From the category archives:

Customer relationships

In 42 Rules for Growing Enterprise Revenue, I talk about the fact that customer relevance is a corporate skillset, not a departmental one.  Creating a positive, customer-relevant experience involves many parts of the organization, and the speakers at the recent Churchill Club CMO panel provided lots of validation and great examples of why shared ownership is critical.

Nora Denzel, Senior VP of Big Data, Social Design and Marketing at Intuit commented that Intuit’s CIO, sales, and marketing all contribute to create the customer experience.  Lorraine Twohill, VP of Global Marketing  at Google agreed that cross-functional collaboration is critical because while Marketing focuses on customer acquisition, keeping customers and making them happy is what sales, support, and IT (in a SaaS company) do.   Jonathan Becher, CMO at SAP, summed it up well.  “The SAP experience is about the company, it’s not a marketing thing. If it were, no one would pay attention,” he commented.

Bottom Line: Consider making great customer experience an objective for every organization that impacts it.

  • Ask each functional team to identify specifically how they affect customer experience.
  • Set detailed objectives in your annual and quarterly plans for how they can improve the department’s contribution to a great customer experience.
  • Identify opportunities for cross-functional initiatives to offer new value to customers. It’s these that often have the greatest impact.

Please share how different parts of your company are collaborating to serve customers better.

Be Sociable, Share!

{ 0 comments }

“We’re not in control. The Customer is.”
– Lorraine Twohill, VP Global Marketing, Google

We’ve talked here in our blog and in my book about the concept of collaborating with customers as the means to engage the more empowered buyer.  The mindset that customers have greater control than ever was clearly evident among the CMOs on a recent Churchill Club panel.

When asked whether his organization was “marketing-led,” “engineering-led,” or “sales-led,” Jonathan Becher, CMO at SAP, answered, “There’s only one kind of “led” – customer led.”  He described that at the last SAP conference, the decision about which topics to include was “crowd sourced from the customer.”

Nora Denzel,  Senior VP, Big Data, Social Design and Marketing at Intuit provided more examples of how Intuit is sharing the reigns with its customers: Intuit’s CEO meets with customers each quarter before speaking to his staff at the ops reviews.   Intuit has “outsourced product management and marketing to the customer.”  That’s because Intuit’s new product features get exposed to customer in a web sand-box, and their viability is determined based on actual customer usage.  Anne Globe of DreamWorks agreed that today there’s an opportunity for the customer to “take you in a different direction than what you planned” when you designed your marketing campaign.

Bottom Line:  2.0 didn’t just change the technologies we use to communicate, collaborate, and sell.  It has completely transformed customer mindsets.  Buyers in both B2B and B2C markets expect greater corporate transparency and increased influence over what is sold to them, where and how.  They also exercise greater collective and individual power in the marketplace.  Companies that can redefine their customer relationships from one of buyer-seller to that of a team collaborating to discover, learn, design solutions, and maximize their usefulness will command greater loyalty.

 

Be Sociable, Share!

{ 0 comments }

Top 5 Trends for CMOs

by Lilia Shirman on August 9, 2012

in Customer relationships,Marketing

Last week I had the opportunity to attend a panel discussion with some of Silicon Valley’s top CMOs:  Jonathan Becher, CMO at SAP, Nora Denzel, Senior VP, Big Data, Social Design and Marketing at Intuit, Anne Globe, CMO at DreamWorks Animation, and Lorraine Twohill, VP Global Marketing , Google.   The moderator was Laura McLellan of Gartner.

Some interesting themes emerged from the discussion.  Here, and in subsequent posts, I’ll summarize the CMOs’ comments and add some perspective about the implications for marketers and their companies.

The top 5 trends:

  1. Customer Power
  2. Shared ownership for Customer Experience
  3. The Product IS the Marketing
  4. Social and Digital Marketing disappearing as distinct disciplines, Big Data key new tool
  5. The expanding Marketing skillset
Be Sociable, Share!

{ 0 comments }

Last time I wrote about the implications of the consumerization of corporate buying decisions for B2B messaging.    What about sales strategy?   If individual employees have more power to select products and technologies, then should we sell to these “Corporate Consumers” the same way we do to consumers?

Yes.

Corporate Consumers make choices about smaller, one-off business purchases such as mobile devices, SaaS applications. That’s significant because it provides a revenue stream and an entry point into the company.   In addition, many business purchase decisions involve larger numbers of Corporate Consumers as nearly invisible (at first glance) influencers.   So you can use B2C tactics to create mass support for larger purchases.

Since these employees are making individual decisions, marketing aimed at individuals will most certainly sway them.  Appealing to those influencers is how many companies (You Send It comes to mind) have built their B2B business… Apple has more or less been dragged into B2B by those same influencers.  Corporate Consumer’s real power varies wildly, however.

And No.  There are some uniquely B2B considerations:

  1. Recognize that those small B2C-like sales are really only beach heads.  If you want a bigger share of wallet, maintenance revenue, long term contracts, etc., you have to shift modes – or more accurately, expand your approach to encompass both types of selling- and it’s best to recognize that dichotomy from the beginning.
  2. For larger purchases, you’ll need a way to harness the influence of Corporate Consumers.   Ideally, you’ll want to gather data about individual use within each company.    When going in for the enterprise deal, there’s enormous value and selling power in having better intelligence than the CIO about how employees are already using your technology.  Short of that, be prepared with anecdotes from enthusiastic users within their company, and stats about business use of your product.
  3. Influencers don’t sign the check.  You will still need B2B sales tactics to turn individual purchases into larger longer-term contracts.
  4. Many large corporate purchases don’t touch end-users at all.  These are the big, complex, operational decisions deep inside data centers, factories, or other operational groups.  Here you might cherry-pick a few traditionally B2C tactics, but the reality is that a direct relationship with a subject matter expert in your organization and a long-term account strategy are the real silver bullets.

Bottom line – if your product has a large end-user base within the company, invest in broad-base consumer marketing tactics, while still building the relationships with top decision makers.  If very few people touch your product, don’t bother with the Corporate Consumers.  There is a huge additional cost of sales to appeal to the masses, so make sure you really need that broad base.

More on this topic in this post

Be Sociable, Share!

{ 0 comments }

Don’t you just love opening those emails with sales pitches and special offers inside?  Doesn’t it make you eager to get the next email from the same vendor?  No?

Obviously not.  Yet many companies use their email newsletter to barrage their customers and prospects with offers and promotions.  Maybe if the email is from RueLaLa, addressed at eager fashionistas, it will get a decent open rate.   After all, RueLaLa is all about special offers to begin with.  If you’re selling complex B2B products, repeated offers and promotions will result in  a very high “always ignore” rate.   That’s the proportion of subscribers who got sick of your email offers long ago, but don’t want to bother to open one and scroll down and find the fine print to unsubscribe. So they just ignore you. Every time.

Stop sending offers. Resist the urge to add a promotion to every missive.  Remember that the call to action does not need to be “buy now,” and not even “try now.”  Send them something valuable instead.   So valuable, that they’ll be more likely to open the next email.   Here are 10 ideas of valuable things to send.

  1. Short (15-20 minute) webinar by one or more of your clients about how they solved a problem your other customers are likely to face
  2. Your own webinars that inform about a common topics of interest to your audience (Hint: your product is NOT a common topic of interest)
  3. Invitation and discount to attend an event where you will be present
  4. Summary of big takeaways from a conference that someone in your organization attended
  5. 3rd party articles that are relevant to your prospects
  6. White papers (your own or 3rd parties) that actually inform rather than advertise
  7. Video interview with one of your execs sharing their ideas, views, insights (but NOT promoting your company)
  8. Blog entries by your executives, employees, or 3rd parties that are relevant to your audiences
  9. Explanation of something happening in the market and about which there may be confusion
  10. New ideas or best practices gleaned from your customers and other internal and external subject matter experts.

There are countless others, of course.  Please share ones you’ve sent or received that have been particularly valuable.

Be Sociable, Share!

{ 0 comments }

Imagine you have an audience of 350 people. Now imagine you have them captive in a room for several hours. How would you use that time? What if that audience were already your customers?  I am guessing that handing out a catalog of random products and serving water in paper cups would not be the first items on your list.  Unfortunately, they are the ONLY things United Airlines could come up with.

I pick on United because they kept me sitting on a runway for over 4 hours recently, with a cup of water after 3.5 hours being the only concession.  They did actually serve food (liberal interpretation) and show a movie during the 12 hours in the air.  But they could have, among other things,

  • Sold DVDs or downloads of the movies they were showing
  • Sold CDs or downloads of the music they play on various earphone channels
  • Surveyed passengers about travel habits, plans, and airline selection criteria. (Fill out a survey, get extra frequent flier miles.)
  • Gathered data on behalf of a paying third party.
  • Sacrificed one seat in the back to offer in-flight neck or foot massages. I’d pay!
  • Sold neck pillows and other travel-specific items
  • Offered free informational pod-casts (from sponsoring organizations?) or audio books via the audio system (and then sold the audio and ebooks, of course)

These are all revenue-generating for the airline, and valuable to customers. But they weren’t done.  Seems that in a financial crisis, innovation applies only to cost-cutting.   Why not focus on revenue sources in stead?

I see many companies passing up opportunities to add value and generate additional revenue.   In the course of conducting research for one client, we concluded each customer interview with a very simple question: “What will help you get more value from this product?”  Several customers mentioned they wanted our client to offer post-sale services to fine-tune product usage 6 to 12 months after deployment.  This discovery was unexpected, unplanned, and pointed to a completely new revenue and relationship-building opportunity.   To find it, all we did was ask.

To find those hidden, yet in hindsight obvious, revenue opportunities, look in two places:

  • Can you address additional or broader needs for the customers you already serve?
  • Can you meet the same needs you address today, but for new audiences or segments?
Be Sociable, Share!

{ 0 comments }

Customer centricity is well over a decade old. Companies have gotten better at tracking customer information, incorporating customer input into product design, and identifying customer needs in their sales and marketing messages. Despite these advances, the most frequent complaint by decision-makers involved in complex purchases is that vendors don’t listen, don’t understand their problems, and don’t convincingly articulate value.

Something is obviously missing from all that customer-centric activity.

Just about every discussion of being customer centric focuses on “understanding customer needs”.   Unfortunately, most vendors focus on their customers’ needs, but not on the way their customers do business. That may sound like a subtle difference. It’s not. A focus on needs often misses the context for those needs. That’s important, because the context, not the need, determines value.

Let me repeat that.  The CONTEXT, not the need, determines value.

Only by focusing on needs in context can you be truly, uniquely relevant.  To become more relevant and valuable to customers (and grow revenue),  find the needs that matter most now within the context of your customer’s internal and external business situation, and to which you can add the greatest value.  Then sell and fulfill your offering in the way best suited to the customer’s way of doing business.

Be Sociable, Share!

{ 0 comments }

Beyond Net Promoter Scores

by Lilia Shirman on July 28, 2009

in Customer relationships

The highly popular Net Promoter Scoring (NPS) customer satisfaction measure (originally created by Bain & Co.) has gained broad adoption in the last five years.  Customers’ likelihood to recommend you to others is a great measure of their satisfaction and loyalty.  Unfortunately, Net Promoter Scoring limits visibility and can lead your customer satisfaction initiatives astray.

There are two key issues with traditional NPS:

1. It asks customers to predict their own behavior. The standard NPS question is, “Would you recommend us?”   Many companies have found that customers say they WOULD recommend, but over half of those that say they would, don’t.

2. A Net Promoter Score is not actionable alone. Simply knowing how much customers expect to recommend you doesn’t provide clues as to how to improve their loyalty and word of mouth.

Despite these drawbacks, the core concept of NPS is an important one:  Happy customers create new business.  The key to leveraging this concept is to tweak NPS to ask more actionable questions, and then incorporate it into a broader customer intelligence effort.

Read more in my recent Beyond NPS brief...

Be Sociable, Share!

{ 0 comments }

Asking right

by Lilia Shirman on May 19, 2009

in Customer relationships,Sales Tips

Idea Design’s blog about asking is right on – and applies to businesses as much as to charities. At the end are three points that may as well have been written for businesses – here they are,  with business terms inserted:

“1. Be where your [customers and prospects] are. Hang out with them. Learn their language and be relevant to them.

2. If you want to [close deals] sooner or later you are going to have to ask for [the sale].

3. And when you do ask, ask in a way that is appropriate to your [customer]. ”

In a business, these apply to the sales reps, and to the rest of your organization.   Get your messages into the places customers look to for information (note – first place they look is not your website).   Your marketing, services, and product development / design staff should be attending the same events, reading the same publications, and participating in the same discussions on and off-line that your target audiences do.

Most sales people don’t have much trouble asking for a sale – but they often fail to do their homework and communicate why their offer should matter to the customer in the customer’s terms.  That makes the ask inappropriate.  To increase the frequency of yeses, increase the relevance of your offers.  To make that relevance natural, as Idea Design suggests, hang out with the customers.

Be Sociable, Share!

{ 0 comments }

I hate hate hate pricing my consulting work.   There is always a tension between the value it brings to the client (which gurus like Alan Weiss will tell you is the only thing that matters), the reality of the client’s budget, the amount of effort and expertise required, internal company politics, etc.

So even before reading the article about a coffee shop that does not post prices, I had tried handing the pricing reigns to clients by asking some version of, “What do you think this work should cost, given the value you expect it will bring?”

Results?  Some clients did not want to name a number, and I ended up pricing the project as usual.  Some DID name a price: always higher than I would have quoted.   The difference:  Clients who were comfortable naming a price already knew me and had worked with my firm before.  It seems letting your customer set the price may be a great model when:

1. The customer is well-informed about the product and its value, or can become informed easily and quickly as in the case of the coffee shop. (This is the basis for free trials: Assume the customer will assign little or no value when first encountering a product. Depend on familiarity leading customers to agree with you on price.)

2. The customer has had some exposure to competing products and prices, and has a basis for comparing the relative worth of your product vs. the others.

3. The customer has a relationship with you, even if only a momentary one (note in the video that the cafe owner describes people “looking him in the eye and stating what they think is fair”)

Share your thoughts on if and when letting customers set the price is the right thing to do.

Be Sociable, Share!

{ 4 comments }