A while ago I posted the article titled What beats the lowest price? on our Slovene blog, which probably attracted quite an audience based on the title alone. When I started analyzing the readers, I found out they primarily consisted of people that are in some way or another involved in sales and are responsible for sales results.

This post discusses the development of a new sales channel that is undoubtedly being brought about by the Internet of Things (IoT), focusing on how a convenient buying experience influences people’s buying decisions. The fact that the title attracted readers among sales staff persuaded me to touch upon the issue of “overly high prices” once again — this time in the context of complex (B2B) sales.

The issue of “forced inquiries”

If you ask a salesperson why he couldn’t close the deal when competing for a project, they will most likely tell you they didn’t offer the right price and that they were too expensive. The price is always a welcome excuse and it always seems to be someone else’s problem, rather than the seller’s directly. But I’m not sure that’s really true. That’s certainly not always the case.

Based on my long years of experience in selling business solutions, I know that any inquiry that I failed to co-shape in some way with my opinions before I was asked to make an offer or I even forced one was most likely lost for me. My solution was often too expensive or inappropriate in some other way. I didn’t feel guilty as a seller because of that, because I wasn’t the one responsible for the pricing policy in the company.

Marketing is a process, too: connect it with sales!

I know today that “Alright then, prepare an offer for me” is a forced inquiry that doesn’t have even the slightest chance of closing the deal. All you can achieve with this is that the customer doesn’t submit an order to anyone. If you have nothing else to do, this may also be success, although not much of one.

Over the past years, we’ve managed to finally grasp that sales is a process that systematically manages sales opportunities, but now it’s time we understood that sales is also a marketing process. Only a combination of both ensures business growth to companies involved in complex B2B sales.

Customers used to be educated by salespeople, but now marketers are taking on this role

I look at the issue of overly high prices differently now. If we’re too expensive, it’s very likely that someone didn’t do their job in the process of winning a new deal. Almost always this happens when we get involved in the customer’s buying decision process too late and we have to skip a phase or two in this process, during which customers are gathering information and shaping their buying preferences.

Customers used to be educated by salespeople, but now marketers are taking on this role with useful content on the internet. Because customers can access information by simply clicking on it, they do their own research and look for information that is useful to them or their companies. That’s why salespeople get involved in their buying decision process fairly late. It is actually the usefulness of our internet content that largely co-shapes customers’ buying preferences and determines whether our salespeople will even have an opportunity to establish personal contact.

I a way, the “convenient purchase” rule also applies to selling complex B2B solutions, only that it’s reflected a bit differently: through the safety of buying decisions. Buying safety is the key value. Nothing is as expensive as choosing the wrong provider. Providers that show the best professional competence already through their marketing activities usually have such a big advantage that the competition’s sales staff can only catch up with great difficulty upon personal contact.

Let’s take action

Over the past years, we’ve managed to finally grasp that sales is a process that systematically manages sales opportunities, but now it’s time we understood that sales is also a marketing process. A process of systematically generating interest and nurturing prospects with an ongoing and proactive supply of useful content that helps them make a safer buying decision. Only a combination of both processes ensures business growth to companies involved in complex B2B sales.

For a start, I highly recommend that you read the free manual, which we prepared as an aid in learning how to approach your customers the right way, how to track them, and how to recognize their needs.

[email protected]

Learn how to approach your customers the right way

In reality, this is really a problem of the marketing staff (not sales personnel!) and hence the key reason why in the majority of companies marketing and sales, as business functions, continue to remain unconnected (in procedural terms). Give me three minutes to explain this thesis …

To increase growth, you’ll have to fill in the gap between promotion (advertising) and sales activities, or the customer’s first contact with the seller

For proactive and sales-oriented companies, inquiries are not enough! Such companies also seek opportunities for successful sales beyond the inquiries obtained. Because they want more, and also because they’re afraid that more active providers have had a significantly greater impact on the customer that submitted the inquiry. Accordingly, they are more or less in the role of the second or third option.

For the sales personnel’s efforts to be more successful, companies must combine marketing and sales into a uniform process. This way, the sales staff will be able to identify the people and businesses that are already thinking about making a purchase or are just about to make one. It would be even better if, before making their first live contact, they could identify how much these individuals are inclined toward them or at least how much they know the product or service they want to offer them. It is significantly easier to transform a person who understands the topic and your product better into a buyer than someone who still needs to learn a lot and has no opinion of his own.

This may sound like utopia, but it’s not.

Well-coordinated cooperation between marketing and sales also means that marketers with no direct-sales contact must be able to identify the leads or contacts that need more information or knowledge—in order to become familiar with the product or service and know how to make the “right” decision in the buying decision process. Only leads like these will be able to understand and correctly evaluate the competitive advantages when the sales staff contacts them. Only leads like these will even wish to be contacted by a salesperson.

To many, this may seem like daydreaming, but with some technology and a systematic approach the companies that understand and practice marketing beyond branding and event management could actually achieve all of this fairly easy. We only have to follow the newly acquired leads throughout their entire customer journey and bring them into the CRM system.

The sales staff isn’t impatient if it aims at the right targets

The task of marketing is to inform and orient individuals in the right direction and to make them love a company or its products and services. The task of both marketing and sales is to then effectively identify these people (or companies). By effectively, I mean in a timely fashion and in the right context. Without that, sales activities simply can’t achieve any meaningful success. At least not the kind that could be (provably) ascribed to marketing efforts.

Accordingly, over the past years many companies have also upgraded their investments in digital marketing or marketing automation in the direction of developing an inside sales team and systematically supported activities, the primary task of which is to detect and qualify new leads. With smaller purchases, these tasks also include closing the entire deal or upselling to a more expensive item for new customers that have made their first purchase through other channels. With more valuable purchases or complex products, booking the first live meeting with the sales representative comes to the fore in addition to lead qualification. We’re (still) afraid to make remote purchases of certain things. For now.

The primary task of the inside sales team should be to identify hot leads—those who have in any way indicated a certain intent to make a purchase. Those are the only ones you can sell something to. The most you can do with the rest is to encourage them to do research and in some way, remind them of your marketing efforts. But if that is your goal, you need to suitably adjust the way you address them when you call them.

Your marketing staff needs feedback on processing leads

Statistics have shown that inside sales development contributed the most to effective (digital) marketing efforts for winning and nurturing leads when establishing a ROPO sales model. In our projects, it is here that we can identify a key difference between our more successful and less successful clients. If the marketing staff knew who processes the leads they brought in and warmed up—and how and when—and if they also had the chance to change the procedural rules, they would be significantly more successful. But most often it’s very difficult for such feedback to reach the members of the marketing staff who make efforts to win and warm up new leads.

Inside sales primarily deals with the leads and customers, whose intent you have identified. Forget about the call lists you’ve been using so far!

It’s very difficult for the sales personnel to convince someone to make a purchase if this person hasn’t thought about it yet. If they succeed anyway, they are basically just lucky. Lucky that they came across an individual who had actually already thought about making a purchase. If that’s not the case and the sellers simply exerted their power of suggestion over a slightly more labile person, they run a great risk of having obtained a customer that in time will “cough up” his or her disappointment in some way or another. This doesn’t do you any good in the long run.

I say that the times are long gone when it was still worth trying through cold-calling. Back then there were not as many opportunities available to inform people as there are today. The salespeople actually played an educational role. They were knowledge carriers. Today it sometimes happens that I know more about a certain thing than the person who’s trying to sell it to me.

The marketing staff should ensure that people start thinking about buying something, and sellers should be able to identify that moment with the right people. The seller who’s only guessing what that moment may be is losing focus and wasting energy in vain.

Today salespeople only seal the deal because customers do research and learn about things on their own using the digital material available to them. They want to do this completely on their own, at least at the beginning of their buying path. They only seek the help of Google and their friends in the social media or online communities.

Intent marketing: focusing on those who “have their wallets out.”

This is not just some new fad, or a brand-new phrase. It’s about the techniques and skills of detecting those that “have their wallets out.”

The clearest message that someone is looking to buy something is when this person actually tells you that. Usually by sending you an inquiry. But another signal is when a person that wants to buy something is making inquiries in the social media and online communities. This year FrodX has identified quite a few leads that way. We made timely contact with them and sort of caught the last train in guiding them towards our solutions. Listening to all the developments in the social media can be pretty painstaking if you’re doing it by hand. But social listening technology is becoming increasingly more available and, more importantly, more effective. Here we’re also getting very close to saying (at least for some systems) that tools can identify a sentiment in Slovenian with which customers mention the keywords in messages we want to read.

But for the most part of identifying intent to buy, it is worth relying on your own digital environments and the visitors that have already been following you in some way and leaving their digital footprints behind. If you interpret that correctly, you receive very reliable signals about when it’s worth calling someone or passing them over to your inside sales team.

As long as your marketing and sales are not connected into a uniform process, you won’t get very far.

There’s a multitude of these and other similar signals, covering anything from monitoring your prospects to seeing who they “hang out” with in the digital environment. I would ask you to bear with me a bit longer, so I can explain all the intent marketing approaches to you, but I know you’ve already run out of patience and so I’ll have to cover that in a different post.

You won’t succeed with the inside sales if you merely expand your marketing by making a follow-up call to all those that you’ve already reached through direct digital marketing. You have to stop seeing this merely as a continuation of your campaign or some additional step or activity on your marketing list. You need to be able to identify currently hot leads regardless of how and when they came into contact with your material or what campaign you used to approach them.

Salespeople who think they don’t need any help from the marketers, bet on their own luck or also take on the marketer’s job by themselves. They may feel they aren’t gaining any benefit from their marketing colleagues. This is most likely because marketers continue to focus more or less exclusively on branding and think that “digital” only covers Facebook or Google advertising and a well-designed responsive website, for which they receive an award from the agency that designed it for them. They haven’t thought about the customer journey yet because customers are only in the domain of the sales department.

A total marketing reset

When I stumble across a salesperson who thinks he can sell his product or service anytime, even if I’m not thinking about buying anything, I know I’m speaking to someone that comes from a company that needs to reset its marketing. As a whole. For me, this is a signal that I need to encourage this company’s management to think about who its customers are and what, why, when, and how they buy, as well as when the company starts tracking its prospects’ buying decision process. During the first few sessions I have with them, we usually don’t even get to the “how.” It’s clear to them that they need a fresh perspective on their marketing and that they must reconsider their sales strategy.

[email protected]

Well, I don’t really know the answer to this question, but I do know his campaign used people that specialize in capturing data on the audiences he addressed. These specialists used sophisticated methods to segment the “ears,” so they could hear the version of the story they liked the best. They used Facebook not only as a source of demographic data, but also as a source of user behavior data: based on the data obtained, they created psychographic profiles of individual voters, whom they addressed through personalized content. To simplify, they did this merely by analyzing individual Facebook profiles and of course the model defining an individual’s “character” based on his or her likes. A similar approach is also said to have been used by Brexit supporters. Much has been written about Cambridge analytica providing assistance in both cases.

We can have the most influence with people we know pretty well

Marketing seems to be increasingly turning into a skill in managing (publicly available) data. In contrast to just a few years ago, when marketing campaigns were still shaped according to data obtained from doing business with existing clients and using their demographic data and business registers, and when we were targeting people within companies, now everything has been turned upside down.

Trump won the election with the help of his voters’ Facebook likes. Click To Tweet

Just as it’s already pretty much taken for granted that a successful B2B campaign demands expanding the company data obtained from public registers with contact information on people holding key positions in these companies, it will soon also be taken for granted that in order to design a campaign successfully we also need to start collecting and processing data on these people’s behavior in the social media and elsewhere on the publicly accessible internet. So we can start approaching them within a better context than we have so far. If we know what’s currently happening to individuals and where they are located, we can personalize (and automate) communication with them so that it has the best possible effect on their engagement. If we know their intent, our marketing messages can be significantly more effective and, first and foremost, more precise.

New data collection, segmentation, and marketing campaign methods

According to IBM, by the end of 2017, the volume of data available on any one of us will have increased by nearly 100%. Unfortunately, more than 80% of this data is unstructured and hasn’t been very useful so far. But times are changing and computer cognitive skills (machine learning or Al) now also help us collect and interpret such (huge amounts of) data. Technology that is already being used commercially (but is not yet available to a wider circle of Slovenian companies) can predict people’s characters, their areas of interest, hobbies, social circles, and the interests they share with others within their social circle. If we’re active enough in social media and leave many digital footprints behind, computers know us better than our own partners and families, let alone coworkers.

For the time being, I’m still taking all of this with a grain of salt. We’re definitely moving in this direction, but we still need some time. Especially a small country like Slovenia. Slovenian is spoken by only two million people and even the most advanced technologies currently understand only seven world languages.

We’re definitely gradually entering the era of new-generation marketing engines.

Over the past five years, FrodX has implemented more than seventy marketing automation systems. All of them are based on collecting data on the visitors to their own “digital backyards.” They thus collect data on the visitors’ behavior on the websites and in the emails and advertising campaigns of our individual clients. Based on the data on their activities, the system automatically launches actions that either serve more relevant content to an individual visitor (automatic emails, personalized website content, and so on) or alert the seller when to take action or how to approach an individual customer because he or she has already been sufficiently warmed up. This is a practically indispensable tool if we want to make content marketing more effective and, first and foremost, measurable in terms of sales results. Nonetheless, this approach has certain problems that marketing technology providers would like to solve.

Current marketing automation systems are too slow for transactions that demand instant buying decisions. Click To Tweet

The key problem is that every visitor who makes a first contact with a website is treated as a total stranger and so quite a lot of time and visits are needed to get to know him or her better. With activities that require a long buying decision process and include several participants in the buying decision, this doesn’t present a major problem. But it is a problem in cases that require instant buying decisions or where providers don’t want to build a long-term relationship with their customers through regular marketing activities.

Current marketing automation systems operate by introducing a cookie to the device upon first contact, which enables us to track the activities on that device. When the first conversion is made (for example, by completing a form to access premium content), this cookie is also connected with the user’s identity. In practice, this means that it is from this moment onwards we use marketing automation to collect data on prospects and predict their interests and purchase readiness. That’s all very fine, but you need to know that you need quite some time and several visits to collect a critical mass of data to be able to really effectively process an individual as a prospect. Another problem is that we can only take into account the data we have captured in the traffic and interactions in our own digital backyards. The marketing automation systems that are now considered mainstream (and are still fairly rarely used by Slovenian companies) don’t connect the identities that individuals reveal during a conversion, in which they download one of our files or sign up for a webinar by logging in through their social media accounts. Accordingly, these systems don’t provide data on how these individuals may be connected with people that are our competition’s employees or customers, or our customers’ partners, let alone predict and compare their sentiment towards us or our competitors. For now, more skilled sellers are identifying all of this by hand, when they are preparing for a personal approach to a customer. But in coming years, this will become a constituent part of activities performed by marketing engines that will also become affordable to large and medium-sized Slovenian companies.

An example of a new-generation marketing engine

Let me make up an example, so you can have a better idea of what I’m talking about. I’ve read that the largest Slovenian online store has 520,000 registered users. That’s more than a quarter of the total Slovenian population. If they could register through their Facebook account (which I would personally prefer because I wouldn’t have to come up with new passwords and so I always use options like these), the store could find out many things about their registered users (and even their Facebook friends) before they made even a single purchase.

Amazon, Facebook, and a wizard for finding the perfect gift for friends, all in one. Perfect! Click To Tweet

Let’s say that one of the purchasing moments of every individual is connected with giving birthday presents to friends. Facebook knows who your (close) friends are when they have their birthdays, and what they’re interested in. Some of them allow these personal data to be revealed to the public (consciously or not). Can you imagine receiving an email from Amazon informing you which of your (close) Facebook friends have their birthdays next week and what you could buy them based on their interests in life (and what they haven’t yet bought on Amazon by themselves)? Can you imagine that, not that far away in the future, you will also begin to be bombarded with such personalized ads? A personalized ad recommending you buy something seems to be the most personalization can do at the moment.

What the wizards for finding the perfect gift for a friend are asking you about today could also be found out by these systems themselves. If you look at my Facebook profile, it’ll soon become clear to you that you can’t really go wrong by getting me something golf-related, a bottle of good wine, a trip to a winemaker or a reservation at a good restaurant.

If technology used social media data to help Trump win the election, it may also help your business in the future.

How about we make the first step together today already? Call me at 00386 41 668 757.

[email protected]

It may be true that it’s very difficult to sell anything without good sales, a good product, and a suitable price, but the experience before, during, and after the purchase is also becoming increasingly important to the customer. This makes the customer experience an ever bigger and more important diversifying factor among providers.

So, like many Fridays during high season, I was at the camp’s reception desk again last Friday. There were five newcomers already there, with three young staff members sitting behind the counter. As I chose one of the lines to wait in (those five newcomers were approaching the reception desk from three directions), I rightfully expected to be done with it in a heartbeat. “Dream on,” as the lady behind me would have said.

It took ages …

When after thirty minutes or so it was finally my turn, the line behind me had grown quite long already. Those waiting were mostly known faces, people who would return to the camp regularly every Friday. You can just imagine what their reactions were like. They first started grumbling quietly to themselves, then whispering to one another, until finally, they began expressing their annoyance out loud. You can guess what kinds of things they were saying.

The camp gets the busiest at the exact same time every week. How come they hadn’t learned anything from that yet? Click To Tweet

To sum up the Friday episode: I don’t consider myself a grumbler and I simply take these Friday check-ins as a necessary evil leading up to a great weekend. Besides, I was quite lucky this time. I was handled by a young lady, who didn’t seem to be as “distraught” as the two young guys who were clearly still in training. Plus, unlike the two of them, she gave me a friendly smile and even remembered my children’s names. So, my experience or feeling after the registration was fairly good, but that doesn’t mean that my perception of the camp was also good.

A smile goes a long way, but not far enough

According to a study conducted by Walker, in B2B transactions the customer experience will become more important than the price and the product within a couple of years. But that doesn’t mean that simply a smile or a friendly voice on the other end of the line will be enough. This can give the customer a good feeling or the experience of a one-on-one interaction, but the experience with the actual company, product, or service is much more than that. It covers the entire buying process from the first contact, through all the purchasing steps, to aftersales activities. The customer must be important to you as the provider and you need to think about how he or she feels at any given moment of being in contact with you.

Source: Walker

I’m going to use the old, worn-out, but still cute story about Joshie the toy blanket, which a family forgot at a hotel where they spent their vacation. This four-minute video gives you a first-hand view what it means to care about a customer.

With all the technology available today, customer expectations are continuing to grow. Providers must realize that simply reacting to their customers’ needs is no longer enough. The time has come for us to be proactive and predict what our customers need and what they want at a given moment, and to offer it to them before they even ask for it.

Fives suggestions for improvement

Let’s go back to the reception desk for a while. What could the camp in Istria do to improve its customer experiences?

1. Why do I even need a paper slip when checking in? The camp could simply print one from the CRM with a couple of clicks and spare me all the writing by hand.

2. Instead of paper slips, the camp could use electronic versions that I could receive by e-mail, or even better on my camp app

3. If I had an app, I could also use it to check in by simply clicking who is coming and at what time.

4. I could also use my smartphone to identify myself and not have to stand in line for ages.

5. If I used my smartphone to check in and identify myself, they would know my behaviour, based on which they could at least predict when and with whom I’d come to the camp again.

If you’re already wondering where I’m going with this and thinking that the implementation of all these advanced solutions and customer and behavior pattern recognition may not be something we want in the first place or something that a small camp can afford, let me reassure you. You don’t need a technological revolution in order to provide a good customer experience, just a change in the way you think. If you think of your customers, their needs, and their annoyances first, you can already make the first changes. Technology will simply be the next logical step when it becomes clear what you need it for.

We can also make it a bit simpler

Here are a few simple ideas that any camp can put into practice this Friday already:

  • The fact is that Friday afternoon and Sunday morning are the busiest times in the entire week. You need to engage the largest team the reception desk can take and include the most experienced employees, rather than trainees. A technical advisor should also be available to solve problems other than check-in issues, such as power connections, water hookups, and similar things I overheard last Friday.
  • Because not everyone has the same problem—some come to the reception desk for the first time and have no pitch or booking, others have trouble with the infrastructure or need to learn about what is on offer, and then there are us regulars, who simply have to “clock in.” An “express check-in” could be set up for us. If nothing else, checking in would be faster, shortening the waiting lines significantly and improving the experience of everyone involved.

It’s worth paying more attention to creating a good customer experience, because in the end that’s what counts. Click To Tweet

  • To make our customer experience even better, it could be arranged for us to simply leave our IDs at the reception desk and then a staff member that takes regular rides through the camp anyway would deliver the “slips” during his or her rounds. Actually, the young lady that opens the gate could take my ID, so I wouldn’t even have to step out of the car—just like at a border crossing.
  • OK, let’s say that for the sake of protocol and identification I still had to show up at the reception desk. In this case, they could at least make waiting there more comfortable. They could provide some lemonade in one corner and a coffee vending machine in the other, and during the right season, they could even offer cherries to customers. If you worry about who’s going to pay for that, a couple of mini stands could be set up for the local producers of organic skin creams, cheeses, and wines in order to promote local tourism. Everyone would enjoy this and would be less aggravated by waiting, and the local producers’ goods would receive an excellent promotion.

Experience is what counts the most

What I’d like to say is that we’re approaching a time when customers will rank their experience equal to or even higher than the advantages of your products or services.

It really doesn’t take much to set up a good experience for your guests or customers or to spoil it completely, as I’ve described using the case of my beloved campground.

[email protected]

I say “children” only because we—their parents and grandparents—are more reserved, afraid, or cautious than our children. Even though we may not admit it, the fact is that we’re already sharing information on our environment and ourselves with many others who use it to their advantage. The fact is also that in the future there’ll be significantly more of this sort of information collection and more opportunities to use it.

Let’s take a look at smart homes. Information on each heater, the position of blinds, lighting in all rooms, the audio and video devices, and ultimately, windows, doors, and locks is collected in one place (i.e., the cloud). Combined with the weather and calendar information, these collected data provide enough information for the smart system to operate the house by itself. It heats or cools individual rooms, sets the blinds, and turns on the lights when we’re not home. If it’s also connected to the car, tracking the driver’s location, it opens the courtyard gates at the right moment, unlocks the main door, and starts playing our favorite music.

When devices take care of themselves

The moment is not far off when your car will order its own service at the most convenient time—that is when the service is necessary and you need the car the least. Considering that the first self-driving vehicles are already yesterday’s news and that even race cars no longer need racing stars to drive them, the moment when the car drives itself to the service center on its own is probably not far away either.

But alongside the information from our environment, we’re also going to send increasingly more personal data into the cloud. We’re disclosing a great deal of such information through our smartphones, watches, and similar “wearables” as it is. A good example of this is Google Traffic, where throughout their trips drivers send data on their drives to Google, which in turn provides very accurate and real-time information on traffic conditions, congestion, and nearly stopped and stop-and-go traffic to all Google Maps users (by the way, Google has been collecting data and providing this service since 2007).

Alongside data from our environment, we’re also going to send increasingly more personal data into the cloud. Click To Tweet

Just like smartphones, data on our behavior will soon also be communicated by other equipment: anything from shoes to various sports equipment, such as tennis rackets, jump ropes, balls, bikes, skis, and so on. Even our suitcases, toothbrushes, the glasses or bottles we pour our drinks out of, or any other item we use on a daily basis will be no less discrete.

Life as a gamer

In order to make our lives part of one big online game, we’ll have to change our user experience and accept a different one, in addition to collecting data and being willing to share this data with others (if Google Traffic hasn’t convinced you that we’re doing that already, at least those of you that often run or bike know the Strava app, in which you can compare and share your results with other users).

We aren’t technologically far away from this point, either. First we’ll start communicating more naturally, which will be made possible by one of the big guys (Apple/Siri, Google/Home, Microsoft/Cortana or Amazon/Alexa). Projections (at least the most realistic and interesting ones) will no longer be provided on flat screens, but through virtual-reality projection systems, for which the current best solutions are offered by the providers mentioned above (Google/VR and Microsoft/HoloLens).

“It’ll still take a while.” Will it?

You can say “yes, but it’ll still take a while before we really start using that” or “my children may do all that, but not me.” Five years ago, even I wouldn’t have thought that today some lady over seventy would tell me: “Google Traffic rocks!” But she has.

This shows that we’re all ready to give up many things (including our privacy) if we find something interesting and useful. We tend to very quickly accept and get used to things that are useful, fun, and also meet our basic needs according to Maslow’s hierarchy (in the case of our virtual lives as gamers, probably even all four top needs).

We’re all ready to give up many things (including our privacy) if we find something interesting and useful. Click To Tweet

So, if the main question is no longer “Are we really heading in this direction?” but instead “When will we get there and what will it look like?” the time has come for everyone involved in marketing and sales to prepare for the changes.

These are the steps we should already start taking today:

  • Changing our product and marketing strategy, but not only one time and during a watershed moment. Keeping abreast of trends and gradual changes demands ongoing adaptation and renewal of the strategy and approaches used by both marketing and sales.
  • Keeping abreast of and having a good knowledge of what is known today as the IoT. A lot of information on individuals, their behavior, needs, interests, desires, and the exact times and sizes of their desires and needs are already available today, but there will be much more available by the day.
  • All this new, additional, and significantly more up-to-date information will make it possible for marketing and sales to provide an even better personalized user experience, where everything will be completely adapted to every user at the most appropriate moment.
  • The socialization motive and information gathered in one place will make it possible to take a better advantage of connections between people and hence of the individuals’ positive personal experiences, their satisfaction with providers, and their possible suggestions and recommendations of these experiences to others. In other words, it’ll be possible to take advantage of the much stronger mutual influence on purchase decisions among all that are in some kind of a mutual relationship.

From where I stand, the fact that, my real-life actions can affect the real-life actions of others via the virtual world reminds me strongly of gaming. What about you?

If you’d like to know more about what marketing and sales will be doing in a few years and how they will be doing it, if you’d like to add something or don’t agree that our real lives are starting to be entangled with the virtual world, let me know. Any feedback will be most welcome.

[email protected]

I’ll be forty-nine in 2025. My first child will be in college, the second in secondary school, and the third will still be in primary school. I think that the eldest two, at least, will be at precisely that age when they’ll be making key decisions on how they want to live their lives, their career visions, and so on. But that won’t be nearly as fateful as it might have been for their grandparents’ generation when they were that age.

You may have top-notch expertise right now, but it could be worthless in a few years

Today FrodX is considered a leading customer engagement specialist. We introduce expertise and technology to companies that no one in the region can currently compete with. Because we’d like to keep this position in the future, we spend a great deal of time discussing what steps we should take in the future, where development is heading, how people are changing, and how technology changes society.

If you asked one of our technicians, who mostly deal with technology and usually don’t see the whole picture, what they do at FrodX, they would tell you they create “smart” websites. The sort that track every visitor, or their current interests and interests they’ve shown in the past, and know how to dynamically (automatically) adapt the selection of content and the intensity of communication accordingly, so that we can systemically approach them as well as possible and consequently build our customer relationship, even though no physical contact has been established yet. Another technician may also add that through integration with marketing automation, the CRM system, and the corporate notification system, this kind of smart website can manage the entire process of winning new customers and help optimize it based on the data obtained. In any case, in the most banal terms, our customer ends up with a website and a system that sends spam automatically.

Expertise that is top-notch today could be worthless in a few years. Click To Tweet

Can you imagine the shock a top expert in designing the smart websites mentioned above experiences when I explain to him that by 2025 websites may no longer be needed at all? That they will no longer exist. At least not ones with the concept we’ve known for the past ten years. There may also be no public internet by 2025, either. We may find it too dangerous. I think that providers will be able to connect with customers much more directly and interactively than the concept of online marketing offers today.

During the fourth industrial revolution, digital connectivity is fundamentally changing society.

The Deep Shift: Technology Tipping Points and Social Impact survey report published by the World Economic Forum in September 2015 predicts twenty-one technological shifts, their tipping points, and expected dates of their arrival on the market. Can you imagine that implantable mobile phones will be commercially available by 2025? That by then 10% of reading glasses will be connected to the internet? That practically all electric devices will be connected to the internet? Most internet traffic to homes is currently for communication and entertainment, whereas by 2015 more than 50% of internet traffic will be delivered to homes for appliances and devices. The processing of all these enormous quantities of data is already being slowly taken over by artificial intelligence, which will not only analyze data but also make decisions and manage activities.

Today the ability to learn and adapt to new conditions is the fundamental capital of individuals and organizations.

If the World Economic Forum’s predictions come true, it’s pretty clear that a considerably different type of technology will start to be used for connecting with customers in the future. I’m almost certain that the technological expertise my best-qualified colleagues have today will no longer be worth much by 2025. In order to capture data on customers’ interests, we’ll have to be able to connect with completely different systems or buy them from personal data aggregation providers (data banks). In order to communicate with customers, we’ll most likely have to develop and manage intelligent holograms rather than websites that can automatically send emails.

Customer communication and connectivity will be very different in 10 years. Do you ever think about this? Click To Tweet

When I tell my coworkers about these things, they feel worried because they haven’t learned any of this new stuff yet, but on the other hand, they feel reassured because we’re already thinking about this.

The only long-term solution is enthusiasm, creative thinking, and hard work.

To conclude my introductory thoughts about my children … Before I graduated from high school, when I was supposed to be thinking about what I’d like to do in life, I couldn’t even imagine that by 2025 I’d be helping companies design and manage holograms, and buy and process their prospects’ personal data in order for the holograms to be able to suitably talk to or approach new customers. To be honest, I still find this unimaginable, even though I’ve been actively studying this for quite some time. I’m realizing that it’s key that my children learn to be enthusiastic, think creatively, and work hard. That they courageously take up any challenges that may cross their paths. If they develop all of this, they will be able to easily adapt to changes, which in the future will occur much faster than today.

What will happen to your business by 2025? Click To Tweet

What about you? Have you already thought about what will happen to your business by 2025? We certainly have. At least regarding the part about how you’ll be winning new customers and trying to retain the old ones. Would you like to share any thoughts with me in the next couple of days?

 

[email protected]

 

The-fall-of-CRM

 

For the past couple of months, I’ve been asked at least once a week whether we’re also going into legal counseling now, and whether lawyers and business compliance officers are our new target audience. After all, the GDPR is a regulation, and regulations are something that lawyers are interested in, right? (This is the short explanation I get after people notice my surprise at their question.)

Why should the GDPR be of interest especially to marketers and sales people?

As I understand it, the key purpose of the GDPR is to provide some sort of uniform consumer protection across the EU. Accordingly, I see it as a form of protection for customers and prospects when approached by sales and marketing tactics. And to be honest, consumers have needed this protection ever since the game moved into the digital environment. The methods that marketers have managed to develop have made people feel indifferent toward their (digital) privacy, and clever companies have built their business approaches primarily on the digital footprints that consumers leave behind (mostly unaware). I’d say we already sold our (at least digital) privacy long ago. We exchanged it for discounts, the chance to participate in prize draws, or merely out of convenience by clicking the Agree buttons to close those annoying pop-up windows.

We’ve already sold our privacy anyway out of convenience and the desire to get discounts. Click To Tweet

In a way, the GDPR will create some order in this area. Over time, the most likely result will more or less be that data-driven marketing will remain primarily a game for the big guys. Or at least a much more expensive game than it has been so far. For businesses, the GDPR will largely turn into more of a technological challenge than a legal one. This is the key reason I’ve been giving so much attention to this area for the past few months and encouraging my companies to invest in developing solutions in this area. Compliance with the GDPR will demand a transformation of practically all processes connected with capturing and processing personal data. Like it or not, these new processes will also require lots of new IT solutions that will fill in the gaps of current marketing automation and CRM systems, online stores, user portals, advertising platforms, and so on.

Where should businesses look for opportunities within the GDPR context?

Marketing and sales personnel should think about the following three things in connection with the GDPR:

1. How are they going to allow their customers and prospects to inspect (on demand) the personal data they have captured and processed while doing business with them? Here it’s important to note that the GDPR expands the concept of personal data significantly compared to the definition currently provided by the Slovenian Personal Data Protection Act (ZVOP).

2. How are they going to allow their customers to exercise their right to be forgotten?

3. How are they going to allow their customers (again, on demand) to export their personal data in a readable format?

New business models that will be introduced by the fastest

It is here that the GDPR will provide new business opportunities for companies. The thing that heads of marketing or sales should focus on today is finding methods and strategies for importing personal data and creating a competitive product or service ranges based on that information. A good example would be a telecommunication service provider that offers a personalized product range to its potential customers tailored to the individual’s needs (the personal data as defined by the GDPR also include information on an individual’s activities; in this case, these would comprise the mobile data usage, frequently-used telephone numbers, the number of text messages sent per month, and so on). Potential customers could disclose all of this information to the provider by importing the relevant personal data that were acquired by their previous provider.

The GDPR should be of primary interest to marketers and salespersons as it will affect their work the most. Click To Tweet

Data as currency

Here’s some more food for thought: it’s very likely that a type of an online broker will appear in the future that will provide competitive offers for a specific service to individuals based on their personal data. I believe people will be willing to share their personal data without reservation in exchange for the relevant information on the best deals.

Aside from its restrictions, the GDPR will also provide marketers and salespersons with new opportunities that only the fastest and most ingenious among them will be able to monetize. But how the regulation will affect the activities of media buyers and advertising campaign organizers is an entirely different matter.

 

[email protected]

 

During this year’s vacation, I almost fell out with my friends over—funnily enough—the magnificence of the internet and personal data collection. Long story short, we couldn’t see eye to eye regarding its usefulness and advantages and could only agree on one thing: that accumulating a large quantity of data in one place can be unfavorable in terms of security and privacy. When I hinted at the potential “solution”—the GDPR—everyone gave me a strange look. They hadn’t even heard of it before, which also seems to be the case with many people who should have been working on this intensively for at least the past six months. As always, they wait until the last minute.

What do you need to know about the GDPR?

On May 25th, 2018, the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) enters into force, introducing stricter methods for collecting, storing, and processing personal data within the EU. The changes that will have practical implications include a broader definition of personal data, which now also includes IP addresses, and considerably stricter conditions for obtaining permission to process personal data. Clicking and accepting the terms no longer suffices. And neither does collecting personal data that are not required for providing a specific service. Even more importantly, this will apply to all personal data you’ve already obtained and those that you will obtain after May 25th. Worried yet?

Wetherspoons already deleted half a million emails

Just over a month ago, the chief executive of the British pub chain Wetherspoons, John Hutson, ordered their entire customer email database be deleted. It is not known exactly how many emails have been deleted, but when the firm was last fined for breaching the British Privacy and Electronic Communication Regulation (PECR), it was reported that they had over 650,000. Since then, they have reportedly only promoted their deals on social media.

The owner of 700 pubs may indeed be able to afford to delete half a million emails, but what about you? Click To Tweet

Hutson made this decision after the British Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) imposed a series of fines on several companies for sending marketing messages to people who hadn’t explicitly consented to receive emails. The airline Flybe was fined ₤70,000 after sending out more than three million emails under the title “Are your details correct?” Something similar happened to Honda and Morrisons. According to Hutson, on a risk basis it just wasn’t worth holding large amounts of customer data anymore, especially if they themselves weren’t clear on which customers had given consent to having their personal data processed and which hadn’t. He’s partly right.

Will the GDPR “destroy” data-driven marketing?

The risk that Hutson mentions will be even greater after May 25th and the fines will be significantly higher, but that doesn’t mean that personal data collection and customer profiling will no longer be permitted. In reality, this is inevitable and brings many benefits to you and your customers. When a man comes into a shoe store he doesn’t want the salesperson to offer him stilettos, and so why should it be any different online? If you’ve read mostly scholarly books in the past, you’d probably be surprised if Amazon was trying to sell you Fifty Shades of Gray. In the end, the goal of collecting data and profiling customers is to provide a personalized buying experience.

Your customer mailing list will be better segmented and you’ll be able to target your offers more precisely. Click To Tweet

Moreover, it is only by collecting and analyzing customer data that you can:

  • Understand customers’ past behavior and predict their future actions;
  • Segment and target the right customers rather than waste your time and money on those that are not interested in your products;
  • Communicate with potential customers at the moment they’re most interested in making a purchase (for example, through drip emails);
  • Measure your customers’ satisfaction and hence modify and improve your services or products if needed.

 Does the GDPR require you to delete your “old” contacts?

The regulation is clear on this subject. When data processing is multi-purpose, an individual must agree with all the purposes in question. In addition, Article 171 of the GDPR Preamble stipulates that only if the initial consent was given in accordance with the GDPR are you not required to obtain a new one. If you’ve already been very consistent in obtaining data processing consent, you don’t have to worry. But if you haven’t been consistent (and probably most of you haven’t been), you still have time to undo the “damage” and appropriately prepare for the EU regulation.

 

[email protected]

 

Surely you didn’t think that here at the FrodX blog we’d ignore the toy that’s taken over the world in just a few months? Last year we were hunting Pokémons, but today, with its successor in my hands, I’m spinning the marvel that’s spread through schools, playgrounds, and offices faster than any childhood epidemic.

Nobody had ever heard of them, and suddenly they were everywhere. Children were spinning them on their fingers, teachers were going berserk, Facebook and Twitter lit up, and the stores were already sold out. The fidget spinner became an overnight sensation and the latest trend, which got its greatest “spin” from being viral. It also surprised the main market actors, like the craze for Rainbow Loom bracelets three years ago. Experts think it’s the first toy to explode out of nowhere exclusively through social media.

The fidget spinner craze exploded out of nowhere exclusively through social media. Click To Tweet

The spinner was invented more than twenty years ago, but it popped up again at the end of 2016, trending for Christmas on Reddit. Forbes advertised it in December as the must-have stress-relief office toy for 2017, and it spread like a flash all around the world by April, with videos and publications by enthusiastic vloggers. In the past, toys used to catch on first in the United States, then the UK, and then finally continental Europe. This time the spinners grabbed all the media-connected children (and “big kids” too) at the same time. This exceptional growth means the novelty will probably be pretty short-lived. When school starts again in September, there will surely be a new favorite toy, to teachers’ great relief. Paradoxically the toy, which was supposed to make it easier for children to concentrate, was rapidly banned in some schools because it was distracting.

The toy that didn’t earn a cent for its inventor

A fidget spinner is a small, balanced object with a bearing in the center that allows it to be spun relatively quickly between the fingers. It was invented in 1993 by Catherine Hettinger to entertain her seven-year-old daughter, who she was unable to play with because of a muscular disorder. She patented her invention in 1997 and could have been obscenely rich today. However, things didn’t go according to her expectations. Hasbro and the other toy producers she offered the design to rejected it, and the inventor didn’t extend the patent because she couldn’t afford to. Hasbro is selling the spinner now, almost twenty years after turning its back on the idea following unpersuasive consumer testing.

Chinese producers are said to have shipped 200 million spinners around the world by mid-May. Estimates show that they may have brought $500 million to the market. The prices are slowly rising. Market demand for bearings is enormous; from an original price of €0.60, the purchase price has risen to €1.50. An interesting feature is that no brand is selling spinners under its own name. If you’d like to try one out before buying it, type the word “spinner” into Google. It’s also available as an app. 😉

Reasons for success

Sometimes it’s hard to understand consumer trends. Why would a product that isn’t an essential need achieve such exceptional success? A purchase always expresses a need. First people meet their basic needs (physiological), but later also psychological needs, such as respect, esteem, or belonging. Marketing actually manipulates the way we respond to these needs. Our desires represent the way we can meet our needs.

It’s much more successful to plan a product that inspires virality on its own than to plan viral marketing. Click To Tweet

Experience with this object, which is relatively easy to master, gives a sense of satisfaction and is a bit addictive. The fact that it’s everywhere inspires curiosity on the one hand and rejection on the other. The variety of colors and shapes also turns the object into a collectible.

The fact is that the more we talk about spinners the more information about them spreads and the more people want to imitate others. The internet, or social media networks, are definitely the best place for satisfying curiosity, by accelerating shared user experiences. The top of these, of course, is YouTube (over 9 million videos) and its star vloggers. The basis for all of this is viral marketing.

How viral trends catch on across the internet

Spinners are currently the best example of a viral product and how a company can exploit its virality to engage customers. Why does viral marketing work? If we knew how to see the signs that our product might become trendy early on, using a viral marketing strategy among our target audience would be the ideal strategy. The internet works faster than any other medium because we aren’t just observers but also participants.

Once someone has been exposed to an idea and has reacted to it, one way or another it will spread. The more people are exposed to this idea, the greater the chance that they will react to it and share it with others. When this repeats itself, it becomes a viral loop. Thus early adopters, who account for a large part of promotion with recommendations to friends and acquaintances, who share these recommendations with others, and who help expand the viral loop, are responsible for market penetration. The process doesn’t work if the idea doesn’t spark reactions among the people exposed to it and also persuade those who were initially skeptical.

Spinners achieved viral dimensions through both praise and ridicule. Click To Tweet

Seth Godin, the actual inventor of viral marketing, says that viral marketing isn’t just adding a “share” button for Twitter or Facebook at the end of a blog. What’s viral is an idea that spreads like wildfire. Most companies make the mistake of planning to use viral marketing for their products rather than designing their products so that they’ll encourage virality on their own.

What are the reasons for the spinner’s ability to arouse both positive and negative reactions and encourage the idea to spread? A combination of the following factors contributed to its popularization:

  • Seeing it mentioned by friends in Facebook comments;
  • Sharing impressions on social media;
  • Encouraging newsjacking;
  • Spreading memes and ridiculing the idea;
  • Polarizing people and encouraging opposing opinions; and
  • Talking about the product and spreading the trend by word of mouth.

(Source: Shopify)

How to run a viral cycle

Think about what would encourage you as a customer to show your product to others. What’s the most important thing you like about the product? First, you have to determine a target group and how to best pique their interest in the product. If we focus on these points, we can precisely direct our efforts toward creating trust and raising our brand profile in the target population. Even though every marketing specialist dreams of a successful viral campaign, success is never a sure thing.

Entrepreneurs actually have two choices. They can either create a potentially trendy product or take over an already-growing trend that they see as an opportunity. What do potential customers do when they first learn of an interesting product? They use a search engine. Thus, Google can very precisely answer the question of what’s currently trending. Learn about the product and evaluate how much longer this trend is likely to last. The sooner you get into it, the more likely you are to succeed.

You can either invent, produce, or simply take over a newly growing trend. Click To Tweet

In the case of spinners, many sellers exploited the hype and flooded the market with various products, some of them even more expensive than the original. A lot of vendors added them to their ranges here in Slovenia, too. But did they respond too late? No one can predict how long they’ll still sell, but for such a big craze it’s worth a shot.

Entrepreneurial ideas and ingenuity are unfortunately in short supply. They’d like to create their own viral loops with visual content that attracts customers in order to reach a wider group of new buyers. Dreams, fears, or humor are things that need to be studied to create an emotional connection with the public. This always works if it’s done well. How many videos about spinners are available in Slovenian? I haven’t found any worth mentioning. But it’s even more important that the information reaches the public it’s intended for, so that they can further share it.

Success doesn’t (always) depend on your budget

In the past year, two viral campaigns were especially successful. The first was created by an Apple ad for Apple Music featuring Taylor Swift. The YouTube video got 19 million views. The second was connected to the movie Ghostbusters. Sony Pictures created two Snapchat filters that used both cameras on a smartphone. The goal was of course to engage young people who hadn’t seen the first film from the 1980s. The campaign went viral because it was creative and also the first one that made effective use of technology to create a unique experience.

We must never forget that viral marketing is a phenomenon that works because it gives individuals power. Good viral campaigns don’t always depend on good marketing directors, huge budgets, and support from celebrities. It’s the most basic form of advertising when customers sell to each other. The spinner is outstanding proof that it works.

tomaž[email protected]

Product

More than one hundred years ago, Henry Ford introduced the first conveyor belt assembly line for his Model T. Before that cars were a pretty rare and expensive product that only the richest people could afford. Through lower production costs resulting from the introduction of a conveyor belt, in 1925 Ford managed to decrease car production costs to USD 260. Cars turned into affordable mass products.

Consumer society

By the 1950s, the conveyor belt had been implemented as a standard in all developed industrial countries. The relevant experience and expertise were also applied to the production of household appliances and items for home and personal use, which also became significantly more affordable and higher quality. Through industrial production, the economy of that time basically reached its peak. Practically anything could be made and the product itself was no longer at the forefront. The story or brand began to add key value to products.

From convincing consumers of what they need to trying to offer them the best user experience possible ... Click To Tweet

Product development began to focus increasingly more on sales and marketing. This was the beginning of a golden era for marketing agencies and the mass media, which were trying to convince people that they needed fridges, cars, toys, services, and so on. The consumer was placed at the center of the economy, whose goal was to convince consumers of what they needed.

Digital interfaces and user experience

Over the past ten years, during which the millennials have become a desirable target group, the situation has begun to change. The millennials didn’t grow up in front of the TV like the generations before them. Their development has been influenced by the internet and the mobile revolution. The amount of information available to them has provided them with a variety and amount of choice that no other generation before them had. The value or accessibility of information has become a key currency to them. They select the information and communication channels themselves and they respond significantly less to generic messages than the previous generations. They’ve discovered the world “on demand,” they don’t want to be bombarded with large quantities of marketing messages, and they refuse to be “passive consumers.” They are aware of their power. They want to be actively included and involved in developing the user experience offered to them by products and services.

Technology is changing the rules of the game and users are changing the customer engagement standards

It seems that the consumer society that was created by mass media and advertising, and which lasted for two or three generations, is now falling apart. The habits of the millennials are now also being adopted by those older than them. We do this a bit differently, but we nonetheless like the new options that we’ve gotten to know through them. We want to be informed, empowered, and feel well-informed. As consumers, we are starting to like the full transparency and unlimited sources of information, so we can check anything at any time at any place. And we like being able to share our experience with anyone through only a few clicks or touches on our smart phones.

 

Today’s consumers have all the information and constantly share everything with the rest of the world. Click To Tweet

Seventy-four per cent of managers believe that the purpose of digital transformation is to improve value for the customers.

Today’s digital economy is no longer based solely on creating and selling products, but on creating a better user experience with products or services than the competition. This applies to all stages of the customer lifecycle, not only the stage of marketing and winning new customers. User experience has become a key differentiator and foundation of providers’ uniqueness. The most successful companies are proving to be those that are best able to include their customers and raise their engagement to the highest level. These companies no longer need marketing communication in the sense of promoting products the old way. This role has been taken over by their satisfied users within their communities. As long as marketing (as well as sales and implementation) ensures a high level of user inclusion and engagement, the transaction goals of such businesses will automatically be met. Unfortunately, we haven’t yet fully adopted this mentality, at least not in large numbers. But there are exceptions, such as the Duth ZLM insurance company, which seeks to meet its financial objectives by rewarding employees based on the empirical measurements of customer satisfaction as the key value of its employees.

If there are no more traditional promotional approaches, what should marketing be doing then?

Let’s use an example  to think about this …. What makes Uber different from the experience offered by other taxi providers in the eyes of the user? The basic aim of the service has actually not changed at all. But the experience is completely different. Let’s see: you start by ordering a taxi the same way at any place around the world (where they have Uber, of course). The driver that comes to pick you up knows you based on the information he or she got from his or her colleagues that have already driven you before. You can track the car that’s coming to pick you up on the map and you know exactly when the taxi is supposed to pick you up. You also know exactly who the driver is and how he or she has been rated by other users. You know the taxi fare in advance as well as the optimal route, travel time, and the time of arrival at your destination. You don’t have to pay cash. You don’t have to worry about how much taxi drivers are usually tipped in that specific country …

Successful businesses offer such a good experience to users that they spread the word about it themselves. Click To Tweet

There seem to be a lot of advantages for the user. And so the service becomes a logical choice for everyone that tries it out. All Uber needs to achieve is that you try their service out at least once. Then you become a member of a community with whom they can directly communicate in a personalized way as a customer, also based on the information your smart phone conveys to them (in line with the relevant context).

Marketing as a technological skill?

Technology forms the basis for effective omnichannel communication throughout the customer lifecycle and is practically a vital precondition. The more the channels and the longer the customer lifecycle, the harder it is to provide omnichannel communication without excellent technological support. Technology is necessary, but it’s far from being a guarantee for success in and of itself. But you can succeed if alongside technology you know how to successfully innovate your business to the extent where you can discover an experience that your users will grow to like so much that they will spread the word about you in their social circle themselves. I think precisely this is the new mission of marketing and marketing communications.

 

[email protected]

 

P.S. Would you like to get to know the technology that the most successful companies in the world use to manage their omnichannel communication with customers? I’d be happy to prepare a presentation for you if you are able to stop by our office for two hours. You have my e-mail. 😉