B2B Sales: Definitely NOT how to do it

How not to sell

Just to clarify, I’m not a sales person.  But over the past few months, I’ve been subjected to and have witnessed a number of sales techniques that just can’t go on for everyone’s sanity and for the sake of winning any business.

Part catharsis, part plea and part (hopefully) helpful reminder, here are some sales no-no’s your business development team would do well to avoid:

Too close, too creepy.  This literally happened to me today.  I downloaded an eBook from a marketing software company.  5 minutes after downloading it I had a missed call from them and a voicemail saying Richard wanted to speak to me.  Out of curiosity, I googled the company and seconds later I received an email from Richard saying he’s left me a voicemail (I know) and he wanted to speak to me about my recent activity on his company’s website (I know this too.  He told me as much in his voicemail).  He then sent me a screenshot of his website analytics showing me the ebook I downloaded, what pages I visited and how long I had spent on each page!  Stalk much?

Richard, you’re too keen.  I’ve not even had enough time to open, let alone read the ebook.  A call, a voicemail and an email all within 10 minutes?  Go away Richard.  Go away.

Also, don’t show me a screenshot of my online activity from your website.  Use it for your own information, don’t show me what I’ve been doing.  I’ve been doing it, so I know already!  It’s just creepy and weird.  It makes me think you’re sitting there in a darkened room watching what I’m doing, what I’m typing and where I’m clicking.  Put the binoculars down Richard.  Put them down.

In the words of Edna Mode, “Luck favours the prepared, dahliing”.  I’m sure this is one of the first things they teach in sales training but make sure you really get to know your potential customer and you’re fully prepared before going to a meeting, emailing or calling them.

I recently accompanied a sales guy into a meeting with a big potential customer and almost before the introductions were done, he just leapt straight in there, all guns blazing, with the sales pitch.  It turns out the customer already had the tech (which a quick look on their website would have confirmed).  The fact they had an existing solution wasn’t the point – if the sales guy had prior knowledge of that, he could have talked about why his product was better, reasons for switching, finding out if the client was happy with the tech or if they were experiencing any problems with it etc.  Because he wasn’t prepared, he didn’t position the pitch like that and it looked like he hadn’t done his research.  Which he hadn’t.

Two ears, one mouth.  Sales should use them in that ratio.  The best sales people I have seen working their magic ask a huge amount of open questions, listening more than blindly pitching.  They somehow get the customer to talk themselves into buying rather than throwing facts and stats at them hoping something will stick.

If you really listen to your customer (not just feign listening, thinking you know it already) then you’ll have the knowledge to pitch your product or service in the strongest way possible.  For example, if a customer is saying that they have issues with the high cost of operations, focus on how your product makes their processes more efficient.  If your customer says their biggest challenge is loyalty, focus on how you can help drive repeat business.    

The anti-Richard.  Creepy Richard may have been too keen but then you have the other end of the scale where a whole pool of good leads exist but Sales never follow up on them.  The one situation where I see this happening the most is right after an event.  The company has put in the blood, sweat and tears to pull off a successful trade show, they’ve collected a ton of qualified leads and then they just sit there, languishing as a stack of business cards or a forgotten spreadsheet, never to be nurtured into a fully fledged customer.

Instead of over-zealous, hard sell or an ill-prepared sales rant or even post-event lead amnesia, try and look at the sales process as solving a problem for a customer in a way that is most beneficial to them.  It may be counterintuitive but that includes being honest with them and admitting your solution may not be the best thing for their business.  I’m not saying sabotage your sale but if a customer buys something that isn’t suitable and they know you’ve just sold it to them to get commission then it’ll hurt you more in the long run.  They’ll never use you again.

THOSE Christmas ads: Take away more than just a warm and fuzzy feeling – there’s marketing gold too!

Christmas marketing campaigns

It’s that time of year again and it’s been that time of year since September. It was still a balmy 25 degrees outside and Christmas trees started materialising all over the high street as a stark reminder of the chaos that’s soon to be/already upon us.  For me, I don’t get the first festive pang until I’ve seen the John Lewis Christmas advert (and its often hilarious parodies, but that’s for another time).

Even though I’d rather chew my own foot off than claw my way through frenetic shoppers in the confines of a Christmas-on-steroids department store, John Lewis still somehow manages to bring a little merry cheer to our mildly bah humbug household.

Over the years, they’ve produced some brilliant Christmas ads. They may be on a par with Spectre to make but, the feel-good stories they’ve lovingly created have definitely been memorable.  If you want to apply some of the John Lewis magic to marketing your own business, here are some of the reasons why these ads have made such an impact.

Give it some heart

Never underestimate that feel-good factor. The Bear and the Hare is all about Hare’s love for his friend: Bear (who’s never seen Christmas as he’s always hibernating), and wanting  to share the delights of Christmas day with him. The Journey is all about the dedication of Snowman to Snow-woman and going that extra mile to find her the perfect present.

Adverts and marketing campaigns that promote and evoke very tangible, vivid, positive emotions rarely go wrong (unless they’re insincere or massively cheesy). For example, Facebook’s adverts are all about the strong ties of friendship, connecting people, and re-connecting people that might have drifted apart. The hungryhouse ad is all about socialising and spending time eating with flatmates. The Evian baby ads are all about getting in touch with your younger self – they’re also playful and funny.

Not every piece of promotional material needs to leave your reader with that feel-good feeling but when you’re telling your customers about your brand, you need to find that human aspect and bring it to life using it as a frame of reference. 

Make it relatable

The Long Wait ad sums this one up nicely. Anyone who has a kid or remembers being one knows the anticipation and excitement that builds up during the 24 days to C-day. The twist at the end of this ad is that we think the little boy is excited to open his presents but actually he’s been going stir crazy wanting to give a present. Twist aside, the point is, make your marketing relatable. What are the actual benefits of someone buying your service or product? If it’s very technical, break it down to its simplest benefit like NCR did nicely in its 2013 rebrand.

If I said to you, “NCR provides industry-leading, self-service solutions that optimise the customer experience, increase revenues and drives efficiency across multiple industries,” you probably wouldn’t care less. If I said, “NCR sells ultramodern tech that you use every day to make life easier,” you’d probably be able to relate to that a bit more.  (Incidentally, NCR’s tech portfolio includes things like smart ATM machines, self-service airport check-in kiosks, supermarket self-service check-out kiosks, mobile apps, mobile order and payment, digital navigation and more).

NCR is a B2B company but its whole message is around ‘Everyday made easier’ – not just for the end consumer, but also for businesses and employees. They’ve taken what is traditionally dry-as-a-bone subject matter and given it a relatable, human face: you use our tech every day, you don’t need an IT degree to understand it, it’s simple: our technology makes everyday easier.

Tell a story

All good marketers are great storytellers. And if there’s one thing that ties all of John Lewis’ Christmas ads together it’s that they all tell a great, yet simple, story. This year’s Man on the Moon ad tells a tale of a little girl who, using her telescope, spots a lonely old man living on the moon. Throughout the year she watches him live his sad, lonely existence. On Christmas day you think she’s forgotten about him as she has a merry time with her family but lo and behold, he spots some balloons attached to a parcel. It’s a telescope that he uses to finally see the little girl who is looking right back at him. She smiles at him and it brings a tear to his eye. The tagline is: Show someone they’re loved this Christmas.

It’s a simple, touching, powerful story and John Lewis seems to forego promoting any of their actual products (I’m not even sure they sell telescopes). But the first time I saw it, I knew it was their advert before their logo popped up at the end.  And you know every year they’ll weave a good story that people will be talking about and making parodies of, which only serves to increase their exposure even more.

So there you have it, 3 things you can take away from the John Lewis ads this festive season other than the anxiety of the shopping itself.  Happy holidays!

Part 2: Two examples of great social media campaigns: Cuckoo’s Bakery

Halloween cupcakes

I’m particularly excited (and salivating) to be talking about Cuckoo’s Bakery, my little local cupcake shop and their brilliant use of social media, especially during Halloween this year.

I know the whole pregnant women/cupcake thing is a cliché but I tell you now, no one was more surprised than I when my daughter was born and wasn’t at least 50% red velvet given the number I scoffed prior to her arrival this year. (Red velvet is indeed my favourite flavour should I start taking cupcakes as payment in exchange for marketing services in the future).

One of the great things that Cuckoo’s Bakery does on their Facebook page is continually update it with juicy, sumptuous photos of their beautifully crafted cupcakes. This Halloween was no exception and I must say, they went all out. I mean, just check out their ‘Snot your business’ and ‘Something eary’ specials. Wonderful! (If not slightly gross.)

Cuckoo Bakery cupcake

‘Snot your business

Each photo really encourages their audience to interact with them through comments, shares and likes and even checking-in when they visit the actual shop. In fact, as a business, photos are the best way to engage your audience. Research published by eMarketer found that photos account for 75% of content posted by Facebook pages worldwide and they receive a whopping 87% interaction rate from fans. No other post type (e.g. link, video etc) received more than 4% interaction rate, which is pretty spectacular.

Another thing Cuckoo’s Bakery is really good at is responding to people’s comments on their page. No one likes to be ignored and if a fan is praising you, your product or service, recognise it! Send them a simple thank you. It’s all about building positive relationships and an on-going rapport with your audience.

Over the past couple of posts we’ve looked at two great examples of social media campaigns from two very different companies: Always’ #likeagirl and Cuckoo’s Bakery Halloween Facebook activity (Qantas and Air New Zealand’s World Cup antics have made it in there too). So what could you apply to your own business? The key takeaways are:

  • Make it relevant. And the only way to do this is if you really know your audience. Make sure whatever you’re posting is useful or at least entertaining for them. #likeagirl ad struck a chord with pretty much every woman and girl who saw it and was particularly poignant for mothers and fathers of daughters.
  • Size doesn’t always matter. You don’t need a ground-breaking, high profile, socially disruptive global campaign to be an online success (although, of course, it does help). Developing and maintaining a good relationship with your customers and making a bit of effort during key times (e.g. Halloween, industry events, holidays, sports events, industry news, company milestones, the latest #trend…) are equally important and can go a long way to growing your audience, increasing website traffic and ultimately gaining new customers.
  • Use photos.Picture
  • Respond to comments. Be generous with your time and responses. Your audience will thank you for it and your brand will really benefit from the injection of personality.
  • Make the most of your different social media channels. Always created the #likeagirl video and went on to promote it on YouTube, LinkedIn, FaceBook, Twitter which spread like wildfire, being shared on Pinterest, Google+, tumblr, Instagram and more.  If you’ve spent ages creating some good content, whether it’s an infographic, blog post or white paper, be sure to use all communication channels at your disposal to promote it (remember to tailor you posts to each channel, what might be suitable for Twitter might not work for say, LinkedIn).
  • Be yourself. What makes both Always’ and Cuckoo’s Bakery campaigns work is that they’re are unashamedly them. Their message, style, tone of voice, photos and responses aren’t trying to be anyone else. You may need time to figure out what your business’ social style is but once done, you can really run with it!

Cupcake photos courtesy of Cuckoo’s Bakery Facebook page.

Good sports: Qantas go ‘All Blacks’ after losing World Cup Twitter bet with Air New Zealand

One of my friends posted this story on Facebook the other day and I loved it. It’s just such a great example of how 2 brands managed to use social media for some fun, friendly, competitive banter, entertained their audiences, gained a whole host of new followers and made global headlines in the process.

It was pretty hard not to get caught up in all the Rugby World Cup excitement over the past couple of months. It was also nice to see a sport not blighted by hooliganism and not dubiously run by the likes of Blatter and Ecclestone. And it seemed that Air New Zealand and Qantas really got into the spirit of things when they started some competitive tweeting before the final.

Air New Zealand kicked off the Twitter exchange by posting a digitally altered photo of a Qantas plane painted black suggesting that should Qantas lose, they repaint their entire fleet All Blacks style. Qantas responded with its own digitally altered Air New Zealand jet sporting Qantas colours adding they “think it needs a golden touch”.

Qantas and Air New Zealand planes

Repainted Qantas and Air New Zealand planes

Rugby fans and followers loved this playful exchange, which prompted a more realistic wager:

“How about this? On Monday in the air, your crew wear our jerseys,”

“It’s on! But let’s not leave the pilots out!” Qantas agreed.

Following Australia’s defeat, Qantas posted:

“A bet is a bet. Today we followed through with #AirlineWager and we accepted jerseys from @FlyAirNZ.”

Qantas staff All Blacks tops

Qantas staff in All Blacks jerseys

Great use of social media. Great skills at judging the audience, pitching the level of humour and getting into the Rugby World Cup spirit. Well played Qantas and Air New Zealand! Well played.

Next week: Part 2 of the ‘Great Social Media Campaign’ series where we take a look at Cuckoo’s Bakery’s spooktacular Halloween Facebook efforts.

Part 1: Two examples of great social media campaigns

Social media

Social Success: Always’ “#Like a girl” and Cuckoo’s Bakery’s Halloween Facebook campaigns

Sometimes it takes hours of brainstorming, research and good old fashioned thinking to come up with a successful social media idea for your business and sometimes a great idea just strikes you (often, I find, it’s just as you’re nodding off).

Regardless of whether you’re a social media savant or slow cooker, I thought it would be useful to look at the online social activities of two very different companies and why they are such a success. The first is Procter & Gamble’s Always “Like a Girl” ad and the second is my own little local Edinburgh cupcake shop: Cuckoo’s Bakery. And to make sure these great examples are in easily digestible, bite-sized pieces, I’ll spread them out over two posts.

If you didn’t see Always’ “Like a Girl” ad, it involved a social experiment recruiting real women, men, boys and girls and asking them to show what it physically meant to run and throw like a girl. The results were telling. The girls performed these actions with confidence and pride whilst the other groups could only muster half-hearted attempts. >>Watch the video

The advert made it clear that at a certain point in life, women start to associate self-deprecating and feeble effort with doing things “like a girl”. Always wanted this video to rally people to help change what it means to do something #likeagirl to mean being strong and confident.

Genius idea aside, social media was the vehicle in which this campaign achieved such success. The ad has been viewed almost 60 million times on YouTube, shared more than 56,000 times on Facebook and took Twitter by storm spawning millions of #likeagirl posts (not least from some high profile sports women and teams), accounts dedicated to ‘Like a girl’ successes and even winning the best campaign in the world award.

We all know brands advertise and campaign primarily to drive sales, increase revenues and fatten-up their bottom-line but this almost seems secondary to the global embrace this advert received and the important social issue it decided to tackle. It really captured the its audiences’ imagination and ignited debate and discussion like few campaigns have ever done in modern marketing history.

Its success can be attributed to many things but for me, it’s simple, it’s real, it addresses an important issue that’s relevant to half the world’s population at least and it’s slightly uncomfortable when you think about what your own views are of what it means to be ‘like a girl’.  The ad particularly struck a chord with me because I have a daughter and I want her to grow up in a world where she feels her efforts and achievements are every bit as valid, valuable and effective as anyone else’s and doing anything ‘like a girl’ isn’t associated with below-par performance.

As the campaign was all about a social problem, it’s no coincidence that social media projected it to the heights it achieved. So congrats to Always, a perfect example of executing a social media campaign #likeagirl.

Join us again soon when we discuss Cuckoo Bakery’s Halloween Facebook success!

Do as I say, not as I do. (Or do nothing at all; you’re under no obligation.)

Welcome to Almanac Marketing’s inaugural blog post!

I admit it, I’ve fallen into that marketing trap that’s all too easy to do. And as a marketing consultant, I should really know better.

Last year, when I set-off on my own to launch a marketing consultancy business, I got a little overexcited and set-up my website, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn company pages before being really ready. As a result, for the past 12 months, I’ve not really given them the love and attention they deserve.

I find myself meeting with my clients to discuss how to create engaging and relevant content, cringing with the knowledge that I haven’t done so myself. I could put it down to the fact I had a baby a few months ago, only took 4 weeks off work, I am trying to plan a wedding, find a new house (and car) and keep my sanity as well as maintaining the futile search for the 3 or 4 hours sleep I need to remain functional. But that might be a cop-out. If I’m really honest, I suppose I was daunted by the task, as so many small businesses are.

Where do I start? What do I talk about? Once I start I’ll be committed to posting content on a very regular basis. When will I have time to do this? I barely have time to brush my teeth in the morning! No.  Better to delay and focus attention and time on my primary concerns (clients and off-spring) and repost or repurpose other peoples’ great stories and posts.

But enough is enough. If I want to be successful in building a better relationship with potential customers and giving my company a real voice and personality, (as well as improving my website’s searchability, my brand’s profile and all that good stuff) I need to stop procrastinating and get writing.

So here you have it: the Almanac Marketing blog. My mission is threefold: 1) impart some simple marketing tips and tricks I’ve picked up throughout my career that, although simple, can make a huge difference to your business. 2) Take a look at some companies’ marketing campaigns that have been successful and some that haven’t and provide some commentary on why that might be. And finally but most important of all: 3) just have some fun with marketing! I hope to conduct interviews that might uncover some useful insights for your business, share a little bit of marketing humour and try and take something that might be daunting for smaller businesses and make at a little more accessible.