From the category archives:

Strategy and Planning

storytellerAfter a sales presentation, what do your buyers really remember? You may be surprised! It’s not always the compelling statistics you’ve provided. It’s more often the stories you share that stick with them long after the presentation is over.

According to a study noted in Made To Stick by Chip and Dan Heath, 63% of audience members remember stories they’re told. Yet, only 5% remember numbers or statistics.

Are you someone who has always peppered sales presentations with plenty of facts? While specific numbers are important to B2B selling, they need to be infused into relevant stories to make them tangible and valuable to your buyer.

All companies are looking for solutions to increase revenue, reduce costs, and retain customers. And, many vendors claim to help with these. Yet, too often these claims are meaningless and generic because they are not focused enough on the buyer’s specific situation.

Great story-telling can make statistics and figures truly meaningful to your buyer.

So, how can you incorporate hard facts into a story that actually resonates? It starts with turning the focus away from your product and on to your buyer. Yes, it’s all about figuring out your buyers’ perception of value and building the story from there.

The Four Dimensions of Buyer Context
Proving your value begins with having a good understanding of the four dimensions of context for your buyer:

1. Their External Environment
Outside factors can greatly influence your buyer’s situation and decision-making. From what’s happening with competitors and the industry to advances in technology, it’s important to “get” what’s going on in your buyer’s world.

2. Their Internal Environment
What’s happening inside your buyer’s organization is also very relevant to figuring out what’s important to them and how to build a story that will resonate. What’s their decision-making style? Do they have a quick or lengthy purchasing process? Understanding these internal factors can greatly help how you create a value story that makes sense to your buyer.

3. The People Involved in the Decision
Who participates in decision-making? Understanding their mindset, relationships, objectives, and roles can enable you to determine how to construct your sales presentation.

4. Use Cases
How will your buyer most likely use what you’re selling? By creating use cases that incorporate their specific objectives, processes, systems, and more, you’ll be able to bring relevancy to your presentation that your buyer will remember.

To create a story that provides context, relevancy, and facts, it’s essential to listen, show a level of understanding, and then prove value. When this has been done, you’ll have a story that your buyer will want to hear, will remember, and will act upon.

How do you provide relevancy in the value stories you share with your buyers?

 

 

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Blog_06-13-13I recently had the opportunity to chat with Rajat Paharia, founder and chief product officer at Bunchball, about his new book, Loyalty 3.0, pivoting startups, and the differences between the business of games and the gamification of business.

Lilia: You were one of the first to see the potential for gaming methodology in marketing.   What sparked this idea?

Rajat: The company I founded in 2005 was the right idea, but it was 2 to 3 years early to market.  It was a social gaming platform, and in the process of building it, we examined what made gaming sticky. Pogo was one of the best, most used sites at the time, and they had all these statistics that they were able to stitch together into a really engaging experience.  So we started building that idea into our gaming platform – for game results, but also to get people to do other things, like invite friends.  We saw that it worked for motivating more than just behavior within the game itself – and that was the spark.

We realized that combining data with “gaming” concepts can be used in other interactions.  We were still a small company, so we had to make a very tough decision – continue in the social gaming market, or shift to gamification for businesses.  We chose the latter, but we were early to market – again.  Ultimately, though, that turned out to be a good thing – because we had time to develop a strong skill set and effective motivation techniques.

***

Lilia: Bunchball has helped well over 300 companies, including dozens of global brands, leverage big data to drive gaming-inspired loyalty programs. What surprised you most about how those companies have put this technology to use?

Rajat: We started with B2C applications of gamification, but the surprise has been how rapidly the business has transitioned to B2B uses. Companies are using (our solution) to motivate and train employees in sales and service, and to influence partners.  B2B has taken off and is growing incredibly fast. That’s something we didn’t foresee.

It makes sense, of course.  Consider that Facebook, Amazon, etc. know more about your employees than you do.  Yet companies ignore tons of data about employees who spend 8 to 10 hours a day working for them and delivering enormous value. That data lives in Salesforce, Jive, Cornerstone, Successfactors and all manner of enterprise apps and systems.

***

Lilia: Loyalty 3.0 requires Big Data. Does that mean only big companies can really use it for employee and partner loyalty?

Rajat: Our customers range from small companies, as small as 10 to 100 people, to the bigger ones.

What you need is to understand customers’ or employees’ motivation. Then you need data.  And today we are walking data generators – constantly throwing off information that can be used to create loyalty 3.0 programs. Now, when I say Big Data, I’m referring to the large volume of data being generated by each of us as individuals – a lot of it unstructured.   Those individual data streams are available to any business, not just large ones.  Finally, you need Gamification – that is, you need to create data-driven motivational techniques.

***

Lilia: In your book you discuss the entry of Gen Y into the worksforce.  Is it that younger generation that’s really the audience for gamification?

Rajat: No. It’s based on fundamental human motivators, so it works for anyone. The demographic of our customers’ customers and employees is across the board.  The thing about Gen Y is that this is the air they breathe. So to motivate them, these methods are indispensable.  Gamification works for everyone, but it’s absolutely critical for the Gen Y.

***

Lilia: What do you find is the most common misconception people have about gamification?

Rajat: The word is a double-edged sword.  People think it’s games and entertainment.  And they don’t want their employees playing games. They want them working.  The reason these techniques came out of the gaming industry is because game designers have been living in  data-rich environments for the last 40 years, and have had a chance to learn and develop all these techniques for motivating and driving behavior.  Now the rest of the world has caught up. So gamification is really not about games at all. It’s about business results.

***

Lilia: Certainly wearable computing will create a huge opportunity for gamification through increasing the volume of data even more and through the “everywhere with me” aspect of those devices. What are some other emerging trends that you see either enabling or driving the demand for gamification?

Rajat: The notion of sensors everywhere. There’s a company across the street from ours that’s making ingestable sensors, powered by stomach acids.  So you can tell exactly when the medicine was taken, and how the body responds.  That means we can use gamification to motivate healthy behavior like taking your medication on time. More broadly, technology is mediating a lot of what we do – and all those systems are throwing off data that can be used to motivate behavior and inspire loyalty.

***

Lilia: Where should a company start when considering gamification?

Rajat:  Always start by determining what you are trying to accomplish. What’s your goal?  For example, “We want our channel partner sales team to contribute 10% more to the pipeline.” Gamification starts with a business mission statement.    Then you decide how you will measure that.  Then, understand what are the behaviors that I need to affect.   Next look at users and understand what motivates them.

***

Lilia: That sounds straightforward, but how would a company actually know what motivates customers or employees?

Rajat: The best way to do that is by talking to a few of them.  Ask them lots of open-ended questions.  You only need to talk to a few to get really smart. We break it down in the book – how to craft an experience that fits, and create automated, scalable, repeatable motivation and intervention that you can use to motivate employees or kids.

***

Rajat’s book, Loyalty 3.0, launches June 18th through all the usual channels.  In the meantime, you can pre-order at http://loyalty30.com/  and get extra gifts with your pre-order.

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Amid meeting quarterly numbers, executing strategic programs, and dealing with day-to-day minutia, it’s helpful to occasionally pause, look at the big picture, consider long-term objectives, update strategies, and make plans.

That pause often takes the shape of a management off-site.  (I’m calling it an off-site even when held in a large conference room on site.)  An effective one will produce alignment on strategy, clear and measurable objectives, and specific action plans.  A bad one will simply waste time.

I’ve seen as many of the latter as the former, and have created this handy list for how to waste decision-makers’ time while leaving the organization to continue on whatever path it was already meandering down.

  1. Everyone is extremely busy, so don’t bother participants with prep materials before the meeting. They won’t read them anyway.
  2. People who need to present information can bring it to the meeting.  They are all experienced professionals so there is no need to review their content ahead of time or provide guidance. They know what level of detail is appropriate for this audience.
  3. The decisions you intend to make will impact the entire company.  Make sure as many people as possible are there to participate and contribute to the discussion and the decision-making.  The more the merrier.
  4. When disagreement arises, chose one of the following options. a.) Let the debate go on until it’s time for lunch; you can catch up during that flexible ½ hour you built into the agenda in the afternoon.  b)  Shut down the discussion as quickly as possible. The issue is too big to address in the meeting, so will have to get worked out later.
  5. Use the breaks to catch up on email and voicemail.  You’re spending the entire day talking to the other participants, so why bother checking in with them during the breaks?  If anyone has a concern or opinion they haven’t yet voiced, they will tell you eventually.
  6. People always take notes during these meetings, so you can rely on them to keep track when an action item comes up that they own.
  7. It’s a long meeting, so when you get back to your desk, dive into the work that got delayed while you were at the meeting.  You can tell people what happened and about any decisions that got made when you run into them in the coffee room.

Please share your own suggestions for how to hold completely useless planning meetings!

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Watching some of the new ventures getting funded over the last several months, there’s an interesting trend that’s turning user-generated content into real value for companies and their customers.

One example is Driveway Software, which develops applications that insurance companies offer to their customers.  The apps track driving behavior, and enable the insurer to offer discounts based on good driving habits.  In the healthcare sector, companies like AFrame Digital and Lark are creating devices and apps that enable doctors, care-givers, and individuals to track patient health and provide better, more personalized care.  FlixMaster collects information about how we watch interactive on-line videos so that media companies and advertisers can create more engaging content.

While the content in these instances is “user-generated,” all the work is being done within machine-to-machine interfaces. User devices or apps collect information and communicate with data collection and analytics engines to produce both individual and aggregated intelligence. That intelligence enables companies to offer new and unique products and services.

For each company that collects and uses customer-generated data intelligently, there are scores who collect data but never use it.  That’s not only a waste, but also an unjustified risk – keeping customer information without carefully managing it can have legal ramifications and expose the company to liability.

Bottom Line:   There are countless ways to collect data about your customers.  Before you start, decide exactly why you’re collecting it, how you’ll manage it, and what intelligence and action the data will drive.

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I just hosted a webinar introducing the second edition of my book, 42 Rules for Growing Enterprise Revenue: Practical Strategies for Increasing B2B Customer Relevance.

Watch the webinar to get a quick overview of 7 strategies for becoming more relevant to customers:

  • Selecting markets where you matter
  • Focusing on customer interactions rather than your org chart
  • Using context to define and articulate value
  • Collaborating with customers
  • Moving from products to solutions
  • Exploring vertical market alignment
  • Empowering your sales channels

Enjoy, and let me know what you think!

Ways to Matter More to Customers, Lilia Shirman from Laura on Vimeo.

 

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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

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If individual employees have more power to select products and technologies, then should we market to them the same way we market to consumers?

Consumerization of corporate buying decisions is leaving B2B marketers asking if and how to use B2C techniques in B2B sales.    I like to break the question up into pieces, starting with messaging, then sales strategy, and finally marketing tactics.

What’s really different between messaging in B2B vs. B2C environments?

First, consider the similarities:

Everyone develops initial preference based on emotional response, whether they are making personal or business purchases.   So you must appeal to the individual and their personal priorities in both settings.

In B2B, recognize that business people often have unstated personal interests and decide how your sales strategy is going to address these.  To make this a repeatable sales practice, include an assessment of personal objectives for key stakeholders in your account planning process.  (Assumes you have one, but that’s a whole other topic.)

Now the big difference:

While the consumer might or might not bother to rationalize their decision, the business buyer almost always MUST demonstrate tangible (not just perceived) value to the company.  While you can rely exclusively on brand image and emotional response with consumers, you have to message to BOTH the emotional and rational considerations for business buyers.

If you’ve used B2C-style messaging for a B2B product, tell us how that worked.
More on this topic in our next post.

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The “As a Service” business model is spreading like wildfire – in the tech sector and beyond.   This is the first of a series of observations about this old, but new again approach to business, and what it implies for both the providers and consumers of services.
For the first in this series, my own attempt at a basic definition:
“As a service” (AAS) refers to businesses that sell their goods on a subscription basis.  The more traditional alternative  is to sell once, and upon that sale, transition ownership from the seller to the buyer.  The change in ownership is perhaps the core differentiator between “traditional” and service-based businesses.   In the AAS model, the change in ownership either:
  1. Happens slowly over time, as in the case of businesses whose services is to deliver information or products over time – think “Cheese of the Month club” or magazine subscription.
  2. Never takes place at all.  In this pure service model, the seller retains ownership, and in essence sells access to use the goods.   This is of course the model being implemented by Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and  Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) vendors that make up the hot “cloud provider” market.
That’s my attempt at defining  AAS in the broadest possible terms.  All comments and better definitions welcome and encouraged!
Next time –  Why switch?
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Looking into the future of cloud computingI’ve spent a lot of time this year with clients including VMWare, Grid Dynamics, SymbioWare and others who are thinking about (and betting on) the future of cloud computing.    To figure out what’s real and what’s hype, we’ve also talked to dozens of VPs of Engineering and IT about their priorities and plans.

Here are a few predictions for the challenges and opportunities that will be floating around in the cloud in 2011.

  1. Enterprises are going to continue to combine traditional IT with private and public clouds – picking the best and most appropriate of these models for each application or business process.
  2. The different stacks will still need to interoperate, so IT organizations will be looking for tools that were designed to operate and manage these hybrid environments.
  3. These mixed environments will spawn a new generation of applications that are deployable anywhere.
  4. Though cloud is a hot topic among IT execs, ultimately it’s a means to an end – and that end will decidedly be flexibility in 2011, marking a change from the laser beam focus on cost reduction of past years.
  5. Security is the #1 reason companies don’t do more in the cloud. 2011 should be a big year for vendors who can address their concerns.
  6. Greater cloud adoption will place more strain on the network, and network infrastructure vendors will be scrambling to support the growing demand for speed and bandwidth.
  7. With so many productivity and business tools now available in the cloud, small and medium businesses (SMBs) are able to draw on much more sophisticated and powerful IT resources.  But making sense of the options and how they all work together will be a big challenge. That makes for a big opportunity to help SMBs assemble the right SaaS portfolios.
  8. SaaS for mobile will take off in 2011, likely outpacing new SaaS offerings for desktops.  Lots of factors conspire here: HTML5 adoption, IaaS providers catering to mobile – witness Amazon’s recent release of Software Development Kits (SDKs) for Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS),  and the fact that computing power and storage space are more scarce on mobile devices than the desktop.
  9. As usual with a hot IT trend, there will be plenty of companies throwing “cloud” into their marketing spiels long before they have made any substantive changes to their product offerings.  Buyers will have to spend some extra due diligence cycles weeding out the pretenders.
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fallen 3 legged stoolLots of companies are diving into their annual planning process.  Many will find that time and resources are wasted on seemingly useless high-level discussions that don’t lead to specific actions, that some stakeholders participate but later don’t follow through on key portions of the plan, and that there is little consistency or coordination around how groups make decisions and set priorities.

That’s because they’re  focusing on the content of the plan, while ignoring the other pieces that are absolutely fundamental to its success.   Whether you’re creating a 5 year strategic plan for an entire company, or an annual operating plan for a department, consider all 3 parts of the planning process:

1.       Structure :  HOW you will arrive at your plan

  • Outcomes – What is the scope of the plan, and what are the key decisions to be made? What should happen once the plan is completed?
  • Process – How much time do you have? Which parts of the company need to be involved? How often will you meet, and what work must happen between meetings?
  • Decision frameworks – What will be the criteria for the key decisions?  What inputs are needed ans what will be your sources of information?  What analysis will be required, will it be bottoms-up or top-down?
  • Action – How will you structure and communicate the final plan to the various stakeholders? How will you make sure that everyone understands the decisions and aligns their actions towards the goals in the plan?

2.       People – WHO will create, approve, own, and execute the plan?

  • Stakeholders – Who are the key stakeholders for this plan, and what form of participation and communication is appropriate for each?
  • Ownership – How will you ensure that key process participants take ownership for the quality of the entire plan and look beyond their own functional areas?
  • Collaboration – What will you do elicit relevant expertise in your organization, enable open-minded idea creation, and reach decisions in a timely manner?
  • Communication – How, when, and what will you communicate to whom in order to keep the organization informed about the progress  and outcomes of the planning process?
  • Commitment – How will you gain the commitment of the management team to align resources to plan objectives? Will there need to be any changes in responsibility, authority, or incentives in order to ensure commitment and ability to execute?
  • Change management – How will you need to prepare and guide the organization though any changes that the plan requires?

3.       Content – WHAT will the contents of the plan be?

  • Financial or market objectives
  • Operational execution goals
  • Market, competitive, or supply chain analysis
  • Strategies and tactics for reaching objectives
  • Prioritization of key initiatives
  • Action plans and time lines
  • Budgets

I’m always looking for examples of organization who do all three components of planning well.  If your company does, please comment or email me to share your experience.

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