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Manage Change, or It Will Manage You: True marketing innovation requires top-down cultural buy-intest

The success of marketing innovation correlates with the success of implementing change. Marketing may realize that all systems and processes must be retooled to become more customer centric. However, if the cultural change is not managed successfully, these will be just empty words. Here are the four hard-and-fast rules to enable change without disabling innovation:

  1. Be an evangelist for the vision.

Employees view prospective change to corporate culture through the lens of FUD: fear, uncertainty and doubt. Employees need to understand why change is occurring, how it will occur and what the result will look like. Show them the expected future state and explain why it is better for the company and better for them. Be very clear about the behaviors that will deliver the future into their hands.

  1. Reinforce lasting change with measurement and rewards.

Things in corporations that are not measured or rewarded do not happen. Marketing may mandate that the new direction is customer centricity, but if things like customer satisfaction, retention and lifetime value are not in the comp package, nothing will change.

  1. Train the new skills that employees will need to succeed.

If you expect individuals to do things differently, you must provide them with training. Successful training is a process, not an event. Employees need time to listen, think about and adopt new concepts and skills. As much as possible, train through group interaction. When people in a nonjudgmental environment are encouraged to exercise and apply new concepts, they are more likely to retain and internalize what they’ve learned.

  1. Walk the talk.

Lasting change does not happen from the bottom up; it only happens from the top down. It is important that at each level of the organization, and within each department, employees see a person of influence who is a role model for the changes in behavior. And most of all, they must see management as consistently living and breathing the change—that is, they must see that the person who signs their check is committed. If the organization fails at this, the other three conditions don’t mean a thing.

The Center of the Universe for B2B Prospectingtest

Every champion of a product or service believes in their heart that their target is the CEO. They need to find a way into CEO’s consciousness. That the illumination of their message will pierce the maelstrom like a lightning bolt and all, from there, will be smooth sailing. Scales will fall from eyes and money will rain from the heavens.

To them I offer a cold shower:

  • This is not the way CEO’s learn
  • This is not the way corporate purchase decisions are made

We’ve just completed Prospect Persona research that involved talking to CEOs worldwide. We learned two things about their information behavior:

  1. Their number one source of new concepts and ideas is their peer network
  2. They look to the buying center to vet and recommend in all purchase decisions

Let me paraphrase one of the seminal remarks:

You marketing guys are all the same. Because I’m the CEO, you only want to talk to me. But that’s not how we make decisions.

We have many smart, talented people, each with specific responsibilities to gather information and assess what you have to offer. You must be sensitive to their needs and respond with the required information. I’m part of the team, but I rely on them.

Corporations rely on the buying center. Titles with subject matter expertise and/or skin in the game have responsibilities to the buying center. The buying center is virtual and expands or contracts based on the product or service being considered.

For instance, if a company is making a large purchase, perhaps a locomotive, there will be subject matter experts, operations, finance, union reps, government relations, the business unit executive and purchasing (and more) involved in the tire-kicking. They will arrive at a final recommendation. The CEO will be part of the team, towards the end.

However, if the purchase decision is less mission-critical, perhaps super-special office equipment, the CEO may not be involved at all.

What’s critical is identifying and understanding the key members of the buying center and their roles and responsibilities, the information they require and how they learn, to understand their often-conflicting business and personal goals.

John Eng, CMO of TradeShift, adds his hard-won experience,

“Our content and sales teams work to empower the buying center, to empower each participant to recommend us. We work hard to build the personas to integrate our efforts and focus on what’s really important to them.

“We must connect with these executives on a personal level to really be effective. It’s the only way to prove our competitive superiority. Otherwise, we’re just making noise.”

And I’ll add one last paraphrase from our research

Get to know our people and our culture. Don’t just sell to a “company”, become part of the team. Earn the right to do business with us.

That’s a worthy, and achievable prospecting goal. Three steps you can take now:

  1. Profile (and prospect) the critical lower-level influencers, not just the C-suite
  2. Create personas of the entire buying center team. Each brings a distinctive POV, and you can’t win without winning them all.
  3. Don’t make stuff up. Conduct real research with real prospects. Working from collective assumptions does not provide breakthrough insights on how decisions are actually made.


A Smart 4-Step Formula to Identify B2B Prospect Opportunitiestest

Not all prospects are created equal. Some are ready to buy now, some later, some not at all – yet marketing tends to invest the same in each one, which is inefficient at best.

I’d like to suggest a simple 4-step formula that will bring an early identification of prospect opportunity and allow us to gauge our marketing investment in a prospect per the potential return. The formula is based on the concept of “propensity to buy”, or the likelihood that a given prospect will purchase. Understanding, and measuring this concept enables us to focus on real opportunities.

The Four B2B Prospect Opportunity Pillars

The propensity to buy formula rests on four pillars: source, need, timing and budget. By applying some parameters to each we can assign numeric values. The higher the numeric value, the higher the value of the prospect. These parameters are based on information that you gain through interaction, if not actual conversation, and are in the sequence that the information is usually revealed.

Source is where the prospect came from. It is the first evidence gathered and it is the most important of the four pillars. For instance, the source might be a customer referral, which is enormously powerful. Or, the prospect might belong to an important industry association, or the individual might have dropped out of the sky. Let’s assign three points to a referral, two points to an association member, and one point to the unknown.

Need means exactly that – how does the prospect express their need for your product or service. If its because of a mission-critical need, let’s assign three points. Research for a planned project? Two points. Curiosity gets one point.

Timing is how soon the prospect expects to be making a decision. Right now gets three points. In six months, two points. Sometime in the future gets one point.

Budget. This does not mean we ask the prospect how much money is in their wallet, but we can find out if there is an existing budget, which would get three points; two points if the budget has been requested; and one point if the prospect is still building their business case.

The maximum point score is thus 12 – prospects with 12 points represent the highest potential close ratio. This may be gilding the lily, but It’s worth focusing your resources here at the expense of other groups. Bring the business in now. Ten to eleven points indicates potential, and that you should have a lead nurturing program in place. Eight to nine point prospects are still in the game, but should be nurtured through lower-cost communications. Prospects with less than eight points go directly to the database where they are informed, stimulated, and given the opportunity to express further interest.

The under eight-point pool is the domain of suspects and competitors (if they’re smart). If you’re smart, you make up a suppression list of these competitors so you can find them on the database and get rid of the little buggers.

This scoring model we’ve discussed is directional. It has got to be tweaked to your individual business, and then fine-tuned through experience. I encourage you to keep it as simple as possible, and to regularly purge the system, perhaps every six months. The bottom line is a more efficient prospecting machine, better utilization of marketing (and sales) resources, and a better ROI.

Work Smart

Of course, this propensity to buy model is used at the tail end of the go-to-market process, once the lead generation machine is in full swing. If we really want to work smart, we begin with indepth qualitative research, such as the Prospect Persona process mentioned earlier, so media and messaging are directed at the highest potential candidates.

Additionally, we recommend profiling who is not a prospect. Persona research* we have recently conducted identifies not only ideal prospects (and their consideration path) but also those who may look and smell like a prospect, but are unlikely to ever convert.

Throughout our focus must be on quality not quantity, on working smart.

*For a free copy of our research, The Power and Potential of Persona, please click HERE.

Originally posted on the MENG blog.






The Core Reason B2B Prospecting Underperformstest

The overwhelming majority of people working on any given b2b marketing campaign have never seen, met or spoken to a customer, and certainly not a prospect. They work from reports and results. They are separated, a gap to a chasm, from the often-conflicted humanity of the people that make the decisions. This separates your campaign from its potential.

We are not fishing on the shores of Lake Abundant – it’s harder than ever to differentiate ourselves, to find, nurture and motivate the prospect as the world become increasing atomized.

The b2b prospect is the most elusive, with a long consideration journey that takes place, for the most part, prior to any direct engagement. So, who are those guys? What do they want? Perhaps we should ask them.

Many companies utilize personas – archetypes or synthesized summaries which are based on qualitative research with real people in this position about their characteristics, specific information behaviors, attitudes, motivations, and goals. Personas have generated great success in b2c (e.g., Best Buy’s customer centricity campaign generated double-digit improvement in sales per store), we think persona’s next greatest potential is in b2b prospecting.

Personas have one thing that data and research reports do not. Personality. And, as a very wise friend once said to me, the b2b sale is all about personalities. This can put the personality on the planning table, and can serve as a point of reference, if not agreement, between marketing and sales.

We recently conducted proprietary research among marketing professionals to begin to understand, and benchmark, how companies are using personas, where and how they have been effective. The full results are detailed elsewhere (I’d be happy to send them to you), but as we examine the potential of personas in b2b prospecting, three points jump out at me:

  • About one half (58%) of respondents said they are currently using personas
  • About a third (35%) report that personas are very or extremely effective
  • About one half (47%) discovered important new insights or corrected faulty assumptions.

The potential is there – just being able to avoid mistakes half of the time would justify the effort to me, but let’s look at the other side of the coin:

  • About a third (32%) say personas are not respected or appreciated within the organization
  • A quarter (26%) say the personas have not yet revealed many new insights
  • Less than a fifth (17%) say that personas are not very or not at all effective

There’s one verbatim that seems to sum up what’s underneath these stats:

“In the main, personas tend not to drive any new learning, but rather skin existing learning with a newer, somewhat obvious conclusion.”

The results are that 41% of the personas were created from existing data, which iis a self-fulfilling prophesy. Said differently, it’s hard to find new insights when you are relying on the same old information and biases. To be effective, we must engage the prospect in purposeful conversation designed to uncover the what, how and why of their goals, consideration and decision behavior.

As our b2b prospects get harder to influence, lets understand them better through personas. Remember the third that said that personas are very or extremely effective? Here’s their input:

“Personas are drivers of our segmentation strategy.”
“Better copy and image selection. Leads to better targeting, media usage and prioritization of budget.”
“A contributor to product developmentâ.”
Is this the silver bullet we’ve been waiting for, Godot? Sorry. While we’re waiting it sure seems like an effective way to leverage success.