Tag Archives: control

Blog Gold 2010: Going social

In this post from February I suggested that there is natural suspicion and confusion about the importance and return on time spent on developing your online brand using ‘social media’.

At the time of writing there were high profile news stories involving Manchester United banning their players from Twitter and Coca Cola issuing guidelines on Twitter use which demonstrated just how nervous leading brands are about the interactive and uncontrollable nature of the medium.

I think the problems start with the terms of reference. ‘Social media’ and ‘social marketing’ are, I feel, misleading titles for the technology that allows you to build contacts, links, friends, followers and fans on the major networks. The reason the name concerns me is that social marketing typically refers to campaigns built around public awareness, public information and or public safety. And the use of the word social may imply it is for fun, personal and informal. All in all, this doesn’t make it the best moniker for a technique trying to entice professional business.

And as a result, companies are left naturally pondering whether there is a return on investment to be made from social media, or if it is just a gimmick afforded by technological advancement rather than meeting a business need.

But, the simple undeniable truth is that the Internet is here to stay. It is the first resource for buyers (B2B Marketing’s Buyersphere research proves this), suppliers, customers, job seekers and anyone researching a purchase or looking for a recommendation before making a purchase.

Sites like Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube attract users in their millions for strong psychological reasons, namely the need to belong and share. They have helped relaunch old brands, affect reality television, and recently play a role in elections. Because they attract millions every day, they are deemed high volume and if for no other reason than to assist your search engine optimisation prospects, you should create a profile (with a link to your site) on every single one of them.

In social media, there are a great number of experts queuing up to offer advice. These typically fall into two camps. They either tell everyone they should be doing it or instruct most people not to bother.

There is, however and obviously, a third option which involves careful and coordinated use of some of these resources designed to achieve set marketing objectives and deliver against key performance indicators. Social media can be used to engage with and provide superior customer service, provide product advice and updates, or to help engage new customers. Used thoughtfully, you can achieve high visibility, achieve business credibility and drive traffic to your website and aid conversion. Check out this post from September 2009 if you are starting out now.

Think strategically, start small, and don’t spend a whole amount of time on it. That way, going social can be effective for you.

Original posted 16 Feb 2010. Image courtesy of Capacity Marketing

B2B Marketing Principles 5: Customer data

There are two statistically proven rules in business. 1/ 80 % of your business comes from 20 % of your customers. 2/ It is far easier and more profitable to keep an existing customer happy than to try and replace them with a new one.

I think many businesses fail to keep these rules in mind, often seduced by the glamour and thrill of business development. More importantly, they fail to have an adequate control over and fail to best use the customer data they have on record.

Look at the chronology of data management. It is reasonable to argue that most companies start using paper based systems which lack finesse. In time they migrate to Excel or another simple data capture program. At some point they are convinced of the need for an expensive and complicated system like Salesforce.com or Project Sales Achiever of which they use about five percent of the functionality. Every additional tool becomes a chargeable bolt on.

Some companies operate all of the above and end up with no centralised system for capturing customer, former customer, prospect, supplier and partner contact details and contact history.

The benefits of database marketing are undeniably clear – accurate, relevant, timed, personifiable communications with responses tracked and evaluated. But it takes time and costs money.

In the niche B2B arena where the universe containing your target universe is probably small, a database becomes ever more critical. Lists relevant to your business are increasingly harder to purchase so you really have to look after every single lead you ever receive. Even those that are not financially viable for you to convert may still be a useful contact if you consider potential access to their contact pool.

Planning and logging communications and tailoring them with known enquiry and/or transactional data gives you an incredibly powerful profile of each customer and provides insight into what interests them and what potential future requirements might be, meaning you can constantly pre-empt them and keep them satisfied.

Apply a little Tesco magic. Their Clubcard is the main driver in them owning £2 in every £5 of high street grocery spend.

Use cost effective database and CRM packages like DotMailer, Constant Contact or MailAgent, supported by communication platforms like Basecamp which keep all project correspondence in one place.

Why? You look professional. You are engaging. You are in control. You are trusted. You are a partner and therefore more difficult to replace.

Image from http://www.tyson-consulting.com (David Waddington)

Going social

There is natural suspicion and confusion about the importance and return on time spent on developing your online brand using ‘social media’.

Recent high profile news stories involving Manchester United banning their players from Twitter and Coca Cola issuing guidelines on Twitter use demonstrate how leading brands remain nervous the interactive and uncontrollable nature of the medium.

Even the terms of reference – ‘social media’ and ‘social marketing’ – are themselves misleading titles for the technology that allows you to build contacts, links, friends, followers and fans on the major networks. (In marketing circles, social marketing typically refers to campaigns built around public awareness, public information and or public safety).

Companies are pondering whether there is a return on investment from social media, or if it is just a gimmick.

The simple undeniable truth is that the Internet is here to stay. It is the first resource for suppliers, customers, job seekers and anyone researching a purchase or looking for a recommendation.

Sites like Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube attract users in their millions for strong psychological reasons, namely the need to belong and share.

The plethora of experts queuing up to offer advice fall into two camps. They either tell everyone they should be doing it, or telling most people not to bother. I believe elements of social media can be useful to everyone and every type of business or organisation.

Careful and coordinated use of some of these resources can give you untold visibility, help give you and your enterprise credibility, help you engage with customers, prospects and suppliers, and drive traffic to your website and aid conversion. Check out this post from September 2009 if you are starting out now.

Think strategically, start small, and don’t spend a whole amount of time on it. That way, going social can be effective for you.

Excellent client service

Agencies sometimes get the concept of client service confused with maximising client profitability. They are linked from the perspective that happy clients are often spending clients but a good client service strategy shouldn’t unduly impinge or impact on your client relationship.

Clients can be confused and concerned about sudden changes in agreements, retainers, rates and personel so minimise any risk by putting in place a client service plan and then deliver against it.

1. Introduce Standard Agreements / Service Level Agreements for all new clients only, and roll them out gradually to existing clients of a certain size. SLAs are different to contracts (unless a retainer is involved) as they should talk more about service, responsiveness, policy and process.
2. Create tailored KPIs for each client (internal KPIs for the agency as well as KPIs you can share with the client to demonstrate your superior focus on measurement and their ROI). See my post in Principles on KPIs.
3. Create and then review a rate card of staff rates and include a transparent discount structure based on specific and quantifiable volume of work.
4. Evaluate and continually re-evaluate each client’s pricing based on the previous and predicted levels of support.
5. Produce rolling annualised internal plans, linking in to deliverable KPIs, with a quarterly focus.
6. Agree status reporting intervals and level of telephone and face to face contact with each client.
7. Provide transparent financial reporting and regular billing intervals. This helps to create more frequent billing where appropriate (to aid cash flow). Ensure invoices link to quotes and have all the right information to be quickly processed.
8. Working on a retainer basis provide long term security but often on reduced rates. Decide if retainers can work in your business and migrate larger clients to them.
9. Develop client optimisation plans (internal documents highlighting opportunity areas for each client) with the express aim of locking them in with additional and previously unused services.
10. Install effective, regular and added value customer relationship management with all clients & prospects (can be as simple or complicated as you choose).
11. Create a referral reward scheme and encourage referrals (this is the easiest way to secure new business).
12. Encourage trial & take up by providing a limited number of taster workshops, white papers, meetings.
13. Provide proactive reiews of clients, their business and challenges once a year.
14. Put in place a rigorous client feedback process right from first project, to six month and twelve month reviews, compiled in advance on both sides and discussed face-to-face.
15. Overhaul your website – bring in external support (most agencies are poor at managing their own site), add a client login area, add a blog that anyone can post to, and use social media to provide and promote incoming links.
Some small, some large, most relevant and at the heart of delivering excellent client service in the information age.

Principles of marketing 13: Evaluation

Though evaluation typically comes at the end of a period of activity, the process involves benchmarking against preset key performance indicators which are set in relation to objectives at the beginning. If you haven’t followed a robust planning approach, your evaluation will unfortunately be sketchy at best.

Encouragingly, the digital revolution has extended the ability to evaluate activity such that weblogs, analytics programs and other automated controls can be used to immediately and powerfully inform marketers as to the success or failure of an activity and help to pinpoint where corrective remedy needs to be focused.

You can track enquiries, registrations, sign ups and log ins on your websites and from emails and other marketing. (Use of targeted campaign specific landing pages helps to track all advertising, direct marketing, social media and PR traffic).

You can more specifically track and calculate return based on visitor numbers (unique and return over time), enquiries, conversions and terminations. Monitoring terminations and what lies un-purchased in online baskets allows you to contact them or refine your online ordering to make it easier.

It goes without saying the main KPI is to evaluate against revenues i.e. same or more from existing customers, new customers or new products and services to both existing and new customers.

Duration of time spent instore/on your website are good ‘soft’ barometers of interest, as are the running of recommend/send to a friend features which encourage word of mouth – again all tracked back to a specific landing page / log in.

I make no apology for keeping it simple – it’s what this blog is built on. Companies and global brands spend millions tracking brand mentions on the web, tracking their brand position, brand share, brand equity and lots of other stuff. Good luck to them.

Ultimately, the name of the game of evaluation is to keep doing the right things right and to stay profitably in business. With the pressure of new business in the current economic environment so stark,  maybe ensuring you have the same customers next year that you had this year is the best place to start?

Principles of marketing 12: Control

If you were to look at the time most marketing functions spent on pulling together a marketing plan, they might spend 10% on planning, 80% on implementation, and 10% on control and evaluation.

But what is the point in bothering if you don’t really monitor and analyse what is working and what is not. This split needs to be more like 25%-50%-25% on the part of the plan owner and here’s why.

Control is all about keeping things on track against objectives, removing and adding elements, reapportioning spend and resource as needed, and informing plans for the following year.

Control means keeping an eye on men (resource) money (budget) and minutes (time).  The expected and the unexpected can all have a major impact. And technology now exists to track performance against objectives and KPIs on an ongoing basis.

Electronic timesheet and project management systems like DataValley, Rebus or Filemaker can provide detailed reporting on costs, tasks/timelines, job status and invoicing.

Automating your website keeps staff overheads to a minimum, focusing resource to the right departments for example taking campaign specific calls, packing and despatch.

Programmes like Google Analytics and WordPress blogging provide incredible traffic statistics to allow you to immediately see what is working and what is not. Customer traffic flow, buying patterns, drop off and satisfaction rates can all monitored and modifications made instantly.

Database and CRM packages like Dotmailer, Salesforce, MailAgent, Constant Contact can all be used to keep your opt-in databases up to date and in the know.

And good old Microsoft Excel, together with an increasing number of compatible free open-source programs, can help you keep on top of your budget.

Plans are often built on a forecast for future trading conditions. But what happens if the recession deepens, the pubic purse contracts and greater pressure is placed on cost in your sector? Only a fool would continue on doggedly with a plan conceived 8 months previously.