QR Code Zombies

QR Code Zombies

QR Codes are making a comeback. There, I said it. Yes, there will be some laughs. Yes, there will be many doubters. But I stand by my convictions. And with good reason.

Back in 2013 the conversation about whether QR Codes were dead had reached its climax. The resounding answer was ‘Yes’; in the US only about 21% of people had ever scanned a QR Code; in the UK they were being placed on underground station advertising (where there was no internet connection – pretty important for QR Code marketing); and so on. The result: people turned their backs on the once popular QR Code.

Great use case of QR Codes!
This sentiment continues today. In fact, it has become an easy bandwagon to jump on. However, the world has changed since 2013. For one, there is wifi in most underground stations. But more importantly, marketers are finally seeing ‘digital’ as part of marketing rather than an alternative. The re-introduction of direct and dimensional mail into marketing campaigns is making a strong comeback as marketers realise mail and offline media are necessary supplements to the cluttered inbox or busy social channels.

The QR code enables a simple link to be made between print and online. Crossing this divide is essential for a comprehensive, seamless and multichannel user experience.

Nowhere is this seamless, multichannel experience more important than in B2B account-based marketing, where surrounding a variety of stakeholders within an organisation with relevant and meaningful content, across multiple channels, is essential to inspire and influence their buying decisions.

There are of course alternatives, such as iBeacons, NFC and others, but none of these work for print or are as simple and practical to implement as the QR code, which takes a few seconds to generate (free – best site here) and is scanned in even less time. Granted you need a QR code scanner (although these come standard on most recent iPhones and Android mobiles).

So next time you plan your next multichannel campaign, which will hopefully include some direct/dimensional mail and/or print media activity, consider the QR code. It had a bad run and deserves a second chance.

In the meantime, if you want to book BNJ for a free B2B Marketing Best Practice Review, why not scan the barcode below and pick your slot.


Why we should go to work every day…

My mother taught me a lesson very early on in life, one I have never forgotten and always (tried to) live by: ‘if you don’t enjoy what you are doing, stop doing it and find something else. You will never be successful in a job you don’t enjoy’. Wiser words have never been spoken (ok, not often!).

Of course the main reason we go to work every day is because we need to pay the bills, and if you don’t go to work (at least mentally if not physically) you might quickly find yourself superfluous to requirements. Like most people, I work to earn a living. But, following Mrs Boogaard Senior’s logic, I also need to enjoy what I do to make my day worthwhile. So what is it that makes work enjoyable to me?

Simple: the buzz I get from the little exhilarating moments. Not the big, ego-filled, public victory laps. The mental ‘punch your fist in the air’ moments that come in all shapes and sizes and at any time of the day.

Last week I did that overexcited ‘you da man!‘ scream in my head when I managed to set up a new website on my own after hours of fighting with the technology. The week before, I had crazy butterflies in my stomach when a Request For Proposal came in from a client I have wanted to work with for the last 6 months. No doubt those butterflies will be bouncing around like Tigger on acid when we actually win the pitch!

But, honestly, most of the time I can get genuinely excited about the little things; a new prospect accepting a meeting request; an email reply that I hadn’t expected; a meeting that went better than planned; getting positive feedback from a client.

Finding and learning to enjoy those little exhilarating moments makes it easy to get up every morning, ready for the work day. A word of caution though: once you start enjoying these moments they are addictive. Some days there are no psychological touchdowns to celebrate and that should be OK too.

Too much of a good thing isn’t good either…




Request for Proposals – know when to say ‘NO’?

Request For Proposals (RFPs) are the lifeblood of marketing agencies and yet last week I declined one of the most exciting RFPs that I have come across in the past 12 months….and I still feel sick to my stomach. It was for an industry-leading brand, working on a highly visible global B2B campaign with a big budget and a fantastic team. But sometimes you need to know when to say ‘no’.

It is easy to get carried away with the excitement of receiving an RFP, particularly when it comes from a new potential customer, and even more so when it reads like the one we turned down. But getting carried away on formulating an adequate reply can cost the agency a lot of wasted time and money; winning an unsuitable RFP can end disastrously.

Here are the six criteria I use to determine how we reply to an RFP:

1. Client Fit

The most important question is whether the potential client is a good fit. Do they add value to your portfolio? Do you feel you have something unique and valuable to offer them? Do you have a positive experience in their sector? Although it is tempting to go for every attractive RFP, if the answer to any of the previous questions is ‘no’ you have to consider whether your time and effort isn’t better spent attracting or working on a ‘sweet spot’ client.

2. Project fit

Does the particular project match your highest best? Does it play to the strengths of your agency? Are you able to fulfil the requirements of the project? Any answers apart from a solid ‘yes’ means you need to politely decline. If only part of the RFP is a perfect match, you might consider partnering with another entity – it might mean sacrificing part of the profit but it will be worth the peace of mind. Alternatively, you should ask whether you could respond to only part of the request, providing convincing reasoning why you are still worth considering.

3. Resource availability

The client might be the perfect fit and the project playing to your absolute highest best, but if you don’t have the available resources (or the ability to resource up), the chances are that the perfect project will end up a massive disappointment. Lack of resources to deliver will generally end up in rushed jobs with mediocre results and/or late delivery. Worse, it might prevent you from servicing your other clients, creating a negative knock-on effect.

Last minute resourcing typically sees your profit margins being eaten away by expensive freelancers and contractors. Make sure you consider the resource requirements carefully and factor these costs into your proposal with a good margin of error to avoid disappointing yourself and ultimately the client.

4. Budgets

3_types_of_serviceSome say ‘the best things in life are free’…but unfortunately that doesn’t apply in business. Delivering quality costs money but, in turn, should always provide the client with a good return on investment. That is the essential win-win criteria for an effective client-supplier relationship. When you have reached this point in your considerations, you need to know what the budgets are and if you don’t know, you need to ask.

If you don’t at least get a budget range, I would seriously question the sanity of investing time in the RFP. Having a budget isn’t an opportunity to fleece the client by pricing it right to the limit, but should instead mean that you design the best possible solution within the boundaries set by the client.

5. Win potential

The most subjective factor in your decision is the probability of winning. Your chance of winning is unfortunately not just based on a good fit in terms if client or project, or even the quality of your response. Very often other factors come into play, including whether other agencies responding are better positioned than you to deliver the goods, or whether the incumbent agency has an unbreakable bond with the client.

My advice is to always ask how many agencies are included in the RFP (the more agencies, the less inclined I am to reply). Research the RFP owners and see whom they are connected to on LinkedIn or who they are communicating with on social media (this can often uncover a strong bond with other agencies). Search the Internet for potential agencies the company may have worked with (often awards are a good indicator). None of these factors necessarily imply you decline, but at least you go in with your eyes wide open. As I said, this is very subjective so go with your gut. If you don’t feel confident you have a good chance of winning, maybe now is the time to back away.

6. Future potential

Lastly, although the longevity of the relationship and the guarantee of further work are not necessarily essential, I always consider the future potential of the account. If you are going to invest money in an RFP you should do so under the assumption that you are going to win and therefore willing to commit your valuable resources. If you are willing to commit your resources and, assuming your resources like everything else on earth are limited, you do so at an opportunity cost – the value of the other projects you will have to forego to deliver this one. Therefore it is always worth considering clients that offer a high lifetime value, over those that represent a one-off gain as the acquisition costs are often the same.

Back to my RFP…Sadly, the one I turned down was a perfect fit in terms of client and project. It would no doubt have had a decent budget and certainly had a huge potential for the future. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the resources available to deliver our highest best and submitting a proposal would have put at risk all the potential benefits. In the interest of the potential client and for the chance to work with them in the future, we had to withdraw.

Don’t get me wrong, all the above doesn’t make that decision any less painful…but it does make it easier.

B2B Demand Gen 2.0: five buyer fundamentals

Demand generation and marketing automation is nothing new. Yet, many B2B marketers can safely argue that established practice doesn’t imply proficiency, let alone a higher degree of marketing performance. In fact, according to Forrester half of B2B marketers surveyed don’t have well-defined processes in place to govern their marketing automation efforts. The result? A demand generation approach that behaves more like an automated drip system delivering generic emails and a high volume of barely qualified leads. To turn this around, I believe the path to performance and proficiency starts with a refresh around buyer fundamentals.

Top Five Buyer Fundamentals

©2015 Nick Beesley
©2015 Nick Beesley

#1: Buyers move around a lot
Most demand generation strategies major on adding leads to the top of the funnel, with less attention given to nurturing buyers midstream, or dare I say, mid-funnel. This assumes that your buyer travels a highly linear path from one buyer journey phase to the next. In reality buyers move around and oscillate a lot. Often they plateau along their journey as their priorities or budgets change. Marketers need to be mindful of this fluidity and develop strategies that acknowledge and support their movement and moments of pause along their journey.

#2: Buyers are different
According to Marketo, 31% of B2B marketers don’t have personas in place and out of those who do only 27% said their personas were aligned to their messaging (2015 Demand Gen Report Benchmark Study). A deep understanding of your buyer is essential for an effective demand generation strategy. It determines who needs to be engaged (identifying the real decision-makers and influencers), when they need to be engaged (at what stage of the purchase journey), how they can be reached (the most effective channel to reach them,) and what type of content they need (the right message and format).

#3: Buyers prefer messages that matter to them
Most companies in the UK think of marketing automation as the distribution of 3rd party content by email. This might deliver the quantity, but the whole purpose of demand generation and marketing automation is to take the effort out of early-stage selling, with high quality leads. This can most effectively be achieved through bespoke content, tailored to and addressing the specific concerns of each key stakeholder at the relevant point in their buyer journey. Depending on the buyer personas, this more often than not will include a combination of formats and channels, with online advertising, email newsletters, blog posts and articles influencing the early stages of the sales funnel, and testimonials, analysts’ reports and demos reserved for the latter stages.

#4: Buyers leave bread crumbs. Our job is to track and record them
According to Trip Kucera it takes up to 8 to 10 marketing touches to close a deal (2014 B2B Content2Conversion Conference), which means that last touch attribution may tell a misleading story. Using platforms like Marketo, will provide transparency on the value of each piece of content and the efficacy of the channel in which it is distributed.

#5: Not all buyers will buy. Score and segment your most valuable leads
Underpinning marketing automation is lead qualification or scoring. This tells us how close someone is to becoming a sales qualified lead. All the above investment in developing buyer profiles and content strategies will be to no avail if the scoring isn’t effective. Two fundamental pieces of this part of the puzzle are the initial data, which should be clean, and the scoring, which needs to be constantly monitored and refined. More specific details about this here.

If you aren’t following some or all of the above, 2015 could be your chance to turn things around. Get in touch if you need help!

Personalised sales channels are essential to omni-channel success

salesprospecting‘Omni-channel’ is not just an overused new buzzword but a necessity born out of the multiple choice of sales channels available to the consumer today, whether that be website, app, phone, catalogue or store. The fact that consumers criss-cross some or all these channels in one purchase journey implies that retailers need to ensure they present a consistent and complementary experience across all these channels. As opposed to multichannel, which is a ‘many-to-many’ approach, effective omni-channel means creating ‘one-to-one’ purchase experiences, personalising the sales channels to the profile and support need of each potential customer.

Recently I read a great article posted by Daniel Newman titled ‘Will Omni Channel Marketing Revolutionize The Buyer’s Journey?‘, in which he describes a true omni-channel experience he had when buying his daughter’s football boots. Recently, needing to equip our new London office, I had to make various purchases from different vendors, criss-crossing different channels along the research and purchase journey. Not all my experiences were that positive.

Here are two examples of purchase journeys I made, engaging with three of the largest brands in their respective markets and some simple suggestions that would have improved the experience and the probability of conversion:

Mobiles and broadband purchase (vendor: major mobile phone network)
Like many of us researching a purchase, I used my mobile (and commute) to discover the best plans & phone combination. When I got to the office I switched to my laptop to complete the order. During the checkout I realised that this mobile network provider might also be able to fulfil our broadband requirements. After looking at the broadband options on the website, I initiated the online chat functionality to get sales support, only to be told that they could only help me with mobile sales and not broadband, and that I should visit a high street store or call for help with that.

Suggestion: ensure your sales support staff are multi-skilled, there are no sales silos and/or that engagements can be seamlessly transferred between the various sales support teams. And don’t offer help if you cant provide any. Customer experience is too important and customer expectations are too high to be able to afford turning away business.

Laptops purchase (vendors: two of the largest online computer brands)
Buying three laptops for 3 very different people with different requirements was never going to be simple. I must have gone through a dozen simulated purchase journeys on both manufacturers’ websites, struggling with the plethora of configurations and choices. Surprisingly, even though my shopping basket was well in excess of £4,000, not once did either of them interact with me or offer any help, even though I was clearly struggling. Neither company followed up any of my visits with a friendly email reminder that they had the right computer for me and offering to help me complete the checkout process. Nor did they recognise my return visits and clear distress with a ‘Hi, how may we help you?’ Or ‘would you like to talk to an expert?’.

Suggestion: clearly you don’t want to offer 1:1 sales support when someone is buying a mouse mat, but online retailers need to differentiate their sales support approach according to the value profile of the customer. Personalised sales support can increase conversion three- or fourfold, so when someone is in distress and has the right value profile, offering chat (lower value) or a call-back service (high value) can dramatically increase revenue. If the customer abandons their purchase journey in the last steps of the checkout process, you know there is a purchase interest. Sending a friendly email offering to help complete the purchase journey is not intrusive, but simply good customer service. Lastly, how many times does a visitor need to return for an organisation to offer sales support? Well, the answer depends on the value profile and the probability of conversion and too few companies are focusing on this, trying to get away with an ‘one size fits all’ approach.

Conclusion: personalising sales channels to the profile and needs of the individual consumer increases revenue, not only through the soft benefit of improved customer experience (which increases loyalty, etc.) but through the hard fact that engaging with a customer in need dramatically increases conversion and reduces abandonment. Equally, offering support at the wrong time will increase cost-to-serve and reduce the customer experience. So one-size fits all sales support doesn’t work. Organisations need to personalise their sales channels to each customer in order to yield the true benefits of omni-channel sales.


Total Sales: abandon process compliance and embrace a flexible approach

Holland's Total Football
Holland’s Total Football Strategy

Even if you are not an avid football (soccer) fan you might have heard of the term ‘total football‘. If not, it is a revolutionary tactical theory of football in which any outfield player (i.e. not including the goalkeeper!) can take over the role of any other player in the team. So if a player moves out of position he is immediately replaced by another from his team. This strategy (and mindset) made Ajax one of the most successful teams of the 1970’s and still drives Barcelona’s (and many other clubs’) success today.

Before Total Football, teams typically hoofed the ball up the pitch into the opposition’s box in the hope their star striker could get a foot to it and slot it into the back of the net. The other 10 players on the pitch are there for defence and to feed the ball.

This traditional football strategy reflects how many companies manage their sales efforts today. As described in the HBR article ‘Dismantling the Sales Machine‘, most companies rely on process driven sales strategies, typified by activity metrics and tried and tested set sales pitches, designed to help their sales team members replicate the approach of their star performers.

The reality is that in today’s competitive and fast moving environment, with longer sales cycles, smarter competition and almost total transparency provided by the internet, this brute force sales tactic is no longer efficient or even relevant. To compete it is necessary to adopt a flexible strategy that allows us to be agile and adjust quickly to market forces. I have taken some key strategies and tactics that make Total Football so effective and compared them to what I believe should be best practice in sales. Whether you enjoy football or not, I hope you find the lessons learned useful!

Each player is vital to overall success
The first and most important lesson we need to learn from Total Football is that the whole team needs to work as one unit. If there is one player who doesn’t understand the concept it will leave gaping holes that can easily be taken advantage of.

Likewise, companies need to get their teams to understand that everyone in the organisation is a salesperson. From the receptionist, who is the first voice people hear to the accounts department following up late payments, everyone is influencing the next sale. A great sales team can be let down by poor implementation and overselling can lead to poor delivery. Therefore everyone needs to understand why you sell what you sell, who the key accounts are and what the overall sales strategy is. Everyone should also share in the success (and rewards) of sales. This is the only way you will get everyone involved and excited about the next big deal.

Fluid and interchangeable team structure
Essential to the successful implementation of Total Football is the flexibility of the individual members to play different roles and fluidity of the team to adapt to their opponents. 

 As a company it is all too tempting to stick to a winning formula, wheeling out the same team for the important pitches under the premise that ‘if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it’. This is how organisations become victims of their own success as it prevents the team from developing. The star players become over-confident and too comfortable, loosing touch with their changing audience and market; new members of the team pick up old vices and are unable to breathe the necessary fresh air into the existing processes to avoid them going stale. To avoid this, companies need to create sales teams made up of sales as well as operational/delivery staff, where individuals are interchangeable and the team structure is fluid, constantly adapting itself to the requirements of each client meeting, pitch and presentation.

Share the ball (collaboration)
Although Total Football teams have their star players (Ajax, biggest exponents of Total Football, had Cruijff!) but no player can be bigger than the team itself. The attackers have to work just as hard to defend as the defence is required to support the attackers. Most importantly they have to work together as a team, rather than play as individuals.

In sales organisations it is very tempting to focus most of the attention on the star performer. As the star performer, it is equally tempting to get carried away with your own success (and frustrated by the lack of success of others). To gain long-lasting success, organisations need to encourage their team to work together and pool their resources. Common goals and performance rewards help unite the team but often it requires a change in mindset. Companies need to create an ‘inclusive’ environment, where star players train, accompany and are responsible for the new salespeople. No one goes it alone. It is good to maintain a healthy level of competitiveness (as it is the fuel that drives good salespeople) but by having a team and mentoring mentality the momentum will be positive and long-lasting.

Understand your opponent
A team that plays a flexible positioning system needs to understand their opponents, how they play as a team and who they need to cover at all costs. The team adapts their tactics (and players) to each opponent.

In the past, customers looked to the salesperson for guidance and advise. However, thanks to the proliferation of information on the internet, today’s buyer is often very well, if not too well, informed. This means that salespeople need to be much more prepared, become adaptive and creative in their sales. They need to gain an understanding of their customer’s needs and challenge them intelligently on their preconceived ideas. Very often it requires the resourcefulness to identify and approach different stakeholders in the same organisation to get to the real decision maker. Today’s successful salespeople need to do the research; understand the requirements (and interests) of the person they are meeting and adapt their pitch accordingly; provide insights and bring knowledge to the meeting; and offer unexpected solutions. This is essential part of what is called Insight Selling (here is a great article on Insight Selling). 

Practice makes perfect
One of the more recent exponents of Total Football is former Arsenal superstar Dennis Bergkamp. He was once told by Johan Cruijf that if you have to run to catch up with the ball you have started running too late. Subsequently Dennis trained incessantly to developed a sixth sense of where the ball would would end up and ensure he was there.

We don’t train enough in sales. Most salespeople, if they were lucky, were given a little bit of training and mentoring but most have largely been left to their own devices. It is generally seen as a waste of time because most salespeople think they are already perfect. How many times have you practised your cold calls on your colleagues? How many times have your role-played sales presentations? How often do you brainstorm with colleagues in how you could improve? Even more concerning, how much time did you allow for running through that vital sales pitch? I am pretty confident that most people would answer: not enough. Practice makes perfect!…And it allows you to build that invaluable sixth sense.

Total Management
In Total Football it is essential that the manager has a holistic view and in-depth understanding of every player’s ability and performance at all times.

Sadly in sales it is typical that salespeople are managed at a distance and from behind a desk through scorecards, activity metrics and monthly reviews or, if you are lucky, weekly sales meetings. When it is noticed that targets will be missed it is generally too late to do anything about it. Individuals are managed by extremes, through praise (when they win a deal) and criticism (when they have missed a target).

In my opinion, Total Sales requires total involvement. A sales manager (or director) needs to be aware of exactly what is going on within his or her team at all times. This requires constant dialogue, providing encouragement, advise and support based on their hands-on experience. It is a great way (if not the only way) to command respect, anticipate and reverse setbacks and missed targets, as well as get direct feedback on the effectiveness of the sales approach. In my last football analogy of this post, it doesn’t mean a successful sales manager needs to actually play in every game but they always need to be on the sidelines rather than in the directors box.

Remember, everyone is a salesperson!