Sometimes it seems that in some areas everyone just keeps doing things the same old way. But, as Albert Einstein put it: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

A good friend of mine decided to start a new, nautical project: building boats. Most boat manufacturers, especially boutique producers, understand that uniqueness is what they’re after. Hence, the Pegasus, too, belongs to a niche segment and comes with a wide variety of USPs, diversifications, and unique and special features—a range of distinctive properties, whatever you prefer to call it. But just being a “different” boat doesn’t guarantee success.

New buying habits and expectations

When I started doing research on how boats are sold today, I got the feeling that everyone—from large-scale producers to small boutique or exclusive providers—simply keeps doing the same thing over and over again. I may be wrong, but it seems to me that today’s buyers don’t behave the same way as they did thirty, ten, or even five years ago, and their expectations are also different.

Why would you buy and sell boats the same way as thirty years ago? Click To Tweet

If I skip the detailed market analysis and the study of the approaches used by the relevant boat builders and simplify things, today’s boat sales look like this: boats are practically forced upon dealers, taken to fairs, and advertised in magazines or maybe online. Ex-factory prices apply, on top of which you also pay tax plus transport. When the boat is launched, you become responsible for it, even if its equipment is as inadequate as that of a car with no tires.

Make the customer’s fears and concerns disappear

I know a few things about boats myself and so as a buyer I’d first want to make sure that the boat suited me. Already upon delivery it should have all the required equipment and be ready to go on any trip I want as soon as I set foot on it. And I would have a professional maintain my boat throughout its lifetime.

As far as the Pegasus is concerned (you can check out its concept and what it’ll look like in this brochure), I propose three sales changes.

The first has to do with overcoming the customers’ fears and concerns about whether the yacht is really the right one and whether it meets their desires and needs. So anyone that’s interested in having a Pegasus can go aboard one that is already owned and used by someone else and is serving the purpose it’s been built for. If their first impression is good, they can try this same Pegasus out under the conditions in which they intend to use it.

Because the Pegasus is a yacht that offers high-quality, comfortable, and safe rides even in the roughest seas, anyone that wants it may also test it in these conditions. They can take a ride in it from Portorož to Malta or across the Atlantic, depending on what they’re buying it for. If they decide to purchase it, the rental costs are deducted from the purchase price.

A buyer that has access to all the information from the beginning is a confident buyer

My second proposal is that once a customer decides to purchase a Pegasus, he receives a tablet with all the documentation. This gives him access, or the opportunity to regularly monitor the vessel’s construction, whereby he can see everything, from the construction log to the photos and videos showing the construction progress. This increases his trust and reduces his uncertainty before delivery.

Well-informed and well-served customers are satisfied and confident. That’s what we want, isn’t it? Click To Tweet

The same tablet is also used to control and operate the vessel after it’s delivered because it contains all the commands and the navigation, and provides overall control over all the systems. In addition, the tablet also contains records of all the voyages made, a maintenance log, and records on all other events related to the vessel.

Customer care doesn’t end with the purchase

The third thing that makes a difference compared to other providers is connected with the yacht’s maintenance. Complete regular maintenance during the first five years is already included in the package. Every owner has to ensure and pay for maintenance anyway. The main difference is that in this case they don’t have to worry about when the maintenance will take place, what will be done, and who will help them carry out the regular maintenance. This way they simply “order” maintenance in advance from the best possible provider in the producer’s team when they purchase the yacht. This guarantees the highest-quality service and maintenance, and the owner can transfer the burden and care for the yacht to the producer / maintenance provider. This has a significant impact on the owner’s satisfaction and, first and foremost, it ensures the vessel is in the best shape possible, which contributes to safe, comfortable, and pleasant rides, while protecting the vessel’s maximum possible value over time.

Doing the same thing over and over again is convenient, but ineffective. Click To Tweet

I think every business activity needs some adjustments, new approaches, and strategy modifications. Besides, changes are arising increasingly faster and with them come increasingly more opportunities and dangers.

So which way forward: the new way or the old one?

If you still think that it’s better to make a blind purchase and that following up on what’s going on with your boat from the first day it’s sold and throughout its lifetime is a complete waste of time, if you take exceptional pleasure in scrubbing, painting, and servicing your boat by yourself every year instead of sailing with it, and when you do sail with it, you keep worrying what will break down next—please let me know. I’d truly like to know the reasons and understand why “everyone” is still doing the same thing over and over again.

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Content marketing is a buzzword that comes up everywhere on the internet. Really there’s nothing new about it, though. Good marketing has always been based on good stories—that is, on relevant content for relevant individuals. But, in order to create relevant content, you need to know well who you’d like to impress.
Let’s take a look at an example. Mercedes-Benz has recently launched an ad titled Grow Up.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nFnoLpKrTyE

Do you think this ad is appropriate for their target audience? If you picture a typical buyer, climbing out of the car with his beer belly bulging under his ironed shirt, you will agree that this ad is completely off-target. An average Mercedes buyer is fifty-seven years old, whereas this particular ad targets kids, who sometimes can’t even afford to have a round of beer with their friends, let alone buy a luxury car.

So, what’s the idea? For a while now, Mercedes-Benz has been trying to attract younger customers and so it is persistently addressing younger audiences. In addition to launching an updated product (i.e., the Mercedes-Benz CLA) and using a variety of activities on the social media, the company also activated the vlogger Casey Niestat, an influential individual in this demographic group. Mercedes-Benz likes to point out in its statistics that the CLA has been its best product launch in the past twenty years and that the average age of a CLA owner is significantly lower compared to other Mercedes models: forty-six. Impressive, but why does the manufacturer address an audience two decades younger in its ads?

A calendar for designers or do-it-yourselfers?

Another example: the 2016 Merkur calendar.

Source: Marketing Magazin

At the end of 2015, the Slovenian hardware retailer serving both professionals and do-it-yourselfers launched an attractive calendar, whose aim was to stimulate creativity among its customers. I admit that I really liked it, myself, but then a colleague pointed out the gap in communicating to the right buyer persona. I found the calendar pretty and refreshing. So, what was the problem? I’m not a typical Merkur customer or at least not a customer that would seriously engage in household repairs and tasks. A thirty-nine-year-old Joe Sixpack probably is, but he cares more about pure practicality than playful creativity. The calendar may not have even been designed to target the right buyer persona at all . . . and if Pirelli has done well with theirs, why couldn’t Merkur?

What can we learn from these examples?

1. Define your buyer personas.
Knowing your typical buyer is key. Define your typical customers by looking at why they would use a specific product or service. Breathe life into them and think about how you can most easily contact your buyers.
2. Listen to your customers.
What do you know about the people that need your product or service? What are their fears, challenges, and desires? Have you adapted your marketing content to different buyer personas? Invite them for a chat and listen to their needs. Do you make them feel that you understand them? Do you truly understand them?
3. Create a good story.
Customers will accept a story that they can identify with, they can learn something new from, or that can help them reach their goals. Before you post or publish anything, think if the content you’re publishing is actually useful for your target customer.

The formula for success is pretty simple. Create an excellent product or service and wrap it in a “compelling” story. If you have trouble finding the right words, we’d be happy to help.

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You’re reading this after the three-day extravaganza in the Planica Valley has already ended, but I actually wrote it while the excitement before the ski flying weekend finale was reaching its climax. This is practically like a national holiday for Slovenians and includes all the activities that go with it. Luckily, there were no major incidents. So now it’s safe for me to reveal who the winner was: Stefan Kraft with his 250-meter-flight. 😉

As the big event was drawing closer, the popular game of predicting the (record) jump distances and the winner also started. At work, at home, at the cafe, with friends, family or coworkers, everyone bet on their own favorite or, more likely, the longest flight distance. Most of them did it for fun, the more enthusiastic ones did it for money, and a handful did it for the attractive prizes provided by the main sponsor.

Kraft won a medal at Planica, but Triglav Group won hundreds of new leads. So, who’s the true winner here? Click To Tweet

During this ski-jumping event, the insurance and finance company Triglav Group sponsored the Triglav Rekord 2017 contest, which was supported by a smart-phone app, in which participants could win prizes by predicting the distances of individual flights. That’s nothing special, one might say, a routine marketing practice and nothing more, but the fact that a company develops an app, does the coding, goes through all the certification procedures, and holds a contest for only three days of promotion—now that’s something else entirely. The biggest Slovenian insurance company can definitely afford to do it because, judging from the number of apps, it has sufficient resources, but nonetheless it has to gain some business benefit from it. In this case, the direct benefit was the leads that it can continue to target in the future (you had to sign up with your e-mail) and the users themselves will help promote it among their friends because the contest is so much more fun if you can compete against one another. Overall, the cost of winning new leads this way is definitely lower than through a conventional advertising campaign. Not to mention the enhancement to the brand’s profile.

Gamification as a customer engagement optimization tool

The expression “gamification” refers to a practice that has been used in marketing for quite some time now and roughly denotes the application of game or play elements to non-game contexts. It can take numerous forms, from vouchers and loyalty cards to collecting points, but the digital world provides even more possibilities. The techniques used allow awarding, assessing, and highlighting user achievements and making evaluations within a community.

Practically every consumer has already come across one form of gamification or another without even being aware of it. It experienced its biggest boom with the development of smart-phone apps with integrated programs for enhancing customer loyalty.

Grandma collects Mercator bonus points but her granddaughter collects Facebook likes. Click To Tweet

In a highly competitive business environment even a small difference can bring you a competitive advantage. If you use the right approach, gamification can also have long-term business benefits. It is an indispensable customer engagement tool that can be applied to all areas.

We use a gaming experience to lead customers into a real marketing campaign or even conversion. Along their purchase path, we can prompt them to download content, create their own profiles, share their personal data with us, or even purchase a product or service.

Loyalty card 2.0

Gamification is so popular because it combines a number of different trends in the consumer digital environment. You need to take these into account when you look for new ways of interacting with your customers:

  • The rapid increase in content and digital experience creates the need for constant adaptation and innovation in order to maintain user interest and increase sales;
  • Today’s online users are used to getting responses to their actions. Most of them don’t browse the internet just because of the rewards, but their existence forces them into repeating certain buying patterns in the future;
  • Online games are based on sociology and behavioral research, which makes them highly effective;
  • Loyalty programs used to reward purchases, whereas today they entail significantly more interaction with brands, either in the social media or corporate websites. Keeping track of and rewarding non-purchase related activities can lead to a long-term increase in customer engagement. This technique allows you to obtain more user-generated content, product reviews, and so on, which helps companies get to know their customers better;
  • The customers’ online activities can be monitored, analyzed, and processed, after which they can be used to direct users based on their previous choices;
  • Those that have already tried gamification observe significant changes in user behavior, such as an increase in the number of conversions, good reviews, and user-generated content. It is common to see as much as 20% growth, but some even report as much as 500%.

Adapt to your customers and their “playful” habits

Gamification extends into the customers’ user experience and so it has to be aligned across all of the brand’s tools, whether in social media, customer reviews, online catalogs, blogs, mobile apps, or other promotional activities. Don’t make the mistake, for example, of thinking that by giving out online user badges without a context you’re going to make anyone happy. This type of reward program will be short-term and may even make a few happy, but it won’t have any significant effect on user activities and you’re not going to achieve your long-term goals this way.

Buyers like to play. So play along with them, adapt to their rules, and you’ll both win. Click To Tweet

Understanding buyer personas and how they perceive games is key. The challenge is to find the tool that allows you to convey your message to the right person at the right time through the right channels (the internet, social media or cell phones) most effectively.

By setting the objectives of the game you lay the basis: group engagement, collecting leads, creating website traffic, qualifying the user database, announcing new products, or reactivating inactive customers. Then you need to accurately define your target audience. The more accurately you define it, the higher your share of opt-ins will be. By determining the target audience, you build the basic logic behind the “game”: rewards, expansion, and promotion. Only then do we select the type of the game (e.g., a quiz, a prize draw, e-training, a mobile app, and so on) and implement it into our campaign.

Games are at the forefront of modern marketing

Through gamification, companies enhance their marketing messages and optimize their resources and content. Then they win a loyal audience. By using an effective marketing strategy, they can then monitor their customers’ engagement with their brands. Gamification offers exposure to a specific brand in exchange for fun. The goal is to achieve maximum customer loyalty. The insurance company described above is definitely good at achieving this, and we can help you become good at it, too.

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Over the past few weeks, I’ve been noticing that, every time I get in my car, my cell phone reports my destination, along with the expected time of arrival and the density of traffic on the way. I didn’t really pay much attention to it until I realized that the destination pops up even when I haven’t entered it in my calendar or anywhere else. With the cloud systems it’s linked to, my cell phone can predict where I’m travelling to at a specific time! And because it wants to be nice, it also offers me some addition useful information to make my travel more convenient. I haven’t decided yet if that’s great or scary.

If you can capture and analyze large quantities of data, you can detect specific patterns of behavior.

I started wondering and investigating how my cell phone can know where I’m heading at a given moment, even if I haven’t entered that information anywhere. I soon found out that it makes predictions based on my past travel or behavior patterns. The computer to which my cell phone sends data on my movement predicts the destination that I most often travel to at similar times of the day from the location where the notification pops up. Apparently, my life is so routine and predictable and the patterns I leave behind are so reliable that the computer knows exactly when I’m going somewhere, either because of my routine behavior or the things I put on my calendar.

My phone knows that I play golf Thursdays at 4 pm. So it automatically sends me there. Scary? Click To Tweet

We’re most willing to give up privacy for the sake of convenience

If I had to decide whether that’s great or scary, I’d say that for now it’s still great. By taking a single glance at my cell phone I can see when I’m going to arrive at my destination and how heavy the traffic is on the way there—because the speed is being communicated by the cell phones of all the users that are travelling that same route.

Before, I had to open Google Maps and enter my destination in order to get info on the time of arrival and the traffic jams. For someone who’s always late, info on how late he’s going to be and where the traffic jams are is extremely important because he can use it to apologize to all those who are waiting for him. 😉 It’s great if from now on I don’t have to do a single thing in order to get this info.

Well, while I was thinking about how even just a month ago I was using the Google traffic services and how I no longer have to type on the phone and enter the address while driving, and how good this new solution is for me and other road users who no longer have to type in the addresses, I came to the conclusion that this may only be leading me to the point where I’ll also give gradual consent for my behavior patterns to be used for someone else’s benefit, not just my own.

Is the Amazon Dash Button just a cover-up for something that’s not socially acceptable yet?

If my rides are repeatable to the point that they become predictable, certain predictable patterns can most likely also be derived from my daily purchases—probably even more easily. I imagine the moment is not far away when there’ll be a cart waiting for me at Mercator with an integrated tablet that will recognize me and show me my shopping list, which for the time being my wife still emails me every time I go to the store. Alongside my typical shopping cart, the tablet will also suggest products that I’m statistically most likely to grab and add to those that make up my typical purchase. If nothing else, such a shopping list will seem great to me because the items on it will be listed in the logical order of my route through the store. My wife only writes down what we need on the list, but not where to find it in the store. Another advantage for me!

Increasingly more convenience, increasingly less privacy. So what? I’m lazy. Click To Tweet

In a physical store this will probably remain difficult to accomplish for another few years, but it seems that progressive online merchants are actually already doing something similar, but in a “soft” way. I’m starting to believe more and more that in the long run Amazon doesn’t really need its Dash Button at all. It’s probably more of a cover-up for making people feel that they are deciding or communicating their needs on their own, even though Amazon is probably pretty good at predicting them and could prompt people to confirm an order at its own initiative. If it doesn’t make too many mistakes, we’ll probably grow to like it eventually. Convenient and inexpensive easily beats privacy concerns. Instantly. Always.

Technology is slowly but surely winning the battle for customers.

I could present lots of other examples and similar practices, but they all have one thing in common: technology has started to change the approaches established in the physical world. It’s winning the battle against the physical world incredibly quickly, taking advantage of our big weakness: human laziness and desire for convenience. The companies that are aware of this are introducing innovations to their sales strategies and customer service by investing in technology and new approaches that gradually erase the borders between the physical and digital worlds. Other companies only watch from the sidelines and pretend that nothing’s going on or, even worse, they really don’t see anything at all. We can help you win their customers.

[email protected]

P.S. Do you need some more ideas about how technology can help you raise your sales, marketing, and customer service to a completely new level?

We’ve written an interesting manual about this and I guarantee you won’t get bored reading it. Don’t put it off another day! Whoever learns something new first can exploit its advantages longer.

If there’s something that really annoys me, it’s wasting time. A little while ago I had to sort out my temporary residence permit at the administrative unit. I’ve been living at the same address for more than a year, which means I only had to extend the permit, but I missed the deadline and so I had to submit the entire application all over again – as if I were applying for the permit for the first time.

I arrived at the administrative unit with only the annex to my rental agreement in my pocket. I didn’t bring the entire agreement with me because I thought they already had an electronic copy from last year. The clerk coldly sent me home to get all the documentation, saying that the original rental agreement had already been “archived” and she wasn’t able to access it. She quacked this in such a melancholy tone that I began to worry that their archives were at the North Pole rather than merely a stone’s throw away from her desk. I’m not entirely sure what her real motive was: trying to teach me a lesson that I shouldn’t miss deadlines? Or maybe it was just because of the technological malnutrition of the public sector, which makes them incapable of digitizing things. In any case, having to run home and back, chase down the administrative unit’s office hours,* and work with physical documents that had recently already been saved in electronic form seemed an absolute waste of time to me; especially if you consider this was 2016 we’re talking about.

I would like the world to become more convenient for me: I appreciate brands that save me time. Click To Tweet

 After experiencing that, I feel that the Slovenian public administration system is several light years away from the next industrial revolution. Considering that I (intentionally) submit my personal information everywhere I go, my expectations towards the world have changed. I feel like I’ve already contributed enough information in the past and if someone on the other side doesn’t know how to use it to improve my user experience, this annoys me even more.

In his book The Fourth Industrial Revolution, Klaus Schwab discusses four main impacts on consumerism:

  • User expectations are changing, whereby self-service solutions have been on the rise recently—for example, the self-service kiosks at McDonald’s, where users can order and pay for their food, which reduces waiting times and speeds up the process;
  • Products and services are improved with data, which improves their productivity—for example, Bellabeat, a Croatian-Slovenian brand of high-tech products for prenatal and neonatal care that pregnant women and new mothers can use on their own at home;
  • Businesses are forming new types of partnerships and cooperation—like the one announced two years ago by SAP and Huawei (primarily with the purpose of improving research on the Internet of Things and providing new solutions);
  • Business models are turning into digital models.

How do you strengthen your customer relationships?

User expectations are changing into experience and brands that think smart strengthen relationships with their customers by offering them the right solution at the right time, with minimal effort on the customer’s part, of course.

Over the past years, certain citizen and government initiatives have been established in Slovenia — most recently and notably at the conference Slovenia 2030: Directions of Technological Progress, Directions of Social Change — to promote the digitalization of public administration, and public administration itself has also taken a few steps forward, for example with the eRecept (ePrescription) system and the e-VEM access points for business registration and taxation. Nonetheless, the Slovenian public administration system still seems to torture ordinary citizens all too often: it does not focus on truly making it easier for them to exercise their rights and fulfill their obligations. Estonia has proven that the government’s embrace can be a comfortable haven for citizens. This country is a global leader in public administration digitalization and serves as a model for other countries (it is even being copied by the Japanese). The e-Estonia project makes it easier for people to fulfill their civic obligations, such as voting, paying taxes, or signing legally binding contracts.

In an ideal situation, after my temporary residence permit expired, I could have been automatically reminded to complete my application and extend my residence permit or apply for a change of residence. OK, so the public administration clearly doesn’t care about me, even though research shows that an online service would have cost it 50 times less than the offline alternatives. But I believe that the brands for which I also spend euros and not just my personal data and time do care. So why does Mercator send me information on special deals I have no interest in if, based on the buying habits recorded on my Mercator Pika loyalty card and my consent for the chain store to use my personal data and data on my past purchases to study customer buying habits, it could instead notify me of discounts on my favorite products? Or even better: when it detected that I haven’t bought toilet paper for a very long time, it could toss it into my online basket and I could order it with a single click and have it delivered to my doorstep from the nearest Mercator shop within the next few hours. For example, Amazon is taking a similar course with its Wi-Fi connected dash buttons installed in people’s homes, with which users can reorder a product with a simple click on the button. By the way, Mercator claims that it’s trying to adapt to my buying experience, but unfortunately I don’t seem to notice that as a consumer.

If the customer doesn’t notice your personalization efforts, you’re doing something wrong. Click To Tweet

So, the digital revolution revolves around data, or more specifically, access to and smart use of data. In turn, user experience is made more meaningful based on constant adaptation and improvement.

In the future I would like the world to become more convenient for me and so I appreciate those brands that make an effort, make my user experience easier, and save time. I believe this will be more favorable and lucrative for them than trying to win new customers.

 

[email protected]

*Before you shake your finger at me, I do know that you can also apply for temporary residence though the e-administration portal, but that delays the permit issue for another day or two.

The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that “great” things are only possible if you develop a new customer or user habit. If you focus your development efforts only on meeting an already familiar customer need in an already familiar way, you’re far from creating a global business megahit. Basically all your options rely more or less on the fact that you can provide a cheaper solution to a problem than all the others that are already offering one. That is an extremely high-risk strategy if you ask me.

Innovators have never had better conditions in all of human history

If we don’t seek business ideas in creating solutions to problems that may not even exist yet, it’s very unlikely that we’ll ever truly lead the game. Actually, we don’t even give ourselves a chance to. This doesn’t have anything to do with the next industrial revolution or better: the invasion of technologies that have an extreme effect on the individual and are changing society as never before. Just remember Henry Ford’s comment: “If I’d asked people what they wanted, they would have said ‘faster horses’.”

By 2025, practically all electrical devices will be connected to the internet. Click To Tweet

One of my last posts has generated lots of comments. There are two types of comment: that you don’t agree that practically all electrical devices will be connected to the internet by 2025 and that you see no need in also connecting people to the internet. This time around, I’d like to use a single example of use to explain that this may not be so absurd after all. You only need to look at it more gradually. Through gains.

We keep moving the line between providing assistance and creating solutions to problems that don’t even exist yet

Let me use a very specific and practical example. I like to play golf. I’m not interested in counting the number of times a year I take time to play golf, but I would like to know the statistics of all the games I play in a season. So some time ago I bought myself a smart watch that counts my steps and strokes, and tracks the elevation difference I cover, along with exposure to UV radiation, my heart rate, and calories burned. When linked to my mobile phone, the watch also gathers weather information during my golf activities. With a watch featuring several sensors linked to a cloud via my mobile phone, I can collect a range of useful data that allow me to keep track of my golfing fitness and physical activity throughout the year. Even my golf instructor would be happy to get such data (and most likely also my wife). In the future these two will probably be joined by my GP, insurance company, and many others. It sounds perfect. Almost perfect. If you have such a watch, you no longer have to manually collect data on how you play. All the statistics are available to you via the internet at any time and any place – as well as to anyone else you give permission to.

But the problem is I don’t like wearing a watch. Especially when I play golf. It really bothers me every time I swing my club (even if I wear it on my right arm). That’s actually why I never play with a watch, even though I bought it for precisely this reason. Sensors would be a good solution for me. This watch actually has them, but I don’t want them to bother me. So I started exploring and I found it. An almost perfect device, again.

Ralph Lauren has designed a sports shirt that captures real-time biometric information by measuring the amount of sweat, heart rate, breathing intensity, and so on, during a person’s workout. The company also sells golf clothes and so the sensors on this shirt will probably soon be able to measure golf strokes, too. Almost perfect. The shirt costs approximately the same as the smart watch I bought two years ago.
 

The key factor for the success of any business idea is . . .

Let’s be realistic. Wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t have to use such high-tech shirts, watches, mobile phones, and so on, and have a multitude of apps that capture data from various sensors? It would be much more “frictionless” to me as a user if I didn’t have to think about it at all. If I happened to be interested in my golfing statistics, I’d simply review the data that’s being collected in the cloud. If I weren’t interested in the statistics and weren’t looking for data, cloud data storage or use wouldn’t cost me a dime. In any case, various golf equipment manufacturers would most likely be interested in offering free storage of data on golfers’ activities and would even encourage us to use this service. They could most certainly use these data to improve their segmentation and target their leads more successfully, accurately, and in a timelier fashion. Over time we’d end up taking all of this for granted. But whether this is actually to happen in the next eight years already, as Klaus Schwab predicts in his Fourth Industrial Revolution, I can’t say.

The most important success factor for carrying out business ideas is their timeliness. Click To Tweet

What I do know is that this is the direction we’re heading in and that the limits of what is acceptable are now changing faster than ever before. And I know something else. The most important success factor for carrying out business ideas is their timeliness. Arriving somewhere too early hurts even more than getting there too late.

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My last post, “Digital transformation isn’t what you think it is,” has been met with exceptional response. I took that as a hint that I need to write more about marketing and sales technology and the opportunities for new business models that new technologies offer, and to keep publishing stories about digitalization in practice. So, this is the start of a specific series of posts on using technology to win new customers.

Can technology be your competitive advantage?

From the business perspective I see technology as doping, but without the limitations and restrictions. If you can afford technology early enough, when the competition doesn’t have it yet, you can create a competitive advantage for yourself. If you’re too late, you’ll have to introduce it anyway to keep from lagging behind the competition, which has broken away from the pack and increased its lead in the meantime. Of course, the technology has also gotten cheaper and easier to introduce effectively. Unfortunately, when introducing new technologies, the late adopters usually only try to minimize the pain and hardly ever make any progress on the market in the absolute sense. It seems to me that the global economy works this way.

The most technologically advanced environments create the greatest added value and reinvest in technology the most. We’re in some sort of a vicious spiral in which followers can only become leaders if the leaders make a big mistake or if the followers produce an innovative new product and use it to create a temporary monopoly or gradually change their rivals on the market. I don’t want to go too much into limiting the use of technologies as a survival method of “traditionalists” here. I find this approach pretty narrow-minded, bureaucratic, and European.

The “wow” moment: from automated to intelligent processes in practice

In addition to the feedback I received on my last post, this time around my reflections on technology were also prompted by a few other things that have happened to me recently. At work I suddenly became aware of a new technology that has crept into my business life uninvited—that is, on my smartphone and PC, and as part of the services I use on both these devices and get from my current cloud computing provider.

Automated intelligent processes for increasing productivity are no longer science fiction. Click To Tweet

More than half of FrodX’s turnover comes from doing business with international clients. Even the few Slovenian companies we work for are actually subsidiaries of international corporations. Accordingly, a significant portion of our business correspondence takes place in English. So a couple of days ago, I received an English e-mail from a client that wants to expand our solution for the Adriatic region to some of its branches in Central and Eastern Europe. As they were preparing teams to roll out our solution onto additional markets, they asked us to send them some of our instructions, so they could add them to their in-house presentation. No big deal. But this was the first time that I noticed a new icon in my online e-mail client. Next to the icon for linking this e-mail to a person or sales opportunity in the CRM system, there was also an icon announcing that this email was very likely connected with a task I had to accomplish (an action item). Out of mere curiosity I clicked on the icon and a message popped up saying what activity the sender expects me to complete and by when. Yes, someone else had read my e-mail and the system automatically assigned me a task that it had inferred from the e-mail message. An even bigger surprise followed after I confirmed it. This task appeared not only in my Outlook, but also in the CRM system with the concrete customer and the related sales opportunity. It even included the deadline, which could be deciphered from the context of the message.

We gave up privacy long ago

At first this gave me a terrible feeling. But not for long. Yes, I do want someone else to read all those 300 emails I get every day and single out those in which the sender demands or expects something from me. And to put all the ones referring to current clients in order by priority (evident from our CRM system) and to rank those with reference to potential clients by their purchase readiness or sales potential (evident from our marketing information system).

Can you imagine how my efficiency would increase if someone processed all 300 emails I get on a daily basis? And how much the service would improve for our clients if the system selected priorities intelligently, based on mathematical criteria? If only it worked as perfectly in Slovenian, too!

We gave up privacy long ago. Click To Tweet

Now I could also write about how surprised I was the first time my smartphone sent me a message based on a calendar entry in the CRM system that I should get going if I wanted to be at the meeting on time because there was some heavy traffic on the freeway. Or about a handful of other technological innovations that actually save me a lot of time and make my work environment much more comfortable. Ultimately, they allow me to be more efficient at what I do. But this only has an impact as long as the competition isn’t operating the same way or even more efficiently.

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P.S. What technology do your sales and marketing departments have at their disposal? Do you know what new advantages the “smart” sales tools offer compared to the CRM systems we’ve known for the past ten years? FrodX’s new manual presents key new technological solutions that can help companies win new customers. Check them out.

Let’s face it: most providers that develop software, sell servers or disc arrays, or offer web design services are not able to actually help you digitally transform your business. In most cases, these are actually just traditional IT service providers promoting themselves by riding on a wave of current hype.

Digital transformation entails much more than just digitalizing a process or two and introducing paperless operations. I think it first and foremost entails a key shift in business models and changing the relationships between the participants in a business ecosystem. This shift cannot take place without modern ICT and, of course, the consumer habits developed in this era of mobile and Internet-connected devices.

Digital transformation is not just an IT project. At least it shouldn’t be. Click To Tweet

Uber and Airbnb are usually cited as examples of effective digital transformation. Every time I hear this I wonder if they’re truly IT innovators or merely innovative solutions created by people that were first and foremost experts in the activities their two companies specialize in.

Slovenia also has examples of effective digital transformation

One of our own clients is a great example of effective digital transformation in Slovenia. It’s a bank that believed customers most valued quick, easy loan approval when they went looking for a consumer loan. At least for most customers, this was even more important than the loan costs or anything else. So in order to increase its competitive advantage, the bank had to be able to approve consumer loans faster than all its competitors. In order to do that, it had to use a completely different procedure for assessing customer creditworthiness than others were currently using.

The bank saw an opportunity for assessing its potential customers’ creditworthiness by relying on external sources linked to an online app, through which customers can obtain a loan within minutes without consulting a banker. After a few months of marketing this type of online loans, the bank’s share of consumer loans is significantly larger than its share of open transaction accounts, which may indicate that the product has been a success. In the long run, if it turns out that all the loans approved this way are also being paid off, this will definitely be a great example of digital transformation in Slovenia.

Why is digital transformation far more than just an IT-project?

At least to me, the above example proves pretty clearly that digital transformation is far more than just an IT-project. At least that wasn’t the essence of this project. In the end, of course, IT helped make it happen, but the first initiative came from an entirely different place. It is true, though, that the people promoting the project had to have very good IT literacy in order to identify this business opportunity in the first place.

Digitalization won’t get you wanted results unless you engage in some real conceptual reflection. Click To Tweet

If you turn to FrodX asking how to go about digital transformation, we’ll always suggest using a product/market fit analysis, at least as a first step.

First reflection, then digital transformation

To sum up, digital transformation of your business operations is primarily about seeking out the unique aspects of your product that make it significantly more attractive to the market and target audience. It may be enough for it to be cheaper, something you achieve through a more direct customer relationship that cuts out the middleman. Maybe you have to make it possible for customers to access your product faster and on a self-service basis. Maybe you need to lower the risk associated with making a purchase decision. In any case, you must first analyze or reflect on how you can meet your customers’ needs in a different and more customer-friendly way. Once you know what your uniqueness is, find a partner that will help you implement these ideas. Digitalization will probably be inevitable. But you won’t get the results you want unless you engage in some real conceptual reflection.

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P.S. We can help you figure out how you can be the solution your customers are looking for in a unique, customer-friendly way. Send us your particular challenge!

If you do phone sales and your salary doesn’t depend on your performance, you ought to call up my boyfriend David. He’s your ideal customer. David is friendly, doesn’t interrupt you, and always promises he’ll think about it. Even when you make a follow-up call, he’ll be just as friendly, even though he’ll probably admit he hasn’t thought about it at all yet. And if you call him up a third time, during his Saturday dinner, he’ll “just” gently dismiss you, while grumbling to me about how they dare call him up on a Saturday afternoon. Sorry, but I speak from experience . . .

How do they find him?

Whenever I witness these calls, I keep wondering how on Earth they find David. Whether they’re selling insurance or a vacuum cleaner, or “merely” completing an innocent survey, it seems my boyfriend is often on their call list. I’m not sure what kind of logic they follow, but they never pick me. I have two theories for this.

Perhaps they call up all their lost customers. David has never bought a vacuum cleaner (or insert any other item that is currently being sold by phone), but he may have taken out insurance with a different company in the past. Just like I don’t know all of his ex-girlfriends, I’m also not familiar with all of the insurance companies he’s previously been with.

My second theory is that he must be in the “right” demographic group. He’s a thirty-two-year-old man with a young family and a good income. Is this the target demographic group for selling supplementary health insurance? It could be, but I can’t really be sure.

Save your call center agents’ time by instructing them to call up only the promising contacts. Click To Tweet

But there is something I do know for sure. David has never bought a thing after receiving these calls. If the call center agents were aware of this behavior, they could at least save themselves from making the second and third calls even if the first one can’t be helped. He doesn’t seek out additional information from friends or on the internet after these calls, which is how someone that is preparing to make a purchase typically behaves. We established this while profiling typical customers for one of our clients. This client doesn’t compile his call list based on demographic data or a list of lost customers. It all starts with the assumption that their agents’ time is valuable and therefore shouldn’t be wasted on calling non-promising customers, which, however, brings up another issue.

Who to call in order to maximize the likelihood of a successful call

The simple answer would be to choose those that are already showing interest in your product, but haven’t decided to purchase it yet. A great idea, but hardly feasible in practice, right? Well, I could tell you to call up all those that have experienced 30.95 of your online touches (this includes opening your e-mail, visiting your website, downloading your content, and so on) because they need just a little bit more encouragement to buy the product from you. But we simply can’t treat the myriad of products on the market all the same and so there’s no uniform answer to this question. You need to perform a behavioral analysis or customer profiling for each product separately. If you know how many online touches an average customer has experienced, you can make sufficiently good conclusions that it’s best to call those prospects that recorded one or two touches fewer than the average. But this isn’t the only way to tip the scales in your favor. You can also do this through e-mails, text messages, or a remarketing ad that encourages people to explore your product further.

Do you know which customer to call to make your sales call successful? Click To Tweet

Is behavioral analysis the only right answer?

If you call up your prospects based on a demographic or behavioral analysis, or their past purchases, I suggest you first isolate these or compile a more accurate database of your lost customers. Before you call these customers, make sure you restore your credibility. If they haven’t written you off entirely, it’s better you nurture them with useful content. When after carrying out the behavioral analysis you find out that they’ve experienced the ideal number of 30.95 of your touches, you can encourage them to make a purchase.

It’s best to draw data for calling up prospects from behavioral and demographic analyses. Click To Tweet

At that moment it makes more sense to hand over to the call center the list of contacts that have remained after you’ve carried out both a demographic and behavioral analysis. You wouldn’t want to call your neighbor’s teenage daughter, who has experienced 30.95 of your online touches, but will be covered by supplementary health insurance for another few years anyway because that’s already provided by law. And likewise, you won’t be any better off if you call my boyfriend David. There’s no way you can find out that he’s contractually bound to a different insurance company for another two years, but his behavior can tell you that he couldn’t care less about your insurance.

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P. S. The above example of an ideal number of online touches (30.95) is just an example. If you come across a problem in your behavioral analysis and defining the specific number for your product, we’ll be happy to help you out.

A few days ago, a high-profile international corporation informed us that it had selected us to work with them. We competed in a tender, which is usually a very poor starting point for us to win new deals, but we sealed this one anyway. I couldn’t wait to share this excellent news with a good friend of mine, who didn’t believe we could win a deal from a company that is also used as a major reference by what he felt was (had been) a provider very similar to us. I invited him out to dinner and of course expected that he would ask me “Why do you think you landed the deal?”

We hadn’t even made it to the aperitif yet when this question was already on the table . . .

It’s best to use an example to explain it

As the parent of three children, I long ago realized that the most effective answers are illustrated with an example. This is the fastest way to reach my goal and I run the least risk of getting yet another “why.” I, myself, also seem to memorize abstract things most easily through examples. One way or the other, explaining through examples has become second nature to me. I realize that in the business world, too, I’ve become an advisor that has an explanatory example ready for every answer. If I can’t find an example, I doubt the accuracy of my own explanation. So that evening I also used an example to explain to my friend why our new client identified us as a unique solution among all the other providers.

It’s easiest to explain and memorize abstract things by using examples. Click To Tweet

 I enlightened him with a single sentence and a 30-second video:

“Look at this ad and tell me what Harley Davidson is selling*.”

When I saw my friend nod approvingly while watching the video, I knew I managed to yet again avoid another “why.”

Aha, I see. What your clients are actually buying is not the newsletter or a content marketing provider. They are essentially not looking for CRM or a marketing automation system. They’re looking for someone that understands how their buyers’ purchasing habits have changed and can help them find a (new) path to them,” suggested my friend immediately.

Exactly. All the rest is just finishing work for the remainder of the project, in which the client wants to limit the risks and simplify implementation (for himself) as much as possible,” I added.

Uniqueness lies in . . .

I nailed it again with this example: Harley Davidson is well aware that their uniqueness is not at all connected with bikes, just like we’re aware that clients don’t choose us as a content marketing agency. In fact, the last twelve clients we’ve won told us they had chosen us because:

  • We knew how to develop a strategic perspective on their activity;
  • We managed to help them see their customers’ new purchasing habits through different eyes;
  • We can provide comprehensive solutions with a flexible business model at the implementation level.

So what makes you unique? Click To Tweet

What about you? Have you already thought about what makes you unique as a provider and why you’re the best, most logical choice for your target group?

 

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*For years Harley-Davidson’s CEO argued that they sold an experience, and the bike just happens to be a fundamental part of that experience. One of their execs is quoted as saying »What we sell is the ability for a 43-year-old accountant to dress in black leather, ride through small towns and have people be afraid of him.« Eventually the board got on board the company concentrated on the goal of delivering this very specific experience and annual revenues grew from $1.5 billion in 1996 to $4.6 billion in 2003 and net income grew from $143 million to $761 million over the same period. Their bikes are technically unsophisticated and don’t represent good value for money compared to other manufacturers, but when you buy a Harley-Davidson it’s not just the bike you’re buying into.