One more reason we could never export!
Is the tacitly acknowledged correlation between campaign donations and access to legislators corruption? In the US we say "no." At least in the formal sense of legality.
Yet simultaneously we decry the exchange of cash, often sunk into campaign gifting to influential constituencies, between politicians and business people in foreign markets.
Corruption is endemic in business globally. Some of it is institutionalized, much of it is recognized. No matter where it occurs, it is a tax on business, and ultimately on the consumers who bear the costs that are embedded in product pricing.
And it is a reality for American companies that explore global sales opportunities.
FCPA Enforcement and implications for business owners
The US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act outlines very stringent guidelines for global businesses. It has long arms (one of the largest enforcement actions under the FCPA was against Siemens, a German company, for it's corrupt practices in other markets) and significant consequences.
Officers and directors of US companies have personal criminal exposure for actions of their employees, representatives and agents - even when they occur without their knowledge.
And D&O insurance often specifically excludes individual defense coverage for FCPA enforcement actions.
But most SMBs are simply unaware of the FCPA, and those that are familiar presume that it doesn't apply (since most companies don't sell directly to foreign governments where it is presumed, incorrectly, that most corruption would occur.) Every company which exports has interactions with foreign customs - and fascinating statistics indicate that more than half of all FCPA enforcement actions actually have a genesis in customs complications
If you are a business owner - it's not something to take lightly.
Now the good news
Some simple, common sense steps can dramatically mitigate your FCPA enforcement exposure. Underpinning any program, though, must be a clear, unwavering, philosophical commitment to eschew any corrupt overtures by anyone.
The FCPA offers some exceptions (small bribes to obtain local permits for instance) but they aren't clearly defined, nor have they been tested. There are certain things for which it's great to be known as a trailblazer, and then there are....you know what I mean.
A capable advisor can help you quantify your risk, suggest steps to mitigate it, and offer a range of resources to support your efforts.
It's simply not a viable excuse for ignoring the other 95% of the world's potential prospects!
So corruption is a fact of global business, but not a barrier. Nevertheless, as you create target market profiles (you don't just sell to the latest lead, right? That would be "accidental" ad hoc exporting which is never a sound approach. You should select markets (region, country or even metro specific) according to a strategy!) one factor worth weighing is the prevalence of local corruption.
This great infographic provides a snapshot of Transparency International's 2013 data.Thinking broadly about how to maximize your global business development efforts
? One element that is often overlooked is the important role of government relations - even for small business.Download our free eBook on the topic for more info
Evolutionary Marketing & New Markets Blog
"I'll pass your message on to my web people"
I had a brief email exchange recently with one of the nation's noted thought leaders on sales technique and approaches. I had pointed out, perhaps too brashly, that there was a dissonance between some of the clumsy lead collection methods employed on their website, and the cutting edge innovation which characterized both their published work and the guidance they provide to clients.
That earned me the above response.
Fair enough...but that got me stewing a bit. I concluded that it illustrates two points that are often overlooked.
- The dissonance between how we sell and buy (or maybe the perfect alignment.....)
- The odd detachment with which astute business people assign responsibility and accountability for marketing
"Crazy Busy" buying and abdicating your business success to extraordinary sales people
I've been a fan of Jill Konrath since I heard her speak at @HubSpot's Inbound13. (Interested in hearing other great speakers at the 14 event? Register here
.) Her presentation worked - I went and bought her book Snap Selling
which I'm in the process of reading.
She does a great job outlining the challenge that sales people face trying to reach (as in really, really reach, in a thoughtful way) the insanely busy folks to whom they sell. She explores the common competitor all B2B businesses face - the status quo. It's good stuff.
And yet I wonder how many business owners will read her book, adapt their sales approaches accordingly, and experience a measurable delta in their business development efforts.....and yet continue to make buying decisions for their businesses in the same chaotic way. It's your company, should you really leave its success to the vicissitudes of the market - only addressing those issues that are happenstantially raised by the very rare, effective sales person approaching you?
Internet Marketing's parallel reality
This is the bigger point, and the one which may incite vitriolic replies.
B2B marketing today is a tremendously complex process which requires great strategy, relentless execution, continuous tweaking and an abiding recognition of the pressure, impatience, skepticism and "crazy busy-ness" that are common across today's frazzled business executives.
And yet we often default critical functions and decisions to folks who don't have the horsepower to deliver the caliber of work which we would demand if we bought, keeping our crazy busy prospects in mind, with the same rigor with which we sell. For example:
- The Intern - the person in the office who is most personally familiar and facile with social media - and who knows virtually nothing about your business, strategy, products or competitors - is deputized with establishing social community engagement. Updates on keg stands, after all, are pretty close to pithy, strategically driven, engaging posts around issues of important business value, right?
- The "web people" - these are the folks who put a conversion form on the page. That's their job. If you have good ones, they'll test it several times to make sure it captures and relays information correctly, and triggers whatever follow on steps you outlined for them. But they're not going to, nor can they be realistically expected to, bring insight to what data fields you should collect based on segmentation and progressive profiling of leads in support of your larger strategy; or map complex nurturing or lead scoring processes.
- The "marketing people" - they are concerned with generating leads - inducing folks to click the "submit" button on the conversion form. Constrained by the traditional silo roles of B2B Marketing & Sales, their role is limited to creating brand buzz or lead generation.
- The "sales team" - they pounce on those leads (which might not be properly profiled by the web folks or fully nurtured by the marketing folks) with the objective of closing them.
It's easy to see, from 30,000', what's missing. The strategy, and overseer of that strategy are necessary components to coordinate and align the activities of each group. That's what recent research from Marketing Profs
, LinkedIn and the Content Marketing Institute found.
Process or results?
Sensing this gap, many business owners turn to outside resources to help them improve their B2B internet marketing. And there is no shortage of "agencies" professing the credentials to do so - sometimes perversely manifesting a lack of qualification in their zeal to promote themselves. Did you read about this confidence inspiring Chicago agency struggling to retain relevance?
But after several hundred words of context, here we arrive at the crux of the issue.
I believe that it is simply impossible for a "marketer" who has not run a business (not an agency) to really produce optimized marketing in today's world of a long, blurred buying process.
Critical to business growth is successful business development. And business development today requires an enterprise wide perspective. Simply tweaking around the edges of marketing (poking gently at the bubble from the inside in an effort to expand it without popping it) won't work. Yet that is inherently the approach which folks who are products of the marketing silo will take.
They lack the perspective of someone who makes the tough enterprise wide procurement decisions based on limited resources; who considers multiple, nuanced and consequential business wide implications of decisions; who sits astride marketing & sales; and who can't simply default to assigning responsibility for underperformance to an internal function without accepting responsibility for fixing it.
An agency run by "marketers" can't deliver peak results
That's right. Simple and direct. Un-provable but certain.
Certainly there are capable marketing agencies, particularly purpose built inbound marketing groups (not traditional design and media folks trying to Stretch Armstrong themselves into continued relevance) which deliver measurable results and impressive ROI. Maybe that's good enough.
But is "good enough" the measure to which businesses should aspire in today's competitive global economy? Absolutely not. And therefore the distinction between doing better, and achieving optimal performance (without skidding out to the end of the cost/benefit curve) should be a focus of every business owner. Sure, improvement is good. But excellence is better.
And to achieve excellence business owners should seek business development assistance from the uniquely qualified advisors who share their comprehensive perspective. It's not good enough just to improve with help from those who provide an evolution of the traditional silo view. Today that lacks the required the nuance and perspective to effectively market and sell to "crazy busy" buyers.
image - Debbie's blogEvolutionary Marketing & New Markets Blog
A variety of recent articles - looking for a B2B Growth Strategy Theme
"Since World War II, America has been the envy of the world, boasting average annual economic growth of more than 3.5% for most of that period, despite periodic recessions, huge global defense obligations and corrosive inflation from the late 1960s to the early 1980s. But two secular trends threaten to end this golden age...growth depends on both increases in the size of working age populations and their productivity. Unfortunately each measure shows signs of dramatically slowing...
Our new era, the Great Stagnation"
Barron's "Slowing to a Crawl" October 28, 2013
"Because customers are increasingly savvy about their needs and available solutions, sales reps must challenge them by offering disruptive insights and unexpected solutions....encouraging innovation and a sense of business ownership among sales reps....
Empowered customers now approach suppliers armed with a clear idea of their own needs, the potential solutions, and what they're willing to pay. When suppliers encounter such customers, there's often little left to negotiate but price.
As a result, a supplier's biggest competitive challenge today isn't so much the competition's ability to sell, as it is the customer's ability to learn. Where as competing against a rival's ability to sell requires superior sales discipline - more calls per hour, visits per week, and so on - competing against a customer's ability to learn requires superior teaching skills, a talent for revealing novel and important information about the business that the customer has overlooked...
Most advanced sales organizations are verifying not only the behaviors late in the process that indicated whether a customer is closer to making a purchase but also the behaviors very early in the process that signal whether the customer is ready and willing to change. This approach is about creating demand, not simply responding to it."
Harvard Business Review "Dismantling the Sales Machine" September, 2013
"Executives (aren't) in denial about their propensity for error....the bulk of the decision making research applies to one type of decision, and it's not the type that's most challenging for managers. Their most important and most difficult decisions - strategic decisions with consequences for the performance of the company - call for a very different approach.
The fact is that people need to make up their minds in a great variety of circumstances, and it's a source of confusion that the same word, "decision," is used for all of them...When a company faces an opportunity - to enter a new market, acquire another company, or launch a new product - what is required of it's management? A decision...
Decision makers need to develop two vital skills. First they must be able to discern the nature of the decision at hand. Second, they need to respond with the appropriate approach, able to act now as a psychologist, then as a tactician, next as a riverboat gambler, and perhaps once again as a psychologist. When it comes to the most complex decisions of all, those that drive the fortunes for organizations, executives need more than an ability to avoid common errors. They require a seemingly contradictory blend: a talent for clear-eyed analysis and the ability to take bold action."
Harvard Business Review "What Makes Strategic Decisions Different" November, 2013
Here's the theme - Business development evolution
And the articles take us on a journey - from
What's happening around you that will force change
One of the key areas that demands change
Why the decision to change is so problematic - even when you're the boss
So where are we going with this? It's really pretty simple. And non of it is startling if you take your nose out of the sports section long enough to really observe macro trends.
Revenue growth is no longer by default - it now requires a deliberate growth strategy
There was a time in the US when you could grow your B2B manufacturing business by working hard and being a reliable partner. Economic growth powered along - which created new customers for you. And once you had a customer they rode the same wave of growth with their own customers. So incremental organic growth from existing customers and new customer growth both happened normally. It's no news flash that that's changed.
The buying process has inverted roles - but B2B Sales & Marketing persist in archaic approaches
Buyers will find your solution based on your ability to craft a digestible narrative of how your solution fits problems they recognize (or not) and coaches them through the process of making a buying decision that satisfies their personal and corporate buying process. Think about it. You're the same. Aside from occasional referrals, if it's not in the search results, it's not a viable solution! And you have neither time nor inclination to entertain inane sales rep questions - particularly while you are researching and learning. Every single prospect of yours is the same. You need to start treating them accordingly!
Evaluating and deciding where to focus and how to adapt is really complicated
That's the bad news. The good news is that recognizing that you must, and committing to do so is really quite simple. And further, incorporating an outside perspective can have an amazingly simplifying effect. A detached 3rd party with pertinent business development experience in the B2B manufacturing space can help to distill the tremendously complex array of opportunities and variables that you see into a focused set of priorities with the greatest profit and revenue opportunity according to your goals, products and markets.
In essence, with the right advisors, your decision is simply to change as the markets demand. (And to pick the right advisor....)
Who | Where | How
But it's important that the expertise upon which you rely is broad and relevant. Really succeeding today means looking at the right markets to support your target growth. Just as that requires looking strategically beyond a stagnating domestic market, it similarly demands a cerebral approach to market selection rather than a reflexive pursuit of high profile BRICs.
Similarly, intensively evaluating your strengths, and developing ideal customer (and channel partner) profiles, will allow you to allocate limited business development resources where they will be effective (and apply appropriately diverse models to different types of targets accordingly.)
Finally, developing B2B sales & marketing approaches which mirror the way your customers buy today is critical. You'll be amazed by how incredibly effective and efficient your process becomes when it satisfies your buyers, rather than your traditional sales approach.
If you are thrashing around trying to decide if something needs to change, you will be overwhelmed. If you are casting about trying to design the change yourself, from within your bubble, you will be overwhelmed. And if you try to develop a business development growth strategy which doesn't simultaneously consider all three elements noted above, you will consign yourself, and your business, to mediocrity.
Certainly there's lots that's new. But you've been here before. There was a time early in your life adventure when everything was foreign, harsh and perplexing. But it was exciting - and you prevailed....with the caring, wisdom and help of others.
And this time the potty training will only be figurative!
You know your business well. Find someone who understands today's B2B global (that means everywhere - domestic and international) business development world as well as you know your business, and understands how to use today's powerful, efficient tools to reach buyers and help them buy.You'll be astounded at the clarity, focus, strategy and results.
image - ABC NewsEvolutionary Marketing & New Markets Blog
Understand the distinction
Laws vary between jurisdictions, but generally agree on the distinction between manslaughter and murder.
Manslaughter is killing, voluntary or involuntary, in the course of other activities done recklessly. Murder involves premeditation. It is a deliberate activity, with a specific purpose, not simply a byproduct of another.
What's the B2B Marketing point of the distinction? Recent MarketingProfs (@MarketingProfs
) research, published in conjunction with LinkedIn and the Content Marketing Institute
reveals one incontrovertible fact which proves that premeditation and deliberation are key to success.
Beyond a shadow of a doubt
Directly comparing most vs. least effective content marketing programs, the research found a number of areas of differentiation between different programs.
You'll find the entire infographic below. It's worth spending a few minutes to digest.
But the most critical factors are evident in this block.
Two factors (shown on the left) have the most profound effect on the success of an inbound marketing initiative. And they both have to do with strategy.
Having a documented strategy, and having someone actually in charge of the program and executing that strategy, go further than anything besides senior management buy-in and support.
If you want to "kill it", you have to plan it
B2B inbound marketing success isn't going to happen by accident. You're not going to manslaughter your way to business growth. You can't create a few social media accounts, create a blog to post semi-annual press releases, or put the intern (you know the one that is a natural with Instagram?) in charge of your content marketing merely because they have more technical aptitude than you.
Just as you wouldn't leave your R&D and product roadmap to chance, you can't fumble your way through effective content marketing.
And while there's value in identifying the distinction between having a strategy and having someone to oversee it's execution, they both point to the same root issue.
The companies that succeed with inbound marketing are the ones who embrace it as a core activity - not simply as a tweak around the edges.
Take a stab at it...
Frustrated that it's getting harder and harder to find new customers? Tired of dumping money into the latest new internet marketing fad without seeing results? Are you ready to take a cold blooded, analytical & premeditated stab at it for your business?
The reason most companies don't have a guiding inbound marketing strategy is specifically because they don't have the overseeing talent in house. This is a rapidly evolving discipline. Your in-house team may well have familiarity, but hardly state of the art forensics tools or training.
Let them coordinate, but draw on outside experts to help create and oversee the strategy. And download your Step by Step Guide to Internet Marketing here
Here's the entire infographic
Evolutionary Marketing & New Markets Blog
When did it all become free?
It certainly didn't start with Napster. Although vilified, particularly in the music industry, the "peer to peer" (or piracy) sharing service didn't single handedly prompt the erosion of intellectual property rights that so many bemoan.
Maybe it was the Polaroid instant camera? Maybe the Xerox machine? Obviously as technology has accelerated, the decreased incremental cost and increased ease with which content can be shared (and rights abridged) has violently disrupted many business models built on copyrighted IPR.
And while the impact on newspapers and music producers has been an existential business model crisis, Tim Kreider's recent piece in the New York Times "Slaves of the Internet, Unite!
" passionately describes the personal impact on 'artists' of all stripes. And he tags the change, understandably to the internet.
This is partly a side effect of our information economy, in which “paying for things” is a quaint, discredited old 20th-century custom, like calling people after having sex with them.
Narcissism & "Selfies"
Somewhere along the way the power of the internet morphed from allowing the inappropriate sharing of protected material to fostering the sharing of inane material.
Oddly now, merely having some collection of bits & bytes seems to oblige one to blast it about.
So we end up with this strange contradiction. Material of value (at least to it's author, illustrator, etc.) which should be shared under control and while observing rights, is shared without consideration - disregarding all those inconvenient "signs, signs, everywhere signs" admonishing against doing so. And yet material that has no inherent value, save a fleeting moment of titillation, is shared with equal gusto. And thereby the valuable is devalued not only though the abrogation of rights, but further through the association with volumes of content, similarly shared, but having no value.
Creative (and business) dilemma
As a result folks who create 'content' find themselves unsure how to, or whether to ascribe value to that content. In the B2B marketing world this is manifest through the ongoing debate over "gating" content.
In a recent blog post
Ross Andrew Simons (@Ross_A_Simons
) took another run at answering the question of "What's More Important: the Contact, or the Contact Info?" - or simply whether the content piece of your B2B Content Marketing should live behind a form or not.
If by our collective actions we demonstrate that even artistic and unique content has no commercial value to be broadly recognized, then how hubristic it is of B2B marketers to assert that their content is uniquely valuable and deserving of today's currency - the email address.
Perhaps the admonition that "content" must be "awesome" highlights more than the fundamental attribute necessary to accrue valuable social shares, but rather the benchmark to which anyone must aspire if they hope to be anymore than mere digital clutter.
Now we have a cadre of professionals whose objective is to actively encourage the profligate devaluation of their IP by hoping for, even fostering the broadest possible dissemination.
Are we to value it and protect it? To value it and blast it around indiscriminately? Or to simply discredit the inherent value of intellectual property and content?
Extension of value (or lack thereof)
But there's a further consequence of this irreconcilable contradiction. And this is born by those who have become casual consumers of others IP. It's the slippery slope of "do it yourself-ism"
It used to be that the erudition implicit in certain professional designations and accomplishments engendered great respect. But with Word, today everyone is an author, just as with Adobe, everyone is an illustrator. Certainly certain professions retain an association with elevated incomes, but decreasingly for the knowledge and expertise required to practice them with distinction.
As the availability of information has exploded, the value associated with holding that information has decreased. And the misapprehension that access to that knowledge was the only barrier in the democratization of a craft has taken hold.
And today, therefore, every small business owner wears the "many hats" of various functions for which they have little aptitude - yet for which, with a couple hours of googling, they believe they have achieved an adequate level of expertise.
How profoundly silly is that? Seriously! And how regrettable.
Earnest, hard working, intelligent folks have been hoodwinked, by the profusion and devaluation of content, into believing that simply doing is nearly as valuable as doing expertly.
And not only is the dumbing down of the refined and expert practice of various professional crafts tragic, in the case of B2B functions is typically detrimental to business growth and profitability.
But ironically, the same circumstances that led folks to believe in the power of DiY similarly foster a myopia that prevent them from recognizing the folly of their approach.
While we still discern differences in quality and value between wines (say '2 buck chuck' vs. Opus One) or music (e.g. an elementary school concert vs. the philharmonic) or legal counsel (for instance the expectation of expertise one has for a residential real-estate closing vs. a global M&A closing) - it seems that in business development the standard to which businesses hold themselves accountable is simply doing. Who worries today about doing it well?
As Kreider said, "'paying for things' is a quaint, discredited old 20th-century custom".....
image from HubHappeningsEvolutionary Marketing & New Markets Blog
American cars were a quality joke but every scoffed at "Made in Japan"? Or when supply chain management meant cozy lunches for purchasing managers and sales reps? And how about when "lean" meant keeping shop floor pay low enough that the bodies didn't impact the bottom line?
In most organizations, change comes in only two flavors: trivial and traumatic. Review the history of the average organization and you'll discover long periods of incremental fiddling punctuated by occasional bouts of frantic, crisis-driven change.
Gary Hamel via Brainyquote
Some of you reading actually may not, but many will. American manufacturing experienced a "bout of frantic, crisis-driven change" over several decades around the turn of the century. It was a brutally Darwinian period which saw huge numbers of manufacturers fail, and most others experience wrenching and traumatic change.
Strength from trauma
If there's any truth to the maxim that the greatest and most enduring change is typically a result of the most traumatic episodes, then US manufacturing is the most compelling case study.
Managers are trained to make incremental, programmatic improvements. They aren't trained to lead large-scale change.
John Kotter via Brainyquote
Fundamental reengineering of operational and manufacturing processes were birthed by necessity - a compelling need for survival amidst brutal import competition. And the result is amazing to behold. Superb quality, remarkable innovation, efficiency, productivity, near perfection, incredibly short lead-times and a host of other nearly unimaginable positive outcomes. For the metrics nuts among you, just picture the "up and to the right" graph of uninterrupted manufacturing growth in the US against the consistent decline in manufacturing employment. The latter creates policy concerns, but the divergence speaks to the power of the renaissance.
To boil it down...the massive reengineering of business operations and processes was spurred by crisis and necessity, but has entirely redefined American manufacturing.
While Jim wrestles the alligator, I'll head back to set up camp
Meanwhile the B2B Sales and Marketing crowd has been much like the much beloved Marlin Perkins of Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom (another blast from the past for those of you who remember looking disdainfully at "Made in Japan"!)
While operations and manufacturing folks have been engaged in a brutal, exhausting fight for survival (and have now triumphed at least until the next bout of complacency), the sales & marketing crew have expended equal emotion....complaining.
The lamentations are well known. "Buyers are unreasonable" "No one understands value anymore" etc, etc.
And they have responded with small tweaks here and there. You know what I mean. A database to make the annual Holiday card process a little more efficient; some training on how to artfully turn a phrase to highlight a prospect's plight; a website (getting pretty space age here now); and probably some PayPerClick (PPC) advertising. They might call for a new product line extension, gnash their teeth over pricing, and even sell a little here and there beyond what they traditionally considered their market.
And they expend enormous energy on marking their territory and protecting their silos.
But what's happening in the meantime?
While they fight their turf battles, smugly boasting about their small incremental tweaks around the edges of their b2b sales & marketing world, they are missing the tectonic shifts that are occurring around them - just as their manufacturing colleagues did in the late decades of the 20th century.
And that hubristic blind spot will cost them dearly.
It's no longer viable to think of your market as the US, or some region thereof. Rather, today your market is those prospects who would want to buy your stuff if they knew about it and you made it available to them. If you persist in thinking of your market as some slice of the US, which you might then occasionally and VERY cautiously augment with some small piece of the other 95% of the worlds buyers, then guess what. Your business will wither. Every credible research group concurs with McKinsey's assessment that business growth will be in developing markets for the next several decades. Foreign businesses see the globe as one large market - and they identify profitable opportunities. You must too.
And it's no longer tenable to view sales & marketing as entirely distinct functions - and even further divorced from corporate development. Rather BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT should become the framework through which companies identify prospects, reach them, sell them, and continue to engage them - wherever they can profitably do so. The marketing function is certainly important to that, as is sales. But they must be viewed not as departments, but as transitions in a business development continuum for companies focused on growth.
So blow it up and reengineer it
Here's the call, and the warning. It's time to reengineer business development just like operations and manufacturing before it.
Can we define exactly what it will look like in the end? No. Is there even an end? Of course not. It will be a continuous process of evolution. But the starting point must be a radical reimaging of the traditional model.
I have a great respect for incremental improvement, and I've done that sort of thing in my life, but I've always been attracted to the more revolutionary changes. I don't know why. Because they're harder. They're much more stressful emotionally. And you usually go through a period where everybody tells you that you've completely failed.
Steve Jobs via Brainyquote
What's clear is that growth must be the fundamental unencumbered metric - and it must be unconstrained by artificial (traditional doesn't correlate to legitimacy) restrictions. The time for incremental improvement is past. The time for "revolutionary change" in business development is here. And that will take bold leadership - management isn't up to the challenge.
And that's why I now refuse to talk to companies about "global sales & export business development" or "inbound marketing approaches to customer acquisition." Rather we talk about "reimagining" their business development. That's too much for some folks. And that's OK. (Just remember that the idea of designing quality in was radical too. After all, just adding social media to your marketing is akin to simply putting another set of eyes at the end of your assembly line scanning for defects. It's addressing a symptom, not the issue.)
But if you are a leader in a business that is interested in exploring how "revolutionizing" your business development might work, let's chat. I'll follow up promptly for a quick conversation.
images from green manufacturer
, crusoe the celebrity dachsund
and spirit burnerEvolutionary Marketing & New Markets Blog
"I hear you. That's great for other markets but it's not appropriate for our industry. That's not how our customers do things."
Everyone likes to feel good about their opinions, knowledge and grasp of big issues - particularly those that are at the core of their professional identity.
And we naturally tend to seek out and associate with those who tend to share a similar outlook. So if you're a 55-year-old business owner who thinks that Twitter is the most inane crap you've ever heard of, completely inappropriate for your business and not used by any of your potential customers, you'll normally associate with others who have similar perspectives.
Similarly if you're a millennial who's running a business and doesn't put a phone number on your website because you assume that everyone will prefer to work via email (or cryptic SMS), you probably spend time talking about work with others who are eschew the telephone and coordinate their activities with text messages.
Whatever you believe, as the bromide goes, you're right. And each time one of your "birds of a feather" parrots back (pun intended) the same stuff that makes sense to you, your cognitive bias kicks in and you become even more soundly convinced of the ubiquitous validity of your opinions.
The real value is in challenge
But how many of you really "want the truth?"
Obviously we're not talking about seriously ethical plays in this case - but we're talking about your business. And increasingly in today's hyper-competitive, digital global world that means peeking over the wall (across borders and into the social media and digital marketing maelstrom) to learn uncomfortable truths about what's really happening out there.
What we learn is often uncomfortable - it doesn't resonate. We have a choice. We can discount the contradictions as simply the product of a psychotic like COL Jessup - or a slightly misguided dreamer from an unrelated industry. (Ever used the easy ones? "But that's good for B2C. We're B2B!" or "Sure, big companies can do that, but we're just a small private business.)
Or we can expose our bellies and start to absorb the blows - and that's likely how they'll feel. Gut punches to much of that which you hold to be established fact - particularly about the role of global business development and digital marketing in your traditional B2B American industry.
But you must be ready to listen; consider and internalize some of what you learn.
Step out of your echo chamber
So start with rule #1 - you are not your customer and your customer is not you. What you want matters when you go grocery shopping or spend time on your hobby. But the way your prospects buy will continue to change no matter how ingrained your denial.
Some uncomfortable truths about B2B business development in today's global business environment:
- nobody cares about your product. Seriously! It's what it does for them personally and professionally. I don't care what you sell. Your product is simply a vehicle to achieve another objective
- over 90% of B2B purchases start with search
- the typical B2B buying cycle is 70% complete before a sales rep is engaged
- 95% of the world's consumers lie outside the US
- the fastest growing markets are all outside the US
and yes.....Twitter is a real, viable and necessary B2B business development tool.
Check out this list of notable business leaders
who are actively engaged. (@PaulDunay
) And so are LinkedIn, YouTube and even image centric sites which you probably thought were just for pictures of cupcakes and earrings! (After all, remember it's not about your product!)
We're happy to challenge your traditional assumptions - but only if you're serious about engaging in a productive dialog. We can stay home and pull the string on our classic Bozo if we're interested in simply hearing the same thing over and over again!
You know - the "But that's for B2C" and "Export is too complicated" silliness while exchanging smug nods with your "birds of a feather."
And our promise in return isn't to simply push formulaic responses. Not every social media platform is right for any business, and not every global market is an attractive opportunity. In fact, some companies should simply remain domestic. But decisions should be informed and concious rather than the default product of naivete...or ignorance.
Don't be a bozo - get serious about growing your business in today's world, rough and tumble as it is, and stop fantasizing about how you would have grown in in the 90s!
images from inklover
and flikrEvolutionary Marketing & New Markets Blog
It's not like putzing around with your deck!
Home Depot is often cited as an example of a company that really understands content marketing. They make DiY home projects accessible and digestible through great use of various media tools.
Some of you may have had the same Sunday evening experience as me - that maybe they make it seem a bit too accessible!
But we live in a DiY world of never enough money and never enough time. If your deck project takes a an extra season to finish you may have some marital discord and neighbors impatient for you to reciprocate their invitations for the 4th of July neighborhood cookout, but otherwise you won't suffer substantial negative consequences.
Business people (even in mid-size companies!) get into trouble though, when they extrapolate that experience to their business investments. We see it in "accidental export" programs that devolve into a marginally successful series of ad-hoc market activities (rather than a strategic business revenue driver) and in digital marketing (where everyone thinks that with a twitter account and a website they'll realize all possible benefit.)
And in addition to overestimating their in-house capability, there's also skepticism of outside resources (whether consultant, agency, etc.) Too many companies have been dissatisfied with results in the past and presume that mediocrity is all they can reasonably expect.
The cost of doing it cheaply isn't savings
I've cited Josh Linkner's blog in the past. But this week's article
deserves presentation in its entirety. Give it a quick read, then let's circle back together at the end.
Business people waste a lot of time worrying about spending money. By conserving cash, the thinking goes, they are protecting their most precious and scarce resource. As an investor in startup companies, I see this pattern play out again and again: leaders that invest too slowly in growth, believing this is a safe approach.
Awesome or what? Make you a little uncomfortable with some of your budgeting decisions? A lot uncomfortable?
In today's fiercely competitive landscape, squeezing pennies has simply become a losing formula. In fact, the most valuable and scare resource is not money; it's time. A plan that fearfully conserves is actually far more risky than one of heavy investment in innovation and scale.
If you have a great idea to launch a business or a new strategy to grow an existing one, chances are that hundreds of others around the world have the same idea. The question becomes, who will get there first? Results in business are often binary - the winner takes all. So any friction that slows down your sprint to the finish line becomes an albatross that restricts your ability to achieve.
Unlike time, money is a replaceable asset. You can create more through revenue, loans, or investment. Time, on the other hand, cannot be replenished. While it doesn't show up on accounting statements, it is your most precious -- and limited -- commodity.
Most people overlook the importance of speed. They don't consider the opportunity cost of squandered time, lost opportunity, or forgoing competitive advantage. They don't realize that most ideas have a limited shelf life, and that failure is too often the result of simply moving too slowly.
Concerned about spending, an entrepreneur recently asked me if he should spend an extra $10,000 on contractors to launch his product two weeks earlier. My response: "What is the cost of waiting the extra two weeks? Lost customers? Slower company growth? Handing over competitive advantage? In hard dollars, if you have the rest of your 20 people working for an extra 14 days, what happens to the overall project cost?" Turns out, spending "more" equated to actually spending less when looking at the big picture. More importantly, it allowed this startup leader to hit the market faster.
Vince Lombardi famously said, "In my entire career, I never lost a single game... I just ran out of time." If you're looking to seize the next level, worry less about investing in growth and worry a whole lot more about letting time slip through your fingers. As you deeply consider the impact of waiting, you'll want to strap on your running shoes and begin to sprint.
Sure you've heard that bromide that it takes money to make money. And GoDaddy would have you believe that if you can create a "website" like writing an email, you've addressed your company's digital marketing requirements with a smaller investment.
But there's clearly more to it. Pursuing global opportunities wherever they pop up leads companies to conclude that export growth strategy is only for multinationals. A twitter handle and static "brochure" website are no longer signs of savvy - but rather easy gauges of a companies digital ineptitude.
It's critical to find advisors whose deep expertise informs their recommendations - not, for instance, PR agencies simply scrambling to maintain relevance or logistics experts who claim broad global business development chops.
And then it's equally important to find those confident enough in their approach and results to comfortably detail incremental approaches to simultaneously deliver results and do so in a phased model which gives clients comfort in the knowledge that they aren't simply plunging blindly into an abyss of consulting fees without corroleting results.
With impressive results, those fees are a sensible investment. Without results, their outrageous and exorbitant regardless of how big they are.
Bottom line? Listen to Josh. Don't be silly trying to be savvy.
And check out our approach to B2B digital marketing. For the investment of a couple typical trade shows, you've got a phased program that proves its merit each step of the way. Download a really, really detailed overview by clicking here
or the image below.
image credit - JoshLinkner.comEvolutionary Marketing & New Markets Blog
Please note - We are publishing this infographic becuase it is interesting in helping to convey the shifting nature of global markets. HOWEVER, our numerous attempts to contact the publisher to ascertain their location, motivation, authority or credibility have been met with vague and evasive responses. So we ask that you digest the information but recognize that this isn't and endorsement of the source which isn't referenced here due to their evasiveness.
Alert the media!
The US economy isn't the fastest growing market in the world. If you're solely domestic in your business focus that means you're probably hunkered down trying to ride out the "new reality."
Here's an alternative - look at where activity is high, which markets are growing rapidly and which ones offer the environment which is favorable for your growth.
With that in mind, here's a snapshot by region. Have you thought about Vietnam? How about Ghana?
Viable for your business?
Intrigued? Wondering what markets might be right for you
? Where to go first
? What export tips and tricks
you should keep in mind? How exporting might increase the value
of your business?
We've got all that info and more. Give us a call to discuss how our #SellMoreThere market approach brings global sales within reach as part of your growth strategy.Evolutionary Marketing & New Markets Blog
The cash flow fire drill
Whether companies are publically traded, private but beholden to their lenders/investors, or simply conservative, the quarterly planning cycle of American business drives perversions of strategy.
That's hardly news, and it's a fact that many simply accept. Sort of like a serenity prayer for business, we are called on to recognize and accept the things we can't change. But for SMBs that are privately owned and have the latitude to implement longer-term strategies, now is the time.
Business growth is likely to become increasingly problematic - and the solutions will take time to affect. It's time to start. Unfortunately there's no pill to help repress that visceral reflex to suddenly cut or scale back business development strategies that were fully justified and eminently sensible...until you saw that latest spreadsheet or projection. But perhaps a quick look at the current environment, likely scenarios, and imminent challenges will provide an inoculation against caving-in to the impulse, and the perspective to see value beyond the next couple quarters.
Woody Allen Wisdom
"More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly."
Relax! Nobody thinks it's that bad. But.....
I pulled this from John Mauldin's Thoughts from the Frontline article
this week. (I periodically refer to his work in this blog - I find it unvarnished, apolitical, global and fundamental.) Mauldin uses the quote to highlight the positions in which many central banks find themselves. He says "Growing our way out of our problems (debt, cyclical easing, etc.) would be ideal, but it isn't an option. Economic growth is elusive everywhere we look."
And he further quotes Joan McCullough, to whom he periodically turns for a particularly dour perspective, "The data has stunk for a long time and continues to worsen. And the anecdotes confirming this are yours for the askin'. The only question remaining is for how long we can continue to bet the ranch on wildly incontinent monetary policy while deliberately opting to ignore the ongoing disintegration of our economic fabric."
To keep his essay engaging, Mauldin predicts knife fights among central banks and drastic measures by those of emerging markets.
Even if you disagree with the economic analysis
So, while you are focused on keeping up with your email, making payroll and incremental improvements in supply chain management and manufacturing efficiency, there are some tectonic forces at play which will impact the market environment in which you operate. We've never tried these things before, and the forecasts for outcomes vary wildly.
In short, the lens through which we view markets was ground and polished by business experience in a vastly different environment. We simply lack the framework to fully visualize how markets differ today - yet we still view them through the old lens. Case in point; the trend you've already noticed - that traditional domestic business development isn't yielding the same growth results that it used to - will accelerate. Fixing it is simple, but not easy. And it's not quick.
Prudence dictates that we implement strategies not just for survival, but to thrive: and once committed to those strategies, to adjust as required but persevere through the inevitable frustrations - those lonely management moments when you question the approach - and ignore the periodic urge to revert to 'comfortable' reactive budgeting. In other words, no self-destructive cash flow fire drills!
A Growth Strategy for an elusive growth environment
While Mauldin never shies away from painting a realistic, even if uncomfortable picture, he also outlines solutions. And now that I've shared dire macro predictions, let's look at what small & medium size B2B manufacturing businesses can do to position themselves in front of the trends.
- recognize today's sales realities and adapt
- seek growth through effective sales & marketing AND a rising tide of market growth
- diversify, diversify, diversify
That means proactively and strategically envision and implement initiatives to leverage the power of internet marketing
and tap rapidly growing, profitable and diverse global markets. Or, in our lexicon, #SellMoreHere
Reality, however, is that amidst the crisis management of daily business and the skepticism of many business owners who have heard tales of export risks and been fleeced by "SEO" experts and other internet marketing snake oil vendors, these two initiatives are often relegated to "maybe next year" priority, or naively "we already do that" reassurance.
If "hope" is your strategy, good luck. But if growth is your objective, and you're at the point where you willing to make the tough choices, then there's a great window of opportunity now. Will you take it...or turn back to your email?
image credit - The Office (of course!)Evolutionary Marketing & New Markets Blog