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?

 

[email protected]

 

*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.

A week ago I attended a workshop on telling fairytales. When I mentioned this to my coworkers, they laughed at me a bit and then asked, in jest, if I’d learned anything “useful.” Because I answered “Of course,” mostly as a joke I promised them a “report.” When I started putting the elements in my head into the context of problems faced by the clients that we help as a team every day, I realized that the joke wasn’t so innocent. Thus, as a reply to the egging by my coworkers, but with the goal of closing deals more easily, this post started to take shape.

Among adults, telling fairytales means telling lies and untruths, which is something completely different from when we talk about fairytales for children. It was exactly this contrast that got me thinking more about this.

Positioning in time and space

In contrast to a fairytale, a tale is specifically positioned in space and time. Usually in the very space where the listener is at that moment: “On a beautiful day, just like today, she was walking on this very path, when she saw . . .”. I started wondering whether a product is always satisfyingly positioned in the customers’ environment and whether this brings it closer to them. Do we know them well enough? Can we also use other methods to get customers to identify with it? For example, a tale uses actively dialogue because these help us identify more easily and better with the action. Why wouldn’t you use it too?

Do you position a product satisfyingly in the customers’ environment to bring it closer to them? Click To Tweet

Don’t tell everything yourself

Tales include elements for solving the plot, but the readers or listeners should participate in solving it. The best storyteller is one that creates the right atmosphere and lets the listeners interject out of enthusiasm; for example, by shouting out what should be used to “conquer the rushing river.” The delight of a tale lies in the fact that the readers themselves come up with the solution. In this way, they accept it immediately—it becomes “theirs” right away. If the storyteller points directly to the solution, the readers won’t feel like it’s theirs and will find it less interesting.

Therefore, if you offer your clients “nails, wood, a hammer, and a bucket,” they themselves can determine that they don’t need the bucket to conquer the rushing river, but they can build a bridge from the other materials at hand. But pay attention—if you offer them too many things, they’ll be confused and you’ll lose all credibility.

Trust in the power of repetition

People like to hear a good story more than once; we return to a good supplier, we see a good film again, we reread a good book, and so on. Therefore repeating our story to recurring clients isn’t a turnoff. They come back for a reason. Remind them that they’ll experience the same quality of services again and again.

Remind your clients each time that they’ll experience quality service again and again. Click To Tweet

What’s the melody of your product?

It’s no accident that storytelling includes folk songs. Their power is enormous because of the rhythm provided by their content and melody. Their repetition forces you to join in. When a folk song is about a river, the lyrics and melody take on a rolling character to show this.

Does the language of your product suit the project itself and your potential customers? Will a tire change go “zoom zoom” or will the “coordination of the reception and mechanical team take place at the highest level and in the pleasant environment of your premises, offering a place to wait”? Rolling isn’t appropriate for everything, after all. And if you also get your keys back “zoom zoom” (were you thinking of speed with this?), you’ll surely mention “zoom zoom” to someone else—as a funny (or a bit silly) phrase, as fast service, or simply because a person finds it hard to resist repeating.

The unsaid and unwritten

A tale transmits patterns of behavior. We learn about respect for nature from tales based on a conversation between a river and a farmer. The farmer asks the river what he should do, and the river gives him advice. Instead of lecturing about environmental protection values, we achieve more by offering an example. When we speak about our product—for example, beautiful crystals—should we emphasize our story by saying that we put gloves on when handling them so we don’t damage them? Do we think enough about these unspoken messages when presenting our product? What do the customers “read” from the manner and channels of advertising, from the way we address them, and so on?

An example attracts, so let your actions support what you say. Click To Tweet

And not least of all: do you believe in your tale? Do you tell it with sincere enthusiasm, or does storytelling feel awkward to you?

If you need an editor or an experienced hand to write a successful tale starring you, we invite you to have coffee with us and a “writer’s consultation.”

[email protected]

P. S. We’re telling more stories at our home now. And, even though our daughter’s enthusiasm is boundless, my husband is saying it’s time for some “zoom zoom” cooking workshop now. 🙂

Three weeks ago I was hired by a new client. To give you an idea of what kind of consulting duties I was entrusted with, I have to tell you that my new employer was my three kids and a few of their friends from the campground. It all started on Saturday, when they spent the entire day painting rocks of all sizes and shapes, and then on Sunday the moment of truth arrived: Is my kids’ artwork worth anything and do my kids have any sales skills?

They set up their shop a few meters from our camper. That was great for Mom and Dad because we could keep an eye on them. It was a bit less great for them, because we were stationed practically at the end of the campground and anyone who sets out toward that point is headed for the beach—without a wallet, of course.

To our great surprise they learned their first lesson intuitively. It very quickly became clear to them that location is vital for good sales results. So they decided to move their shop. They moved it almost to the center of the campground, next to the cafe and the path leading to the grocery store, the vegetable and fruit stand, and the shop selling the obligatory swimming gear. Right to a location where people will definitely already have their wallets along.

Sell your goods where potential customers will definitely have their wallets along. Click To Tweet

And then we had some peace and quiet for a while.

But not for long. Soon the kids came back to the camper, sad and disappointed. You can probably guess what my first question was: “So, did you sell anything?” Even though the answer was “Four rocks,” the way they said it immediately revealed that this didn’t qualify as a great sales success. Especially if we conduct a customer analysis. Their mom bought one rock, their grandma bought two, and their dad bought one (and I even bought it at a discount because I didn’t have enough change on me).

It all seems that in order to achieve good sales results you shouldn’t bet everything on how cute the salesperson is. Granted, that will get you free ice cream, lemonade, and many kind words. But not much of what the kids really wanted: cold, hard cash.

To achieve good sales results you shouldn’t bet everything on how cute the salesperson is. Click To Tweet

I couldn’t stop thinking about their disappointed faces, so I offered them some help. I suggested that we do for their art shop what every single business has to do when it sells its products or services.

We started with a few basic questions:

1. Why would someone even buy your rocks?

It’s interesting that when you pose such a “business” question to kids, they jump right in and start brainstorming answers. The first idea was: “To crack nuts with them.” This may not have been the best suggestion because there weren’t a lot of walnut trees in the campground. But the ideas that followed made significantly more sense, revealing various new customer segments:

  • “To hold down tablecloths, so that the wind doesn’t blow them away.”
  • “To hold down napkins.” (Again for protection against the wind.)
  • “To put them on the ground in front of the camper, so that it doesn’t prick your feet.”
  • “We can run a string through the rocks with a hole and make a necklace.”
  • “As a souvenir, for foreigners.”

When we analyzed the benefits, the next question was completely logical.

2. Who do you think would buy your rocks?

We didn’t carry out a special survey or a detailed analysis or define the typical customer groups, but potential groups kept pouring out of their active young minds:

  • “Mommies.”
  • “People from other countries.”
  • “Daddies who want to keep the area around the camper nice and neat.”

When we identified people who would need the rocks and clarified how these rocks would be useful to them, we had to answer the next question.

What makes your products special and different from the alternatives that solve the same problems? Click To Tweet

3. What makes your rocks special and different from the alternatives that solve the same problem?

Because they can’t paint even two rocks exactly the same way, all of their products are undoubtedly unique. Moreover, they can also be personalized or custom-made (so that they match the napkins, tablecloths, and the like).

The kids were still showing considerable interest in the subject, so I asked them one last question.

4. Why would certain people still hesitate to buy your rocks?

  • A woman who’s leaving the store, holding bags in both hands, would have trouble bringing one or more rocks to her campsite (especially those from the “hold down” category). A simple solution would be to offer a delivery service, especially because they already had all the required equipment at their disposal (a bike with a basket).
  • Considering that they had used water colors to paint the rocks, concern about their products’ durability was quite justified. They could offer a warranty that was valid as long as both the customer and the seller were in the campground at the same time.

 

The kids found this game of ours quite fun, so they agreed we could make a few more decisions and changes to their approach:

  • They should display their products by type: “to hold things down,” “construction material,” “handicrafts with a sentimental value,” and so on. This clearly communicates the products’ purpose and usefulness.
  • They should adapt a few products from the new line to the needs of potential customers. Lionel Messi (which was an excellent motif in my opinion, which is why it sold: to me) should be replaced with a more current and local motif. Considering that we were at the halfway point of the UEFA European Championship and that the campground was located in Croatia, the sign “10 Modrić” would be a better motif for anyone buying a souvenir from Croatia. Or Ronaldo, who can be placed on the table covered with a tablecloth, while watching him play on TV.
  • They should offer free delivery to every customer (available up to the end of their vacation).

 

This wrapped up my first day of consulting services. If I had continued to pester them with questions, such as how they could improve their promotion, who their competition was, what their advantages were, if their prices were appropriate, how they could use their references, and so on, this would have been way too much for a Sunday afternoon.

Even though it was only the beginning of the week, the weekend was fast approaching, and the kids were empowered and motivated. I’m very eager to see if they will in fact introduce all of the changes suggested and if a new, more systematic approach will also help them sell the rocks.

 

[email protected]

 

P. S. If you’d like to know if we managed to increase our sales or you’d like one of these ABC-manuals for yourself, let me know. I’ll be happy to share our sales results with you or help you in any other way.

Travel always gives me a dose of reality. Just when I think I know something about life, I end up in some foreign environment, only to find out yet again that I know absolutely nothing. A few weeks ago, I headed off to Morocco, a destination that had been on my to-do list for a number of years.

In addition to realizing that Morocco isn’t just a huge desert, that mint tea is actually an improved version of green tea, and that the film crew of the legendary blockbuster Casablanca actually never set foot in Morocco, I discovered another surprising fact on this trip: the Moroccans are experts in inbound marketing.

I was indisputably convinced of this by Mohammed, who operates the riad (a sort of traditional Arab hotel) in Fez, where I stayed overnight. I’m not exaggerating when I say that Mohammed is a rock star of modern marketing. Warming up the leads, nurturing customers, promoting recommendations … This twenty-five-year-old tourism student knows all of these techniques like the back of his hand and has been using them all on a daily basis for years, even though I’m sure he does it completely subconsciously, without any special strategy or expensive business plan. As if the golden rules of inbound marketing were written in his genes.

Was inbound marketing invented by Arabs? Click To Tweet

How is it possible that his riad is fully booked for months in advance, even though there are at least five other similar hotels on the same street? Why will I, too, click a review score of 10 next to his listing on Booking.com?

1. Mohammed has a premium product and he’s proud of it

I’ve traveled quite a bit and seen many different accommodations, but this “hotel” has made it to the top of my favorites list. But not only because the rooms were cleverly outfitted with local patterns or because breakfast featured the most typical sweet Moroccan breads. The riad made it to the top of my list primarily because it reflected the character of its manager. Just think about it: when was the last time you memorized the name and face of the receptionist of a hotel you stayed at for only two nights?

2. Mohammed speaks three European languages and has recently also mastered the skill of making videos

When Mohammed realized that many of his guests often got lost on the way to his hotel in the narrow, complicated streets of the medina quarter, he recorded an amusing video that serves as a handy guide to the city medina. This helps settle the nerves of many guests who are afraid of getting lost in the maze-like and occasionally dangerous little streets (believe me, their fear is more than justified), while saving himself quite a few phone calls and a lot of searching for missing guests. And how do I know all of this? In addition to Arabic, Mohammed has also learned English, French, and Spanish. Why? “Because I wanted to understand my guests.”

3. Mohammed spends most of his day chatting with guests

Having his morning tea or taking an evening stroll to a local vantage point together with his guests, Mohammed constantly chats with them, listens to them, and offers them useful advice. Which route to take to the nearest city or where to find the best tagine—these are questions that Mohammed is always more than happy to answer and that build up trust among his clients from one day to the next. He’s well aware that nurturing current customers is at least as important as winning new ones, and so he considers any chats of this type as time well invested. When he sends his guests to his cousin at the end of the street to get the best argan oil in town, they will most likely listen to him even though they know full well that this involves a mutual favor. That’s because they’ll no longer see him as an annoying Moroccan who’s trying to sell them something at any cost, but as Mohammed, their friend.

Nurturing current customers is at least as important as winning new ones. Click To Tweet

4. Mohammed is aware of the importance of a good recommendation

If I didn’t come from the same line of business, I most likely wouldn’t have consciously noticed how, when saying goodbye and extending his best wishes to me along the lines of “Stay safe!” and “As-salāmu ʿalaykum,” Mohammed used an exceptionally subtle and non-intrusive way to mention that he’d be very pleased to read a word or two on Booking.com about how satisfied I was with my stay. Considering that I had found his hotel precisely through these recommendations, my decision was more than obvious.

I don’t want to drone on about using common sense again, but …

I imagine Mohammed does his job the way he does because his father, grandfather, and others did the same before him and especially because all of those years of experience have provided him with a good picture of what makes his clients happy and what doesn’t. He’s almost definitely never heard of the expression inbound marketing, which, to be completely honest, seems redundant even to me.

It may as well be referred to as common sense or, even better, kindness and empathy. The fact is that if we want to get close to someone, grow on them, and ultimately sell them a product, we need to establish a friendly and understanding relationship with them. This seems completely self-evident to Mohammed but, if you insist, we can of course (for the sake of credibility) also use a fancy expression like inbound marketing for it. 😉

 

[email protected]

 

P. S. Not everyone has the golden rules of good marketing written in their genes, and so we can also use the customer lifecycle marketing planner to determine what we actually expect and want before creating a strategy.

In business (as well as our everyday lives) we can always find three types of people:

  • Those who aren’t afraid of technological advances and changes, who know how to adapt to them and use them to their advantage;
  • Those who stand firmly behind their view that the technologies that are permeating our lives are harmful (to something, anyway);
  • Those who haven’t decided yet which of the two groups above they would like to join.

But the fact is that technology is increasingly becoming an indispensable part of our lives and business. Those who don’t accept that are bound to fail. Let me use a practical example to explain what I’m trying to say. I’ll tell you a story of what was going on a few years ago in a village close to where I live.

Social listening in practice

For twenty years, a man (let’s call him Frank) managed a family business, a trade now known as “catering.” Practically no event took place without his catering services. He covered all larger weddings and other kinds of social events. He was a local monopolist because he was practically the only provider for all those years.

Frank had made a good name for himself in his local environment. He was known for high quality and also had excellent business skills for that time. He found the majority of his sales opportunities while having his morning coffee at the local pub. He also got plenty of hints from the local priest, with whom he had a drink every afternoon at that same pub. His business largely depended on the local gossip about upcoming parties.

The times to find good sales opportunities while having a coffee at the local pub are long gone. Click To Tweet

Then the economic crisis came. The volume of orders dropped in catering, too, and his clients were less willing to pay as much or even at all. To maintain his family’s standard of living, Frank had no other option than to expand his business to more remote villages and towns. But lo and behold, there he could no longer use his routine method to win new clients. Seeking sales opportunities through pub gossip and local priests was suddenly impossible without personal contacts. And he needed time to establish these. Lots of time, which he didn’t have.

Because Frank was busy trying to grow his business elsewhere using the same methods as before, he paid less attention to his home village. After a while, his neighborhood competitor, who also wanted to win new clients due to the crisis, began to take the local priest out for drinks as well. This ended up with Frank losing a wedding or two in his home parish. But it was the local firefighters that nearly destroyed him: after twenty years with him they decided to go with the neighborhood competitor, who changed his business model and enabled the fire department to generate a larger profit.

The approach that enabled you to manage your business successfully in the past is no longer working. Click To Tweet

Frank gave up. Illness forced him to pass his family business onto his son. (Let’s call him Peter.) Peter knew his father’s business well because the entire family had to help out with larger projects. All of those years while Frank was actively involved in his business, Peter was a student. In addition to obtaining training in catering and hospitality, as required by the profession, Frank also had him go abroad to study tourism management and marketing. This ended up saving Frank’s business.

Peter understood his father’s approach to doing business. He knew that all of those years his father had used pub gossip about various parties so he could be the first one to go see the party organizers, offer help in organizing the party, and become their caterer. The approach his father had used to successfully manage his business for twenty years no longer worked for him. The problem wasn’t just the harsh times and the tougher competition. That wasn’t what destroyed his father. The problem was that Peter was not particularly fond of hanging out in pubs and, having moved away to a larger town, he also no longer had genuine contact with the local priest.

But Peter was a systematic and contemplative person. He knew he needed to find new clients that his father had never even tried to find because they just weren’t part of his social circle. Peter was well aware that gossip no longer circulated only at local pubs and churches. People had moved their gossip to the internet, social networks, and the media. All the rest is just a matter of how to intercept it first and continue his father’s old approach by offering assistance to party organizers in exchange for closing a catering deal.

Deals still depend on gossip; the difference is that it has moved from local pubs onto the internet. Click To Tweet

Peter went to see a few social network and media analysis specialists. He used the money that his company had previously spent on advertising for exploring new sales opportunities. He expanded his business across the entire country. Thanks to the sales opportunities that his business partner found by analyzing the gossip in the social networks and the media, Peter hired and trained seven other advisors to help clients hold and carry out parties and other events. Business picked up. Peter increased turnover ten times over what his father had achieved in his best year.

Frank’s health improved. Because Peter had modernized their service range, they again had control over all of the deals within range of their local pub.

 

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P.S. This is a story about Social CRM and has no connection whatsoever with my fellow villagers. Peter and Frank are made up. I’m sorry if I disappointed you or if you have identified with the story.

 

Let’s start today’s post with a mini experiment. Look around for a moment and list all the devices with an ON/OFF switch that you can see. I’m sitting at my desk at the moment and so my list of these devices is pretty ordinary: a laptop, a phone, a tablet, air conditioning, and the light switches on the wall.

It doesn’t matter where you are, but you’ve probably listed at least five different devices that according to Jacob Morgan fall within the Internet of Things (IoT): coffee machines, central heating, fridges, cars, lamps, video projectors, and so on. If a device has an on/off switch, we will most likely be able to (or we already can) connect it to the World Wide Web. If that’s possible, then it’s an IoT device. As simple as that.

Marketing the Internet of Things or marketing with the help of the Internet of Things?

According to Mediapost reports, last summer as many as 51% marketers already agreed that the IoT was going to make the most revolutionary changes to their area of operation by 2020. 2020 is pretty close and so we can rightfully ask ourselves what stage marketing related to the IoT is currently in.

In the first stage, marketers will first have to convince their potential customers that it’s actually worth replacing older devices, which may still be doing their job just fine, with new-generation devices, such as smart meters, smart suitcases, smart cars or smart dishwashers. The moment the customer decides to make a purchase, data on how the device is used starts being collected, and thinking about services that could resolve the yet unresolved problems and previously unperceived needs also begins. By connecting devices and services, comprehensive packages can be designed that will be more useful and hence easier to market.

The second stage of marketing development during the IoT period will be characterized by opening up and connecting with advertisers and providers of complementary services and products. Let’s take smart washing machines as an example. In the first stage, developers of household appliances will furnish the machine with additional sensors to collect data on your laundry-making habits and at the same time give you the option to use remote control with your washing machine.

How often do you do laundry? Do you use only one specific wash cycle? What time do you usually turn on your washing machine? Is the water in your bathroom excessively hard?

After even a short period of use, a series of user data will be available and by comparing various demographic criteria marketing can come up with extremely valuable findings, which even a decade ago we could only dream of. Truly revolutionary changes will thus only happen in the second stage of development, when, as Clinton Bonner picturesquely explained, “the connectivity of digital devices will provide infinite opportunities for advertisers to listen and respond to their clients’ needs —with the right message at the right time, using the right device.”

Respond to your clients’ needs with the right message at the right time, using the right device. Click To Tweet

What next?

Through the development of connectivity, physical things transform into social things and when communication starts between them, this creates exceptional opportunities for a better and friendlier user experience. All too often the IoT is still perceived merely as a set of fun and handy devices, such as smart coffee machines, but beyond the fun a new IT infrastructure is being formed with apps and open API-interfaces that focus on designing new solutions known under the common term of social access management.

Creating smooth and uninterrupted physical experiences by connecting people, various devices, entire buildings, and smart places into a single whole is what lies at the heart of these solutions. A whole in which everything is adapted to the individual.

The IoT can be of great help in getting to know your customers, but are your employees ready for it? Click To Tweet

Marketing had better get ready because serious work is about to start!

In the next two decades, the Internet of Things is expected to contribute around €15 trillion to the global GDP. Based on the European Commission’s estimates, in the EU alone its contribution to the GDP will have reached €1 trillion by 2020. The first stage of the Internet of Things is already in full swing. The second stage is only a couple of years away. We have to begin preparing for how to make use of the masses of data that will suddenly become available. So what lies ahead?

  • A detailed analysis of buying habits at all platforms where users hang out and shop.
  • Insight into the new ways in which users communicate with the devices around them.
  • Detailed insight into the buying decision process and accurate location of customers within this process.
  • Identifying how individual users use specific devices and how they work.
  • Real-time interaction with the user and targeted advertising.
  • Informing the producer of any errors and problems with the devices’ operation before the user even perceives them.
  • Faster, more efficient, and friendlier resolution of user support issues.

Let me go back to the beginning. I’m convinced that all the devices you listed when you started reading this blog post will become increasingly smarter. The prices of adding connectivity functions and intelligent solutions are falling and users are becoming increasingly susceptible to simple, comfortable, and personalized communication with these devices. In this, many of us are a little worried or even scared about our safety and privacy. Providers will therefore most likely be obligated to give users the option of choice and obtain permission from them to collect data through these devices.

If you’re still a little suspicious about the IoT or if the possibility of someone keeping track of everything you do and tailoring your experience with the surrounding environment to you specifically still seems far away and futuristic, it’s time you woke up. In reality all of this is already happening. Keeping track of customers’ every step and personalizing their experience online has become a reality.

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Micro-moments determine an increasing number of life decisions these days. Even a few years ago we were still talking about in-depth decision-making processes and paths to purchase, whereas today the customer’s path from the moment a purchase need arises to the actual purchase is increasingly more variegated.

Can you recall the days when you had to keep a bunch of telephone numbers in your head? As long as we had to dial every telephone number each time, we had no trouble remembering half of our contact list. Now we know our own number and maybe that of a close relative or two, whereas the rest are stored in our cell phone’s contact list.

The same thing has happened with buying habits, research, and purchase decisions. Extensive catalogs of information we used to store in our heads have been replaced by searches for consumer needs in this (micro) moment. At any given moment we can take a look at a video showing how to pitch a tent during our vacation or at a list of good restaurants nearby, or purchase a product we need online.

We have to change the way we understand purchase decisions

If we want to get in touch with consumers, we have to adapt to the way they look for information. Customers who want to know the opening hours of a nearby restaurant don’t want to and don’t have the patience to read essays on the restaurant’s history.

Will customers get the information from you or your competition? Click To Tweet

Micro-moments can be divided into four key groups covering the majority of impulsive or fleeting contacts companies establish with customers using mobile devices:

  • I-want-to-know moments.
  • I-want-to-do moments.
  • I-want-to-go moments.
  • I-want-to-buy moments.

I want to know

These are moments when we’re looking for the answer to a question. Research shows that 90% of cell phone users make long-term decisions in a batch of many small moments. Purchasing a new car happens in 1,000 small installments: during lunch break, at the bus stop, while waiting in a line at a store. When making major decisions, customers spend more time educating themselves, but this takes place in increasingly scattered and disconnected moments. The content these customers are looking for is educational and provides direct and transparent answers to their questions.

Have you published content that helps these customers find simple answers? Do customers have clear and easy access to this content?

I want to do

When you buy one of those modern pop-up tents, you feel infinitely pleased. Five minutes after you arrive at the campsite, you’re all set and ready to go and you wonder why you didn’t go down to the beach straight away and pitch the tent later when it got dark. When your vacation is over, the reality hits you. While throwing your tent up in the air with a big grin on your face, you forgot to look at how it had been folded up into that matchbox-size bag. What will you do after twenty minutes of unsuccessful folding and turning? You’ll look for a video online that will show you how to pack up your tent.

If you want to communicate in micro-moments like these, you have to identify your customers’ questions. Here the customer support or sales department can help the most because it can tell you what questions keep coming up regularly on the market when customers face a difficult or unclear challenge.

I want to go

These micro-moments are typical of customers who decide to make an unplanned visit to a location. This includes searching for restaurants nearby, hospitals, browsing movie theater schedules on cell phones, and looking for stores, hotels, and the like.

These searches are characterized by the low occurrence of brands. When people are on their way somewhere and decide to go to a restaurant, they don’t have only one restaurant in mind, but are prepared to go to the nearest well-reviewed restaurant. Searching for the nearest pharmacy also doesn’t involve differentiating between different pharmacy chains. These searches have a significant impact on sales itself because when customers look for services nearby, that means they have decided to go to a place and make a purchase. Unlike the previous moments, this moment is the one that brings a customer through the door the fastest.

Do you present the prices and instructions for visiting your point of sale clearly to these searchers? Can they even find you if they search online by location and not your company name?

Can customers find you if they search online by location rather than your company name? Click To Tweet

I want to buy

This involves visits that are completely purchase-oriented. When an electric kettle breaks, the customer is instantly ready to make a purchase. These are low-cost purchases that take place instantaneously.

These types of customers are often willing to purchase a more expensive product. Ultimately, the price is the only bit of information that clearly distinguishes similar products on the shelf from one another. Customers have discovered the difference in price and decided to compare the products and look at the user reviews. Such customers look for reasons to buy a more expensive product if, of course, they can find convincing information about its advantages online.

Have you suitably facilitated the process of buying your products? How much effort have you put into posting information that clearly distinguishes your products from similar ones, and how easy it is to find positive reviews from your users?

When customers look you up on their smartphones, they have pretty clear questions in mind

At the same time, they expect simple and quick answers to these questions. If they don’t get them from you, they’ll go back online and get their answers from your competition. Outrun your competition and be the first to offer a fast and useful answer to the customer. The list above should serve as guidance and help, but don’t forget that every company has its specifics. Think about your customers’ needs and micro-moments, and perhaps you’ll come up with yet another category.

 

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