Vice President of New Business Development

Build a Realistic Marketing Pipeline

In the opening sequence of the classic television show, The Beverly Hillbillies, the character of Uncle Jed (played by the actor Buddy Epsen) is chasing a rabbit and fires his rifle - missing the rabbit and only ends up taking a big chunk of dirt out of the ground. But, miraculously, “up from the ground comes the bubblin’ crude”. He and his family had struck it rich with a single random shot from the old trusty family hunting rifle.

In our “hunt” for anew business leads to help create sales however, it’s likely going to take considerably more effort than one or even a few random shots to create a steady stream of prospects. Only with both sustained and intentional effort can we generate the ability to acquire the correct prospecting targets initially and, the right customers eventually.

For many years now, the funnel has been used as a diagram in countless sales and prospecting discussions. Sales training has often focused on bringing prospects through the “sales funnel”. But that is absolutely the wrong picture to have in our heads. In building a sales (marketing and sales support) list of qualified prospects, the proper image should be one of a pipeline. Something that has a continuous flow of prospects, not a voluminous, unqualified top end.

Your revenue pipeline is likely going to take more time, energy, and resources than you may hope for or be comfortable with. But there are rarely any shortcuts to building a process that will deliver a steady stream of prospects in the long run. Though the tactics will change depending on your business, industry and circumstances, consider implementing the following 3 concepts when building your pipeline.

Identify. For each of your particular products or services – find those customers most likely to buy. Spend some effort profiling your existing best customers. What are the common characteristics? In all probability, similar people or businesses exist who share the same needs and values and would make ideal prospects. And therefore, are more likely buyers of your services.

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Edit Post How magnetic are you?

The ultimate goal of marketing is to Attract customers by making yourself attractive to them. It is the concept of pulling ‘em in rather than pushing information out – thereby – pushing them away.

Marketing is everything you do to promote your business; from the second you dream about it through the time you actually have customers buy your products and services. It encompasses all aspects from naming and branding your company through the ways you present your value proposition to your target audience. Peter Drucker, the acknowledged leading management authority of the 20th century, said that marketing and innovation were the 1st concern of all businesses, more important then anything else including finances.

Good marketing and sales support is not an expense but rather an indispensable investment. Most successful companies, even ones that had a unique market position at the start, eventually have to differentiate themselves from the competition. The only way to do this in both the short and long run is marketing.

Today marketing consists of the original big four of price, product, place and promotion, but now also includes people, productivity, process and physical evidence. Solid marketing communication strategies and consistent tactical execution are the only way to guarantee that you stay top-of-mind with both your prospects and customers.

Done correctly, effective marketing will:

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5 Marketing Strategies for Stormy Times

With inflationary pressures, competitive price-cutting and disruptive technologies so prevalent in today’s market place, marketers often scramble to choose the right places to invest their smaller budget dollars. Well-defined marketing communication strategies and programs, implemented consistently, gives you the best chance to stay ahead of the turbulence.

  1. Do your homework. Drop phrases such as; “We think”, or “But we’ve always done it this way”. This is no time to guess. Invest in research, focus groups and/or surveys. You don’t want to find yourself touting features and benefits no one cares about.

  2. Increase marketing budgets. Yes, I said increase. When competitors are pulling back, it is a great time for you to make a ‘name’ for yourself with prospects that may actually be paying attention right now. 

  3. Get more where you are. Existing customers know you (for better or worse). If you have additional products and services that they could be buying from you, now is the ideal time to tell them. Market to them consistently. 

  4. Make the best better. We all have products or services that outperform some others in terms of revenue and profit. Concentrate and promote those. If you must choose to pull back somewhere, do it with your weaker offerings. 

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Can you Feel (or Share) the Love?

Today being Valentine’s Day, all sorts of romantic messages, flowers, cards, candy and dinners abound. Expectations run high, and credit card bills run higher. But, we know that in order to keep our loved ones around, it is critical to notice and appreciate them from time-to-time, especially on the special days.

Here’s the question then, in your marketing communication efforts, how much “love” do you extend to your customers (and prospects)? And, how often? Just as in personal relationships it is important to feel connected through specific regular acts of kindness, it is equally important to do in our business relationships as well.

As consumers, we have more choices than ever in our shopping lives. There are more products available and more channels in which to purchase them than ever before. In business, it has become critical to communicate with our audience in whichever media they prefer. One size does not fit all.

Just as some people would prefer one red rose to a box of chocolates, certain buyers may prefer to be in touch with you via: mail, the web, with mobile devices or tablets or via social media. Make sure your marketing communication strategies include all of these tactics to ensure the widest possible delivery of your messages and offers.

At work, integrated, multi-channel marketing programs that include all these methods are your best bet to help your entire audience feel “loved”. At home, go get the chocolates, flowers, cards and…throw in a romantic dinner too!

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What now ‘Purple Cow’?

In talking to marketing executives everywhere the common sentiment appears to be one of uncertainty over what to do and how to market today. And yet having the right marketing communication strategies and programs that generate awareness, interest – and – leads, has never been more important. Here are a dozen thoughts to consider that we’ll explore in future ponderings.

  1. Marketing is in the biggest flux it ever has been.

  2. Multi-channel marketing still appears to work the best.

  3. Figuring out the right tactic(s) is very hard.

  4. The primary goal remains attracting and keeping attention that leads to action.

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Change Requires Escape Velocity

Think 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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