Marketing

Want to really know your customers? Just listen.

It’s not often someone who isn’t family, a friend or a postman knocks on our door. On this occasion it was the local representative of the Green Party. In the run up to this years General Election he wanted to know how I felt about local issues, the council and so forth. Now, this doesn’t happen very often, I can count on three fingers the number of times a member of a political party has knocked on our door in the 7 years I’ve lived in Brighton. To be honest, he put me on the spot. I haven’t really given a great deal of thought to the political climate of late, let alone local government issues. Nevertheless, here was someone from a major political party on my doorstep interested in what I have got say. Some quick thinking provided him with some feedback on refuse, recycling, free schools and rail fares for commuters. I then wished him luck and he moved on to the next house. 

Two weeks later I received a letter from Caroline Lucas MP addressing each of the issues I’d raised. I was, and am impressed. Someone actually listened. A couple of friends quipped how its probably a template, and it could be. It might be that a lot of people and potential voters in my area raised the same issues. But that doesn’t concern me. It was written to me addressing issues I’d raised. And from what I can tell it’s a genuine, hand-written signature. Template or not, effort went into compiling the letter, signing it off and posting it. And that’s what matters. That’s what makes a difference. 
 
The best bit was that this party member wasn’t there to sell me The Green Party, he was there to listen. Only by listening can he understand the issues. Only by listening can he begin to learn what makes his voting audience click. I don’t expect him to have the answers there and then. And to be honest I wasnt even expecting a response. But I do expect him to listen. 
 
As marketers, what can we learn from this?
 
1. Listen more, sell less. 
By listening you are in part selling. You’re selling a human quality that too often gets overlooked. As Stephen Covey pointed out “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” So as marketers, we can learn a lot by simply shutting up and hearing what our customer has to say. And I do mean that in the literal sense. 
 
2. Make listening part of your marketing programme
As modern marketers we are spoilt for choice.  Hashtags and keywords can tell us lot about what’s being said online and the sentiment thereof towards a brand or service. Survey tools like Survey Monkey mean that we can execute surveys in minutes and get responses in hours.
However, I don’t think there is a genuine substitute to replace face to face time with customers. There are many ways to do this from the relatively easy phone call and meet up at a mutually beneficial conference to the more-challenging customer days and advisory boards. In my experience the activities that have included a face to face discussion have been the most rewarding.  You can even add it into your annual KPI’s to meet a customer every three months by joining a sales meeting or simply picking up the phone for a check in.
 
3. Take Action
You’ve listened. Now you need to digest and action, where applicable. For example, to support a Customer Advisory Board programme, you can create an internal support team comprising of key functional heads who are responsible for the investigation, resolution and delivery of the various outputs that would be generated from the CAB. You can then communicate progress on a quarterly basis with the members of the CAB via a conference call and a follow up newsletter.  
 
A clue in understanding the power of listening is that you have two ears and one mouth. Heed that ratio. As B2B marketers we’ve never had it better but we still have many things to learn and improve on. If a political party can get it right, then so can we.
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Things I love

Things I loved in 2014.

A simple list of some of the things I enjoyed in 2014:

Albums

If i had to pick a top 5 is would most probably be these:

Jane Weaver – The Silver Globe
Hyde and Beast – Keep Moving
Beck – Morning Phase
Teleman – Breakfast
The Dowling Poole – Bleak Strategies

Honourable mentions to: Burial, Angel Olsen, Sharron Van Etten, Clark, Francois & the Atlas Mountains and Mogwai

Gigs

Shamefully, I only got to one. Kurt Vile in Brighton. Which was excellent, if a little stripped back. I did get tickets to two other gigs. However, Francois and the Atlas Mountains got cancelled and we clean forgot about Teleman (still kicking myself about this).

Movies

With out doubt Interstellar is my film of 2014. I simply loved it. The driving away scene is one of the best pieces of cinema I’ve seen for a long while. Wonderful.

Grand Budapest Hotel, Boyhood, Guardians  of the Galaxy, Pride and Paddington are the honourable mentions. I should also add Godzilla, purely for the Halo Skydive scene.

Podcasts

Serial is the podcast of 2014. A factual whodunnit detective story. The Kermode/Mayo Wittertainment podacst was still excellent in 2014 and it’s the first podcast I listen to each week. Honorourable mentions should also go to Six Pixels of Separation, Marketing over Coffee and a relative newcomer, to me at least, Slate’s Working.

Longform articles

I have a huge backlog on my Kindle. However, the three listed below are the ones that immediately spring to mind:

Longform have compiled their best of 2014 list if you want more of the same.

Books.

I targeted myself with reading 24 books in 2014. I managed 14. None of which were published in 2014. However, I really enjoyed The Black Cloud by Fred Hoyle, Predatory Thinking by Dave Trott and Galveston by Nick Pizzolatto was a great accompaniment to True Detective.

Gadgets

Sonos: It’s everything I expected it would be. The only real drawback is that I think the Sonos contoller app on both iPhone and Android is very poor. No Spotify Radio? C’mon.

Gramofon: my first kickstarter. It’s a great piece of kit. Whilst it’s now largely obsolete thanks to Sonos, it’s smaller than the Sonos which means it will travel well and I suspect it will accompany us on holidays.

Chromecast: Makes your TV smart. Makes your smart TV even smarter. And the kids can use it. Love it.

Grid-it: Phones, pens, chargers, security keys and even chewing gum all held in place by interwoven elastic straps. It’s the simple things that make the difference.

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iloveb2b
Marketing, Things I love

Why I Love B2B Marketing.

I fell into B2B marketing. It was the Video Game Retailer or the B2B ISP. The video game retailer went bust 3 months later. Was I lucky? Perhaps. Did I achieve what I set out to do when I graduated? Yes and No. Yes, I got my first marketing job, proper. No, in so much as I didn’t set out to get in to B2B marketing. Marketing, yes. B2C, almost certainly. B2B marketing, unlikely.

That said, I have no regrets. My career in B2B has had its ups and downs. But it has also given me a wealth of opportunities and experiences and for that I will always be grateful. And that, in part, is why I love B2B marketing. B2B marketing has had a rough time. Throughout my career its always been the slightly misunderstood sibling of B2C. And yet, I continue to work with great people in the space. Great marketers, agencies and partners who are as passionate about the 18-24 month sales cycles as I am. We can see the opportunities in building a relationship and nurturing leads, especially in the days before automation.

And it is the relationship. It’s creating an emotional connection with people. People who have everyday challenges. Who have targets and KPIs. People who make considered purchases, behave rationally. They explore, research, display enormous levels of patience. Seek proof. People who want to know what success looks like in their terms. But also where it will take their department, division, region. Will ask “so, what?” so often, you are always on your toes, thinking, adjusting, amending, learning.

And when that contract is signed. When the direct mail, email, event sponsorship, Customer Advisory Boards, hospitality, meet-ups, case studies and videos have all chipped away at the DMU. When you have reinforced why you have the reliable and innovative service they need. And when you have convinced the higher-ups, the C-suite, that you are the strategic partner, a trusted advisor, that is why I love B2B marketing.

At the end of the day, we are talking to people, other human beings, not businesses in glass buildings. B2B marketing has come a long was since I started out 16 years ago. We can do as much and perhaps a little bit more than our B2C counterparts. Look at what caterpiller, Volvo, Marketo, Thunderhead, Xuber, CBRE to name but a few have achieved and are doing in this discipline. That’s why I love B2B marketing.

#iloveb2b
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Marketing, Things I love

My favourite TED talks

I was reading an article the other day about how to stand out in business and in your workplace, a kind of manifesto on being remarkable. One of the many suggested ways was to not reference TED talks. The justification was that anyone can do it, it’s not clever and in many ways it’s myopic. I didn’t agree with much of the article but that comment stuck. Primarily because I wholeheartedly disagreed with it.

It got me thinking about TED. It’s a much discussed topic. It’s also one of the ultimate pieces of content marketing. And ley’s face despite what that blog post said, It’s a great way of finding common ground with people you know and don’t know as it did with me when meeting new colleagues at the end of last year. There was an immediate common ground and in a way a common purpose. We want to learn more, know more, investigate more, sate our curious minds. Ideas Worth Spreading.

There are around 2000 of these talks. I’ve not watched all of them (obviously), however, those that I’ve listed below are the ones that immediately came to mind. And are the ones that I’ve shared with friends, family and colleagues.

Simon Sinek – Start With Why
He recently talked about being bored of delivering this talk, which is both a shame and unsurprising. Thankfully it’s been recorded for posterity.

Ken Robinson – Are schools killing creativity?
I first watched this many years ago, and I suspect it was probably the first TED talk I watched and the first time I became aware of TED. Since then I’ve become a Governor at a local school, and I’ve revisited this talk several times. However, the message isn’t just about the education system, it also applies to parenting and to business: Are the systems we have in place the most appropriate for nurturing creativity in the modern world?

Jason Fried – Why work doesn’t happen at work.
I mentioned this talk in a previous post and with good reason. Jason talks a lot of sense.

Rodney Mullen – Pop an ollie and innovate
Rodney Mullen is one of my sporting heroes. Skateboarding was my first real passion. As an 8 year old in a leafy English commuter town, skate videos (yep, VHS) from the States where our escape and inspiration. Rodney talks about creating content through context. Essentially, there’s an obstacle, what can I do with this board to overcome or make the most of the situation. Test, fail, learn and adapt.

Photo Credit: Gisela Giardino via flickr

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Marketing

B2B Barometer 2014 – key takeaways.

Having worked in B2B for the last 16 years, I’m proud that B2B marketing is growing in reputation. From the the work being done by CBRE (architecture) on instagram to the more widely recognised output from SaaS vendors such as Adobe and Marketo there has been a seismic shift in creativity and investment in B2B marketing. So it was with interest that I read the 2014 B2B barometer from the IDM. You can download your copy here

Key takeaways:

1. 31% of respondents have a budget of 1% or less than turnover. That’s a lot! I guess my first impression is clearly b2b marketing is not at the top table. I’d love to see an additional data set that correlates budget with industry, would it all be SaaS vendors and professional services in that top quartile?

2. It was unsurprising to see 34% of b2b marketers identifying content as a major trend. And it is, however, I think we shouldn’t lose sight that whilst content is very much the foundation on which us marketers generate leads, it’s also a means to end. I was also surprised to see lead nurturing much further down the list, especially given the role marketing content plays in the nurturing cycle.

3. 30% of respondents identified a lack of resources as a major challenge. Again I’d like to see this data overlaid with budget allocation.

What were your takeaways?

Photo Credit: BROGGERS via Compfight cc

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Craft Beer, Things I love

The Golden Pints 2013

My first go at summing up my 2013 in beer:Image

Best UK cask beer: Oakham 20 years. The tap takeover at Craft Beer Co Brighton was great. 
 
Best UK keg beer: Kernal 4C or the increasingly go to Chiron by Thornbridge. 
 
Best UK bottles or Canned Beer: Oakham Citra
 
Best Overseas bottled or canned beer: Either Racer 5 by Bear Republic or Nebuchadnezzar by Omnipolo
 
Best collaboration brew: Thornygoat was the only one that stands out. 
 
Best Overall beer: Best by Marble Beers. I didn’t have it too often but it always hit the mark and completely surprised me about how good it was. 
 
Best branding pumpclip or label: Marble have the best pumpclips, simple and clean. Partizan have the best labels, illustrated by Alec Doherty 
 
Best UK Brewery: Kernel, for being so consistent
 
Best overseas brewery: Pass
 
Pub/Bar of the year: Craft Beer Co, Brighton (It’s my local)
 
Best New Pub/beer opening: No idea
 
Best city for beer in the UK: No idea
 
Beer festival of the year: didn’t get to one
 
Supermarket of the year: Waitrose. Always has Thornbridge Jaipur and should get points for introducing Westmalle Dubbel earlier this year. 
 
Best beer book or magazine: Craft Beer World by Mark Dredge
 
Best Beer Blog: I don’t read enough of them to be honest.
 
Best beer app: Untappd
 
Best brewery website/social media: Not a brewery, however I really like what Beerbods are doing through twitter.

 

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Things I love

Things I loved in July & August 2013

Why I’m hiring graduates with thirds by Rory Sutherland

How not to be alone via The New York Times

Dick’s Sporting Goods by Derek Cianfrance

Beer vs Coffee: Which drink makes you more creative? by Mikael Cho

The Pixar Theory by Jon Negroni

Why Music discovery services fail for me by Darren Hemmings

How to read faster: Bill Cosby’s three proven strategies 

This is how your brain becomes addicted to caffeine

Let there be tears by Melissa Cole

Finding this great list of Aeropress recipes methods and recipes.

The future of link building by Will Critchlow

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