Archive for May, 2009

Lucky me! I’m a Customer Detective

May 31, 2009

I’m about to go visit Texas where I will spend time with customers and prospects of my new employer. Now that I work for a company that caters to small businesses and non-profits I am given opportunities to interact with customers or prospects almost every day.

Take yesterday for example. It was a Saturday, and here in my hometown I went to the local YMCA to exercise, went to my hair salon, the local hardware store and out to a small Mexican restaurant for dinner. Every one of these establishments is or could be a customer of ours.

What this means is I am constantly thinking of ways small businesses can benefit from using our solutions. I’m constantly asking them questions. I’m always trying to understand what is on their mind from a business perspective, even if it has nothing to do with the services we offer them today. It’s fascinating. I feel like a detective out solving the latest small business marketing mystery. I love it!

It brings me to the point of this post. If you are a marketing professional in a high tech or low tech company. If you’re a person responsible for designing, building or marketing solutions the best way you can spend your time is with customers. Go see them. Invite them to come see you. Meet up with them at conferences. Do it casually or do it formally. But above all, make sure you do it.

More than once in my career I can remember joining a new team and asking the existing folk when was the last time they talked with customers. Or I would ask how, when and where they talked with customers. If I was greeted with a blank stare or a roll of the eyes I knew I was in for a challenge. There are many marketers who do not have regular interaction with customers. And if you don’t have this regular interaction you’re never going to be as good at your job as you could be or as you may want to be.

You may be reading this with a smug look on your face, thinking, “we conduct research studies from time to time so I rely on those to understand our customers.” I argue that research reports while necessary are not sufficient.

You need to be able to go out where the customers live. Where they work every day. Where they service their customers and where they are faced with their toughest challenges and opportunities. And you need to watch them, talk with them and take it all in. Because this is where you will find the golden nuggets. This is where you will find the small, subtle clues that will help you solve the mystery.

I feel fortunate to be working for a company focused on small businesses. I’m interacting with our customers and potential customers every day. Lucky me!

Know Your Audience and Your WIIFY

May 24, 2009

Today I am reflecting back on a tried and true lesson I’ve learned through the years. One that is important to any person in a marketing role within any size company, big or small.

When you are selling an idea to an audience, know who’s out there. Know who your audience is. Know what they are thinking, and where they are coming from.

Why is this critical? Because it is critical when preparing an important pitch or presentation that you must focus on a WIIFY – What’s in it for you (the audience.) I learned this lesson from a book that I have relied on time and time again in my career – titled Presenting to Win and written by Jerry Weissman.

By understanding your WIIFY, and understanding where your audience is when they enter the room (Point A), and understanding where you want them to be at the end of your pitch (Point B) you can create and deliver an outstanding presentation.

A few important take-aways from this book:

  • Only include topics in your presentation that are mandatory to get your audience to Point B. For example, there are times when you’ve done a lot of background work to prepare for your presentation or recommendation. While this work was critical to you (and sometimes painful and sometimes veryyyyy time consuming), the details of this work may not need to be included in your actual report-out or presentation.
  • To get the audience to act, the motivation must be from their perspective – not yours (the presenter).
  • Continously bring your audience back to the WIIFY by using WIIFY triggers such as “why am I telling you this” and “this is important to you because”.
  • Grab them from the first slide and the first words out of your mouth.  Use a question, a fact, an anecdote, a famous quote or whatever else can capture their attention and get them focused on moving from Point A to Point B.
  • Schedule time to practice.  Even if it’s a presentation to be used internally within your company, plan time to practice your pitch, what you will say on each slide, which WIIFY triggers you will use, etc.

Know your audience. Know what’s in it for them. And stay laser focused on moving them from Point A to Point B. Happy presenting!

Having Fun Again

May 13, 2009

I’ve started a new job and have gotten busier than a cowboy at a rodeo. I promise more “No Random Acts” posts before too long.

In the meantime, one thing is for sure. It feels good to laugh while at work again. I left a company that had a heap of troubles and have joined a healthy, growing company with nice, welcoming and funny people. Just like that cowboy, I’m back in the saddle!