, , ,

6 Tips for Running an Effective Executive Customer Council

conference, meeting, event, customer, advisory, board, CABExecutive Customer Councils are strategic meetings that serve as very important opportunities for your business to grow and develop. This council is made up of executives who want to invest in seeing your business succeed.  Another term associated with this meeting is called a CAB. According to the Ignite Advisory Group, “A Customer Advisory Board (CAB) is a marketing program made up of strategic customers who work closely with company executives to provide guidance on corporate strategies, offer input on products and services, and address and create solutions to industry challenges.” This article will present 6 different tips in holding these types of meetings.

  1. Agenda: Because this is a focus group, if you are the moderator of the meeting you need to have an agenda with clear and constructed questions. The types of executives that you choose to be on this executive council should be opinionated and not shy to express criticism or ideas. Getting the most out of your CAB, means preparing for this meeting and truly taking the time to develop thoughtful questions. You want to use this time as a place to LISTEN to feedback so you can improve your customer relations. Things that should be on your agenda and not limited to should include: new expansions, strengths and weaknesses of product, and insights into market growth. This is not the time for sales. This is time to hear your customers out. You should always map out the customers journey through your business. This data serves as a starting point for discussion and improvements.
  2. Who is on the guest-list? : You could choose to invite only customers who are pleased with your business, or you could choose to be diverse. Bringing diversity to your CAB ensures that you will be able to reach all platforms when discussing your product.  You want these “unhappy” customers to present critical thinking problems and solutions for your business. If your Executive Customer council is diverse, the outcome will provide growth and possibly ideas you have never heard of.  One quality that you should be looking for when creating these types of councils is enthusiasm. You want the innovative and forward-thinkers on board.
  3. Survey: One idea to get the most money and time out of your meeting is to send out a survey prior to the meeting. This gets the customers ideas flowing. You can also find out what the customers would like to see happen with your business. Analyzing this data prior to the meeting can save you more money and direct the type of conversation that needs to take place during the CAB.
  4. Budget: Recruiting for this type of meeting should be easy, however, be aware that costs can pile up. Your customers will benefit from being on this council through forming networking relationships, so you don’t need to pay them. Although, if your board meets face-to-face, (which is highly recommended), you will need to budget for travel, lodging, and food expenses.
  5. Incentive: Since being on a CAB is voluntary, you may want to show some love to your attendee’s! Some ways to do this include: previews and special access to new products, access to new features and specialities, and inclusion and contribution to those products presented. If they are flying in to be on your board, make sure to make it worth their time.
  6. Post-Op: It is vital to your business and to your Executive Customer Council that you keep the communication flowing after the meeting takes place. Make sure to have a question and answer panel held at the meetings. You can also create message boards or online forums to discuss what was learned at the meeting.  By doing so, other executives will see that they are part of a bigger community, thus trying to be part of a solution for your business.  This will also keep customers coming back and fully engaged.

CAB meetings should provide meaningful input about your business. It is important to note that the more you hold these types of meetings, the more comfortable the members feel with one another. Trust will be fostered, and peer relationships should grow. Make your CABS a place where honest communication can flow, and your business is sure to succeed.

, , , , , ,

Roadshows for the Modern Event Marketer

roadshow, evrent, marketing, sales. conferenceEvent marketing is an ever-changing industry that positions itself as essentially an industry within many industries. Though event marketing is an industry all its own, it’s lifeblood are the industries that support it through actually needing events.

Over time, event marketing has been interchanged (and confused) with event planning, field marketing, and other similar, yet distinctly different marketing functions. Because of the confusion around terminology and role function, there are critical pieces of the marketing puzzle that have been lost in the mix. Event marketing roadshows is one of those techniques lost in the shuffle.

What is a roadshow?

What if event marketing and field marketing had a baby? The baby would be a roadshow. Roadshows provide a venue and method for getting your brand or product or messaging in front of many people, but at a local level.

Roadshows are usually done in sequence and occur in numerous cities (both at home and abroad in some cases) in an effort to increase brand awareness and product knowledge. Roadshows are one of the best ways to spread the word in an interactive format with those you may not be able to reach with a standard, centralized event.

The format of a roadshow is usually a half-day event that bring customers, prospects, and partners together for thought leadership, product demonstrations, and networking. Some larger cities may even end up doing a multi-day event to provide time and space to reach more people.

How a roadshow can help the modern marketer

Though roadshows can seem antiquated and something that only large, old organizations do, they are actually useful to marketers who work with products or services that are at any part of their maturity curve.

Field events are a boon for any sales team or person worth their weight (or their salary) to an organization. Sales teams love getting out and meeting people – it’s where they truly shine and make their quotas.

The great part about doing roadshows is that your sales team is able to do targeted, personal conversations with potential customers because the events are smaller and the demographic is clearer. It’s not about fighting for attention at a large event or having the impersonal email or phone call – it’s about getting in front of engaged customers.

In addition to being great for having face time with qualified leads, it also helps maintain stable demand generation over the entire year. If other companies sponsor your roadshows it’s good to have them promote your show out to their networks to help with generating deeper sales pipelines. If your industry experiences slower months for sales, roadshows are the perfect way to stay top-of-mind and to provide your sales team with leads they may not otherwise have access to.

Roadshows also provide the modern marketer with a way to make a good impression on potential leads. Having an online presence is great, but it’s not the whole story. Many industries still rely on physical goods or exchanges of services that depend greatly on making a good in-person impression. The events can and should be a mix of fun and education, so be sure to have good food, good entertainment, and good content throughout the event. If they leave having had a good time, your brand will stand out to them when it comes time to make a purchase.

Of all the things that go into a good roadshow, good content is often overlooked. But the content is they why of the event, so it should be a focus during preparation. Having solid content and speakers is one of the best tools you have as an event marketer to spread your thought leadership and messaging. Using the content to drive home your brand message is an essential part to having an effective roadshow. Be sure to map out your goals and messaging before planning these events so you have a solid understanding of the types of content you should create.

Having a roadshow is a fun and effective way to engage with leads, generate new leads, make a lasting impression on attendees you may not otherwise have access to, and to spread your message and thought leadership ideas. Though it can seem antiquated, getting to know people in an intimate setting is a great way to increase qualified leads and, inevitably, sales.

 

, , , ,

How Field Marketing Drives Top-Line Growth

top line, growth, conference, events, meetings, brand, activations, marketing, eventsField marketing is somewhat of a lost art. Marketing and sales teams have been put into silos where they are almost in competition with one another rather than harmony. Each team wants to prove that their methods work the best and essentially disprove the need for the other department. Much of this disconnect comes from quickly evolving technologies that have rapidly changed the roles and expectations of both teams.

Though they seem to be in opposition to one another, marketing and sales have one common goal: drive sales and revenue. Marketing, generally of the corporate variety, would have you believe that the secret to driving revenue is increasing the number of leads the sales team has. The sales team would have you believe that it comes down to their one-on-one relationship with the customer. Neither group is right, neither group is wrong. The truth lies somewhere in the middle. The truth lies in the ability to bridge the gap between the two groups and help them to work in unison rather than opposition.

Field marketing exists solely to bridge that gap and provide more personalized marketing strategies that work for individual sales team that addresses their unique personal, customer, and regional needs. Field marketing has withered, as a function, however, because at the end of the day, corporate representatives feel as though each team should be able to perform their function without the need for a ‘translator’ of sorts.

But having a field marketing team can truly drive sales and growth by doing just that – connecting and aligning all teams within an organization with common goals and strategies that focus on sales enablement, lead nurturing, and closing deals.

How does field marketing drive more sales?

It’s one thing to say that field marketing can drive growth, but another to see how it works in action. Having a field marketing team can increase costs and will likely be highly scrutinized (both by sales and marketing teams and corporate entities) until they prove their value. So how, exactly, do field marketers increase sales?

  • Improved communication and goal alignment. Much of the corporate marketing material goes unused by sales (either because sales doesn’t know how to use it or it’s simply not useful) and many leads get qualified and passed along only to go uncontacted. The field marketer can help build the trust between the two teams, which enables marketers to create more useful materials and pass on higher quality leads to the sales team.
  • Focused and organized local events. Though event planning is a different function altogether, field marketers can assist event planners in local and regional events to ensure that the messaging and takeaways are focused on one goal: improve the ability for the sales team to develop relationships is specific areas.
  • Develop personalized content and assets. The field marketing team has the marketing ability to modify existing materials from corporate to fit the specific needs of a sales person or team and/or region. They also have the sales experience to know what will work and what won’t work for specific people and areas. It’s the best of both worlds.

Combined, all of these techniques and strategies that field marketers bring to the table can enable sales teams to perform better, thus improving the bottom line of the organization and can ensure that the hard work and thought that goes into materials by the marketing team is put to good use. This way, all roles are utilized where they bring the most value and have a ‘translator’ to fill in the gaps as needed.

 

 

, , , ,

Tips for Building your Field Marketing Department

conferences, marketing, field, event, activations, brandIn contemporary organizations, there’s often a disconnect between marketing and sales. This disconnect or gap stems from two basic reasons (there are more, but these two make up 80 percent of the cause): 1) the organization has been around for a long time and the traditional sales model relies heavily on cold-calling and marketing is a hard-sell to most team members, or 2) the marketing group routinely produces lists of unqualified leads that have lead the sales team to distrust any results the marketing team may tout. And honestly, it’s usually a combination of both that leads to the gap between marketing and sales.

It’s clear that marketing is a necessary function within most organizations, especially with the pace of technology innovation and increased competition (easy access to the internet has removed many of the barriers to starting and maintaining a business.) But if the sales team doesn’t trust the marketing team and the marketing team is constantly feeling resistance it can truly hurt the bottom line.

Field Marketing as a Modern Solution

One way to close this gap and disconnect between sales and marketing teams is through a field marketing department. Field marketing, when done properly, is about driving top-line growth by connecting corporate marketing initiatives with local sales teams. Field marketers understand that sales and marketing techniques are highly dependent upon regional and territorial factors, which means that not all corporate marketing strategies are suited for each sales person as an ‘out-of-the-box’ solution.

The field marketing team takes the corporate initiatives and realigns them to fit localized demand. They focus on sales enablement with a strong focus on influencing deals already in the pipeline. It’s less about lead generation and more about lead nurturing.

How can I Build a Field Marketing Program?

Here are some tips on building your field marketing program. While it’s similar to hiring for any new position, field marketers should be seasoned vets in their industry. Field marketing is not an entry-level career.

  • Find a trusted member of your existing marketing team who has a strong relationship with the sales team. Since the problem to the field marketing solution is around the marketing-sales disconnect, it’s important to start building your team by leaning on someone who can help close the gap from day one. Someone that both sides will be open to listening to.
  • Start the program in a region/group where your organization is under-performing. Have the new field marketing team member create a questionnaire to use to get to know each sales rep and the deals they are working on. Then ask the field marketer to create a game plan for every sales rep.
  • Start small. Field marketing is a long-term commitment, not a quick timeline turnaround (such as with event planning). Start with small marketing strategies and action items that the rep can start with from day one.
  • Celebrate any successes as a team and then start reinvesting in them, amplifying the strategies that work and begin trying them with other regions/groups.
  • Develop case studies from the early wins and use them as a way to support your case for creating a new department that supports marketing and sales throughout all of your regions and groups.

Field marketing can truly make a difference to your organization’s top-line growth, but only if you can commit to a long-term strategy that will start small and amplify over time. You cannot hope to have success overnight, but you can make small steps toward improving the overall relationship between sales and marketing, thus aligning goals and seeing exponential growth.

, , , ,

A Customer Advisory Board and your Product

conference, meeting, event, advisory board, strategy, marketing investmentIn order for businesses to generate revenue, they must be able to sell a product or service to customers. While that is a simplified scenario, it is the underlying truth of all for-profit businesses (and even most non-profits and governments). Though sales teams and product teams spend a lot of time thinking about what and how they will sell, they don’t necessarily think about who they are selling to.

It seems obvious that in order to sell your product you first need to think about who will buy it, however, the customer is one of the more overlooked parts of the sales and marketing process. Development and sales teams get caught up in the logistics of how they will sell that they forget that their most useful solution for improving sales is, in fact, also their customer.

What is a customer advisory board?

One of the best ways to leverage your customers for improving your product, marketing tactics, and sales pipeline is to facilitate the creation of a customer advisory board. A customer advisory board allows organizations to get direct feedback from their customers on a wide range of elements related to your products. You can bounce ideas off of them, get their feedback and first impressions, and better understand who they are and what their motives are. Throughout the process, you can use this information to improve your products, create new offerings, and mine them for case studies. All of this creates an self-sustaining ecosystem that allows your sales and marketing teams to thrive.

How to select the members of your customer advisory board

You may realize the need for a customer advisory board for your own business but it’s best not to get too far ahead of yourself. Establishing a customer advisory board does not mean you should just go out and pick a bunch of random people off the street to represent your customer-base. Before you start picking people to be on your board, which is a commitment of time and money, you should consider a few key components of an effective board member.

One way to get organizational alignment on they types of customers to include in your CAB is to create an official charter. This will help your company be on the same page regarding the board’s purpose, but it will also serve as a resource to share with potential members. This ensures that everyone is moving toward the same objectives and keeps your board members on track for providing the right types of feedback and having the right expectations for what it means to be a board member.

Who will fill the seats on your board?

The customers who fill your board seats should fit within one of your user personas (if you don’t have user personas yet, you can actually use your board to flesh them out) and should be in your target market. In some special cases you may want to use customers who aren’t yet in your market, but generally, it’s better to get feedback from those you know would potentially use your product or service.

As you recruit, make your potential board members aware of the benefits of membership:

  • Potential for free airfare, lodging, and meals.
  • Potential influence on the development of products
  • A peek future plans and developments in progress
  • Preview and early access to new features and products

It should be made clear to anyone you put on your board that it’s not a permanent position. To ensure that you are always getting the best feedback, you want a mix of experience on the board and fresh eyes. It’s good not to allow anyone to stay on the board too long (two years is generally a good term) and you don’t want to give any one person on the board too much power. Both of these errors can water-down the effectiveness of your board.

Putting together a customer advisor board can be an essential part of your product and service iteration process. Not only can they ensure effective product development, but they can help improve and refine your marketing and sales efforts.

, , , ,

Field Marketing vs. Event Planning: Not one in the same

events, marketing, field, experiential, conferences, planning, av, audio visualThe marketing ecosystem and its functions is an essential part of any successful organization. But oftentimes, marketing is also somewhat shrouded in mystery. Everyone knows you need it, but not everyone knows what it is or how to successfully execute any strategy that is created.

One of the contributing factors to this issue is that terms are often used interchangeably when they don’t, in fact, mean the same thing. This can lead to confusion and misaligned expectations for marketing efforts. One area where we commonly see this misuse of terms is with event planning and field marketing.

From the outside, people tend to see a similar result and assume that they are the same thing. But in reality, they are actually opposing functions. But what makes them so different and how can we tell them apart? How can we choose which one is actually necessary for our organization (maybe both are)? Let’s set the record straight about field marketing versus event planning.

Field Marketing and its Functions

Field marketing, as a function of an organization, has the primary goal of creating a vision, setting objectives, and developing strategies that they then execute to enable the sales team to meet or exceed their number of leads or sales figures. Field marketing, in its purest form, is characterized by the following:

  • Collaboration with the development organizations for each product to find ways to bundle the products into solutions that resonated in the marketplace.
  • Partnering with the sales team to build a marketing plan to support the business. This Marketing Plan took into account the differences in territories, industries, compensation plans, the number of reps ramped plus account and market penetration goals. The more detailed, the better.
  • Assembling a shared service model for task-specific expertise: database, automation, metrics, email, webinars, events, social media, references, market analysis, competitive analysis, digital assets, and more. This shared team is staffed with seasoned professionals with many years of cumulative experience in their field.

Over time, this model became watered-down and the function of field marketers turned into event planning. It’s not to say that event planning is not part of the equation but it is only one piece of the field marketing puzzle.

Event Planning and its Functions

The core difference between event planning and field marketing is that event planning generally has a focus toward generating leads rather than executing on any way to nurture those leads or sales enablement (both core functions of field marketing).

Field marketing is diluted into event planning when the following happens within an organization:

  • Junior-level people are brought in to lead teams/strategy.
  • Execution timelines are short – generally 30-90 days.
  • Lead-generation is the sole focus – no nurturing or process in place to create an actual sale.
  • Compensation is not tied to revenue.

There are more signs that a field marketing team/position is actually more of an event planning one but these are the tell-tale symptoms. Again, it’s important to emphasize that event planning is an important function of an organization but it will not lead to the results that a field marketing role will.

How to Spot the Differences

There are several ways you can tell the difference between a field marketing and event planning role. As a professional, you can use these differences to your advantage as you look for a new position, restructure your current organization, or lead marketing efforts.

  • If the main KPI is related to leads, then it’s probably event planning.
  • When a plan is in place for lead flow (or user flow), it’s likely got more strategy behind it, making it a field marketing function.
  • Time lag and close rate are also terms that denote field marketing. Any time you are aware of the time it takes to convert a lead into a sale or what your rate of closing those sales are you imply that there is a process behind the marketing effort.

These cues can help you better understand what type of function you are dealing with – whether it’s your own role or that of a third party organization you are looking to bring into the mix. Understanding the differences can lead to better ROI for your marketing dollars.

 

 

 

 

, ,

Getting the most from Executive Engagement Meetings

atx event systems, events, meetings, conferences, branding, activations,

  1. Why is Executive Engagement important?

Executive engagement has been called the “DNA” of businesses and organizations. Without leadership development and engagement, the organization can be plagued with little energy or drive. Executive engagement is vital for mentoring and developing good leaders. Executive engagement meetings open the door for improvements and growth to occur. Successful executive meetings can improve profits and business results. There is a lot of research and focus regarding employee engagement but executive engagement is just as important. This article highlights tips to ensure positive executive engagement.

  1. The Roots aka “nemawashi”

The Japanese word “nemawashi” sheds light on how important it is to conduct some business prior to the executive engagement meeting. Nemawashi has no direct English translation and is derived from a special Japanese gardening technique involving transplanting trees. Nemawashi  is a unique process of individually and carefully uncovering the roots of trees. In the business world, we can interpret this as trying to understand each individual (each root). Applying this individual attention to each executive, prior to the meeting, can foster an exchange of input, ideas, and trust.

Having one-on-one conversations with partners before the meeting may also help the meeting “owner” test reactions to new proposals.  Gauging reactions of co-workers prior to the executive meeting often proves to be beneficial. In Japan, this practice is taken very seriously and may include many “behind the scenes” conversations. While a few may see this method as “less democratic”, a great advantage of “nemawashi” is that everyone is on board with the new “proposal” from the very start of your meeting.

One company that has attributed some of its success to “nemawashi” is Toyota.  In fact, the 13th principle from “ The Toyota Way” reads:   “Make decisions slowly by consensus, thoroughly considering all options; implement decisions rapidly.” Incorporating this attentive practice to individuals prior to the executive meeting, may prevent future conflict and save time. Even better, attentiveness to each “root” will foster long-lasting growth and profit. It is vital to get input from all across the board. Gathering this input before a proposal or big change ensures not missing out on any unforeseen problems. This general consensus can also provide solutions and new innovative thinking.

Working from within the roots of your executives and applying the nemawashi technique before your next executive meeting just may prove the saying money doesn’t grow on trees false.

  1. A Resurrection

 Executive Engagement can look different at all levels. Although there is no single ideology to follow within your executive engagement meetings, an adaptive culture must be constantly be present. Exiting the executive engagement meeting should sometimes feel like a “resurrection” in a sense. You should feel energized and have new gears in your executive’s heads turning. Some tips to ensure this type of “resurrection” for your executives upon exiting the meeting are:

  1. Executives need to keep the creativity flowing-new ideas must be embraced!
  2. Teach courses on presenting key business isues
  3. Require all leaders to have development plans in place
  4. Talent development and courses on mentoring other leaders
  5. Holding all executives accountable.
  6. Holding educational sessions related to areas of expertise for each executive
  7. Attend senior-level development courses
  8. Embrace talent development
  9. Feedback from the executives on the leadership courses taken so improvements can be made.

Lastly, it is important to remember that this audience is focused on outcomes. Time and money are valuable in the executive’s eyes. An executive engagement meeting should bring forth new life to the company. Big decisions require big thinking and sometimes a re-birth is required.  Executives aren’t looking to repeat the same old. They want to become trailblazers in their industry and continuously grow! By following some of these tips, your executive engagement meetings could become a catalyst for major profit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

,

Executive Engagement 101 (Part 1)

atx events systems, events, meetings, conferences,Executive Engagement Meetings 101

For any business to profit, customers “who want what only you have to offer” must be present. However, for any business to truly grow and change, Executive Engagement meetings are just as important. An Executive Engagement meeting should lead to organizational changes (if needed) and focus on growth. Staying on task while reaching the desired outcomes of your executive meeting should be your number one priority.  Most organizations can suffer from ineffective executive meetings, which leads to wasted time and disengaged executives. Disengaged executives can trickle down to the employees, thus affecting customers. This article will highlight tips for a productive executive engagement meeting.

Laying The Foundation: “Nemawashi

In Japan, an informal process that is practiced prior to the executive meeting is called “nemawashi.”  This Japanese business practice includes gathering support, feedback, and a general consensus prior to the executive meeting. There is no direct English translation for “nemawashi.” This makes the practice a bit more complex and deeper than just getting votes and a general consensus. Laying the foundation before the executive meeting isn’t just limited to lobbying. It should also include internalizing others concerns and truly getting to know those in the organization.

It’s important for the owner of the meeting to bring new ideas and proposals to other executives before the meeting takes place.  Hearing a proposed idea or big change on the day of the meeting itself may not reap a positive outcome. Other executives are more likely to reject something completely unfamiliar to them. Not only will the meeting run smoother-but “nemawashi” ensures a time for hearing others input and ideas. Receiving feedback prior to the executive meeting is best for the owner of the meeting. This practice builds up the organization and puts the focus on relationships.

Who is driving the “bus” of the meeting?

Executive meetings are most successful when there is one “leader” of the meeting. Time and money are important in the business world, and executive engagement meetings can take up both. In order to get the most out of executive meetings, there should be one person who is driving the meeting forward. It is important for the owner of the meeting to stay on task and agenda.  When multiple executives give presentations, this may lead to “ agenda clutter.” Disarray and too many ideas at once has proven to lead to executive disengagement. Having one true driver of the meetings can keep the group energized and focused on the desired outcomes. This driver or owner’s main goal should be keeping the executives focused on the sole objective.  The other executives can spend their energy and efforts towards answering whatever main objective may be.

Clear Objectives > Positive Return on Investment

If an executive engagement meeting is successful, it should positively impact an organizations performance. It all starts with the executive’s ability to provide thoughtful, innovative, and integrated progress. Productive executive engagement meetings lead to better employees and more profit. As stated earlier, a lot of money is spent on executive meetings, so you want to get the most bang for your organizations buck. When going into executive engagement meetings, the driver must clearly state the most important objective. If the objective or agenda is unclear, how can executives leave and go back to employees feeling energized and enthusiastic?

Conclusion

Laying the foundation, designating one driver, and stating clear objectives are just three tips to ensure a positive executive engagement meeting. If you follow them closely, your team should reach its desired outcomes. When Executive Engagement meetings reach their desired outcomes, employee engagement should almost take care of itself.

 

 

 

.