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Monday, April 26, 2010

Where will your next great marketing idea come from?

by Matt Heinz

Where will your next great marketing idea come from?Here's an idea.

Pick 5-8 people in your organization who are not in sales or marketing. Invite them to a one-hour meeting later this week, and at the meeting spend 15 minutes each brainstorming on the four questions below:

  1. How will you identify and empower your most loyal customers to tell your story, increase positive word-of-mouth and general referrals?

  2. What can employees do to evangelize your brand, and attract both new customers and potential new employees, on and off work hours?

  3. How could you identify, engage and participate in customer communities to build value, trust, credibility and consideration/intent towards your brand?

  4. What simple things can you do to inspire greater retention, renewals or frequency with current customers (without spending additional money)?

I bet you'll be pleasantly surprised how creative, innovative and useful their ideas and that time will be.

Bonus points if you hand them a copy of the questions afterward, give them a day or two to think more about it, then reconvene the group for a follow-up session to discuss additional ideas.


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Matt HeinzMatt Heinz is principal at Heinz Marketing, a sales & marketing consulting firm helping businesses increase customers and revenue. Contact Matt at matt@heinzmarketing.com or visit www.heinzmarketing.com.

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Eight Mistakes to Avoid with Your Customer Loyalty Program

by Matt Heinz

Eight Mistakes to Avoid with Your Customer Loyalty ProgramLet's say you're building a loyalty incentives program for your product. Everybody has great ideas about what will motivate the desired customer behavior, outcome and lifetime value.

You're clearly not the first company to build such a program. What if you could read through a bunch of post-launch post-mortem reports from their own experiences? What if you could understand which components of your current plan should be scrapped, reversed or modified before they see the light of day?

I unfortunately do not have this magical stack of reports, but I do hear many of the same things over and over as marketers move to "V2" of their loyalty programs. Here are eight statements I hear most often.


1. We should have focused on the customer's priorities, not just our own.

This may seem like a straightforward concept, but it's not how most loyalty programs are built. Loyalty programs, by their nature, are intended to drive activity that has been pre-determined to drive value for the company. Shop here more often, increase your order size, refer your friends so we don't have to spend more marketing dollars. All great ideas. Problem is, many loyalty programs are built such that they so directly and transparently focus on these end-goals, that there's little value or actual incentive built in for the customer.

Building your loyalty strategy needs to be a two-step process. First, by all means determine your objectives. Know the business outcome you expect to create. But then, translate that into something customer-centric. Find the ties between your business objectives and your customer's priorities. Those direct ties - where there's little to no friction between what both parties want - is likely the foundation of how your loyalty program will grow and thrive.


2. We made it too complicated.

Collect points, bundle them together, mail them in, then win a prize. Thanks for playing. Refer us to your colleagues, answer three trivia questions, then come back next week and answer three more. Then you're entered in our drawing.

OK, not every loyalty program is that complicated. But think about the programs you like the best. They don't require a lot of work. They don't require math. You do what you've been doing, and things happen. Buy an airline ticket, and you get miles. Buy enough tickets, and you get a free flight. Shop at my grocery store all the time, and we'll give you lower prices on certain items.

Problems with loyalty program complications arise when 1) you make the customer think too much, 2) you add too many steps to collect the motivation, or 3) you require either math or memory. Don't do these things. Make it simple, at least at first.


3. When we stopped marketing, the program stopped working.

If you have to keep asking your customers to participate, then your loyalty program 1) isn't really resonating, and 2) isn't sustainable. If it doesn't eventually create a habit - where customers know it exists, want it, and naturally take the right steps to get it on their own - then it's either too complicated or not tied to an important-enough customer interest.

When you launch a new loyalty program, of course it's going to need its own stand-alone marketing campaign to build awareness and participation. But eventually, ongoing marketing of the program to existing customers should happen less frequently, less interruptively, and largely via existing communication channels.

If as you build your new loyalty program, this end-goal doesn't feel achievable, keep thinking.


4. We didn't need to spend as much money to get the same behavior.

Your customers are money-driven, all of them. They want more of it, they want to spend less of it, they want products & services that will help them get and save more of it. They also don't mind free stuff, so if you want to drive behavior, you can 1) give them money, 2) save them money or 3) give them something cool for free.

Or, you could put a star next to their name on your Web site. You could make their membership card a different color. You could let them into the store an hour early. You could give them a special phone number that puts them at the front of the call queue.

Your customers are motivated by money, but not just money. They also want to feel special, have special privileges, demonstrate they're different or better than their peers or colleagues. The better you understand your customer and what ultimately motivates them, the more things beyond money you'll realize can be powerful drivers of behavior. And many of those cost next to nothing.


5. Our best customers just wanted to be recognized.

This is a subset of comments above, but an important one. Recognition, differentiation and ego are powerful motivators. They work with business and consumer audiences alike. They are likely motivating behavior with your product independent of any existing or non-existing loyalty program.

And recognition can come cheap. A club that's little more than a name. A personal letter from the CEO or store manager. A hand-written thank you card. Their name written on the wall. Cheap but effective.


6. It was too much work.

Ambitious new programs often require new tools, extra bandwidth, and more people thinking about and acting upon the program to make it work. If this work is required of existing people, existing systems and existing budgets without adding additional time or resources to execute, you're doomed to failure (or at least frustration from the get-go).

As you've already seen from examples listed above, great loyalty programs don't need to be complicated. They don't need to require significant new infrastructure, policies or procedures to make them work. And if they do need new resources, the program had better be important enough and cross-functionally supported well enough to get the support it needs to succeed.


7. We should have tested it before the full roll-out.

Even if you follow the advice above and more, you'll still not get it right. You'll still find ways to improve. Better to know that with a subset of customers before those mistakes are made with your entire base.

Pick a handful of customers for a test group. Not your most vocal, not your most favorite. Try to find a cross-section, or a segment that's naturally unbiased (i.e. a particular store, or all customers in a particular city or state). Don't just tell them about the program, but try and actually roll it out. Feedback you get in a focus group or survey will be different from what they tell you when they're faced with what you're actually requiring them to do.


8. We didn't involve others throughout the organization.

It's fine if the marketing team plans and spearheads the launch of your loyalty program. But execution should be a cross-functional effort. Every customer-facing team and individual should know about it and help you promote it. Teams and individuals beyond marketing could themselves have incentives for how well they get customers involved.

Marketing today can't be contained to the marketing team. Every member of your organization is helping to market your product, service, brand and company. The customer-facing teams do it directly. But your developers build product that impacts how your customers feel about you. Your finance team makes decisions that impact how well you can support them.

Each one of these groups will play a role in making your loyalty program successful. And if it truly drives the right behavior and business results, they'll be proud and motivated to continue their support & participation.


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Matt HeinzMatt Heinz is principal at Heinz Marketing, a sales & marketing consulting firm helping businesses increase customers and revenue. Contact Matt at matt@heinzmarketing.com or visit www.heinzmarketing.com.

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Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Turning Customers into Ambassadors

by Matt Heinz

Turning Customers into AmbassadorsGuess what? You already know how, because you're already doing it.

More specifically, your best customers are already doing it. You may not know it, you may not know exactly who's doing it, and you may not know how they're doing it or how they got that way. But it's happening.

Some of your customers went from prospects to new customers to happy customers to ambassadors. Your job is to find out how and why, and establish that path for more customers moving forward.

In other words, don't artificially engineer a path to make customers happy. Don't create an incentive program or a loyalty program or other customer success initiatives out of the air. Find out what's occurring naturally, what's already driving higher loyalty and ambassadorship among your customers, and build processes to make it happen more often.

The first step is to segment your ambassadors from your "average" customer. Then ask the following questions:
  • What was their path to becoming a brand ambassador? How did they get there?

  • Who's on that path today, and where did it start? What were the important milestones?

  • Are there shortcuts or catalysts on that path? Are there experiences, results, features or otherwise that accelerate the path to advocates?

  • Who helped those customers along the way? Who were their mentors and/or guides? Who (besides you, besides your company) can help show them the way?

  • What are those ambassadors doing to share their passion with others? With either other customers or prospective customers?

Many of these questions you can answer by looking at past behavior and performance. Dig into your customer database and analytics, and find out what your ambassadors have in common.

You will find ambassadorship accelerants that will surprise you. That are easy to replicate. That cost next to nothing.

This analysis can take some time, but it's worth it. In the meantime, do the following:
  • Underpromise and overdeliver.
  • Respond. Quickly. Personally.
  • Be accessible.
  • Be human.
  • Make things simpler.
  • Focus on results.

These things always work. And notice most of them are about service, not product. Even in a product-oriented business, service can mean everything. And much of what will work is faster, easier and cheaper to make happen than you may realize.


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Matt HeinzMatt Heinz is principal at Heinz Marketing, a sales & marketing consulting firm helping businesses increase customers and revenue. Contact Matt at matt@heinzmarketing.com or visit www.heinzmarketing.com.

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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Customer Loyalty is Your Ultimate Competitive Advantage

by Matt Heinz

Customer Loyalty is Your Ultimate Competitive AdvantageIt's not a secret that loyal customers are good for an organization or brand. You don't see too many executives saying they don't want more of them. But what's interesting to me is how few companies truly acknowledge, take care of and leverage those loyal customers in a way that measurably accelerates market share and recurring revenue while mitigating competitive risk and reducing sales & marketing costs.

New customer sales & marketing? - At most companies that means a meaningful lead generation budget, a full sales team, lots of support and attention.

Existing customers? - A newsletter, maybe some training, and an 800-number if they have questions.

This is a broad generalization, but you get the point (and you've seen it, both at companies you work with and for, as well as directly as a customer of others).

How are your current customers perhaps your most valuable competitive edge?
  • Treat them right - deliver a fantastic product or service - and you can count on their business for life

  • Be remarkable, and they'll tell their friends and colleagues about you as well

  • Earn their trust, and they'll tell you exactly what they're seeing in the market - your competitors, new innovations, etc.

  • Engage them regularly, and they'll tell you when you're wrong, when you screw up, and give you time to fix it

  • Actively listen, react to their feedback, innovate when they ask, and they won't go anywhere

  • Create an army of ambassadors, and they're an extension of your sales force in situations you have zero access to today

  • Make them your eyes and ears, and they'll give you the earliest heads-up possible to any competitive threat on the horizon (with enough time to react, adjust, and cut competitors off at the knees before they can get momentum)

  • Ask them to brainstorm with you, and they'll give you far better, more creative ideas than you'd ever come up with yourself

  • Surprise them with your responsiveness, speed and approachability, and they'll treat you like a loyal friend

You can do this. You can do all of this, and most of it doesn't cost any more than a change in how you manage your customers. How you talk to them. How often, with a different message, a different tone, and both more frequency and thoughtfulness.

Your customers desperately want this from you. They've made a commitment to you (in a big or small way), and all they ask is that you return that commitment to them.

There's no question in my mind that every business has significant and measurable revenue potential with greater focus here.


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Matt HeinzMatt Heinz is principal at Heinz Marketing, a sales & marketing consulting firm helping businesses increase customers and revenue. Contact Matt at matt@heinzmarketing.com or visit www.heinzmarketing.com.

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Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Non-profits - Maximize Value from your Board of Directors

by Matt Heinz

Non-profits - Maximize Value from your Board of DirectorsEvery non-profit I speak with wishes they could get more value from their Board of Directors. It's not that their directors aren't engaged or interested, it's just often difficult to get more of their time and specific, focused attention in between board meetings.

Here are several recommendations for how nonprofits (and any organization with board members and advisors) can get more value from these important partners.
  • Give them smaller, contained tasks: Make it easier for them to execute, and get things done for you. Big multi-stage projects can be intimidating to tackle, but if you break those requests into smaller, more attainable tasks, things will get done more quickly

  • Tap into their networks: Find out who they know, and how they can help you. Help your directors feel good by making connections within their network to other people, resources and organizations that can also help you get things done

  • Leverage their specific expertise: I'm surprised at how few non-profits do this. Know what your board members do well - what they're passionate about, where they have experience - and make sure you tap into that

  • Use them for ideas, not execution: This is more natural and achievable for board members, but the key is to not only let them be wildly creative - but to write everything down, capture all ideas, then triage, choose and execute the right ideas, right away

  • Maximize meeting time with them: The more time you prepare, the more you'll get out of it. Have a set agenda and expected outcomes, give board members materials to review in advance, be focused during your time, record next steps and follow-up

  • Track and hold accountable on commitments: Your board members are well-intentioned, but they can get busy and forget. Send them email reminders, set deadlines, and help hold them accountable. They'll appreciate that you do this

  • Choose new board members wisely: As board seats come up for renewal, make sure new candidates understand the commitments. You want folks who are passionate about your work plus willing to help execute

  • Reward them: For non-profits, monetary compensation isn't a part of the picture. That said, you still can offer introductions within your own network that will benefit them personally and professionally, give them awareness and public recognition for their time, etc.

  • Get their families involved: Invite their family to recognition events, and give families a chance to donate time together for the right projects. Help the rest of the family feel good about the director's involvement and contribution. It'll make those couple extra hours your directors spend on a particular project or task easier to swallow

  • Give them tools to work: This can be online collaboration tools, CRM systems, whatever is necessary to help them work faster and easier

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Matt HeinzMatt Heinz is principal at Heinz Marketing, a sales & marketing consulting firm helping businesses increase customers and revenue. Contact Matt at matt@heinzmarketing.com or visit www.heinzmarketing.com.

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Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Need more time for innovation (or whatever)?

How to get three hours back every day


Need more time for innovation (or whatever)?
by Matt Heinz

I need more hours in the day, and I assume you do as well. Between our personal and professional lives, there's always too much to do and not enough time to do it.

But despite these challenges, I'm constantly looking for ways to do two things:
  1. Eliminate distractions
  2. Make better use of "down time"

If you're trying to do the same, here are eight things I'd recommend trying. Collectively, I think they effectively give me back about three hours every day.

Don't drive
  • We waste a lot of time in the car, driving. Except for returning a few phone calls, this isn't very productive time typically. If you can take the bus, other public transportation, or even carpool with coworkers, you can use part of that time to get caught up on other work. Catch up on email offline, brainstorm something without other distractions, and work through other things on your to-do list. Worst case, catch up on some of your reading. Any of that is better than stop-and-go traffic.

Always have something to read with you
  • Everywhere you go, carry something you want to read. It can be printed materials (newspapers, magazines, printed-out articles), or it can be saved content on your SmartPhone. For example, on my iPhone I have access to my RSS feeds via Google Reader, a mobile version of ReadItLater that syncs Web articles I want to read, and also an iPhone version of Kindle software to catch up on a book I'm reading. There are so many times during the day when I'm waiting, or in a line, that can be used for a few minutes to catch up on some of this.

Avoid and cancel meetings
  • Do you really need to attend every meeting on your schedule? Have you yourself scheduled meetings that can be more effectively handled with a 5-10 minute conversation in the hallway? I'd be willing to bet that 25% of your meetings this week aren't worth your time. Figure out which ones they are, and get your time back.

Keep your email offline, all the time
  • If you use Outlook in particular, right-click on the icon in the lower right-hand corner of your screen and select "Work Offline". This will essentially "freeze" the email in your inbox currently, and queue up anything in your Outbox to sync when you want to. This helps you focus on what's at hand, without getting distracted in real-time by new incoming messages. Click the send/receive button when you want to, but otherwise stay more focused and more productive without the constant distractions.

Forward your phone to voicemail when you need/want to focus
  • Most phones and phone systems give you the ability to point inbound calls directly to voicemail. If you need to focus on something, shouldn't you turn off this distraction as well? You don't have to do this all day. But if the project in front of you will take 30 minutes to get done, don't let things like new emails and phone calls distract you. That 30-minute project could take 60-90 minutes easy if you check email, take a call, and have to get re-engaged and focused again.

Get up earlier
  • Would it really be that hard to get up 30 minutes earlier? This may not be your most productive, awake time. But an extra 30 minutes (when the rest of the house is still sleeping) could be used for reading, exercise, whatever you want. This alone gives you an extra 3.5 hours a week, and that's a lot of time.

Do your most important 1-2 tasks/projects FIRST every day (before email and voicemail)
  • At the beginning of each day, you already know what 1-2 things are most important to accomplish. But most of us, before tackling those projects, check email and voicemail and quickly get distracted by the day's interruptions and fire-drills. Nine times out of ten, those distractions can wait until your most important tasks are finished. Get them done first, and I guarantee you'll feel (and be!) far more productive every day.

Delegate
  • You probably aren't delegating to others actively enough. You're probably doing too much yourself, including things might be more efficient to be done by others (and sometimes with better results). You could be using a service like TimeSvr to get small tasks done by someone else. You could use eLance to outsource a variety of administrative projects. You could use ActiveWords to shortcut frequently-used activities on your computer. Long story short, you're working too hard and doing too much. Do less yourself, but get the same and more done.

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Matt HeinzMatt Heinz is principal at Heinz Marketing, a sales & marketing consulting firm helping businesses increase customers and revenue. Contact Matt at matt@heinzmarketing.com or visit www.heinzmarketing.com.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

PR is about the story, not relationships

by Matt Heinz

PR is about the story, not relationshipsMaybe 10-20 years ago, PR was more about the relationships you had with the right press. Reporters and their publications were the gatekeeper to getting your story heard, and PR professionals were the gatekeeper to those gatekeepers. But even then, relationships were only as good (and ultimately as successful) as the story you had to offer.

Today, story matters more than ever. Yes, a good relationship with press helps you break through the clutter and get a few extra minutes to pitch your story. But a good story stands on its own.

Plus, you don't have to rely on a finite set of traditional media outlets to give your story a voice to the masses. Today, you can publish on your own. Self-publishing won't have the audience others have, but that's not the point. Share that story in a public forum, that both press and your direct customers/prospects/constituents can read, and a good story can get legs, find unique angles through other storytellers and redistributors, and be shared with countless others.

Traditional PR was about telling the story of the company in question. Press releases touted what a company recently accomplished. Those are stories, but not very interesting stories.

But it's more than just shifting focus from relationships to good stories. The stories that get noticed and retold today are about others. They're about the impact you have on your customers, their industry, and the people they work with in turn.

Tom Peters wrote recently that people don't care about your story. They care about their own story. Your job, he said, was to become a primary character in your customer's story.

So if PR today is about the story, and the best stories are about the impact you can have on others, how does that change the storytelling your organization is doing today? What do you say, where do you say it, and what do you want people who read or hear that story do next?


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Matt HeinzMatt Heinz is principal at Heinz Marketing, a sales & marketing consulting firm helping businesses increase customers and revenue. Contact Matt at matt@heinzmarketing.com or visit www.heinzmarketing.com.

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Museum of Why

by Matt Heinz

The Museum of WhyToo many brands, companies and even vertical sectors assume what they do is, well, what they do. They define their value based on their current tactical, delivered product or service to the market and to their customers. But that's not at all what they do, of course. Let's look at a couple examples.

People don't buy a newspaper because it's printed news. They can get that news from a myriad places today. So what makes newspapers unique? What value do they really serve? I actually read the newspaper more often now than ever, but I don't subscribe to the print edition. I read online every day, check various reporters' blogs for intra-day updates, and count on newspaper reporters to take complicated issues and boil them down to something I can read briefly, get the gist of the story or message, and move on with my day. That's value, and has nothing to do with the means by which that value is delivered to me.

So many sectors, so many businesses need to ask "why" several times over to understand their value to their customers. Why is this important? Why do my customers care? Why is this different and valuable to the marketplace?

Let's say you're the curator of a museum. Historically, your product has been a building with artifacts, exhibits and other physical manifestations of the history and ideas you are preserving. But if you were starting the museum from scratch, what would you do differently? How would you boil down your purpose to its essence, combine that with the target audience you're serving, and deliver a product that more directly reflects and achieves that focus?

If you still think part of the answer is a building to preserve artifacts, that may be fine. But keep asking why. At the end of those "why" questions is your core value.

If you could start your business or category/sector from scratch today, how would you address the answer to that final "why" in a different way? How could you deliver value faster, more effectively, and more completely than you do today?


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Matt HeinzMatt Heinz is principal at Heinz Marketing, a sales & marketing consulting firm helping businesses increase customers and revenue. Contact Matt at matt@heinzmarketing.com or visit www.heinzmarketing.com.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Aligning Social Media, Marketing and PR

by Matt Heinz

Aligning Social Media, Marketing and PRI'm moderating a panel on the alignment of marketing & PR in a couple weeks at Dan Greenfield's PR + Mktg Camp in Seattle. Should be a great day of discussion. Earlier this week Dan and I talked how marketing and PR teams have traditionally worked together (or not), and how those relationships are evolving now - especially with the maturation of social media as a cross-functional tool set. Excerpts from our conversation are below:


Question: Are PR and marketing more aligned or less aligned because of social media?

Matt: The idea of separating marketing teams and functions is a remnant of the "old way" of doing marketing. When most marketing was one-way (i.e. customers couldn't react, respond and create messages of their own), it was more acceptable to separate PR from product marketing, and even lead generation activities. Now, especially because the customer has so much control and such a strong voice, it's critical that brands act as one. That means PR, advertising, social media, lead generation - they all need to work from the same playbook in a coordinated fashion. Easier said than done, but that's exactly what today's most successful brands are doing.

Social media has enabled the consumer to talk back in a powerful way, which is accelerating the need for this consolidation and integration of marketing strategy by products, services and brands today.


Question: PR is generally about placement, reputation, messaging, impressions and storytelling. Marketing is generally about transactions, click throughs, key words and web applications. How is social media changing that, if at all?

Matt: Everything is about getting the sale. It always has been, but now it's easier to see and map the progression of a customer from awareness, consideration, intent, trial, purchase - then repeat, renewal, referral, etc.

Social media is blurring the distinction between customer engagement stages. Ten years ago, it was easier to segment the functions - PR talks to the customer at the beginning, then product marketing takes over and offers demos, free trials, etc. Then once they're a customer, your loyalty/retention team takes over. That approach doesn't work anymore.

The way we measure different marketing elements, by function, probably still works. But it has to be put into the context of a more immersive, cohesive customer engagement strategy that blends messages and tactics across stages of a customer relationship.


Question: What disadvantages (inefficiencies, lost opportunities, customer confusion) and advantages (integration, cost savings) are these shared tools like Facebook and Twitter creating for PR and marketing?

Matt: The sales cycle has always been far shorter than the customer's buying cycle. Five years ago, the customer buying cycle was a black box for marketers. We had no visibility to what was happening, what prospective customers were thinking or asking, who they were even considering. Now, thanks to social media, we have insight into how customers are thinking well before they engage directly with brands.

But this isn't an opportunity for selling. It's an opportunity to engage and become part of the community - add value, answer questions, provide valuable content. Earn trust, respect and credibility. Community engagement and social media are at the very top of the buying cycle, before the sales cycle, and it doesn't really matter which part of the organization manages and executes there, as long as the approach is right.


Question: Should social media ultimately be the responsibility of PR who manages reputation and conversations or marketing who is in charge of transactions and sales?

Matt: It doesn't really matter. Everyone in the organization needs to understand the customer, what they want, what they need, and how to address them - with or without a paid relationship current or pending. Every member of your organization should know how to address customers in a respectful, value-added way.

Social media has accelerated the tearing down of walls between customer and provider. There's more transparency, less formality. Brands need to be accessible, approachable and authentic to be accepted.

The social media strategy doesn't end when a customer enters a selling cycle. They aren't going to stop talking to their friends, and using Facebook, or commenting on Twitter, just because they're talking to a sales rep. Their interaction with and reflection of your brand continues across functional sales & marketing groups. That's why ownership of the social media "voice" within one marketing function or another is problematic. Today, that strategy (and especially the execution) is a job everybody has.


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Matt HeinzMatt Heinz is principal at Heinz Marketing, a sales & marketing consulting firm helping businesses increase customers and revenue. Contact Matt at matt@heinzmarketing.com or visit www.heinzmarketing.com.

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Tuesday, February 09, 2010

10 Simple Ways to Stay Connected

by Matt Heinz

10 Simple Ways to Stay ConnectedNo matter what you do for a living, an active network is critical to your current and future success. That said, it's very easy to ignore the often simple, tactical things you can do to keep your network engaged and growing.

Here's a list of ten things to consider doing daily. If ten is too much to start (although this list should take all of 15-20 minutes if you stay focused), start with just 2-4 and expand from there. Each piece incrementally will help, and you'll be surprised how quickly your investment comes back in the way of opportunities, introductions and more.
  1. Email three people you haven't spoken with in some time, just to catch up
  2. Scan your LinkedIn home page for profile updates, and comment back on 2-3 that are particularly interesting to you
  3. Use Gist.com to see what your contacts have done, read or published recently
  4. Send one hand-written thank you or congratulations note to someone
  5. Return one phone call or email from a sales rep. Make it short, but return the connection. You'd be surprised how often these turn into something more valuable than the pitch.
  6. Give someone an unsolicited recommendation in LinkedIn
  7. Scan your blog RSS feed, and forward 1-3 articles to people you think will find them interesting or valuable
  8. Invite someone to lunch today. You have to eat anyway. If they say no, they're happy you asked. If they say yes, you get a valuable chance to reconnect.
  9. Thank someone for the hard work they did yesterday, and copy their manager if sent via email
  10. Send an unsolicited email to someone you've always wanted to meet, asking for a quick phone call or coffee. Do this daily, and I guarantee your response rate will be better than zero.

What would you add to this list?


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Matt HeinzMatt Heinz is principal at Heinz Marketing, a sales & marketing consulting firm helping businesses increase customers and revenue. Contact Matt at matt@heinzmarketing.com or visit www.heinzmarketing.com.

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Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Creating Preference in a Commodity Business

by Matt Heinz

Creating Preference in a Commodity BusinessI was asked recently how to successfully sell value in a commodity business. When your product or service is virtually identical to what is available elsewhere, how do you create differentiation, preference, value and market share acceleration?

It's not easy, but there are ways. Here are five to start:

Service: How well you treat your customers can make a big difference, especially if you want to be a premium-priced commodity seller. Customers who don't value service will always buy on price, and if you want to be the low-cost leader, that's fine too. But if you want to sell value with a commodity, provide excellent, remarkable service at every level and every interaction with your customers and prospects.

Trust: What's your reputation? What are you known for? Do customers trust you, and why? Know what your customers value, and establish a tight bond between those values and the trust you create and strengthen in the way you do business, every day.

The Little Things: There are countless ways to do little, remarkable things for your customers. Unexpected things that make you stand out, thoughtful gestures that show you're different, and that you care. Real estate agents who bring new buyers a pizza or sandwiches on moving day, that's special. Auto dealerships that offer free car wash service for life. Things like that can be huge for differentiation and preference, not to mention word-of-mouth for your business to new prospective customers.

A Consultative Approach to Selling: Are you just selling the commodity, or are you providing additional value in the sale? Are you teaching customers more about the industry they work in, the environment in which they need that commodity. Are you helping them be more successful in the process of buying? Provide that kind of value-added service as part of the sale, and you're creating immediate value & differentiation.

Results: A commodity market doesn't necessarily mean that every option is the same, and will deliver the same results. How are you able to transcend what you're selling, and deliver differentiation and value in how that commodity impacts your customers? Is the end-result better through you? How? And how effectively can you communicate that results-based differentiation? Let your happy customers tell that story for you. Use their enthusiasm and success in the market to drive preference and value.


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Matt HeinzMatt Heinz is principal at Heinz Marketing, a sales & marketing consulting firm helping businesses increase customers and revenue. Contact Matt at matt@heinzmarketing.com or visit www.heinzmarketing.com.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Making a Case for Innovation in the Absence of Proof

by Matt Heinz

Making a Case for Innovation in the Absence of ProofHow do you prove something that hasn't happened yet?

That's the challenge facing innovative ideas inside many companies. Innovation, by definition, is a leap into the unknown. But for organizations that increasingly look to past history/results and data to determine future steps, quantifying the likely success and/or risk with an innovative idea can be tricky.

Or, as Roger Martin and Jennifer Riel put it in their recent Business Week column:


"Innovation is killed with the two deadlies words in business: Prove it."


They continue:


"We use existing information to understand the issue at play. But for breakthroughs, there is no rule or pool of past data to provide certainty. So when a CEO demands evidence that an idea will succeed, he is driving innovation away."


Martin and Reil ultimately recommend innovators use pieces of past history, results, research and logic to stitch together a case for innovation based not on direct past evidence, but clues to a likely outcome. They call it abductive logic, the logic of what could be. It's still a leap, but for organizations dedicated to innovation, it's necessary. The full Business Week column is worth a read, but their parting shot is particularly good:


"Asking what could be true - and jumping into the unknown - is critical to innovation. Nurturing the ideas that result, rather than killing them, can be the tricky part. But once a company clears this hurdle, it can leverage its efforts to produce the proof that leaders depend on to make commitments - and turn the future into fact."


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Matt HeinzMatt Heinz is principal at Heinz Marketing, a sales & marketing consulting firm helping businesses increase customers and revenue. Contact Matt at matt@heinzmarketing.com or visit www.heinzmarketing.com.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Innovator Within

by Matt Heinz

The Innovator WithinI'm constantly blown away by the brilliant, innovative ideas around us. It's a shame that so very few of those ideas see the light of day.

Brilliant people with innovative ideas are everywhere, but most of their ideas get caught in one of three traps:

Fear/Risk: Innovative ideas are inherently risky. They buck trends, go against the status quo. The risk of failure is quite high. It's why most people keep their day jobs and merely dream about their ideas vs. taking action on them. Oftentimes this is born out of income risk. I can't quit my day job to give this a shot - if it fails, my income and family suffers. Or it could be the risk of ruining your reputation. Try something innovative at work, and if it fails that may damage your success record. Or your promotion. Or raise. This is why so many great ideas, innovations and start-ups are born in a recession. Individuals with great ideas lose their secure jobs, so the risk of starting or trying something totally different goes down significantly.

Rejection: Because innovative ideas aren't what people expect, they get rejected easily. If you raise an innovative idea in a big company, it's likely to get squashed. If you run a new idea by someone who's embedded in the status quo, they won't understand what you're saying. Worse, they'll tell you it will never work. Innovators get rejected - a lot - but for many would-be innovators, that rejection is too much to overcome. Either they can't move forward in their existing organization, or become convinced that the nay-sayers are right. That's a travesty.

Bandwidth: Who has time for new ideas anyway? You woke up this morning with too much to do as it is - current projects, current deadlines, current initiatives. We then go home to family, kids, chores and a thousand things pulling at our time. Innovations usually start in someone's spare time, but finding that time can itself be a significant challenge. If you get laid off, and suddenly have a plethora of time, the bandwidth limiter is eliminated. But for the rest of us, finding time to triage and pursue our new ideas can often be an insurmountable challenge.

For every entrepeneur, no matter how confident or determined, these hurdles exist. For the majority of individuals with great ideas, these hurdles can in fact be crippling.

But there are equal but opposite attributes that successful innovators have that anyone can learn and/or adopt. These include courage, tenacity, passion, organization and thick skin. But perhaps most important is conviction. Conviction that you're onto something, that you're right, conviction that it doesn't matter if others can't see it, if it's risky, or if it takes a few extra hours in the evening and weekends to tinker with it.

There are innovators within all of us. Everyone has these amazing ideas - be they recurring or fleeting - that can create massive change, efficiency and betterment in the world around us - at a micro and macro level, and everywhere in between.

Perhaps part of the solution isn't to convert innovators into entrepreneurs, but to create a better channel of innovative ideas into the hands of those with the time, courage and tenacity to make them happen. Make the idea exchange easy, but with all the right attribution and financial rewards available to the originator.

Your neighbor has an idea that could change the world, but isn't doing anything about it. How do we change that?


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Matt HeinzMatt Heinz is principal at Heinz Marketing, a sales & marketing consulting firm helping businesses increase customers and revenue. Contact Matt at matt@heinzmarketing.com or visit www.heinzmarketing.com.

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Friday, January 15, 2010

Innovating Your Why

by Matt Heinz

Innovation Perspectives - Innovating Your WhyToo many brands, companies and even vertical sectors assume what they do is, well, what they do. They define their value based on their current tactical, delivered product or service to the market and to their customers. But that's not at all what they do, of course.

People don't buy a newspaper because it's printed news. They can get that news from a myriad places today. So what makes newspapers unique? What value do they really serve? I actually read the newspaper more often now than ever, but I don't subscribe to the print edition. I read online every day, check various reporters' blogs for intra-day updates, etc.

So many sectors, so many businesses need to ask "why" several times over to understand their value to their customers. Why is this important? Why do my customers care? Why is this different and valuable to the marketplace?

At the end of those "why" questions is your core value. If you could start the business or category/sector from scratch today, how would you address the answer to that final "why" in a different way? How could you deliver value faster, more effectively, and more completely than you do today?



Matt HeinzMatt Heinz is principal at Heinz Marketing, a sales & marketing consulting firm helping businesses increase customers and revenue. Contact Matt at matt@heinzmarketing.com or visit www.heinzmarketing.com.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Five Nonprofit Marketing Fundamentals

by Matt Heinz

Five Nonprofit Marketing FundamentalsWe've been working more closely with several local nonprofit organizations lately, and the more I speak with those responsible for fundraising and donor relations, the more I realize just how similar the process is to creating and managing a for-profit sales process.

I'm also seeing the same fundamental needs for those marketing a charitable cause or nonprofit organization. The below five fundamentals of nonprofit marketing are a starting point, but should be at the core of every nonprofit's strategy.

Donor Profiles: There are so many worthy organizations out there. Which prospective donors are going to be most predisposed to support your cause? What do those potential donors have in common - their associations, their history, their demo or psychographic make-up? You don't need to hone in on just one specific donor profile, but you should have a good sense for the 2-4 profiles that are your primary target. The more you know about them, the more self-evident the messages, channels and tactics will be to engage them directly.

Defining Your Product: What are you "selling" to prospective donors? It's not the tactics of what you actually do, but the outcome of that work. All too often, nonprofits tell their donors about the operations, or what additional infrastructure or materials they need. But what is all that for? What are you enabling? How are you making lives better? What's the benefit, the result, the outcome of what you're doing? THAT is your product, and that's the kind of vision your prospective donors will be attracted to.

Storytelling: Spend less time describing what you do, and more time telling stories about the differences you're making. Tell stories about the recipients of your work. Share the before and after. When it's an option, let the recipients of your work tell the story for you - in print, on video, and in person. Stories make an impression far longer-lasting than mission statements and operational descriptions. Stories can communicate the emotion behind what you're doing better than anything else.

Mobilizing the Community: Take your product definition, your mission, and think carefully about the ecosystem of people, groups, organizations, communities and businesses that relate to it. How can those various individuals and groups help you spread the word, or even contribute directly? If you're involved in transitional housing, how good are your relationships with local real estate offices? Are they giving directly? Are the individual Realtors involved, and getting their own buyer/seller customers involved? Be exhaustive and creative about mobilizing related communities on behalf of your organization.

Creating Evangelists: You have them already. Passionate donors. Highly-involved volunteers and board members. A variety of individuals and groups who feel strongly about what you're doing. No matter their level of passion, they won't help spread the word as widely as they could if you don't help them. Give them reminders to do so, give them content to pass along, give them the facilities and tools to share. This alone can be so simple, but so powerful. Identifying, arming and mobilizing the evangelists in and around your organization can be the very foundation of your marketing strategy.

Over the next several weeks, I'll go deeper into each of these fundamentals with more examples and suggestions for action.



Matt HeinzMatt Heinz is principal at Heinz Marketing, a sales & marketing consulting firm helping businesses increase customers and revenue. Contact Matt at matt@heinzmarketing.com or visit www.heinzmarketing.com.

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Tuesday, January 05, 2010

What do you REALLY do?

by Matt Heinz

What do you really do?If you're a book publisher, you're not really in the book business. You're in the information business. How that information is shared is largely irrelevant, as long as it creates value for your customers and can be monetized.

If you're a newspaper, you're definitely not in the printed news business. Certainly not anymore, or at least not for long. I read The Seattle Times more now than ever, but I don't get ink on my fingers. I read it online, and read some of their bloggers multiple times a day. Competing in the category of news will be difficult (or at least highly competitive) for newspapers moving forward. But the opportunity to synethize large piles of complicated information into something that's understandable, relevant and actionable for me? That has value.

PR agencies shouldn't be selling access to the press. They shouldn't put focus on press clippings or media tours. They sell awareness, consideration and purchase intent for their clients. That has value.

Of course, Starbucks isn't in the coffee business. They're selling affordable luxuries. Yes, they've had missteps along the way, but they know the physical assets they're selling doesn't equal what they really do.

Smart companies and brands define themselves not by what they produce, but by what that asset creates and/or enables for the customer.

Take what you do, for example. Keep asking the question "why does that matter" or "why would someone need that" or "why do my customers care about that" until you can't anymore. The last answer you had? That's what you do.



Matt HeinzMatt Heinz is principal at Heinz Marketing, a sales & marketing consulting firm helping businesses increase customers and revenue. Contact Matt at matt@heinzmarketing.com or visit www.heinzmarketing.com.

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Innovating Without Ignoring Today's Revenue

by Matt Heinz

Scott Cook of IntuitScott Cook, legendary founder of Intuit, discussed in a recent issue of Inc Magazine how today's entrepreneurs can continue to incubate new ideas while successfully focusing on today's day-to-day revenue generation. His answer can be broken down into four keys to achieving both innovation and execution today:

  1. Make sure employees know which output metric they are responsible for and how it is measured. Focus on the metrics that matter most to growing the business (new customers, margin, top-line growth). These measures will ensure proper focus on today's business, and will also give employees a foundation from which to brainstorm and incubate new ideas focused on the same end-goal.

  2. Enable all of your employees - not just a small group - to invest business ideas or product features. Don't predetermine which employees - based on rank or tenure or paycheck - will have your business's next great innovation. Oftentimes, it's the frontline employees who speak with your customers all day, every day who are first to see trends and identify new opportunities.

  3. Run cheap, quick tests to make sure you are on the right track. The first step could be running the idea back by a few customers to gauge their feedback. But don't overthink these tests. Get enough feedback to hone the idea and mitigate risk/exposure of taking it to the next step.

  4. Think big! For innovations to succeed, they must solve a large enough problem for the customer. This doesn't mean that every innovation is a new product, or new division, or fundamental shift in your business. It just means, to succeed, innovations need to make a profound impact on the customer. That impact can still be created by relatively small changes in policy, features, supply chain and more.

How does your company focus on innovation without ignoring today's revenue?



Matt HeinzMatt Heinz is principal at Heinz Marketing, a sales & marketing consulting firm helping businesses increase customers and revenue. Contact Matt at matt@heinzmarketing.com or visit www.heinzmarketing.com.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Five Minute Rule helps get intimidating projects done

by Matt Heinz

Five Minute Rule for project successWe all have big, intimidating projects on our plates that, frankly, are a little scary. They either feel like a lot of work, or you're not exactly sure how to tackle them. So, we hem and haw and avoid them.

I've found that a fairly simple trick can help me get more of those projects done. It takes just five minutes.

When I'm facing a big project or task, I tell myself I'm going to spend five minutes getting it started, and that's it. I'm either going to just do five minutes worth of that task, or just spend five minutes planning how to tackle it.

The secret of the Five Minute Rule is that I almost always keep going, blow past the five minutes, and get the task done in far less time than if I would have kept procrastinating.

It's those five minutes that demonstrate how relatively quickly & easily the task can actually get done. If you get five minutes of momentum, sometimes that's all you need to keep going to the finish. If you use the five minutes to brainstorm, it makes the task far less intimidating and easier to get done right away.

Find something on your list right now and give it five minutes. Let me know what happens next.



Matt HeinzMatt Heinz is principal at Heinz Marketing, a sales & marketing consulting firm helping businesses increase customers and revenue. Contact Matt at matt@heinzmarketing.com or visit www.heinzmarketing.com.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Five Fast Steps to Sales & Marketing Success

by Matt Heinz

Five Fast Steps to Sales & Marketing SuccessToo often, Sales & Marketing blame each other for a lack of results. The leads aren't good. Sales doesn't follow up. The excuses go on and on.

If this sounds familiar for your organization, there are things you can start doing right away to mend fences and start on a path towards not only better relations, but far better revenue results.

Call a Sales & Marketing Summit, and don't let anyone leave the room until the following five things are agreed upon:

1. Common Lead Definitions
  • What, exactly, is a qualified lead? What are its characteristics? Get as detailed as you need to be, but make sure both Sales & Marketing agree on that definition. That way, when leads are delivered to Sales, they at minimum meet the basic criteria you've both agreed on to make them worth the sales team's time for follow-up.

2. Initial Response Time
  • If the leads are good (and meet the minimum qualified definition), you need a "service agreement" for how quickly those leads will get their first response. If the lead is waiting for something (a white paper, for instance) response time should likely be no longer than 24 business hours. In other cases, 48 hours may be acceptable. Decide what's right for your organization and customer, get sales management's buy-in, communicate it clearly to the sales team, and put in place reporting tools to make it super-easy to track this on a daily basis (and send both you and the sales rep alerts when leads fall outside of the service agreement).

3. Lead Follow-up Steps & Channels
  • How many times should a lead be attempted before the sales rep gives up and moves on? Should all of those attempts be via phone, or should there be a mix of other channels - email, social media channels, in-person, etc.? If you don't reach agreement on this critical process, every sales rep will have his or her own idea of what's right. Some will call once, leave a message, and consider the lead dead. Others will call the poor prospect 20 times. Create a standard with sales not only to ensure leads are thoroughly vetted, but also to ensure sales is moving on to fresher opportunities if there's nobody at home.

4. Clear Lead Stages
  • A lead comes in. The rep starts to attempt a call back. They reach the lead and determine it's a good prospect, or long-term prospect, or just not qualified. How do they report this information to you? What lead stages have you set up in your lead management or CRM system to not only make it easy and clear how you want sales to categorize their working leads, but also to report to management progress & quality of leads (not to mention improve your lead generation ROI performance moving forward)? Don't go overboard - 15 lead stages gets way too complicated - but 4-6 stages is reasonable and actionable for most sales environments.

5. Handing Leads Back to Marketing
  • According to MarketingSherpa and others, the vast majority of leads generated by B2B organizations in particularly will buy - just not right now. Those leads (once they're identified as such) need to be passed back to Marketing for active nurturing. Make sure there's a clear process for Sales to do just that - ideally with the click of a button.



Matt HeinzMatt Heinz is principal at Heinz Marketing, a sales & marketing consulting firm helping businesses increase customers and revenue. Contact Matt at matt@heinzmarketing.com or visit www.heinzmarketing.com.

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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Are your speeches Twitter-friendly?

by Matt Heinz

Twitter Public SpeakingWhen I conduct media training, we teach spokespeople to not just think in terms of sound bites, but to use those sound bites at the beginning of their answers. That way, they're not only more quotable, but you have a better chance that the reporter is taking good notes and gets your comment recorded for use in their piece.

Pretty much the same thing goes for presentations and Twitter today.

If you're giving a presentation, make sure your script is full of tweetable content. Think in terms of 140 characters or less. As you're preparing, literally write out those tweetable points to ensure they'll fit with room for retweets to spare (right around 100 characters is about right).

If your goal is to share your story not just to those in the room, but their followers as well, this will ensure you're getting maximum pass-along for yourself and your message.




Matt HeinzMatt Heinz is principal at Heinz Marketing, a sales & marketing consulting firm helping businesses increase customers and revenue. Contact Matt at matt@heinzmarketing.com or visit www.heinzmarketing.com.

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