Monthly Archives: January 2012

Play Your Memorable Marketing Melody to ME

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A classic technique to help companies dramatically improve marketing and sales results is to focus on fewer more qualified prospects.  Whether that list should be your TOP 100, 50, or 25 depends on the size and scope of your business, the price point of your product, and the length of the buying cycle.  But it is amazing to me how many times we, as growth strategists, have recommended the development of a list of 50 great prospects…The GOLDEN 50.

With one client recently, they had concluded that five target industries would give them sufficient diversification to be resilient during recessions, more learning opportunities, and great cross selling opportunities. So the next step was to declare which 10 companies would be the focus of their marketing and sales investment in each industry … right now. WOW was that illuminating for them. This client hadn’t realized how scattered their business development process had become. Maybe that’s happening to you.

With new technologies, we can all reach out to thousands or millions of companies and people. And those messages can even be “personalized” to include the individual’s name sprinkled throughout the messaging. But seeing “Aldonna”, or “Jorge” or “Pasha” in a marketing or sales message doesn’t make it tailored.

For many companies, the reality is that reaching out to the thousands or millions of names in their data base constitutes background music (sometimes noise) of the marketing symphony. They have forgotten that they need a memorable melody that resonates with the real decision makers.

There is an average of 5 real decision makers in each of that client’s Golden 50. So the priority now is getting to know what makes those 250 people tick.  What is their pain? Do the 50 CFOs and 50 VPs of Sales deserve their own targeted marketing messages? Who is in a hurry? Who needs time to think? Who has authority over a discretionary budget and who must ask permission despite his/her impressive title? What would compel a COO to forward a copy of your marketing message to his/her CEO?

 

Aldonna R. Ambler, CMC, CSP has earned the right to be called THE GROWTH STRATEGIST™. She has won over 2 dozen national and statewide “entrepreneur of the year” awards for the resilient growth of her international businesses across 4 recessions.  Her midsized BtoB service, technology, and distribution clients get on…and then stay on…the published lists of the fastest growing privately held companies. Ambler is in the process of launching her 8th enterprise. All of her current service businesses (strategic planning, executive advisory, growth financing, talk show, speaking, and search) help privately held midsized companies achieve accelerated growth with sustained profitability®. 2012 is Ambler’s 8th year hosting a weekly peer-to-peer-to-peer syndicated on line talk show that features interviews with CEOs/Presidents of midsized companies (typically between $20 and 200 Mil/yr) sharing success tips about the growth strategy-of-the-week. An archive of over 300 interviews is available at www.GrowthStrategistShow.com. She can be reached toll free at 1-888-Aldonna or at Aldonna@AMBLER.com.

[video] Play Your Memorable Marketing Melody to ME

Wishful Thinking and Long Term Customer Loyalty Can Create a Risky Blind Spot

Imagine that you and your executive team have invested months and months on research. Despite the lingering tough economy, you have even hired some people to launch a complementary product/service.  The new offering has the potential to expand your customer base, increase your profitability, and solidify your company’s position as an industry leader.  Sounds exciting, doesn’t it?

We’ve noticed that these days, when business owners are in this position, they conclude very early on in the process that the new product will be a huge success.  That makes sense, really.  When you have a great deal riding on a new product during uncertain times…it had better work!

But hopes for the success of a new product and a need for everything to work out can lead to blind spots.  Ironically, we are seeing wishful-thinking blind spots hurting well-established companies with great reputations and loyal customers.

ABC Inc. recently introduced a complementary product that looked like it would provide tremendous benefits for their customers. The product launch was a little rough, but there were understandable reasons for the problems and the customers didn’t complain.  The folks at this business are highly skilled, hard working, and personable.  The overwhelming majority of their customers love them.

The owners of ABC Inc. asked our strategic planning firm to do a strategic assessment and lead a strategic planning retreat.  They wanted to build on the complementary product/service lines and make sure that ABC Inc. is ready for exponential growth.  During the research stage of our assessment process, we conduct interviews with employees, key vendors, and a representative sample of each type of customer. To our surprise, 20 straight interviews revealed that the customers of ABC Inc. didn’t like the new product/service and didn’t view it as complementary.  In fact, their customers felt a sense of loss. They had liked what they had and thought that the new product/service had reduced their benefits, interfered with their interaction with the nice people of ABC Inc., and reduced their choices as customers.  Some customers expressed anger that they were switched to the new product/service without being asked.  Some customers had concluded that ABC Inc. must have created the new product/service for its own convenience and/or increased profits because they (the customers) couldn’t see any benefit for them.

WORSE, the customers were reluctant to tell any of this to the nice folks at ABC Inc. The customers didn’t want to hurt their feelings or upset them.  Some customers were already shopping the competition, but planned on remaining “friends” with the nice folks at ABC, Inc.

It was interesting to see how angry the “nice folks at ABC Inc.” became when they heard and read this information.  Even though a quantitative customer survey corroborated our findings, they couldn’t believe that their loyal customers were unhappy.  It was beyond comprehension that some customers would actually consider changing vendors instead of just telling ABC Inc. that something was wrong. A few folks at ABC Inc. became angry with us.  It must be those negative consultants; it can’t possibly be the new product line!  Ironically, the long term loyalty and strong connection between ABC Inc. and its customers added to the blind spot. 

Think about a family.  Imagine that your elderly aunt decided to get her hair colored and pay for plastic surgery to look and feel younger.  You think it’s a waste of time and money.  Plus it just doesn’t look right.  Would you come right out and tell her?  Be honest with yourself now.  Are you sure?  You don’t want to upset her.  It’s her decision after all. You are just one person.  Maybe you decide that it isn’t worth the risk to speak up.  Long term loyal customers can feel like a reluctant niece or nephew.

Are you sure you would be receptive to customer concerns and complaints after you had invested a great deal of time and money to create a new service/product and need it to succeed? How long would YOU argue with the research?

Aldonna R. Ambler, CMC, CSP has earned the right to be called THE GROWTH STRATEGIST®. She has won over 2 dozen national and statewide “entrepreneur of the year” awards for the resilient growth of her international businesses across 4 recessions.  Her midsized BtoB service, technology, and distribution clients get on…and then stay on…the published lists of the fastest growing privately held companies. Ambler is in the process of launching her 8th enterprise. All of her current service businesses (strategic planning, executive advisory, growth financing, talk show, speaking, and search) help privately held midsized companies achieve accelerated growth with sustained profitability®. 2012 is Ambler’s 8th year hosting a weekly peer-to-peer-to-peer syndicated on line talk show that features interviews with CEOs/Presidents of midsized companies (typically between $20 and 200 Mil/yr) sharing success tips about the growth strategy-of-the-week. An archive of over 300 interviews is available at www.GrowthStrategistShow.com. She can be reached toll free at 1-888-Aldonna or at Aldonna@AMBLER.com.

[video] Customer loyalty and how wishful thinking creates risky blind spots

Face the Risks of Suddenly Being Viewed as a Family Business

As specialists in the strategic needs of privately held midsized companies, we naturally interact with lots of family owned businesses.  There has been more than one government study that has said that the owners of 90% of all privately held companies view their companies as “family businesses.”  That’s a lot!  Some owners claim they are “family owned” even when only one member of the family is involved.  No spouse, sibling, offspring, cousin or even an in law employed in the company! WOW.

It makes you wonder what is meant by “family business.”  In some folks’ minds, “family business” means trustworthy, hard working, stable, community minded, friendly, and focused on customer service.

But what does “family owned and operated” mean to prospective employees?  It can mean that their careers will be limited. They may assume that they will never be eligible for profit sharing, could never become an equity shareholder, will never be viewed as a top executive, and will never fully have the president’s ear.   It could mean that they should always be prepared to have some young kid brought in to become their boss. Being the boss’s son or daughter trumps any advanced education, job experience, or longevity with the company they may have.

If your business is family owned, it takes intentional effort to convey your policies about career advancement opportunities, your logic behind hiring and promotions, etc.  It can be difficult to attract top talent if you can’t tangibly demonstrate that you value “outsiders,” are open to having business partners who don’t share the same last name, and use contribution to guide profit sharing rather than genetics.

We were reminded about these kinds of issues recently when a company (now a client) inadvertently slipped into being viewed as a “family business.”  The president had needed some help with the firm’s marketing and had asked his very capable wife to help. He couldn’t figure out why his key employees were acting funny, seemed defensive, were suddenly worried about their futures, questioning his decisions, etc. He knew he was still the owner and their boss. But the key employees had assumed the premise of the business had changed.  If your company is a “family business,” make sure you know why and address the negative implications as well as the positive.  If not, be careful you don’t inadvertently slip into becoming one.

 

Aldonna R. Ambler, CMC, CSP has earned the right to be called THE GROWTH STRATEGIST®. She has won over 2 dozen national and statewide “entrepreneur of the year” awards for the resilient growth of her international businesses across 4 recessions.  Her midsized BtoB service, technology, and distribution clients get on…and then stay on…the published lists of the fastest growing privately held companies. Ambler is in the process of launching her 8th enterprise. All of her current service businesses (strategic planning, executive advisory, growth financing, talk show, speaking, and search) help privately held midsized companies achieve accelerated growth with sustained profitability®. 2012 is Ambler’s 8th year hosting a weekly peer-to-peer-to-peer syndicated on line talk show that features interviews with CEOs/Presidents of midsized companies (typically between $20 and 200 Mil/yr) sharing success tips about the growth strategy-of-the-week. An archive of over 300 interviews is available at www.GrowthStrategistShow.com. She can be reached toll free at 1-888-Aldonna or at Aldonna@AMBLER.com

[video] Face the Risks of Suddenly Being Viewed as a Family Business

Prevent Slipping into Reactive Management as 2012 Begins

At the risk of sounding like I am channeling my inner Jean Dixon, here are a few of my predictions for 2012:

  • The world economy will have another significant setback in 2012 sparked by disappointments about the pool of candidates for the US Presidency, a few large scale unsettling scandals, increased unrest in the Middle East, and major corporations continuing to hang onto their cash.
  • More Baby Boomer business owners will move past the inertia of 2009 – 2011 to acquire, merge, or sell their businesses.
  • Google’s purchase of Motorola will pay off as APPLE’s growth slows.
  • Since the days of Nostradomus in the 1550s, this year has been the focus of doomsday thinkers.  Unfortunately, too many people will over-react with each natural disaster in 2012.
  • The transition of leadership in North Korea, the instability in Iran, and the nuclear capabilities of both will increase in importance in 2012.
  • The “War on Childhood Obesity” will gain momentum in 2012 as more schools embrace Rachel Ray’s menu and First Lady Michelle O’Bama’s advice.

A few may seem obvious to you.  A few may seem uninformed or just wrong. If my predictions prompt you to think, this blog has provided a service to you. I wonder what impact these and other developments could have on your business strategy and contingency planning for 2012. Should you conclude that you should be the bold acquirer or a reluctant seller? Will you increase your emphasis on wealthy or impoverished people?  Knowing that true wealth has always been traced back to times of stress and recession, will you be an industry leader or drop below the radar?  Does your executive team need to do anything different to prevent your company from becoming too reactive in 2012?


 


Aldonna R. Ambler, CMC, CSP has earned the right to be called THE GROWTH STRATEGIST®. She has won over 2 dozen national and statewide “entrepreneur of the year” awards for the resilient growth of her international businesses across 4 recessions.  Her midsized BtoB service, technology, and distribution clients get on…and then stay on…the published lists of the fastest growing privately held companies. Ambler is in the process of launching her 8th enterprise. All of her current service businesses (strategic planning, executive advisory, growth financing, talk show, speaking, and search) help privately held midsized companies achieve accelerated growth with sustained profitability®. 2012 is Ambler’s 8th year hosting a weekly peer-to-peer-to-peer syndicated on line talk show that features interviews with CEOs/Presidents of midsized companies (typically between $20 and 200 Mil/yr) sharing success tips about the growth strategy-of-the-week. An archive of over 300 interviews is available at www.TheGrowthStrategistShow.com. She can be reached toll free at 1-888-Aldonna or at Aldonna@AMBLER.com     

[video] Don’t slip into reactive decisions in 2012

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