I highly recommend the recent Washington Post article by longtime business writer Tom Heath, titled, “The story behind Atlantic owner David Bradley’s ‘biggest business failure.”

The heart of the story was really about how David Bradley and top lieutenant Kevin Turpin replaced Atlantic’s vaunted National Journal publication–which was being existentially threatened by Politico Pro, Bloomberg Government, CQ Roll Call, Huffington Post, RealClear Politics and even Google–with a new range of services.

Here’s the key. These new services were conceived after:

“Bradley asked Turpin to start a 62-person sounding board comprised of associations, nonprofit organizations and clients of the National Journal. They spent the next year listening.”

“I would ask them about challenges, what kept them awake at night,” Turpin said.

The results have been terrific, according to Bradley:

“What we’ve been doing is utterly original products. They are not the romance of the (National Journal). For the first time in my ownership of the National Journal — but especially for the first time in seven, eight, nine years — everybody is focused on something that’s really exceptional. I’m really happy.”

My message to CEOs, business owners and other senior executives:

“Don’t wait until your business is suffering or under withering assault by competitors or market forces. Go have some conversations with your customers and prospects to ask about them–their perspectives, priorities and challenges. The insights will propel your business forward–and could help avoid a huge problem down the road.”

Here’s a Free Customer Re-Discovery Playbook to Get You Started

Check out our Customer Re-Discovery Playbook that takes you through the entire customer listening process, including 12 thought-provoking questions to ask, how to ask them and how to listen to what your audience really needs. You can download it absolutely free by clicking here.

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There was a fascinating series of old vs. new school quotes in a recent WSJ article titled, PwC Acquires Design Agency Pond, Furthering Advertising Push. To me this underscores the’ vulnerability of traditional agencies even as they try to be “digital marketers” and “change agents” for their clients.

The problem, in my view, is that agencies have always been systemically misaligned with their clients’ interests. Client spends more on marketing, agency gets paid more. Regardless of results. So the agency’s incentive is for the client to always spend more.

Which, according to PwC executive’s comment below about CEOs’ desire to reduce marketing spend, doesn’t bode well as we enter a new era of scrutiny on marketing costs and ROI.

Here’s the exchange:

On WPP’s full-year earnings call in March, its chief executive, Martin Sorrell, said there had only been a couple of occasions when his agencies had been up against consultancies for substantial pieces of business. “I don’t think [the threat of consulting firms is] that significant,” Mr. Sorrell said.

Tom Puthiyamadam, global digital leader at PwC, said he agrees with Mr. Sorrell. “You know why? He’s in the wrong pitches,” Mr. Puthiyamadam said. “He’s actually solving the wrong problem. He’s solving yesterday’s problem on driving more leads, through better campaigns and better creative. Meanwhile, the CEO, his reaction is: ‘I want to take down my marketing spend, not increase it’.”

Mr. Puthiyamadam says PwC’s digital division has won plaudits from clients for looking to solve their fundamental business problems — such as customer support or logistics and distribution — in addition to focusing on marketing issues.

Mr. Puthiyamadam said PwC had only seen a “handful” of agencies compete in that space.

See the full article at https://www.wsj.com/articles/pwc-acquires-design-agency-pond-furthering-advertising-push-1496213257

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I’ve written and talked a lot about how a particular method of listening to your target audience reveals their true problems and priorities–vs. the ones you assume or hope they have.

Now let’s look at some of the real reactions B2B decision-makers had when we found their “R-Spot”–the place in their brain that triggers a visceral or emotional response signifying you:

  • Have identified an issue that is truly important from their perspective; and/or
  • Intend to address this issue so that your interests are more closely aligned with theirs.

(What’s the “R” stand for? Relevance, resonance, reality, rant–take your pick.)

You might be saying, “Hey, Bob, this is B2B. People don’t have emotional reactions.”

Oh yes they do.

You’re helping them do their jobs better or make their life easier (because their job is part of their life). So they do react strongly when you strike the right chord. The quotes below prove it. They are verbatim reactions from decision-makers either:

  • During the initial “listening” session when we honed in on their “Elevator Rant”–the problems they talk about when vendors aren’t around; or
  • After my client pitched a new value proposition or messaging that we formulated based on discovering the Elevator Rant.

So here are…

5 Customer Reactions When You Find Their “R-Spot”

  • “Why isn’t my vendor doing that for me?”
  • “If you really do that I’d be a customer for life.”
  • “That proves you’re really aligned with our interests.”
  • “I wish all vendors would take the approach you’re taking.”
  • “This proves how critical listening is–and that not enough vendors take the time to do it.”

I’ve summarized the entire approach I used to help my clients discover their target audience’s “R-Spot” or Elevator Rant in an e-book. Download it for free at www.chieflisteningofficers.com/customer-discovery-playbook-2/

Happy listening!

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This is a promo for my Mid-Atlantic Marketing Summit talk this Friday, titled:

“Burn the Whiteboard! Stop Brainstorming and Go Ask Customers These 5 Questions.”

Please register at www.mamsummit.com.

Hope to see you there.

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I love this quote: “Fall in love with the customer’s problem, not your solution.” On that note, it’s surprising how many companies I meet (startups to established) that have never Googled the problem they’re trying to solve from the customers’ perspective.

They tend to Google their unique solution, and then say, “See, no one’s doing this!” Which really means, “No one’s doing exactly what we’re doing.” But when you Google the problem, you’ll see competitors, substitutes and alternatives from the customers’ perspective–including customers solving the problem in-house.

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