VisionEdge Marketing Improving and Proving Your Marketing Fri, 11 Sep 2020 23:56:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 What's Your Edge is a series of VisionEdge Marketing podcasts dedicated to helping you use data, analytics, process, and measurement to create an edge for you and your customers. VisionEdge Marketing, founded in 1999, helps our customers solve the most difficult problems when it comes to using data, analytics, process and measurement to accelerate growth, create customer value, and improve performance. We always welcome hearing from you. Laura Patterson-VisionEdge Marketing President clean Laura Patterson-VisionEdge Marketing President (Laura Patterson-VisionEdge Marketing President) ©VisionEdge Marketing Helping you use data, analytics, process, and measurement to create an edge for you and your customers. VisionEdge Marketing's_Your_Edge_Podcast.png TV-G Austin, Texas 72123593 How to Synch Marketing and Sales to Achieve Growth Tue, 22 Sep 2020 13:45:47 +0000 Use these 10 questions to determine the degree of alignment between your Marketing and Sales organization. If you need to improve, start with this one step.

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Synch Marketing and Sales

Despite the continued emphasis and variety of approaches to accelerate the business-to-business (B2B) buying cycle, many organizations remain challenged.  One of the primary reasons is that Marketing and Sales are not in synch.  HubSpot found that in one in four companies, the Sales and Marketing teams are misaligned or rarely aligned.  When the Marketing and Sales relationship is not working or not effective, growth is difficult to achieve. More importantly, the lack of alignment comes with a cost of 10% or more of revenue per year. Imagine what your company could do with 10% more revenue! Misalignment also impacts the launch and adoption of new products, critical factors for achieving organic growth and also important indicators of business success.

Like VisionEdge Marketing (VEM), organizations such as HubSpot and SaleHub study Marketing and Sales effectiveness. And like us, their research continues to find that only about a quarter of salespeople exceed their quota. In fact, 34% of salespeople admit that closing deals is really hard. The data suggests that companies that synch Marketing and Sales achieve revenue and profit faster and are 67% better at closing deals.

How to Evaluate Your Sales and Marketing Alignment

How do you know if your Sales and Marketing teams are misaligned or a link between them is broken? Take a moment to consider where your organization ranks on these 10 statements on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being “We excel at this” and 1 being “We are completely off the mark”.

Our Marketing and Sales teams:

  1. Work the same opportunity pipeline or sales funnel
  2. Have clearly defined handoffs for when an opportunity moves from Marketing to Sales
  3. Use the same performance measures and metrics to determine success
  4. Jointly define activities to improve opportunity flow in terms of quality, quantity, and timing
  5. Use a common vocabulary and language to describe the customer buying process and its stages
  6. Solicit input from each other when drafting their respective plans
  7. Trust each other to independently engage and communicate directly with customers
  8. Attend each other’s reviews and meetings
  9. Rarely spend time disputing with or in disagreement with each other
  10. Attend training programs, events, and learning opportunities together

Did you score 100?  If you gave yourself less than 8 on any statement, your organization might have an alignment challenge.   Invest your energy and resources into addressing these gaps.

Synch Marketing and Sales

Focus on the Right Target

No worries, alignment gaps are fixable.  One of the first ways to improve alignment is to revisit how you define success. Too often, when we ask organizations what will determine their success, they give us a revenue number.  This usually raises a red flag for us.  Why? Because as you’ve read and heard from us before, companies don’t sell or market to buckets of money.  When we set up a target around revenue, the potential for misalignment increases because the target is ambiguous and lacks context. We market and sell to customers.

Per the wise words of Peter Drucker, “the purpose of business is to create and serve customers.” Therefore, to improve your Marketing and Sales teams alignment start with this one step. Define how many customers, which customers, which markets, and which products comprise your revenue target. Avoid leaving it to Marketing and Sales to figure it out separately.  They may not come to the same conclusion.  Alignment begins with joint clarity around which customers to find, keep, and grow. If you need help determining what that looks like for your particular organization, we can help.

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To Maximize Your Winning Strategy Avoid Punting | What’s Your Edge? Tue, 08 Sep 2020 13:45:54 +0000 Maximizing a winning opportunity is the result of defining a strategy, managing the risk, and creating and executing the plan. Here’s why when it comes down to the wire savvy leaders don’t punt.

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When it comes down to the wire as a business leader are you more likely to go for it or punt? In American football punting occurs when a team believes they cannot score in the final down or their chances of making another first down are low. They therefore decide to kick the ball to the other team in an attempt to put the ball deep inside the opponent’s own territory. In business, punting refers to when an organization chooses to give up or defer an idea or a strategy because they don’t feel they can “win”.

Is punting the best option? In football, the logic behind punting is that it reduces the opponent’s chance to score. In reality, punting reduces the chance for the team possessing the ball to score. Think about it, in football you have 4 downs to score. Rather than taking advantage of all four of these opportunities, by punting a team give up 25% of its opportunities for a first down in exchange for around 35 yards of field position.  When a team punts, it reduces the winning opportunity to zero! University of California professor David Romer’s research concluded that teams should not punt but rather take the risk and maximize the odds to score.

Yes, winning takes risk. A common quote about risk is attributed to Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon. The quote is “I knew that when I was 80, I was not going to regret having tried this…I knew that if I failed, I wouldn’t regret that. I knew the one thing I might regret is not ever having tried. And I knew that would haunt me every day.” No one can guarantee that a risk will pay off. However, to win, you must follow the famous words of Frederick Wilcox, well-known athlete, “Progress always involves risks. You can’t steal second base and keep your foot on first.”

If you can prevent risk and win, by all means do so.  However, most often to score you will need to accept some level of risk in hopes of a superior return/win. This type of risk is known as a strategy risk. Robert S. Kaplan and Anette Mikes in the 2012 Harvard Business Review article, “Managing Risks: A New Framework”, define strategy risks as a strategy with high expected returns that generally require a company to take on significant risks, and managing those risks is a key driver in capturing the potential gains.

Therefore, to maximize winning opportunities you need to be both smart and brave. That means you need the data to make realistic risk assessments and the potential range of outcomes so that when you are on the fourth down you are prepared to score. Start with these four steps for taking your strategy risk all the way into the end zone.

  1. Be aware of your confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information that confirms or supports a particular perspective or preferred outcomes. To help offset confirmation bias, consider leveraging independent experts to help with your assessment.
  2. Conduct a risk analysis: This entails identifying the potential threats and then estimating the likelihood that these threats will materialize. You need to calculate both the likelihood of these threats being realized, and their possible impact. For each threat you can use this equation.

Risk Value = Probability of the Threat x Cost of the Threat

Explore how you can reduce the risk value for each threat. Decide what you can and will do to mitigate the risk and/or reduce its impact? Place the risk value of each threat within the context of the opportunity value to decide which ones need the greatest attention.

Opportunity Value = Probability of the Opportunity X Potential Revenue of the Opportunity

  1. Plan your move, actually plan for several moves. Exceptional chess players are planning and analyzing multiple moves ahead and across a wide range of variations and anticipating possible responses from their opponents. They look for a good move that can withstand any possible response and still come out ahead. Take the same approach. Use scenario planning to help you identify and prepare for potential moves and counter moves.
  2. Implement the game plan. Odds are you won’t have all the information you need or want when it comes to deciding on the play. Being a leader entails making a decision and taking action without complete data. If you’ve done everything you can to calculate and mitigate the risk, then it’s time to commit.

Maximizing a winning opportunity is the result of defining a strategy, managing the risk, and creating and executing the plan.  Of course, there may be times in football and business that it does make sense to punt. The key point of today’s episode is that savvy business leaders know you can’t score by punting.

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]]> 0 Maximizing a winning opportunity is the result of defining a strategy, managing the risk, and creating and executing the plan. Here’s why when it comes down to the wire savvy leaders don’t punt. Maximizing a winning opportunity is the result of defining a strategy, managing the risk, and creating and executing the plan. Here’s why when it comes down to the wire savvy leaders don’t punt. Laura Patterson-VisionEdge Marketing President 6:20 48785
Overcoming Inaction is the Key to Your Growth Strategy Tue, 01 Sep 2020 13:45:21 +0000 To grow, create customer value, and improve performance, you need to build and act on a solid strategy. 5 steps will ensure you keep moving forward.

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You’ve heard the quote by Meister Eckhart, “The price of inaction is far greater than the cost of making a mistake.” It’s important to understand that inaction isn’t simply the lack of action. Inaction is a conscious choice not to act. There is a time to maintain the status quo – when your business is humming along fine and dandy and your strategy is in full swing. If you’re content with your growth rate, your new product innovation process, your product adoption rate, your customer referral rate, and the state of your position in the category compared to your competition, then by all means, inaction may be the best course of action. If these performance indicators or others that you monitor are off kilter and you’d like to see change in these areas, then overcoming inaction is paramount to your growth strategy.

To Grow Takes Action

Your Growth Strategy Depends on Action

Some experts believe that as data increases people are becoming more indecisive. Perhaps you can recall examples when the failure to act was detrimental to growth and long-term success. In some cases, organizations have paid a heavy price. Think of the cost to the automotive industry by failing to be more proactive around software and technology. Some estimate the cost around $15 billion, yes, billion. Or consider the demise of such great brands as Blockbuster, Kodak, Sears and others due to inaction. Take heart from the wise words of Touré Roberts, “You can never succeed unless you take action. It’s better to learn through mistakes than to do nothing and guarantee failure.”

If you’re stuck in the indecision rut, the first step to getting out is to recognize the problem. Based on our review of the literature, there appear to be five reasons people avoid a decision: a preference for the status quo, inertia (resistance to change), fear of the unknown, the desire to leave the options open, and the lack of recognition that an opportunity has presented itself. To overcome inaction, one of the first steps is to understand the reason your organization chooses not to act on opportunities or insights.  Once you identify the cause of your inaction, then you can make a conscious and deliberate decision as to whether action is the best course.

If you would like even more information about how to grow, take a look into our fourth book, Fast-Track Your Business: A Customer-Centric Approach to Accelerate Market GrowthThe new book helps you apply the proven Circle of Traction framework, which we have been using to support customer engagements since 1999.


Inaction is Failure in Disguise

Change is inevitable and uncertainty will continue to be the norm. Your future depends upon your ability to develop and execute a strategy successfully in a dynamic business environment. Zig Ziglar is attributed with saying, “You don’t have to be great to start. But you have to start to be great.” And that’s the key, to start. Consider this process for moving forward on your growth strategy. If you can check a step off, awesome, move on to the next.

A Process to Move Your Growth Strategy Forward

  1. Define the decision you need to make and why it is important. It’s always important to start with the end in mind. Clarify the decision you need to make and the implications of this decision to your business. The decision may be related to a customer issue, investing in a new solution, changing a route to market, entering a new market, and so on. Be clear about what the business will look like if you make the decision AND if you don’t.
  2. Know what you need to know. What is the ONE thing you need to know to help you decide your next best step. Write this out in a single sentence. Even if you think you know the one thing, write the sentence anyway and validate it with your team. If you knew this ONE thing you could make the needed decision.
  3. Identify the data. Now that you know what you need to know, determine whether you have the data. If you don’t, define ONE step you can take to secure the data. This may require you to pull some data or conduct research. Often, we find it isn’t so much a lack of data as it is deriving the right action from the data. Turn the data into an insight and the insight into an action.
  4. Take the next logical step. Consider this quote from Franklin Roosevelt, “There are many ways of going forward, but only one way of standing still.” The goal is to move the ball down the field, that is, to take a step forward. If something seems too big, we tend to stall. Break the action down into smaller steps until you get to the doable next step.
  5. Create leverage. Everyone is stretched. Your team may not have all the expertise or skills. Avoid allowing these excuses to keep you from making progress. Revisit how your resources are deployed and evaluate whether this is the best utilization. If you truly cannot defer what your team is working on, create leverage by tapping or securing partners until your team has the bandwidth or builds the expertise.

If you want to grow, create more value, and improve performance, you need develop and execute on a solid growth strategy. Change can be daunting. Rather than trying to do everything all at once, focus on taking the next best step.

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How to Use a Fast Break Strategy to Create Scoring Opportunities Tue, 25 Aug 2020 13:45:45 +0000 How you approach the market and address the competition to achieve your objectives is the realm of strategy. The Fast-Break is one offensive strategy you can leverage to outmaneuver competitive rivals, create opportunities to win in the market and grow in your category.

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Fast break strategy

How you approach the market and address the competition to achieve your objectives is the realm of strategy. Strategies can be defensive or offensive or a combination of both. One offensive strategy you can leverage to outmaneuver competitive rivals can be taken from the sports world: the fast break. Originally created by Frank Keany and used in a variety of team sports,  a fast break helps a team move quickly into scoring position before the competition has time to set up or regroup. To succeed with this approach, you need to be able to do two things well: attack the opposing team and keep them on the defense while setting your team up to score.

The purpose of a fast break is simple: score quickly while the other team is off balance.  Scoring is an easy concept in the world of sports.  In business, moving into a scoring position may entail knowing how to engage with your ecosystem, service customers, and enable your Sales team.  In the end, scoring in business comes down to customers: acquiring customers, keeping customers, and growing the value of customer.

Put on the Pressure with a Fast Break

Timing and tempo are critical aspects of a fast break strategy. In basketball, teams deploy a fast break after a steal, a rebound, or a blocked shot.  In the world of business, these can be loosely translated into closing or losing a critical deal, or a rebound from an internal or external situation (think how exercise equipment companies are leveraging the recent Peloton scenario). The key is to be ready to make your move.  In the business world setting up a scoring opportunity requires you to closely monitor your market and competitors. To deploy the fast break in in business, you will need to make keeping a pulse on the market and collecting data about your competitors and customers a top priority.

The value of a fast-break strategy is that it allows you to control the speed of play. In some instances, you want to speed up the pace of play and in others you want to slow it down. How might this apply to business? Fast break moves in business might include being first to establish a critical partnership, adapt to a new technology (think cloud and now, machine learning), or first to bring a new solution to market. One key intent of the fast break is to wear down your opponent and potentially force them into hasty decisions.  Competitors making a bad pricing decision, moving too quickly or too slowly into a segment, or launching a new product too early or too late illustrate this idea.

To succeed at the fast break in sports, you need to play fast but not out of control – moving quickly but not making turnovers or passes that can’t be caught.  The same applies to your business team.  Internal teams need to be able to pass, catch, and score. This requires excellent communication and quick decision making.

Fast break strategy


How to Score with a Fast Break Strategy

Before you take action to implement a fast-break strategy, give some thought to these questions:

  1. What do you expect to accomplish with the fast break? Remember fast breaks are intended to create quick scoring opportunities. What do you want to score? What are you willing to risk?
  2. What will be your primary plays for the fast break? In basketball, it might be 3-pointers, layups, or short jumpers. In business, it could be an aggressive marketing campaign, launching a new line of products, or changing up pricing.
  3. What do you hope to achieve with the competition? Likely outcomes may be to force them to play defense for an extended period or to sell or spin off a technology.
  4. How will the fast break help you achieve your overall mission?

Executing an effective fast break places extreme pressure on your opponents and often forces them to adjust their game plan or make more mistakes. For every action there is a reaction. What’s essential is being able to execute seamlessly.  Fast breaks take speed, agility, teamwork, and an aggressive mentality.  To be successful with a fast break strategy, you need a culture that encourages the team to “go on the attack” and a team that is in excellent “playing condition” because every player on the team has the potential to score.

If you frequently implement a fast break strategy, eventually your competition will adjust.  You need to anticipate how they will counter.  It also means that your long-term success with the strategy will require you to pick up the tempo while being quicker at making decisions. With this approach the focus is on making the best shots when opportunities are presented and executing the business and Marketing fundamentals at top speed.  Let’s talk about your opportunities to apply the fast break.

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The Sweet Spot is at the Intersection of Pain and Passion Tue, 16 Jun 2020 13:45:35 +0000 Passion and Pain Points. Which should you exploit to effectively position your business? The sweet spot is to match positioning at the intersection of pain and passion points.

The post The Sweet Spot is at the Intersection of Pain and Passion appeared first on VisionEdge Marketing.

Position Intersection

Finding the intersection of Passion and Pain could expand your organization’s marketing potential. It has long been held that a company’s or product’s success depends on the ability to identify and position it against a customer pain point – a specific problem current and prospective customers experience. There are various ways to unearth these pain points, like conducting customer research, to help select which are most relevant and compelling for each segment we intend to pursue. Research helps us discover pain points that are financial, such as the need for reducing costs or lowering total cost of ownership. Or, these pain points have to do with productivity (desire to produce more, faster or cheaper) or process (improving operational efficiencies or customer service quality).

Larry Samuel, founder of AmeriCulture and author of Passion Points: Turning Consumer Passion into Marketing Opportunity, suggests that passion points are as important as pain points when it comes to positioning.  A passion point speaks to what excites customers and includes causes they care about personally and activities and experiences they prioritize in their everyday life. We have seen a surge in positioning around social responsibility, sustainability, and other causes.  CMOs like Raja Rajamannar of MasterCard frequently speak on positioning against passion points. They create consumer engagement, develop competitive advantage, and build the brand.

Should you focus on pain points or passion points? There are experts on both sides of the discussion and good arguments for one over the other. We tend to agree with Tim Ellis, CMO of the NFL, that the sweet spot is to match positioning at the intersection of pain and passion points.

How to Identify a Pain or Passion Point 

If this concept resonates with you, your next step is to identify both your customers’ pain and passion points.  Revealing these often takes qualitative and quantitative research.  Because pain and passion points are highly subjective, we recommend beginning with methods such as in-depth interviews or focus groups.

Most companies are familiar with designing research to reveal pain points. The objective is to understand the problem, how big it is, and how important it is to resolve it. Ask questions designed to surface pain points, such as:

  • What keeps you up at night?
  • What eats up your lunch time?
  • What is the biggest obstacle hindering your success?

And follow up with questions like

  • How does this problem impact your company’s success?
  • What would be the value to your company of solving this problem?
  • What steps have you taken or would you be willing to take to resolve this, and what keeps you from taking these steps?

Apply the same approach to tease out passion points.  The objective for questions is to understand what energizes and drives the company.  Some potential questions might include:

  • What charities or extracurricular programs does your company financially support and why do you allocate company dollars to these?
  • If your company could be remembered for three things, what would you want them to be?
  • If you were to encourage your employees to volunteer their time, which organizations would you want them to consider?
  • What is one sentence that you would write to define your company?

The Overlap is the Foundation for Your Positioning Statement 

Once you complete the research, analyze the data and look for patterns that identify synergies between the pain and passion points. Notice patterns that align and connect problems with aspirations, then answer the question of how your company or product addresses these. The intersection between the pain points, the passion points, and your solution is the sweet spot for your positioning statement.

With this information you can craft several insightful statements. Be sure to test these with customers.  Customer advisory boards can provide a good vehicle for testing and refining positioning statements. Once you have your positioning formulated, you can build out a message map.  Keep in mind that you want messaging that encompasses both the pain and passion points.  As you build out your personas you can select which of these to amplify.

In today’s customer-centric environment, success in positioning requires focus on the overlap between the customer’s problem and their aspirations.  Research that investigates both is an invaluable tool that will provide directional guidance.  If your firm does not possess the knowledge or resources to conduct a proper research study, outsource the project to a company like us that specializes in primary market research.


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Are You Setting Yourself Up to Be a Commodity? | What’s Your Edge? Tue, 09 Jun 2020 13:45:03 +0000 How to use service as a differentiator to create a competitive advantage, improve customer retention and avoid becoming a commodity.

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In this episode of What’s Your Edge, we’re going to explore whether your customer service is helping you avoid becoming a commodity.

When I was a young girl, no matter what part of town we were in, my mom always went to the same service station for gas.  In those days, service stations had service attendants who put gas in your tank, checked your oil and tires, made sure you had antifreeze in the winter and solution for your windshield wipers.  I asked her once why we always went to this specific gas station.  Her answer was simple. She said, “I trust them to make sure the car is in good working order. They make sure we’re safe.”  Once service attendants were no longer employed my mom no longer seemed choosy about where we stopped for gas.  There were stations on nearly every corner and she picked the one with the cheapest price and easiest to pull into.  Whether planned or not, by removing the service attendants from the gas station the company had cut the connection to the customer. As a result, they began the quick slide to becoming a commodity.

Not long ago I had the privilege of serving on a panel for an ISBM townhall meeting on this very topic of retaining customer connections. During this townhall, we were all figuring out how to connect remotely whether for work or learning.  As part of the discussion, several people mentioned how they were automating various experiences, such as factory tours. As I listened to how people were automating their customer processes, the gas station story popped into my head. I wondered how many of these companies were setting themselves up to eventually becoming a commodity.

Stay Close to Your Customers

Whether good times or bad, we should all heed Alexa Von Tobel’s advice about staying close to our customers.  As more and more organizations try to keep up with the latest tech trend and increase their focus on digital channels, human to human contact is on the verge of extinction. In fact, according to a report by PwC, a staggering 59% of consumers feel that companies have lost touch with the human element of the customer experience.  A significant part of customer experience is about increasing human contact between your brand, your company, and your customers.

Studies suggest that no matter what the channel, people want to know there is a real person on the other end. Someone who can assist them properly. That same PwC report found that people want more human contact in the future, not less.  75% of all consumers want technology to be used primarily as a method of facilitating human communication.  In a survey about improving business processes, the improvement customers requested the most was better human service. This is particularly important when a customer has a complaint or query that needs to be dealt with.

customer service

Joey Coleman, a customer experience expert, claims that customer experience is “the last great differentiator.” Why? Because price and product can be imitated. Unlike price and product which can be copied, every company can individually design its customer experience.  Ron Kaufman another customer service expert, believes that service is the “DNA” that permeates everything a company does and ultimately determines whether your organization becomes a provider of choice.  This means that customer experience and customer service are no longer merely support functions.  Service especially has become a feature in its own right.

How to Make Customer Service Your Differentiator

We agree.  If you want to create a competitive advantage and improve customer retention, then increase your focus on customer service. Leveraging customer service as a differentiator will require you to truly know your customers. Thinking back to my mom’s gas station, they knew her name and our names, they knew when they last checked all the car’s vitals and when it was last serviced.  Remember, every customer interaction matters and serves as a moment of truth. These attendants used every interaction to demonstrate their expertise, build credibility and value.  And they always went the extra mile. How well do you create value for your customers?  Are you like the service station attendant and proactive in taking care of the customer and anticipating their needs?

The attendants clearly had a process for how they serviced the vehicle.  Make sure you have well-defined customer service, support and success processes.  Take the time to follow up after you resolving a service issue.

In the end, the key is to engage with your customers how they prefer and not what’s easiest for you.

Take care before your company moves to automate more services as a method of replacing human contact. In nearly every study this has actually shown to have a negative impact on customer experience. Do so at the risk of putting yourself at a competitive disadvantage.  Avoid becoming a commodity. Use your technology to improve your productivity and the experience your customers have not to replace human interaction. Not sure whether your human interactions are measuring up?  Let’s explore how you can find out.

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How to Know When It’s Time to Make a Strategic Pivot Tue, 02 Jun 2020 13:45:57 +0000 Use these five questions to determine whether pivots you made should be integrated permanently into your business strategy.

The post How to Know When It’s Time to Make a Strategic Pivot appeared first on VisionEdge Marketing.

Business Pivot

Triggering and unplanned events, like the healthcare crisis, occur. In some instances, we can mobilize and marshal on. Other times, we may find that moving forward requires a strategic business pivot. What does it mean to pivot? In basketball, a pivot maintains your position while creating a new angle of attack. When applied to business, this term has come to reflect the need to look for new options, move in a different direction, or to make a shift.  Once made, ask whether a strategic pivot should remain a part of your business strategy.

Eric Ries, entrepreneur and author of The Lean Startup, defines a business pivot as a “structured course correction designed to test a new fundamental hypothesis about the product, strategy, and engine of growth.” Pivots do not need to be drastic. Making adjustments to messaging to communicate more clearly or employing different channels can be a pivot. Sometimes a pivot has strategic implications, such as shifting focus to different segments and verticals or completely changing channel partners.

Should Pivots Made During a Crisis be Permanent?

During a crisis, when a pivot is necessary to survive, speed is of the essence. In such circumstances, pivot as quickly as you can to avoid wasting more time, energy, and resources, especially cash. When employing strategic pivots, it is essential to determine if the pivot provides an opportunity to thrive and is aligned with your vision and mission. This requires taking the time to ask at least five questions about the changes you’ve made to address the crisis to determine if they warrant a permanent pivot.

Do any of the changes we made during the crisis….

  1. Help us be more effective?
  2. Help us be more efficient?
  3. Improve our ability to deliver more customer value?
  4. Create a competitive advantage?
  5. Boost productivity?

If the answer is yes to one or more of these questions, then it may make sense to make the shift permanent.

A Change in Perspective Can Inspire a Strategic Pivot

The thing about unplanned events is they often alter our perspective. A change in perspective can be an unexpected silver lining. Take a moment to step back and consider how your perspective has changed. What that might mean for your next move? For example, the coronavirus has changed companies’ perspectives about remote work and different ways to engage the customer.

Strategic Pivot

A crisis might force an innovation in terms of how you modify services and products to support customers better. For example, a salon here in Austin contacted customers in isolation during the health crisis. They announced a product package for covering roots. It contained the salon’s personal hair color formula, a bowl, gloves, and an applicator for $30.00. The product was a huge hit because the owner recognized that she could provide something of value outside the normal salon setting. Necessity, being the “mother of invention,” sparked the product idea applicable for customers who have long absences from home. Pivots present growth opportunities. How can you use unforeseen circumstance to make your customer interactions more valuable and create new streams of revenue?

How your customers react to the strategic pivots you make during a crisis provides tremendous insight into whether a shift is warranted and should be permanent. For example, SaaS companies that find their conversions from free trials to paid subscriptions to be lower than projected should investigate whether there is an experience issue. Customers are sending a message worth listening to that suggests a business pivot is in order.

Whether implementing a strategic pivot as a result of a crisis or because you feel your company is in a rut, give it serious consideration before either writing it off or making it permanent. Make sure the pivot presents opportunities to create more customer value and a stronger competitive advantage, as well as aligning with your organization’s goals for the big picture. Need help evaluating your next step? We’re here for you.

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How to Seek Out Customer Complaints to Support Growth Tue, 26 May 2020 13:45:28 +0000 Customer complaints provide valuable data. So, what do you do to surface unvoiced complaints? Here are some strategies to get you started.

The post How to Seek Out Customer Complaints to Support Growth appeared first on VisionEdge Marketing.


Voice of customer data and research are critical in a competitive environment that emphasizes customer experience and success.  Many organizations conduct satisfaction studies as part of this process. We’ve yet to meet a company that hasn’t had dissatisfied customers and customers who have complained. You’re probably familiar with the phrase by John Lydgate, a 15th century English monk, who said, “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.” There will be unsatisfied customers. It is inevitable. Much has been written on how to handle these situations

Customer complaints provide valuable data.  So, what do you do to surface unvoiced complaints? There are more of these than you may realize. A study by 1st Financial Training Services found that 96% of unhappy customers don’t complain, however, 91% of those will simply leave and never come back. According to Lee Resource, for every customer that complains, there are 26 other unhappy customers who have remained silent. Silent in terms of telling you, but not necessarily silent when it comes to telling others. The White House Office of Consumer Affairs found that a dissatisfied customer will tell between 9-15 people about their experience; around 13% tell more than 20 people, which leads to damaged reputations and loss of potential customers and revenue.

There are a variety of reasons customers remain silent. According to a study by the Rockefeller Corporation, 68% of customers will leave a company because they believe that their complaint will fall on deaf ears – you don’t care about them. Others find the process of making a complaint burdensome, if there is even a process.

Perhaps you’re thinking: we ask our customers for feedback all the time. But are those customer studies you’re fielding truly seeking out complaints? If so, perhaps you ask these three common questions.

  1. On a scale from 1 to 10, how likely are you to recommend us to a friend or colleague?
  2. How would you rate your last experience with us?
  3. If you could change one thing about our product/service, what would it be?

These may be useful questions, but they do not encourage customers to complain. It is our contention that there is merit in actually encouraging your customers to complain and making it easy for them to do so.

Be Direct to Field Useful Complaints

How you ask for complaints and the questions you use will affect your ability to collect the right data. If you’re just starting this type of effort, we recommend beginning with a direct method.

Direct methods include traditional approaches, such as using third parties to conduct customer interviews and integrating questions into your customer success initiative processes. The key to a direct method is to develop a set of questions that help you acquire constructive information from the complaints. Some potential question topics to consider include:

  • What is/are the thing(s) that frustrate(s) you most when working with us?
  • What is one thing you wish we did better?
  • What is one thing you wish we didn’t do?
  • What is one thing your favorite supplier does that you wish we did?

It is important to set up these processes and pose these questions in a way that encourages people to answer. If this isn’t something you know how to do well, seek outside expertise. As you begin to collect this information, you can refine the questions to support more indirect methods of data collection, such as an anonymous pop-up for customers who are logged into their account.

Give some thought in advance to how you plan to organize and analyze the data and set up your data collection processes accordingly. Establish categories of complaints. Employ root cause analysis techniques for the complaints that are the most common and have the most significant implications on customer experience, satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy.

How to Accept and Apply Customer Complaint Data

Now that you’ve collected the data, organized it, and completed a root cause analysis, what you do with the information you’ve gathered matters. Determine how to resolve the complaints and address the causes accordingly. This could require changes in processes, policies, product functionality, etc.

Communicate back. If you’ve gone to the effort to ask customers to complain and they’ve gone to the effort to complain, close the loop. Share key findings and which complaints you intend to address, when, and how. Once a complaint has been resolved, share this information as well.

Customer success and experience are vital to long term sustainable growth. Customer-centric companies employ a process for seeking out complaints and see this as an opportunity to challenge the status quo and improve business processes, products, and service quality. Such improvements can help you create competitive advantages and opportunities that reduce churn, eliminate break points, increase share of wallet, improve share of preference, and identify opportunities for growth.

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Unlock the Power and Value of Upstream and Downstream Marketing Tue, 19 May 2020 13:45:24 +0000 Upstream and downstream marketing are both essential in motivating customers to adopt existing products & services.

The post Unlock the Power and Value of Upstream and Downstream Marketing appeared first on VisionEdge Marketing.

Runner image

Companies and marketers have invested heavily in becoming very proficient at downstream marketing – email marketing, SEO, landing pages, events, content and so on. And without a doubt downstream requires solid skills. Imagine however that you’re a good competitive runner – you’ve worked hard on your pace, improving you stride and addressing your form. Come the day of an off-track race, it will all be for naught if you head in the wrong direction or make a wrong turn. This is the power and value of the upstream.

Define Your Strategy

Upstream marketing serves as the strategic process of identifying & fulfilling customer needs. Good competitive racers check out the course in advance to get a sense of the terrain and curves and turns. They may even run it. I know I usually do. These runners invest in creating a competitive advance. Competitive runners also know which races are best suited to them, for example are they better at hill or flatland running. In the business world, we’re always looking for how we can create at competitive advantage based on the value we deliver and the value customers require. This type of thinking and planning fall into the realm of the upstream.

Upstream entails any work around defining your strategy, value proposition and positioning, directing the innovation process for long-term sustainable growth, developing segments, analyzing how customers use a product or service.

All programs you design and execute to bring your strategy to life, whether through tailored personalized account based marketing and/or outbound and inbound lead generation, that include tactics such advertising, promotion, SEO, brand building, event, influencer marketing, content marketing, social marketing are in the downstream. If you don’t get the upstream right, the downstream will be polluted.

Upstream and Downstream Marketing

Create Demand by Focusing on the Upstream

When you are working on creating Demand with a Capital D, you need to focus on the Upstream. When you’re working on creating demand as leadgen and account based marketing you are in the downstream. Of course the upstream and downstream complement one another. You may have some advantages by being familiar with a course before you run it, but to win you still need to be a good runner.

While Upstream defines your company’s value proposition; downstream supports your company’s value proposition. Upstream directs your innovation process to insure long-term sustainable growth. Downstream delivers programs to support the adoption of your products NOW. Data and analytics are needed in both. In the upstream, you need customer insights, competitive intelligence, data to support creating segmentation, personas and customer journey models. In the downstream, you use your data and analysis to address activities, touchpoints and channels.

Upstream and downstream answer different questions because they drive different but complementary decisions.  You will need measures and metrics for both as well. Category ownership, Customer lifetime value, Share of wallet are measures that indicate how well you tackled the upstream. Measures associated with engagement, influence and pipeline inform your downstream success.

Like competitive runners who consistently win, you need to leverage both the upstream and the downstream. High performing organizations invest in excelling at both.  Let’s talk about how you can become more proficient at the upstream and the downstream.

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How to Employ the Power of the Debrief Process Tue, 12 May 2020 13:45:58 +0000 Debriefing serves as an opportunity to evaluate performance, optimize strategies, and revise processes. Derive more from the debrief with these 4 steps.

The post How to Employ the Power of the Debrief Process appeared first on VisionEdge Marketing.

You’re probably familiar with the concept of the post-game analysis. A post-game analysis is part of the debrief process that serves as an opportunity to evaluate performance, identify opportunities for improvement, optimize strategies, and revise processes if necessary. The debrief can be used to analyze and improve any effort – the launch of a new product, the implementation of a new customer process, the execution of a major event or following a crisis.

Conference table debrief

The Heart and Soul of the Debrief Process

Good debriefs start long before the actual debrief meeting. You will derive more from the debrief if you take the following four steps:

  1. Schedule the debrief ahead of time. When preparing for an important event, such as a product launch, execution of a customer or industry event, etc. schedule the debrief for the first business day after the event. There should also be a debrief after you have data to determine the actual results of the event. For an unexpected crisis, make it a point to communicate that there will be a debrief and what specific outcomes will signal its timing. For example, as we move through the recent health emergency, conversations around how to reopen communities and industries serve as a signal to schedule the debrief.
  2. Identify who will lead the debrief. Designate who will lead the debrief in advance and clarify that this person owns the debrief process. For example, the customer success director might be designated to lead the debrief of the annual user event. We recommend you have a documented process map for the debrief. Some key elements of the process the lead can facilitate are creating the agenda and meeting objectives, managing the meeting logistics and participants, facilitating the meeting, and the post-meeting action plan and follow-up.
  3. Conduct the debrief. Create structure by focusing on the purpose of the initiative, the expected results, and the actual results. Debriefs should at a minimum identify and analyze:
    1. lessons learned, what went well, and what were the break points
    2. specific processes that worked and which ones need improvement. To illustrate this idea, we can again look to the corona virus and the protocols many organizations put in place “on the fly” to support remote communication and collaboration. Some organizations didn’t have processes to guide their actions or the existing ones fell short. For example, financial institutions have processes in place to support customer communication, but many of these organizations struggled with communicating about the payroll protection program (PPP) and working with commercial customers at the local level. The were process gaps between the corporate entities, the branch personnel on the ground, and the customers.
    3. new actions that were employed and decisions about whether these should become a permanent part of the process going forward. Some organizations leveraged agile processes such as sprints to support work. Many may decide to keep this process going forward.
    4. what new tools, systems, skills, expertise, and experience are needed to improve performance
    5. which “players” rose to the challenge and which ones need to make improvements
    6. performance results against the expected results. This suggests that there was a performance target at the outset, such as a number of conversations that will emerge as a result of producing or participating in a major event, or the number of people who will trial a new product within some period of time upon its release.
    7. what actions you will take to as a result of the debrief, and who owns the action and the timing for implementation. Determine whether upcoming efforts need to be adjusted based on your findings.
  4. Document the post-game analysis and action plan. Upon completion of the debrief meeting, the debrief lead should summarize the analysis and action plan in writing. The debrief lead should follow up with anyone who owns a post-event action step to ensure all action steps are completed. We recommend that you create a template for the debrief summary and action plan.

Look back to move forward

How to Look Back to Move Forward

In the world of sports, games are recorded. These recordings are a vital part of the post-game analysis because they provide valuable data. In the business world, we don’t typically have a recording as a reference, therefore, we need to bring other data to the debrief to support the review. Before going to the debrief, identify the data you will need to support the post-game analysis, such as the expected versus actual results, timing, and revenue.

Processes matter. Post-game analysis provides you with an opportunity to define, document, and refine your processes to stay competitive and optimize performance. Marc Hafner, CEO of Revionics nicely sums up the value of the debrief: “business organizations are successful because they’re willing to accept that they’re not perfect, go back and review what happened, make changes as necessary, and move on.“

Are you taking the opportunity to debrief after significant milestones in your organization’s operation? Do you need help deriving the relevant data from your post-game analysis? Let us help you look back to move forward.

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