Marketing, Marketing Consultancy, Marketing planning, Marketing strategy, News, Strategy

Channel management is all about relationship building. The better you communicate with your partners and their sales staff, the better your product will sell.

Good channel management ensures your products and services are available to customers in the place that’s most convenient for them, whether that’s through a retailer, wholesaler, a printed catalogue, a website, or a combination.

The first key question you have to ask is whether to sell through third-party partners, or to go direct. The web makes the direct route more feasible for many companies.

Going direct has obvious advantages, because you have first-hand knowledge of customers, you can understand the market more easily, and there are fewer steps in the supply chain. The challenge is that it’s not always viable because of the number of customers. In the world of B2B companies often chose to deal with a small number of key customers directly, but they also have to find a way to access the other 80 per cent of the customer base, which means some sort of distribution channel.

If you embrace the concept of channel partners, the next challenge is find the right ones to do business with. The most effective way of doing this is to define your end customer and then work backwards up the value chain. Identify where the purchase occurs within a given channel and then look for financial strength, expertise, willingness to partner and their reach into the target market.  Their management capability and the strength of their brand and reputation are also key factors.

It’s all important to find channel partners that mirror your business ethos and can deliver on their promises and this starts and ends with your relationship.

Once you’ve identified your channel partners you need a programme of activity to keep them up to date with developments, stimulate their interest, address their needs and influence them. Incentives can work well, but are only part of the story. The other important element is knowledge and keeping your product front of mind through a rolling plan of communications and intelligent use of the phone, email and your website. Of course, in-bound activity is equally important and technical support lines where calls are answered in three rings and any in-bound email receives a response within the hour should also be considered.

Channel management is an ongoing challenge that can’t be left to its own devices. Finding the right partners in the first instance is no easy task. Then they must be nurtured and rewarded: you might have a better product than the competition, but if you’re not communicating its features and benefits your sales will suffer.

Dos and Don’ts

Do your research when choosing partners to make sure you get the best partners for your brand

Do offer incentives to sell your products

Do ensure sales staff know as much about your products as they can, so they are comfortable telling potential customers about them

Don’t treat all your B2B customers the same. The 80:20 rule applies. The top 20 per cent warrant direct account management. For the rest, use distributors or a partnership programme or both to manage the relationship.

Don’t be complacent. Good channel management is a journey, not a destination. You need to be proactive, but also ready to react to competitor activity.

Don’t neglect your sales force. Allow for inbound activity, provide support and product information that staff can call on at any time.


Brand, Marketing, Strategy

Staff who read brand statements to customers from a list generated by the marketing department are never going to set anyone on fire. They might even drive them away. So just how do you get across your company values?

Ask Your People What They Think

After all, if you don’t get across your values internally how can you expect anyone outside your organisation to believe it? It needs real thought and effort otherwise customers will see it’s a scam.

The only way to do this is to engage and motivate your staff using the brand values. The brand should represent “how things are done round here”, and as such can be a huge differentiator in the marketplace.

Your People ARE Your Brand

Find out what your staff are passionate about. If their eyes don’t light up when they tell you, how can they be passionate about what they do for you?

Values are your guiding principles for running your business, so it makes sense to recruit people using these. Think about your recruitment adverts and employment process. If you’re clear about your expectations of your people you’ll have a better chance of recruiting and retaining them. Good candidates will have their corporate responses well rehearsed for an interview but it’s only when you cut through this that you get to see the person behind the suit. And, it’s only then that you’ll see if they’re a good fit.

More and more often marketing and HR are joining forces to create a plan that helps build a better, stronger business. Therefore, brand values have to be expressed in an employee’s working day and in the way they present the company. An example of this would be what your people say in phone conversations and how this translates into the customer’s perception of your organisation.

How To Get Buy-In

Communicating your values can be enjoyable, stimulating and fun but it’s essential to think about what your staff events say about your brand.

At the heart of most successful companies, and their value statements, is the need to work collaboratively with colleagues. Furthermore, it’s important to think about their interests and what engages them.

Ramming company statements down employee’s throats is clearly not conducive but still goes on. Rather, their needs to be a focus on employees experiencing the brand for themselves. Give employees the opportunity to share ideas and contribute to your ongoing development. You might find that informal discussions are just as powerful as formal suggestion schemes or forums.

Remember, it’s just as important to listen to staff as it is to customers. And, in doing this a real team spirit will evolve and your brand values get full buy-in.

Dos and Dont’s

Do think about promoting values in engaging and motivating ways, not as management speak

Do remember that most employees know exactly which values aren’t translating into reality, so give them space to feedback and offer solutions

Do remember the most effective values are organically arrived at by everyone in the company

Don’t forget that brands must be built from “the inside out” when customer contact staff are outsourced

Don’t forget that, no matter how much you spend on brand advertising, one bad experience with an employee can undo everything

Don’t fail to get senior staff out and about consistently communicating values informally

Don’t let your brand champions go unrecognised, reward those who live it!

If some of this resonates with you, you’re thinking of revisiting or reigniting your brand and want it to pack more than a punch for your business get in touch


Marketing, Marketing Consultancy, Marketing planning, Marketing strategy

As a professional marketer since 1995 I’ve worked with many business leaders. Some had been through the process of bringing in a marketing consultant while others had no idea where to start. If you hire a sales and marketing consultant you want to make sure you hire the right person. Set up a successful relationship from the start to make sure you get the most for your investment. This information will help you do that.

Are they are legitimate consultant?

Don’t make the mistake of hiring someone who has decided that they’re a consultant when in reality they’re between jobs. You run the risk that they may walk out on you mid project if they get an offer of full time employment.

Can they provide references?

If they’re a good consultant that has generated results then their clients will have no problem telling you about it. Unless, of course the consultant has worked largely in confidence and both parties are precluded from discussing it due to a non-disclosure agreement.

Have they provided examples of their work?

Don’t simply take someone’s word for it if they tell you they have done certain types of work. Ask them to show you samples of marketing strategies and plans, sales tools and presentations that they’ve delivered for clients.

Are they willing to structure a deal in a way that works for you?

Consultant work is generally done either on a project basis or daily basis. Project based fees can work well for you as long as the project is straightforward.  The objectives and milestones should be clearly defined and the project should not change substantially once things are underway. Daily fees are good if the consultant gives you a weekly/monthly status report to account for their time and what they worked on.

Have they written a proposal with deliverables, milestones and payment terms?

A good consultant will provide you with a proposal that outlines the work, milestones and payment terms. Sometimes, in order to get a project moving quickly it isn’t always completely clear what the deliverables should be. If this is the case the proposal should outline the top level objectives and milestones should be agreed within the first week or so.

Does the consultant have the appropriate level of experience for the tasks you need accomplished?

Don’t hire a senior consultant if you need low level marketing work done. Similarly, be cautious of consultants who are more junior and promise the world. It’s tempting to hire someone who seems good and has a lower rate, but when they present to your Board they need to make the cut.

Does the marketing consultant offer the appropriate mix of strategy versus execution for your needs?

Some consultants are strategy only. They’ll help you figure out the big picture and provide you with a plan but refuse to get involved from that point on. Others are more hands on and have the desire to do both. The key is to make sure you don’t hire a strategist when you need execution, and vice versa.

Do you “click” and have complementary working styles?

This is undoubtedly the most important factor. If you don’t have good rapport with the consultant the project could turn out to be a disaster. For example, if they work off-site all the time and you want to bounce ideas around you’re going to have a problem.

Make sure they’re trustworthy and devoted to the highest quality outcomes. It’s important that you can speak freely and frankly. You should get things out in the open quickly and work with someone who shares your vision.


Marketing, Marketing planning, Marketing strategy, Strategy

Embarking on a re-brand is an exciting business decision but there’s a few things to bear in mind before getting carried away with colours and fonts.

1. The brand is more than just the logo, stationery or corporate colours
Brands include everything from customer perception and experience to quality, look and feel. Other important factors are customer care, retail and web environments and the tone and voice of communications.

2. Existing brand equity and goodwill
Dismissing brand equity when re-branding alienates established customers, while unnecessary overhauls can undermine brand perception. Consider the needs of your target audience before digging into the process. Sometimes a small evolution is all that’s needed to make a brand relevant.

3. The re-brand is more than a superficial face lift
The re-brand story must be believable, given the existing brand experience and customer perception. It must also hold credibility internally. If employees who live the brand don’t believe in it, the target audience won’t either.

4. Address the basics
The value of perfecting your physical environment, marketing materials and website is decreased if your customers are kept waiting on the phone or if your contracts are full of jargon. Keep all customer touch points in mind when re-branding.

5. Remember people don’t always do what they say
Use caution when basing re-branding strategies on focus group research. Unless you are actually observing customers using your product or service you are not getting the full story. Personal observation will get you a lot closer to the right solution.

6. Know your brand
Remember, you know more about your brand than anyone else. Although there is obviously great value in a fresh external perspective.

7. Plan ahead for adaptation
It’s tempting for your team members to walk away after the final re-brand presentation. However, this is just the beginning of the final stretch. The implementation process may require adaptation as the re-brand rolls out.

8. Re-brand without research at your peril
There’s a lot of lip service paid about listening to customers, but in brand strategy sessions they’re often forgotten. Current and prospective customers should be front and centre when re-branding. After all, the customer’s reaction will be your ultimate test.

9. Don’t base a re-brand on advertising
An ad campaign and a slogan don’t make for brand positioning. Brand strategy should lead advertising – not the other way around. Often the most effective re-brands don’t include advertising at all.

10. Broaden your thinking
Focusing solely on your own industry can be limiting. When re-branding, cross-pollinate your thinking with what leaders in other industries are doing in customer experience and customer care.


Marketing, Marketing strategy, Strategy

We’re taught from a young age that most questions have only one answer. Exam questions often have multiple choice answers in order to steer us towards one solution. Unfortunately, the real world isn’t like that. For almost every problem there are several solutions and this is where innovations come in.

To make marketing more innovative you have to increase the number of ideas. Wacky, creative ideas that lead you ever closer to more radical solutions will make you stand-out and help achieve your objectives.

It’s only by producing great volumes of ideas that we can produce a great idea. Of course, it’s human nature to produce lots of ideas and then proceed to sort through them, analyse and sort out those with the most potential. Then the really promising ideas are examined from the point of view of feasibility, customer acceptance and profitability. If they pass these tests they move to prototype phase and only then are they tested in the harsh reality of the marketplace.

The interesting ideas should be kept in a database and allowed to incubate. When you revisit them you may find that you see a different way to adapt them or combine them into something worthwhile.

This all sounds like common sense. Yes? No. Most company innovation comes about in response to a single business challenge and once it’s resolved they move on.

Creating an environment where everyone feels they can contribute and generate ideas isn’t easy. Companies have to be comfortable that they may generate dozens of innovations only to find one solution. And then when those ideas didn’t make the final cut they should be archived and reviewed further down the line. Everyone in the organisation should feel free to suggest innovations in a climate of openness, without fear that their idea might be laughed at or thrown out.

The most innovative companies invest in several ideas simultaneously while carefully monitoring and testing them as they evolve. They chop the losers and pour more resources into the successful innovations. This can apply to products, services and even marketing campaigns.

Ideas to Innovate

Look at other great ideas and think of how you could improve on it or use it for something completely different.

Have several ideas running concurrently and work on one until you find yourself lacking inspiration. Then move on to the next one.  And on to the next. Suddenly you’ll find the inspiration you were looking for and you can go to the project that allows you to develop it.

Draw a picture of the problem and try to solve it pictorially. This often helps you see the problem with different eyes.

Set goals. Stretch yourself.  Force yourself to come up with more ideas than what you think you can.