Posts tagged ‘prospects’

Boost your customer base by lowering, not raising, prices

This is a tough time for most business. Many companies are losing a lot of customers and having trouble meeting revenue commitments outlined in their 2009 budgets, which are usually created in the previous fall season. This is happening, of course, because most people did not realize that the economy would fall into recession in 2009. Executive management teams are meeting in their boardrooms every single day, trying to figure out what to do to stabilize customer retention. Chances are good that two prevailing schools of thought are being bandied about:

  • School Of Thought #1: Since we are currently losing customers very quickly, we need to make up for that shortfall by reducing costs (which has probably already been done), while at the same time increasing our prices in order to achieve more revenue per customer. If we have lost 10% of our customers, and raise our prices 10%, we could probably close the revenue gap.
  • School Of Thought #2: We’ve lost several customers during the first half of the year, and we need to focus on keeping those customers while obtaining a few new ones. Along with reducing our costs (which has probably already been done) we need to reduce our prices, providing an incentive for current customers to stay with us and encouraging prospects to become customers.

As a marketer and ardent capitalist, I believe in School Of Thought #2. It looks at the marketplace as a non-finite tub of potential revenue, even during recessionary times. It also views an increase in price as a form of taxation on current customers, which is a bad idea during good economic times and an even worse idea now. I’ve seen many struggling companies adopt School Of Thought #1, only to see them descend into a business death sprial. As customers balk at higher prices and bail out, this leaves an even smaller customer base to provide the revenue stream necessary to maintain operations. The cycle of higher prices and fewer customers seals a company’s fate and failure becomes inevitable.

From a marketing perspective, it’s an even tougher sell. We’re always looking for unique selling propositions (USPs) and differentiators, and I’ve found that raising prices kills off great marketing each and every time. It poisons the fragile relationship with the customer, leaving them bitter and resentful. Another aspect to consider is the fact that, nowadays, customers don’t go away quietly. They use social networking and forums to voice their displeasure, and most of the time it ain’t pretty.

Before you pull the pricing lever, be sure you’ve fully analyzed your pricing model and exhausted other options. After all, if you make the wrong decision, it may be you that ends up paying the price.

(If you need help with pricing, or you have other marketing needs, contact me at Aximum Marketing. I’ll be happy to help.)

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June 17, 2009 at 11:19 pm 2 comments

Get the most out of your trade shows

If your company participates in trade shows, you know there are many differing opinions about whether or not you should be there. There are probably even more opinions about how to define “success” when you are there. I’ve managed, attended, and participated in more trade shows than I care to mention, and I’ve discovered there are some undeniable truths when it comes right down to it:

  1. If your upper management is either undecided or split regarding whether to attend, you have no chance of making your participation as successful as it should be.
  2. Anything less that complete support from your senior management team spells doom. If their heart isn’t in it, if they’re just going through the motions because “that’s what we’ve always done,” others in the organization will recognize this lack of enthusiasm and follow suit. Given the fact that you’re probably spending a good chunk of change, it’s in the best interests of upper management to buy in and embrace it.

  3. If you have not created a specific set of goals that are clearly identified, communicated, and understood, you can guarantee yourself a below-average experience.
  4. What do you hope to accomplish by attending the trade show? Why are you going to this particular show rather than another one? Is success measured in revenue, leads, news articles, brand awareness, internal perception, or something else? You can’t provide an answer without first knowing the question, so lay this all out beforehand, solicit feedback, engage all groups within your organization, and use all means at your disposal to promote your attendance.

  5. If the management and participation of your trade shows is solely in the hands of your marketing team, whether by autocracy or by disinclination from other teams, you will not achieve the buy-in or participation required to succeed.
  6. Marketing people are great… heck, I’m one of them. But I also know they are single-minded when it comes to execution. Without participation by other teams, marketing will invariably defer to marketing-specific goals, which most of the time are functions of larger goals. Consequently, they may not achieve everything that other teams, like sales or product management, would have hoped for. If you are one of these other teams, I suggest that you get involved early and often so that you’re not disappointed.

  7. If you focus more on number of leads, rather than quality of leads, you are destined to waste massive amounts of time chasing people that will never generate a dime of revenue.
  8. In an earlier blog entry I discuss how to identify and focus on hot leads instead of sheer quantity. Just remember that all leads are not created equal. The best rule of thumb is to focus on your target audience, develop good incentives to encourage continued conversations, use best practices to qualify your leads, and create programs that will fill, but not overwhelm, your sales pipeline.

  9. If you do not have a strong events manager firmly in charge, your salespeople will spend more time on their Blackberries than on the trade show floor.
  10. I love salespeople. I really do. But I know they have a tendency to be a bit, um, ornery. Let’s be honest… without a strong personality keeping them on a short leash, most salespeople will walk into the trade show booth, zoom over to the first empty chair, and start answering emails on their Blackberries. They tend to view trade shows as a waste of time that’s cutting into their ‘face time’ with customers. The truth is that they can engage more customers spending 3 hours in a trade show booth than they can if they spent a week on the road. A strong-willed events manager can help them remember this and keep them on-task. Remember, the booth is there for the benefit of sales more than any other team, so they should learn to take advantage of it.

  11. If you do not reserve a meeting room, you will lose out on many important opportunities.
  12. The noise of the show and the buzz in the booth can make it difficult to engage in deeper conversations, the kind that close deals. Your solution is to reserve a meeting room when you purchase your booth location. The meeting room can be used for prospects, interviews, PR functions, and a variety of other high-quality activities. The booth brings ’em in, but the quiet meeting room helps to keep ’em.

  13. If you don’t choose your booth location carefully, you might as well not even be there.
  14. Whenever possible, do an on-location reconnaissance as early as possible to determine the best location for your booth. If you can’t do this, or if you don’t have enough budget to get into the highest traffic areas, don’t worry. The next best places are: near the meeting rooms, next to the bathrooms, near the concession stands, and close to the sitting areas. Another trick… if your booth has a place to sit down and/or offers food & drink, you will probably double your traffic.

You’ve spend a lot of money on registrations, booth design, marketing, and T&E, so follow these tips to maximize your ROI. Happy hunting!

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June 14, 2009 at 11:48 pm Leave a comment

Leads and prospects and customers, oh my!

(Sung to “If I only had a brain” from the Wizard of Oz)
I’d could use my time much better, create a great newsletter
And plant some prospect seeds,
I could share our comp’ny vision
Help them make a ‘buy’ decision
If I only had some leads.

Yes, it’s another original adaption from yours truly. I’m willing to take full credit because, heck, nobody else wants to claim that crap as their own.

I’ve noticed a lot of people using the terms lead, prospect, and customer interchangeably, so I thought I’d take today to explain the differences between them. Once you speak the language, and understand the differences, it makes a lot more sense. It is also another way for me to build the kumbaya bridge between sales and marketing. Here we go:

  • Suspect – not a generally used term, but a suspect is defined as a person that may be in the market for the types of products and services your company (and your competition) produces. Is is essentially a superset of all your potential customers. You may not know who they are, and they may not know who you are, but they are out there, waiting to be discovered. You need to connect with suspects, or have them connect with you, in order to convert them into leads.
  • Lead – this is someone who is in the market for the types of products and services your company produces. They may specifically know about your company, you may know who they are, or both. They have expressed either a specific or general interest, and have provided contact information about themselves. Depending on their needs, budgets, and timelines, leads are traditionally classified as cold, warm, and hot.
  • Prospect – defined as a lead who has passed the initial qualification (in other words, they are a real person who exists) and is currently being engaged in some way, depending on their needs. In sales/CRM terms, if an ‘estimate’ or ‘opportunity’ is created for a lead, the lead becomes a prospect. The level of contact a prospect receives ranges from an occasional email or phone call to an in-person demo or pilot project.
  • Customer – occurs when a prospect makes a purchase decision. Once a company receives money (or, in sales/CRM terms, a ‘sales transaction’) from prospects for their products and services, those prospects are officially converted into customers. Bring the money, honey.

I’m taking some badly needed vacation time this week, so I won’t be writing any blog entries until next Monday. Until then, have a great week, thank you for your continued support and comments, and we’ll start fresh on Monday. Hasta luego.

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May 31, 2009 at 11:30 pm Leave a comment

How do you define a hot lead?

“If you ain’t dialin’, I ain’t smilin’.”

“Fill the pipeline and sort it out later.”

“All leads are good leads.”

We’ve heard them all before. Most people (and seemingly all of my past bosses) equate number of leads with quality of leads. Go to a trade show, have a giveaway contest in the booth, collect 3,000 leads, and consider the show an unparalleled success. Unfortunately, once the smoke clears and the afterglow of the show has passed, you soon realize that those 3,000 leads were nothing more than “trick or treaters” looking for a freebie to take back home. After spending six months chasing down all 3,000 leads, you discover that only 35 of them are actual revenue-generating customers, and only half of them are ready to make a purchase decision. In the end, you’ve spent $100,000 on a trade show that netted 12 customers and generated $150,000 in sales. Take into consideration all the efforts to get the booth ready, manning the booth, and time that the salespeople were out of the field, and suddenly you find yourself in a conversation with your manager about cutting back the number of shows your company attends next year.

The problem, of course, is not the show. Rather, it’s the way you pre-define prospects, leads, and customers. For every marketing program — whether it’s a trade show, advertising campaign, webinar, etc.— you need to have a game plan before, during, and after the event. You need to take the time to fully understand the customers, the needs of those customers, the sales process (see my “Lily pad” marketing entry for more info on nurturing a prospect into a customer), the messages that will resonate with customers in a differentiating manner, and the most effective medium with which to communicate. Complicated? Absolutely, but not on the rocket science level. Effective? Without a doubt.

I’ve helped many companies and clients with their lead generation needs (here’s a success story from my website), so if you’re looking for someone to help you, give me a shout.

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May 22, 2009 at 12:32 pm 5 comments


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