Blog

Use LinkedIn to Solve Problems and Accelerate Sales

Posted by Tom Smith on Thu, Jan, 23, 2014 @ 10:01 AM

Consumer insights on being "nice"

 

This post is for all those folks who think LinkedIn is just for out of work executives as well as those senior executives who do not empower their employees by trusting them to use social media for the good of the company and the good of the customer.

If you're not actively using LinkedIn (#linkedin), you're missing a valuable opportunity to solve problems, save your company money and generate revenue.

As my former employer was reducing overhead, they asked me, the director of marketing, to take over responsibilities for operations as well. This included procurement.

First up was the contract with our telecommunications provider -- phone and internet.  Having two different providers offered an opportunity to save by bundling the services.

I posted a query to the local LinkedIn business executives group that I was a member of and received between 15 and 20 recommendations of firms to consider. I submitted an RFP to the top three and selected one which saved the company about $350/month ($4,200/year).

Next up was the lease on the multi-purpose copier.  Same scenario, same result.  Similar savings.

My former employer manufactured wastewater treatment systems imported from Ireland.  I needed to find a resource who could assemble fiberglass tanks in the U.S. since it is much less expensive to ship unassembled tanks -- less air.

I joined a fiberglass group on LinkedIn, monitored the conversation for a couple of weeks and then posted my query for a fiberglass assembler and found one within 90 miles of our facility with very competitive rates.

The most unusual, and successful, sourcing opportunity was for spent mussel shells.  My employer had developed an odor control technology in which the calcium carbonate in spent oyster, quahog and mussel shells was used to neutralize the rotten egg (hydrogen sulfide) smell in waste air streams.

The technology was selling so well in Europe that the supply of mussel shells from Denmark would not be able to meet the projected needs in the U.S.

I had to find our own source of mussel shells. 

Given this, I joined a group of seafood professionals on LinkedIn and found people in China, New Zealand, Germany, Canada and Illinois with spent mussel shells.

Ultimately, the source in New Zealand had the best quality shells for a lower price than we were able to buy and ship them from Denmark and Ireland.

I later learned from my boss in Ireland that the 10 person procurement group at my parent company had been looking for alternate sources of mussel shells for more than three years.

LinkedIn provided a half-dozen sources in less than three weeks.

How have you used LinkedIn to solve problems, improve business performance and accelerate sales?

Click Here To Schedule a 30-Minute Consultation  to Discuss Marketing or Sales Issues

Tags: empower employees, accelerate sales, referrals, innovation

7 Steps to Innovation

Posted by Tom Smith on Tue, Oct, 29, 2013 @ 06:10 AM

The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs resized 600

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to Carmen Gallo, columnist for BusinessWeek.com publishing "Innovate the Steve Jobs Way: 7 Insanely Different Principles for Breakthrough Success" on SlideShare (http://slidesha.re/iLATab).

Mr. Gallo wrote the book, The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs, in which he shares the seven principles that are largely responsible for his breakthrough success. 

Here are the principles that guided Jobs throughout his career:

  1. Do what you love.  Luckily I'm doing it.  I love integrated multichannel marketing and all it entails as the media and consumer evolves.  I'm fortunate I figured that out while taking "The Philosophy of Voting Behavior" in college and then pursuing a curriculum and career in marketing.
     
  2. Put a dent in the universe.  This entails a compelling vision that is easily articulated and remembered.  Jobs' vision was to "put a computer in the hands of everyday people."  Mr. Gallo believes this vision was intoxicating for four reasons: 1) it was bold; 2) it was specific; 3) it was concise; and, 4) it was consistently communicated.  Too many vision statements lack any of these four characteristics.
     
  3. Kick start your brain.  Breakthrough innovation requires creativity and creativity requires you to think differently about the way you think  -- hence the Apple campaign "Think Different" in 1997.  Seek out diverse experiences.  Look outside your industry for inspiration.  Bombard the brain with new experiences.  Remove the shackles of past experiences.
     
  4. Sell dreams, not products.  Is this the same as "sell the sizzle, not the steak?"  I agree that most customers are not able to tell you what they want in a new product.  They have more trouble thinking "outside the box" than marketers, engineers, research and development.  Nonetheless, you need to know your customers' needs and wants.  I believe you get this by having in-depth conversations in which you are able to uncover their emotional link to a brand to which they are loyal.
     
  5. Say no to 1,000 things.  Focus.  Your customers want simplicity and simplicity requires you to eliminate anything that clutters the user experience.  That reminds me of the Einstein quote, "make it as simple as it can be but not simpler - that's when you get unintended consequences."
     
  6. Create insanely great experiences.  I like that Steve Jobs studied The Four Seasons prior to opening Apple Stores and the focus of the store is "enriching lives."  This is consistent with Zappos being in the customer service business.
     
  7. Master the message.  Steve Jobs was considered a great corporate storyteller because his presentations informed, educated and entertained.  Avoid bullet points and think visually about how to bring the story you are telling to life.

What do you do to "think different(ly)?"

Need More Insights From Your Analytics? Download the Free e-book

Tags: consumer insights, customer experience, vision, raving fans, innovation

Insights on Design from the October, 2013 edition of FastCompany

Posted by Tom Smith on Tue, Oct, 15, 2013 @ 06:10 AM

Great design accelerates sales
The October edition of FastCompany magazine is always my favorite ().  It's the "Annual Innovation by Design Issue." This is the 10th edition of the design issue.
I'm not a designer, I'm a marketing strategist.  However, I fully appreciate the power of design and am saddened by the lack of respect given to the importance of design in creating an emotional connection to the brand.
Following are 18 takeaways I found to be very powerful, along with a couple of my own:
  1. Apple gives up 20% of it’s floor-space for its Genius Bars.  Can you imagine the initial discussion with a retailer to give up 20% of their floor space for something that doesn’t directly produce revenue?  Without Genius Bars, would Apple stores have the highest revenue per square foot of any retailer? – Michael Kramer, former CFO, Apple
     
  2. The best designers can determine opportunities to improve the user experience.

  3. You can’t design for the world, you have to design for the person. – Deborah Adler, Owner, Deborah Adler Design (#)

  4. The trick to improving design is to be there, on the ground, and seeing it being used. – Deborah Adler, Owner, Deborah Adler Design

  5. It’s no longer sufficient to create a product, a service, an experience, or a lifestyle that’s merely functional.  Today it’s economically crucial and personally rewarding to create something that is also beautiful, whimsical or emotionally engaging.  – Daniel Pink, Author, A Whole New Mind (#DanielPink)

  6. We’ve become accustomed to how corporations brand products. That lives in our minds and psyche – and when they’re doing something slightly different, we don’t pledge our loyalty as easily. – Scott Thomas, Design Director, Obama Campaign

  7. Branding is so important.  It’s more than just a logo mark or typeface, it’s a holistic idea that people recognize. A level of consistency is fundamental to our loyalty and understanding. – Scott Thomas, Design Director, Obama Campaign

  8. Sharing ideas isn’t scary, it’s the way of the future. – Ben Kaufman, Founder, Quirky (#benkaufman).  This is consistent with idea that the Internet rewards those who share and penalizes those that do not.

  9. Done properly, design harnesses the pure emotion of the brand. – Alexander McQueen, Fashion Designer (#worldmcqueen)

  10. If you’re possessed by focusing on the customer, and you’re possessed by making improvements and you can demonstrate that by making, by drawing, by shaping – you’ve got half the thing done. – John Hoke, V.P., Global Design, Nike (#nike)

  11. It’s important to have a culture that doesn’t punish you if you make a mistake.  It’s part of the innovation process. – Mauro Porcini, Chief Design Officer, Pepsico (#i). This is consistent with my belief that you should make mistakes early and often, just don't make the same mistake twice.

  12. Market growth alone doesn’t give you enough tailwind.  You need to create your own.  The way to do that is by designing products for consumers that wow them. Not just the way they look, but that every aspect of what they buy delights them. – Indra Hooti, CEO, Pepsico (#pepsico)

  13. First you need to engender trust. You need to create an experience that’s beautiful, that creates emotional connections with people and connotes quality. – Neil Blumenthal, Warby Parker (#)

  14. Confusion leads to distrust.  Distrust results in people not buying. – Tom Smith

  15. You don’t know what’s going to work. You can’t go and build the final product.  You have to build the prototype. You don’t know how people are going to use something. – Michael Bloomberg, Mayor, New York City

  16. As we better understand users, we need to adapt.  Actually it’s not just adapting, it’s visualizing what users don’t know they need yet, where they will be in a few years. – Marcos Weskamp, Head of Design, Flipboard (#)

  17. We were trying to get emotion as an outcome, as opposed to utility. That’s a core attribute of the design at Apple. – Tim Kobe, Co-Founder, Eight Inc. (#timkobe)

  18. When asked what beauty means for Google, they’d eventually settle on an answer that involved the idea of simplicity, and, deeper than that, invisibility. – Google Design Team (#google)

  19. In all of these efforts, Goggle’s aesthetic aim is clear: to disappear.  The most beautiful Google experience is the one you never notice. – Google Design Team

  20. Thoughtful design doesn't just enable our habits; it pushes us to improve behavior, making us more economical, reflective and responsible. -- Margaret Rhodes, FastCompany

  21. To improve day-to-day hardships, designers must do what cold clinical solutions do not; treat those in need as regular customers, whose emotions drive decisions. -- Margaret Rhodes, FastCompany 
With the explosion of social media and mobile, it is critical to ensure that your design is consistent with your brand platform across all channels so there's no confusion among your prospects or customers.
Just because you have a computer with a graphics package, don't think you can do this yourself.
Invest in great design to create a more powerful brand -- one to which your customer will become emotionally connected.
Click Here for an Evaluation of Your Website

 

Tags: emotional connection to the brand, earn your customers trust, alignment, connecting emotionally with customers, innovation, integrated marketing, brand platform

10 Ways To Optimize Mobile for Your Business

Posted by Tom Smith on Wed, Oct, 09, 2013 @ 06:10 AM

I just returned from the American Bankers Association Marketing Conference (#abamktg) where several presenters spoke on the impact mobile banking is having on the industry.

With the proliferation and growth of mobile devices, I'm sure they're having a big impact on every industry -- B2B and B2C.

A couple of interesting factoids:

  • The average smartphone user looks at their device 146 times a day -- more than they look at their significant other.
  • Smartphone use correlates with youth and wealth. If you want to reach young, well-to-do prospects, smartphones are your best bet.
Mobile is not a channel, it's the device that we're most involved with.  It's estimated that 90% of people sleep with their smartphone -- it also serves as their alarm clock.
So how can you differentiate your business with smartphones?  
Make it easy for customers and prospects to do business with you via their smartphone.
Here are 10 ways you can optimize mobile for your business:
  1. Expand your target audience to include those most likely to be heavy smartphone users -- younger and more affluent.
  2. Make sure your employees are fully knowledgable about your mobile website and smartphone apps.  Are they using them?  What feedback do they have?
  3. Address security concerns. The phone is more secure than the internet -- you know the phone number and you know the IP address of the user.
  4. Engage with your customers and prospects via their smartphones to find out what they need and want.
  5. Promote via email, internal and external banner ads, traditional media and direct mail.
  6. Use QR codes that can be scanned to download apps.
  7. Create apps that enable your customers to do business with you more easily.  Several insurance companies have done this so you can file claims, with photos, with your mobile device.
  8. Set up a mobile user group of 15 customers that you run everything through. The insights they provide will be invaluable.
  9. Send real-time, actionable alerts and information of value.
  10. Set goals for enrollment, use and revenue.
Ninety percent of millennials now have a smartphone.
It's the future of business.
Is your website mobile compatible?  How about your emails?  70% are opened on a mobile device.
Click Here for an Evaluation of Your Website

Tags: outstanding customer experience, empower employees, connecting emotionally with customers, innovation

15 Reasons to Have a Mobile Presence to Accelerate Sales

Posted by Tom Smith on Tue, Oct, 08, 2013 @ 06:10 AM

mobile presence accelerates sales

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I just returned from the American Banking Association Marketing Conference (#abamktg).

Several speakers provided information on the growth of mobile banking that apply to all B2B and B2C businesses.

Following are 15 reasons you need to make it easy for your customers and prospects to do business with you on their mobile device:

  1. Mobile is the fastest growing channel in the history of USAA (insurance, banking, investments) -- growing twice as fast as the Internet.
  2. Mobile has half the active users as the Internet but double the activity level.
  3. The average smartphone user looks at their phone 146 times a day. Mobile is not a channel, it's the device with which we're most involved. We look at our smartphones more than we look at our spouse.
  4. 35% of mobile phone users are doing online banking. Non-users express concern over security; however, banking via a cell phone is more secure than banking via the Internet.
  5. Mobile transactions as positively correlated to youth and wealth. If you're targeting young and wealthy prospects, mobile is the best way to reach them.
  6. Mobile increases acquisition by differentiating you from other financial institutions.
  7. Mobile improves customer service by diverting transactions to more efficient channels.
  8. Mobile is disruptive, contextual and engaging.
  9. Mobile can decrease cost and increase revenue. Cost per transaction is a call center is $4. Online is $0.17. Mobile is $0.08.
  10. Your most valuable customers (annual profit per customer) are the ones doing business online and with mobile -- they're more engaged with you and 63% less likely to move to another financial institution.
  11. Online plus mobile users are 29% more profitable than online only users.
  12. 90% are using their mobile devices to call your IVR or CSR.
  13. 81% of the traffic in a branch is to make a deposit.
  14. By 2014, the industry projects mobile banking to account for 12.5% of transactions; branch 15%; contact center 10%; ATM 15% and online 48%.
  15. Today's innovations are tomorrow's table stakes.
What are you doing to make it easier for your prospects and customers to do business with you via their mobile phone?
Is your site optimized for mobile?
Click Here for an Evaluation of Your Website

Tags: outstanding customer experience, accelerate sales, innovation

9 Ideas about Innovation that will Accelerate Sales

Posted by Tom Smith on Thu, Aug, 29, 2013 @ 06:08 AM

9 ideas about innovation to accelerate sales

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I just read a fascinating article about Marissa Mayer in Business Insider.  I don't normally recommend articles of this length, in fact I'd typically label it Tl;dr (too long; don't read); however, this article provides tremendous insights into Google, Yahoo and Ms. Mayer.  

If you're interested in any of these topics, I highly recommend the article.

In the middle of the article was a 49-minute video of Ms. Mayer talking to a group of Stanford students in 2006.

In it, she presents Google's 9 ideas about innovation.  

I wanted to share them with you, along with my thoughts and experiences as I believe that are relevant to any business and any business professsional.

They're also a great way to empower your employees to help you improve your business.

  1. Ideas come from everyone and everywhere.  Ideas are democratic.  Promote a system where people are encouraged to develop and share their ideas and you'll get a lot more ideas.  The quality of those ideas will be in direct proportion to the quality of the people coming up with the ideas.

  2. Share everything you can. Have an open culture.  Don't care who gets credit for an idea. When who gets credit for an idea becomes part of your company culture, people stop generating ideas and start protecting, and promoting, their ideas. Being territorial hinders creativity and innovation. Today, this is consistent with the idea of sharing information of value to establish yourself, and your company, as a thought leader. The best company I ever worked for had an open culture. I hope to find it again someday -- it's very refreshing and energizing.

  3. You're brilliant. We're hiring. It's great to work in an environment of smart people. Playing with better players helps you play better. It challenges you and help you, and your company, grow. Consistent with the idea of always hiring people smarter than you.

  4. A license to pursue dreams. Google employees are given 20% of their time to work on what they want to work on. One year, Ms. Mayer, being the quant geek that she is, figured out that 50% of Google's product launches and improvements came from what employees spent their 20% "free time" working on -- a 250% ROI. Empowering employees and allowing them to explore their passions will ultimately benefit the company.

  5. Innovation, not instant perfection. Launch a product or service before it's perfect because it will never be perfect.  Be prepared to iterate quickly to address consumer feedback to improve the product on an ongoing basis. This is very consistent with my philosophy of "make mistakes early and often, just don't make the same mistakes twice." 

  6. Data is apolitical. Data reduces politics. Buy always measuring what you are doing, doing A/B-split tests and relying on data you can rest assured you are providing the best user experience since you are always getting feedback from the user. 

  7. Creativity loves constraint. While this may seem counter-intuitive, constraining thoughts forces innovation to happen. The best creative people I've worked with over the course of my career always valued a more focused and definitive creative brief rather than one that was so broad you didn't know what the consumer promise was, let alone if it was relevant. 

  8. Users not money. Provide an outstanding product, service or user experience and the money will take care of itself. Money follows the consumer. Work on developing a long-term, mutually-beneficial relationship with your customer rather than making the sale. If you established a trusted relationship, the sale will take care of itself.

  9. Don't kill projects, morph them. Projects that aren't showing growth trends should further examined for the "kernel of truth" and value that made it worth pursuing in the first place. Work to figure out how to make it successful even if it means repackaging and reintroducing it.
Ms. Mayers' personal keys to success:
  • Loves to work. I would guesss she's still working 100 hours a week as a mom.
  • Surround yourself with smart people. It makes you smarter.
  • Do things you're not ready to do. Push yourself. Embrace challenges.
Learning that Marissa Mayer is all about optimizing the user experience and knowing that companies that focus on customer satisfaction perform better than those that do not, I'm adding Yahoo to my "Firms of Endearment" portfolio.
What ideas do you have about innovation to add to these nine?
Empower Employees to Get Insights Download the Free e-book

Tags: transparency, customer satisfaction, accelerate sales, innovation, employee empowerment