors. Sometimes that culture permeates from the top – we’ve all seen CEOs who foster in-fighting that paralyzes their own company. Usually, teamwork exists (or doesn’t) based on the instructions and leadership shown by department heads (VPs or Director level).

          How can Marketing help Sales turn a larger percentage of prospects into customers?

          • It could be the quality of leads, or the timing of when a prospect is released by Marketing and handed over to Sales.
          • It’s how prepared the reps are to understand each prospect’s motivation for contacting the company, and the materials (scripts, presentations, collateral, etc.) Marketing has provided for reps’ use.
          • Equally, it’s a function of how well Marketing has helped differentiate the company from other vendors, and the strength of the value proposition they’ve transferred to Sales personnel.
          • It’s the “goodness of fit” of the product/service (often, Product Management is part of Marketing).
          • It’s affected by price points and structure.
          • It’s dependent on ease of ordering.
          • Ultimately, Customer Service has to step up to lock in those sales, keeping customers from finding avoidable reasons to return their purchase.

          The result of all of this work is revenue. It’s the life blood of a business. All other Marketing statistics are internal tools to help them contribute to top line performance. If revenue isn’t the primary mantra of your Marketing department, you have a problem that needs fixing, quickly.

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