I wouldn’t pay me anything to consult on Java development, if I were you. Why? Because, to be frank, I don’t know very much about it. You are, almost certainly, wasting money.
So why would you separate yourself from a lot of capital, to buy services from someone who didn’t know a lot about your industry? Again, you probably wouldn’t.
The lesson here for entrepreneurs, particularly those in the business to business space, should be clear: if you do not understand the industry you are selling into, you are unlikely to achieve significant revenues from it. Is this always a bad thing? No. Salesforce.com does not need to understand the markets it sells into in particularly great detail – why? Because it’s a highly disruptive offering, primarily because of its low ticket price, which means the customer cannot reasonably expect to have an industry-specific product.
Salesforce.com is disrupting an existing market – not all entrepreneurs start in such a fortunate place. If you have a generic product, with a limited market, and are resource constrained – you need to be doing big ticket deals in order to survive.
My argument for the non-Saleforce.com entrepreneurs is this: you need to create market focus to drive up deal values. What does market focus do you for? Several things:
Focusses the mind – no more ‘we can sell to anybody / we aren’t selling to anyone’ nonsense
It directs resource – you need to learn quickly, so learn French quickly – don’t decide to become a specialist in European languages tomorrow
It creates credibility – I really understand your industry, and because I understand it you are going to trust me to provide good advice on how to drive business performance
It informs the proposition – a well-researched and targeted proposition unlocks all the stores of value, and increases the likelihood of conversion
So ask yourself this: do I have market focus? How focussed am I on that market – some entrepreneurs achieve a zen-like state where they will happily refuse business from those that are outside their target group, anticipating that in the long term this will result in a superior return.
Having just been party to a situation (as an observer, I hasten to add!) whereby a vendor got it completely wrong, I’ve decided to reiterate the value of understanding your customer’s objective.
It sounds obvious……it is obvious – there’s very little chance that two organisations are going to form a lasting relationship if they do not understand what their counterparty wants from it. So why does it still go wrong – in some cases in £1 billion plus value deals?
I feel very strongly about objectives – both that they are expressed, and how they are expressed. To me it is unacceptable to make statements such as “well, of course we understand what the customer wants”. I want to see it written down – I want to see it expressed – and I want to see it expressed properly.
I am a big proponent of the SMART objective format. SMART has been interpreted in a multitude of ways, and those involved in people management have (quite sensibly in my opinion) extended the mnemonic to include ER. What does it stand for in my world? I teach the most junior members of my team the following:
S – Specific – it has to be. What EXACTLY is the customer trying to achieve? “Make sales”, “cut costs” – both valid, but get as specific as you possibly can: “the customer is looking to make sales by offering my complementary and disruptive service, on which they can make an 80% gross margin, as part of their wider solution sale”
M – Measureable – is it? When can you tick the box to say that the objective has been achieved? “I want to walk to the top of the hill” is specific; “make more money” is not specific, except in a binary sense
A – Achievable – the marketing director of the firm with four employees is not going to get 50,000 inbound leads in the first month of operation, nor will they achieve market dominance within three months. It’s nonsense and the management team needs to be able to take a look at itself and see that.
R – Resourced – oft overlooked, but so important. You are going to increase the company’s customer base by 400% by the end of the year – it takes 15 month to bring on an account manager – you need three – you haven’t recruited them. Again, it’s nonsense.
T – Time bound – exceptionally important. We must set our objectives against time lines in business, especially in growth stage companies. You want to grow a company through to listing on the market, but are not willing to say when you’ll achieve the first £1m of sales – what does that say? You have to achieve those sales within two years, otherwise you will be 95 by the time your revenues warrant a listing. What’s also important about being time bound is it creates hierarchy in your objectives – stepping stones to the ultimate goal. List in five years means you need to be half way there in two and a half years, so create an interim objective.
So once you’ve got your SMART objectives written down, what next? The reason you are doing this is to align with the customer – so you need to get them to confirm the objective. And at this stage, if you’ve got anything about you, you shouldn’t worry about being wrong – if you know anything about your customer you’ll be 60% of the way there, and you’ll find the customer’s willing to take you the final steps of the journey. Remember, you need them but equally they need you – and agreeing a set of SMART objectives gets everything both parties need out in the open.
Two other tools you may also wish to consider are the “in order to” and “so what?”. The “in order to” expresses why the objective is being set, creating a level of context. It may also identify the driver for the specific objective. So, as an example: “we are going to cut our technical staff headcount by 20%, whilst maintaining service levels, by the end of the year” – the “in order to” in this situation might be “in order to remain competitive in light of a new market entrant’s low cost delivery pricing strategy”.
The “so what?” tool is different – it is a methodology by which you identify the tasks and implications relating to a set of objectives. Staying with the 20% headcount, the “so what?” question might elicit the answer: “so we need to identify what headcount is inefficient, and where heads have the lowest impact of service levels”. This process starts dictating steps you need to take in order to achieve the objective.
Are you in the process of establishing or growing an early stage web business? If so, I thoroughly recommend the ABA revenue model.
What is it, I hear you asking? It’s the “Anything But Advertising” approach.
Over the last twenty-four months we have detected a shift in the type of technology start-up being established in London. For whatever reason (and I suspect a $100bn initial public offering may have something to do with it), the proportion of B2B versus B2C businesses seems to have changed markedly. A number of commentators have already noted the number of “Global Vice Presidents of Sales” floating around the Old Street roundabout – usually residing in start-ups with two other employees (one a President and the other an Executive Vice President).
I read a nice set of statistics recently on LinkedIn’s blog that demonstrates the dangers of assuming eyes plus hours equals cash – an assumption that I fear underpins a lot of these start up businesses:
LinkedIn users spend an average of 18 minutes a month on the site. Facebook users spend 6.4 hours a month.
LinkedIn gets $1.30 in revenue for every hour those users spend on site. Facebook: 6.2 cents.
Surprising, aren’t they?
How to monetize website based business is something we’ve debating at Rapid Innovation Group recently – and I was pleased to find earlier that we are not alone in this debate, with this Wharton professor expressing a similar ABA preference. However, other than Professor Clemons no one seems to be addressing this issue.
So why wouldn’t you depend on advertising revenue as your main source of funds, other than on the basis that Facebook cannot make substantial amounts of money from it? Firstly (and sadly), when things go bad in the economy advertising revenues tend to get hammered – and secondly, how many other businesses (starting with Google) are trying to make money from the same source? Yes, the answer is lots.
I do not have a definitive answer for you, but what I will say is this: if you are creating or seeking to grow a business, you need to be looking for sustainable revenue streams. If you are providing a product or service that is to be used day in, day out, you do not want to be dependent on the vagaries of wider economic performance for your end of quarter sales figures. Identify another way of extracting value from your customers early on, have a rational reason for setting your pricing point, and then stick to your guns.
Examples you should be considering:
Do people go to your service on a regular basis? Then use a subscription model
Do your customers want different amounts of something each time they visit? Then use a transactional model
Do your customers need to understand your service before they can see value? Then use a no-charge-but-I-need-your-credit-card-details-in-advance trial model
Whatever value your service or product provides, please do not kick off into the market on the basis that your customers might be interested in a General Motors Chevy Cruze or a package holiday to Spain as a result (unless you are selling cars or Spanish package holidays)!
Pricing models and points are difficult issues for early stage businesses to address – but they set the tone for the business over the coming decade, and demark your limits of growth to an extent – so make sure you get them right!
Most readers of this blog will be interested in getting to the point that a current client finds themselves in, so I thought I’d record the process we are working through to resolve it.
Picture this: you’ve found an enthusiastic sponsor, got them to buy into your proposition ….. you then find they have opened an opportunity bigger than you could have dreamed of (or given them credit for!). The opportunity is business changing …. it smashes that sales target ….. the world is about to take a serious change for the better!
You’ve dealt with the sponsor and business user all the way through the sales process, everything makes sense …. then you hit (corporate) reality – an unhappy procurement function. Why are they unhappy? Your sponsor decided (almost certainly correctly) that if they were involved early on they’d kill the whole thing stone dead – and the business needs your software so they didn’t want it killed off early.
The call is set up, the agenda point is ominous – “commercial discussion”. That’s where we find ourselves today. Time for some scenario planning.
Position-based negotiation – a brief segue
Just like in position-based warfare, you either win or die in your trench. Positioned-based negotiation is the same – and thus to be avoided unless you have nowhere to run!
Back to the point
What will come up? In reality there are actually very few things that procurement can say / do. They either need to tick a due diligence box to say they checked it all out and understand it – or they are going to try and beat you down on price.
As I see it, there are only really three start points you should prepare for:
The price is too much
They don’t like the pricing structure
Justify the whole piece
The price is too much
So let’s start with the first point – the price is too much. The price is too much? How is that possible, we spent all that time with the business users who hold the budget working through it and making it the right fit. How can it suddenly be too much?
In my experience it can be too much because: a) procurement has a corporate target for reducing initially quoted prices e.g. everything down by 10%; b) the budget that the sponsor and business users identified got spent and they weren’t aware of it; or c) procurement isn’t particularly evolved in this corporate and is spectacularly unimaginative when it comes to negotiation!
So how to respond? Remembering to avoid a position based approach (“it’s the best we can do”), ask a question: “why is it too much? We have spent time with X and Y, who confirmed the budget was available, so you need to explain this to us”. It’s a killer – now the procurement person has to explain their rationale for their statement – if they aren’t coming clean, try a couple of other questions: “do you have a corporate target? Has the budget been spent elsewhere?” This puts you in the driving seat as you are now asking the questions.
We don’t like the pricing structure
This for me is a classic. I have a tendency to specialise in subscription-based businesses – I like the model, as it lowers the cost for users to adopt and provides the business with on-going revenue to pay its employees and further develop the software.
However, subscription-based software isn’t old hat to everyone – in fact, some people still think that all software is sold on a license / maintenance basis. This is not good, because you might have to explain the whole rationale of subscription based software to them, and then break the news that they won’t even own it – and some procurement departments hate not having something they can take away (even though in the long term they are totally powerless to develop it in house!)
There are several ways to address this:
That’s our business model – take it or leave it (bad position-based start!)
The pricing structure is like this because it reflects how we deliver the software – a lot of our costs are in on-going development for your benefit, as well as server space to deliver it across all those different geographies
Give them a quick calculation of the license / maintenance cost – hey, if they want to buy it like that then why not! So your £50k per annum software is now £127k (£115k+£12k) year one and then £12k for the following two years. Obviously that’s good for my cash flow and bad for yours, Mr Procurement, plus we won’t be able to deliver you with any of the development benefits over the three years because we are going to have to create a separate instance of the software for you on another service, and once that’s in place we won’t be able to tinker with it in case something goes wrong and affects your business
Ask them why they don’t like it – then knock off all the responses with the standard SaaS arguments – it won’t make them look good, so hopefully they will stop making stupid points fairly quickly!
Justify it…..all of it
This has to be the worst one …. not because you can’t do it, but because it takes so long to do. You have confidence in your pricing, otherwise you would not have put it in front of them, and you’ve probably already been through this with the sponsors and business users – so it’s just tedious.
Do get some practice in beforehand though – time spent in preparation is time well spent. In all likelihood the question that keeps coming up as you go through will be “why is that like that? And why is that like that?” As I said before, you have confidence in your pricing …… you are just going to have to spend a long time explaining it. And there’s always the risk that either “that’s too much” or “I don’t like that” is going to come up – if so, I reference you back up to the previous two sections.
Generally you don’t get to a negotiation unless the customer wants to work with you. Keep that in mind….and you’ll have a successful outcome – and lastly, the only business worth winning is profitable business!
Andy Hutt is founder and CEO of triOpsis, a real-time visual intelligence company designed to provide technology that allows enterprises to use mobile devices to track the status of products and services on the ground.
I can’t promise any words of wisdom at all, but I can promise words.
1) Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur rather than go down a more traditional career path?
Lots of answers to that. As with most things in the world, life is a bit more complex than, I woke up one day and said, “Fantastic! I’m going to do this.” Life evolves to a point and you make some decisions. For me, one of the most important ones, and it is only one of many, is when I looked at a traditional career path, I just saw boredom. My background is in finance; I’m a qualified accountant. Way back when I worked for PwC, I worked in Private Equity Transaction Services at Deloitte, I worked in corporate finance, blah, blah, blah. And the problem was whenever you looked at the career path of any of those, it was frankly just boring. And for me, I didn’t want to spend 30-40 years of my life doing that. At all. So it’s about how to make a change. And any change is very difficult to make.
For me, the obvious one with the skillset I had was to go and set up a business. It was possibly a bit of a random choice in terms of where we went, but you have to use what you have around you. I had no background in software prior to this, I had no background in retail, no background in utilities, never set up a business, all those kinds of things. But you have to make a decision that says, I need to change something. I need a more interesting path in my life, I need to do something which I find more satisfying, more enjoyable, and I have more control of.
2) What new skills and specialisms did you have to develop as you got triOpsis going? How did you develop new skillsets?
One of the skills a potential entrepreneur has to have is risk taking. Risk taking possibly equates to stupidity or arrogance, because if you knew all the risks, you probably wouldn’t do it because you’d assess you’d fail; or you understand the risks, and you’re so arrogant that you think you can succeed anyway.
A lot of people are very risk-averse when it comes to trying different things. I’ve never set up a business before. Ok, fine, how do you do that? You just go and talk to some people, get a bit of guidance, and do it. And a lot of it comes down to just doing it. I’ve never run a technical team before, in terms of coding, never run a PR campaign before, I’ve never been a salesman, I’m going back to when I started the business, and it’s about risk taking, just dive in and do it. And if you work out you haven’t got the skills, learn. So, can I be a salesman? Yes. If you can’t afford a salesperson at first, that’s what you have to do. You can’t say, “I don’t have those skills!” You have to dive in, do it. The key thing is, if you’re prepared to take that initial risk—which is basically whether you’re prepared to show yourself up, whether you’re prepared to effectively fail—you need to learn quickly. Dive in, learn quickly, chuck it at the real world and off you go.
In terms of acquiring new skills, it’s partly about risk taking, it’s partly about confidence, and it’s the ability to learn quickly. A large chunk of my view of the world, when it comes to learning and entrepreneurship, is about surviving enough failures to succeed.
Most of the time, until you’ve made your business, you’re assembling a collection of small failures. If I go back to the first sales pitches I did four years ago, I cringe. I’m like, “My God, did I ever actually pitch something as stupid and vague as that?” But you have a go and you just learn, and that was a failure. You’ve got to collect these failures. And in terms of how you fund the business, ideally with entrepreneurship, you need to get enough funding to survive enough failures to have learned enough to succeed.
People view failure as though there’s only one way to fail, which is, you know, like the Eurozone at the moment: BIG! And actually, entrepreneurship is lots of little failures. “I tried that, it didn’t work. Put that to one side. I’m going to try that, ooh that didn’t work, ooh that does, let’s do more of that.” Ideally it’s not catastrophic. I got a good piece of advice early on, which is, “Never bet the ranch early on any particular given path.” Some people say, “You’ve got to do it the whole hog, just go for it!” And if you did that, put all your money in one strategy, one path, one thing, and it fails where do you go? I’d rather spread the failures, and then try and learn where I passed. “That bit did succeed, I’ll put some more money over there.” With failures you learn. Success doesn’t actually teach you anything, it’s just like, Oh, I got lucky. More of the same.
3) How do you balance breadth across industries and depth within an industry?
It’s a really good question because for me, success only comes if you focus. But it’s actually the point I was making a second ago about failures, because you don’t actually know which market, which product is going to be a success. So what you have to do, and what we did, is we started off in brands and we tried retail, and we’ve ended up in utilities; we ended up in water, and we’re now in gas and electricity. It’s a case of the same learning curve, but the ultimate goal has to be a focus. As a small company, you don’t have the resources to do lots of stuff. Provided you understand that to start with then you may succeed. If people don’t understand that to begin with, if they think they can have a go at everything, they will fail. You can’t. Unless they’ve got a really big bank balance, in which case, good luck to them! So, what you have to say is, ultimately I do have to focus to succeed, but I don’t know where to focus, so it comes back to how do I learn? How do I fail, etc.? And what you try and do is get into a niche where you think, yeah I’ve got something real. And that particular point to me in terms of business is what I was talking about earlier: you have to get that in the real world. You can’t sit in an office and think, right, it’s going to be this. That’s the way for me. You have to take the risk and then actually go and talk to that particular client. And they’ll probably go, “Oh that’s rubbish.” So you go back, you have a think, you listen and then you go back and you try that again. And ultimately it comes down to, sadly, what will this generate in revenue for somebody or will it save them money? You need to understand that as an end point.
The only guide point is reality, and that’s the bit when I was talking about risk taking earlier. A lot of people aren’t prepared to take a risk. And a risk is standing up in front of people and actually potentially looking a bit stupid. And for a lot of people, they’re not prepared to do that. The ultimate arbiter of everything is reality. You can’t sit in an office and make a profit. You have to actually physically go into the real world, get your product into the real world, and get real world feedback. Think of anyone who sits in an office and says, “Yeah, this is the best thing since sliced bread!” For our products, we could say, “Yeah insurance market, hey! We can do all of this stuff!” But actually if you spoke to someone in insurance they may turn around and go, “Err, you can’t do it for these reasons.”
4) What is the lifestyle of an entrepreneur like?
The lifestyle of an entrepreneur? It varies. In the world of big corporates, hard work is when you have lots of work on. For a small business, when you’re an entrepreneur, that’s easy. I’ve got work. The hardest part is when there’s nothing. You know, there aren’t any projects. You haven’t got a team of people, you have to sit and you have to go, I need to do something, I just need to create something from scratch. That’s hard work.
As technology advances and the manner in which technology is consumed changes, traditional software sales jobs are fast becoming an anachronism. The selling of largely standardised solutions using a direct sales force has been replaced by an internet-based, self-service, sales-less model in which marketing comes to the fore. Recommendation and virality create and drive demand. The change is marked.
If you are running a direct sales team today then you are in the business of selling higher value solutions with a degree of complexity. The sales force is no longer merely the execution channel; they are a constituent part of the solution’s differentiation. Sales skills alone are not enough; they must offer the prospective customer expertise. This value-add is integral to the sale. Sales consultants must become ‘consultants’ in the true sense of the word. They must have domain expertise and problem-solving skills that are valued by the customer. They must be ahead of their customer’s thinking. They must be able to challenge and educate the client. Value is created though collaboration. While the technology at the core of the solution must remain scalable, the skill in creating a dialogue around the client’s needs and configuring an attractive solution is not. Building this type of differentiated sales force requires know-how and investment.
This type of shift is significantly changing sales management from management of a sales force that can articulate differentiation to one that is in itself part of that differentiation. This is a significant evolution that impacts selection, training and development, and sales practice. Where it is not practical or desirable for all the knowledge required to execute a sale to be contained in one individual, team selling (an anathema to the traditional software sales manager) may emerge from being the exception to being the norm. Incentive and remuneration structures will change to facilitate this. Where developing specialised domain knowledge is a core competence, a ‘hire and fire approach’ (always an excuse for poor management) makes no sense. This world of sales demands the brightest and the best. Those that have both IQ and EQ in abundance.
There are many strategies for marketing, but one that has been growing in popularity, particularly in the United States, might be affectionately called “Awesomeness Marketing.”
As a type of viral marketing, the concept is pretty simple: associate a product or service with something awesome. Often, the connection between the product and the awesomeness will be tenuous at best. The association between a car and a Greek god, for example, is irrelevant; but putting the product next to something witty, outlandish, and intelligently over-the-top associates the product with favorable qualities and a sense of enjoyment.
Recently, the startup Dollar Shave Club has attracted a lot of attention because of its YouTube viral advertisement video:
The video appeals to a range of audiences, pushes on a real pain point most men have (overpriced razor cartridges), and includes a number of more subtle riffs, including having the guy getting his head shaved reading a copy of Eric Ries’s The Lean Startup. Nice touch.
For a video of this nature to be effective, it cannot dance with any middle ground of reality: it must be clearly and decisively over-the-top. Otherwise, the company runs the risk of being taken seriously in its boasting. Or, worse, just flopping. Video advertisements of this nature shamelessly extol the awesome powers of the products they sell: “Anything is possible,” says the Old Spice man after passing seamlessly through an impressive series of fantastic set changes. Furthermore, by claiming to be so “awesome” that nothing can come near, the company builds into its marketing a solid defense against inevitable attack. They can say, “Hey, don’t you have a sense of humour? We were obviously joking…”
“…But we really are awesome.”
In order to create the desired effect, however, one must be very careful to actually produce something amazing. Trying to be awesome can be fatal and will be worse than more traditional forms of advertising. In many ways, working with the real selling points of the product can be dangerous; every message needs to pass through the twisted gates of hyperbole.
Awesomeness Marketing is high risk/high yield. Do it right, produce a legendary campaign, and your brand will stand as legendary in the minds of consumers (provided the product is actually decent). But if your advertisement falls short of awesome, or worse, if in trying to be awesome, it comes across as juvenile or offensive in some way, then you have big problems.
One can never be certain that a video will go viral, even when the requisite qualities of brevity and over-the-top humor have been included. For an example, see the Zeus Scion commercial below, which does not have the same viewership as other similar ad campaigns. The video itself does it right, but it has not enjoyed the same success as others. Not going viral is always a risk when aiming to produce a video of this kind. But equally, there is the risk that the video actually will go viral. What then? Can you scale quickly? Is everything ready to fill orders on a large and perhaps international scale? Are all mechanisms in place? Is the product actually any good?
Awesomeness Marketing is also risky because of its implications in terms of social media. When a commercial goes viral on the Internet, there is no time to have a legal team vet all social media correspondence. Tweets, Facebook posts, responses of various kinds all come in and must go back out very quickly in real time. The team in charge of handling that social media presence must be sharp and switched on, able to respond quickly and appropriately without approval from corporate boards or legal teams.
The customer’s initial reaction to “Awesomeness Marketing” typically has nothing to do with the product itself. The product is in many ways irrelevant. The goal is to get the viewer stirred up and to think, “That was awesome!” The product can almost be an afterthought, which is one of the reasons the advertising is effective: the customer does not feel pushed. Gradually, and perhaps long after seeing the advertisement, the customer’s awareness—and the association with awesomeness—will shift to the actual product itself.
The efficacy of this kind of marketing comes down to the way in which the association with the advertisement shifts to the product:
Distributive Property of Awesomeness
Customer —> Awesome Commercial
Awesome Commerical —> Brand
Awesome Brand —> Product
Customer —> Product = Awesome
Awesomeness—in terms of advertising—appears to be highly transferable.
Awesomeness Marketing will find a stronger appeal among the younger generation, but that is not to discount its effectiveness with other demographics. Who doesn’t like things that are awesome? It can be an incredibly powerful tool, especially because it requires relatively little resource to use, but it is likewise an incredibly dangerous tool and one that should be used carefully and only when one is certain the advertisement will be effective and the company is prepared to handle the responses.
Permasense corrosion monitoring systems provide engineers, inspectors, planners, and plant managers insight into condition and capability of critical oil and gas assets. Potentially it is a technology with wide appeal. Given this, what are the key challenges in the sales and marketing process? What are the key steps and challenges entrepreneurs face in taking a product like Permasense successfully to market and what would you advise they do to overcome them? We asked the CEO of Permasense, Peter Collins…
Identify the product champion
Identifying the individuals in a company that are ‘own’ the problem your product or service is addressing is the place to start in finding the individual to champion it in your target customer.
For example, in Permasense’s case, this person my be an asset integrity, engineering, corrosion or inspection manager.
Identify all that have to sign off on adoption
If you are selling a system solution, impacting on a number of functions or business processes, you must also win the buy-in of these gatekeepers. For example in Permasense’s case this includes IT, safety, plant operations and frequently others.
Identify the economic buyer
It’s as old as sales itself – no sale without a budget, and it’s so easy to believe you’re close to a sale, when the person who has to sign the cheque hasn’t even been brought into the sales process, let alone convinced.
Whether you or your champion, or both of you together, convince the economic buyer will vary – but you will need to be clear with your champion how that final step to sale is going to happen…
Realistic time plan
Entrepreneurs and their financiers should not underestimate the length of the sales cycle, and thus how long to positive cash flow. For business-to-business sales like Permasense’s, this cycle can easily be 6-12 months. And that following achievement of reference sales. So make sure to plan your cash management accordingly.
Know your product
Know your product, believe in it, communciate that passion – but don’t oversell it! Having the appropriate background – in Permasense’s case, an engineering background – is, I believe, so important.
Anybody who has ever tried to secure new clients for their business will know that this is a crucial process of growing businesses. It is also commonly known that it is just as important to retain existing customers as securing new ones. In fact, in some cases, it can be more valuable. We asked Tony O’Shaughnessy, a renowned entrepreneur, whether he has any tricks of the trade that he can pass on to entrepreneurs on how to secure new clients, retain existing customers and balance the interest of all concerned parties whilst meeting your own company goals…
Securing new clients
“Firstly, I would suggest that you should take a step back, put a clear-cut structure and plan in place, and work consistently to that.
Secondly, you need to understand exactly what it is that you do that makes people buy from you. Then create a simple message at marketing level that puts exactly that point across to prospective clients.
Thirdly, you must identify the people you should be marketing and selling to. You should really take time to understand that. There is a big difference between people who are ‘interested’ in your product/service and then there are people who would ‘buy’ your product. You must distinguish between the two.
Finally, you must be transparent and honest to your clients. If you are having problems, tell them that you are and what you are doing to fix it. Be realistic to your clients about what you can achieve.
What made Rapid Innovation Group stand out from the crowd was the fact that you had the answer to: ‘What can you do for me and why nobody else can do it for me?’”
Retaining existing clients
“I believe keeping good relationships with your existing clients should be intrinsic, not only a strategy. Honesty and transparency are not only key for gaining new clients, but are also crucial for retaining existing clients. Essentially, they want to trust you, and these are the ways to attain that. You should not look to blame somebody for any mistakes made, rather you should find a way to fix it. You must be loyal to the relationship between yourself and your clients.
For example, ninety-five per cent of the companies give bigger promises than they can keep. You must position yourself in the remaining five per cent. Do not offer something that you cannot materialise, because that will not be honest.”
Around our offices in Red Lion Square there must be 50 cafes within 5 minutes’ walk. There are the big chains – Starbucks (two of them), Caffe Nero, Costa Coffee; there are bakery cafes; there are outdoor stall cafes; there are sit-down-for-lunch cafes; there are takeaway cafes. Lots of choice.
Sitting in one of the two Starbucks the other day, to which I’d been coming regularly for 18 months, I realised that Starbucks had successfully differentiated itself in my mind as one of the better options for me.
For a long time Starbucks was the only major coffee shop chain in London to offer free wireless internet to all its customers. It was also the only one that stocked cinnamon shakers so that you could add your own cinnamon to your coffee.
So for 18 months I’ve been going regularly to Starbucks despite the fact that it’s not the most friendly cafe in the area; it’s not the best coffee; it’s not the closest to the office; and it doesn’t do the best food. But it has free wireless internet (I don’t care much for cinnamon).
In fact I can’t imagine there are many people who would consistently choose Starbucks for its cinnamon shaker whereas I know plenty who go there for its internet.
I often meet entrepreneurs that are competing in very crowded markets – particularly in the B2C world of apps or consumer internet – and they talk through their “significant”, “compelling”, and “unique” competitive differentiators and USPs.
Unfortunately a lot of the time those differentiators can sound like cinnamon and not like free internet.