People and Systems

While startups are constantly creating and tweaking their systems and processes within their own organization, most larger organizations are entrenched with them.  Whether you operate within a large company or you are selling to them, learning about the people who influence/make decisions and understanding how to address the constraints the systems and processes of their organization place on them is crucial to a successful selling process.

In simplistic terms, there are two buckets you need to become more familiar with, people and systems.

  • People address: hierarchy, influence, decision making, early adopters, and subject matter experts.
  • Systems address: hardware, software, procedures, and necessary steps to get sign-off for sales.

Together, these buckets help you identify the who and how to move your agenda forward.  Perhaps even more importantly, if you understand an organization’s people and systems and you can develop a sales map that will identify potential roadblocks and lead you to replicable workarounds resulting in a more efficient sales process.

Plus, you can incorporate common findings from the sales mapping process into your product and service offerings to better serve your customer’s needs.  Now that’s a win if I’ve ever heard one.  I’d recommend you learn the people and systems in your product and sales process landscape to improve your hit rate and reduce your sales cycle time line.

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So What?

A simple question yielding powerful results.  The question “so what?” can reveal what really matters to your target audience – the benefit.

So you have a flashy new web app that can refresh logos – so what? A feature you just launched will be useful for clients making up less than 20 percent of your revenues – so what?  Your company has assembled the most experienced team in your industry – so what?

These features are meaningless to your audience without a benefit.  Asking the question “so what?” helps you get to benefit for your customers.  It gets to your customer’s “what’s in it for me?, ” and “why should I pick your product or service instead of the alternative?” thoughts in their minds.

For example, the benefit of employing the most experienced team is better illustrated in your customers’ eyes by explaining how an experienced team will help clients avoid costly pitfalls and speed the launch of important projects.  The “so what?” line of questioning forces you to speak in client-benefit language and cut out insular feature-laden language.

Determining the benefit statement you craft for your clients and prospects takes time and often probing conversations with your customers. It can be challenging to identify something unique and compelling. However, after a few iterations of truly identifying the answers to “so what?” your message can be effectively molded into benefits that are music to your customers ears.

So, the next time you think you have the answer, take a step back and ask the “so what?” question.  Be sure you are answering the right question and speaking to the benefits your audience needs to hear.  Now all you need is for your customers to listen to your song.

Seek Market Fit, Not Branding

For entrepreneurs, finding the right fit in the market for your startup is essential. Before ramping up marketing programs, assess your fit in the market so marketing dollars aren’t wasted on premature campaigns.  Without the right market fit, no amount of branding will overcome a misaligned offering.

Forget branding and develop a focused product or service that your customers can’t live without.  This is not to say you shouldn’t have a positioning statement for your company.  A positioning statement helps identify, create, and capture markets.  Avoid branding until your market fit is established.

Once you’ve placed your stake in the ground and the majority of your customers say they couldn’t imagine doing business without your product, you’ve found your market fit, and an enviable one at that.  From here, ramp up your branding efforts to build loyalty, create barriers to entry and grow your business!

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Avoid Enemies of Change

Companies that spot trends early on and get transform their business focus at the right time are in the minority.  Why do some companies have blinders on when accessing trends?  A company’s very success is often what holds them back from seizing opportunities.  The mindset of leaders is crucial to combating this enemy of change.

We tend to be creatures of our past; our experience shapes what we believe and our perception of reality.  In sum, everyone is biased.  Our history and success are strong sources of our bias.  What often sets good leaders apart from leaders who miss opportunities is colored vision.  Good leaders see beyond their bias and spot trends that may be disparate from their past experience.

Automatically assuming something based on bias can handcuff you from changing direction to capitalize on a fruitful opportunity.  To combat bias and gain clarity, I recommend organizations use numbers and metrics to quantify trends and dispel bias that doesn’t mesh with the trends.

Avoid the enemies of change. Put your history and success in your back pocket while assessing your reality.  Use an unbiased view to ensure you can see trends as they really are and find opportunities that you may have missed before.

Five Nuggets from the Internet Summit

The Internet Summit was last week in Raleigh, NC and I want to share with you five nuggets I took away from the panel sessions I attended.

1) Blogging is Not Dead
Didn’t really think blogging was dead, but I guess with a few bloggers ditching blogging for micro-blogging some were wondering where the blog fits in.  The take-away is that blogs should be a hub for your online marketing initiatives.  For B2B folks, they’re great for thought-leadership positioning too.

2) Search Marketers Start with Google
Google AdWords is easy to use and on the platform where more than 60% of search traffic resides.  Unless you know your audience is on Yahoo/Bing, or your budget is significantly lacking, Google is where you want to start. One other theme around search marketing is that it can also be used effectively for branding purposes.

3) Analytics are Increasingly Important
Think measurement first. Tie your business goals with analytics (read: reverse engineer the goal to the measurement).  Include KPIs as part of budget discussion.

4) Email Marketers use Best Practices
Be relevant (know your audience)
Think holistically (where does email fit into your overall marketing campaign)
Segment and personalize emails (this ties back into relevance)

5) Twitter is Versatile
Great for monitoring brand (customer service) and as a content distribution medium. Expectations are that niche providers like Yammer and the like will start gaining popularity in 2010.

What do you think?  Did the Internet Summit 09 get it right?

Market Sizing

Accurately estimating the market size of your product or service is crucial to determine whether the business or specific industry is worth pursuing.  And if you want financing, investors will want to know what the potential return of their investment could be.  Fortunately, there is a wealth of information at your fingertips to help you determine the market size of your business.

I prefer take the wide view when quantifying markets. This can reveal unexpected relationships between types of people or businesses within a market and can also help identify the most suitable market niche to pursue once the business has achieved success in an ancillary niche.

With this in mind, I recommend sizing up three types of markets: the total available market, the served available market, and the target market.

Take the Wide View
Take the wide view by estimating the total available market size (anyone who could potentially use your product or service) first.  After this, narrow your wide view of the market by determining the served available market size (the portion of the total available market your sales channel can reach, which often includes geographic limitations) and identify the further segmented target market size (the segmented piece or niche of the market to whom your company will be marketing your product or service first).

Quantify the Market with Numbers
To quantify these markets, you need numbers. If you’re pursuing an existing market, check out industry and market research reports (e.g. – Frost & Sullivan, Gartner, Forrester, etc.). These reports are often expensive, so you may need to look elsewhere.  Sometimes you can find other articles referencing an industry report, so do a quick search of articles referencing the report and check the Google cached view to easily identify where the information you want is referenced (this can save a lot of time if its a big report).

Still no luck?  Look in the researcher’s news archives, which often includes useful data in press releases about their reports. Research industry trade groups can also be very helpful, and often publish market statistics about the industry they cover.

If all this fails, visiting your competitors websites may provide you with the numbers you seek.  Estimate the market size by looking at competitors’ annual report and dividing their sales revenue by their market share.

Bring It All Together
Remember, one report won’t tell you everything and there are many ways to get an approximate market size for your business.  You may need to take a multiple data points from various sources and assemble it into a tailored market size report that quantifies the total market size, served available market size, and the target market size.

Researching data from various sources will help you see a more complete picture of your industry.  With these numbers, you’ll better understand the potential for your business and which segments of the industry are most attractive.

Happy market sizing!

How have you determined the market size for your company?  Share your experience.

Twitterfeed Rocks

twitterfeed_faviconThere are a slew of Twitter applications out there, but I must proclaim that Twitterfeed is my favorite one so far. I’ve been using it for some marketing engagements recently and have found it to be a very useful tool – one of the few Twitter applications I’ve found with the right mix of simplicity and richness in its feature set.

Twitterfeed is primarily intended for bloggers who want to automate tweets with links to their new blog posts, but I’ve been using it to post relevant links from feeds across the web to interested twitterlings.  As a huge advocate of content marketing, using a tool that can automatically share useful content with prospects is extremely powerful.

From their usability perspective, Twitterfeed has done one of the most important things a successful Twitter application-maker needs to do; they’ve made it incredibly simple to use.  From allowing you to get started by signing into the app with OpenID, which allows you to sign in with your account credentials sites like Yahoo! and Google, to the automatic connection with your Twitter account when setting up your RSS feeds makes Twitterfeed very easy to use.

If you haven’t checked it out, I highly recommend giving it a whirl.  TwitterFeed Rocks!