Grace & Sage Press Featured in Matters Magazine

Grace & Sage Press the new business press launched by Deb Di Gregorio and her book Triumph Over Toothpicks was featured in Matters Magazine.

Here’s the story:

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The Power of Being STRA-TACTICAL -- When branding is required, but leads are needed NOW

b2ap3_thumbnail_stairway-to-heaven.jpg In recent years I have met many VC-funded services companies selling a service that delivers Monthly Recurring Revenue — MRR — the mana Venture Capitalists are looking for these days. The usual revenue scenario:  go from $10 million to $50 million in 3-5 years.

And like every prospect I meet — VC funded or not — they say the same thing, “this is our goal, but we do not have a lot of money.” TRANSLATION: I want the sun, the moon and the stars and I want to be on the first landing of the stairway to heaven within six months. 

I am a marketer, but I have discovered a middle ground between marketing and sales. I call it Stra-tactics. That is, powerful lead-acquisition tactics informed by high-level marketing branding strategy that is only partially or never implemented. It is the solution for when the client cannot afford strategy in money OR in time. That’s Stra-tactics. And man, does it pay off. I get my clients well up that stairway.

And, I’ve also discovered this is a great approach for older middle-market companies who tell me they “want to build a brand” but will only spend the money it takes to build a brand when they, “see results.” As a marketer I could just blow them off, but as a business person I know there is a way to get those leads in the pipeline while working with ownership to explain what branding really means, branding’s extraordinary benefits (it can lift you out of commoditization) and how much it takes in time and money.

Here are the Elements of a Stra-tactical Plan

Fast and Deep Pre-Launch Set-up — Being Stra-tactical demands setting up as if you are going to launch a brand, that is, fully understanding the market, the competition, the customer desires vs the customer needs, creating a message-map, designing a brand but not launching it.

REALLY? yes really. This groundwork will inform a robust tactical lead-generation plan. Unlike just diving into a lead-generation program without this groundwork, our clients have an immediate leg up on their competition.

1. We work closely with the salesforce to build this program. They will cary it forward through their communications, be it conversations, emails or social media engagement.

2. The branding groundwork informs all messaging via tactical lead generation platforms making selling points consistent with sales communications.

3. And, it informs all tactical program decision making.

Determine KPIs  We set up very clear KPIs from the get-go: what is an A lead? What is a B lead? What is our average sales value (ASV)? By how much do we want it to increase? What do we anticipate our close rate will be? These will be the numbers against which you will measure the program.

Speedy Program Launch — We ramp our programs up as fast as possible. Often we roll them out in stages. The stages are executed like planes landing at Newark Airport — in crisp, precise order. 

 

Daily Engagement — Being Stra-tactical requires daily communication between sales and the Stra-tactical Program Manager as well as daily adjustments to the tactical lead generation program.

Monthly Reviews — Monthly reviews that feature a complete report compiled with data from the sales CRM system as well as the lead-generation platforms and any other relevant sources to determine what is, and what is not working and which step we’re on to the stairway to heaven.

Fast Failures, Sooner Successes A bold willingness to look failure in the face and fix it fast, pivot on a dime and try something new.

Its really shameless isn’t it? But it is based on the reality that most companies are not prepared to invest what it truly takes to build a brand but requires sales anyway. Being “Stra-tactical” is the best way to achieve it.

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Move From Commoditization to Market Leader

The Internet changed everything. Customers are in the driver’s seat. CEO’s are feeling the crush of commoditization. Many Mid-Market companies are struggling to make headway in our new business landscape.

Marketing has become a complex new discipline requiring sharper strategy, tighter tactics and obsessive measurement. It demands a range of disciplines from strategists to tacticians, brand experts, writers, designers, videographers, developers and more. This is out of reach for many Mid-Market companies. That is where Camarès steps in:

 Marketing Director Salary = Camarès Expert Program 

 For the cost of a Marketing Director you can have 

  • An entire Marketing Department, expert in the latest strategies and tactics, with every discipline you will need at the ready. 
  • A powerful “Marketing Department” that cross pollinates successes from one client to the next. 
  • An expert competitive market survey, new positioning, new website, marketing plan, plan execution, coordination with your sales department AND monthly measurement and reporting. 

 We pioneered Agile Marketing, a robust winning marketing process based on Agile technology development and we will bring it to your business. Using Agile you will spend money on what works; marketing and sales will be held accountable and you will see your business move from commoditization to market leader.

How do I know this? Because we measure our results. We transform companies every day.

Make Camarès Your Expert Marketing Department 

 

Call me directly: 973-508-6859.

 

All the best,

Deb Di Gregorio

President

 

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Nimble: The Tail Wagging the Monkey

frowinin mailchimp“WE HAVE SINNED!” opened the email that I had to send manually to my entire email list. It went on…

Being swashbuckling guinea pig marketers, we always test on ourselves before making recommendations to our clients.

Yesterday, we pushed Mail Chimp too far! We have been found GUILTY of committing a Mail Chimp Carnal Sin for which the only redemption is begging your forgiveness and asking you to opt into our mailing list! 

So here’s the deal:

If you do us the favor of opting in here, we will tell you the sin we are guilty of — cool huh? 

When the Internet Gods hold their bible secrets too close to be known, being very very bad is the best way to learn where the boundaries lie :)

Looking forward to your opting in… here

Aw hell, let’s make this even more fun! I’ll buy lunch for the 7th, 17th, 27th and 107th person to opt in, and I will share the rest of the seven deadly sins we’ve committed over pasta Fra Diablo!

Be well and stay out of hell!

Deb 

As promised:

MailChimp shut down our ability to import our corporate house list because our list was riddled with problems and resulted in too many hard bounces. How many is too many? According to MailChimp we were pushing 30%!  And given that, it is no surprise we were shut down. 

But how did the list get that way? The real problem was with the program we were testing before we got to MailChimp: Nimble. Nimble was the tail wagging the monkey.

Why Nimble?

A week does not go by when a client doesn’t ask me to recommend a good CRM (customer relationship management) program to easily manage their customer/prospect lists and associated information. Most of our clients are mid-sized businesses. For these companies, the IT world provides very little in the way of truly useful solutions. They fall into one of three categories: 

  • Overpriced, once global applications shrunk down for smaller companies, 
  • Overly complex and overpriced SAAS (Software as a Service) offerings (such as salesforce.com that has gotten so complex it requires consultants to customize it), and 
  • Products so lightweight as to be laughable. (such as Full Contact, it has a slick little interface that allows you to photograph business cards that are beamed to India where workers type what they see — yes you read that right, manual typing means better accuracy.  Beyond that, attempting to manage your lists on Full Contact is a horror show of near zero functionality.

Nimble Integrates Your Contacts on the “Big 4” Social Networks into One Fabulous River of Posts

That’s why when I found Nimble, even my jaded geeky self felt a shimmer of excitement. The price was right $15 a month. The functionality was cool: 

Nimble features integration with Google+, Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin plus your own email client and brings them all together in one nice interface. That means that when you upload your house list Nimble fetches all of the user profiles from those services AND their posting streams and integrates them into one river of posts that can be viewed by individual contact or as a group. 

And what about those followers, connections and “friends” that are not on your house list? It brings them right into the interface as if they were on your house list. Integrate your email and send and receive mail, posts and tweets all from one interface. Well slay me now!

To that Nimble spices it up with the ability to connect company credit ratings and a host of other details in a very nice tabbed interface. Leads can be attached to “deals” that can be tracked.  It tells you the last time you communicated with a contact, you can attach Google docs (such as proposals), and when you receive mail you can see the backgrounds of everyone on the thread. It features a bevy of integrations, I was particularly excited about its integration with MailChimp.

The benefits are huge! People I had not seen in years, and for whom I had old addresses would be found on Linkedin, Google+, Facebook or Twitter automatically and I could populate their card with the latest contact information. And for an old bird like me with many old contacts scattered hither and yon that was just magic! 

But Nimble is a Roach Motel!

I quickly hooked it all up and discovered when integrating my Apple Mail, sent emails would not sync with my Apple client. It ends up that Apple Mail is not supported by Nimble. For most of my clients this is not an issue. For me it was a speed bump. The joy of connecting all my communication streams kept my attention. Nimble became my go to contact list.

Then Linkedin pulled the plug on their integration. I figured it was for “walled garden” reasons — Linkedin is notoriously uncooperative with other services. But that just meant I had to bulk download and upload my Linkedin connections. Another speed bump.

Overtime I synched all my accounts regularly so I’d be sure to keep all my lists up to date. 

And then I noticed something dark: my list always seemed to get bigger never smaller! It seems that Nimble is like the Roach Motel — roaches check in but they can’t check out. 

New contacts are added, but contacts that have stopped following you are NOT deleted. This is especially a problem with Twitter where followers blow in and and out like the wind.

In fact many of Nimble’s integrations are Roach Motels! The ramifications of this did not fully sink in as I was dazzled by the concept of one beautiful river of social postings coursing through my interface. But it did hit me like a bad hangover after MailChimp whacked us.

Still smarting from our MailChimp hangover I kicked myself for assuming that everyone keeps their social media accounts up to date — they don’t — and that just meant more bounces. I also realized that the MailChimp integration was another Roach Motel: Unsubscribes or bounces would not be fed back into the Nimble mother list from Mail Chimp. Making Nimble useless if you want to keep a clean house list.

Bottom line: I so want Nimble to work! What a concept! Practically until Nimble works out two-way integration taking a wrecking ball to its Roach Motels it is not fully functional. And as we learned the hard way, it cannot be relied on to deliver clean up-to-date email lists. That said, Nimble has demonstrated that they have an engaged development team. I remain optimistic. I think they will be a great service one day, but they are not there yet.

As for the Fra Diablo pasta lunches — we have our winners and I’ll be emailing you soon to set up a date.

 

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Getting to Hockey Stick Growth — and making VC funders smile :)

b2ap3_thumbnail_hockeystick-growth.jpgVCs dream of big growth graphs moving aggressively up and to the right – and in the best of all worlds, straight up like a hockey stick. I have never met a founder for whom this not-too-subtle demand did not terrify because by most business standards it is extremely difficult to achieve.

However, over the last three years we have seen that aggressive growth has not only become possible, it is repeatable. Changes in B-to-B shopping habits and a comprehensive response make it possible. We have seen 600% to 850% ROI on marketing programs and growth to match. But certain conditions must apply and specific tactics must be executed. Here they are: 

Product Price Point

The price point of the service or product must be high enough to absorb the ever increasing cost of customer acquisition. In the last decade, the cost of customer acquisition has risen so high that your average sales value (ASV) must be well into the thousands.  This can be achieved through bundling hardware with service wrap arounds for example. Or, by finding a way to sell your product or service using a monthly recurring revenue (MRR) model and annual contracts. Under these conditions there is enough revenue to balance the cost of customer acquisition. 

Death of a Sales Team

Pre-shopping online – a common practice among consumers – has invaded the B-to-B space. A recent Google/CEB study showed that shoppers are up to 70% through the shopping process by the time they want to speak to someone from your firm. That means that your web site must work very hard for you. It must quickly telegraph your differentiation and attributes. And it also means that the prospect does not want to waste time with a glib salesperson. They have tougher technical questions they need resolved before moving forward. So fire your salesforce and hire a few good sales engineers who can work in pairs with skilled sales closers.

Then hold expectations high. Today the freshness value of a lead expires within hours not days. Your sales team must jump on that lead within 30 minutes — for better success within three minutes. Like a mental-health hotline, some companies create 24/7 on-call schedules, rotating sales engineers to off hours and forwarding calls and emails to mobile phones.

Dig Deeply Into Your Prospects’ Brains

If your firm meets those conditions, then it is worth investing in a comprehensive online presence and lead-generation program to match. We call it a “stra-tactical” approach. The strategy was developed over years of practice but it is otherwise executed tactically.

Many companies attempting to achieve aggressive growth are also aggressively talking to themselves, repeating their sales mantra to prospects over and over like a jackhammer. That’s old school and no longer works. Reverse the process:

Come to understand your market’s inflection points. That is, the moment when a prospect perceives the need for your product or service. The question is no longer “how did you find us” but rather, “what preceded your search for us.” A finely-tuned ear is key to success.

Once you have cataloged their inflection points, consider how the prospect articulates their search. Here is where program complexity increases exponentially. The search is articulated differently by market, geography and even within organizations: the person in pain will search differently from the person managing the person in pain, from the guy signing the check.  Or simply put: one person’s green eggs in ham, is another person’s chartreuse eggs and pork. Your program must address each and do so with great specificity. Achieving specificity requires building comprehensive libraries that align to your inflection point catalog, then building a web presence with multiple aligned architectures: backbone, paid search, social and to a lesser extent SEO. 

Lead-generation programs based on search articulations are then rolled out over the architectures. Your firm will now be presented in the right place at the right moment when your prospect needs you: be it via paid search ads, social media platforms or at the right face-time conferences. 

Take an Agile Approach

A few leading edge marketers have moved Agile into the marketing discipline. In 2011, Anthony Freeling from McKinsey UK published Agile Marketing. Our team had already developed our own Agile framework called ZebworksTM in 2009. Our objectives were the same: drive out risk, drive in results. Agile marketing requires measurement and reporting, which is possible leveraging Google Analytics and CRM data.

 For example: Google Paid Search is very Agile: sprinting out a program that leverages your comprehensive architecture, your advanced sales team delivering urgent response, then measuring, adjusting, pivoting and sprinting again. Similarly this can be applied to all lead-generation efforts even conferences and networking events. 

Aggressive growth is achievable (and repeatable) under the right conditions, when comprehensive groundwork is laid and an Agile approach is taken to adjust in real-time.

 


First published in NJTC Tech News August 2014

 

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