Your best brand storyteller? Ask the expert!

Your business might be telling an exciting, captivating and helpful story… but is the right person telling it?

 

Successful companies already know that people buy people.  In my experience, professional buyers seeking product and service solutions will look at the people providing it and make subjective decisions based on how assured they are by the specialism and specialist knowledge they exhibit.

Specialist knowledge comes from an in-depth understanding only built up from previous experience of facing up to and conquering similar challenges.

So, thinking about how businesses marketers brand their companies in a bid to commercialise their offering, isn’t it a good idea to actually put that brand offer in the hands of the people who have created it? The people who are best placed to build strong credibility because of their inherent capability?

There is a commercial benefit to going down this route too; experts with highly prized knowledge can demonstrate value and attract a potential premium.

USE YOUR expert

But who is the real expert in your business? Who’s expertise brings in the money?

Many company owners know where the revenue sits, and who creates the products and services that are successfully monetised. Yet many companies keep these people at arm’s length from customers and clients.

I wonder why.

  • Is it because they are somehow not competent or not credible with customers?
  • Is it that we don’t trust them to stick to the script? 
  • Is it that we would rather they focus on the solutions despite the fact those solutions are best informed by direct customer feedback?

The reality is that the model most companies use to manage customer relationships is broken and the experience we are delivering is actually risking the relationship long term.

Fine margins

Long term success in the modern consultative sell means understanding that many B2B buying decisions often come down to fine margins. Whilst, the primary driver may well be for products that deliver improvement, save time, reduce waste, use sustainable materials and more, the value add and interpersonal chemistry matter.

There has been a strong track record of companies using key people in their marketing (as heroes) and this, depending on the type of company you are, can be a real winner. Prominent examples in the UK include Boeing, Halifax and B&Q.  

A little bit more contact with the ‘brains’ of your operation is increasingly being seen as a more viable option to to the usual Chinese walls created by armies of call centre workers, field sales representatives, account handlers and other people designed to help traffic process.

Replace selling with serving

My advice: Be daring and place the experts in your business in a position to engage in customer dialogue. Adopt a model where you tap into their expertise and begin to demonstrate the value you profess to bring by replacing selling with serving.

And, for your next marketing campaign, regardless of whether you are setting acquisition, retention or engagement KPIs, think about what is going to resonate most with the audience you’re targeting.

Think about telling stories. Think about having your people who do amazing things day in day out, bring that story to life – and in doing so, begin to place them right at the heart of the narrative.

**Also, check out this post on watering holes and establishing where your customers hang out.**

Image: Ollie Heath

 

 

Thirty years experience

Today’s Dilbert strip got me thinking.

Much is made in business of the need for experience. Experience defines us, provides us with credibility and a customer base prepared to engage with, and even recommend, us.

But when is too much experience actually counter productive? When does too much time spent working in the niche negatively affect our ability to diversify and maintain business flexibility and agility? At what point does doing the same thing the same way begin to stifle creativity?

Only you can really know. If you haven’t wrestled with this thought and have failed to land or have lost contracts, maybe its time you did. The world has changed. Have you?

Tinker. Tailor. Expert. Guru.

Consultant, specialist, pundit, commentator, critic, connoisseur, authority, counsel, mentor – the list goes on and on. The list of self awarded titles that we sometimes apply to ourselves to give what we do credibility and meaning.

Yet these titles can often have the opposite and turn off potential customers.

Think about it. When was the last time you took a self titled consultant or guru really seriously.

There is a real backlash to this right now in the marketing sector and especially in the social media sector. How can anyone truly claim to be an expert when the landscape is changing and with dozens of new ideas emerging around the world daily?

Better to let your work, your testimonials, and therein, your reputation speak for itself. People buy experience, credibility and assurance – not gimmicky monikers. In time, based on sustained, committed delivery, they will decide if you deserve to be a called a guru.

Image courtesy of Shannon Burns

Improving marketing perception in your boardroom

Helen Edwards wrote a fantastic piece in Marketing recently (28th July) musing on how Peter Fincham took the top marketing role at ITV despite having no marketing qualifications or discernible experience from his time in broadcasting.

The fact he will now be responsible for all marketing and research budgets at ITV demonstrates the continued lack of regard given to marketing in Britain’s boardrooms. Helen pointedly argues that the same would not be the case if they were looking to recruit senior commissioners, finance directors or operations directors.

As a qualified CIM member with fifteen years experience from both sides of the client and agency divide, and a recently invested Chartered Marketer, I am frustrated when these situations arise, but they don’t surprise me.

In the real world, I come into contact daily with businesses where the owner, managing director or sales director hold the marketing reins. Sadly, this is often to the detriment of creativity, high impact (even daring) campaigns and frequently without the experience to properly brief and plan integrated marketing campaigns effectively.

This jeopardises the success of the client-agency relationships because at the core is a fundamental lack of regard for effective marketing.

So what has caused this and how can we fix it on the ground?

The CIM has a role to play but Chartered Marketer status will take a generation or longer. But will the Institutes’s CPD program ever truly achieve a similar status to those operating in the fields of medicine, accountancy or engineering?

Companies have a role. Any in-house marketing roles should demand experience and CIM related qualifications. Companies miss out in the long term when they promote the unqualified from other departments. In b2b companies, there is often a career path that starts in the field and progresses internally marketing management. The problem with this lies in the fundamental differences in the salesperson – living in the moment, securing the sale, where as marketers arguably build longer term relationships and see the bigger picture from a customer, product, market and competitor viewpoint. Controversial but, I think, accurate.

Individuals have a role, especially the graduates and students of this generation. How we manage our brand management teams and agencies, the type of consultancy we outsource, and the manner in which we plan, implement and evaluate our marketing campaigns, will determine how seriously marketing is taken in the short and long term.

In her article, Helen poses a number of questions that might come up in an interview for a top marketing job and encourages the long list of editors, salespeople, IT consultants, HR and accountancy professionals who might fancy a go in marketing not to.

Few companies have marketing representation in the boardroom, it is our responsibility to work to higher standards and secure our seat.

Image www.cogentis.com/au