Big News – Prospects MAY be Human

I don’t expect global recognition or a knighthood for pointing out the blindingly obvious, but it doesn’t hurt from time to time to be reminded that the people you want to connect with, engage, sell to or “reach out” to are in fact as individual, diverse, weird, worried, driven, motivated, nuts, stressed, arrogant, confident, busy, lazy, overworked, underpaid or hugely successful (take your pick) as you are.

It’s a fact. They too are real live, breathing humans.

When they go home they do things just like you do. Like make the dinner, pick up the kids, walk the dog, do the ironing, watch the soap opera…

If you’re careful and observant you may even see one or two of them out and about. In the supermarket or at the cinema. They will have the same debates as you and I do with our family or partners about what we will eat this evening or what we’ll do at the weekend.

The problem is that if you allow yourself to, it’s very easy for Marketing to see your prospects or your customers as a Unique ID on a CRM system or an “inbound, unqualified lead” or perhaps more so today they will be simply an MQL (Marketing Qualified Lead) or an SQL (Sales Qualified Lead).

Sales are just the same. They often see the prospect or client as The IT Director, The CFO, The Office Manager of the Head of HR.

Interestingly these are not the same labels these people would naturally apply to themselves.

Add into that the “Buyer Persona” that you’ve spent time and energy crafting and all of a sudden your poor prospect or customer is not only an MQL /Head of HR but you have now applied all sorts prejudices and generalizations to them – issues/drivers/challenges/etc.

Of course there’s a good deal of logic in segmenting and organizing your data, after all we’re all trying to build a “Customer Factory” right? (Ash Maurya) but when you’re doing that, keep in mind that the same Unique Codes and Matrix categorizations are being made about you too. And how comfortable are you that you fit neatly into any one of those boxes yourself?

I suspect you’d have something to say about limiting you and all your dynamism, enthusiasm, professionalism, personality and capability to a Unique ID and a deal cycle status.

Funnily enough Customers and Prospects are real people. It will pay you to remind yourself of that from time to time.

You might also enjoy this from Hiscox  it will help you understand how to work better with your clients. I liked it!


Avoiding the website project car crash

A word to the wise.

It is best to decide what it is you now do and for whom you now do it BEFORE to think about designing or commissioning a new website.

If you use the process of designing your new website as a means of defining your new strategy (!) it will cost you a fortune, take for ever and actually force you into compromising your strategic thinking.

In practical terms it usually gets compromised because every time you refine your strategy you have to re-think your site map and after a while people get bored of doing that and it drives the agency nuts and so you compromise just to get the website up.

And that’s nuts.

It happens all the time folks.

If you decide that your current site no longer reflects what you do, I suggest you invest some time in working out what it is you do and for whom you do it without any consideration for how a new site will look or work.

Only once you have that in place should you consider how you’re going to bring your perfectly crafted proposition to your beautifully defined target audience.

Marketing’s Most Important Role?

There’s something really quite strange that happens in organisations of all sizes all over the planet all the time.

Marketing people (very intelligent ones too) get into rooms with white boards and start planning who the company should target and what they should target them with.

They will each have their own approach and model (you hope) and they will happily discuss and debate the next marketing initiative for as long as they are able until they are happy that they have it all mapped out, the next great “big idea”.

The really good ones will have invited some sales people to the discussion too (although this is rare as sales people tend to think this sort of thing is for the “coloring in department” and marketing people think that the sales folk won’t get it).

Either way, in matter of a few meetings out comes the latest initiative and quite probably a brand new value proposition and set of sales and marketing messages.

All good then..?

Well maybe, but what if I told you that 9 times out of 10 this was all just one big fat self-deluding guess. 

It feels great to tick the boxes, produce the messages and get the programme out. Everyone gets a pat on the back and sits back and waits for the orders to roll in.

Sometimes they do.

Most of the time they don’t or (what’s probably worse) what comes in is not what you expected at all, in fact every order is different and needs a different set of services, skills and products to serve it and likely they will deliver cash at different rates and profit that’s all over the place too.

In most instances it just doesn’t really deliver what you expect it to. I know personally of global corporations who spend vast sums on programs that net no business at all – I bet you do too.

So what’s the problem?

Well there’s a little more to it than meets the eye…but…guess who wasn’t invited to the planning meetings or workshops. Guess who’s input and views and experience you didn’t take into consideration.

Strangely the last person organisations are happy to talk to when it comes to building new programs or propositions, is the customer.

It’s bizarre. It’s actually as if the marketing team are afraid to ask to meet with and speak to the customers or even perhaps that it didn’t dawn on them to ask at all.

I met with a very senior executive from a global corporation last month who told me that often his team would come to him and say “what do you think about this value proposition?”. And his answer was “why do you care what I think?”…”One thing I can guarantee you is that I am never going to buy it”. “Have you asked any customers?”. …..

More Sales People = More Sales….. Right?

I’ve just finished one of the sorts of conversations that stop you dead in your tracks.

I had been discussing a particular challenge I come across a lot in companies of all sizes today. It usually starts with, “We just need more sales” and usually ends with…”So we’ve hired some more sales people“.

There are some standard variables to this such as “my sales people are rubbish” ….and then the stock answer “So we hired some more sales people“.

“My sales people are chasing too many low value deals”….”So we hired some more sales people”…etc.

The problem with this approach is that in time the new sales people end up in the same position as the old sales people who you will remember are “rubbish” and “chasing too many low value deals”.

Of course when you stand back and look at it, it’s pretty obvious that at least in some instances it may not be a sales problem at all. In fact in my experience it is invariably not wholly a sales problem.

Good sales people are smart, commercially savvy, driven, focused, hard-working, intelligent and successful.

They are not – magicians. No, honest, they’re not (not even if they tell you that they are).

No matter how smart, commercially savvy etc…they are they will need you to have done your thinking first if you want them to succeed. 

You will need to provide them with a compelling, robust, differentiated and competitive proposition and tell them what a good customer looks like and where they can find them. If and when you do that, they will turn on the magic. Until you do, they will be just as “rubbish” and “busy” as the old ones you’re so annoyed with.

So back to my conversation….it went like this….

ME: “So in order to make the step change in top line growth they’re looking for, what did they do?”

Consultant: “They went out and hired a load more sales people”.

ME: “What are these people going to sell and to whom?”.

Consultant: “They’re going to work on that”.

ME: “When?”

Consultant: “Well there’s nothing in the budget for that”

Me:”Right” “So when are they expecting to see a return for their investment in these new sales people?”

Consultant: “Well the pressure’s on from day one really”.

Me:”So the equation goes need more sales = buy more sales people?”

Consultant: “er..Yes. I guess that was it really”.

Me:”That sounds like an expensive and time-consuming way to lose money and market share”.

Consultant: “Yes. I told them that”. “They said they didn’t have any budget for getting their marketing planning in shape this quarter”.

Me: “Don’t tell me, they said they need to sell something first?!”.

Consultant: “Yep”.

Good Grief Charlie Brown.

FYI – If you get your marketing planning in place (your proposition, your target market, your differentiation, etc.) first. Then you can hire sales people and they should stand every chance of being successful. If you skip that pretty vital step…then all your sales people will fail and it will cost you a fortune.










4 Signs that your marketing program sucks

…and the likely root causes that you will need to address.

How ever effortless large agencies, successful brands and world leading enterprises may make it appear, devising marketing programs that work consistently, is tough and involves a lot of hard work – sorry.

Of course just getting any old marketing campaign out the door is relatively easy, quick and can be pretty-much free. No one wants what a campaign like that delivers though, because on the whole it’s not very much all. It doesn’t stop people doing it though. Some cool design, a catchy tag line, an enormous email database and a flash new tool to pump it out and off you go.

It feels great to press the “go button” on a campaign that makes you look cooler, smarter and slicker than you probably really are AND to know it’s doing its bit to invade the Inbox of thousands of unsuspecting recipients too.

But chances are you’ll be waiting a very long time indeed if you expect the phone to ring off the hook, your website to crash with orders and inquiries and the sales director to be dancing round the office proclaiming that yet again, “Marketing has saved the day!”.

So let’s assume you are one of the good guys, one of those who really want to do the right thing and that despite your very best efforts, things are not quite going to plan.

What are the most common signs or symptoms that something’s not right and what are the likely underlying root causes?

Any of these familiar?

Symptom Likely Root Cause (high level).
You’re seeing increased competition You haven’t defined the market segment (the types of organisations) in which you can differentiate and dominate – profitably – well enough.
Sales Cycle is longer and drops out too often You are in too late to the sales process/engaged too low down the food chain/you are being used as a price benchmark.
You are being squeezed on price/sales people are discounting The prospect doesn’t recognize the value in what you’re offering – you’ve not made the business case compelling enough.
Order value to low/no portfolio selling Sales people don’t have what they need from you to be able to access and sell further up the chain. They will sell what is easy and doesn’t challenge their credibility. If they can’t explain the value under pressure…that could be your problem not there’s.

These four are really common (and of course it’s a good deal more complex than this but…). It’s easy to jump to the conclusion that the fault lies with sales but in reality…nine times out of ten…the problem starts a good deal further back in the marketing and program planning.

Get under the bonnet of these and you will be able to engineer much more effective programs first time. And if and when you see any of these symptoms you know where to start looking for the root cause…you will (I guarantee you) be a good deal further forward than your competition.



Just ask yourself – “Am I a cow?”

A strange question I know. And I expect if you’re reading this, the answer is most likely to be no (cows with Internet access are rare).


Then ask yourself if you’ve got and are you using all the tools and techniques your competitors are?

Then ask yourself the cow question again.

Cows follow each other.

They usually all end up in the same place.

It’s not a happy end.

Cows are gentle and docile. They tend to be followers, not leaders.

You can and should change the game, change the rules and change your direction.

It is usually, quicker, less costly and a good deal more effective to think differently about your approach to sales and marketing.

Here’s an insider tip: Your customers would be delighted if you brought them innovation

And another: Your competitors don’t know how to.

One more: Your customers don’t want you to ask them what keeps them awake at night – it really annoys them and doesn’t help them to tell you.

Oh go on then, just one more: Your competitors don’t know that…so they keep on asking that question….just like everyone else.

Re-think your customers likely problem for them. Re-design your approach to helping them address it, so that only you can deliver the solution.

…I’ve said too much already.

No point in telling the cows…..

Talking Turkey – Scot Mckee

If you have a vested interest in the future commercial success of your business (and I hope you do), then you need to do the following:

1. Read this blog.

2. Buy this book.


1. Scot McKee is not a turkey. He just talks it. Straight down the line, in between the eyes or as he would say “right in the goolies”. 

Scot is a living, breathing, walking, talking and sometimes shouting example of why organisations that sell business to business need to get to grips with what a brand is and does and means and the implicit value of differentiation. I suspect most of you don’t know him (yet), but you should; and here’s why.

Scot helps businesses that sell to other businesses to realise, optimise and capitalise  on what it is about them that their customers come to know, trust and value. He helps organisations understand that what they are and have is a Brand and then he helps them develop and exploit the value of that brand in a way that is quite possibly unique in the B2B world.

What’s most interesting about him is that he does this in a way that makes perfectly logical sense to those who consider themselves “not marketing”. He talks in plain English (sometimes really plain English!), in commercial terms and he presents his approach in a manner that everyone around the boardroom table and across the company can understand and contribute to.

In today’s hyper connected world, when it is easy to get side-tracked and distracted by “new” and flash and cool stuff, Scot provides the perfect tonic and roadmap that makes it easy for business owners and leaders to understand and engage in.

If you’re in the B2B business, today I don’t think you have a choice about whether to engage in developing your “brand”, you’re already up to your neck in it, whether you know it or not.

If that’s the case you could do a great deal worse than checking out Scot McKee and his company BirdDog and….

2. buying his latest book: Creative B2B Branding (no, really). You can find it on Amazon here. (and for your reassurance) I am not on commission or doing the “affiliate” thing. I can just tell you that in the last 20+ years of working in this space, this is without question the clearest, most entertaining and pertinent explanation of what a Brand is and means to B2B AND what you can and should do about it. It’s highly irreverent (thank goodness) and provides  entirely practical and straightforward advice.

Of course you’ll find a lot of free and very entertaining stuff on his site and blog too.

Why am I telling you all this?

I like what Scot does and how he does it. It is rare to find someone so well differentiated and bold in their approach and I applaud him for both things. He also makes me laugh out loud…and that’s all together more important.