74 posts categorized "Marketing"

October 21, 2015

The End of Empowerment & The Return of Prescription

Yesterday I attended the first day of CEB's annual Sales & Marketing Summit.  It's a must-attend for all B2B sales and marketing leaders, offering the most current view into the buyer's world and the best practices that come from following hard data.  The opening keynote by CEB's Brent Adamson blew my mind as he revealed a plot twist in the B2B buyer's journey.  

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The customer's age of empowerment was short lived.  The tipping point has been passed, where today, the customer wants less information and fewer choices.  Like they were in 1990 ... simple prescriptions by suppliers will win the day.  To quote Yogi Berra: "It's like Deja Vu all over again!" 

Making matters worse, the rise in decision-makers (The 5.4 Problem) and the diversity of perspectives and agendas make the buying process "landmindish" -- cause Brent to wonder how companies buy anything or for that matter, get anything done!  Between the landmines and the overwhelming amount of info and options, he declared that the seller's #1 competition is now ... The Status Quo.  

Back to empowerment: Brent asks, "When you visit the grocery store today and there are 50 kinds of mustard on the shelf, do you feel empowered?"  This is a good point as we marvel as shopping sites like Amazon, Expedia for travel, TrueCar for auto purchase, etc.  While they put is in charge at some point, being in charge loses its luster.  The CEB data confirms that the modern B2B buyer is as overwhelmed as today's consumer...but the implications are far worse for suppliers.  

When the buying experience is overwhelmingly complex, the buyer usually regrets their decision later.  Think about the last car you bought: If you were swimming in information, with endless cars to choose from and myriad options to pile on ... do you still feel like you made the right decision today?  According to CEB research, the B2B buyer is more likely to regret their decision when the purchase journey was complex.  

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At this point, Brent raises the stakes for suppliers: "It's no longer about whether you win or lose, but now, it's about how the buyer feels about it later."  To support this (very Lovecat way) of thinking, he offered this stunning chart, which proves that regrettable purchases are BAD for sellers.  

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Pay particular decision to the bars on the right: When the buyer regrets their purchase decision they actively advocate against the supplier!  This isn't a Net Promoter Score dip, Brent points out, they are telling other people inside their company or out in the market not to buy from you! 

The conclusion of Brent's keynote outlines a new selling approach: Prescription to drive ease-in-buying.  "Put all your sales and marketing strategy through the Easeometer," he advises.  In other words, to capture the essence of Bill Jensen's classic book Simplicity: Reduce the stuff, the steps and make the process simple.  Brent defines prescription as "a credible and influential set of do this/don't do that recommendations, provided to customers across the purchase process, deliberately intended to ease the customer's movement toward purchase." This includes how the buyer should prioritize the problem, who they should involve in the purchase process and how they should arrive at supplier decisions.  CEB research indicates that the Prescriptive Process will dramatically outperform the Responsive Process in terms of sales cycle & overall satisfaction.  

He closed the keynote with a salient example of the Rise of Prescription: The comeback of travel agencies.  Over the last few years, travel consultants have picked up a lot of harried consumers or business travelers who were overwhelmed with information and options about their upcoming trip. In a world of always-on smartphone powered buyers ... these travelers just wanted to "call someone and have them figure out the best way to book the trip."  As I've learned in my research for my next book (Dealstorming), B2C trends like this are the Canary In the Coal Mine for B2B sellers.  Which means that you might want to have a meeting today between sales and marketing and figure out how you can make the leap from responsive to prescriptive approaches.  

For more on the psychological impacts of information overload, check out the 2004 research I conducted with Heartmath Institute, predicting the rise of New Economy Depression Syndrome

September 25, 2015

Three Great Fall Business Reads

It's that time of year when publishers release copious amounts of business books.  You've probably seen them popping up in the airport book shops.  As a voracious reader and blurb-giving-author, I have the opportunity to review dozens of them between July and September.  My interests range from sales & marketing to leadership to futurism to success.  I look for a book that challenges conventional wisdom, offers a rich perspective grounded in fact and most of all, advice that I can put into practice.

This fall, there are three books in particular that I'm excited about and highly recommend: 

The Challenger Customer by Brent Adamson, Matt Dixon, Pat Spenner & Nick Toman: This is the follow up to the fantastic Challenger Sale.  In this book, the CEB team reveals how difficult it is for companies to buy services or change suppliers.  This is due to a rising number of decision makers involved in every major purchase, and the disfunction that comes from diversity of agendas.  Their solution is for marketing to create challenger content that acts as "a dog whistle" which attracts mobilizers inside prospect companies.  These mobilizers often display signs of skepticism or demand action as go-getters. But they are the key in driving consensus and ultimately change. This is a must-read for any B2B marketing or sales professional. But note: The authors will challenge your current attempts to establish your company as a thought leader with barrages of content. In their eyes, "looking smart" isn't nearly as effective as "proving you are wrong" when it comes to content marketing that finds the mobilizer.

Vaporized by Robert Tercek: This book will take you on a journey of technological disruption, which few companies have mastered.  Tercek is a certified futurist, with a career arc that spans from founding MTV International to consulting with the most elite tech and digital media companies in the world.  He chronicles the vaporization of print, television and all types of media ... and why companies either found success or failure in the transition.  Then he explains that "anything that can be infrastructure will be," using companies like AirBnb to illustrate the unfair advantage that comes from being digital.  He reveals insights into the App Economy, Peer-To-Peer media and Big Data. But unlike most futurists, he won't leave you hanging.  The end of the book offers a solid blueprint for navigating the vaporization of all things service, and how you can convert disruption into a game changing opportunity.  

Grit To Great by Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval: This book is all about the power of pluck and determination when it comes to leading others, being an entrepreneur or succeeding in the face of adversity.  The authors reveal the attribute that Michael Jordan, Alibaba's Jack Ma and Michael Bloomberg share: Grit.  In a world of look-at-me or stand-out-in-a-sea-of-sameness, Thaler and Koval offer a different viewpoint: Grit is about sweat not swagger.  You are nothing special.  Grit is cultivated over time and is the result of practice and design.  The book lays out a series of steps, mostly decisions you need to make, that lead to a higher level of grit, which is easily converted in greatness (confidence, effectiveness, innovativeness).  From the Lead To Learn conference, Thaler offers a glimpse into the book's content in this video clip

March 03, 2014

Google & SEO | This dog finally has teeth


(Guest post by Brandon Wentland.  Image courtesy of Prashant_sh)

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a complicated, technical, and sometimes shady practice of massaging Google’s search algorithm in your favor.  It is a big deal because top ranking for key terms can mean hundreds, thousands, or even millions of dollars of revenue gained.

SEO has evolved through the years, but the last two have been the most volatile.  Some are calling it it the SEO apocalypse.  It has been a rough ride, but it is all for the better.

Google’s algorithm changes are a good thing

Google’s goal is to serve the best, most relevant results to you (in .2 seconds or less!).  Spammy SEO hijacks this by oftentimes getting undeserving sites in top results.  Google has FINALLY cracked down on this in a couple key ways: links and anchor text.

How Google’s crackdown affects you

You might not even know Google thinks your website is spammy.  Some big brands have been badly hurt by Google: Expedia and Rap Genius, just to name just a few.  These penalties are a big deal because you can often disappear from search results.  This is bad for business.  Lost visibility directly affects ROI, brand recognition, and more.

Even if you just have a passing knowledge of SEO, you can protect your site.  Though Google has cracked down on links and anchor text, with the right tools you can find what Google calls, “unnatural link profiles.”  

Links, links, links

Google is a link-based search engine.  Links are at its core and in its DNA.  The amount and types of links you have make up your link profile.  Having a diverse, healthy, and natural link profile will help you rank well and protect you from penalties.

Anchor text

The word(s) or phrase linked to a site is called anchor text.  In the past, you could rank well for “cheap cars” if you had tons and tons of links with that wording.  Now this is seen as unnatural and spammy.  Nobody links to you like that!  Most of the time they will use “click here,” “learn more,” or your brand name.

Low Quality Links

A few years ago the more links you had, the better.  Their source didn’t matter.  I have seen links from Malaysian flower shops and deodorant websites linking to local companies.  You can be 99% sure that such links are irrelevant for most websites.

Tools of the trade

Your linking information is not publicly available, so you will need to use a tool to gather it.  Our personal favorite is Link Research Tools.  Using one of their quick audit tools, I can see a word cloud for python.org that shows distribution of anchor text:


(This is healthy anchor text. See how the biggest terms are all branded and not commercial in nature.)

I can also see the distribution of the links for any site.  The lower quality links are on the far left. If you see a spike, it’s a good indicator of suspicious link building.

  Link profile

Take action!

If your word cloud shows a lot of “money” terms (i.e. - your service or product) and not your brand, change the anchor text to a branded term or disavow them completely.  Do the same with your low quality links.  Remove them if you can.  If not, disavow them.  Doing so will help you prevent your site from a painful Google penalty.

If you have any questions feel free to contact me on Twitter or comment below, thanks!


Brandon Wentland is the President of Optimal Digital Marketing, a digital marketing and SEO agency based out of Appleton, WI.  You can follow him on Twitter or Google+.


June 17, 2013

Delight Your Customers By Texting Them (really)

Up until recently, I would have told you that texting did not create much of an opportunity for businesses as it might be considered obtrusive.  Of course, for critical communications like flight delay info, I've given out my text for a notification to airlines.  A few friends of mine, have their bank balance texted to them to avoid over drawing their account.  Other than that, it seemed like most consumers only want to receive person-to-person texts (and not to often!).  

As a result, most companies don't integrate text notification into their customer relationships.  They gather physical mail addresses, email addresses and phone number (without validating that they are mobile or home phone numbers for text notification purposes).  If they gathered a text number, along with "would you prefer text notifications?," they could leverage it to save or make more money.  

I recently shred this advice to the owner of a chain of dry cleaners, and to him, it was an unproven concept.  He needed a case study where it could actually save or make him money, otherwise "why recreate the it's-ready wheel?" 

Mobile1 Lube Express offers an example of how retail businesses can leverage text notifications, an offshoot of the same technology that drives social media, to drive customer engagement and loyalty. Their results likely scale to the general population, beyond their category. 

In 2012, the Willow Grove Pennsylvania location created a program where customers were offered an oil-change reminder via direct mail, email or text message.  Surprisingly, 32% of all participants requested text notifications.  When they received a text notification, 35% of them came into the shop for service within 45 days.  In sharp contrast only 21% of those who were sent a reminder in the mail came in for service during the same period.  Text driven customers spent almost 15% more than the average, proving that not only is digital communication a great way to connect, it often reaches the most lucrative customer segments.

The company will replace their print mail notifications with digital ones to both increase marketing effectiveness as well as reducing costs.  This is the true promise of connecting with customers where they are, as opposed to continuing to use legacy ways of communicating.  In any event, Mobile1 Lube Express learned that keeping in touch with customers pays off...it's just a matter of how much.

Read more about this case study here.  And don't forget to get permission first before you text! Slide1

June 14, 2013

How Do You Define Innovation? (You could win!)

This week, I've been tweeting and writing about innovation.  We all know it's the prescription for sustainable success in a constantly changing world.  But what exactly is innovation?  I've played around with several definitions over my consulting and speaking career - and each one is helpful to those trying to harness it's power.

So, I've created a Facebook Page contest, inviting all my friends and followers to submit their definition of innovation.  Next week, I'll pick the most helpful submission and mail the winner a nifty Intel titanium removable drive (8 gigs). It's my way of saying "Thanks" for contributing to the conversation.  

Take a minute to check out the video I made that explains the rules, the prize and my motivation for launching it. Make sure your submissions are in the comments to the video on the Facebook Page and not here.

April 26, 2013

Social Media Lessons Learned From The Audience

Last night I attended a fireside chat where Vince Thompson interviewed The Audience founder Oliver Luckett.  His company manages social media from major brands including artists, athletes, entertainers and super-cool companies.  (His co-founders are none other than Ari Emmanuel and Sean Parker).  

Every month, The Audience reaches between 600million and a billion people with their branded content.  He thinks of the company as a modern day Factory (think Warhol, not Demand media) that produces objects for brands to publish for their followers and key stakeholders.  During his comments, a few nuggets of gold came out for any person, company or entity that wants to leverage social media to build deep and profitable relationships.  

1.  Marketers Should Think Like Publishers - His point is that marketers need to feed their followers content that resonates with them, so they will embrace/share it.  They should not think of social platforms as a bullhorn to make announcements.  Sure, at some point when you've fed your followers enough great stuff, you can interupt the content-banquet to let them know about an opportunity to interact with the brand (concert tickets for his musician clients, movie release dates for actor clients and so on.)  Takeaway:  Develop a content schedule that's consistent, well times, contains objects (pictures, videos, essays) that enrich the life of the follower.  

2.  Measure Everything - Oliver was a key member of the Disney marketing team, helping to launch movies like Toy Story 3 and building brands like Dory, who is now even more popular than Nemo! He learned that if you measure the effectiveness of each object you publish, you can improve future effectiveness by "orders of magnitude." For example, he learned that if you post a picture of rapper Pit Bull in a pink shirt, it gets shared by followers exponentially  more than if you posted a picture of him in any other colored shirt.  (Apparently, pink makes Pit Bull come off more sensitive and improves his carriage with female followers.)  Takeaway: Test different versions of content, and mesure the results.  It's not just about measuring likes, it about optimizing your content strategy! 

3. Don't Tell Your Followers What To Think - When working on Toy Story 3 at Disney, Oliver noticed that declarations like "Isn't this great!" (captioning a movie poster) were often met with comments like, "No, it sucks!"  When the content was reposted without a declaration, it was met with enthusiasm.  While this was targeted at teens and young adults, the point is obvious: Don't sell people, serve them and let them sell you.  Takeaway: Content doesn't need to have a call to action, it needs to resonate, excite and delight followers.  You need to trust that they will reward you with loyalty and consideration. 

February 04, 2013

So God Made A Farmer, Then Dodge Made An Ad

Last night, Dodge's "God Made A Farmer" Super Bowl ad rocked me, and likely, millions of other people with its poignant message and eloquent deliver by Paul Harvey.  

Today, according the Hulu, it's the highest rated ad that ran last night.  Why?  The ad was stunningly effective because it was authentic, pulled on our values and deceptively simple.  The grainy sound was from a tape (yes, a cassette recording) of Paul Harvey's keynote address at the 1978 Future Farmers of America annual convention.  No clean up, you can hear the hiss and the echo that comes with a tape deck setup at the back of the room (and not being directly fed from a mixing board.) 

Instead of fancy effects, the ad features high quality pictures, to keep us tracking with Paul's narrative.  The ad also works because, much like last year's "It's Halftime America" ad, it speaks to a crisis in our country that an underdog is facing.  For farmers, they face less resources to do their job, at a time we need them more than ever.  In the 4-Hour Work Week culture our kids live in, farmers work around the clock and are proud of it.  

Former Coke CMO Sergio Zyman once wrote that "good advertising is a service.  It adds value when you consider, purchase or use the product." In this case Dodge hit a home run, even though I'll never likely buy one of their trucks.  Even in non-consideration, my affinity to the brand increased, which likely has it's own long term value to Dodge.  

Hulu's Ranking of Top Super Bowl Ads of 2013 

And God Made A Farmer (ad) 

December 12, 2012

The Cold Call Is Dead: Long Live the Social Hat Tip

Why do we use social media, be it personally or professionaly?  To be heard.  

This was my takeaway from the recent Edison Research survey, which indicated that 25% of Facebook users visit the network five times or more a day.  And when they visit, they pay more attention to interactions with their posts than the content others are putting up.  

This is a remarkable insight for insightful marketers, entrepreneurs and businesses.  When we first start using social media, we likely reconnect with old friends and curiousity drives our usage.  Then, after the new wears off, we begin to use these platforms to express ourself or be a maven. 

This jives with Dan Zarella's findings at Hubspot, where he indicates that the top reasons we share content are to be "in the know" or to "warn/recommend" to our friends.  Again, it's all about expression.  The psychic currency, then, is for their posts to in turn be liked, shared, commented on, etc. 

So here's the takeaway:  If you want to connect with media, influeners, prospects or your customers, don't interrupt them with a cold call or spam them with a press release or "what's up?" email.  Give them what they want: Attention.  Create lists (Twitter) or preferred feed (Get Notifications/FB) for those you want to build a relationship with.  When they post content that should be shared, share it or comment.  Be additive, though, because it's all about authenticity. 

They will reciprocate by paying more attention to you, and who knows, your hat tip could lead to opporutnities to interact.  In a world where your calls don't get returned and your emails are never opened, the hat tip may be the only way to become signal, instead of noise.  

Case study: Desk Elf and Carol Roth - Edison Research Link 

Watch: Video clip from one of my keynotes on "How To Win Business Using Social Media." 

Connect With Your Prospects Using Social Media (instead of spamming or cold calling them) from Tim Sanders on Vimeo.

June 13, 2012

Business Lessons From Gotye

Gotye's smash hit, "Somebody That I Used To Know" is everywhere I go. 

Jacqueline introduced it to me months ago, when its stunning video made it's way around the web, and I knew it was going to be the song-of-the-year.  At this point, you might be getting tired of it, like you did with James Blunt's "Beatiful" or the last four hits from Coldplay. 

But, there's great marketing and product development learnings that can come from super smashes, and why they happen.  I guess that's why I love music and entertainment culture so much.  Putting my bizcap on, here's what we can learn from Gotye: 

1. Be Emotionally Relevent To Many. - The product story (lyrics) appeal to two big groups: Those who've lost love, then contact and those who have been 'screwed over.'  That's a big market.  Think the Alannis Morrisette song with even bigger reach.  Green Day has often used a 'life-situation' wheel when writing songs for an album.  

2. Whittle The Product Down To Perfection. - The key was the song structure (no real break, quiet verse, tense bridge, rewarding chorus).  The production was sparse, but novel.  The build of the song is done as much with packaging (think fading, effects) as by design. 

3. Remember to include Old/New/Borrowed/Blue. - The song makes you think Sting, vibe like Andrew Bird, remember Peter Gabriel and most of all...feel emotionally down a little.  That's the secret to building product drama. 

4. Promote The Product Sight, Sound & Motion. - Many people discovered Gotye through the video his team produced for the single. It was produced for YouTube, and has by far gotten more views (a quarter of a billion) than MTV could deliver in its heyday.  We saw him, his special guest Kimbra, and a neat visual concept that was worth sharing (and talking about).  In the Pinterest economy, you need to be Pinteresting! 

5. Apologize For Succes, Then Monetize. - When I saw Gotye at Coachella, this song was the highlight, and the crowd went berzerk.  Afterwards, he said, "well, now that we have that out-of-the-way," and went on to sell us a second single with a passionate performance.  His shoe-gazing approach to such a smash allows even the tastemakers to continue to enjoy the song, and maybe, his next product. 



May 23, 2012

Want To Extend Your Reach? Don't Hire A Babysitter!

I assume that most of you who read my blog or subscribe to my newsletter are those who have something to say or sell, whether it’s your own or someone else’s. We’re all trying to be seen or heard and that’s increasingly complicated in a noisy world. 

Wouldn’t you agree?

The problem is that to be successful in the market today, you must possess two strategic assets: a compelling product and a meaningful platform. 

Platform is key. 

Most of us know it and it’s why we spend time networking, developing social media, writing emails and blogs, speaking, trying to connect with potential customers, etc. 

But here’s the issue, simply being on Facebook or Twitter, simply writing a book or newsletter, simply opening the doors of your business… doesn’t matter (unless others know about you and follow). 

That’s why I am excited about a new book from my good friend Michael Hyatt, one of the top bloggers in the world and Chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers.  It’s called Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World. It’s a step-by-step guide to help you navigate the waters so that you can do what works in order to be seen and heard. 

Special: To celebrate the launch of the book this week, Michael is giving away $375.98 worth of free Platform bonus content for those who purchase the book between May 21 and May 25. Complete details are available at http://michaelhyatt.com/platform

As I was chatting with Mike he mentioned something that really stood out to me about building a platform. He said… 

Accept Personal Responsibility - If you’re thinking of hiring a babysitter for your platform, think again. It is critical that you be 100% committed and the driving force behind its creation and growth. Think about it. Does anyone know your mission, product or service better than you do? Is anyone more passionate about it than you are? Does anyone have as much skin in the game as you do? Expertise, passion, and, frankly, the fate of your career will drive you to create something greater than anything a hired-out marketing team could imagine.” 

Basically he’s saying don’t phone it in and try to pass it off to someone else. If you want to be heard, you have to speak up and be the driver. 

In my years of being an author and speaker I have found that to be very true. Yes, you need to hire a great team and utilize great resources but don’t expect someone else to do all of the work that you too must be active in doing. 

If it’s important, you’ll find a way. If it’s not, you’ll find an excuse. 

I have two three copies of the book to give away - all you have to do is hit the retweet button and make a comment to this post.  


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