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The Allied Group is New England's leading provider of Printing, Kitting, Mailing and Fulfillment services. Our blog authors have backgrounds in Sales, Marketing, IT, Production and Operations and post useful tips, trends, news and opinions in our industry and beyond. We know you'll find something you enjoy. Most of all, be sure to jump into the conversation!

Vice President of New Business Development

Change Requires Escape Velocity

b2ap3_thumbnail_bbutler20blog20pic202.jpgThink about change for a moment. Change is a word and a concept that often immobilizes even the most goal-oriented, determined and successful business development professionals among us.

Think of a happy circumstance you are experiencing right now or the flush of pride over some recent accomplishment. The reality is that something had to change for you to create and enjoy the new experience.

In physics, escape velocity refers to the speed needed to “break free” from a gravitational field. A rocket ship leaving the surface of the earth requires about 11.2 kilometers per second (km/s) of velocity to counteract the effects of gravity. Interestingly, the further away you get from the source of gravity, the less energy is required to “pull away”.

All objects on the Earth have the same escape velocity. But, what is different is the amount of energy needed to accelerate objects of greater mass to achieve escape velocity.

In just the same way, to change any circumstance in our life, we must have sufficient thrust and constant momentum to break free of the conditions that are keeping us in their hold and not allowing us to discover something new. Just like the Earth’s gravity, we have habits and slips in our forward momentum that keep us locked in place. Just like the rocket ship, we must have some required minimum amount of acceleration to move us toward our hoped for destination.

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Meatloaf Got it Wrong...continued

Retain. With retention rates at all time lows and customer loyalty harder to come by, it is important to prove your value to your customer on an on-going basis. In the “good old days”, we could get by on being just good enough. But in the 21st Century, performance is not a nice to have but a must-have in order to keep your customers for the long haul.

Picture a stool. You can be supported quite comfortably on one that has three legs. But have you ever tried to support yourself for any length of time on a stool that only has two legs? If you have great marketing that helps you find customers and a great sales effort that helps you get customers but an inadequate customer service effort that does not allow you to keep what you’ve gained, then what have you got? Or, if you have good sales production and convert most of your opportunities and good customer service and keep almost all that you earn but marketing does not drive enough opportunities to sustain your organization, what have you got? A one or two-legged stool will only get you so far.

Meatloaf was wrong. Two out of three is not enough. If you only have two pieces of the business development puzzle that work, eventually, you might not be eating anything but meatloaf for dinner.

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The Nature of Business Development

Organic business development requires a comprehensive, coordinated 3-part effort. You must have sufficient strength in each of the marketing and sales support and customer service areas of your company to attract, acquire and retain customers.

The Venus Fly Trap is nature’s equivalent of a well-run marketing and sales support and retention program. Like many plants they get fed both from gases in the air and nutrients in the soil. But it is in catching the “right” insects that will help the flytrap truly thrive rather then just exist. To be considered carnivorous, a plant must attract, capture and digest some kind of animal life.

The plant must first secrete a sweet-smelling sap that is attractive to its’ intended prey (marketing). After an insect lands on the plants’ trap it will close, but not all the way, in about one second. Insects that are too small or too large are released because they provide inadequate nutrition or are “too big to swallow”(sales qualification). Stones, nuts or other inadvertent objects are released in about twelve hours if they don’t meet the flytrap’s expectations (firing the wrong customers). If the plant finds the captive bug to its’ liking however, (the “just right” customer), the trap is shut tight never to open again until the next catch (retention).

Just so you know, successful, natural business development and local lead generation must work together in just the same way, with all three steps to build long-term loyal customers and revenue stability through an integrated marketing communications program.

Things in nature usually work very well. Design your marketing and sales support and retention process just as well to build long-term repetitive success.

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Social Media and Other S's of Marketing

I just sat through a fascinating presentation by Harry Gold of Overdrive Interactive on social media marketing. Several things stood out.

There is a misconception among some that much if not all of this stuff is “fluff”. It’s not.
Many people that I’ve spoken with think social media marketing only works with B-to-C applications. That’s wrong.

You can “dabble” in it and maybe get a hit or two along the way that will turn into something over time. Maybe- but – not likely.

Here are the three words I’d offer to counter those arguments.

Sophisticated. On the contrary to the “fluff” argument, the strategic marketing consultancy "types" who engage (successfully) in social media marketing are very sophisticated. It is not child’s play. The creative and technological aspects of a marketing services company successfully deploying it are every bit as critical as traditional media channels.

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Am I a Problem?

“There is only one boss. The customer and he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else”.
- Sam Walton

Funny. I thought that at least if the customer wasn’t always right, they at least could not be an annoyance to the customer service person taking their money!

I walked into a grocery store the other day to buy a gift card as a present for a friend. After the first swipe, I pointed out to the cashier that she had charged me double. “Humph” came the response.

The second attempt brought with it a long sigh when I mentioned that she had keyed in the wrong amount. The third attempt did not provide the desired result either when she then could not get the card to activate at all. “You know”, she said to me, “I’m getting really annoyed!”

She finally was able to get the deal done the way I had asked for initially to which my response was, “I’m sorry to have annoyed you”. To which her response was another “Humph”.

Do you think her boss, manager or the store’s owner would like me to mention the name of the store?

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Pass the Pixie Dust

We recently worked with some highly intelligent executives at a reasonably successful larger corporation looking for long-term growth. The initial conversations revolved around the strategy, tactics and depth of programs they felt that they needed to re-educate their exiting clients about new products and services as well as making themselves known to new potential customers for more effective local lead generation.

After many meetings over several months they decided they wanted a “quick hit” to increase sales fast and didn’t want a more integrated marketing communications program. They wanted to send direct marketing postcards out one time to several thousand recipients and needed an immediate return on investment.

We said no thank you.

Oh, we could have taken their money and done a basic print fulfillment project. But, odds are, we may not have gotten the expected results right away and gotten fired anyway, likely the first in a long-line of many marketing services companies who would not get the immediate results they said they needed.

You see, the mystery of successful marketing is most often based in consistency, not magic. One anything; direct marketing postcards, rebate offers, trade shows etc. are highly unlikely to net you sustained long-term leads, prospects and ultimately, customers.

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5 Sales Lessons of the Fall

There is a time for every season and every purpose under the sun I’ve heard it was written.  Well, fall is no exception. It is here. And for me, it brings with it some interesting sales (marketing and sales support) and business lessons.

1. Look for low hanging fruit. On our recent trip to the apple orchard, I spent a good bit of time maneuvering the ‘picker’ to reach high up into the trees to grab the apples at the top. But as we went along, I also grabbed some of the apples on the lower branches, and, even some on the ground. If you’re looking to make some deals this fall, grab some of the ones on top but don’t overlook the easy ones.

2. Embrace change. Change is in the air. The temperature. The amount of daylight. The color of the leaves. If you’re like one of the now 7 billion people living on the planet, I’m guessing that you’re experiencing some kind of change right now. Maybe it’s because of; technology, the economy, trends, styles etc. or whatever. Don’t fight it. Embrace it.  Figure out how to profit, be more healthy and productive because of it.

3. Look for extra time. We’re about to turn back the clocks. In this upcoming weekend that means we get one extra hour of time. In your busy schedule, look for some things you can drop (turn back) so that you can pick up a little extra time for the priorities in life.

4. Ask for the order. My kids didn’t walk up to the doors on Halloween night, ring the bell and say, “would you like to think it over about giving me some candy”? They rang or knocked on the door, it opened and they said, “Trick or Treat”? And they came home with hundreds of orders…ah, I mean pieces of candy.

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Remember me? I'm your customer

I had two experiences the other day that left me shaking my head in disbelief. Both were solicitations for my business, one a radio commercial, the other, a direct telemarketer.

First, the auto dealership. If it seems like I’ve been picking on them, having just bought two cars, I now remember why it takes me so long in-between purchases. The ad came blaring over the radio on my drive home. “We’ve had a great month at XYZ Auto, we’ve sold lots of cars and we want to keep our momentum going”.

Whoa. When did my potentially buying a car turn into me caring about you keeping your momentum going? Sure, while I and probably most people prefer to do business with an organization that is doing well, I don’t want to be either beaten over the head with it nor have it made the first “feature and benefit” in your selling proposition. I have my own reasons for considering any purchase and trust me; it has nothing to do with what’s important to you. Not to say that I’m not a win-win kind of guy, I sure hope I am. But talk to me about what you can do for me first, not what I can do to help you.

Second, the business development professional services company. A telemarketer selling training services essentially teaching us how to get more business. The voice mail started with “Hi Brian, this is Donna, give me (no please) a call back, I’d like (why would I care what you’d like at this point?) to talk to you (not with) a little bit and tell you (not share with) what we have to offer”.

Are you kidding me? No research. No value statement. No indication of what or how they could improve what I’m doing or sharing any relevant examples.

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Start every day shiny

Two situations that came up one week last month required me to change my normal route to work. The new path brought me passed a large local car dealership. Since it was before 7:00 AM each day I did not expect to see any activity as it was before working hours. What I saw really got my attention...and stay tuned for what it caused me to do.

In the lot were three different two-man teams, each with buckets and sprayers attached to garden hoses, washing off the 100 or so cars parked in neat rows across the expansive parking lot. Despite the absence of any trees and falling leaves or any new snow, ice or any other kind of precipitation, I noticed how meticulously each and every car was being cleaned so that when the prospective customers came to the lot that day, each vehicle would look its’ absolute best.

It reminded me again that everything that every organization does is marketing. Either you are making yourself look more attractive, or less attractive, to your customers and prospects. You might have the best marketing communication strategies possible, but if your execution leaves the product unattractive or less ‘shiny’ than it could be, you are creating a disadvantage for yourself and your salespeople - not the marketing and sales support you are looking for.

Marketers and business owners, make sure; the lobby is neat, the rugs are clean, the bathrooms smell good, the light bulbs all work, the marketing messages are clear and they are delivered in a timely fashion. Salespeople, make sure your shoes are shined, your teeth are brushed, your attitude is good, your sales literature is organized and you leave whoever you visit feeling better when you walk out then when you walked in.

Ps. What did the “car washing” cause me to do? Despite having another vehicle all picked out – I gave that dealership a shot and bought one of their ‘shiny’ cars instead.

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