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Because the mission of ACE is to foster 'Success through Collaboration', the Membership is resolved to promote internal communication and to enable interchange. One effective means to accomplish these objectives is through Blog activity to broaden the audience for thoughts, activities, and successes. 

This forum enables the members to share expertise and learning regarding topics of interest to the consultant community or to call attention to key work and current activities. However, areas of focus and expertise are better displayed in the Member Directory.

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  • March 11, 2022 3:57 PM | Susan Gold
    • Voice search. Hyper targeting. Artificial intelligence. Geo-fencing. Data and marketing technology are exploding. There’s so much opportunity to augment our marketing toolbox these days, but so little time to step back and think about what we are really trying to accomplish. Most companies are drowning in data, confused by the myriad options to gather data, or are just plain frozen, possibly at risk of being passed by.

      Opportunity or Shiny Object?

      Whether your company is targeting consumers (B2C) or businesses (B2B), the world of digital marketing has become super-hot, but also super-specialized (and as a result, super-confusing). That’s created an enormous amount of what would seem to be opportunities. But are they really?  Or are they just “shiny objects”? How do we know whether something is a distracting shiny object or if it represents a real opportunity to gain more insights, be more efficient or create more prospect touch points? Balancing marketing innovation and keeping your eye on the prize is no small task, but it’s key to successfully reaching your most desirable clients. 

      Get Your Strategy Foundation in Place First


    • Before we adopt a new marketing technology, it’s important to address the basic foundation of our marketing strategy. Are we trying to be all things to all markets and decision makers? Who are our most “Ideal Customers”? When you “check in” on your customer list, reviewing who your customers are, how much do you actually know about them (demographics), where they came from (marketing or networking source), what have they purchased from you and how did that revenue rank among your customer mix? And it’s not just about top line revenue. It’s important to consider which customers have been profitable, and which ones haven't been. As the business saying goes, “if you are losing money on every sale, you can’t make it up in volume!” 


    • We seem to have the time to read the articles about the newest innovations in marketing our companies, ways to grow revenue and improve our customers’ journey, but we never seem to have the time to ask ourselves if we are clear on the three foundations of our strategy - the WHO, WHAT and WHERE? Equally important is what I call the “Fit Factor”: did they fit well with your company, not just were they happy customers, but was your team happy serving them? Were client interactions efficient and collaborative? In identifying your Ideal Customers, you’re looking for a high ranking for revenue and margin as well as the Fit Factor. And it’s important to look at aspirational customers: who fit the criteria of your Ideal Clients, but you haven’t been able to successfully attract, at least not yet?


    • The WHO, WHAT, WHERE Pillars


    • WHO are the Ideal Customers that value what you do, are a good fit for your company and are willing and able to pay for that value?
    • WHAT do you say to your Ideal Customers to engage them? Are your marketing messages focused on your company or on your target? Do you speak to their pain, struggles, challenges and worries they have right now? So much has changed in the past 2 years for your customers – is your messaging current? In this highly competitive environment, you can differentiate by adopting your customers’ mindset and speaking to their pain points, the impact you have on those pain points and the value you bring. (Not your process, your services or products or your credentials. Not yet – that comes later.)
    • WHERE does your marketing messaging appear? Are you using the right marketing channels? Where are your decision makers? Is the time, money and energy you’ve invested in building your marketing machine getting you in front of your key decision makers? Are you “in the room” with them, virtually, figuratively and literally? Do you belong to the Industry Associations that support your Ideal Clients’ markets? Do you share your expertise where they can hear you? Most marketing budgets regardless of company revenue size don’t have enough money to bring their customers to them. The key is to go where they are.

    Once you have your WHO (Ideal Client), it’s easier to develop your WHAT (Messaging) to say to engage with them and ensure you are WHERE (Channel) they are to be seen and heard. If you have this strategic foundation in place, then you can consider what you need to know and do to expand further. The latest in marketing technology may help you get there but having a clear strategy foundation can minimize the distraction of shiny objects. Remember, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you may wind up somewhere else!”


  • February 19, 2022 3:00 PM | Matthew Opuda

    Innovation, as a discipline, has a bit of a reputation.  There’s no shortage of books, frameworks, how-to videos, and workshops on the topic, making it difficult to understand how to apply it on our own.  Let me set some anxieties at ease and say that innovation is nothing more than doing something new.  The scale can vary from an improved process in a small office, to a market-disrupting new product, with all the many points in between.


    Of course there are nuances, and challenges, and while you can’t “innovate wrong” you can fail to create something of particular value.  This failure can come at real cost, between lost time, unrecovered expenses, and even loss of customer confidence.   Let’s look at how we can mitigate those risks, using the example of an ice cream shop.  This may seem an odd example for innovation, but remember that improving a process is innovation just the same as new product development.  The same rules apply, just at different scales.


    Why?

    First off we need a clearly defined and articulated goal.  This is always harder than it sounds, but applying SMART or your favorite goal setting acronym can help.  I find the best goals focus not on an output, but instead on an outcome. Having a cup of coffee in my hands is the output of making coffee in the morning.  Being awake and personable enough to interact with fellow humans is the outcome.


    Turning our attention to our ice cream shop example.  “Make the shop entrance less chaotic” is a good place to start the conversation, but it’s a lousy goal.  What does less chaotic mean?  Is it too noisy, are people bumping into each other, are customers clumping, or something else?  “Alleviate the congestion inside the shop entrance” gives us a clear understanding of the outcome we want to achieve, and even some additional information about the scope of the problem: inside the shop.


    Who?

    Next, we need to understand our stakeholders, and what matters to them.  While these are two different things, I find that considering both at the same time helps define new details for each.   The key is to understand who you are impacting, and what matters to them.  A way of framing the question I often come back to is to ask “What about this process creates value for the stakeholder?”  


    Back to our example ice cream shop, we have our customers, who want to understand what options are available to them so they can make a purchase.  But wait, is everyone who comes into the shop there to make a purchase?  Some people just want to know what options are available to them, and have no interest in making a purchase.  Already we have two types of stakeholders with different needs, one driven by the need for information, the other to make a purchase with that information.


    What?

    The third step is to understand what metrics, measures, and data you are able to use towards realizing your goal.  The level of rigor you should bring to your innovation process will vary depending on the scale of the goal.  The amount of metric tracking and data analysis needed to bring about a new flagship product will be very different from a simple workflow improvement.  While the former may require objective measures with large sample sets, the former could be fine with a few subjective measures.  The important thing here is that we’re making our decisions and determining success based on evidence, instead of gut feelings.


    In the context of our ice cream shop, let’s measure the number of people clustered within 10 feet of the entrance.  What are those people doing?  Are they reviewing the menu and leaving, or reviewing the menu and purchasing?  How long are they reviewing the menu?  Each of these data points helps you understand what solutions you can try, and provide a baseline against which you can measure success.  


    Continue...

    The final step, if we can call it that, is to iterate.  Do as little as possible to move towards the goal, and check your  measures to see if you’ve made progress.  Again the scale of your iterations will vary wildly with the scale of the goal.  A new physical product may require months of design and fabrication, while a new process in an office setting may require nothing more than an alignment meeting.  The intent of iterating is to check if what you thought would work actually does.  


    Going back to our ice cream shop, let’s try encouraging traffic to flow in a particular direction.  Maybe a few signs indicating where to form a line would do it.   Perhaps putting a menu outside so people can see it without congesting the entrance.  Then wait, measure, and decide if we need to modify the solution, or if it has accomplished what we set out to do.  How many iterations will be necessary is going to depend on the cost of further iterations, and the potential benefits thereof.  


    While that was an innovation process on a small scale, the same rules apply to a larger innovation effort.  A new strategic approach, a new product, or a complete overhaul of your organization's way of working will see the same patterns.  The timelines will be months or years, instead of hours or days, and the complexity will be that much greater, but the patterns remain.


    While that may be the last step, it’s not the last piece of the puzzle.  The culture of your organization will have a huge impact on your ability to innovate.  If success is the only important thing, then the safe options will always be chosen.  If on the other hand, learning new lessons, and attempting new approaches is rewarded, then your organization will be that much closer to innovation as a habit.







  • February 07, 2022 3:50 PM | Cassie Crosby

     Most founders wonder at some point if they have what it takes to ascend in their role from founder to CEO. Regardless of their experience, as the company grows, so too do the requirements on their time, attention, and decision-making. Those founders who find themselves spinning from task-to-task can get so caught up in the day-to-day that they struggle to make complex business decisions. Successful founders scale their leadership and executive capacity as effectively as they scale their operational and commercial systems and processes.

    All founders have CEO potential if they are deliberate about their growth.

    Finding the white space for founders to think and determine where to scale (both individually and organizationally) can be almost impossible at an early-revenue stage. Those founders looking for accountability and structure to identify weaknesses, learn, and grow can partner with a certified executive leadership coach to help deliberately align their actions and behavior to achieve peak performance.  

    This approach may sound nearly impossible given most founders’ frenetic schedules. But when founders keep themselves mired in the day-to-day, it can be difficult to figure out the next best decision for the company, much less find their blindspots. Instead, they may make decisions that add to the chaos and leave others wondering what comes next. 

    For example, a founder caught up in the spin may determine it’s time to grow the sales force, only to later find out that production is unable to keep up with demand and even if they had the inventory, they lack adequate transportation to bring the product to market. The result is a lot of unhappy customers and a mess to clean up…quickly.

    Executive Coaches Can Help.

    Once sought after to address under-performance, executive leadership coaching is used today by executives all over the world to help enhance their impact. Even four-star generals have coaches, and why wouldn’t they? If both coach and client are committed, coaching has a significant return on investment as well as a whole host of benefits to both the founder, and their organization. 

    The professional leadership coaching process helps founders create the mental white space and structure to be their own think tank, learn, and grow. Coaches help founders better understand their values by guiding them to gain clarity around what matters most - their “why,” and their mission, vision, and values. Through feedback, coaches help their clients see where their actions differ from their “why” and stated objectives, as well as recognize their individual and organizational blindspots. 

    Coaches then help founders develop plans that result in transformational change and inculcate their vision and values into the fabric of the company culture. With that clarity, founders can improve hiring decisions, retention, and teamwork and communicate more clearly with stakeholders and customers who share their passion for their product or service.   

    Another important benefit of leadership coaching is that it teaches founders a process for making intentional and well-informed decisions. Hasty decisions are avoidable when founders take the time to consider the bigger picture instead of jumping from one impulsive action to the next. By taking founders through a structured process of inquiry and exploration, a certified coach can help founders avoid decision making traps and develop and analyze a broad range of options. Once founders determine a particular course of action, a coach can guide them through implementation and contingency planning.  

    Coaching helps Cultivate a Coaching Culture.

    Additionally, being coached teaches founders how to coach and helps them model coaching for others. A coach helps founders empower decision making in the rest of the organization by modeling how to ask better questions, listen to understand the growing needs of the organization, and provide feedback to help others grow. Organizations with coaching cultures have increased employee engagement and collaboration, a growth mindset, and are better prepared for leadership succession.  

    Lastly, coaching helps executives nurture a proactive rather than reactive company culture.  Staying ahead in today’s fast-paced market can be exhausting, particularly when founders find themselves caught off guard. Coaching helps executives focus on what’s most important, integrate new behaviors into the workplace that improve results, and take intentional steps to address barriers to success. An executive coach helps founders communicate more effectively and empower decision making at all levels of the organization, accelerating growth and product or service market fit.

    The first years of company growth are critical to a company’s success, leaving founders under intense pressure to invest their time and resources wisely. Founders who grow their executive capacity and leadership skills while concurrently building operational and commercial systems cultivate a values-aligned culture and ensure the next time they wonder if they have what it takes, the answer is yes.


  • January 21, 2022 8:00 AM | Donna Brassard

    You find yourself at the end of your fiscal year with a sales number that’s the same as last year, or worse, lower than the previous year, despite your best efforts.  You may think that outside factors are the reason for your sales stagnation:  the economy, the marketplace, competitors. However, I challenge you to consider inside factors first.

    Remember the old adage: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”  Working harder or for more hours without real results may mean that you are working on the wrong things. Let’s not be crazy.  Let’s be strategic.

    Information drives sales strategy

    To develop a sales strategy, you need information. Take some time to evaluate your revenue streams. Data can tell you a story about your business. How deep an understanding do you have about where your sales come from and how they come to you?  Sure, you can quote the top line, but dig deeper: which revenue “bucket” is growing or static or losing sales? And why.  Which product is most profitable? 

    This analysis can show you that you may need to make changes in pricing and/or or marketing promotion. I’ve seen cases where companies have put the most effort into selling the least profitable product. 

    Know your customers, the market.

    How well do you know your customers and why they do business with you?  How has your relationship and their buying habits changed over the years? And do you know why prospects don’t do business with you?

    What’s your customer churn? Don’t expect that every client will remain a client, or even have the same buying habits every year.  In fact, expect the opposite.  Turnover is a given, so you need to replace lost business before you can grow your top line. Are you replacing 20%, 30%, 50% or more every year? Do you have a clear picture of who your best prospects are, and what may motivate them do business with you?

    Have there been changes in the marketplace?  How are your competitors doing? Are you in a position to act on new opportunities as they become available?  If no, why not?

    Have a well-trained and motivated sales team

    Is your team stuck in their comfort zone?  Are they selling the same products to the same clients and happy with the “rinse and repeat” book of business?

    Does your team understand the value of your products and pricing, or are they addicted to discounting? Do they anticipate price objections before hearing any response from the client?  Are they selling with fear?

    Are your sales people motivated to build a book of business or are they comfortable where they are? Bonuses or more commission as a reward for performance can work, but only if the sales person is motivated by the additional earnings. Often a sales person can become complacent with what they are earning and don’t need to make extra effort to earn more.  It may be time to revamp your compensation plans with your sales team.

    How committed are you to training your sales team? A high-performing sales person needs clear direction and tools to help and motivate them to push themselves beyond the “rinse and repeat” mode.  If you are accountable to them for providing what they need, they will be accountable to you.

    To jump start your sales will require you taking a combination of actions that are informed by the data you collect and the analysis you do on your internal situation. 

    Donna Brassard is owner of Strategies+, a business consulting firm that helps businesses maximize their potential..  Learn more at www.strategiesplus.biz, and you can reach Donna at db55me@gmail.com.




  • December 10, 2021 10:09 AM | Bob LaBrie

    Story telling in selling has been around a long time.  One of the most effective methods of closing a sale is called Similar Situation Closing - which is telling a true story about a previous customer who was in a similar situation as your current prospect.  The goal here is to explain why the previous customer made the decision to invest in your product and why it makes sense for your prospect to do the same thing?

    Example:  Years ago, I was in Life Insurance Business.  One of the frequent objections I would get is, typically, one parent would object adding the children to the policy. 

    There are a number of ways to try and overcome this, but I had one that never failed.  I would tell a story of when I didn't want to add my own kids to my policy but was convinced to add a small amount to guarantee insurability of my kids should they become uninsurable due to illness.  I go on to say Thank God I did that because 4 short years after I took out the policy, I got a phone call from my 21 year old son in Texas telling me that he had a severe backache.  After a couple of trips to the hospital, he was diagnosed with Colon Cancer that had already spread to his other organs, spine and brain.  He had 8 weeks left to live.  Had I not put that small $25,000 life insurance policy on him, I would not have been able to afford to fly his body home for a proper family funeral. 

    I would tell that story and look at the mom and ask her if she ever wanted to be put in that situation? Usually through tears, she would say no and then we would both look at the dad who did not want to add the kids to the policy.  I've never had a dad or mom say no after that story.  

    If your story is compelling and you are able to put the customer in the same situation, you will be surprised how effective Story Closing can be.

    You can also tell a story with a happy ending because someone invested in your product.  


  • November 29, 2021 2:54 PM | Douglas Packard

    Many people dread the networking process. However, if you create a plan — including clarifying your goals — and work hard on being sincere and likable, you are likely to enjoy success and actually come to love networking and its benefits.

    Their viewpoint counts most

    As you begin networking conversations, focus on the other person's perspective. These are the thoughts, in order, that most people will have as they listen to you (even though they don't realize it):

    • Do I like this person?

    • Do they care about me?

    • Can they help me?

    If the person you approach does not like you, or if they sense you do not care about them, they won't consider if what you have to offer might be of value to them. Many networkers fail because they jump to the third step too quickly.

    Plan-Do-Adjust: The 10/80/10 paradigm

    It’s tempting to spend too much time planning without ever jumping into the arena. Others fail to plan or never adjust their approach. I generally recommend the 10/80/10 paradigm: Spend 10% of your networking time on planning, 80% on doing, and 10% on adjusting.

    The “plan phase” includes defining your targets based on a description of your perfect prospect, for which you need to define the common attributes of your best customers. Once you have defined your target, you need to find out where they hang out. This includes the business and personal functions they attend, publications they read and online tools they use. Uncovering this information gives you an idea of where and when you can approach your targets.

    Next, you need to create a compelling “elevator pitch” so that once you establish likability and demonstrate you care, you can effectively communicate how you can help. How well you communicate also impacts how much they like you and whether they think you truly care about them.

    Create a message that's not only understandable, memorable,and unique, but also leaves people wanting to hear more.  You’ll know you’ve succeeded when they start to ask questions, opening the door to go into a bit more detail and, more importantly, to explore their needs.

    For the “do phase,” look for opportunities to give something of value to the people you network with.

    Suggestions for this tactic include asking them to describe their perfect prospect so you can look for referrals for them. You could also suggest helpful resources, tools, books or events.

    And don't forget, the first step is likability. To accomplish this, mirror your target's demeanor and their dress. Other key tactics include arriving early and staying late — when there are fewer people to contend with. Also make sure you get the other person to do most of the talking by preparing interesting questions. Avoid spending the majority of time with people you know; unless they are a target with whom you want to deepen your relationship.

    In the “adjust phase,”  when attending networking events I strongly recommend having a tag-team partner. In addition to enabling possible conversations for each other, you can rely on each other for feedback. Then define when and how to change your approach based on your results and the feedback.

    Start small and find a partner to celebrate success

    Learning to love networking and achieving success can seem overwhelming and will take some time. Be patient with yourself and start with small steps such as creating your elevator pitch, picking one event, trying your approach and recording what you learn.

    A mediocre but well-executed plan usually beats out a great but poorly executed plan as long as you follow the 10/80/10 paradigm: plan, do, adjust and repeat. Also be sure to find a networking partner. In addition to getting candid feedback, you can also celebrate your successes.


  • October 20, 2021 1:13 PM | Carrie Green (Yardley) (Administrator)

    Co-Author:  Terry Johnson

    (This post will be updated as new information becomes available.)

    Keep your eye on these direct grants to private business: 

    Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry:

    21-22

    22-23

    Support farms and food processors

    $19,792,888

    $0

    Recovery funds for forest products industry

    $10,000,000

    $10,000,000

    Competitive infra-structure grants for seafood processors and dealers

    $10,000,000

    $0

    Department of Economic and Community Development:

    21-22

    22-23

    Covid – 19 recovery grants.

    $20,000,000

    $0

    Recovery grants for businesses and entrepreneurs not previously qualified

    $5,000,000

    $1,000,000

    FAME loans and guarantees, including rural development projects

    $33,400,000

    $15,000,000

    Business assistance programs through FAME for innovative business financing and organizational models (e.g. B-corps, cooperatives and ESOPs)

    $5,000,000

    $5,000,000

    Technical assistance for new businesses and entrepreneurs

    $2,000,000

    $2,000,000

    Business diversity initiatives

    $800,000

    $200,000

    Matching grants to encourage investment in technology sectors (through the Maine Technology Institute)

    $25,000,000

    $14,646,609

    Efficiency Maine Trust

    21-22

    22-23

    Energy efficiency matching grants

    $15,000,000

    $35,000,000

    Department of Health and Human Services

    21-22

    22-23

    Grants for Improvements to child care facilities

    $4,898,297

    $4,893,417

    Maine State Housing Authority

    21-22

    22-23

    Technical and planning assistance to public and private entities for affordable, energy-efficient housing

    $10,000,000

    $40,000,000

    Department of Professional and Financial Regulation

    21-22

    22-23

    Assist small businesses providing group health insurance

    $19,500,000

    $19,500,000


  • October 19, 2021 11:31 AM | Tom Renehan

    Marketing versus Sales: What is the Difference?

    I’d like to thank my co-authors, ACE members Tom Morgan, of Breakthrough Sales Solutions LLC and Bob LaBrie, of LaBrie Training and Consulting, for their contributions to this post.

    Marketing is company-focused; it communicates your brand identity and message. Sales is customer-focused; when you approach a potential customer you need to convince the customer that his, her or its need can be filled by your unique value proposition.

    Marketing provides critical support for your sales team. Through marketing you promote who you are, make it easy for customers to find you, and measure your reach. Your brand, your message, your website content, and your newsletter are all opportunities to communicate your brand personality, and all of them must appeal to your target audience.

    Your success is not measured in dollars, but in reaction. As you’ve discovered, in the digital world you can measure your audience response down to the click. You can determine whether a marketing campaign or initiative makes an impression. How many people enter their email address into the pop-up page when they look you up on the web? How many later unsubscribe from your email?

    One way or other sales are measured in revenue, or revenue opportunities. A sales process is critical to the success of any organization and always starts with the customer need. To improve your revenues your sales team must understand that need and demonstrate how your product or service can fill it.

    A typical sales process will involve these steps: 

    • 1.       Prospecting for and identifying potential clients
    • 2.       Discovering the prospect’s needs
    • 3.       Offering solutions
    • 4.       Proposing terms and asking for the sale
    • 5.       Negotiating and addressing final objections
    • 6.       Agreeing on terms and plan for the service

    Your marketing research and efforts should be directed toward identifying potential clients. A successful marketing campaign will allow you to identify and qualify specific clients or groups of clients to contact for a meeting.

    In the meeting, your objective is to understand the client’s true needs. The most successful salespeople understand that thorough discovery is well worth their time. They ask questions regarding need, timing, and budget. We recommend preparing questions ahead of time that will allow you to understand the client’s “pain points” and goals, also known as pleasure points.  Once you fully understand the pain and/or goal, you can propose solutions to remove it (pain) or achieve it (goal) in terms that resonate with the client.

    A successful discovery process allows you tailor your proposal to your client’s specific need, and lets the client know that you have a genuine interest in providing a solution. Take care to express your scope of work clearly. Your client should have no difficulty understanding what you will do, and what it will cost.  At this point what you have to offer should be well-established and sets the stage for another meeting with the client to review the proposal, reach final terms, and close the sale.

    In this meeting you will almost certainly hear objections. Often the objection is because the client misunderstood. Don’t freeze! Instead, ask a few simple open-ended questions to get the client to explain the misunderstanding.

    Why open-ended? Because you want the client to open up and tell you what is bothering them. A simple “Can you tell more about what you do not like?” should help you understand what you need to know to overcome the objection. Make sure you answer the client’s concern, first by restating the concern, and then by reframing your explanation of how your product or service can solve their problem.

    The final step in the process is to insure you have agreement on scope of work and payment terms.

    Good luck!

    * * *

    We participated in a panel discussion for ACE on October 15, 2021. The question-and-answer period was particularly lively, so we thought we would take the opportunity to present a few of the key questions and answers here. We will add a link to the video once it is available.

    Q.  Do solo professionals have to sell? I have past sales experience, but as a professional I have trouble selling myself.

    LaBrie:            Everyone needs to sell, but it might help you think of selling as persuasion.  Any time you persuade someone to do something that he hasn’t thought of before, you sell a new idea.

    Morgan:         Selling is fun when you believe in what you are selling and in yourself. We spend too much time talking about “the close” when selling is really a process of finding out what the client needs and catering to the need.

    LaBrie:            You need to believe in yourself, and to be able to explain what people get from working with you.  A professional should always bring integrity and expertise to the table.  You need to convey empathy and build trust.

    Q.  What do you do when the client’s objection is funding?

    Morgan:         This is something you need to address early in discovery.  For most clients funding is never enough, but they still have a problem to solve.  If this is the case it might make sense to move out your time line and learn more about when the client’s financial constraints might ease.

    When a client passes on a proposal they are not necessarily gone forever because they still have a need.  When I send a proposal, I assume that I am sending it to a client.  If a client passes, do not assume they are gone forever. Stay in contact.  Send meaningful articles, congratulatory notes, and other “on purpose communications.”  Keep the door open.

    Renehan:      You should also make sure that the client understands the impact of your services on its bottom line.   My trade association collects data on improved employee retention and productivity resulting from well-honed leadership skills.  In that case the question isn’t whether they can afford to hire you, but whether they can afford not to.

    LaBrie:            Understand the difference between an objection and a condition. Funding is usually an objection and is there to be solved.  A condition, on the other hand, can’t be eliminated. So, for example, an NBA player will never fit into a Toyota Yaris, and there is no point trying to sell him the car. Discovery will help you determine whether you have an objection or a condition and how to proceed from that point.

    Q.  It can be hard to maintain the discipline needed for a sustained sales effort. Do you have any suggestions?

    Morgan:       You need to set up metrics.  I keep track of how many times I reach out to a contact and measure them against specific goals. These “reaches” include any contact – coffee with a referral source, a conversation at a networking meeting, or a thank you note.  Then you can compare your reaches to how many actual client meetings you have, how many proposals you are asked for, and how many completed sales.  These in turn let you evaluate the quality of your contacts so that you can fine-tune your approach.

    LaBrie:         Make every contact count.


  • September 21, 2021 12:03 PM | Karla Doremus-Tranfield

    Successful digital marketing is more than just clicking through options on a Google or Facebook ad campaign and hoping for more sales. It requires a collaborative approach between marketing, data analytics and business teams to set objectives, design campaigns, find and interpret data, and measure results. Digital tools let teams test and iterate rapidly to achieve and maintain messaging that will influence target decision makers. This is the digital marketing advantage!

    Digital tools have shifted the focus of business-to-consumer marketing to resemble the long-term relationship building that characterizes business-to-business (B2B) marketing. McKinsey’s Consumer Decision Journey has evolved the way we think about the traditional sales funnel. It adds a loyalty loop and, as a result, resembles the iterative consensus building and problem solving required of a successful B2B firm.

    As digital tools have matured, it can feel as if they are built for consumer marketers. You may ask why a 100-year-old commodity manufacturer needs to have a Twitter account. Maybe it doesn’t. Your business objectives, not the latest trends in digital technology, should drive your digital marketing presence.

    I asked Joy-El Talbot, a talented data analyst, collaborator, and founder of Iris Data Solutions (https://www.irisdatasolutions.co/), how data influences digital marketing strategies. Joy-El says, “As with traditional marketing, data is the background to all campaigns. There is data about when, what, where, and to whom content goes live. There is data about the impact of the campaign: clicks, hits, conversions. There is data about the business before, during, and after the campaign: product launches, inquiries, sales.”

    Joy-El and I answer some questions, below, that you might have when considering a digital marketing campaign:

    I'm overwhelmed by data - how can I start?

    Start with stories and questions. Tell the story of how your company got to where it is today. Where will it go next? How will we know when we have arrived? What would it take to get there? As you discuss, you will start to identify data you already have and gaps that need to be filled.

    Consider the goal, "We want to increase sales of our custom products." Questions such as which products or industries, by how much, how much we sell now, can all be answered with data. Then it is simply a matter of going down the list to find the sources for each answer - sales reps, accounting systems, delivery schedules, etc.

    I’m no expert – can I just hire a data analyst and see what she comes up with?

    Data analysts work magic with interpreting data and developing visualizations that help solve complex business problems. However, an analyst can only be effective if she understands the business objectives and desired results, which is why collaborating with the marketing strategist and product expert is so important. Effective digital marketing is a team effort.

    The product expert and strategist will determine marketing objectives. For example, if your business objective is to increase revenue, choose a marketing program that builds awareness of your brand. If increased volume is the objective, tailor your campaign to ensure you are a top contender in the consideration set. If you are trying to shift to a higher profit margin customer base, work toward repositioning the brand or growing loyalty.

    I’m not a digital native – how do I pick a platform?

    People purchase from companies (and people) they like and trust. In the B2B world it is imperative to understand the user, technical expert, and buyer. They have unique personalities and rely on different sources of expert information. Choose platforms that your target decision makers use and trust.

    How will I know if my digital marketing campaign is a success?

    The digital marketing team should work with senior management to define what success looks like. Set goals, metrics, and preliminary key performance indicators (KPI’s) that align with the business goals early in the strategy development process. Formulate a hypothesis to help you control the process and to analyze data against objective criteria. As you analyze incoming data against these KPI’s, you will determine if your campaign is achieving the goals or needs further refinement.

    I already have a website - won’t my customers get confused if they receive other digital messages?

    In digital marketing, it is important to contact prospects and customers on a regular basis and in the context of when they make decisions. Creating consistent messaging across all platforms reinforces your brand during the decision-making process. As you proceed through the campaign, make limited adjustments in order to analyze which versions resonate best with your decision makers.

    I’m a product manager not a data scientist – how do I make sense of all this data?

    Here’s where your data analyst shines. She will work with the team to gather, analyze, and organize that data into a meaningful analysis tool. In addition, she will help you mitigate analysis bias that may creep in. Finally, the data analyst will guide you with creative data visualizations that tell the data’s story to decision makers and provide clear recommendations.

    My head is swimming - what is the most important takeaway about digital marketing?

    Iteration, speed, and flexibility are the hallmarks of digital marketing. You don't have to have all the answers at the beginning. Understand where you are, have a general idea of where you are going, and be disciplined to keep checking in with every iteration. Negative insights or ideas that flop are as useful as the ones that make you feel like a marketing genius! Digital marketing is so much more cost effective than tradition marketing that we can afford to take chances, analyze results, then swiftly adjust as needed.

    What’s the bottom line?

    In digital marketing, perfection is the enemy of good enough. Determine objectives, make assumptions, choose meaningful metrics, and go for it! Have the bravery to stick with a plan long enough to gain meaningful information from it. Your data analysis will help you perfect your journey based on actual, rapid results. Prospects and customers will thank you for it!


  • August 22, 2021 6:08 PM | Hillary Lister

                


    Businesses must be prepared for new regulatory requirements, but it can be difficult to stay up-to-date with constant developments. Change comes from many directions, including municipal ordinances, agency rulemaking, federal and state legislation.

    Maine legislators enacted over 500 bills in 2021, with over 400 new pieces of legislation going in effect this October. Rates of regulatory change reached new levels in response to COVID, with rapid modification of municipal policies, legislation, executive orders and department rules. 

    Preparation is Key

    Business viability increasingly depends on whether one is able to effectively adapt to rapidly evolving regulatory requirements.

    Regulations can determine business practices by restricting scope and scale of operations, locations, distribution, packaging, technology, and marketing, expanding recordkeeping, reporting, employment, or licensing standards, mandating updated health and safety practices, and creating penalties for failure to comply with new requirements.

    Uncertainty resulting from rapid change has created significant challenges for small businesses and organizations seeking to maintain balance in constantly shifting regulatory terrain. 

    The first notice many businesses receive of regulatory change comes upon renewing a state or municipal license, with  updated applications listing new reporting requirements, fees, or limitations on operations. With deadlines to meet and little advance planning, businesses must rush when determining how to maintain day-to-day operations. It can take many months to implement changes necessary to maintain compliance.

    Understand Media Limitations

    An increasing number of business owners depend on social media for information on regulatory changes. The telephone-game effect of social media communications can promote a collective misunderstanding of how law-making processes work and of how regulations are implemented. Important details of policy changes are lost in one-line postings.

    Social media portrayals of 2018 federal legislation to revise the classification of hemp drove a gold-rush mentality that resulted in thousands of people investing in large-scale hemp and CBD-production and processing businesses. Most of the new businesses became untenable within a year due to restrictions on the marketing, licensing, and distribution, resulting from federal and state agency rule-making. These mistakes could have been avoided if professional guidance had been obtained prior to making costly business decisions.

    Newspapers, radio, and tv are similarly limited in their ability to provide comprehensive information on regulatory changes. Unless there is an organization with a PR budget promoting or opposing a specific policy change, legislation and rulemaking are rarely featured in mainstream news. Hundreds of regulatory changes each year are adopted while receiving no media coverage, though industry-specific news sources can provide more in-depth coverage of policy changes. 

    Monitor Regulatory Processes

    Business owners are responsible for staying up-to-date on regulations impacting their operations. Monitoring policy developments affecting your business is key to being prepared.

    Most legislative committees and State agencies maintain email lists for interested parties. It is worthwhile to subscribe to lists of committees and agencies developing policies that may impact your business. Department websites (DACF, DAFS, DEP, DOT, DHHS, OSHA, DOE, EPA, FDA, etc.) provide information on agency rule-making processes, though finding specific information can take significant digging and frequent monitoring of the sites for updates. Maine legislativecommittee and agency rulemaking calendars and mailing-lists can be found at maine.gov.

    Think Local

    Municipal ordinance changes can impact day-to-day operations of a business at least as much as federal and state policy revisions. Monitoring calendars and websites of any localities where you are operating can help you stay informed of hearings, committee meetings, and ordinances, though accessibility and timeliness of posted content varies between municipalities.

    Participate in Professional Associations

    Many professional and industry associations provide advocacy on legislation and rulemaking impacting members and valuable updates through newsletters, networking, and workshops. By joining and participating, you can draw organizational attention to concerns about proposed regulations impacting your business that may otherwise go unnoticed.

    Obtain Guidance

    While most large businesses invest in regulatory compliance services and expertise necessary to keep up with evolving government policies, many small businesses are unprepared for new regulatory requirements. The cost of attempting to comply at the last minute with unexpected regulations can be significantly more than the cost of obtaining professional guidance prior to making major business decisions.

    The work necessary to be prepared for regulatory change is time-consuming, but essential for long-term business viability. A regulatory compliance expert knowledgable in local, state, and federal regulatory structures can review current business practices and help you develop a plan to successfully adapt to changing regulations.


    About the Author

    Hillary Lister is a solo practitioner providing professional guidance for small businesses and organizations seeking to effectively navigate Maine's changing regulatory landscape.

    Hillary can be reached at hillarylister@mainematters.net.




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