Find Time To Think, Your Customers Are Counting On It

How much time do you spend each week thinking through your business problems?

Many mangers can’t find the time, and that’s a problem.

“If you ask managers in a large organization to approach a strategic business problem, their focus often quickly narrows to proposing solutions. When asked why, many respond that they don’t have time to think.” -Duncan Simester, MIT Sloan School of Management

Not having time to think sounds a lot like not having time to breathe. You drown in the details.

In related news, I recently downloaded “Rethink the B2B Buyer’s Journey,” a new ebook from LinkedIn. Inside the report, I found this revealing graph:

The most effective salespeople, and the most successful companies, consistently make their customers smarter and give them an edge on their competition. The only way to provide this level of insight is to truly know and care about the client’s business, and the only way to do that is to make time to think.

The Question Remains…

How do you make your customers smarter, while also making your quarterly numbers, and helping them make theirs?

According to Bright Funnel, the average path to sale for high growth tech companies is 512 days from lead to revenue.

When you have quarterly numbers to meet, 512 days from lead to revenue is an eternity. Click To Tweet

There may be little one can do to relieve the pressure or pace of sales targeting at your company. What one can do is always bring new business-building ideas to prospects and customers. Little gifts go a long way. Clearly, there can be a danger in overwhelming people with too much information. Likewise, there’s a danger in failing to reveal your thinking.

Despite what we’ve heard before, coffee is not for closers. To rise above the noise, it takes skill, patience, and unbelievable persistence. It also requires that you care about the customer. Caring means you’re not always closing, you’re always considering (on your customer’s behalf).

Make Your Customer The Beneficiary (Of Everything You Do)

Modern brands earn credibility and continued attention through the production of customer-focused communications.

The content marketing vehicles may take the form of email newsletters, blog posts, social media updates, content-rich product catalogs, video, and more. To manage it all, brands require multi-skilled editors with a strong understanding of marketing’s role in the media mix.

Today, these communications professionals are typically called Content Strategists. Kristina Halvorson is a well known content strategist. According to a recent update on Twitter, her desires for the field are pure but difficult to realize.

I love when smart people remove all the layers, strip out the talking points and simply get to the point.

“All I want is for companies to put their customer in the center of everything. Better business will follow.” Sometimes, the shortest sermons are the sweetest and most meaningful. This is one of those times.

Halvorson’s desire is the customer’s desire, and it’s our job as strategists and advisors to clients to always elevate the customer’s needs above everything else. That’s how hearts and minds are won—through sacrifice and remarkable service.

The award-winning ad campaigns will come, as needed, provided the advertising enriches the customers’ brand experience. Anything that detracts from the customer’s experience, including advertising, is unneeded and potentially harmful.

When you begin to run all your Marcom decisions through this finely tuned customer-service and enrichment lens, you’ll be on the high road to much better brand-sponsored content and all the benefits that spring from it.

Are You Feeding 5-Course Dinners To People Hungry For Snacks?

It’s not every day that I come across a mind-blowing marketing communications statistic. I found one on Kiss Metrics’ site this week that I must share with you.

Approximately 96% of visitors that come to your website are not ready to buy.

While stats can be easily manipulated, and percentages will move up or down based on the company in question, the point here is mind-numbingly clear: People are window shopping online.

The computer or phone screen is the same glass barrier that we see in a traditional retailer’s windows to the street. And the online and physical retailer’s tasks are also identical: Interest a small percentage of the passersby to come inside the store, touch the product, and hear from the sales associate as to the various attributes.

Whether you sell services or products, online or off, the idea is basically the same. Move people from “not interested” to “interested,” and then direct them down a sales funnel. The problem with this linear approach to customer acquisition is people don’t naturally line up like cattle. People are free to wander around, shop the competition, read some reviews, talk to a friend or colleague, and maybe one lucky day “pinball” back to you and your company’s highly appealing and perfectly packaged offers.

Here’s a fair question: Why do marketers insist on using a formula from the late 19th century in today’s media-rich marketplace?

I think we all enjoy an easy to visualize framework that supports our desire to convert shoppers into customers. Dealing with the reality of a customer’s pinballing her way through her own individualized customer journey—rather than opting for a smooth glide down a provided slide—is the first big step to reconfiguring our thinking around the role of a company’s website.

If 96% of the visitors to your website are not ready to buy, what are they ready for? Are they ready to learn? Presumably, yes, that’s why they bothered to stop their clicking for a minute or two and consider your offers. Since a minute or two is about all that someone is willing to give at first, it’s important to put “content snacking” at the heart of your digital strategy.

Ask yourself this: Is your company’s website offering visitors what they actually want, versus what you think they want? We often assume that visitors to our website want more information on our products or services. When you run a pizza joint, it’s a good assumption. When you run a software as a service (SaaS) company, or a marketing services provider like Bonehook, the customer’s journey is much more layered, nuanced, and lengthy.

Approximately 96% of visitors that come to your website are not ready to buy. Click To Tweet

To move people toward your company’s larger offers, we suggest a steady routine of content snacking as a prelude to richer meals like white papers or case studies. There is a reason to deploy landing pages and A-B testing of multiple offers, but once again let’s confront the boogeyman in the room. We too often assume that people are ready for a deep dive into our materials, but that’s more wishful thinking in many cases.

A blog post that’s 800 words or less is a content snack. Social media updates are content snacks. When used successfully, a trail of snacks will lead people to want a complete meal from you. Thus, a successful website will be front-loaded with content snacks and back-loaded with content meals.

If you’d like Bonehook’s help assessing your website’s proper content balance, send us a note and we’ll arrange a Walk and Talk.

Client Showcase #25

Earlier this year Portland-based design consultancy, XPLANE, hired Bonehook to help strengthen the firm’s copy muscles.

We were flattered by the request and also impressed by it. Think how much better all marketing communications would be if more of us bothered to ask our peers for their explicit opinions and expert help?

XPLANE, of course, has a keen interest in creating clear and compelling content.

For the past 24 years, XPLANE has accelerated business transformation initiatives by visualizing, clarifying, and explaining complex technologies, strategies, processes, and solutions.

One way that XPLANE delivers insights is via their Xplanations—the visual assets that result from a series of workshop sessions led by the XPLANE team. The outputs are co-created infographics that XPLANE’s clients then use to share their workshop discoveries with other stakeholders.

Bonehook’s role right now is working directly with teams at XPLANE to provide feedback on developing work. We’re also starting to help describe and promote the company’s various service offerings.

Next month, we will be conducting a two-hour workshop for the XPLANE team. Working title: Fundamentals of Copywriting for Non-Copywriters.

We plan to co-create a custom output, or Xplanation, from that session and make it available for download here.

Start Building Bridges To Your Customer Communities

Companies turn to Bonehook for our expertise in strategic brand storytelling. What often begins as a simple request for a new website or print campaign evolves during the project, as we apply active listening and begin to hear the true requests. For instance, the client who asks for a new website may actually be seeking better-qualified leads (but not using those exact words).

It’s our job to hear what the real need is and offer the right solutions from there. Once we are able to listen and learn, we establish a framework for the partnership and set the groundwork for success. That’s when the brand invention, realignment, and amplification begins.

One of the challenges that we sometimes face serving small-to-medium sized businesses is the owners and managers prefer to jump right to the construction phase of what we do, skipping the planning and engineering phase altogether.

Clients in this category may see advertising and design shops as “the hired hands” they need to manipulate images and so on. These well-meaning but off-putting clients will try to write the headlines in the meeting, design the piece on the fly, and generally get in the way of the creation of the work we’ve been hired to create.

At Bonehook, our best clients value our thinking and our willingness to dig in and learn their businesses inside and out. That’s what real partnership consists of—knowledge gained through trust earned. What starts as a simple project soon flowers, and new projects are born during the discovery phase. Eventually, the client’s project-based thinking gets put on a shelf. In its place are quarterly planning, editorial calendars, weekly status calls, and the kind of proven routine that generates positive results.

There’s a good reason for applying this structural reality on the business relationship. Successful companies don’t drop in and out on their customers and prospects. To win consistently, they cultivate relationships. Think about your own best relationships and how much time and effort goes into establishing and maintaining them. The same is true for marketing communications. To keep people interested and actively sharing your company’s stories, the flow of material must be constant and compelling.

Companies generally don’t succeed by coming to us with piecemeal requests for prescribed communications pieces. They succeed by showing us their business problems and asking us to help them devise a plan to solve them.

Improve The Integrity of Your Data with Rova

I recently had the chance to speak to Joe Olsen, founder and CEO of Rova. I wore two hats during our chat—editor of AdPulp.com and founding partner here at Bonehook.

Rova is a new software platform for client service teams that promises to improve an agency’s ability to track their own pipeline, build out client dashboards and more.

Olsen is a strong advocate for a much more methodical approach to offering and tracking strategic insights. As a former agency principal, he knows first hand how an agency’s creative product can be commoditized in today’s marketplace, where production is often housed separately from strategy and creative visioning.

On the Rova blog, the firm describes 5 Mistakes Growing Agencies Make, including not working the sales pipeline in a profitable manner.

Clients aren’t looking for AOR relationships these days. Why be locked into something with such a varied marketplace of niche players and varying prices? Agencies, especially mid-size and smaller shops, are more and more reliant on a project-to-project existence.

…When agencies engage clients in project one-offs, no one wins. It’s impossible to track and transform meaningful data from a one-off project into deep, actionable insight. The kind of ongoing analytics it takes to ensure what’s working and what’s not to determine next steps. Sell your work and justify your agency’s value with this perspective so you can plan for growth.

Rova positions its software as a bridge to deeper client engagements, where the one-off projects are minimized and the ongoing retainer work for the client is emphasized. To achieve this end, agency owners need to prove that their recommendations are working, and Rova’s tool and training support this mission.

Bonehook has yet to adopt the product, but we may in the future. Olsen says that agencies (who don’t want their work to be commoditized) know they need to do something, but they’re not sure what to do. This we do know…sophisticated tools or not, when applied properly data analytics opens the door to not just more work, but better work. When any agency successfully draws a direct line from bold creative work to greater client profits, they’ve on the high road to newfound respect for themselves and for the way marketing is practiced today. To our mind, marketing is an applied art enriched by science.