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March 30, 2007

Paradigms = 20 Cents

Perhaps one of the hardest aspects of CRM is getting individuals to embrace changes that have a strong impact on their frame of reference. When people have to think or act or feel differently as a result of a CRM initiative, success can be elusive. Take the following for example:
“When I get done with a client visit I phone in the figures to an admin back at the home office and call it a day. Now you want me to enter it all into a computer while I am out on the road? Plus, you want me to type in stuff about the call – are you nuts?”

This illustration pretty much says it all. A field rep is being asked to use technology differently, follow a new process, do what is perceived as double extra work, perform a task that somebody less skilled is supposed to do, and provide information to management to make it easer to be checked on. And we wonder why we have so much trouble with these programs.

Tobacco Bay X2

CRM often requires impacted employees to encounter some form of paradigm change. This requires concerted effort to overcome and will require planning and resources to drive adoption to levels required for CRM program success. (See the past entry titled, Yet Another List of 7, for recommendations for driving up user adoption.)

The difficulty in getting staff past their resistance to change becomes compounded when management doesn’t acknowledge that the change management hurdle is a legitimate and resource requiring element of the program. I have had more than one CIO look me in the eye and say, “It doesn’t matter if they want to use the new system – they won’t have a choice!” How telling that statement is.

So, in this case the paradigm change really is a management issue. Management members, especially those managing the access to resources, must accept that overcoming resistance to change is a key aspect to successful CRM planning and execution. The bigger the change, the bigger the resistance, which requires commensurate attention to user acceptance.

If you were to force me to place a figure on what kind of budget is required to drive user acceptance, I will quote the conventional 15 percent of overall program budget (which also includes training costs). However, it is not just the resource allocation which is needed. What I am going to state next is going to sound really hokey. But, I am firmly resolved in my belief that management must also believe that dealing with resistance to change is a legitimate endeavor. Giving it just lip service somehow seems to undermine the efforts of the program. Look for a future entry for more on this aspect of the paradigm change issue.

March 23, 2007

Charlatans

When I was a kid I had a brother-in-law, Ted, who was a Lutheran Pastor. Once a week Ted would create a sermon to be delivered to his flock on Sunday morning. His approach was to use an event from over the course of his week as a topic at the center of the sermon. The church calendar would also dictate that the sermon teach the lesson from a specified bible passage. It was easy for Ted to come up with his story for the week. It wasn't always easy for him to tie it into the requisite scripture reading. There were plenty of Saturday nights consumed until dawn making this connection. It was hit or miss.

I find that this same approach works for me when it comes to producing this weekly blog entry. For those of you who have not noticed, I post an entry each Friday. However, two things are different for me than they were for Ted. First, I don't have a required bible passage to tie in. And Second, I don't stay up all night on Thursday composing. The nice thing about this blog software is that you can post-date entries. Some of mine have been weeks late.

My entries do relate to an event or activity of my week, or the week before. And, while I don't need to connect to verses from the Good Book, I do keep things relevant to the theme of customers on the edge. So, what was the experience this week that led to the title of "Charlatans"? A difficult client meeting, what else?

I have a client, who after months of working together, still treats me as if I am trying to pull a fast one over on him. You will have seen a previous entry describing this as a broader problem – consultants are often linked with other notorious professions. In the minds of some we are all just charlatans.

For an interesting dialogue on client / consultant relations check on this blog site.

Charlatan

This same perception can leak over into other industries as well, particularly when it comes to marketing, and especially on-line marketing efforts. I have seen banners and gimmicks from Fortune 100 tech firms that are no different from those hawking dating services, porn call-in numbers, and get rich quick schemes. Under these circumstances the damage is self-inflicted. There is absolutely no reason to use nefarious means to lure people to your site. If you offer an iPod give away you are going to attract people who want a free iPod, not necessarily those who want to buy your services. And if you forward those contact details onto your sales force as if they were real leads, you are only doubling the damage.

The use of a Trojan horse to get someone to visit your site and check out your product does not have to follow this slippery path. Offer a white paper or webinar that is on a topic relevant to your product or service. This stands a much better chance of attracting quality prospects into your funnel. This can be a hard concept to get across. My own marketing VP will argue that our last M&M giveaway brought in a legitimate client. I’m OK with giving stuff away – it does build a certain amount of good will. However, when it comes to the use of techniques to lure those to your site, stick with product or service related content. It will save you from being lumped in with the rest of us charlatans.

March 16, 2007

The Iridium Rule

Ghost Town

You were taught to live by the golden rule but recently you may have run across the platinum rule (treat others they way they want to be treated). The platinum rule has been postulated by Tony Alessandra as a tenet for a more effective approach to selling.

Well, today, I would like to offer up The Iridium Rule. Come on, you know iridium. It is element number 77, right next to platinum on the periodic table, very similar in characteristics, costs about the same, and is even found in the same deposits when mining. We don’t really talk about it much however.

We do talk much about how to sell. So it is no surprise that the platinum rule along with its namesake precious metal gets more exposure. So what the heck is the iridium rule? It is for the marketeers – “market unto others the way they want to be marketed to”. Sounds silly? Better not – it is a new requirement of today’s demand creation. We need to talk about this more. Let’s make iridium a popular metal too.

OK. You conduct a campaign that sends an e-mail to a high potential contact from a company that should want your product or service. You got the contact details through a purchased list and you made a proposal to those on it to check out the quality of your offering through a no risk promotion. A portion of those on the list are going to be interested in taking the next step with you, but what is that next step?

Are you hoping to call them next to set up a sales call? Do you want to send them a white paper? Are you hoping they will download a software demo, or maybe attend a webinar? Perhaps they want to stay connected but not take the exact action you are proposing. Is it to subscribe to a newsletter? Do they want to open a chat session because they are ready to take an action sooner, but have questions?

Are you prepared to offer all or any of these? Because, that is what is necessary to increase your chances of keeping the prospects in your funnel rather than swirling over to your competitors. Buyers today expect to connect up with your marketing efforts in a way that satisfies them. They might be able to chat but not e-mail. They may be interested in your newsletter for a future action, but not ready for the software download. They might want to read the whitepaper, but have no desire, yet, to speak to a telemarketer. And, if you only offer the action that you want (or are capable of) a percentage of those prospects are going to land somewhere that offers the medium or action that fits their requirements or preferences.

So, The Iridium Rule – market to your prospects the way they want. Build your capabilities to match the different ways your prospects neet to connect with you. Flood your funnel. Engorge your pipeline. Strike gold.

March 09, 2007

A Change in Behavior

I should not have been surprised, but I was. Minding my own business, surfing through the virtual store isles of eBay, I stumbled across CRM software for sale. First it was Microsoft CRM, then ACT appeared, and then Goldmine. Back in the days when the “killer apps” first came along, CRM software was sold to the early adopters by an elite crew of smartly dressed sales professionals. My how times have changed. (Yes, I know there are still a few sales reps out there donning Brooks Brothers).

The web has changed everything. And, if you have not adopted the changes to business development brought about by the ever new and changing internet buying behavior, then your competitors are winning.

Bho Dog Gone Wild

I’m not talking about eBay (although some of you do have competitors who are selling their products there). Most of my clients are in the B2B space and their customers are shopping on the web, just like the average consumer.

For example, prospective customers interested in buying services to improve their partner channel effectiveness are performing Google searches to find who the vendors are. Some may look directly at which vendor has what for sale. More advanced shoppers search for what company has produced what intelligence. They look for evidence that a vendor has expertise, not just the ability to put marketing hype onto a web site. White papers can serve as evidence. Speaking at industry events is another example. Once the prospective buyer has determined who has the capability, they zero in on the short list and surf the vendor sites for more evidence of capability.

By now you have the capability to track who has visited your site. However, do you know all the content that they perused? Can you compare that to previous visits or interactions? If you combine this set of buying behavior data points into a composite picture, you will have a better understanding of what they are looking for. This will position you to make them an offer – targeted to the interest that they have displayed to you. They have been spending time looking at your security software offerings, especially retinal scan. Offer them a white paper. Offer them to see a pod cast on the topic. If they bite, they are a hot lead, and you need to treat them as such. If they don’t bite, they are still a lead, but perhaps a bit cooler and need a different approach.

This is the new world of demand generation and the rules of changed. Sending 1000 contacts a direct mail offer to attend a retinal scan seminar may hit 999 who have no interest. Sending an e-mail with an offer to view a pod cast to the 50 who have visited that portion of your product description content on the website may lead to 35 who will take the next step with you - better targeting trough more intelligence and stronger lead generation as a result.

Stay tuned.

March 02, 2007

The New Rules

I recently had the pleasure of visiting with a client in Schenectady, NY. This very traditional American city was both the birthplace of my father and where my grandfather began his lifetime of employment at General Electric. It turns out that holding down a steady job as a mechanical engineer all through the great depression molded my grandfather into a very loyal employee.

Saintly Respect

Driving past the Schenectady plant and then seeing dozens of historical pictures displayed at numerous downtown merchants got me to thinking. It appears that the GE campus where he began has not changed much in the decades since. At least the old sepia tone pictures look an awful lot like the place appears today. However, I have to believe that there are a number of things that are different at least regarding how customer interactions are managed. They did not have self-service web portals, predictive analytics, or automated lead routing back then. And, I know for a fact that GE does today.

The drive back from Schenectady to Boston is fairly long, and that gave me ample time to think some more. What I ended up with was the conclusion that there are actually a whole bunch of things that are different today with regard to managing customer interactions than before, but you don’t need to go back a century to find the differences, things have changed intensely in just the last few years.

And to take this one step further, things aren’t just different – the rules have changed! Companies have to manage the process of attracting and retaining customers far differently for today’s college grads entering the job market as compared to the way they needed to be managed as those same grads were just getting out of high school. I hope the professors at the B schools have been keeping up because we are not driving our father’s Oldsmobiles any more.

Is anybody keeping track of the new rules for marketing and selling? Just four years ago not that many people were doing a Google search to buy CRM, but they are doing it today with wanton abandon. Somewhere in that example of buying behavior is a new rule. Bounce back rate wasn’t a household term back then either, but it is becoming normal talk at the dinner table these days. That means that marketing rules have changed in some way. Shortly resumes are going to be a mainstay on YouTube, and I’m not talking in .pdf format. Finding new sales reps for your team is going to require a movie critic rather than a recruiter.

The rules have changed, and some of them are changing at a rate that is hard to adapt to. Stay tuned – I am going off in search of the new rules and I’ll be sending postcards from the edge.