New research: Boost organic growth from current customers

CEOs and sales leaders have long wondered: how can we drive organic growth and increase sales from existing customers?

But it’s elusive. In fact, the traditional approach is no longer working.

According to CEB, now Gartner, “Only 28% of sales leaders report that account management channels regularly meet their cross-selling and account growth targets.”

That’s why I interviewed Brent Adamson (@brentadamson), Principal Executive Advisor at Gartner, and the co-author of The Challenger Sale and The Challenger Customer.

Can you tell our listeners a little bit about you and your background?

Brent Adamson:  I work with an organization formerly known as CEB and has now been acquired by Gartner.

I work with the Sales & Service and Marketing & Communications practices here at the company. And it’s sort of our mission in life, at least in the business to business space where I spend most of my time, trying to understand with data, with research, with analytics, what does world-class B2B selling and marketing look like?

We get after that, again, with all sorts of analysis and research. It’s funny, we’re actually industry agnostic. We work across industries, go to market models, geographies, and try to understand (across all of the different kinds of companies out there) what do we all have in common?

What’s the recipe for success that’s going to help us all move the dial, do a little bit better, in sales, in marketing and ideally in sales and marketing?

How can sellers drive account growth?  

Well, sure. This is brand new research for us. In some way or another, we always study growth, right? Because that’s what sales and marketing are all about.

There’s a certain almost urgency, or we like to call the “Why Now?”, of this growth question, especially in sales, which is especially relevant for us today.

And that is simply the journey that we’ve all been on over the last five years, five months, 10 years, 20 years of building out broader capabilities across our organization to offer our customers, if you will, solutions as opposed to individual products and/or services.

The idea that if you can offer your customer broader solutions, that’s going to allow you to stand out, to differentiate yourself, to command price premiums in the marketplace. All good things to do and good reasons to do it.

The thing that’s interesting though, Brian, as you add all those capabilities to your portfolio that you can now bring to your customer to add that additional value. The actual value they create for you as a supplier is of course directly contingent on your ability to actually sell them, to get your customer actually to buy those incremental capabilities.

Not surprisingly, companies all around the world, in their efforts to grow, are looking to existing customers to buy into more of the cart, as we all like to say, to penetrate that account more deeply and get them to buy into more of the value that we can offer.

It turns out this is a huge challenge for B2B organizations around the world, which is, simply put, to get existing customers to buy more of what we have to sell; to essentially drive growth with existing customers. That is the challenge or the terrain, as we like to say, that we dove into this year.

What can sales do better?

What can we, as sales organizations, do to do a better job of driving growth with those existing customers? When you dig into it what’s interesting is the amount of frustration with sales organizations around the world in making that happen. There’s only about roughly a quarter of the heads of sales that we surveyed this year who told us that their account teams were meeting, let alone exceeding, cross-sales or up-sales across portfolio goals.

Whether you call it up-sales, cross-sales, land-and-expand, whatever you might call it, we’re all struggling to get that incremental revenue from our customers.

Let me take a breath there, but that’s sort of the terrain that we dived into to try and understand what’s going on. I would imagine, Brian, that’s something you hear a lot about too across your listenership.

Brian: Yeah. I was just talking with a CEO and his team, and that’s really a struggle. They were wondering how do they grow organically?

They talked about customer success, and they talked about how they could service their account above and beyond, but that just didn’t seem to be enough.

Driving organic growth (it’s counterintuitive)

Brent: Well, no. You’re right. It was counterintuitive even to us. We always have these hypotheses that we test in all our research, but it’s interesting to see how the data and the research shake out.

What we found is a couple of things here in this world of account managers, if you will, that this is the farming side of the hunting/farming debate. Right?

That’s about our farmers, and they must be nurturers and take care of our current customers, and then when they fail to grow, we think, “Oh, they need to be harder, and they need to be tougher, and they need to be more aggressive. We need to get them in there.”

What’s interesting is when we fail to drive growth with current customers, we often blame the people. We need more hunter-oriented sales professionals in our account management ranks, or we need someone that is going to ask for the business or be more aggressive as opposed to being so nurturing.

There’s an interesting tendency to fall back on DNA or at least on individual traits and assume that the lack of growth is the result of the wrong people.

Then you get the CEO saying, “We need better people. We need different people.” What we’ve come to understand really is not only is it the structure of the role.

Growing and keeping customers what you need to do differently

Yes, you’re on the hook for driving growth in existing accounts, but let’s not forget you’re also on the hook for not losing the business that you’ve already won.

At the same time, you’re partly on the hook, or at least partially you’re involved in the servicing of those accounts as well. You’ve got success or managing, making sure they get value from that which they’ve already bought, and then driving incremental growth.

What happens in the account management role, unlike a pure hunting role, is that when you’re sitting over, or at least involved in, all three of those categories simultaneously, not only your time, but your attention and focus gets split in some interesting ways that create all sorts of tension.

So, if I’m a pure hunter, all I’m tasked to do is to go out and bring out new logos or new customers altogether. But if I’m a farmer, if I’m someone in an account management role, yes, I’ve got to bring in incremental business, but never at the cost of losing the business that we’ve won already.

That’s the thing we say: the single thing worse than failing to grow an account is failing to keep it all together.

What you have now is this interesting tension of an account manager trying to pat your head and rub your tummy at the same time. They’re trying to do very different things simultaneously, which is grow the account but not lose the account.

Balancing account growth with retention

And the reason why that matters is that what you’re asking the customer to do in this environment is two very different things.

To keep the customer you essentially must get the customer to agree to the status quo. So, keep doing what you’re doing, sign up for it again, renew that contract, buy the same amount, renew that business if it was a renewal-based business, so that’s a status quo decision.

But a growth decision is to do something different, to buy more, to expand to more seats, to go to a new geography, to incorporate this new service or new technology.

From an account management perspective, I’ve got two tensions simultaneously. One tension is to try to get them to grow without losing what I’ve got already. And simultaneously I’m trying to get my customer to change and not change their behavior at the same time, and this turns out to be hard, right?

So, this stuff’s really fascinating from a social science perspective.

You think about, how do I play that card, what’s the strategy for winning and driving growth in that environment. So full circle back to your question, Brian.

Does over servicing customers drive growth?  

We find that the predominant mental model of account managers in this world is, well, first things first, before I get the growth I’ve got to get the “maintain,” I’ve got to get the “retain.”

Let’s make sure that they’re happy, let’s make sure they’re taken care of, let’s make sure they’re satisfied. In fact, let’s make sure they’re delighted with whatever we sold in the past.

So, let’s over-serve them, let’s provide world-class service, and if we do that we’re going to, at some point, achieve a threshold, permission, and if we can get over that permission threshold, then we’ll have won the right to ask them for growth.

And somehow, the fact of just by being so happy with the service we provided in the past, will drive growth.

And so that brings us full circle to the punchline of a lot of our data.

What we found is when you provide a world-class level, even just an above average level of service and success to your customers, they are twice as likely to renew.

So, we can find no statistically significant impact on that level of service, and the likelihood of that customer to grow.

So, put it all together and what you get is service drives retention, but it doesn’t drive growth.

service-on-account-growth

And that’s a really interesting thing to find in a world where the mental model, essentially the working hypothesis of not only account managers but all the way up to the CEO is, let’s serve our customers. Let’s create these world-class moments of delight, and that will earn us the permission for growth.

And we just don’t find that to be the case at all in our research.

The zone of wasted effort

Brian: The rationale and logic has always been, go the extra mile, delight. What your data’s showing us is that there is a point of overserving our customers?

Brent: We gave it a sort of provocative name, so if you draw this out in a set of curves, and we’ve got graphics to go along with this.

But the idea is if you think more service equals higher likelihood to grow, so you think of almost sort of like a… If you grasp this regarding growth likelihood, it almost looks like a 45-degree angle going up and to the right.

So service is on the horizontal axis, likelihood to grow is on the vertical and the more service I provide, the farther I go to the right, the higher I get on the vertical. Because service leads to growth.

service-and-account-growth

What we find is in fact that the line doesn’t go up and to the right endlessly, but it shanks to the right. It levels off and ends to your point regarding diminishing returns, and at some point, no matter how much more service you provide, you pour into that account, the chances of driving growth do not go up, because service doesn’t equal growth.

And so, what happens is that you keep providing more and more service with absolutely no incremental impact on growth likelihood.  It creates this huge gap between the amount of service provided and the amount of service that you needed to provide simply to get retention.

We call that gap the Zone of Wasted Effort, which is somewhat provocative.

But the Zone of Wasted Effort is in fact that.

It is effort that you’ve expended in serving the customer, in delighting the customer in hopes of getting growth that will never actually get you growth.

Because it doesn’t lead to growth, and so at the very least, in that Zone of Wasted Effort, there’s all sorts of questions there, but one of them is simply: what are the opportunity costs of our time?

How much time, money, effort, people are we pouring into a customer to provide world-class service when, in fact, the customer’s going to renew or retain anyway?

Strategies to drive organic growth

Just in Atlanta two weeks ago, one head of sales said, “We do this all the time.” The real price is not just the opportunity cost/time that you pay, but the fact that you are now raising expectations for your customer way above anything that you ever originally promised, and your recalibrating, or resetting their expectations for the next deal.

So yes, it gets you attention, which you were going to get anyway, doesn’t get you growth because it can’t get you growth. What it does do though is it makes the next deal you do with the customer even that much more expensive because you’ve recalibrated their expectations way higher than you ever needed to do originally just to keep the account.

Brian: This is a problem that’s affecting nearly every B2B company: “How do we drive organic growth?” What are some of the strategies, the things you’ve found, that sellers can do differently?

Set clear expectations

Brent: A couple thoughts on this. One is, to get back to the previous point, it becomes really important in this world to set very clear expectations.

The thing that heads of sales ask us all the time is, “Okay, I get it, or I kind of get it. I’m on board. I see the data makes sense, so I understand that at some point there’s diminishing returns to providing greater and greater service but how do I know how much service is enough? How do I know when I’ve reached that threshold; I’ve maximized the benefit for retention knowing that there is no benefit for growth? How do I figure out what that moment is?”

And the answer simply is, “It’s in simply meeting the expectations that you’ve established with your customer in advance. Whether it’s formally, through something like service level agreements or more informally through quarterly reviews or business reviews, or account planning processes.

But one way or another, setting those expectations very clearly, probably in writing with not only your customers but your own team, so that you don’t perform way above them, because all that does is add cost with no real return.” So that’s point one: setting expectations is super important.

That is more of a cost mitigation strategy, it’s not really a growth strategy as you asked for. So, Brian, the flip side is now how do I drive the growth?

Focus on customer improvement

Well, what our data has led us to understand is there is a completely different strategy altogether, which is something that we’ve come to call “Customer Improvement.”

For any of the listeners on the podcast who are familiar with our work that we’ve done in The Challenger Sale, in The Challenger Customer, this idea will sound very familiar. Effectively, it’s a subset of behaviors, or attributes that are all completely consistent with the Challenger body of work.

We tested a whole bunch of different attributes in our data across about 750 B2B customers, individual stakeholders involved in a big B2B purchase.

And what we found is for those suppliers who were perceived by those customers as providing a set of interactions that we’ve labeled “Customer Improvement”, they were significantly more likely to buy incremental services, additional geographies, additional features, additional products from that supplier.

Customer Improvement is the ability of a supplier to help critically assess the customer’s business in a way the customer hasn’t fully appreciated on their own, and help them identify new ways to grow, to make money, to save money, to lay out the ROI of taking a step in that direction.

Get customers to embrace change

If your goal is retention or renewal, what you’re trying to do there is just get your customers to embrace the status quo, to just keep doing what they’ve already decided to do in the past.

But to get them to grow, you need to get them to embrace change – to do something different, to buy something different, and if you want your customers to do something different, well that’s change.  Change is perceived as risky, and if I’m going to do anything risky, if I’m going to do anything that’s involving change you’ve got to make the business case not for buying your solution, but for changing their behavior.

And that’s what Customer Improvement is all about. It’s building a business case and articulating a business case to your customers for why they need not to buy your solution, but why they need to change their behavior in a way that’s going to improve their business.

It’s a really powerful lesson completely consistent with what we’ve found in the past, but what’s so stark about it in this context is that for existing accounts, while service and success do not drive growth, Customer Improvement does, dramatically so in fact.

Go from reactive to forward-looking

Brian: It sounds like what you’re saying is we need to move from being more reactive and looking at how do we deliver and retain, to proactive, being forward-looking.

I was thinking of this conversation I had with this CEO and his team. They have this customer success strategy, and it was really helping their customers become like gold medal athletes at performing what they do.

And the problem is the customers weren’t wanting to be gold medalists. What they wanted to be is to get their job done more effectively simply and there wasn’t that vision. And so, what I’m hearing is, you need to help someone.  If they want to embrace that level, it is to know where they want to go and how you can help take them there. Is that what you’re saying?

The difference between customer success and improvement

Brent: A little bit, yeah, it is. I would use slightly different language, only in the sense that the term Customer Success, at least in the world of software service for example, the big cloud providers, and that sort of world, the term success or Success Team has taken on a very specific definition or framework.

So, a Success Team there is generally designed to make sure the customer gets as much value from that which they’ve bought from you in the past as possible.

So, this is a proactive team that would reach out to the customer and say, “Hey you’ve got this subscription from us,” for example or, “You’ve bought this product or service from us. Did you know it has this capability you can take advantage of? Or, did you know there are these ways we can help you based on the contract we already have in place?”

So, it’s a proactive call. It’s not reactive in the sense that a customer calls you when they’re upset because something doesn’t work but because you’re proactively calling them and helping them get value from that which they’ve already bought. It’s proactive but backward-looking.

It’s focused on what you bought from us as a supplier in the past and making sure you get as much success from that as possible.

Now the Customer Improvement thing is not a thing.

The Customer Improvement concept, or the approach, is not backward-looking, but forward-looking.

And it’s not about your capabilities but the customers.

In fact, it’s completely supplier agnostic in way that will just drive you crazy.

It’s weird to try to get your customer to buy something without talking about your capabilities, which you will eventually, not at the beginning of the conversation though, but at the end.

So, if you think about a four-square, where the vertical dimension is supplier across the bottom, customer across the top and then the left-right is on the left, it’s sort of backward-looking, and the right is forward-looking.

account-health-model

Success Teams tend to be in the bottom left box. Success Teams tend to be backward-looking around the supplier’s capability. So, let’s make sure you get as much value from that which you’ve bought already. It’s a proactive push but around that which you’ve bought already.

Customer improvement isn’t about you

The Customer Improvement story up in the top right is not about you at all, it’s about the customer and how they can change the way they think about their business, in a way that’s going to help them reap greater returns in the future, going forward.

So, back to your point that the customer doesn’t want to be a gold medalist. In this world, what you need to do is figure out what your customer is ultimately trying to achieve, who are they trying to be? If not, a gold medalist then is it a silver medalist? Is it not a medalist at all?

Or, what are their ultimate goals as a commercial organization and you can ask yourself:

Okay, if that’s looking forward to the future, what they’re trying to achieve? What is it about that strategy that is incomplete or perhaps even misplaced?

How are they going to get there and what have they missed? If that’s what’s important to them, how can I help them get there better than if they ultimately are planning on getting there on their own?

And I suppose if you wanted to raise it up a notch in altitude, if you really wanted to you could go in and argue with, “That’s not even a good place for you to be starting within the first place.”

That is a higher-level argument, which is sometimes harder to have with your customer and I would never use the word argument per se, but “debate” if you will.

But one way or another you will find that this is the case, that your customers were always going to be oriented towards the status quo.

Because change is expensive, it’s disruptive, it’s scary, it’s risky, and if you’re going to get your customers to change their behavior, the first thing you’ve got to do is convince them that that change is even worth it in the first place.

That maybe it is worth it to become a gold medalist. Or if you only want to be a silver medalist that’s fine, but let me show you how the path that you’re on towards the silver medal isn’t going to get you there nearly as fast or as effectively as you thought it was going to.

Related resources:

Driving Growth Through Smarter Account Management

Quotable: Why Changing Behavior Is Your Biggest Sales Challenge

[Video] Rethinking Customer Understanding with Brent Adamson: Part 1

[Video] Rethinking Customer Understanding with Brent Adamson: Part 2

Why customer advocacy should be at the heart of your marketing

How customer-hero stories help you connect better

How to Attract B2B Buyers with Amazing Content

The post New research: Boost organic growth from current customers appeared first on the B2B Lead Blog.

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Why purpose matters to marketing: growth, revenue, and profit

why purpose matters to marketingDoes your purpose currently impact your marketing, revenue growth, and profit? If not, it should.

Here’s why:

According to research, curated by Mack Fogelson, consider the following:

  • 73% of people care about the company, not just the product when making a purchase. (BBMG)
  • 50% of purchases are made because of word-of-mouth (Brains on Fire)
  • 85% of purpose-led companies showed positive growth (Harvard Business Review/EY)

In sum, purpose matter because it impacts your growth, revenue, and profit.

That’s why I interviewed Mack Fogelson (@mackfogelson), the CEO of Genuinely, a consulting and training company. I met Mack through a mutual friend and we’ve developed a friendship too. I’ve learned a lot about marketing with purpose and why it’s important to revenue growth and profit and I’m excited to share her thinking with you. You’ll also learn four steps to articulate your purpose.

Author’s Note: The transcript was edited for publication.

Mack, can you tell us a little bit more about your background?

Way long ago, I was a teacher and did that for a while. Then over the last fourteen years, I’ve been in the marketing space, so everything from building and coding websites to optimizing with search engine optimization and SEM to building community and brands and the full, integrated approach to marketing a company.

All of those layers have brought us to where we are now which is primarily teaching companies how to use these concepts, frameworks, and the processes that we’ve tested and know really work to grow their companies. We do this to ultimately help businesses in the digital age compete, contend, and build really great, meaningful and sustainable businesses.

What inspired you to focus on purpose and humanize marketing?

Around the time I started having my family, I just realized that if I was taking that time away from my kids that I really needed to make it count. I’ve built a business around something that has been very meaningful to me and for my employees. We started by helping companies be better. I started getting in the conversation about community many years back. When many marketers were talking about how to rank #1 in Google, I was talking a lot about the benefit of community and of businesses building a community to help their companies. What I didn’t realize at the time, but unfolded many years later, was that purpose was really at the heart of all of that: helping companies to understand how you bring people together through purpose and drive the organization’s growth.

You said that it’s not about what you spend on marketing; it’s purpose that helps you get focused. Why is that?

Because there is so much that has changed. The world isn’t the same. Businesses aren’t the same, and the way the business community works. Customers are not the same. So, we cannot expect marketing to be the same. Mainly we’re looking at consumers now. We expect authentic and very real and human experiences. And not only that but employees are looking for more meaning in their work just like I was many years ago.

It really comes down to the fact that it’s not about what your company sells or solves anymore, and certainly, you need to be incredibly stellar at what you sell and what you make, but it’s about who your business is. And really, it’s about the three components of purpose, people, and promise, and having those pieces work together for any given company so that they can reap all the benefits that purpose brings, like, customer acquisition and retention, customer connection, and employee satisfaction.

How can we overcome this disconnect and better connect with our customers?

Most companies are pushing their product and their services rather than really leading from what their business is here to do and bridging that gap between the purpose of the company and the people that are in line with that. So, when the conversation is about the product, there isn’t much of a conversation to be had.

Let’s say we’re just talking about Dove. They sell soap. But ultimately their aim is to help women feel good about their bodies. So, it’s the intersection of those things (selling soap and helping women feel good about their bodies); the cultural relevancy of attacking an issue like women’s self-image and body image and wanting actually to help solve that problem in our world is what has given Dove such incredible growth in their organization.

When the conversation shifts from being about the product to being about purpose it becomes something else entirely that drives growth because it’s the word of mouth that companies are looking for. And that doesn’t come through talking about a product; it originates from the connection that they have with the shared values and wanting to do something bigger. Not to say that they don’t generate significant profits from this path; it’s just a different way to it.

You’ve talked about why building an authentic and human company is necessary. So why should those in B2B marketing care about this?

Purpose is becoming more of a trendy topic; you see it everywhere and I think that’s the biggest disconnect. Companies think that, on the outside, if they market with purpose, they’re good; they’re safe. And maybe many companies are doing that. But if then the experience with your business is not real all the way to the core, then that’s where you’re going to have significant problems (think about recent events with companies like Uber, United, and Pepsi’s commercial fail).

Ultimately, in the day-to-day, companies want to know how do we achieve growth and how do we continue to acquire customers? How do we keep our customers? When your business is not looking at how to build a deeper connection with that customer (which comes from purpose and empathy as we’ve talked about) there is no connection. When you have no connection, you have no customers.

It’s really in applying the purpose to the day-to-day of the organization and understanding that it’s not just some visionary thing, but it’s about identifying your purpose and then making it relevant to your customers. It’s helping your teams understand what purpose is or isn’t. Many companies think it’s a PR approach or it’s a tag line, or it’s a mission or value statement. And that’s all great, but when it comes down to it, the purpose is really what does that mean to your customer who needs your product and wants to connect more deeply with your company?

Think about Patagonia: they’re selling a stellar product, but they’re also going deeper to say, “We are going to pioneer technology to make better clothing. And we’re going to reduce the impact of that on the environment. Then we’re going to give this technology to our competitors because if they have it, then we’re making a larger impact altogether.”

Companies need a purpose. Because they need to keep their employees; they need purpose to keep their customers, and ultimately there’s something bigger that their businesses are here to do, and it’s not an altruistic path. It’s a road to profit, it’s just, again, a different way of getting there.

Does empathy play a role in understanding your purpose and connecting with customers?

Definitely. One of the biggest things that we see is that companies lack the customer connection and, apparently, the connection to their purpose and any type of authentic or personal or empathetic connection to their customer.  Because they’re using data to make decisions (which they have a copious amount of) some companies just don’t know what to do with it anymore. Success is not in just analyzing your customer data or your audience data or the psychographic data that you get

Success is not in just analyzing your customer data or your audience data or the psychographic data that you get on your customers. It’s participating in one-to-one interviews with them to understand their behavior truly and, more accurately; knowing what they’re thinking and feeling. Because when you just get that digital data about your customer, it gives you some very quantitative benchmarks about the profile of these people, but it doesn’t tell you what they’re afraid of; it doesn’t say what they’re struggling with right now at this point in their lives.

Connecting with your customers on that one-to-one basis obviously opens up a huge conversation for understanding and empathizing with where they’re coming from. But then, by understanding that thinking and feeling, you can then shape your entire content strategy based on removing those roadblocks. And that is something I think ties into many things, in addition to purpose and empathy.

Brian: That’s where we were going to go next. I often talk to marketers who really don’t get to spend face time with the customers they’re looking to influence or reach outside their companies. I think the takeaway here is that marketers need to spend more time connecting with clients, not just through their channel of their sales team, but actually having these conversations and spending time practicing and using their empathy to do just that.

Technology is getting in the way of customer connection

Mack: You and I talk about this a lot with technology, and how everybody thinks that technology is a magic pill; they believe that there must be a tool or piece of technology or software that is going to help them build their customer base faster. The fact of the matter is that technology is part of the root of the problem in which companies need a purpose; they need empathy because they’re trying to solve these much deeper connection issues with their customers by using technology instead of speaking with their clients. Tools and technology can’t help you do that.

So, I think the companies that understand how to use technology wisely need to be able to use these tools at a certain level, even just to do a bunch of the heavy lifting and dirty work that we couldn’t take part in many years ago. But success is in taking that data and pairing it with the one-to-one participation in the flesh with these people to understand who they are, what they need really, and to help them get their roadblocks removed.

Brian: I agree with you.  The very thing that’s supposed to help us (this technology) connect with our customers more efficiently and effectively, is getting in the way of doing that. And so, to counteract that, or the counterpoint, is humanizing and putting more energy into that human connection so that when we do apply the technology, we’re using it well, and in a way that can help facilitate conversations and connections that we’ve already established.

Can you share any other tips or examples that our listeners can use to articulate their purpose? 

Mack:  There are four steps that would really help them understand “how do we even approach this conversation?” There are so many things that must be in line: strategy, leadership, and obviously, your product or service. But purpose greatly enhances the opportunity for success, especially in the digital age, especially regarding competitive advantages.

So just know, if you’re going to go down this road, that you don’t have to start all over, you don’t have to overhaul your entire organization. In fact, many companies that we work with, they just need an outside perspective to help them understand their systems and processes that they use to market and sell; they just need a little tweaking here and there and a reminder of “Hey, at this place is when you integrate purpose. At this place is when you really bring it back to the goals of the organization, wrapped with purpose.” Or, “You need to get to the customer in this place a little bit earlier.”

Four Steps to Articulate Your purpose

stepsStep 1: Clarify the purpose of the organization

We talked a little bit about Dove.  Their purpose is not to sell soap: their purpose is to help women feel better about their bodies. So that’s a big difference there.

Same with Chipotle. Their purpose is not to sell burritos: their purpose is to make food with integrity, and ultimately to pioneer food safety systems and help other fast food organizations to know that they can make great food and still make it healthy and good for our earth.

It’s kind of like understanding the difference between just a mission and the product that you’re selling and actually making the conversation about purpose. So, start there. If you’re at a loss as to how to do that, there are lots of resources online. And that is how you find your purpose. It’s not easy to do, but it’s certainly a place that will make you extremely relevant in your customer’s lives.

For more on this read: Ogilvy What’s the big ideaL and Evolve or Die: How Authenticity and Purpose are the Future of Brands.

Step 2: Deconstruct your customer’s journey

So, now I’m getting specific to sales, marketing, customer experience and those teams in your organization and understanding how to do this by talking to your customers. Just as I mentioned earlier, you definitely want to be looking at the customer data that you can collect digitally. Understand the audience data, the demographic data, psychographic data that you get. But that is typically where companies stop.

They build these personas and then they don’t go any deeper into actually spending face time with the customer. And that’s where all the good stuff is. That’s where you’re going to find connections, and that’s where you’re going to understand what your customers are thinking and feeling at every stage in your funnel so that you can generate resources, content, experiences that help to remove those roadblocks. So, that’s the second part, deconstructing that customer journey so that you can make that bridge between your purpose and your people.

Step 3: Connecting your team’s purpose to your organization’s purpose

The third step in getting purpose really well integrated into your organization is connecting your team’s purpose to your organization’s purpose. Ultimately, you have to know the purpose of your organization in its entirety to really understand why your organization, as a whole, exists beyond making money?

With your team: understand what role they play in achieving that purpose so that they can apply that more specifically to their day-to-day. That can go a really long way toward efficiency, output and morale, especially when your team is pushing hard and days are getting long. The meaning side of that really matters to them.

Step 4: Adjust the communication of your purpose externally

This very much directly applies to your sales and marketing and customer experiences team. They’re the most outwardly-facing, and they have the biggest responsibility in making sure that what is happening inside of your organization is also being effectively communicated outside, so customers know you’re not a façade; that purpose is not a veneer and that it’s truly how you operate inside and out.

You want to teach your sales and marketing team to understand the difference between having a product conversation and having a purpose discussion. When you make that shift to not just pushing your product, but to helping those teams understand the bigger purpose of your organization and how that connects to your customers, you’re opening an opportunity to connect with exponentially more people, more organizations, more influencers, more people in the media, more communities, who are either already your ideal customers, or they know somebody who could be.

For more on these steps, read: Why Your Organization is Getting Sales and Marketing Wrong

Brian:  Mack, that was fantastic. Thank you. You did a good job breaking down to four points, and I feel like this will be tangible for our listeners. We’ll also supply some resources and links for people to dig into these areas as well.

I wanted to ask what advice you would give to those who want to apply what you’ve just talked about and bring this idea to other leaders inside their company.

What if someone, is inspired by this idea – how can they get the conversation started inside their company?

Mack:  That’s a great question. I think it’s starting small. I believe that purpose as a concept seems very intimidating, especially to leaders, because they feel like “Oh my gosh, you’re talking about an entire organization overhaul, and we can’t even keep up with what we’re doing every day.”

It’s not really starting over, it’s just optimizing what you have, and better connecting it and communicating it so that your employees and your customers can understand it. So, I think it’s just starting small.

We typically start with a small purpose workshop. We’re talking maybe 45-60 minutes of helping companies understand what purpose is and what purpose isn’t.  Once they start the conversation I think it’s also to understand that purpose seems kind of fluffy, maybe, when you’re trying to hit your ROI and your metrics and the goals that you have financially for your team and for the organization. But it’s not fluffy. This is about growth. And in this day and age, this is the approach to growth.

But when you’re selling it to your leadership, it’s “We’re going to teach our sales, marketing, and customer experience teams how to remove roadblocks for our customers by connecting that purpose. And that, ultimately, is going to drive sales, it’s going to drive retention, it’s going to drive connections, and ultimately it’s going to drive our growth.”

Brian:  Terrific. What’s the best way for readers and listeners to get in touch with you?

Mack:  They can come to our website genuinely.co. or just come find me online. I’m on twitter at @mackfogelson most every day, happy to chat there.

Additional resources on purpose:

Why Your Organization is Getting Sales and Marketing Wrong

How Purpose and Authenticity are the Future of Brands

Winning with Purpose – EY

Purpose at Work – LinkedIn/Imperative

The Business Case for Purpose – Harvard Business Review [PDF]

You might also like:

How Empathy Will Grow Your Sales and Marketing Pipeline

4 Ways You Can Humanize Marketing and Build Relationships

The post Why purpose matters to marketing: growth, revenue, and profit appeared first on B2B Lead Blog.

Why purpose matters to marketing: growth, revenue, and profit

why purpose matters to marketingDoes your purpose currently impact your marketing, revenue growth, and profit? If not, it should.

Here’s why:

According to research, curated by Mack Fogelson, consider the following:

  • 73% of people care about the company, not just the product when making a purchase. (BBMG)
  • 50% of purchases are made because of word-of-mouth (Brains on Fire)
  • 85% of purpose-led companies showed positive growth (Harvard Business Review/EY)

In sum, purpose matter because it impacts your growth, revenue, and profit.

That’s why I interviewed Mack Fogelson (@mackfogelson), the CEO of Genuinely, a consulting and training company. I met Mack through a mutual friend and we’ve developed a friendship too. I’ve learned a lot about marketing with purpose and why it’s important to revenue growth and profit and I’m excited to share her thinking with you. You’ll also learn four steps to articulate your purpose.

Author’s Note: The transcript was edited for publication.

Mack, can you tell us a little bit more about your background?

Way long ago, I was a teacher and did that for a while. Then over the last fourteen years, I’ve been in the marketing space, so everything from building and coding websites to optimizing with search engine optimization and SEM to building community and brands and the full, integrated approach to marketing a company.

All of those layers have brought us to where we are now which is primarily teaching companies how to use these concepts, frameworks, and the processes that we’ve tested and know really work to grow their companies. We do this to ultimately help businesses in the digital age compete, contend, and build really great, meaningful and sustainable businesses.

What inspired you to focus on purpose and humanize marketing?

Around the time I started having my family, I just realized that if I was taking that time away from my kids that I really needed to make it count. I’ve built a business around something that has been very meaningful to me and for my employees. We started by helping companies be better. I started getting in the conversation about community many years back. When many marketers were talking about how to rank #1 in Google, I was talking a lot about the benefit of community and of businesses building a community to help their companies. What I didn’t realize at the time, but unfolded many years later, was that purpose was really at the heart of all of that: helping companies to understand how you bring people together through purpose and drive the organization’s growth.

You said that it’s not about what you spend on marketing; it’s purpose that helps you get focused. Why is that?

Because there is so much that has changed. The world isn’t the same. Businesses aren’t the same, and the way the business community works. Customers are not the same. So, we cannot expect marketing to be the same. Mainly we’re looking at consumers now. We expect authentic and very real and human experiences. And not only that but employees are looking for more meaning in their work just like I was many years ago.

It really comes down to the fact that it’s not about what your company sells or solves anymore, and certainly, you need to be incredibly stellar at what you sell and what you make, but it’s about who your business is. And really, it’s about the three components of purpose, people, and promise, and having those pieces work together for any given company so that they can reap all the benefits that purpose brings, like, customer acquisition and retention, customer connection, and employee satisfaction.

How can we overcome this disconnect and better connect with our customers?

Most companies are pushing their product and their services rather than really leading from what their business is here to do and bridging that gap between the purpose of the company and the people that are in line with that. So, when the conversation is about the product, there isn’t much of a conversation to be had.

Let’s say we’re just talking about Dove. They sell soap. But ultimately their aim is to help women feel good about their bodies. So, it’s the intersection of those things (selling soap and helping women feel good about their bodies); the cultural relevancy of attacking an issue like women’s self-image and body image and wanting actually to help solve that problem in our world is what has given Dove such incredible growth in their organization.

When the conversation shifts from being about the product to being about purpose it becomes something else entirely that drives growth because it’s the word of mouth that companies are looking for. And that doesn’t come through talking about a product; it originates from the connection that they have with the shared values and wanting to do something bigger. Not to say that they don’t generate significant profits from this path; it’s just a different way to it.

You’ve talked about why building an authentic and human company is necessary. So why should those in B2B marketing care about this?

Purpose is becoming more of a trendy topic; you see it everywhere and I think that’s the biggest disconnect. Companies think that, on the outside, if they market with purpose, they’re good; they’re safe. And maybe many companies are doing that. But if then the experience with your business is not real all the way to the core, then that’s where you’re going to have significant problems (think about recent events with companies like Uber, United, and Pepsi’s commercial fail).

Ultimately, in the day-to-day, companies want to know how do we achieve growth and how do we continue to acquire customers? How do we keep our customers? When your business is not looking at how to build a deeper connection with that customer (which comes from purpose and empathy as we’ve talked about) there is no connection. When you have no connection, you have no customers.

It’s really in applying the purpose to the day-to-day of the organization and understanding that it’s not just some visionary thing, but it’s about identifying your purpose and then making it relevant to your customers. It’s helping your teams understand what purpose is or isn’t. Many companies think it’s a PR approach or it’s a tag line, or it’s a mission or value statement. And that’s all great, but when it comes down to it, the purpose is really what does that mean to your customer who needs your product and wants to connect more deeply with your company?

Think about Patagonia: they’re selling a stellar product, but they’re also going deeper to say, “We are going to pioneer technology to make better clothing. And we’re going to reduce the impact of that on the environment. Then we’re going to give this technology to our competitors because if they have it, then we’re making a larger impact altogether.”

Companies need a purpose. Because they need to keep their employees; they need purpose to keep their customers, and ultimately there’s something bigger that their businesses are here to do, and it’s not an altruistic path. It’s a road to profit, it’s just, again, a different way of getting there.

Does empathy play a role in understanding your purpose and connecting with customers?

Definitely. One of the biggest things that we see is that companies lack the customer connection and, apparently, the connection to their purpose and any type of authentic or personal or empathetic connection to their customer.  Because they’re using data to make decisions (which they have a copious amount of) some companies just don’t know what to do with it anymore. Success is not in just analyzing your customer data or your audience data or the psychographic data that you get

Success is not in just analyzing your customer data or your audience data or the psychographic data that you get on your customers. It’s participating in one-to-one interviews with them to understand their behavior truly and, more accurately; knowing what they’re thinking and feeling. Because when you just get that digital data about your customer, it gives you some very quantitative benchmarks about the profile of these people, but it doesn’t tell you what they’re afraid of; it doesn’t say what they’re struggling with right now at this point in their lives.

Connecting with your customers on that one-to-one basis obviously opens up a huge conversation for understanding and empathizing with where they’re coming from. But then, by understanding that thinking and feeling, you can then shape your entire content strategy based on removing those roadblocks. And that is something I think ties into many things, in addition to purpose and empathy.

Brian: That’s where we were going to go next. I often talk to marketers who really don’t get to spend face time with the customers they’re looking to influence or reach outside their companies. I think the takeaway here is that marketers need to spend more time connecting with clients, not just through their channel of their sales team, but actually having these conversations and spending time practicing and using their empathy to do just that.

Technology is getting in the way of customer connection

Mack: You and I talk about this a lot with technology, and how everybody thinks that technology is a magic pill; they believe that there must be a tool or piece of technology or software that is going to help them build their customer base faster. The fact of the matter is that technology is part of the root of the problem in which companies need a purpose; they need empathy because they’re trying to solve these much deeper connection issues with their customers by using technology instead of speaking with their clients. Tools and technology can’t help you do that.

So, I think the companies that understand how to use technology wisely need to be able to use these tools at a certain level, even just to do a bunch of the heavy lifting and dirty work that we couldn’t take part in many years ago. But success is in taking that data and pairing it with the one-to-one participation in the flesh with these people to understand who they are, what they need really, and to help them get their roadblocks removed.

Brian: I agree with you.  The very thing that’s supposed to help us (this technology) connect with our customers more efficiently and effectively, is getting in the way of doing that. And so, to counteract that, or the counterpoint, is humanizing and putting more energy into that human connection so that when we do apply the technology, we’re using it well, and in a way that can help facilitate conversations and connections that we’ve already established.

Can you share any other tips or examples that our listeners can use to articulate their purpose? 

Mack:  There are four steps that would really help them understand “how do we even approach this conversation?” There are so many things that must be in line: strategy, leadership, and obviously, your product or service. But purpose greatly enhances the opportunity for success, especially in the digital age, especially regarding competitive advantages.

So just know, if you’re going to go down this road, that you don’t have to start all over, you don’t have to overhaul your entire organization. In fact, many companies that we work with, they just need an outside perspective to help them understand their systems and processes that they use to market and sell; they just need a little tweaking here and there and a reminder of “Hey, at this place is when you integrate purpose. At this place is when you really bring it back to the goals of the organization, wrapped with purpose.” Or, “You need to get to the customer in this place a little bit earlier.”

Four Steps to Articulate Your purpose

stepsStep 1: Clarify the purpose of the organization

We talked a little bit about Dove.  Their purpose is not to sell soap: their purpose is to help women feel better about their bodies. So that’s a big difference there.

Same with Chipotle. Their purpose is not to sell burritos: their purpose is to make food with integrity, and ultimately to pioneer food safety systems and help other fast food organizations to know that they can make great food and still make it healthy and good for our earth.

It’s kind of like understanding the difference between just a mission and the product that you’re selling and actually making the conversation about purpose. So, start there. If you’re at a loss as to how to do that, there are lots of resources online. And that is how you find your purpose. It’s not easy to do, but it’s certainly a place that will make you extremely relevant in your customer’s lives.

For more on this read: Ogilvy What’s the big ideaL and Evolve or Die: How Authenticity and Purpose are the Future of Brands.

Step 2: Deconstruct your customer’s journey

So, now I’m getting specific to sales, marketing, customer experience and those teams in your organization and understanding how to do this by talking to your customers. Just as I mentioned earlier, you definitely want to be looking at the customer data that you can collect digitally. Understand the audience data, the demographic data, psychographic data that you get. But that is typically where companies stop.

They build these personas and then they don’t go any deeper into actually spending face time with the customer. And that’s where all the good stuff is. That’s where you’re going to find connections, and that’s where you’re going to understand what your customers are thinking and feeling at every stage in your funnel so that you can generate resources, content, experiences that help to remove those roadblocks. So, that’s the second part, deconstructing that customer journey so that you can make that bridge between your purpose and your people.

Step 3: Connecting your team’s purpose to your organization’s purpose

The third step in getting purpose really well integrated into your organization is connecting your team’s purpose to your organization’s purpose. Ultimately, you have to know the purpose of your organization in its entirety to really understand why your organization, as a whole, exists beyond making money?

With your team: understand what role they play in achieving that purpose so that they can apply that more specifically to their day-to-day. That can go a really long way toward efficiency, output and morale, especially when your team is pushing hard and days are getting long. The meaning side of that really matters to them.

Step 4: Adjust the communication of your purpose externally

This very much directly applies to your sales and marketing and customer experiences team. They’re the most outwardly-facing, and they have the biggest responsibility in making sure that what is happening inside of your organization is also being effectively communicated outside, so customers know you’re not a façade; that purpose is not a veneer and that it’s truly how you operate inside and out.

You want to teach your sales and marketing team to understand the difference between having a product conversation and having a purpose discussion. When you make that shift to not just pushing your product, but to helping those teams understand the bigger purpose of your organization and how that connects to your customers, you’re opening an opportunity to connect with exponentially more people, more organizations, more influencers, more people in the media, more communities, who are either already your ideal customers, or they know somebody who could be.

For more on these steps, read: Why Your Organization is Getting Sales and Marketing Wrong

Brian:  Mack, that was fantastic. Thank you. You did a good job breaking down to four points, and I feel like this will be tangible for our listeners. We’ll also supply some resources and links for people to dig into these areas as well.

I wanted to ask what advice you would give to those who want to apply what you’ve just talked about and bring this idea to other leaders inside their company.

What if someone, is inspired by this idea – how can they get the conversation started inside their company?

Mack:  That’s a great question. I think it’s starting small. I believe that purpose as a concept seems very intimidating, especially to leaders, because they feel like “Oh my gosh, you’re talking about an entire organization overhaul, and we can’t even keep up with what we’re doing every day.”

It’s not really starting over, it’s just optimizing what you have, and better connecting it and communicating it so that your employees and your customers can understand it. So, I think it’s just starting small.

We typically start with a small purpose workshop. We’re talking maybe 45-60 minutes of helping companies understand what purpose is and what purpose isn’t.  Once they start the conversation I think it’s also to understand that purpose seems kind of fluffy, maybe, when you’re trying to hit your ROI and your metrics and the goals that you have financially for your team and for the organization. But it’s not fluffy. This is about growth. And in this day and age, this is the approach to growth.

But when you’re selling it to your leadership, it’s “We’re going to teach our sales, marketing, and customer experience teams how to remove roadblocks for our customers by connecting that purpose. And that, ultimately, is going to drive sales, it’s going to drive retention, it’s going to drive connections, and ultimately it’s going to drive our growth.”

Brian:  Terrific. What’s the best way for readers and listeners to get in touch with you?

Mack:  They can come to our website genuinely.co. or just come find me online. I’m on twitter at @mackfogelson most every day, happy to chat there.

Additional resources on purpose:

Why Your Organization is Getting Sales and Marketing Wrong

How Purpose and Authenticity are the Future of Brands

Winning with Purpose – EY

Purpose at Work – LinkedIn/Imperative

The Business Case for Purpose – Harvard Business Review [PDF]

You might also like:

How Empathy Will Grow Your Sales and Marketing Pipeline

4 Ways You Can Humanize Marketing and Build Relationships

The post Why purpose matters to marketing: growth, revenue, and profit appeared first on B2B Lead Blog.