Monday, 8 July 2013

Is your partner on the same fighting team? Partner marketing explained

Channel marketing partners in the technology sector is often a fundamental aspect of an integrated B2B marketing plan. For many marketers operating out of the technology sector, this area can be quite befuddling to understand. Well, fear not! Here is Ms Lee's brief overview and dare I say that this type of marketing can certainly be applied across other sectors. I have increasingly seen more of this type of marketing being used across retail and services recently.
Channel Partner marketing- what is it? Partners companies that work with you to market and sell your products and services. These can consist of potential resellers, integrators, value-added resellers, or independent vendors. Channel partners can take many forms, depending on the product or service being marketed, but to put it simply, channel partners market and sell your product to end users for you, allowing you to focus more time and resource on product development and support.
Why should I partner?  Executed in the right manner and with the right partners, it can effectively  maximize performance and revenues for all parties. Many partner's specific expertise can help companies increase profits and to expand market presence, regardless whether they are talking direct to the end user or not.
Who is my 'soul mate' partner or partners? To determine this- it is important to put a screening and end- to end recruitment process in place. Abit like speed-dating for marketing -  begin with a large pool of potential partners and keep narrowing until you are left with the potential partners that are best suited for your campaign.
Where do I start? I'm a small fish in a big pond!  Before you even start - have a think about what your criteria is. Again, similar to the dating world (thank god- that part of my personal life is over!)  you should first have a clear idea of the basic requirements in a channel partner.  
Ok.. you figured out what YOU want but what can you offer them? Outline the expectations and what resources/support you can give. As with any great relationship - it is a two way thing.  Also, think about where you stand now. Do you already use channel partners or have a potential database you could commence with first? Depending on where you are, start the list from there. 
The foundation to a perfect lasting relationship in 5 steps

1. Your "i like you' potential partners list
Build a medium/ large list of potential partner that can be further qualified for suitability.  This can be done by  some poor intern in-house or by a third party vendor such as channel marketing specialists. Remember to categorize the list if you planning on operating a combination of partner types- group them by distributors, retail outlets, value added resellers so that you have a clear partner list.
2. Don't just add any partner on the list!
Remember - you are a person and company with standards & requirements. Don't settle... remember to consider things like: 
•    Company demographics, geographical area, years in business, current market share & market vision
•    Current customer base
•    Current partners and agreements
•    Sources of revenue
•    Employee or revenue numbers
•    Value add requirements/ where can they add value?
At this stage if you got some $$$ budget, you could even launch a recruitment screening program using webinars to drive potential interest.
3. The first phone call
Ok, you have a list. The next scary step is to prequalify these potential alliances (this can also be done by the poor intern or by a specialist agency). The goal of this task is to gather new information and to confirm information that you already have.  A phone call & brief chat can help you to quickly realise who is a no-go area. At this stage you can remove potential partners from your list that obviously do not fit your requirements... eg: doesn't operate in your targeted geographic location, a mismatch in product or service offerings, or the company may have gone out of business etc
4. Your golden list
Your list should now contain the final potential partners. The partners listed should be  the best fit for your company, product/service goals and provide the greatest potential for ROI.  Prioritse the list from high to low as this will allow you to quickly assign resources to the highest priority companies that show the greatest potential. You are now ready to move on to engaging with these potential partners.
5. Follow through! 
The final step is engaging with the partners- this can be done through a number of marketing & bus dev methods but the key thing to remember is that partner marketing should work for all parties. It is no good if the partner doesn't share the same goal as you as ultimately the overall marketing plan will be ran to the ground.  Also, this is the time to start considering the partner program resources- how will your partners access the marketing & sales tool to enable them to succeed? Take a step back, spend a day with your partners and assess what they need to ensure you have a 360 degree marketing plan.
My final word of (non) wisdom
Remember working with the right partner for the same goal can be more effective than Batman, Superman (or any other funny dress men) efforts to save mankind. As we all know- fighting a cause is better in numbers especially when we all operate in the same market!

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Telemarketing....the dirty word of the industry

Try sneaking the word 'telemarketing' into any marketing proposal and watch the visible shudder of a seasoned marketer. Try and gloss up the word by putting it into italics, monotype corisva font or be direct by bolding it.... this sneaky monkey is not slipping through the well oiled marketing plan.

It is an often personal scenario that provokes such controversial reactions. Most people when asked will say that the call came at the most in-appropiate time i.e just as you sat down with your evening glass of wine...

Let's dissect this hateful creature called Telemarketing to understand the benefits of this channel in an integrated marketing plan.

Cold, Lukewarm, Tepid, Boiling, Scalding: The severity of your reaction to receiving such a call really does depend on your temperature gauge- not you personally but the gauge of your interest levels. Someone who submitted their contact details 18 months ago to find out about gym memberships will definitely not be as pleased as someone who entered their details 2 days ago. The person who enquired 18 months ago is most likely tied into a 24 month contract where you have to forsake your first-born child to break free.
Life is all about timing (life is NOT a box of chocolates as Tom Hanks will have you believe!)... or more specifically life is about YOUR timing and YOUR need at that exact moment in life.

So, one new thing we revealed about telemarketing, is that it is actually quite a philosophical beast.

Can I speak to Dr Lee please? Here is a typical phone exchange: "Dr Lee? Oh you mean Miss Lee? No, I'm not doctor and I'm not 42 years old...nope I'm not interested" 

Ok, you didn't just read a ad page- this is a typical phone exchange I have. Not because I have schizophrenia but often because I am too damn lazy to enter my details correctly on an register form...So instead of scrolling to 'Miss', I will quickly select the top option in the salutation field (which so happens to be Dr and makes me sound very professional!) or I will randomly choose a birth year. This is partly because I am lazy but also a part of me thinks I don't want to give too much accurate information out to this conspiring world. So I did a quick straw poll amongst friends; 8 out of 10 friends admitted they do this sometimes. I may just have the strangest friends OR it could be a common theme.

Knowing me is important  in this busy modern world I can forgive you for forgetting my name in a meeting but to forget my name or get my details wrong whilst calling me on my personal number or email immediately shuts the barrier. The problem with all this data harnessing is that data quality is alway compromised somewhere along the way. Know your data, question it and de-dupe it.

Second thing we learned is that Mr Telemarketing likes to get up close and personal.

Can you call me back later? I'm working ok... put your hands up to how many times you have used that excuse? Human nature means that often we don't want to say no as we:

a) appreciate it is a terrible job for the caller
b) because you are at work and don't want to sound like an evil cow to your colleagues (who already think you are mean for not making the coffee round this morning!)

Now, when they do call back later, you are able to screen that phone number and not answer. Good for you but not so good for the caller, who has just lost a potential valuable lead.

Impress me  get my attention in the first 5 seconds and I may not fob you off with that lame excuse. Get me interested in the first 5 seconds and even if I a genuinely busy I may answer your call later. Everyone has different ways to impress but for me it is genuine politeness on the phone. I don't mean a well spoken voice, but someone who is human on the other end and doesn't hang up as soon as they think I am a cold lead. I may not use your service now but when I 'm in or back in the market for it - then I will remember your product or service.

The final thing we learn about this befuddling Telemarketing creature is that it is out to impress first time.

Philosophical, personal and aims to impress first time. Now, if you can look at these traits and abide by them in your marketing plan, then what is filthy about this channel?

As with all thing in life, it is the standard that apply them that produces the best outcomes. The famous quote by Anais Nin "We don't see things as they are, we see them as WE are" always comes to my mind when for that split second I am about to throw telemarketing out of that fantastic marketing plan.

Try it - you may like it.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Bull in a China shop.

It's been a while since I have updated this blog and although my reason is 50% down to pure laziness- I do have a more plausible 50% explanation for the downtime!

For my few readers out there, I have recently relocated to Hong Kong and have thrown myself into the marketing culture of the Far East economy. One of the driving reasons for the lack of postings is that I believe I haven't seen enough to comment on Asia marketing..... until now. Cue the drum roll....

I'm very fortunate that I look after many marketing campaigns that covers international markets and in the last 8 months, I have covered go- to - market launches from US to Japan. However no other regions such as China offers the mind -boggling complexity to marketing. Let's put it this way - my head has been scratched a few times!

So my observations of the marketing approach in China (including administrative regions such as Hong Kong & Macau)? Here are my top 3 observations:

1.  Flip it & Tweak it. Everyone wants to 'crack' China but the sheer size and minor regional culture variations means that there is no 'one size fits all' marketing model. I have been asked time and time again by senior marketers in global businesses 'what works for China?'. My answer to them is always be ready to look at what you have now- then flip it and tweak it! Which leads me onto observation number 2..

2. Transcreation. Many people will know already that China has the Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese languages. Traditional is mostly used in Hong Kong but on occasions certain media marketing publications will use this too. Simplified Chinese is the most commonly used language in China but when you are conveying a brand message often the slightest composition of a sentence can make a difference to your China audience. 

I have worked on campaigns where content, slogans, brand names has been created in Shanghai and the lingo just wouldn't work in Beijing or Guangdong. The reason for this is similar to how we recognise accents or regional slangs... for example, I wouldn't say the Manchester expression 'alright our kid? ' down London as I would most likely receive a puzzle look and a half expectation that I have a child in tow (for those who doesn't know, this is an affectionate Mancunian expression for one's own younger sibling or friend's).

This same local knowledge transcends into the beautiful written Chinese characters- often the minutest variation can be noticed to each China region. The answer to this is often to look at translation- but I prefer to call this 'transcreation'. Translation implies a direct process of rendering words or text from one language into another- not true in this market! My most valuable insight will be similar to the theory of an adventure explorer in the aborigines-  you can't beat the local knowledge. This is the key to transforming an inappropriate message to a successful message.

3. Fill the space! China loves to fit as many messages into one ad - no matter whether it is a tiny media banner or a double page broadsheet spread in the South China Morning Post. The general consensus is 'use the damn space!'.

In the Western markets, we have become accustomed to seeing advertising with one word or one sentence, which often leaves us pondering
' What the hell does BREATHE/ SAUSAGES (or insert random one word) mean??? '
However, it piques our interest and it whets our Western appetite to go and find out more.

In China.... this doesn't always work. The culture of knowledge and the environment of digesting information means that often the audience interest actually wanes and promptly diverts their attention to the competitor. This is the marketing team who knew their audience culture and gave them War & Peace on a simple kitchen disinfectant product. There is no right or wrong approach but merely a case of looking at your objective and then to put a spotlight on your concept.  Does it say what you want to convey? Which goes back to observation number 2...

I'm sure I will have more observations over the next couple of months but these 3 makes China such an interesting place to market- you cannot ever rest on your laurels!

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Cavemen reversed...Food now tracks the Man

A 6 sheet advertisement caught my eye today- what is more interesting is that I remembered it, pondered about it and then googled it to see what it was all about (I am not the bearded man by the way...!)

To summarise- selected bars of chocolates would have a GPS device within the wrapper and if you are the Charlie of the Chocolate Factory hero or heroine; then upon opening the wrapper the GPS would send out a search team to hand you £10,000. Not bad work for the 3pm chocolate slump time!

I like this concept. This is integrated marketing in a condensed can. Spanning the traditional  & digital channels direct into product.

Firstly, it involves minimal actions for a customer. I mean, when you have a KitKat you really do want 'a break' and a brew.
Secondly, the whole concept has great potential to gain crescendo and expand into other product lines such as a kid's version on their cereal range. Imagine the potential for a modern day 'Jim will fix it' prize for kiddies opening their cereal (a perfect PR scenario...).
Thirdly, it is ominous, bit stern and a trendier take on Snickers with their Mr T campaign which was also aimed at men. Frankly, Mr T just frightened everyone that if they purchased a Snickers he may pop out roaring.
Of course there are downsides to every idea but Nestle has in effect put their money where the mouth is going to be and in this saturated digital age this idea has cut-through.

However, my favourite spin on this is courtesy of Tegato who is not even in the chocolate market.... see the butterfly effect? Follow the link below for the funny spin of Taken...quite apt of Chocolate finding the Man.

To read more on this campaign:

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

SoLoMo - the new song

SoLoMo - a terminology that sounds like a new song title of  Cheryl Cole's singing efforts, netherless one concept that is catching on.  In a nutshell, SoLoMo (Social-Local-Mobile) allows organisations to deliver relevant engagement with a brand simultaneously in the digital and real world.

So why was I musing about this today? On my daily commute to work I realised that although the concept of SoLoMo has huge potential -many businesses still lack the conviction to invest in it at an employee level.
In theory it sounds simple enough; deliver a consistent and engaging experience at any touchpoint with your  business (website,email, a local store, PoS,etc). But what about the human touchpoint?

Today on the way to work, I received a daily perk from my mobile network provider on my app. Being a grumpy sod who cannot function without caffeine, this daily perk of upgrading my drink from a regular to large was well received at 7am. Cheered by this prospect, I popped into a well known coffee shop warmed by the ambient lighting, tasty looking cakes on the PoS and the smell of fresh coffee. Then the DRAGON barista growled at me and looked in disdain that I dared to present my upgrade code (she definately didn't get her caffeine this morning too...).

SoLoMo? In that moment my experience with this brand was SoNoNo.

Customers are humans. It doesn't matter that the touchpoints have changed and will continue to do so. If the marketing succeeds in engaging your prospect with your brand and into a trading customer then be brave enough to drop the tech and make your front-line employees the  triple 'Ooo' in SoLoMo.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Old dog- new marketing tricks....

So as with all things in life- inquisitiveness got the better of me today.

Fresh new Twitter account completed and a fancy new blog to share my contemplations of marketing conudrums- hot of the digital press... (paper press quaking in it's boots if we believe the hype...)

First short thought of the evening. Marketers would analyse this flurry of activity tonight and potentially present back to the head honcho that this is a typical example of  'how consumers digestion and sharing information have evolved'. 

Musings of a marketer....
Evolution of information consumption or is it the good old society adage called 'Peer Pressure?'

More thoughts to follow.