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Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Online marketing is under heavy pressure to be all things to a target market in the ways that market wants them to be—right now. Instant marketing, on-demand pressure and today’s culture of constant change impact not just the speed, but the quantity of content you need to create continuously to lift engagement.

There’s no downtime anymore. Create a campaign, send it out, monitor real-time results, tweak your strategy, add new content to your website, blog, create webinars, podcasts and compelling events that engage buyers. Oh, and don’t forget to give sales better conversational briefs, customer stories and buyer profiles that fit with those personas it took you painstaking hours to develop.

Whew. That’s a lot of stuff. If I’d have gotten more specific, it’d be really scary.

What can really be disconcerting is when you put all that content you’ve worked so hard on out there and then you look at the brief amount of time your buyers spend reading it. Scanning has become an art form. People grab a bit here, a bit there and try to give themselves a crash course in intelligence gathering that will enable them to make graduate-level decisions about complex sales with the equivalent of a fourth-grade education. Not because they don’t want to learn, but because time is scarce and the subject matter is not their expertise.

You need a strategy for putting all this work into a context that matches how your buyers access and use it. Not to mention your sales team.

Consider the following 6 contextual tips when developing your content and you’ll see your level of engagement lift because you’re matching buyers’ needs.

Pull:
The quality of your online content, and the way it’s presented can work for you or against you. Buyers have different informational needs at various stages of their purchase process. They will scan first to gauge relevancy. Once they decide you have information valuable to them, they’ll grab what they can now and return again to learn more. The returns are the critical objective. The more frequently you can touch them with high-value content, the more top-of-mind space your company will occupy. Think about pull in stages. The more meaningful touches they have with you, the more time they will allot for your content.

Time:
The scarcity of time that buyers have to pay attention means that you need to break things down. Address issues in bit-sized pieces they can digest quickly and easily. Showing respect for their time earns you points. Stage your content to grow longer as it gets deeper. Link it together so they can extend their time as they engage, but make sure they get full value from each piece. The secret of meeting time constraints is tight topic focus.

Conversation:
You’re not just talking to one buyer. Seven is probably the smallest number in a consensus group for a mid-sized B2B complex sale. Focus on developing content that’s easy for them to use in conversations with the others in the buying group. Storytelling, used in a business context, means that the buyer can actually envision themselves in the situation, eliminating the pain and moving successfully into the future. This gives them a context for discussion. Facts don’t generate conversation, situations do. Situations they can relate to.

Variety:
Everyone in the buying group won’t successfully integrate the same kind of content into their thinking. Some people respond better to video, some to audio, some to live presentation formats. Others want the words on a page so they can ingest as they expand their thinking to wrap their minds around the concepts.

Interaction:
Content is no longer just a one-way monologue where you do the telling and your buyer takes it all in and decides if they believe you. People want ownership. They want control and they want involvement. Listening, hearing and responding are critical components to incorporate with your content strategy. The dialogue needs to go both ways for it to be effective. Encouraging questions that explore your expertise can help drive interactions.

Immersion:
The better integrated your content is, the more immersion you will get. I call this topic density. Topic density means that you’ve successfully pulled your buyer from one related content resource to another, expanding their knowledge transfer to the point that they feel confident and competent in having a sales conversation with your company.

Applying these six tips to your content development will help you deliver marketing on the go that isn’t just hit and run. By varying the length of your information and tightening focus for bite-sized knowledge consumption, you’ll be laying the foundation for a lengthening engagement because the value they get quickly will entice them to spend more time. Just as a fine-dining experience begins with an appetizer, then a salad, an intermezzo, an entrée and then a dessert, so too can the stages of your content delivery build the momentum of your buyers’ engagement, ultimately resulting in opportunity lift.

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Once again I encountered a marketing person whose company does online marketing yet doesn’t have a Twitter component.

The marketing person said, “I’ve read about Twitter and have yet to see anyone say that Twitter can be effective for corporations.”

I don’t know what articles or blog posts he’s reading, but he should definitely expand his reading range.

I’ve already written in this column about the importance of monitoring your company/corporation on Twitter to ensure you can quickly respond to negative comments. And, of course, responding to positive comments can be equally beneficial.

But what about a corporation using Twitter effectively for B2B promotion?

Let’s take a hypothetical example – we’ll imagine that your company is about to bring out a new, improved inventory control software program in a crowded marketplace of inventory control software programs.

We’ll call the new software “Magic Inventory Control.” And the company could tweet about some of the new features that Magic Inventory Control will offer.

Of course, only every few company tweets will mention this software because the company doesn’t want to appear as only pushing its product on Twitter. Other tweets, for example, might share links to blog posts by inventory control experts or blog posts about software development, including what glitches to be on the alert for in new software.

Yet enough of the tweets mention Magic Inventory Control that the product name starts to become recognizable on Twitter.

Then the company runs a contest on Twitter for a free copy of this software. Anyone who tweets about the contest gets entered into the random drawing (using random.org to choose the winner).

Now excitement about this new product is building on Twitter and is poised to overflow into product blog posts and other social media (especially if the company uses an application that sends tweets automatically into Facebook).

At a very low marketing cost (whatever the opportunity cost is of employees taking a few minutes from their work each day to tweet based on a company Twitter strategic plan) the company has reached an influential online community without producing a single print, tv or radio ad for this product introduction.

The conclusion? The B2B marketing/promotion opportunities of Twitter are limited only by your company’s creativity IQ.

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There can be no doubt that the Internet has profoundly changed the way we communicate with each other, how fast we can access information and how easy it is to share news and connect.

The spread of traditional media, like newspapers, television and magazines has somewhat decreased but companies still need to be where their customers are now more so than ever. The exciting news is that there are numerous advantages to being online.

  • Cost effective: In small and medium sized businesses marketing budgets are usually small. Therefore, in order to squeeze the juice out of them, these budgets need to be used as cost effectively as possible. An eMarketing campaign can draw from the best of hardcopy documents such as direct-mail offers, newsletters and advertisements without spending the costs normally incurred in printing and posting them due to the fact that they can be sent electronically.

  • Targeted: Online marketing affords you the opportunity to customize specific messages for specific audiences. For example, a potential client is interested in one of your products but is not interested in any of the accompanying services that you offer. A well-planned online marketing campaign can meet that potential client’s interests exactly, the result being that you can give the right information to the right people and ultimately attract them to your business.

  • Time efficient: In business, time is money. eMarketing has the advantage of being faster to set up and implement than most other more traditional marketing methods. Similarly, the response mechanisms to the eMarketing tools are equally speedy. So you can expect to see results immediately.

  • Measurable: Online surveys and other interactive tools allow you to know how many people are visiting your website, what they looked at and how they heard about you. This is invaluable information that you can use in order to ascertain a better understanding of your customers and what they want from you.

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Changing the Culture to Achieve a Competitive Advantage

Many companies claim they are changing their culture but few actually succeed. Altera Corporation is among the few who have implemented a strategic culture change resulting in increased business success. The process that is used to transform the culture, Collaborative Transformational Leadership® is what differentiates a company like Altera, whose employees are passionate about and committed to change, from companies where change is only given lip service. Change does not occur just because someone is sent to a course or given a new process to implement. Change occurs because the entire organization, beginning with the leaders, is guided through a process that helps people at all levels reach outside their comfort zone and become engaged in making the company better.

Altera’s Situation

Historically, Altera’s business success was built on a strategy and culture of operational excellence. When the economy, their customers and the competitive landscape changed, this strategy no longer delivered the needed business results and they fell to second place in their market. To win market share, they needed to evolve their sales organization into one that could develop a closer more intimate relationship with their customers. Managers and front line sales people needed to be empowered to make decisions that fostered solid relationships with customers.

“Customer intimacy” was Altera’s vision for success and effectively implementing the vision would be a strategic advantage. The challenge, however, was how to create the environment inside the company that would enable customer intimacy and a winning mindset.

Collaborative Transformational Leadership®

Real culture change begins with the transformation of those who are leading the change. Success at Altera was achieved through Collaborative Transformational Leadership, an iterative process whereby those who lead the change are further transformed by their followers. As one level in the organization experiences change and expands their capabilities, they challenge the next level down to do the same, which in turn, challenges the leaders once again. In this way, the bar is continuously raised for leaders and followers alike. Collaborative Transformational Leadership ensures that the company is responsive to and in front of the demands of a fast-paced, ever changing environment.

Gaining Trust

Dan Sheehy, vice president of Eastern Area Sales, reviews the history of the culture change.

“As a company that has always driven towards operational excellence, we had a command and control culture. We paid people to execute, not to think about the business or the customers. To shift to customer intimacy required a culture of empowerment. We needed to develop a sales force that actively listened to and understood their customers. This required adding business acumen and relationship based competencies to a technically based culture.

“We began by communicating a vision of where we wanted to go. We provided training in a new sales process, but nothing substantive changed and the resistance was strong. I didn’t understand why. As I saw it, we were offering employees a better climate where they would be more empowered and more successful. At this point, I felt we needed an outside perspective to help affect change, so I brought in Germane Consulting to help me understand why things weren’t working, and what I needed to do.

“With Germane Consulting’s help, I began to appreciate the magnitude of what we were asking of our employees. Anne Perschel, president of Germane Consulting, helped me see that to achieve the change, people had to try new things and stop doing business the old way. Sounds easy, but the old way is what they knew, what they were comfortable with, and what made them and the company successful in the past. We were also taking down silos between units and power was shifting. Before key leaders, managers and employees would do this, we had to gain trust on two levels. First, they had to trust our competence as leaders. They had to believe that our vision was sound and if they followed us, we could reach it. Second, they had to trust that we cared enough to help them on the journey and that the company and everyone who worked here would have an opportunity to be successful.”

Becoming Emotionally Competent Leaders

The leaders at Altera had to become emotionally competent. They had to inspire, not just command. They had to read people better and respond to what motivates them. They needed to influence, not just direct. They needed to coach, collaborate and build teams. The first step in one’s transformation as a leader is to become self-aware and be open to seeing oneself as others do.

Germane Consulting worked with the leaders to help them become more self aware and develop the attitude and skills to effect change. A model of leadership and the required competencies to achieve the vision was developed. These competencies included:

  • Being self-aware;
  • Soliciting feedback;
  • Inspiring others;
  • Conveying a vision through story telling;
  • Reading the emotional landscape;
  • Influencing others;
  • Leading through empowerment;
  • Eliciting candor to identify and resolve obstacles.

Once the model was in place, Germane Consulting identified and administered a 360 degree assessment for each leader and then provided the appropriate coaching to develop the needed competencies. A 360 degree assessment enables leaders to develop self-awareness in order to be better able to see and address obstacles to success, understanding the impact they have on those around them and why. Germane Consulting worked with key leaders and managers in individual and small group settings. John Singleton, a sales manager remarked, “This has become a tight knit organization. There is no dodging the issues. It helps to have a resource like Germane Consulting to help you get things out in the open, to stop the dodging and to demystify what it takes to work on real issues.”

Another Sales Manager was not seeing the needed performance from his sales force. Past success led him to believe that people would follow him if convinced that his ideas would yield the desired business results. His people complained that he was driving his agenda so hard that he did not attend to their issues. Through a customized 360 process Germane Consulting helped him hear in-depth feedback about his impact. His guiding beliefs about people changed as he realized that people were only doing what was needed to comply with his demands. This was having a direct negative impact on results. Consultations focused on coaching and collaboration, while listening empathically to others. He began to hear and address people’s concerns. They responded in kind. He and his direct reports formed a leadership council. They shared ideas for implementing change and achieving results.  Within six months the district began to exceed expectations and have continued to do so over several quarters.  The tempo is upbeat. They have a winning mindset and everyone contributes. At their quarterly meetings it is difficult to tell who the formal” leaders are. It is a true team.

The Collaborative Transformation

In conjunction with the coaching, leaders and employees continued to receive intensive training in a new sales process. They learned how to work in teams, to listen to each other and to the customer, and to think like business people. They became empowered. But this change was hard work and management experienced substantial resistance. Employees complained that “it was easier when you just told us what to do.” But leaders held true to the vision and people began to achieve small successes.

With guidance from Germane Consulting, they implemented plans to support the change. They held celebrations to mark the victories of change from the old culture to the new and learning conferences where employee teams told successes stories and how they achieved them. People began to inspire and learn from each other.

Sales people and managers were also trained in the use of tools such as the Myers Briggs Type Inventory to help them understand their own and others’ personality types. Tools such as these, in conjunction with the coaching, help people increase their abilities to work with peers, direct reports, managers, and customers.

According to Dan, the tools and sales processes were necessary but not sufficient to change the culture. “Any company can bring in a sales process or train people to use tools like Myers Briggs to understand more about people. The key to making these changes work and have a lasting and substantive impact lies with the leadership, and that started with me. We had to show that we could be trusted, that we were vulnerable to the changes as well. We had to listen to what employees were saying. Germane Consulting was critical to helping us see the need to do this and to do it well. Without this, we would have ‘trained people’ but we would not have changed the culture.”

Altera’s empowered culture was now demanding more from their leaders: more collaboration, more teamwork, more room to make strategic decisions for their markets and territories. Leaders responded by listening to the demands. They also engaged Germane Consulting to help design a newly customized leadership assessment. Anne went to our constituents. Employees and peers helped identify the issues the leaders needed to understand in greater depth. They recommended people to be interviewed. They reviewed the feedback with their leaders and provided detailed stories to help managers and leaders learn. The transformation process was now mutual, internal and institutionalized.

Results

One success story is illustrated by a manager who prior to coaching, micro managed and stood in people’s way. He never heard the real truth about what was going on because people knew they would be micromanaged on the solutions. Now he is seen as one of the highest potential managers in the company. His people are empowered and creative. They are identifying opportunities and responding to them without being asked. He is engaged in very strategic thinking, predicting market trends and aligning sales strategies and organizations to take advantage of emerging factors. When asked how he developed his strategic thinking capabilities, he stated that prior to coaching, obstacles prevented him from knowing he had the capability to think about the big picture and see emerging patterns. Coaching helped him remove barriers from his own thought process and learn how to see emerging patterns of the future. His thinking is much clearer and more strategic. He has found new markets for Altera products and has redesigned his sales organization to align better with these emerging markets.

“Collaborative transformational leadership is now underway and continues to strengthen our organization,” says Dan. “We asked for change and we changed ourselves first. The employees then changed and demanded even more sophisticated and enlightened leadership. Best of all, our business results prove this is the way to win. We have gained significant market share and our pipeline of new business is strong; the industry’s most talented people are knocking on our doors looking for opportunities to work at Altera. Our employees are excited and they care about what they have created here. The ideas and the energy keep flowing.”

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