Category Archives: Business Development

What is your favourite B2B marketing strategy?

This week I have discovered that there is definitely something about the North Sea air that really clears your thoughts. I assume it’s the cold wind that hangs around even on a lovely sunny day. I am sat writing this during our summer holiday to the Scottish Island of Islay, a very peaceful and beautiful place indeed. We have just had a picnic and as you can see from the picture, I am ready for the Scottish summer. This means that my family can run around and enjoy the rock pools whilst I stay warm enough.

This brings me to the point of the Blog today which is all about diversifying and working with the conditions you are faced with. We all have a favourite marketing strategy which we tend to believe works for us. For some people it’s e-mail marketing, for others it’s Blogging and for quite a number of SME owners it’s repeat business and referrals. Fundamentally, there is nothing wrong with this. If you have been in business for sometime you must be doing something right. 

Having said that, I believe you need to consider two important elements besides whatever it is that you think is working for you:

  1. Market circumstances do change and being able to foresee this in advance can help you prepare and diversify to ensure you are ready for the new situation.
  2. Measuring your results is very important as there is often a big difference between what you think a tactic is generating and what you actually get.

Just in case you haven’t considered the above before, here are a few things you can do going forward:

  • Changes to the market: None of us have a crystal ball but we can still react to change and create a plan B using a variety of tools such as:
  • Developing possible scenarios and analysing how they might affect both growth and business retention
  • Identifying some low-hanging fruit which are relatively straight forward opportunities you can capitalise on
  • Considering new products or services 
  • Considering new markets to tap into
  • Increasing your reach in your existing market 
  • Measuring your results: This is never an exact science but its is important nonetheless. Here are a few things you might want to consider:
  • Get to know how to use Google Analytics better
  • Learn how to use digital analytic tools for your Social Media activity
  • Make sure you and your team are using a CRM system to record any sales activity 
  • Run some surveys with existing clients 
  • Ensure you always ask new people where they heard of you

These are very broad ideas and I am sure that you and your team can come out with much more specific strategies. When you have, we will be very happy to support you in taking your new ideas to market. Click here to get in touch.

How long does your summer holiday really lasts?

Research into wellbeing points out that levels of burnout are increasing, work-life balance is getting worse and many of us experience stress like never before. If you look at it in this light, having some time off in the summer seems like a really good idea.

Most people must agree, which is why July and particularly August tends to be a quieter time at work. So far so good but the problem is that many take this to mean that they can have a break from marketing too. Go off line for a bit and save some money on on-going campaigns. Good for them. There is nothing wrong with some cost and time saving exercises, no one is listening anyway, right?

After all this build-up I am sure that you understand that I don’t quite agree. Before I am accused of being a sad person and a party pooper, let me explain why: I am all for going on holiday, in fact some people might tell you that I have more holidays than most. But that does not mean I stop looking for new business and working through my marketing plan. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. Because of the level of exposure to content and easy access to work stuff, most people don’t switch off. Even if they don’t read work e-mails on their holiday, they will be thinking about the problems they need to solve when they get back in the office. Your Blog might just get in front of them at the right time.
  2. I have said this before about December but it’s also true about August: people don’t take the entire summer off, unless they are teachers, but when they are in the office they have less meetings so they are more available to take your calls. You never know, you might just be able to get hold of that prospect you have been chasing for months.
  3. Most importantly, a new sale does not start with the crunch, it starts with a load of other work designed to identify interest. This takes time and you always have to go through it first, unless you just want to sit tight and wait for sales to come to you that is. So if you stop all of the interest creation and new business activity you may well find that you don’t write any new business until January 2020. Can you afford to do this?

So, by all means, have your holiday and enjoy it. Try to switch off and leave all the worries and stress for when you get back. Before you go, make sure you schedule the Blogs to go out as normal, keep paying your marketing company and make sure someone is following up on all of this activity. This just might help with your stress levels when you get back.

If you need help augmenting your resources this summer, check out how we can help here.

How easy is it to buy a G&T?

We all either love a chilled glass of G&T on a summer day, or at least can appreciate the notion. This is why I was particularly delighted to discover that someone clever had organised a festival dedicated to sausages and gin in Portishead last weekend. The local butchers have advertised it for months wearing colourful t-shirts and promising to supply their lovely sausage creations. What else can you ask for?  We were signed up to attend SausageGin as we fondly branded it.

What happened next was unexpected, even if you attend more local events than I do. We turned up on time to see our favourite band, Three Day week.  It wasn’t raining and sausages were still sizzling. The gin tent was prominent and there was even a Pimm’s tent. All looked great and as expected so we headed to the gin tent and asked for our long-awaited G&T. It was then promptly explained to us that we needed to go to another stand to get a glass, come back to them to buy the G and then go to the Pimm’s tent for the T…. Guess what happened: we ended up with wine from the pub instead.

I have no idea how well the gin tent did at the festival; the overall event was popular and pleasant. However, as someone who promotes sales for a living, the convoluted G&T sale was a lesson I had to share with you. It is so easy to do this; we all have a story or two to tell about how we forgot an important small detail that made our campaign a disaster. I just think it’s worth reminding you that if you want people to buy, you need to make it easy to do business with you.

This means that if you are planning a marketing campaign, you need to make sure that all the links work, the landing pages download quickly and your contact details are nice and bold in case someone wants to contact you. It also means that if you can provide a ‘one click service,’ don’t make it three. People’s time is their most important asset so make sure you respect that.

Sometimes this means that you are better off working with marketing and business development experts who can help you consider the best way to take your product to market. This might save you some costly mistakes like the above. Visit our website for more details.

 

Intent data, what and why?

I have written before about the five obstacles to making a sale as described by Zig Ziglar, one of which is desire. It makes perfect sense that people will not buy from you unless they have a desire – also referred to as pain – which forces them to do something about a situation. The Million Dollar Question is of course, how you find out that a company in your target market is having an issue which you can solve…

One of the latest buzz words in the B2B industry is intent data marketing; in this Blog I attempt to explain what it is and how it might be used by SMEs.

  1. What is intent data?

There are many definitions out there, here is my favourite one which was taken from a Blog written by Aberdeen, who are a supplier of Intent-based marketing and sales solutions:

‘Intent data comes in two flavours: First-party and third-party. First-party intent data is user behavioural information you capture on your own website, in your CRM system, through customer feedback, or application logs. Third-party intent data is user behavioural information that is collected by co-operative networks of B2B publishers via user registrations, tags, cookies, or tokens embedded within a website’s code.

An intent data provider captures online buyer behaviour, tracking specific companies’ active research levels against specific solutions / products / industry categories. The data is then used to calculate an intent score, which indicates the likelihood that the company actively researching will make a purchase in the category.’

  1. Is it worth focusing on?

Most analysts seem to agree that purchasing intent data is not a cheap solution. It, of course, depends on the platform you use and your requirements. Many companies might also be uncomfortable with putting many eggs in the ‘data basket’ particularly when it involves spying on people’s behaviour.

That said it seems to be an effective way of identifying warm leads who might be easier to convert. Building a pipeline in the B2B environment can be both lengthy and costly so finding ways to make it more efficient should not be sniffed at.

The next question is of course, is it a solution that can be used by SME’s or is it more geared towards corporate? I believe it is the sort of solution which is open to any company if they are prepared to invest the time and budget in making it work for them.  Any company can improve their first party engagement through using good content, calls to action and effective customer journey on their website. Third party intent data is an area where relatively high costs may make it less accessible for SMEs.

  1. Intent Data for SMEs

When it comes to marketing and sales SMEs, in general, have smaller budgets, less resources, time and expertise. This means that they often end up unaware of new solutions that might be all the rage in the marketing world. Whilst intent data sounds like a big, complicated term, a lot of it is not new. Moreover, you may already have some of it at your fingertips.  Here are some examples:

  • Google Analytics reports
  • Lead Magnets
  • Downloadable materials
  • Social Media
  • E-mail marketing

The important thing is to understand how you use this data to increase your lead conversion. We now offer a new lead generation product which combines using intent data with direct marketing. Read more about it here.

Entering new markets can be a real challenge – Why do it?

One of my big bugbears is the saying, ‘Better the devil you know’. My esteemed colleague Google tells me that the proverb is of Irish origin and has been traced back to the 1539 collection of proverbs by R. Taverner. The main point of this saying is, of course, that a new thing is unknown and therefore should be avoided as it may be even worse than the current.

Not surprisingly, this is an approach we come across a lot when dealing with business. I have written before about the fact that most established businesses rely less on new business sales and more on customer retention and referrals. This is as it should be because these are key factors in the development of any company contributing to its stability and profitability.

So why invest in opening up and developing new markets?

Indeed, there are many reasons why not to, here are a few prime ones:

  1. Hiring or developing the resources required is expensive
  2. There are no guarantees that you will get a return on your investment
  3. You might have to make concessions or changes to your product to make sure it fits
  4. Developing new business takes a lot of time and effort

However, unless you are a big believer in, ‘Better the devil you know’, there are many reasons why you should consider new markets. Here are some of my favourite ones:

Over-dependency on your current client base. Depending on your industry your clientele may be very specific and limited or it might have a wider reach. Like everybody else, some of your clients might be great and others less so but any company can change direction, fold or

  1. decide to hire someone else. If you have a healthy pipeline of new opportunities this might be less of a blow.
  2. Over-dependency on specific industries. You may well be an expert and a brand in certain industries which is great. However, as economic circumstances change, some industries may experience a decline which can put you at risk. Adding diversity to your sales can put you a step ahead of your competition and keep you in profit. Diversity does not have to mean a different industry all together but also improving your reach within your existing one.
  3. Limiting your own growth. If you only operate within one target market, you may well reach a saturation point which hampers your growth efforts. A new market can provide you with a fresh opportunity to grow and develop.
  4. Becoming a bit stale. If you always do what you have always done you cannot really expect change, even Einstein said that. Going for new markets will force you to update your products and consider how you do things which is never a bad thing.

I hope this is useful and will support you in including a plan to enter a new market sometime this year. If you do, be sure to contact us to see how we might help. We have introduced some very specific products on top of our lad generation and lead nurturing so you may want to visit our site and have a browse.

Who is your end client?

The very knowledgeable Brain Tracy once said, “Keep your sales pipeline full by prospecting continuously. Always have more people to see than you have time to see.” I agree but before you throw a lot of resources into filling up your diary and pipeline, you might want to consider who, actually, is your end client?

This is an interesting question as most people look to identify their target markets but don’t necessarily consider who their end client is in those markets. This question specifically relates to which entity you sell to and the answer is one of three:

  1. Your end client is a company, an organisation or a person who purchases your product for their own use.
  2. Your end client is a distribution channel, such as a building merchant or a department store, which sells your products to its own clients.
  3. You have a variety of products and target both clients directly and distribution channels.

Not sure? Here are some examples:

  • Which companies typically sell directly to their clients? Most companies who provide a service like IT support, insurance, telecom and marketing.
  • Which companies typically sell through distribution channels? Most companies who provide a product like manufacturers, engineers, artisan food and drink and small clothes and shoes brands
  • Which companies sell through both? Larger companies who have a variety of products, suppliers of outsourced services like security and cleaning, retailers who sell online as well as through shops

 Why is it important to understand this then?

Understanding who you are trying to reach is a key to your lead generation and overall marketing strategy. If you miss this parameter out, you might find it very hard to engage your target market. Here are a few examples of where this might affect your decision:

  1. If you are trying to reach out to companies or people who buy from you directly, you will need to assess them directly. Find out what target markets they are in, where they go to look for data, who do they trust and use this information to build visibility and trust.
  2. If you are selling through a distribution channel, you need to take into account a whole set of challenges that affect branch and product managers in this industry. Of course, distribution channels vary enormously so you will need to identify the different segments relevant to your product.
  3. If you are selling to both, you need to reflect that in your strategy and ensure that whilst promoting your product online, you are also opening doors and building relationships with the relevant distribution channels.

Sounds complicated?

That’s because it often is, putting together a sound strategy takes some brain power, knowledge and expertise. We now operate a B2B lead generation service supporting you if you sell directly or through a distribution channel. Take a look and get in touch to discuss your requirements further.

 

Why are funnels key to your sales success?

Just in case you wanted to know, here are a few fascinating facts about funnels:

  1. The word funnel came into use in 1400 and originates from the wine making region of southern France.
  2. The word was shaped from the Latin word fundibulum which means to pour.
  3. It can be used both as a verb and a noun.
  4. Synonymous words include mouth, pipe, siphon, tornadoes, tote and transmit

If you were ever involved in a discussion involving marketing or sales, you would have surely discussed the sales funnel. The correct definition of a sales funnel, also known as the sales-process is:

‘The buying process that companies lead their customers through when purchasing products.  A Sales funnel is divided into several steps, which differ depending on the sales model’

 The reason we liken the process of selling to a funnel has a lot to do with this brilliant quote from my favourite salesperson, Zig Ziegler:

‘Every sale has five basic obstacles:

  • No need
  • No money
  • No hurry
  • No desire
  • No trust’

This means that in order to complete a successful sale, one has to take a lead through a series of qualifying steps which eventually enables them to confirm their interest in buying our product thus becoming a customer. This process can take anything from a few hours, a few months or even a whole year depending on the complexity, cost and nature of the product.

Many books have been written about the sales process and how you should manage it through using qualifying questions, regular follow ups and trust building activity. However, the point I wanted to make here today is that the type of funnel you choose to apply, makes a very big difference to how many opportunities you identify and most importantly, to your conversion rate. To further illustrate this, let’s consider funnels more carefully. Don’t worry, in my experience, there are two main ones:

  1. A short funnel, or a sieve, is one that only goes as far as one campaign. For example, you might send out an e-mail campaign, or put out a Blog and leave it there. The problems with this funnel is that you either don’t stick around long enough to make an impact or you end up speaking to people with no real need, money of more commonly, no real desire.
  2. A Long funnel, or a marble run, is one that follows the process closely through various stages. For example, you might send an e-mail campaign, send people additional information, re-target them through additional adverts, connect with them on LinkedIn and follow up on the telephone.

In other words, you are following the funnel down, uncovering interest and desire then developing trust to ensure that budget is found.

You might have already guessed what my favourite funnel is… Short funnels are easy to create and they give lead generation a bad name. Long funnels, on the other hand, are harder to create but they are much more effective in the long term. Watch this short video to find out more about our lead generation funnel and get in touch to discuss how we can create a tailored funnel to support your sales success.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking for a little inspiration to lift the doom and gloom?

Despite the news overload, it does not feel like there is much progress in our national affairs. Not sure about you, but I have been finding the whole think a little depressing.  When I feel like this, I use a trick I learned in the Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor which is a great book about positive psychology. The trick is to take 5 minutes in the evening and write three things which made you happy during that day. There are lots of versions of this, with some people finding it easy to write in the morning, others using it to express gratitude.  Whatever works for you; the point is to spend some time on thinking positive thus training your brain to prioritise positive over negative and contributing to your overall happiness.

Here are a few things that made it onto my ‘Happy List’ last week:

  1. My beautiful Mothers’ Day present from my daughter which included 10 reasons why she loves me with a few lovely surprises beyond ‘because you cook nice food’
  2. Achieving real clarity on a client’s service proposition which means they are nearly there with going to market
  3. A great referral from my BNI colleague which is exactly the kind of business I am looking for
  4. A client wanting us to increase our work for them as they feel they are getting results

I am sure you can see how doing this might help maintaining focus and keeping you going. I must admit that I did choose my ‘best’ ones for the Blog and often I have to think hard and come up with things like, ‘the sun shone’ or ‘dinner was tasty.’ The point is that it does not matter as long as you practice seeing the positive because I really believe that mindset is everything. Here is an example:

Following up from a very busy start to the year, we experienced a quiet March where we got very little enquiries. The move from too busy, to sort of twiddling my thumbs ,was hard and I found myself holding on to a mindset of blaming overall market conditions which was not helpful to say the least. Once I realised this, I decided I had to change my mindset and work out what opportunities I had, despite, and as a result of, the situation. Here is what I did:

  1. My assumption is that due to uncertain market conditions, companies need to focus on developing new business and growing their pipeline. This provides us with an opportunity to win new work.
  2. Initially we put a lot of effort into drumming this message to our target markets to develop new business though our efforts were met with little appetite.
  3. It felt like many companies wanted to see what direction the UK market will take before thinking of new business
  4. Still, I think that companies need to make a move on their new business sales but rather then hitting our head against a brick wall we chose to get in touch with people who already knew us. This meant contacting all of our ex-clients who we felt might be more open to a conversation at this stage.
  5. This approach was more effective though we have not stopped our new business development activity which is on-going.

 

The moral of my story is that even people whose job it is to develop new business can find themselves at a dead end sometimes. The point is to not let it last for long, take stock and try something else.  If you need some help evaluating your new business development approach, take our questionnaire here.

Staying focused can be hard work these days…

‘I try to stay focused on my creativity,’ said Christina Aguilera. Well, what can I say, me too, how about you?

It might have been mentioned before that we live in a very busy world which makes staying focused very difficult. This affects most people and covers all walks of life, making It one of the biggest challenges we face. Now, I cannot really help you if you are a nuclear physicist looking to get more focused but if you are looking at increasing your new business sales, I might be able to offer some advice;

So, what are the specific issues you face regarding focusing your business development?

As I see it there are three key issues:

  1. Short cuts
  2. Silver bullets
  3. Impatience

I do apologise if this sound a bit like a Haiku but it can be further explained with the following example:

Bob is a Business Development Director who has been tasked with increasing new business sales for his company. Bob has a very busy job and is bombarded with communications about how he could take his company to the next level using the latest trick every day. Bob, like many people, likes to use tried and tested tools, preferably ones he feels comfortable with. What will he do now then? Here are some options:

  1. Bob could look at previous marketing campaigns which may have worked in the past and look to re-instate them, praying they still work
  2. Bob could pursue the latest tool promised to solve all his problems
  3. Bob could spend some time reviewing and understanding his target markets and put together a structured strategy to approach them

Will you be surprised if I told you that any of the above options could still land him with no further sales?

This is the problem so many of us come across, no matter how much thought you put into a campaign ensuring your planning is spot on; you still may fail, in THE SHORT TERM. One of the biggest issues with our busy world is that it is full of choice and so we have become dependant on instant solutions that deliver immediately. But, when it comes to selling, particularly expensive stuff, it’s impossible to get immediate results and you really need to apply patience in order to get any meaningful leads.

As patience really is a virtue these days, most people abort business development campaigns too as soon as they feel they have had no results and start again on another old initiative or a different silver bullet and so on and so forth. Now that sort of thing really does not help your focus or your new business sales, does it?

I don’t think there is one answer to this, as it will make me another business person offering silver bullets. All I would say, is that every business has specific needs and details make all the difference. If you want to look into this further, click on this link (preferably on your mobile) to fill in our questionnaire and we can get back to you with some ideas.

 

Why are new business sales a must in 2019?

Many people will be looking at this title and say that developing new business is always a must. Still, many companies don’t necessarily consider this an emergency, especially well-established ones. This is an important area to consider as a matter of course but I felt that there is more of a calling for it currently which is why I am dedicating this Blog to this.

Back in December, I wrote a Blog about common sense where I examined some key reasons to focus on new business development in 2019. One of the reasons, though general, is particularly important in the face of current events:

as Matthew S. Olson and Derek van Bever demonstrate in their book Stall Points, once a company runs up against a major stall in its growth, it has less than a 10% chance of ever fully recovering.

I am not sure about you, but I can certainly see a potential stall point coming up which might affect many companies’ growth. When I wrote my original Blog, many businesses were still treating the situation as one to ignore, thinking that things will get clearer in the New Year. At the time of writing these lines we are 13 business days away from the UK leaving the EU and we have no further clarity.

I have not written this Blog to join the end of the world choir and I am sure that business will prevail after Brexit, in the long term we may even be better off, who knows. Your problem as a business owner, Sales Director or senior manager is the short term. How will you navigate your ship in the stormy water of a ‘short-term economic downturn’?

There’s a lot to be said for applying some planning to this situation, whatever you call rainy day measures in your organisation. That said, many businesses feel that you can hardly plan for a scenario you are unclear about. However, there is one area you could definitely benefit from reviewing which is, your new business sales.

This is particularly important for established companies out there as over reliability on existing business can make them very vulnerable to a market downturn. As we all know, when the economy is showing signs of crisis many companies look to reduce their monthly outgoings and review unnecessary expenses. There is no telling what these might be and whether your company will be affected by it. In this situation, you might agree, there is no harm in developing some new business and growing your pipeline by way of plan B.

I cannot tell you which way you should go in terms of new business without knowing more about your circumstances. However, I can say that whichever way you choose to go, you need to consider two important factors:

  1. Developing new business can take time to mature, anything between 6-12 months.
  2. The longer you leave it the more competition you will have.

This is why I recommend that you look into this urgently to make sure that you can start widening your options and developing your sales pipeline. We have recently developed a new lead generation system we call Big ticket Leads which might provide a possible solution.  Watch this short animation to find our more.