I’m pleased to introduce yet another company that has adopted and benefited from the “Agenda-less Listening” approach.

After hosting me at her EO Forum Retreat, Sabina Gault, founder of Los Angeles, CA-based Konnect Agency, embraced the need to ask current, former and prospective clients some disruptive, thought provoking questions, then let them talk about what THEY think is important and just…LISTEN!

Congrats to Konnect’s Christina MacKinnon, who led the process and whose excellent listening skills and judgement led to critical insights. Perhaps her most memorable comment: “I was surprised how much people wanted to talk to me…how they were ready to talk to me.”

Konnect Agency  is a national PR firm whose clients include Krave, FatBurger, Dave & Busters, AMF.

And here’s the full interview (9 minutes):

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As marketers and sellers, we’re pretty excellent at pushing our own perspective out into the marketplace: Our messaging, our content, our pitch deck, our value prop. Perhaps this explains why the deluge of B2B content marketing and thought leadership has basically created a giant wall of noise between companies and their target audience.

What we don’t get enough of is the target audience’s perspective. What are decision-makers are really thinking about on the other side of that giant wall of noise we’re creating? How do they go through and perceive the buying process?

That’s what you’ll learn when you visit the How I Buy blog by a company called nudge.ai. Just go to https://nudge.ai/blog and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

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As a B2B marketer, how could I not click on a banner ad that said, “Meet Alan. B2B marketing’s first feeling machine”?

Well, to say I was disappointed would be a tremendous understatement. And it wouldn’t be an overstatement to say this agency’s AI “experiment” made the agency look silly.

If you’re going to create something that positions you on the leading edge, then you MUST invest enough time and resources to make it a GREAT example.

Unfortunately, in this case, the failed AI experience just reinforced the “shiny object” superficiality that comes to mind for many decision-makers when they think about marketing agencies.

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First, if you are involved in or oversee Sales, I recommend you check out Ian Altman’s fantastic Same Side Selling Academy group on Facebook. Ian, a world renowned speaker and expert on sales strategies and techniques, is building a group of enlightened executives who want to maximize their effectiveness without the tired and sometimes trashy practices of the past.

Go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/samesidesellingacademy and request to join the group.

Now, about this video–which was originally broadcast live on the Same Side Selling Academy. In it, I chronicle some of the most cliche questions that customers and prospects are still asked–as well as some fresh, proven alternatives.

As always, you can download my Customer Re-Discovery Playbook absolutely FREE at www.chieflisteningofficers.com/customer-discovery-playbook-2.

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The webinar started at 2 pm, promising useful, practical tips and tools. At 2:15, the expert was showing pictures of his “beautiful” wife and kids. At 2:25, he was talking about the abuse he suffered as a child. At 2:35, with not a tool or tip in sight, I logged off.

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Still asking customers, “what keeps you up at night”? Well, 1995 called, and they want their question back. When you ask cliche answers, you don’t get insights–you get cliches.

Instead, here are a few questions that will help you discover fresh, actionable perspectives from customers and prospects.

As always, you can download the Customer Re-Discovery Playbook, absolutely free, at www.chieflisteningofficers.com/customer-discovery-playbook-2.

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If I’ve learned one thing in several decades of hands-on marketing leadership, strategy and execution, it’s that great marketing starts with great listening.

And great listening means asking your customers questions your competitors haven’t asked.

In fact, one of the pivotal moments in my evolution from Chief Marketing Officer to Chief Listening Officer was when I started asking my clients’ customers (and prospects) this simple question during my “customer rediscovery” interviews:

What would make you a customer for life?

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You’re a B2B professional services firm. Your people are the product. So what message does it send to your web site visitors when they’re greeted by image like the one above? Basically the message is that you didn’t want to invest the time and budget to showcase your actual people.

Listen up–reality is the new marketing. Using photos of fake people only puts another barrier between you and your customer or prospect. But showing real people draws them in.

Hear my rant on the subject–and see how one company, CrossCountry Consulting, is doing it right–in the video above.

 

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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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