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Managing Risk in a SME

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If you don’t have anything valuable to say, be quiet.

My mom always said “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”. In our world of digital marketing, I want to update this a bit. Instead of nice (even though we still should be), I challenge you to share words that provide value instead. It seems simple yet surprisingly, I am amazed how few do it. I have a mutual colleague who is the master of social. He spends all day retweeting, reposting and pushing out content others have written. He has thousands of followers who follow him on topics ranging from what he ate for dinner to how to drive digital strategy.

So what’s the problem you ask? It’s the fact that basically, he’s an information pusher, not a creator. With the exception of fluffy topics like his favorite movies or hobbies, I can’t for the life of me figure out what he truly knows about the topic of marketing or technology. As a fellow teammate noted, he’s basically “content free”.

Digital is the wave of the future and one’s personal brand is key. You’ll get no argument from me here. But is the future of marketing communications roles simply to be content pushers? The challenge I see here is that if this is the case, we become delivery vehicles who lack skills or knowledge. We are like megaphones- what we have said may be louder but it’s not necessarily relevant or worth listening to. The result is ones brand becomes scattered and your voice schizophrenic. For roles like this, it’s about simply being seen and gaining followers, not the substance of what’s said.

As a former product marketer, I have to say, this puzzles me. While I always say, “hire attitude not ability”, there has to be some ability to have a meaningful conversation about the topic to add true value to the conversation. Good content provides value, tells a story, relates to the reader and creates a lasting experience. But doing this requires producing content about the problem (not the product) and the problem knowledge comes from experience walking in the shoes of the reader. How does one do this if they have no insight into reader pain, or more importantly, how to guide them with actions to alleviate it? Let’s be clear here: I’m not advocating branding your content to promote it. One trend that seems to be building steam is content that has so little branding, so little selling, that it may be difficult to tell who is behind it at all. However, if you are the person just pushing content out, what value can you bring to minimize reader’s pain?

The answer to success lies in finding the balance between on the road of “always present” and “I know what I’m talking about” to create your truly valuable brand and voice. This means don’t just retweet but when you do, add your opinion to make the conversation more thought provoking.   Be choosy about what you create and share. Make it truly good content. With over 2 million blogs daily written, when you create your own content, make sure it’s compelling and contributes in new ways. Stop being just the delivery vehicle; research what you write about and write with passion. Your readers will thank you- and you’ll stop wasting their time. (Apologies if that wasn’t nice to say.)

About the Author: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jen1schulze

 

Account Based Marketing for Companies of All Sizes

Isn’t every account worthy of this same service?  Generally vendors choose to just focus on the large accounts, who drive the majority of revenue.  However, this is a bit mistake.  Every account is key and worthy of “white glove” service.

It should be noted that companies leveraging SaaS as their primary business model generate more than 65% of their revenue from existing accounts, with at least 25% of that revenue coming from upsell and cross sell initiatives. With that in mind, any company striving to deliver cloud based products has to focus on all customers, big and small, if they want to stay in business long term.  Doing so makes basic math sense: the probibility of selling to an existing customer is 60-70%.  A new one?  Only 5-20%.  Treat your customers right and they come back again and again.

While a true ABM approach is indeed costly for the vendor/partner to maintain, the cost of losing a customer is greater. In fact, it costs five times as much to attract a new customer than to keep an existing one satisfied, according to Gartner. Talking in software numbers: the average price of a acquiring a midsized cloud ERP customer is generally about $40,000. It’s easy to see how quickly these numbers can add up when customer management is not performing at a high level.

Taking an account-first mentality for every account is key. It will drive retention with your customers today, and also ensure that every customer organization is treated with the unique attention they deserve, regardless if they buy $40,000 or $40 million worth of software each year.

The challenge, of course, is that it’s expensive to maintain an account-first approach. It requires a strong and highly focused customer management team that works closely with the accounts. The team needs to focus not only on service and support post sale, but also on maintaining a joint marketing plan that ensures regular touch points and helps the customer continue to get value from the solution.

A customer first approach requires in-depth knowledge of the account to ensure that marketing is an ongoing exercise and not simply there to make the sale or get the account to be a reference for the vendor.

With Cloud requiring a shift to subscription based pricing, a high touch model, while key, has to morph to scale. The goal has to be to give customers the right attention, at the right time, based on purchase patterns and needs. You can’t afford not to do this: lifetime value is critical to be profitable in the cloud. Losing a customer early means not only losing acquisition costs but also losing a lifetime revenue stream.

What are some ways to scale ABM practices?  

Change your Approach: Given the high cost of maintaining an ABM approach, the key to success is to start with a shift in mentality within the provider organization. Customer first requires a change in mindset from specific customers to all customers. It’s about servicing them in the right ways at the right times—all the time, depending on their unique needs. Much like a marriage, account-based marketing is a long term relationship. It doesn’t end if your spouse loses their job, or resume only when they win the lottery

Be Present: Maintain regular contact with accounts in order to continue to bring them value. This can be done in many ways: sharing best practices of a customer they can relate to, educate and inform them on industry trends to help them maintain a competitive edge, or even invite them to webinars or events.

Focus on Customer Service: The buying journey for the customer never ends, nor does their relationship with you. Even if a costly, high-touch model may not be for every customer, it’s key to pick some scalable activities that you can do for as many accounts as possible in order to stay top of mind. Include them in regular customer councils with industry peers or assign a marketing relationship manager to their account. At any given point in time, it’s your role to know what their challenges are via a trusted advisor relationship. Don’t wait until they cancel their contract to reach out. It’s too late then. (You wouldn’t wait until your spouse is dating your best friend before working on your marriage, would you?)

 

There is no better time than now to develop and execute an ABM approach based on a long term, trusted relationship. An ABM focus drives recurring revenue and lowers the cost of sales. The challenge is balancing the costs across all accounts with a level of service that can be delivered in a feasible manner. While this may sound daunting, it’s not if you stick to a plan and, most importantly, stay in touch in the right ways with clients. The result will be a long term, happy partnership for years to come.

A Chameleon Never Stops Adapting

What do you want to be when you grow up? It’s a question many of us are asked, yet few know the answer. This is often because the answer lies not in what we do, but rather who we are, and what we bring at a given point in time to the roles we fulfill. Who we are, and the focus we have, changes as we age and grow. These roles shift and expand. Thus, our careers need to do the same. They need to grow with us, complimenting the priorities we have and the goals we wish to achieve.

I recently had the pleasure of presenting to a group of new hires. Looking at the mostly millennial audience, I couldn’t help but think about what advice I would have wanted at their age. Job satisfaction and employee retention is, after all, rooted in the culture of a company.

After some thought, here’s what would have helped me most:

Be Flexible. Changes are ongoing and you will be a part of them, regardless of where you land. Bosses come and go, as do co-workers, teams and even entire divisions. Don’t let that define your career.  Embrace the change and view it as opportunity to learn and grow.

Don’t expect someone else to motivate you. You own your career.  If you don’t like who you work for or what you do, the great news is that if you go to a company is big enough, you can move around within and thus are provided  provide opportunity for reinvention. Life isn’t always fair. If you struggle, don’t let that stop you, keep moving forward. I always like to say to my team, “baby steps are steps too, as long as they are in the right direction.” Keep taking those baby steps and know that some days, you may go two forward, three back, but as long as you keep moving, it’s progress.

Build networks. In order to reinvent oneself, you need to have a great personal brand. When making career moves, no one relies solely on evaluations in HR systems. The decision is made predominately by what others you worked with/for say about you. Bad reputations are impossible to erase, but a good one, however, is golden. Build your personal board of advisors who you can rely on for sound guidance, honest feedback and support. They help you keep any work angst you may experience in perspective.

Be Open. I firmly believe that anyone with a positive attitude can learn to succeed. However, someone who is resistance to change, even if they are the smartest person in the room, likely will not. Perhaps my view is harsh, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve met really smart people who watch the world around them change, resist it, and then find themselves out of a job. The difference between these individuals is their desire and drive. Take that role that gets you out of your comfort zone so you can gain the experience. Approach it as a new way to drive innovation and learn, even if you aren’t always the smartest in the room.  

Be Tenacious. Think of your career as a lattice not a ladder. As you gain that experience, you are building your toolkit of knowledge and your networks. Some days you’ll gain management experience or the promotion you’d hoped for, other times you’ll get frustrated.  When you do, pick yourself up, dust off and keep taking those steps in the right direction.

In closing, make sure that your career reflects who you are and the values you have. You will change, but as you age, you will know yourself better. Don’t fear uncertainty – embrace it and grow with it. You never have just one role, one career or one priority. Stay hungry and adapt. Your career, and your priorities, will exhibit different shades in your lifetime. Find the job that brings you the most satisfaction, and the one that will shift with you to make you happiest.

About the author  Jennifer Schulze (jennifer.schulze@sap.com) is Vice President of Partner Marketing at SAP.  She leads a global team of marketing experts to ensure partner demand generation, awareness, and go-to-market success. She has more than 20 years of experience in consumer and technology marketing, with expertise in software, services, and consumer and business products.

Unfocused Content is Just Junk

Are you having the right conversation with your customers?

You use many resources to build brand awareness and guide customers through their journey to your company. When the average consumer encounters 11.4 pieces of content prior to making a purchase decision, there’s significant time and resource costs to get them through the front door. Ultimately, it costs businesses up to 7 times more to get a new customer than to retain the ones they have. One way of keeping customers engaged with your company and interested in your products and services is through customized content, which uses customer data to tailor their experience with your company.

Making Customized Content Work

Think of how much data you collect throughout a customer journey. You know what they purchased, products they looked at, content they engage with, where they live and countless other data points. Instead of creating marketing and sales content with a single audience in mind, you use customer data to pinpoint specific needs. You separate customers into different segments and create customized content for each segment. Sometimes using data for customization occurs on a small scale, like adding someone’s name in email marketing. In larger scale uses, you can create product recommendations displaying items related to recent purchases, or products likely to be of interest based on the customer’s store browsing history.

Effectively Use Data for Targeting Audiences

You don’t automatically use data the right way simply because you’ve generated it. You need to understand what data points you’re working with and how they fit into the overall customer or audience profile. Buyer personas are an important tool for dividing your audience into segments, but sometimes you miss the mark on what that audience actually wants, the proper language to use, or the problems they run into when they’re making purchasing decisions. Avoid judging what the customer wants and needs based on single data points, and look at the big picture. For example, a customer who talks to your support department and gets their problem solved may be happy with support, but still unhappy with other aspects of your company. Assuming this customer is a strong brand advocate and approaching them with marketing messages and content revolving around that audience segment may turn off this customer and drive them away entirely. Use your analytics tools to really understand where the customer is coming from and the overall impact of their experiences.

Offer Value, Consistently

Customers want consistent service and a good customer experience when purchasing from your business or using your services. 68% of customers jump ship to a different company due to poor customer experiences. You don’t want to use customer data solely to upsell and market to an existing customer. Instead, use this information to offer value. For example, if you know a customer is a parent, you can explain ways the parent can use your products in fun and innovative ways with their kids, or as a way to reduce the stress that comes from managing a family. You still reference your products and services when relevant, but you provide value to the customer instead of holding up a sign that says “Buy Now.”

You collect customer data through many sources, so put it to work in keeping customers around. Don’t wait until your customers are ready to leave you before talking to them in their language. Set yourself apart from the crowd by delivering customers targeted content based on their preferences, not a one-size-fits all approach. Keep the dialog engaging and relevant in the right ways, everyday.

About the author

Jennifer Schulze (jennifer.schulze@sap.com) is Vice President of Cloud Partner Marketing at SAP.  She leads a global team of marketing experts to ensure partner demand generation, awareness, and go-to-market success. She has more than 20 years of experience in consumer and technology marketing, with expertise in software, services, and consumer and business products.

Small Business Growth Tips

Put yourself in control during these times of uncertainty.  If you do, you’ll grow your business and begin to see more clarity than ever.   Here are some ways to achieve this.

Your customers should be the heart of all you do.  Face it- they have more choices today than ever.  Make sure that they know you value them so they keep coming back to you.  You want them to know implicitly that you are willing to move mountains to make them happy.  Suggest to them how they can excel in ways they might never have considered and become a partner in success together.  If you do this, they will help you grow through their loyalty.  If you don’t, a new vendor/company is just a click away.  Don’t give them reason to shop somewhere else.

Modest Growth is respectable growth.  If you stick by this mantra, it will help you deal with unexpected change.  Hiring now might mean paying a relative to help out short term; that’s growth too.  Given the economy is still in recovery mode, this is not the time to expand rapidly.  Rather, it is likely the time to recoup and regroup. This means building sales first, acquiring new customers in innovative ways and accumulating enough cash flow to weather possible tough future times.

Accept that you need to put in the time up front to see efforts pay off down the road.  A friend of mine who is a small business owner has spent countless hours making new forms, as well as entering customer and pertinent tax data in the past months.  Why? Not because he enjoys giving up weekends and evenings.  The reasoning is simple: long-term it will help save him time on a regular basis- like when tax time rolls around. It’s a painful process today, but the benefits will pay off handsomely down the road.

Know when to let go.   There are regulations everywhere and it’s not getting any easier to navigate them all, or the many new ones coming.   Small businesses are feeling the pressure more acutely as each one has a direct impact on their business model.  According to the NFIB Research Foundation Study, regulations force project cancellations, abandonment and significant adjustment to project plans.  How does a small business owner tackle them to stay compliant while still focusing on their company?  The best option might be to outsource this task, or bring in someone on a short term basis to tackle if for you.  After all, this is a moving target and maybe getting an expert in short term will give you one less thing to worry about.

Maneuver with skill. The steps being taken to spur growth of small businesses can most appropriately summed up in one word: confused.  On one hand, they may appear beneficial.  However, when looking closer, are they?  The corporate tax rate is slated to drop to 28% from 35% to spur growth.  On the flip side, any small business over 50 employees is going to need to provide health insurance.  Will what’s saved in taxes go to health insurance costs?  Some companies might choose to stay at 49 employees just to save costs.  However, that’s not a good long term strategy.  A better one might be to hire your relative, bring on short term contractors or even move out of state.  Managing your business will require looking at it holistically – with the adeptness to change fast and be able to have the right buttons to turn on/off easily.  These buttons could be ones like hiring that 50th employee, outsourcing production, or even forgoing investment in new equipment.

Become a Balancing Expert:  As a small business owner, you need to not only continue to run your business effectively, but also continue to master new things coming.   Many of the answers you find on your quest for certainly and clarity may be found in unlikely places- from peers who’ve made mistakes you can learn from, your own mishaps, or even from that part time expert you had to hire to help you navigate the new health care laws or business regulations.  Whatever you do, don’t sit back and hope for clarity or an easy break.  It’s not likely to come soon in this dynamic business climate.  Put yourself in control instead.

 

 

About the Author:  Jennifer Schulze is a small business owner in San Francisco, California.  She also helps companies manage their small business challenges at SAP, where she markets software that aids small and midsize companies in running better.

A tribute to a Hero

Sometime in the early hours of October 13th in Afghanistan, a place far away that I never desired to visit, a suicide bomber exploded himself.  He took with him valued lives, including Dario Lorenzetti. 

His friends from West point called him “Tex”, his girls (ages 6,4 and 2) called him “dada”, his wife “honey” and to his family he was a “son” and “brother”.  To the rest of us, he was Dario.  Dario, a selfless, smart man with a heart bigger than Texas who gave his life and left me here wondering why.  How could someone so kind, so loving, ever be considered the enemy?  As I head to Houston to try to give comfort to his wife, my best friend for over 35 years, I have no idea what to say or do.  I’m sorry doesn’t do it.  I feel so robbed and he wasn’t my father, husband or son.  He was someone that made this world a better place for everyone around him blessed to know him. 

It’s not about political views here.  It’s about a life gone.  A valuable life that in just less than two months was scheduled to come home to make pancakes with his girls more often, spend more time in his home again and hang out with his friends and family.  He was in his last days of giving to this country after a year of foreign service and a young 42 years old. 

God Bless you Dario and thank you.  You are missed already and won’t ever be forgotten.

JS