Bonkers or Not?..You decide…

So you’ve done your research. You know it’s “IT Managers” who buy your sort of product. You’ve got their postal and email address and even their phone number. You’ve invested in some great witty graphics – and a great new strap line. Of course you’ve got your “call to action” all worked out too. The database you have has 10,000 names on it and with that many on there you can’t fail, so off you go then – target circa £30M Okay?

You may laugh.

It’s a true example, spelled out to me only six months ago by a Sales VP of an organisation of some considerable stature. He had his head in his hands. He’s not there now.

I asked if this was the usual approach taken by his marketing department.

He laughed.

He said, “no”. “It’s the approach taken by the CEO”.

We all laughed.

They send out the campaign to 10,000 names.

What happens next?

A: They get enough responses and expressions of interest from qualified prospects to keep the team of 20 sales people busy on good opportunities for the next 3/6 months. The sales people follow-up and close in excess of 30% of the leads and everyone’s happy.

B: They get very few responses and certainly none of any quality. The sales people wonder what all the fuss was about and were getting on with making their number under their own steam/or not…as they had been for the last x years , marketing is busy planning the follow-up. The agency is fired because it was probably their fault and also it’s worth giving the database company a quick kick as well because they’re just rubbish anyway. We’re now a quarter behind, the market is none the wiser about the company, the company is still none the wiser about the market.

Answer: B.

What can the next step possibly be?

1. Do it again, only this time to more people, send it more than once (obviously), oh and get telemarketing on it this time – stupid. That will do it. With 20,000 names you can’t lose.

2. You decide…..




What on earth is a “vertical” anyway?

For those who have never really known (or perhaps even cared!), here are some “formal” definitions: Vertical Market  and Horizontal Market 

So what?

Well let’s start by saying that in the main, marketing is largely common sense. Clearly it makes sense to offer your product or service to people who have a need or an interest in it as opposed to asking everyone just in case (although this approach is still widely championed by the few).

It makes it a lot easier for your sales people too if the group they’re selling to have similar problems – ideally solved by your product or service. Of course as a business if you can sell to a niche you can dominate , you can name your price and maintain your  margin…at least that’s the plan.

The converse is trying to sell to everyone, not controlling the price in the market, having to discount, eroding your margin…going bust slowly. It’s happening more and more in B2B and organisations are starting to realise that a “volume” sales and marketing strategy  is simply not going to cut it as this hyper-competitive marketplace evolves.

So in an attempt to address the challenge organisations often elect to “go vertical”. I.e. to pick a smaller group or an industry and focus on that instead. That works (if you do it well) a bit.

The problem is that too often organisations think that “going vertical” means simply re-organising the account teams and creating P&L responsibility for the person running each one. I.e. You now run “Automotive” and you have a target of £5OM – good luck.

Of course addressing a specific market requires a good deal more than a re-org of the sales team and targets. If you want what you’re doing to work, you may need to do a little more than add “Automotive” to the top of all your standard brochures or product literature. To be successful in a vertical market to you need first to understand it well enough to know if you have a proposition that actually makes any kind of sense in the space. You need also to understand if that proposition is in any way unique, or interesting, or valid or competitive…and if you can really deliver it. So it’s not a case of simply taking your existing proposition, sticking a new label on it, hiring a salesman from that “vertical” and off you go. That way lies doom…usually about 9-12 months later when you realise it’s never going to work out.

Of course you may also have to accept that life is just not that straightforward.

More often than not, the world will not organise itself in an orderly fashion around the neat names you had in mind for the new teams.

You may find, if you do just a little research, that what you have actually doesn’t fit “a vertical” but more likely a small group of companies with similar issues…

So for example, an innovative hedge fund may have more in common with an online gambling company than a retail bank (thank you Paul Bevan). Sounds obvious? Yep, but a hedge fund would sit in the traditional “Financial Services” vertical and you’d be unlikely to find  an online gaming site in the same place (!).

The other common error is making your vertical so large it may as well be horizontal. So Financial Services covers…Retail Banking, Investment Banking, Hedge Funds, Funds (generally), how many types of insurance are there? Pensions, investments etc.

Do you think that the conversation you have and the proposition you make to a Retail Bank is the same as you’d make to and Insurance broker? Do you think they think they consider themselves to be part of a huge and undefined market with the same issues and challenges?

That doesn’t mean that getting your proposition nailed and in front of people who instantly understand its value is hard, or complex or costly. In fact it’s the complete reverse (remember marketing is really just organised common sense!) . The key is not to be fooled into thinking that the job’s done, once the teams all sit under a nice neat heading.  That way lies doom, all your competitors and another year of fighting your way to your number.




Lipstick on your pig sir?

Be careful. There are no end of “Porcine beauticians” out there who will happily take your money and your hope and expectations and in return, provide you with a stunning looking, responsive website, an elegant “brand execution” and product and service literature which will doubtless position you as the “global leader” in your chosen field.

These organisations have no real interest in whether you can actually do what you say you can do. They’re not stupid though, far from it. They simply know that if it looks great, you’ll love it.

You know what they call this in the design and creative world?  Rolling a Poo in Glitter. 

So what’s wrong with that?   What if it’s all cobblers?

There’s a vast difference between “entrepreneurial flare” and outright BS.

The former will get you noticed. The latter will put you out of business.

Caveat Emptor and all that!

Bon weekend!

For the love of God it’s AITCH!

Please tell me I am not the only person left on the planet who knows that the letter H is pronounced, “Aitch” and not Haitch.

I’m not making it up, for those of you who are too young to remember the days before Haitch D TV or Haitch R services or Haitch bloody P you will find it in black, white and surround-sound for the hard of hearing here in an old fashioned tome we used to call a dictionary.

I do a lot of work with IT companies and I swear that I can’t go through a single day with out an aspirated H and hearing Haitch P this and Haitch P that.

I also do some work in Haitch R and it drives me nuts there too.

When I was at school we used to think that people who say Haitch had a speech impediment (and for the avoidance of doubt this was the local comp’ not Eton).  Now what amazes me is that  all my children, 18 through to 3,  are being taught by teachers who say Haitch too.

If we don’t fix this what’ll be next? Perhaps we’ll all develop a fashionable lisp to sound a bit Thpanith!

God ‘elp us.

Getting Away with it – ness

There’s a lot of it about.

Look around you, in your industry, your competitors and perhaps in your company or even your office or department too.

There will be people who have largely “got away with it” for years. Decades even.

A few years ago no one noticed. That was because they could hide. Usually hiding meant doing the bit you were tasked with doing, only. So it didn’t matter if the marketing campaign didn’t actually make any money…they had “delivered it” and that bit was their job.

It didn’t matter if the customer service issue was actually and properly resolved, they’d passed on the message.

And from sales, it didn’t matter if in reaching their target they’d left a trail of carnage behind them, the cleaning up of which wiped out all margin and good will….because they’d hit their number.

Look out for these people. Point them out in public. It is your duty to do so. They are killing your business and jeopardizing your future.

If you are a sufferer. Wake up. The world can see you now….

Striving for SH**T!

You’ve really got to wonder what sort of company claims that it looks for the SHIT in people as a measure of their customer service!

I wonder if you happened to see Alex Polizzi’s The Fixer on BBC2 yesterday evening.

In brief, Polizzi the famous and successful hotelier visits small family run businesses in need of some “common sense” and home-truth style mentoring in a bid to turn them around.

It’s pretty entertaining and refreshingly short on the sort of schadenfreude which so often accompanies these kind of programmes.

Last night focused on a small family run garage in Manchester Much like many others in the same boat, Guide Bridge MOT were struggling to win and retain new customers. Their revenues came from part “Retail” and part “Fleet” contract work.  Clearly the Fleet element, being under contract, was the most readily addressable.

As luck would have it (!) Polizzi just happened to be there when the fleet contracting company’s inspector was doing his regular quality and standards check on the garage and the operation. Polizzi clearly spots the (only real) opportunity for a quick win solution to the garage’s woes (other than the more obvious one of laying off /reverting to zero hour contracts for the family workforce currently at less than 33% ulitilisation!) and asks what it would take for the garage to get more fleet work.

The inspector tells us it’s all about standards. Standards of quality, service, cleanliness etc. He then goes onto explain that in order to recognise and identify this in people he looks for the “Shit in them” (sic). Yes, really.

He does go on to qualify that by this he means: Sincerity, Honesty, Integrity and Trust.

I’m no psychologist or NLP expert , but I can’t imagine that at any point in his training the company he works for would be drilling into him that we “strive for SHIT”.

In my company I think I’d struggle to get across what I really wanted from people if I told them I wanted to see a lot more SHIT from them, that when it comes to customers they should first think “SHIT”.

And equally having achieved the requisite level of SHIT, I’m not sure how I would feel about it.

Polizzi went on to help them smarten up their act, get the laziest one working, get the finances in order and revitalize a previous idea and USP about focusing on women. Well done all (seriously – and good luck to you all).

The real cliff hanger was whether or not Guide Bridge MOT was to receive the seal of approval from the Fleet contractor which meant they qualified for more work.

They did and Polizzi revealed the certificate to prove it. Excellent.

We didn’t get to see what it said on the certificate but the standard they had reached was “Classic” . So pride of place on their wall now must be certification that they have demonstrated the right level of Classic SHIT. That must look great and they must be very proud.

Great News!

No Seriously…

Isn’t it about time we started to see some positives? I have to admit I’ve been a doom monger for at least the last 4 years. That’s because I’ve been trying to get people/organisations to see that the world is changing and they needed to change too.

So I won’t say I told you so. Instead, here’s an uplifting and erudite article from the FT – If they say it, it must be true.  A guide to shaking off the doom and gloom – – Management

Don’t say I never you give you anything!

Bon Chance Mes Amis!



Market Less – Sell More

Most people will have heard of the “Sales Funnel”.  This is a simple concept. You put lots of Prospects in the top, move them through the sales process and over a period of time some of the Prospects come out as Customers at the bottom. If you keep doing that and refining the processes as you go, you should be able to make this a reasonably predictable model. I.e I get 100 people interested each month and I convert 60 of them each month to customers. The job then is to improve the conversion rate and reduce the cost of selling etc – but that’s a different blog.

What many will be involved in but probably not aware of is Marketing’s version of this.

It’s the same principle however. I market to lots of people, attract a proportion of them, engage some of them, get a few of them to leave details or download something or maybe even agree to a sales appointment.

In many instances, Marketing’s funnel actually feeds Sales’ funnel, so the ones that drop out Marketing’s funnel go into the top of the one marked “Sales” as a Prospect….see what I mean?

So what?

Well you see the Marketing funnel never really worked in the Business to Business (B2b) World.

Everyone sort of secretly knew it too.

It’s just that “doing lots of marketing” feels good. It makes agencies happy and keeps them in business, it helps keep marketing teams in a job and it allows everyone to point at the list of events they’ve done this year or the number of emails they’ve sent or the number of press cuttings and the amount they’ve spent on telemarketing etc.

It was a bit annoying however when the pesky sales team would tend to moan that none of this actually made much difference to the leads and opportunities they were keen to work on.  That would happen at least once a month.

It also got a bit more difficult each quarter when the Sales Director and Marketing Director would meet round a big table with other important looking people and would “agree to disagree”.

The worst time of all was when it came to the end of the Financial Year and the really annoying people who count the money would question whether having spent so much, there was any return in view.

It was usually OK because someone would shout, “Brand Awareness” and everyone would relax again.

And anyway that only really lasted until the Xmas party and then the budgets or “allocations” were set and we could do the whole thing again.

It’s a bit different now though.

Now there’s less time, less tolerance and a lot less money. There’s also a lot more competition and fewer customers too.

What’s happening now is that savvy marketers are realising what it was that sales were doing which made so much sense.

You see marketing had; agencies (of many and varied types), Marcomms managers, PR Managers, direct mail, CRM, Marketing Automation (ho ho!), Digital etc etc.

Sales people on the other had a car, a phone, 24hrs in a day, a fat carrot in front of them and a pointy stick behind them.

On the whole the sales people per capita and per £ invested, tended to find and deliver considerably more revenue and profit.

So argue, shout, defend and debate all you like….but I’ll let you in on a secret. The people round the big table and the ones with their hands on the bank account..know it’s true too.

So, the savvy marketers are giving up on their own idea of a funnel and are enjoying the simple benefits that thrift can bring. They are going back to their routes of research, proposition development, market testing, sales support and customer engagement.

They are in fact, spending a lot less and achieving a lot more.

Now there’s a thing.

eMarketing – Dead or Alive?



I suspect you want a bit more than that.

So yes, email marketing does still work. At least it does if you do it well, just like it always did.

Here are some pointers:

  • People with decision making authority and budgets, rarely sit at laptops reading marketing mails. So how do you make sure they can read them on their mobile devices? : thanks to for the link.
  • If the first thing that pops up on your screen is a bunch of logos and advertising, smart people will know you’re selling something and switch off.
  • If people subscribe to hear more from you, that doesn’t mean every day or every five minutes. After the first three messages they will ignore you – beware eMail Marketing Company that emails me every day, I’m not listening and I stopped listening after your third promotion email in month… I now have a filter dedicated to you….
  • Treat people as humans not a data file. Write to them, don’t stick a poster in their face.
  • Email is only one tool. It’s great for lots of things but you need to speak to people and see them too. Too much email makes them go blind (!) to you and your message. Pick up the phone.
  • Want to get the attention of a really busy person? Send them a really short, really polite email. Then text them!
BTW: For my money the best B2B email marketing system on the market is still check them out.

Bon Chance mes amis!