Importance of Effective Communication

Everyone communicates. Whether verbal or nonverbal, and if we don’t do it well people could misinterpret what you mean. Communication will determine whether you go through life always feeling misunderstood, or whether people interact with you in a positive manner.

The question to ask is “do you want to be in charge of how people respond and react to your communication, and the opinions they form about you, or do you want THEM to be in control of how they interpret your communication?”

Most people pass the buck and say “it’s not my problem. I communicated clearly and they didn’t understand me – they should have listened better”.

What you do matters as much as what you say. It’s now accepted that words account for only 7-11% of verbal or face to face communication. Your overall behaviour will ‘read’ unconsciously to other people, on which they will form their opinion of you. Without body language or voice cues, email and written communication becomes a critical part of your communication mix.

Language is one of the most powerful reflections of how we think and feel about ourselves and others. Being aware of the padding, justifications and excuses you use and whether they are appropriate, can significantly improve your communication skills, and simply changing some of your language and approach could make a huge impact.

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Importance of Client Engagement

Why is it important for your business?

Effective client engagement is the key ingredient for building brand loyaly.

Satisfaction . . . this is simply the foundation, and the minimum requirement, for a continuing relationship with customers. Engagement extends beyond JUST satisfying needs or proving good customer service.

Loyalty – retention . . . highly engaged customers are more likely to be loyal, resulting in less “churn”, which in turn lowers your COST of client acquisition, and an increase in the RATE of new client acquisition.

Word of mouth advertising – advocacy . . . highly engaged customers are more likely to conduct free (for the company), credible (for their audience) word of mouth advertising. This can drive new customer acquisition and can have a long term viral effect.

Awareness – effectiveness of communication . . . when customers are exposed to communication from a company that they are highly engaged with, they tend to actively elaborate on it’s central idea. This brings about a high degree of central processing and recall, which leads to top of mind awareness when people want to make a purchase decision.

Complaint-behaviour . . . highly engaged customers are less likely to complain to other customers, and will address the company directly instead.

Marketing intelligence . . . highly engaged customers can give valuable recommendations for improving the quality of your offering, and view themselves as being on the “inside looking out”, rather than the” outside, looking in”.

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OnAugust 25, 2014, posted in: Branding, Client engagement, General by

What really is Client Engagement?

Everyone talks about ‘engage with your clients’ but what does that really mean?

Repeated interactions that strengthen the emotional, psychological or physical investment a customer has with your brand . . . therefore increasing brand loyalty.

Well that’s a mouthful!

It just means keep your clients interested in what you have to say or offer, provided it means something to them.

The difficulty for most people, especially for people not well versed in sales phsycology is in understanding how to do this in their specific job role, without having to learn ALL the selling skills that professional sales people need to know.

The best approach is to apply the techniques for building relationships, not matter the job role, as this, in essence, is what selling is all about. If you focus on building the relationship in your own specific job role, solving issues, satisfying needs, then people will want to buy from your company, over a competitor. And this is what builds loyalty.

If you identify needs, present your solution, keep clients satisfied and over meet expectations whilst you are engaging with them, then they will remain loyal, even when there are aspects of your product or service that “isn’t entirely 100%.

A key ingredient is that each step of the process should encourage the client to WANT to know more, WANT to continue a dialogue, and see you as the person or company help them make the correct buying decision. Even if it’s not for your own product, you can earn credibility as the company to come to whom they trust to give them the right advice . . . to make the right choices.

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OnAugust 25, 2014, posted in: Client engagement, General, Selling by

Client Engagement vs. Selling

There is the perception that selling is just for sales people. Well, sorry to disillusion you, but anyone, no matter their job role, if they have client interaction, they are in sales! Every human being, every day, is selling something, whether it’s an idea to a colleague, convincing your spouse or children to do something, or talking to customers in ANY capacity.

Every client touch point across the business, regardless of reason, is an opportunity to sell and idea, service or goods, whether it be for money or to gain their attention.

This is especially important SME companies, many of whom can’t afford dedicated expertise, and therefore expect employees to be “open” to new business opportunities whilst conducting day to day communication.

Everyone in the business is in sales, no matter their title. And everyone needs to engage with clients.

However, there are some fundamental differences between a client engagement approach compared to the traditional marketing and sales approaches, and this has mainly been brought about by the internet and social media opportunities. You can run . . . but you can’t hide from the internet!

A good sales strategy should help you find, approach and keep clients engaged during the sales process, and get them to take action. A key ingredient is that each step of the client engagement process should encourage the client to WANT to know more, WANT to engage with you, and see you as the company that will help them make the correct buying decision. Even if it’s not for your product, but sets you up as the company to come to whom they can trust to give them the right advice.

This is a very different approach to the usual aim of GOING FOR THE DEAL, NO MATTER WHAT!

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OnAugust 25, 2014, posted in: Client engagement, General, Selling by

Understanding the communication mix

Marketing communication functions within a marketing framework. However, at least 70% of my clients who request marketing help, actually want help with communications, rather than strategy. No one can do business with you if they they don’t who you are . . . and to find out who you are you need to communicate with them.

We’ll cover the many aspects of Marcomms in future blogs, but here are the important elements and where they fit.

The primary goal of marketing communication (whether internal to staff, or external to the marketplace) is to reach a specific audience and affect their behavior by informing, persuading, and reminding.

A secondary goal of marketing communication is to build & reinforce ongoing relationships with your audience.

The Marcomms mix

Relies on making the right choices of a combination of options called the promotional mix. These options traditionally include advertising, promotions, public relations, direct marketing, and personal selling.

Online and digital media deserves a category of it’s own in that it complements the traditional concepts of Marcomms, but requires specific knowledge, skills & technology.

The role each element takes in a marketing communication programme relies in part on whether a company employs a push or pull marketing strategy. A PULL STRATEGY relies more on consumer demand than personal selling for the product to travel from the originator to the end user. The demand generated by advertising, public relations, and sales promotion “pulls” the goods or service through the channels of distribution. A PUSH STRATEGY, on the other hand, emphasizes personal selling to push the product through these channels.

Successful Marketing Communication

For marketing communication to be successful, it needs to work with the other areas of marketing, the product, service or idea itself, the price at which the product will be offered to the market & the places through which customers may purchase the brand. The best promotion CANNOT overcome poor product quality, high prices, or insufficient retail distribution.

Integrated marketing orchestrates all forms of the promotional mix to reach customers at different levels in the decision making process, and requires sound management decisions and co-ordination of the various elements of the promotional mix.

Integrated Marketing Communication

Rather than the traditional inside-out view, IMC is seen as an outside-in perspective and focuses on relationship building and synergy. Customers are viewed not as targets but as partners in an ongoing relationship. Customers, prospects, and others encounter the brand and company through a host of sources and form a perception about the brand and company.

By knowing the media habits and lifestyles of important consumer segments, marketers can tailor messages through media that are most likely to reach these segments at times when these segments are most likely to be receptive to these messages, thus optimizing the marketing communication effort.

Ideally, IMC should work hand in hand with the development of databases on customers and prospects, segment current and potential customers into groups with common needs, predispositions, and behaviours, and develop messages and media strategies that guide the communication tactics to meet marketing objectives.

In doing this, IMC builds and reinforces mutually profitable relationships with customers and others, and generates synergy towards achieving clarity, consistency, and maximum impact.

Some more topics in the pipeline coming soon.

  • Advertising
  • Publicity
  • Promotions
  • Sales support
  • Personal selling
  • Online techniques
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OnJanuary 7, 2011, posted in: General, Marketing Communication by

Effective sales management

Effective sales management helps you get the most out of your sales force. Setting sales targets and then sitting back to see what happens is not a winning approach. Perhaps more than in any other business area,  sales people need hands-on support and guidance to help them succeed in a particularly challenging role.

Strategy and sales management

Successful sales management starts by establishing what you want your sales team to achieve, and then putting in place a process that tracks and measures outcomes, identifies issues and success factors for effective client engagement. Key activities typically include acquiring sales leads, closing sales and managing customer relationships.

Your sales and marketing strategy should help you determine what the priorities are. For example, strategic goals might include building your presence in a new market and filling up the sales funnel, with shorter term goals of introducing new products every 6 months, or generating quick sales to boost cash flow.

Whatever your strategy, it needs to be translated into specific objectives and communicated to the salesforce so that they know where to focus their efforts.

Clarity is the key here – for both staff and customers

You need to think clearly about your customer base and what your business offers them – get that sales story consistent across your entire business, not just the sales people. Your salesforce needs to clearly know what’s expected of them, by when, and what reporting mechanisms are in place to measure progress. Someone needs to drive this in order to review targets, establish direction and provide a “bridge” to ensure marketing and sales activities remain cohesive. 

If a salesperson doesn’t fully understand their role, responsibility or target, they won’t perform to the best of their ability. And if you’re not providing clarity about what the offer should be and clearly measuring performance, you won’t see where the gaps (and opportunities) are.

Salesforce recruitment and training

Knowing what you want your sales force to achieve helps you decide what sales people you need and what knowledge, skills and attitudes are required. Key skills typically include interpersonal skills as well as specific skills in sales techniques and negotiation.

A well-planned induction program can be an important element of getting new recruits up to speed. As well as helping a new salesperson settle in, induction should include basic information on the company and its key policies. Potential problem areas such as expenses should be clearly explained. Key issues such as standards of conduct and restrictions on poaching clients after leaving the company should be included in employment contracts.

As well as on-the-job sales training and formal sales training courses, the sales manager has a role in sales coaching: passing on his or her own experience, accompanying salespeople to sales meetings if necessary and so on. Sales team leaders may themselves benefit from sales management training.

Motivating and incentivising salespeople

Salespeople are most likely to perform well if they feel that sales targets are fair and achievable. It’s important for the sales team to feel that customers have been allocated fairly. Sales targets should be agreed rather than imposed.

Wherever possible, sales targets and incentive schemes should be directly linked to company objectives. Indirect performance indicators such as number of sales calls made can encourage pointless activity.

Even direct sales targets need careful planning and management. Salespeople may be incentivised to skimp on other activities – such as customer care – in the pursuit of achieving sales targets and bonuses. Poorly planned targets can encourage undesirable outcomes: for example, high but unprofitable sales. Individual sales targets can prompt unhealthy conflict within the sales team.

Hands-on sales management is vital. Regular contact with each individual salesperson to motivate and support them. Regular sales team meetings can be used as an opportunity to review progress, share knowledge and fine tune priorities.

More articles on this topic coming soon.

  • Managing your sales team
  • Sharpen up your sales force
  • Keeping staff in the loop about sales
  • Managing the key events of the sales cycle
  • Recruiting sales people
  • Sales reporting
  • Sales ratio management
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OnJanuary 7, 2011, posted in: General, Sales management by

Using the telephone as a support tool

Telemarketing / sales is a much misunderstood and under rated marketing tool, and I’m not talking about those annoying dinner time calls from people who can hardly speak English, get your name wrong or sound like robots. If professionally handled and specifically targetted, telephone selling is the best, most cost effective way to reach your customers, and can even be used to sell capital expenditure and high cost items. Telephone sales calls are faster, cost less than visiting customers in person, and at the same time can  be more flexible and compelling than a sales letter.

But telesales is also challenging

Successful cold calling is an art . . . it can be difficult to get people to listen let alone convince them to buy . . . and you need a thick skin to handle rejection. Effective use of the telephone relies on understanding when to use the appropriate skill of telemarketing, tele-research or telesales, and making sure that your team have the skills they need. It amazes me how many companies expect staff to make sales calls with no training what so ever. EVERYONE in the business should have telephone skills, not just the marketing and sales people.

The key is to not think of it as selling, but as an ongoing conversation with your clients. Used in combination with email marketing, face to face appointments and client feedback surveys, using the telephone could very well be your most important marketing tool. But use it with discernment.

Telesales planning

Telesales works best if you are clear about what it can do for your business. Cold calling potential customers and trying to convince them to make a purchase is not always the right way to go. You should use telesales as part of the client communication process in all areas of your business, not just as a sales tool. Every touch point in your business that requires the telephone as a communication tool with your clients gives you the means by which to identify a potential sales opportunity. And anyone can do it, and SHOULD! It’s not about hard selling or closing deals. It’s about conducting meaningful conversations that elicit information about your customers’ desires, wants and needs.

Cold calling and effective sales calls

Many people find cold calling unknown potential customers a particular challenge. Some employees continually put off making cold calls, preferring to concentrate on other tasks that they are more comfortable doing. Even when employees are motivated and incentivised, lack of confidence can undermine effectiveness.

Cold calling doesn’t need to put employees under immediate pressure to sell. Any employee can use a soft sell approach in that they make more than one call over time to talk about “anything” that is important to the client, and build a relationship. They just need to create interesting discussion points on topics that are interesting to the client, and over time this will turn the cold call into a warm call. While completely scripted sales calls tend to be inflexible and sound artificial, well-planned calls with clear objectives are more likely to succeed.

Telesales training can help employees develop the right skills and attitude

As well as being able to cope with potential hostility and rejection, successful “telephone users” need a whole range of skills:

  • understanding how to get past ‘gatekeepers’ to speak to the right person
  • knowing how to prompt a positive response
  • building rapport and actively listening to what a contact wants rather than pushing for a sale
  • dealing with questions and objections
  • recognising a sales opportunity

Telemarketing can perform several useful roles including:

  • Identifying key personnel at target companies
  • Gaining appointments for salespeople
  • Following up on mailshots, exhibition attendance, or potential customers who have responded to advertisements.
  • Researching the potential of a new product or a new sales area
  • Keeping in touch with existing customers: reminding them of special offers or anniversaries, or checking that they are satisfied
  • Direct sales of goods which can be sold on a trial, or sale or return, basis

You can improve the response rate on mailers by 20% if supported by a telesales effort, and up to 50% on appointment booking for sales people when used pro-actively, rather than waiting for prospects to call you. Telesales calls to businesses are generally more successful than to individual consumers.

Telemarketing offers a way of reaching prospects and customers, without the impracticality of visiting them face-to-face. It can hit higher numbers of contacts and save both time and money.

However, telemarketing also has some inherent disadvantages. You cannot see the impact you are having on the other person, nor can you be certain if you have their interest or their full attention. Recipients also find it easier to cut you off than if you were physically in front of them.

It is possible to make first time sales over the telephone, but success might depend on how well-known or easy-to-understand the offering is. However, telesales works best for making initial contact, keeping a customer informed, and encouraging repeat sales. Face to face calls are better for negotiating, building trust & building relationships.

More articles on this topic coming soon.

  • Finding the right telesales skills
  • The difference between Telesales, Tele-research & Telemarketing
  • Telesales planning & structure
  • Whether to outsource your telesales programme
  • Telesales scripting
  • Telesales ration analysis & reporting
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OnJanuary 7, 2011, posted in: General, Telesales & telemarketing by

Establishing a social media strategy

If you want to establish a social media strategy it is important that the implications of this strategy are well understood, as, unlike normal marketing practice, there is very little control over the outcomes should the horse bolt from the gate. You just never know what may happen!

If you do choose to participate in social media and social network marketing, you owe it to yourself and your followers to engage in meaningful two-way communication. If you don’t reciprocate and participate, your online reputation may be tarnished and your hard-earned following will become worthless.

Don’t obsess about gathering more followers than Paris Hilton, because social media is not a numbers game – it’s all about quality of relationships. It’s better to have a smaller circle and work it actively, than to have thousands of followers and never interact with them.

And if you choose not to participate in social media, at least make the effort to keep your ear to the e-ground. The influence that social media can exert on brands is astounding, so you ignore it at your own peril.

Some tips on how to use social networking to best advantage

1. Let the network establish it’s own level . . . resist the urge to dictate the rules or topic content. You can suggest topics or start a topic conversation, but don’t try and control it.

2.   Let consumers have freedom of expression . . . if clients talk freely about their business issues, there may be some hidden gems there that you haven’t thought of.

3.   Apply client feedback to show you have listened . . . it’s a great tool to learn what they want, gives you on the spot market intelligence, to be well equipped to improve your service offering or create new ones. Instantaneous product demand!

4.   Have long term conversations . . . treat your relationships with consumers as long-term conversations. Don’t just devise short term programmes that open up the conversation for brief periods. Figure out how to become “friends” with your clients. Friends talk to each other, over the long haul.

5.   Bring clients into your inner circle . . . product planning meetings no longer are limited to the ideas of yourself or your staff. Use social marketing techniques to identify core enthusiasts, early adopters and identify dissenters to tap into their ideas.

6.   Encourage participation . . . offer incentives to get people off the sidelines rather than passively watching the interactions with others. You want greater numbers of engaged customers. They’re the ones who are most loyal to you, and will buy more.

7.   View your clients in a different light . . . “old fashioned” marketing communication methods may have treated your clients as “dumb” buyers or recipients of what you offered. But now they have power, to talk back and broadcast their opinions about the your brand. You have no choice but to treat them more carefully, and with more respect than you may have in the past.

8.   Don’t cover up mistakes . . . when things go wrong, or make false excuses or get defensive. Recognize that your audience now has the power to “out” your mistakes. Be open and honest, and make a commitment to learning from these mistakes. If you pretend that nothing is wrong, your clients may turn on you – using your own website (and the rest of the Internet) to spread the disdain. Don’t try to spin bad news. You’re not a politician!

9.   Interact, don’t sell . . . ask your clients to participate intelligently in the online social community. ie. Bad = posting a press release about your new product. Good = share pre-release news of an upcoming offering and offer sneak previews to selected enthusiasts within your online community, asking them to be reviewers.

10.   Serve up passion . . . what do your clients care most about? You want to create interactive, participative online communities around what they are most interested in and passionate about. Social media marketing is in serving this passion.

11. Leverage any of your partners or affiliates as online community leaders . . . while social media is all about people talking to people (and people talking to brands), social online communities can benefit from leaders guiding the conversation and encouraging people to participate. So get people within and affiliated with you to join the conversation. Company executives, employees and affiliates. Try and find some “famous” people in your industry to offer up some content and hold a discussion forum.

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OnJanuary 6, 2011, posted in: General, Online Marketing & Social media by

3 things you MUST do for social media success

You’ve got a business, and you’d love to find new customers online. You’ve heard that social media can do that for your business, but you don’t know where to begin.

If that’s where you find yourself, then you must know that there are THREE things you MUST have in place in order to succeed in social media:

1. Have a solid plan

You MUST incorporate your social media strategy with your business plan and traditional marketing activities. Creating a free standing “social media plan” – one that is separate and distinct from the overall business plan – is kind of like a resident of  Bluff, planning a road trip to Auckland, and buying a map of the North Island. While the map will help once you’ve actually arrived in the North Island, it’s not going to help you navigate the South Island till you cross the straight and reach Wellington.

The best social media plan is one that is integrated with your other means of customer communication… because that’s what social media is – communication with both existing customers and prospective customers.

2. Be pro-active, not reactive

As a species, most humans don’t live proactively.  They tend to follow each other like sheep. Sure, there are a lot of pro-active thinkers and business owners, but they’re definitely in the minority. In fact, sheep-like behaviour makes it much easier for us marketers!

When I say pro-active, I assume you’ve already got a business plan that has customer satisfaction ingrained as part of your business DNA. If you don’t, better call me, we need to get that sorted fast! Being pro-active means actively encouraging and listening to customer feedback, and then doing something tangible about it. Giving consumers a place to be ‘heard” is a great start – but then the real job lies in cultivating positive conversations.

When satisfying your customers is part of your business goals – then listening to your customers becomes a priority.  You want them to come back – you want customers to buy from you again – because you realize that it’s 5-7 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to sell another product to an existing customer – you will eventually realize that listening to your customers is the best way to keep them.

3. Invest the time

Business owners are frequently disappointed to learn that a social media strategy is not a “set it and forget it” type of activity. While many of the communication tools which are an integral part of social media are “free” – using those tools takes time to learn to use – and they require a significant investment of time on the part of the business owner.  You need to have at least someone in the business who can dedicate focused time to conducting media conversations online.

You may not have the resource to fund a full time social media team dedicated to communicating with consumers- but almost every business can launch a self hosted blog where consumers can come and share their thoughts.  Sure – you have to put forth a bit of effort in crafting those blog posts, but if you’ll invest that limited amount of time into your business blog – you’ll find REAL gold in the authentic comments from actual consumers.

Think of social media as a huge cocktail party where the conversations are being etched in stone and run your business accordingly.

Social media success formula

Strong products + a sincere desire to improve customer experience + a proactive commitment to communicating effectively with consumers = social media success.

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OnJanuary 6, 2011, posted in: General, Online Marketing & Social media by

So, what is marketing, actually?

So many people have so much to say about marketing. Who is right and who is wrong? Well let’s start by looking at the difference between marketing and sales as an activity. Marketing activities find you prospects . . . sales activities convert them to customers. The disciplines are complementary, but require very different skill sets to be effective.

About marketing

Peter Drucker says that marketing is the unique and only function of the company and that the aim of marketing makes selling superfluous. Marketing should understand so well the customer’s needs that the product or service should sell itself. Impossible dream of course. But a great goal to strive for.

Al Ries and Jack Trout call the fourth law of marketing, which says that marketing is not a battle of products, but a battle of perceptions. Yes, absolutely! Research has shown that people make buying decisions 80% of the time on perceptions, rather than actual product or service. However, they will maintain their loyalty on the ongoing level of performance.

Philip Kotler has two visions, one is with a social approach which defines marketing as a process, and the managerial approach, which is the art of selling products through creating, delivering, and communicating superior customer value. Yep, this as well!

Regis McKenna defines marketing not as a function, but as a way of doing businesses. Totally agree!

McKenna says  it is an activity that should be practiced from the receptionist to senior management, and is an expression of the character of the company. It is company’s responsibility, as a whole. Yes, but 75% of companies don’t do this.

Whether it’s guerrilla marketing, maxi-marketing, marketing of services, relationship marketing, viral marketing, the marketing of niches, or the latest fad marketing . . . it’s all about an attitude of providing customers with something they value, at a price they are prepared to pay.

The challenge for marketers?

Reaching the market who DO have needs . . . they just haven’t recognised it yet! Therein lies the skill of marketing.

More articles on this topic coming soon.

  • Challenging your marketing concept
  • Formulating a strategy
  • Identifying who to target
  • Matching customer needs to product attribute
  • Marketing & sales is a team effort
  • Why marketing plans often fail
  • Simple approach to research as a tool
  • Develop a measurable marketing plan
  • Understand the impact of PESTE factors
  • Identify a clear market gap
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OnJanuary 6, 2011, posted in: General, Marketing by