Posted tagged ‘consulting’

The Changing Face of Marketing and What It Means to Your Company

September 6, 2009

The message has always been the brand and the brand has always been the message.

Marketing and marketing communications have traditionally been about what is conveyed to the public and to a company’s employees but the changing face of customer service may be altering the way we think of this important role.

As more and more small and mid-size companies shift into creating ways for customers to help themselves – see this article on Southwest Airlines, a not so small company – perhaps it is time to reconsider the role of marketing in the development of new programs and IT solutions.

The thinking here is that the customer experience is the brand, as much and if not more than the message. Large companies have known this for a long time. Small and mid-size companies need to recognize this.

Does their web portal reflect the important messages of the brand? Is the IT system that is being deployed throughout the company an extension of how the company wishes its employees to think of it?

One of my clients asked the other day if it’s time for a ne role, one that he called a “Customer Experience Officer.” In these tough economic times, I’m not so sure I would approach this opportunity by adding a new role.

Here’s what I would do…

(1) Insist that Marketing outline the key principles that all new programs and internal and external software solutions must incorporate. If these solutions did not reflect these tenets, they are not rolled out.

(2) Until these principles are second nature, marketing should be a member of all new programs (and I do mean all – not just software programs) and design teams.

(3) All graphical user interface developers on the IT side should have to learn and discuss how they are incorporating these principles into their solutions.

If you share this belief that people are attracted to your brand and what it represents, is there really any other choice?

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How Buyers Buy Professional Services

January 8, 2009

The editors of RainToday.com, an excellent site for those who market and sell professional services, recently released their 2009 benchmark study on how clients buy professional services. In their nine minute podcast, they talked about the top 5 ways buyers find their professional service providers.

The research involved asking 200 buyers of professional services (law, accounting, consulting, technology, training, among a whole range of services). The sizes of the buying firms were small to a billion dollars in revenue. The survey identified 27 different methods by which buyers choose professional services.

Here are the top five:

(1)   Referrals from colleagues (79% of respondents)

(2)   Referrals from other service providers (75%)

(3)   Personal recognition or awareness of the buyer / brand / reputation (73%)

(4)   In person seminars (66%)

(5)   Presentation at a conference

Here’s what the findings mean to me.

(1)   Your own client base is your greatest source of leads. It tells me that I’d better have the kind of support that keeps them happy and I’d better find opportunities to keep talking with them.

(2)   People in the industry talk. Sounds like it would be prudent to look after our professional relationships

(3)   Having a presence is important and being known is very important. This means that speaking engagements, writing articles and sharing and helping others is critical toward developing a prominent brand.

If you’d like some unique ideas about seminars, drop me a note at david_blumenthal@msn.com and we’ll set aside some time to talk about some unusual and really effective seminar development approaches taht will generate immediate opportunities.

Why doesn’t every company have a strategy?

August 15, 2008

Over the course of my career, I’ve had the honor of providing strategic guidance to small companies as well as to many of the more recognized corporations in the United States. In many cases, the smaller companies (less than $100 million in sales) do not have a formalized written strategy.

Logically speaking, it would seem that every organization would want to have a strategy and a tactical plan defined and shared throughout the organization. Truth is though, many middle market firms don’t, and in many larger firms, if a strategy is in place, it is not shared.

The first question to ask then is why don’t all organizations prepare a strategic plan?

The second is why isn’t leadership comfortable with delivering and sharing their strategic and tactical plans with their own people?

I’ve concluded that the primary reason that many companies do not create a strategic plan is not because leadership does not want to have this map but rather it is not versed in how to create one. In short, leadership would create a strategy if it could – it just may not know how.

This is because most companies evolve from a good idea executed and promoted effectively at the right time and place. As entrepreneurs, we are not taught about alignment between strategies and tactical plans or how to build a tactical plan that supports a strategy.

Instead, we build something or offer a service for a particular client. It is received well and we think someone else in a same or in a related industry might value it as well. More often than not, that is how a new business is born.

There isn’t a formal discussion about trends in the industry, where competition fits, what the compensation plan should reward or how the company should react to various scenarios or changes in the business environment. It is simply about doing something well and then adding another feature or tweaking the existing product or service – if another client wants a slightly different kind of solution.

As to why strategies aren’t shared even when they are created, I think that there are a lot of reasons for that.

To begin, I think every leader relies on his or her own credibility to effectively lead. If a strategy proves to be ineffective – and sometimes the strategy can be correct but the wrong people are in place to implement it – the leader feels that it diminishes his or her stature and therefore the capability to lead. (Surprisingly, even if the strategy does not “work” out of the box, having one improves the leader’s stature – more on that in my next post.)

In some cases, there is a paralyzing fear, that someone will share the strategy with a competitor. That’s a real concern but not only can that risk be mitigated,  it is also a risk that must be taken.

In either case, however, the leaders of these organizations are not fulfilling one of their primary responsibilities: developing the next generation of leaders. They are, therefore, putting their companies at risk.

Questions to Ponder:

  1. Why do you think some companies don’t have a formal written strategy, and for those that do have one and don’t share it with their employees, why do you think that is so?
  2. How would you address those concerns?

I think therefore I…strategize?

August 14, 2008

It took me a very long time to have the courage to begin this blog. I’ve received a lot of encouragement from friends and family and especially my 15 year old son, Eli (he has a blog too). I’ve also tried to learn how to write in a way that I hope will inspire others as I have been inspired by the people in my life.

The “tipping point” for starting to write this blog was reading an excellent book titled “Naked Conversations” by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel. They helped me to understand the whys and the hows of blogging and by the time I was done reading much of it, I decided it was worth the effort to <gulp> take the plunge.

I hope neither of us regret this 🙂

So here’s why I’m doing this.

The single most important thing that I’ve learned over the last 25 years of consulting (see About page) is that companies and organizations would do a lot better and make a much more meaningful contribution to society if they took the time or learned to answer four questions:

1. Who are we?

2. What are we?

3. What do we want to be?

4. What can stop us from getting there?

These questions are the core questions not only of creating any strategy but of being successful and, I think, happy.

I’m hoping that I can contribute to a dialogue that gives people a way to get at the essence of these questions and in doing so, help make a difference…because if companies get better at answering these questions, there should be better and more rewarding jobs, more growing communities and generally speaking, a better and happier world.

A pretty bold and lofty goal, huh? I think so too but I also think that the rewards justify the risk and investment of having this conversation.

Anyway, here’s my plan.

I’m planning to write — pretty regularly. I’m planning to present methods that I have found to be useful. I also want you to get to know the people in my life who, by virtue of their passion or some element of their character , teach me every single day a valuable insight that I try to make core to what I do and how I personally contribute. Lastly, from time to time I expect I’ll take a left turn and apply strategy to what is going on around us such as the management principles that made it necessary for the Packers to move Brett Favre. (yup, at a certain point they really had no choice.)

So that’s what I am signing up for.

And here’s what will be asked of you. I’m hoping that you’ll teach, challenge and make me smarter. I can promise you that I’m a pretty good listener and I catch on quick. Together I hope we’ll make one plus one equal at least three.

More tomorrow…and so the journey begins.


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