The Battle for Marketing, Huckleberry Bicycles, and Big Freaking Enterprises: The Best Posts We Read This Week

Some of the best posts we read this week:

Good post on all of the vendors who are pushing hard into the CMO’s office (and budget). We think the real battle will be about point tools versus a consolidated suite. For various reasons, we think point tools win for the foreseeable future. The Battle for the Marketing Cloud 

A lot of  small businesses have no idea where their customers come from. A great post on the very cool Huckleberry Bicycles highlights the challenge: “But why do more new people walk in each day? I don’t really know.” Starting a Bike Shop

Sales and the Customer Experience: 25 Ways to Make Sales Buyer-Centric

Understanding the customer experience is one of today’s hottest topics and for good reason. Companies that become truly customer-centric (given that we focus on sales and marketing, we prefer the phrase buyer-centric) tend to outperform their peers on a number of fronts, including faster revenue growth, higher conversion rates, shorter buying cycles, and lower churn. Of course, the first step in becoming a buyer-centric organization is to understand the buying experience. For more information on how to really understand your buyer, check out our recent post on buyer research.

But there’s a second step that’s just as important to becoming an organization that is built around the buyer. This step involves taking everything you’ve learned about the buyer and operationalizing it. This has implications for the entire organization, but you need to pay particular attention to the sales team, given that they are on the front lines of many buyer interactions (it’s also important that marketing get on the buyer bandwagon, but we find that this is less of a challenge given that marketing often spearheads the buyer research effort).

Apple Ads, Marlin Steel, and Car Sales: The Best Posts We Read This Week

Five of the best posts we read this week:

“This is it. This is what matters. The experience of the product” are the opening words of Apple’s Designed in California” commercial. It doesn’t make for good copywriting, but isn’t it really the experience of the person using the product that matters? In 20 years, We’re All Going to Realize this Apple Ad is Nuts

An incredible story of how a CEO saved his company by completely changing target markets. Marlin Steel went from manufacturing wire bagel baskets for bagel stores to supplying industrial grade baskets to the world’s largest manufacturers. The Road to Resilience: How Unscientific Innovation Saved Marlin Steel

Sales Productivity: The Quick Guide to Sales Technology You Can Buy with Your Credit Card

The sales technology market is growing at breakneck pace. At last years Sales 2.0 conference, it was estimated that there are over 2000 Sales 2.0 solutions on the market. If you don’t believe those estimates, then look at the number of sales solutions listed on the AppExchange. I counted 746 applications as of August 7, 2013.

There are a number of reasons for this growth:

Bow Ties, Nacho Pricing, and the Subscription Economy: The Best Posts We Read This Week

Here are five of the best posts we read this week..

Did you know that a bow tie could be your secret weapon at trade shows? Rather that outfitting sales and marketing personnel with traditional, corporate polo shirts, Visage employees wear bow ties, vests, and jeans. They’ve become recognizable and approachable as a result. B2B: Boring, bland, boorish, beige, bummer? Or bow ties?

Can nacho pricing teach us anything about the rumored iPhone Lite? Rags Srinivasan thinks it can, although my impression is that Apple feels like it just needs to penetrate developing markets. Appetizer pricing and the iPhone Lite

Do Things that Don’t Scale… with Your Customers

Paul Graham of Y Combinator has written an excellent post called Do Things that Don’t Scale. I think it’s one of the most important posts of the year. The gist of the post is:

Actually startups take off because the founders make them take off. There may be a handful that just grew by themselves, but usually it takes some sort of push to get them going. A good metaphor would be the cranks that car engines had before they got electric starters. Once the engine was going, it would keep going, but there was a separate and laborious process to get it going.

That’s a powerful idea for a few different reasons. First, Paul’s right – achieving success in a handful of areas, even if it requires serious effort, can have a transformative impact on a business (and not just startups). Second, it’s a really accessible recommendation because just about everyone I know is capable of doing things that don’t scale. Third, I’m a fan of contrarian ideas as a competitive differentiator in business and this is definitely a contrarian idea.

This is particularly true when it comes to building relationships with people who can help make your company successful. Of course you can build relationships with lots of different people. Examples include your employees, investors, and influencers. But in my mind, the relationships that you build with your customers are the most important. That’s why the first thing I thought of when reading Paul’s post is that we should do things that don’t scale with our customers.

Buyer Research: 5 Easy Steps to Understand the Buyer

The buyer-centric company puts the buyer at the center of everything it does. While understanding the buyer can make just about everything a company does better, buyer research usually has the biggest impact on sales and marketing. A deep understanding of the buyer can and should be the foundation of the sales and marketing team’s process, key activities, organization, metrics, content, communications, and technology. It’s a simple, but powerful strategy that can transform a company’s ability to achieve its revenue objectives.

That’s because buyer research that helps companies understand who the buyer is, what they want, and how they make decisions has the potential to improve a variety of metrics in the revenue chain. Some of these metrics include improved conversion rates, shorter sales cycles, and larger average order sizes.

How Images Drive Conversions: The Presentation

A few weeks ago, we wrote a post, How Images Drive Conversions: 15 Ways Images Can Improve Conversion Rates, that described how marketers can use images to increase conversion rates. This presentation is based on that post and summarizes the 15 tips contained in the original post as well as some additional examples that highlight how marketers can put these techniques into practice. While images are an afterthought for many marketers, it’s important to remember that many studies show that images have a significant impact on various conversion points associated with things like landing pages, product catalogs, and emails.

Customer Engagement: How Marketing and Sales Can Use Psychology to Drive Engagement

One of the most profound changes in sales and marketing in recent years is the idea that companies should focus on engaging customers more than selling products. A big part of the customer engagement movement involves using various communication techniques to create a meaningful relationship where the customer values you and your company, independent of what you’re selling.

There’s been some analysis on a handful of techniques that can drive engagement. Popular examples include social media, storytelling, and content marketing. But most of this analysis has focused on tactical execution, as opposed to how knowing what the customer really wants (read: the customer’s psychology) can help you drive engagement.

Robin Dreeke has written a book called It’s Not All About Me. It’s a primer on how to use ten different communication skills to build rapport with people. Dreeke is the head of the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Program and his recommendations are based on a good understanding of evolutionary and social psychology, as well as years of experience in the field.

Sales and Marketing Alignment: Best Practices for Building a Revenue Machine

One of the most important factors in creating a scalable, repeatable revenue machine is sales and marketing alignment. In aligned organizations, sales and marketing are working together in a coordinated effort to achieve the ultimate goal: revenue. There is compelling data that highlights the effectiveness of aligned organizations:

  • Organizations with tightly-aligned sales and marketing had 36% higher customer retention rates and achieved 38% higher sales win rates – MarketingProfs
  • Companies with dynamic, adaptable sales and marketing processes had an average of 10% more of their sales people on quota – CSO Insights
  • Aligned organizations achieved an average of 32% annual revenue growth while less aligned companies reported an average 7% decline in revenue – Forrester Research
  • B2B organizations with tightly aligned sales and marketing operations achieved 24% faster growth and 27% faster  profit growth over a three year period – Sirius Decisions

Despite these statistics and years of emphasis, sales and marketing alignment continues to be a struggle. The good news is that there is a desire to change.  The biggest impetus for this new mind-set  has come from sales. Sales now realizes that buying behavior has changed and marketing now must own a significant portion of the buying process. A recent Sirius Decisions poll of 300 sales leaders highlights this: “The top third of the sales cycle has gone away. Salespeople believe that the beginning of the traditional sales process has evaporated and that buyers are self-servicing their needs instead of engaging with salespeople.”  Sales needs marketing now more than ever.