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Lilia Shirman — Page 2

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Lilia Shirman

This post is by guest blogger, Charles Born:

I could subtitle this “How to Lose at Buzzword Bingo and Increase Sales” but this is not where I whine further about buzzwords and jargon. I did that in previous blogs (Buzzword Bingo and Avoiding the Buzzword Bingo Trap). All kidding aside, there is a time for professional jargon: when you know you’re speaking to an audience that understands you, and you need the extra specificity and precision that jargon can sometimes provide. If you’re using it outside of that then you’re probably not communicating clearly, honestly, or effectively.

In the web and social marketing world, online “conversations” are the perfect opportunity to meet buyers’ information needs with smartly targeted and informative content that buyers consider valuable. Unfortunately, Web copy is often written in less than ideal circumstances by product marketers who do not have the time to do it right.

The good news is that anyone who writes content can ensure that every chunk of text on the web is doing something concrete and useful. Good marketing copy accomplishes specific goals; just touting a product is not one of them.

Let’s look at an example. Here is a chunk of text displayed prominently on one company’s website:

With Product X advanced features, capturing and reporting product sales data in the cloud and in real-time can improve operational intelligence and provide insight that enables more effective strategic, tactical and effective decision-making. With Product X researching your online sales is FASTER!

What do we know about this product from the two statements? Intelligence and insight will be improved by capturing and reporting! And that will enable, among many other things, better tactical decision-making! And we end with a tag line – in CAPITAL letters no less–with an exclamation point, indeed! Here we have a simple example of what happens when the goal of the writing is to fill up a web page with copy.

How do you approach writing product copy and potentially winning buyer attention and sales interest?

Just KIS – Keep It Simple (not stupid)

Most product content needs to answer 4 basic questions:

  1. Who is the product for?
  2. What is the product?
  3. What does the product do for its target user?
  4. Why is the product better than the available alternatives?

The lack of answers to these really basic questions is what frustrates buyers in their journey and wastes marketing money on writing babble. To do it right, let’s look at the questions in more detail.

Who is the product for? Think of your target audience. Can they tell from this copy that you are speaking to them? Can other people outside your audience tell that you are NOT speaking to them?

What is the product? Try to write in conversational tone using short and simple sentences. Make sure you have spelled out, clearly and in simple language, what the product is and that the nouns as concrete as you can make them.

What does the product do for its target user? Be specific in laying out the product’s primary features and benefits in a clear, concrete way.

Why is this product better than the available alternatives? Here is where flowery prose needs to be edited. If you make a claim, give evidence for the claims clearly and without empty language that makes you look like boasting.

Answer these questions, and you’ll communicate more clearly and efficiently than the horde of companies who’ve filled their web product pages with the content equivalent of cotton candy.

Please share your tips and suggestions to making content work.

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The fifth trend that emerged from Churchill Club’s recent Chief Marketing Officer Agenda 2013 event was the expansion and diversification of the marketing role and skillset.  Several new, or newly important, areas of responsibility are driving the need for new skills:

  • Marketing organizations are aligning more closely with sales objectives.  The four speakers from SAP, Intuit, Google, and DreamWorks all mentioned revenue as a key marketing metric.  Nora Denzel, Senior VP, big data, social design and marketing at Intuit, said her company considers its marketers to be “growth officers.”
  • Marketers are often the customer advocates in the company.  At Google, Marketers not only evangelize the company externally, but also “play a big role internally in evangelizing on behalf of the customer,” according to Lorraine Twohill, VP global marketing there.
  • Marketers are also increasingly responsible for customer experience and engagement.  Lorraine Twohill mentioned that one of her organization’s main responsibilities is to “make technology mean something to real people in their daily lives.”   The focus on customer experience also translates into marketing having greater involvement earlier in the product design process.   DreamWorks CMO Anne Globe describes integrating movies with games as a way to engage viewers – a tactic that erases the lines between product development and marketing.  (See previous post: The Product IS the Sales and Marketing.)

These roles obviously extend well beyond marketing’s traditional purview of awareness and lead generation campaigns.  Google’s marketing organization now includes coders, artists, analysts, and gamers.   According to Lorraine Twohill, Google likes to hire marketers who don’t see the old functional limits, but can imagine completely novel ways of engaging customers.  When Nora Denzel was asked about hiring, she echoed the sentiment:  “We want a diversity of skills and backgrounds, and people who can do multiple tracks.”

Bottom Line: Consider what role your marketing team can play to provide the greatest value to your company and customers, and what new types of customer engagement are emerging in your industry.   Then

  • Identify the skills your team will need in its future role.
  • As you outsource leading edge techniques and tactics to 3rd parties, pay attention to which specialists and skillsets they have on the team.
  • Consider hiring people who have an in-depth understanding of your customer, but from a very different perspective and background than the existing team.

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The four CMOs from SAP, Google, DreamWorks, and Intuit at a recent Churchill Club discussion panel were in agreement that social and digital marketing are now standard pieces of the marketing toolset, not distinct areas to be managed separately.    Anne Globe of DreamWorks commented that “social is completely integrated into the fabric of marketing.”  A sentiment echoed by Nora Denzel of Intuit, who said, “There is no such thing as digital marketing – it’s all integrated together.”

Taking it a step farther and reinforcing the previously discussed trend that the product IS the marketing, Nora added that Intuit is integrating social into the product itself by providing access to user forums and peer support directly from the product.  DreamWorks is also leveraging social within the product by integrating movies with games, which Anne described as “the coolest newest way to engage viewers.”

Now that digital marketing has permeated go-to-market activity, what technologies will marketers adopt next to add some bleeding-edge luster?  Seems the answer is the same as for everything else in tech these days:  intelligence drawn from big data. Nora Denzel believes that “social media, smart mobile devices, and [intelligence gleaned from big] data will create a real market of one.”    Intuit is already looking at ways to combine transactional, behavioral and social user-generated data to better serve customers.  The company already offers new customer value by aggregating data across tens of thousands of businesses to create an employment and revenue index for small businesses.

Though Intuit’s service is free, Laura McLellan of Gartner pointed out that Marketing can use its new intelligence to help identify new revenue sources.   Lorraine Twohill, VP of Global Marketing at Google, sees this as a great opportunity for marketing. “If you own the insights function, you are the oracle and sage and that’s a great role that marketing can play.”

Of course the bleeding edge has its name for a reason. It can be a risky place to walk.   Lorraine pointed out that companies must balance customers’ privacy needs against the value that big data offers.  That’s likely to be a challenge for years to come.  Ultimately, the technologies available to marketers will evolve in ways we can’t predict.  Anne Gardner described the implications:  “Technology helps us get to where our customers are.  But we have to keep our plan open so that we can leverage new technologies that we can’t foresee yet.”

Is you company using data about customers or product usage to provide extra value to customers?

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The proliferation of SaaS and Apple’s demonstration of the impact of product design and user experience, have changed how marketers and their companies look at products.   The lines between product management, product development, marketing, and sales are disappearing as quickly as chocolate from my kitchen.

At a recent Churchill Club CMO panel, Nora Denzel, Senior VP, Big Data, Social Design and Marketing at Intuit  articulated this trend best with the comment, “our product IS the funnel.”  She described that Intuit customers make decision based on product use, not marketing messages. Their experience in using the product determines whether they spend money on it.  That should be old hat to anyone offering a freemium model, but may not be explicitly understood by companies new to the products as services environment. Even more traditional products are evolving to play a bigger role in sales and marketing.  Interactive TV guides provided by carriers upsell on-demand channels and premium content, toys include complimentary on-line gaming components that cross sell more toys, and grocery packaging offers recipes that promote sister brands and products.

A key implication of this product-as-sales-tool trend is the accompanying change in product design and development, which marketing leaders clearly recognize. Jonathan Becher, CMO at SAP  remarked that “product launch is the day you sat down to decide what product you are going to build.”  To which Laura McLellan of Gartner quipped, “If marketing gets involved when the product is done, engineering gets what it deserves,” voicing my own observations that R&D culture has been slow to change and, in some companies, still drives product roadmaps with a myopic focus on technology and features rather than user experience.  (You know who you are.)

Taking it a bit farther, Jonathan Becher described a vision of product development in which just-in-time creation of features and designs that respond to the customer’s current preferences would replace precisely targeted marketing of existing products

Bottom Line: Whether you’re delivering products on-premise or as service, your Product Managers should have among their top design criteria:

  • Ease of use and high quality customer experience
  • Opportunities for customers to experience the product before they buy
  • Usage and behavior-based upsell and cross sell features
  • Seamless integration of usage, behavior, and request-based support and social features
  • Intelligence and analytics capabilities that use information like product configuration, user behavior and preferences, and transactional data to provide additional value to your company and to customers
  • Product architecture, design, and/or manufacturing process that allow fast and easy modifications, feature additions, and integration of complimentary products.

Please share your examples of products with built-in sales and marketing.

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“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.

 

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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

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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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Banish the “M” Word!

by Lilia Shirman on March 9, 2011

in Marketing

I think we should banish the term “Marketing.”

Here’s why. I gave a presentation recently on Marketing 101 for entrepreneurs, and had listed a dozen types of marketing. We had a long discussion of which marketer does what, when to hire, what to outsource, and how it all fits together. At the end one new CEO asked, “So, why do people say they do Marketing?”

Good question. Even back when my job title had Marketing in it, I was never comfortable telling people, “I’m in marketing.” My answer was always more complicated. I realized why when I read April Dunford’s insightful recent post, in which April describes the complexity and diversity of “Marketing” and how these lead to bad hiring decisions, unmet expectations, and marketing failures. Then I knew what to do. The way to simplify marketing is to abolish it! Not the activity, but the word.

Here’s April’s list of what falls into Marketing:

The first step to hiring a great marketer (and for marketers to hird a job they won’t suck at) is to clearly understand what you mean by “marketing”. It’s a multi-faceted job that can include (but doesn’t always!):
1. Advertising
2. Branding
3. Product Management
4. Lead Generation
5. Install base/Customer engagement strategy and tactics
6. Inbound Marketing and/or SEO
7. Sales Support
8. Market Strategy
9. Messaging/Positioning
10. Channel strategy/management/marketing
11. Partnerships and partner marketing
12. Media and Analyst Relations
13. Content strategy and creation
14. Other stuff that I don’t even know about

It overlaps but does not duplicate my list, which included Event Management, Solutions Marketing, Industry / Vertical Marketing, Customer Intelligence, etc. Marketing is an umbrella for so many different skill sets and functions. Calling them all one thing is akin to calling anyone who works at a product company but outside R&D as being a “business person.” It’s meaningless.

Try it out for a day – see if you can avoid using the “M” word, at least by itself. Then let me know if you spent less time clarifying and explaining what you meant.

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