Creating an alternative growth strategy

The Digital Sunrise Europe team volunteers helping European small/medium businesses grow. We put together a webinar introducing the concept and sharing with the audience how they can develop their own alternatives to traditional growth strategies.

Instead of investing 200,000+  Euro to hire a person, rent an office, do some advertising campaigns and hope to grow your foreign business, we show you alternatives at 10% of the cost, what you can do and how it can get done.

Thursday November 22 Continue reading “Creating an alternative growth strategy”

How the alternative growth model works

Small and medium size businesses with more than 25 Employees have an enormous opportunity to expand across Europe. There are probably more high quality product producers in Europe than anywhere else in the world. We aim to help be known in a world that is more and more entering their markets and competing with them.

Business expansion was risky and very expensive.

Business owners who left “the old world” as Europe is often times called know and learned how to compete on a global scale. I am one of them. While that experience is certainly helpful it is actually not what it takes to make a big move. Modern technology, a hyper connected business world, experience with globalization and modern marketing techniques – all together – allow to make a significant change, drastically reduce expansion cost and decrease the potential failure rate. Continue reading “How the alternative growth model works”

What the 1% successful sales people do differently

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Sales is undergoing the most massive changes since many decades. Compare it to the change from Hawkers tray to selling in tie and suit. Or the transition from horse drawn carriages to taxis. Yet 90% of the experienced sales people will deny that change.

Here is a process we introduced about 2 years ago with good success after lots of learning:

Social Selling as a process one can learn

1) Identify the companies you are going after.
2) Then look up the company in LinkedIn and find employees that may be relevant or influential to what you want to do.
3) Consider other business networks depending on the country (Xing in central Europe, RenRen in China…) .
4) Find other presences of the people you want to build relationships with in Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, FourSquare…
5) Follow them on Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest (do not even try to connect at this point).
6) Visit their profiles as they may track visitors, try to join groups they are active in.
7) Think as if they may be a potential friend for sharing some hobbies.
8) IMPORTANT focus entirely on the personal side or whatever challenges they expose. Know what is on top of their mind.
9) Once you know them, start being helpful. Completely forget that you want to do business, forget about the pressure to sell and so forth. Keep in mind nobody want to be sold. RT their content, like their posts, but be honest and not linking stuff you don’t like or have no clue what they are talking about. Make helpful comments or make meaningful introductions.
10) After two weeks see if you have a relationship :) You will have a dialog with more then 50% of the contacts if you DO NOT sell AT ALL (compared to a 1% success rate on cold calling).

11) From here on everything else is a piece of cake: You know everything about the person, and they know everything about you if you are open and if they are interested. You even know if they are in the market – way before your competition goes through the old pattern of “Budget, project, authority blah blah blah”. Most importantly: The prospect will initiate the business conversation with YOU instead of you selling to THEM (which is the beginning of the end in 82% of sales engagements across industries and markets).

12) The entire negotiation process which is not only about terms and numbers, but an important way to get to know each other is now significantly shorter which improves the sales efficiency quite nicely. More so forecast accuracy grows and deal stability is entirely different – I’m sure you know many of those deals where you think the buyer is a friend of your competitor, you still don’t know exactly and so forth. Now you are a friend in every single deal.

NOTE: While it is still a process, it is far less mechanical than the traditional cold call or sales initiation process. “Social Selling” is way more human and it can be learn in a similar spirit as we learn to make friends of find a partner in life 

Seven Skills that you will develop over time

1) Digital body language (It’s like your first introduction to physical body language)
2) Network Time Management (how many, how much, how often, when, where…)
3) NCP handling (Network – Contribution – Participation) How big should your network be, what contribution to the network works best, how do you measure network success?
4) You will develop skills to significantly grow your network WITHOUT scarifying relationship strength or depth
5) You will get more face to face meetings then ever before but less with the same person
6) You will develop more people skills than can be explained in this one post
7) You will develop networking skills and senses that you only develop when you are “in”

 

What is so successful on that process?

Emotionally it feels much better but economically you may wonder: a very successful cold caller can do over 100 calls a day with immediate response, while our social sales person will take two weeks to get to a relationship. But after two weeks the actual result summary looks very different:

Traditional sales:
100 cold calls a day, 2 successes equates to 20 successes in two weeks

Social Sales:
300 touches a day, every other day = 600 people in two weeks
50% response rate = 300 people and 20% success rate out of that = 60 successes

BUT: There is no free lunch! Implementing this process is not easy

 

Why is it so difficult to implement?

Even though it may look very natural and obvious to many, it is very difficult to implement in a business with traditional sales processes. The number of business who can’t implement this outnumber those who can:

1) You can’t mix and match hard core selling with social selling. It’s almost like allowing to preach Buddhism in the Vatican. Obviously a single cold call would blow the the process in a second.

2)  The larger part of a sales organization, in particular the more experienced sales people will have a hard time to adopt this new technique. It took them years to practice and perfect their sales techniques to eventually master it. Almost starting from scratch is an astronomic burden – unless they understand how fast they actually can adopt and realize that the past experience is actually very helpful in the adoption process and getting them back to a “master” in a year, while junior sales people may still learn 3 to 5 years to get even near that level.

3) Most of the times it requires to change KPIs and how the sales team is compensated, even redefine what is success etc. Many highly experienced sales executives won’t take that risk.

The social selling technique remains to be an option only for the most agile companies on the planet. From a macro economic point of view it maybe actually a good situation as it helps small companies to outperform large organizations. And that in turn provides the much needed growth of mid market businesses.

If you want to know more about it in greater details, feel free to ping me any time. In the next few weeks I will turn this into a white paper with much more details.

Here is my social presence:
http://xeeMe.com/AxelS

 

Thousands Of Social Media Agencies/Managers At Risk

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I recently wrote a post “Over 70% of Social Media initiatives FAIL“. I received more personal responses on that one post than on all posts I wrote in the past 5 years together. It inspired my to write this response to the overarching question: “What shall we do“.

No project success – No Reference

The consequence of failing projects – beyond the fact that it failed: here goes a potential reference customer.
Agencies have to come to a bitter realization:

Taking a print brochure to the web was an important transition
Taking a webpage and share it with friends is meaningless

Tens of thousands of agencies and social media consultants struggle to run their business. The social web is just NOT what so many people think: “just yet another marketing channel”.

10 things successful agencies do differently

Successful teams think entirely different and help their business clients to think through the entire chain of implications of a social engagement rather than just selling followers, fans and a page. And this is no different whether it is a 25 people small business company or a 25,000 employee global enterprise.

1) Understanding the opportunity

The biggest opportunity for any business is to grow the number of recommendations. Depending on the research, between 50% and 80% of all educated purchased decisions are based on recommendations. Taping into that potential is the best a business can do.

2) Ability to coach and guide

Now – in order to be recommended, the company need to develop a good relationship with their customers. And outsourcing that relationshp building process is not only a bad idea it is actually *counterproductive* to the overarching objective of becoming more recommended. A good agency or consultant knows that and can coach the client to build large sustainable networks with strong relationships.

3) Strategic thinking

It isn’t enough to be just nice. That cost too much time and often time has no impact on the bottom line AND is no real help for the customer. Businesses need to develop a sound plan and need to know what customers actually want, what they love and what they get frustrated with. A superficial analysis again is a killer. The findings determine the strategy and if they are not a true reflection of the market – the strategy will be equally superficial. This is no rocket science – because there are robust models to do that and successful agencies just use those techniques.

4) Compelling Engagement

Customers want to be compelled, we need to excite them and engage them in a way its fun and worth spending time. Plus – and most importantly – it need to be of value to the customer too. Successful agencies work equally close with their clients customers to know what they want and understand what values they need. The outcome are compelling engagements that are fun for the team and their clients.

5) Social Media Monitoring

Businesses want new customers and need to ensure that existing customers are happy – so happy that they help new customers make a decision and help them understand advantages and disadvantages of a product or service. The top agencies understand the power of professional social media monitoring tools and how they help businesses actually “manage” to navigate a whole team through the engagement.

6) Amplification Strategies

Smart agencies know how to build amplification strategies on top of the social media engagement to stimulate conversations and buzz. Understanding the true anatomy of buzz is a key knowledge of a well oild agency or consulting organization.

7) Timely Execution

A highly successful agency or consulting organization knows about all the permutation of the social web and focuses on a methodical execution of a project to ensure fast delivery with out any trial and error. Methods simply help teams to stay on course and show customers a professional execution path.

8) Organization Alignment

Nothing is more frustrating than a shiny front and a dirty back operation. Helping businesses to streamline their back end based on customer needs is a huge challenge but also the biggest opportunity for extraordinary success. Customer recommend businesses if they are happy with how they can do business with a company. If a company fails to provide that support, a recommendation will not happen and all the Social Media engagement is worthless. Top agencies and consultants know how to help a company to amke necessary adjustments without putting an organization upside down.

9) Developing Manageable Plans

We all know, if we can measure something we can improve it. A social media engagement is no different. Manageable plans and procedures are important – despite the fact that everything is much more fluent and we want to let go on many of the stiff procedures. But without any guidance, milestones, objectives no social media project will be successful. Top agencies know what to do here.

10) Knowing the impact on the bottom line

In the end very successful agencies and consultants are able to help a client understand the revenue opportunity and the impact on the bottom line for a business. If more and more customers begin to publicly recommend a business, the revenue grows even without additional sales people. If more and more customers get empowered and motivated to help others, the support cost goes down while ties to a brand get actually stronger. If more and more recommendations from the market are getting realized in new product generations the risks for product flops get dramatically reduced and advocates and fans help launch the new product.

 

Summary

All of the above is neither complicated nor requires an enormous amount of work. But it requires to understand the inner workings of a market, it is very helpful to have proven methods, models and frameworks to work with as an intelligent toolbox and it requires a few projects of practice – ideally in conjunction with people who have been through the drill before :). After going through the above list you will probably also realize why an agency is not necessarily “advertising” their successes but rather be recommended by their clients – the same way they suggest to the clients “get recommended”.

 

Axel

http://XeeMe.com/AxelS

Over 70% of Social Media initiatives FAIL

Here is what happens:

Customer: We need to get our number of fans up, some more follower and some really hot buzz campaign. We need some agency who can really deliver.
Agency: We can do that for you. We have people who setup your presence, tweet for you and do some blogging. We upload a few photos and take care of feedback. We also do social media monitoring.
Customer: Great – here are $3,500 per month and I expect you double my followers, grow my fan base, steer up some noise and generate solid leads for me.
Agency: Done deal – we’ll start tomorrow morning.
Now – our agency has 1,700 followers on Twitter 900 friends on Facebook and over 500 connections on LinkedIn. She tweets, posts, uploads images and produces a few cool videos here and there. And because all of this is new and a new deal, all her friends chime in, like stuff and get excited. And so these “leads” are as bad as the contact lists the marketing department bought the other day but the numbers go up :)
First review with the customer:
Agency: Hey – this was super cool. We created 20% more follower for you, you got 20 more @Messages, we grew fans by 25% and the views on YouTube grew by 50%  – how cool is that?
Customer: Awesome :)) Making notes to share it with his boss. Next Marketing meeting is going to be cool. He just can envision the impressive chart. OK what are we going to do next? I need some more details from Social Media Monitoring and an ongoing lead flow now.
Agency: Sure – no problem. We’ll drive traffic to your registration page
The next few days get a bit hectic but the agency is able to tweet, post and blast out the registration page promising some super cool product from company X. The registration key “social media’ will show the company how much power is behind Social Media.
A few weeks later
Agency: Hey – how’s going? Did you see a few leads coming in?
Customer: Hey – you are terrific. Yes we got 35% more lead flow in just 3 weeks this is outstanding…
Agency: Cool – we’ll keep rocking
Six month into it
Customer: Hey – we got to talk. Sales is complaining about those ‘Social Media Leads” they are all crap. We have to shift gear!!!
Agency: I’m so sorry to hear that. Not sure what the issue is we drove hundreds of leads your way.
Customer: I know – I know – but we have to shift gear.
Agency: Well that brings me to another point. One of my clients hired my to work for him full time. I’m really sorry but I won’t be able to continue the engagement.
Customer: Arrrrrgggggg
Customer seeking a new agency
Customer: Here is where we are – the whole story – We have an event in 8 weeks and I really need to show some traction. I need to ramp up the signup rate.
Agency: Totally understand. We have a large team that can tweet for you and generate some substantial buzz. But it’s gonna cost you.
Customer: I understand. I’m ready to make some more substantial investments….
The event didn’t show any serious improvements in signups.
Agency: You know that was way to short notice. Social Media is more long term, building relationships and such.

Does that sound familiar to you?

Does that sound familiar to you?

Why that could never work and bring any tangible results:

1) The Network Mistake

Whoever tweets or posts does that to the network they have. If a person from an agency is tweeting, the audience are her friends and nobody else. Unless the business motivates all their customers and prospects to follow and befriend the people from the agency – there is no connection and no one from the target audience will likely get the posts. Of course they may listen to specific hash tags but that is such a weak connection that it is not worth the effort and cost.

SOLUTION

The market facing teams in the company need to build their connections to partners, customers, vendors and prospects in the first place. If those people tweet and share interesting and valuable content, likelihood of somebody relevant is reading it is much higher. And even more important those teams will develop much better and more intense relationships with their relevant audience.

2) Feedback Mistake

Now lets assume the customer would read about any of the interesting things. Most likely they would get in touch with the agency. That is probably not what a customer understands as very “social” – more so the agency probably doesn’t know all the relevant contacts in the company so they forward new contacts as “leads” to a central person in the company who then in turn looks for the right person. But hey I expect to talk to the author and have an instant dialog – and 5 seconds later I want to go on in my business. So I would follow this age old process only one time and never again. Let alone the load and inefficiency within the organization.

SOLUTION

Have the person who is in charge be the one who provides the content – see previous topic. A customer with a question would be able to get in touch with the person right away and a tweet later he or she has a response. And if the team member does not want to get in touch with a customer – move to a different department.

3) The Content Mistake

The typical “social media marketing campaign” is filled with “valuable content” – but in reality it is a product promotion, event invitation or other business announcements. And obviously why should our agency team build friendships with those unknown customers. Just imagine for a second that your sales team is not very customer oriented and sends people from an agency to play with them golf. What would that conversation look like?  You get the idea.

SOLUTION

Instead of blasting “valuable content” into the face of our new relationships, request the teams to build and strengthen the relationships in the first place. Like they would be on a golf course. The only difference is that 18 tweets cost 2 Minutes 18 holes a full day. The business relevant content can later on be carefully be woven into the conversation – like on the green.

 

I know I know – you don’t have the time to train your team – you need to get it done now. And you don’t see a reason for creating a sound and solid strategy. And you probably don’t have the patience to think through all that in great detail – come on it can’t be that difficult and it looks like the majority of companies do it exactly that way.

I hope this is at least fruit for thought when you start your next social media marketing blast party.

 

 

#da12social‬ Is Europe ready to strategically leverage Social Media for business? – Interview with Axel Schultze @AxelS

#da12social‬
Is Europe ready to strategically leverage Social Media for business?
Interview with Axel Schultze @AxelS

Original posy by Elza Confluencemedia

In 4 weeks time, 30 strategists, 250 volunteers created 1,000+ pages of crowd sourced research and 1 strategy proposal for the Digital Agenda Assembly 2012 of the EU Commission. Yesterday I had the privilege to talk to the man that initiated this group of highly qualified volunteers; Axel Schultze.

Axel Schultze, CEO of Social Media Software company XeeMe, Palo Alto, California – Chairman of the Social Media Academy, Palo Alto and active social media practitioner since 2003.

As part of the Digital Agenda Assembly 2012 of the EU Commission, you created a Digital Agenda Strategy Team. Can you tell me more about your motives to create this team? When and how did you come up with this idea?

The EU commission invited me to do an opening keynote at the Digital Agenda Assembly conference at the 21st of June in Brussels. I reviewed the European situation and realized not only is Europe 4 years behind the US but also not ready to strategically leverage Social Media for business. I proposed to the EU Commission to develop an open strategy to stimulate small and medium business to create growth and to compete on a global market. The scope is huge, so we need a clearly defined strategy to go after that objective. But as an experienced strategist I know it is possible. My motive is to make Europe a more stable and better place to live and work.

Very high goals: sustainable growth, additional jobs and being able to compete in a global market. In the meanwhile we see the news that Europe is struggling to keep their (financial) heads above the water. Do you think Social Media can ‘save’ Europe business wise?

If you look at the struggle Europe is in, there is a difference in what the press is saying and global reality. A large part of the EU, northern countries are economically very strong compared to US and Latin American countries. All in all, we see a rather strong Europe. We are always challenged around the globe. Even when disaster strikes there will be a way to create business.

There are various aspects of growth. If you look at the shoe industry, in Italy and Spain, the leather industry is big. However, both Italy and Spain are struggling. On a global scope, DC Shoesin California, has 8 million fans talking about their shoes on Facebook only. Falco is an Italian shoe factory which is not present on social media at all. Both companies target young people – but the US one is clearly ahead of the European one. If we can stimulate the Italian and Spanish shoe industry online, people don’t need to order shoes from the US.

Then there is the Fascino Group Guangzhou Shoes Manufacturer from China who is a very potential competitive risk. These shoes are not known in Europe because Chinese companies don’t allow Facebook in their marketing strategy. Renren.com is a chinese social network and they are present there. As soon as Fascino is able to deal with western social media platforms, they will come to Europe over-night. Whilst Falco is still not present at all and doesn’t even know how to deal with it. We need to prepare our local businesses. If businesses like Falco are not present other than through old fashioned business concepts, they will not be competitive. And the shoe industry is only one example.

The US and China are big countries with a lot of people speaking the same language. In Italy and Germany almost all television broadcasts are synchronised into their respective languages. Young people can only learn English from music channels, online and a bit from school. What about this language barrier?

Look at the kids in Europe. There are 230 million Facebook users who talk to friends in their native language but also to friends around the world in English. The common language has become English. As such we are initially focusing on those groups of people and businesses who are open minded, have typically a better financial position, and thus are more able to buy the products. They will lead the track and the slow mover will follow.

What if the Euro falls, what strategy will be needed for Social Media and business?

Companies who feel they have no time for Social Media need to learn that it is not a nice-to-have or fancy marketing play but a strategic tool to grow the business. The whole focus of our particular social media initiative is to help grow a business through widening the potential market – which today means more export. Whether the euro falls or not, business will need to continue selling their wares. And if they can’t locally right now, they can find consumers in other parts of Europe or the world.

The US economy almost collapsed 4 years ago. The US grocery brand Whole Foods was known as expensive. In that crisis even rich people saved money but Whole Foods grew. They understood they had to be as human as possible. Albertsons groceries was 10 times bigger at that time but closed more than half of their operation and almost vanished away, others even went out of business because they did not act on the opportunities to get closer to their respective marketswhich is one of the key advantages of social media. (read more about Whole Foods Social Media strategy on Mashable).

Zappos is an online shoe dealer. They had a hard time selling shoes online because people want to try shoes on. They started to send 10 pairs of shoes to fit on and let customers send the ones back that didn’t fit.  In a few years time Zappos grew to a 1 billion business. They recognized that social media is not about fancy, but about building relationships with as much consumers as possible. The prejudice that you can only talk to a few customers in so much time is not true when you apply social media as a business relation tool and not as a spam tool.

What is it exactly that your group is working on, what the European Digital Strategy is in need of? What is this groups added value?

This group has worked through thousands of pages of research. The real work is to make sense out of this information, to distill it. We focus on the 3 biggest industries in the countries. We look at the perception of social media in European countries, at obstacles, rules & regulations and what business owners think of social media. We need to know where they are and identify the opportunities. If we would be pure data junkies, we would see construction work is important because it is big in all countries. But knowing construction is very local, we rather focus on industry segments with a sustainable impact on a country’s economy. The most notable effect for businesses in this situation in Europe is to grow outside their country. We won’t be able to come up with that objective without knowing what is going on in the respective countries. Now, going forward, we cannot continue doing this for the next 4 years for free. We need to find funds and hope to get funding from various sources. And we will look for resources to execute this project in the next couple of years.

What outcome do you hope to present in Brussels.

We developed an execution plan where we hope to assemble a team for the entire project. We would like to see country specific teams and funding to get them going. We build a 3 tier engagement model, where we conduct an awareness campaign with sponsoring from industry leaders to fund this campaign. We recognized the need for profound education for business leaders, business teams as well as consultants and that will be the first problem we need to solve.

On the 20th of June we will reconvene with the team on how we will go forward. We will install more country teams where we get educated resources. We hope to reach 7-10 countries for the remainder of the DA 12. Cutting through the noise is the biggest challenge for all groups on the Agenda. I believe our group demonstrated that we are well able to cut through that noise.

Elza Xeeme