Driving Decisions that Stick: 5 Essential Steps to Getting to and Keeping a “Yes”

Driving Decisions that Stick: 5 Essential Steps to Getting to and Keeping a “Yes”

Author: Sridhar Ramanathan

Within the last couple of weeks, I have had three senior product marketing managers (PMMs) share how difficult and frustrating it is to get decisions on key items like messaging, ad creative, customer collateral, and campaign success metrics.  One said “I’m empowered to decide on core messaging for my product line, but I just can’t get it to stick across all the sales and marketing internal partners. They just go rogue.” Another said that “I’ve worked hard to engage a terrific creative agency that came up with nice concepts, but it’s a nightmare getting people to buy-in on one final design that actual gets used in the field.” Why is it so hard for otherwise successful product marketing managers to drive a decision and get it to stick? These are a few reasons:

  • There isn’t executive level sponsorship to drive the necessary change and adoption
  • The deliverable hasn’t been fully thought through; in other words, the quality isn’t there yet
  • Stakeholders may not have had an opportunity to weigh in on theproposal, buy into it, and to commit to action
  • There’s no accountability for “going rogue.” Internal teams can opt out on decisions
  • There isn’t a fast, closed loop process to tune your plan based on actual performance in the field.

So the question is: what can you do to increase the odds of getting a solid decision that sticks throughout your organization? Here are five essential steps that we’ve seen work with our clients who have a good track record for decision making.

  1. Develop a proposal in collaboration with influencers

A good example of this is a VP of Product Marketing at a world class cyber security software firm. He held brainstorm sessions with 2-3 field SEs/security architects who were former Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) to generate fresh sales plays. He engaged product managers, a senior PMM, and a couple sales reps who could lend additional pragmatic perspectives and hard data on what would work.In a similar way, you’ll want to buildyour “A-team” of thought leaders as you collaborate to develop a specific plan or deliverable for exec approval.

  1. Socialize your recommendation

After you have a draft proposal, you’ll need to share it with stakeholders so that their objections, viewpoints, and their success metrics are built into your final plan. Make the recommendation tangible with visuals, copy blocks, or concrete examples so that stakeholders can see how the plan will be implemented. Hold these meetings one-on-one so that they can be open and honest about their reaction to your proposal. Take their input to heart as you refine your deck.

  1. Formally present your proposal

If you’ve done steps 1 and2,you’ve gone a long way towards getting buy-in. A formal presentation is still required to get the approval on record, and to establish the project team that will be responsible forgetting the deliverable done. One of our SaaS clients beautifully applied the best practices of the “DACI” model which specifies the Driver, Approver, Contributors, and Informed staff members. You’ll want to explicitly name the DACIs in your presentation so that stakeholders are clear on their role in the rollout of this initiative. DACI folks are kept current on progress throughout the project lifecycle with executive check points built in about every two weeks.

  1. Welcome feedback but enforce compliance

Once your project is completed, you’ll want to proactively solicit inputs from stakeholders and the intended audience of the output such as sales, pre-sales, customers, analysts, etc. By establishing a feedback process, you’ll not only head off “rogue” behavior by your internal teams to go off and invent their own deliverable but you’llalso show a commitment to performance improvement. And if you see a particular team creating a competing alternative you’ll want to find out why they chose not to use the deliverable that’s been approved, and then escalate to the sponsoring executive to support your alignment process.

  1. Refine/refresh based on actual field performance

Measure and refine the messaging, campaign, assets, etc. based on your feedback process. No messaging, for example, is ever perfect and immutable over time. We have an analytics software client that has PMMs maintain a formal record of all inputs from sales, pre-sales, industry analysts, customers, etc. so that a quarterly content refresh is based on rich inputs.

We recognize these five steps can take 2-3 weeks to do right, but we’vealso seen that the best results flow directly from the internal alignment and effective decision-making that these five essential steps enable.

We welcome your stories of successful (and maybe failed) decision-making in your own organization.

Sridhar Ramanathan is Managing Director and Co-founder of Aventi Group, a product marketing agency specializing in B2B tech firms. Based in San Francisco, Aventi Group boasts world-class clients who engage the firm for expertise, speed and flexibility when it comes to revenue growth initiatives.

6 ways you could be dooming your case studies before you even start writing

6 ways you could be dooming your case studies before you even start writing

Author: Camille Rasmussen

Case studies are loved by many for their ability to educate prospects and turn sales and marketing spiels into verified, credible claims.

Sales teams need them to show proof to their prospects. Marketers add them to email campaigns to keep mid-funnel buyers engaged. And potential customers look for them on your site to evaluate whether your solution will work for their unique situation.

But for all their perks, case studies are notoriously time consuming. A survey of TechValidate users found 77% of our customers spent over a month on each case study, and a third spent 3 months or more! The good news is you can avoid wasting your time on preventable setbacks. Below you’ll find 6 common mistakes companies make with their case studies before writing even begins.

1. You’re relying on your sales team to identify customers

It’s an easy habit to fall into: you reach out to your sales team and solicit a few good customer names for your next case study. Your sales reps work closely with your customers, so they can easily connect you to interested clients, right?

The problem is, your sales reps aren’t incentivized to help out the marketing team. Their priority is making sales. The result? You’ll likely have major gaps in the flow of customer references when you rely on your sales team alone.

Increasingly, marketers are takings back the reins and running customer surveys to gauge interest. The minimal time and effort required to fill out a quick survey can mean a lot more responses, and a much bigger pool of customer volunteers to select from.

2. You aren’t talking to the right people

Bad interviews get you nowhere. So when it comes time to gather info for your case study, it’s worth taking that extra moment to make sure you’re set up with the right interviewee. Look for someone you believe will be a strong brand advocate (meaning they should have some positive things to say about your product) and who has a strong understanding of the company’s use case, or personally uses your product on a regular basis.

Commonly, when you reach out to set up an interview, the customer might rush to loop in a marketing, brand, or PR spokesperson to speak with you. It makes sense. These are the people charged with keeping public content (including your case study) consistent and on brand, so of course they have an interest in participating. But unless these are the people using your product—or the end users are on the line too—this interview has a strong chance of providing weak material for your case study.

Another tip: whenever possible, interview multiple people with different roles and perspectives to get the full picture.

3. You didn’t get legal signoff from the get go

There’s no bigger let down in the case study process than when you’ve just put the finishing touches on your shiny new case study and patiently await the customer’s final approval… and then—oh no!—the customer comes back and apologetically tells you that they actually can’t endorse third-party vendors.

Not everyone you speak with will have their corporate legal policy memorized, so it pays to get approvals up front. Many companies, particularly the big names that you’d LOVE to feature on your website, have legal policies that prevent them from participating in vendor case studies. So save yourself the time and disappointment and send out a standard release form (see an example release form on page 10 of our case study eGuide).

4. You’re asking the wrong questions

The details you gather from the customer can mean the difference between an engaging, stat-filled case study and a mind-numbingly dull one. Asking the right questions is vital to building a strong customer story, so choose wisely. A few pointers:

  • Always ask open-ended questions. ‘Yes’ or ‘no’ varieties won’t yield the level of detail you’ll need to craft a compelling story.
  • Ask questions around each of the sections in your case study: what their company does, what challenges they faced, what solution they selected and why, and what results and benefits they’ve seen since.
  • Stats and metrics make for compelling proof points, so don’t forget to ask the customer if they have any data that reflects a positive change since they started using your product.
  • Don’t stick to the script. Tailor some questions to the customer’s unique use case, industry, and pain points.
  • Consider sending out a questionnaire a few days prior to a phone or in-person interview to help the customer prepare.

5. You aren’t recording the interview

Here’s a tip straight from the journalism playbook: if you want to remember what’s said in an interview, ditch the pen and notepad and grab an audio recorder. Memories fail, notes get lost, and mid-interview distractions happen.

And when your customer raves about your product in the most eloquent way, or when the building maintenance starts up the lawnmower and you miss a few words, having that back-up audio to revisit can save the day. These days you don’t need to invest in an old-fashioned portable audio recorder (unless you’re going for the reporter-on-duty look). Just hit record on your web conferencing tool or download a third party app, and you’re set.

6. You aren’t aiming for a diverse portfolio of customer stories

When a prospect visits your website, will they find a case study that speaks to their industry, use case, and unique challenges? If not, they might end up feeling disconnected from your product.

Diversifying your case study collection can help your sales team as they work their way into new markets. Aim to build a collection of case studies that are relevant to each of your target verticals, personas, and applications.

The goal is to relate to your target buyers’ pain points and desired results and offer compelling proof that your solution has in fact helped similar companies with their own situations. Every prospect faces unique challenges—show them you understand theirs.

Case study best practices

Want to take a deeper dive into the best practices for writing, distributing, and influencing buyers with your case studies? Check out this comprehensive eguide for more case study tips, or tune into our on-demand panel webinar to get a cross-functional perspective on what makes a successful case study.

This post originally ran on The Marketo Blog 1/9/18.

To view the original article, visit: https://blog.techvalidate.com/6-ways-dooming-case-studies-even-start-writing-5270

Are You Ready For Sales Enablement?

Are You Ready For Sales Enablement?

Listen, I know you already spend most days checking off items on your to-do list. Are the kids going to make it to practice later? Did I pay the electric bill? Is that important project at work still on-schedule? Did I get everything at the grocery store for dinner? Have I contributed enough to society today to slow our descent into chaos and anarchy? These are all valuable, worthwhile tasks that fill your day-to-day life. So I realize that me barging in here with yet another list for you to spend time checking off is a big ask.

But trust me, this one is important! If you value your career and the long term success of your organization, you owe it to yourself to truly consider a sales enablement platform. Maybe you’ve done some preliminary research on what sales enablement is, maybe you have only a passing idea of what a sales enablement solution offers, or maybe you’re well-versed in the world of sales enablement. That’s fine! We all take different paths in our journeys.

Whatever stage you’re in on your personal quest towards sales enablement enlightenment, if you haven’t decided to take the full plunge you should really consider the benefits of a sales enablement platform. For instance, organizations that have implemented a sales enablement solution have seen a 350% increase in content usage, 275% boost in conversions, and 65% more revenue generated by new reps.

Check Your Readiness for Sales Enablement>>

Do those sound like good things to you? If they don’t then I fear you have a tenuous grasp on a) basic business concepts, b) the English language or, c) both. In all seriousness, those statistics are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the power of a sales enablement platform. Organizations can be radically transformed through a solution by improving Sales & Marketing alignment, providing insights into content’s effectiveness, making content more accessible, and much more.

While a sales enablement platform can do all that, it is still a serious investment that requires time and dedication. The decision to purchase a solution is not one that should be made lightly. How do I know my organization is ready for a sales enablement platform then? I hear you asking, your disconcertment growing louder and louder. Fear not, brave reader, for we have designed the perfect checklist for you.

Our Sales Enablement Readiness Checklist is crafted to provide you an honest assessment of where your organization stands and its… well, its readiness for sale enablement. The checklist shouldn’t take you too long to complete, but you should consider each question thoughtfully. Some questions might require you to pop over to your colleague’s desk and pick their brain for a minute. But by the end of the checklist you should have a better understanding of not only whether your organization is ready for a sales enablement solution, but also the possibilities of a platform. So, click the link below and be whisked away to check your sales enablement readiness!

To check your readiness, visit: https://seismic.com/company/blog/are-you-ready-for-sales-enablement/

When, why and how often to use NPS

When, why and how often to use NPS
By: Travis Kaufman

The NPS or Net Promoter Score survey is a method of measuring your customers’ overall satisfaction with your company’s product or service and a proxy for brand loyalty. The survey itself is simple. Customers are asked one single question, “On a scale of 0–10, how likely are you to recommend this company’s product or service to a friend or colleague?” Based on their rating, the customers are classified into one of three categories; Detractors, Passives and Promoters.

In-App Delivery of NPS Survey

Promoters answered 9 or 10 and are the repeat buyers and evangelists who recommend your products and services. Passives give a score of 7 or8. They probably wouldn’t spread any negative word of mouth, but also aren’t enthusiastic enough to promote. The Detractors answered a score lower to or equal to 6. They most likely won’t purchase again from your company and could potentially damage your reputation through negative word of mouth.

When should you send users an NPS survey?

Since NPS is a measure of overall satisfaction, it is best sent after the customer has achieved a meaningful milestone with your product. Ideally after their first “aha” moment in your product. Many B2B companies send NPS just after the customer has completed the on-boarding process. Sending before that won’t give you any meaningful feedback as they haven’t really been exposed to your product or service.

How often should you send an NPS survey?

This is one of those “it depends” types scenarios. Some advocate for no mare than every 6 months, some recommend quarterly. The right answer comes down to how frequently do you introduce new products or services that will truly impact a customers perception and what is the time it takes for those customers to realize value from those products? To provide your customers with the best experience and you with the most actionable feedback, we recommend sending NPS surveys on a user by user basis as a result of them using your product. This is in contrast to a more static approach where you send an NPS on a fixed cadence such as quarterly, or semi-annually to all customers.

What do I do with NPS?

NPS is a signal and should be measured over-time. The fact that it’s a high level company indication, the score alone should be used as a flag to raise triggering further investigation. The more important learnings come the qualitative feedback your customers provide as well as speaking directly with a sample of customers from the promoter and detractor groups. For organizations that serve multiple customer segments and/or have multiple user personas, it’s important to analyze and understand how each of those groups respond.

NPS Trend Analysis by Persona
NPS is but one of many in-app engagement tools available within the Aptrinsic product experience platform. Start analyzing your NPS scores today with a free trial of Aptrinsic.

To view the link, visit: https://intrinsicpoint.com/when-why-and-how-often-to-use-nps-4013889f1fb

Pitch to Win: How to Get Funding (or Approval) to Build Your Great Idea

Pitch to Win: How to Get Funding (or Approval) to Build Your Great Idea

By Diane Pierson, Pragmatic Instructor

Pitching investors requires more than a great idea. Whether you want seed funding for your startup or budget allocation inside a large corporation, you’ll need to go beyond the technology. Each scenario has unique risks and rewards, but solid preparation will put you on the winning track.

Where to Begin?

First, understand what you’re getting into. Seed and Series A funding thresholds are not what they were a decade or two ago. If you want to fund a startup, you not only need a great idea, but also a proven track record of revenue—at least enough to sustain the founders.

Inside a large corporation there are no hard-and-fast rules to what your CEO will find attractive. In my experience at mature $1 billion organizations, nothing less than a $50 million top-line revenue opportunity would raise an eyebrow at the executive level. Inside any established company a reasonable (although, full disclosure, unsubstantiated) rule of thumb would be anything that could bring in an additional 5 percent top-line revenue growth within three years.

That said, the appetite for funding changes over time and vertical to vertical. So, do some research into your specific area of opportunity and determine exactly what you’ll need to achieve before gaining the interest of investors or your execs. The best way to find out? Ask the people who hold the money.

Tip #1: Research the funding thresholds you’re dealing with – know if your idea is big enough to get investors interested.

Tell Your Story

Once you know what it will take to get their interest, get them excited about the opportunity. Even executives and investors born in the tech world or working in a specific vertical don’t know everything about everything, not to mention those in finance, legal and other cash-wielding positions. Be prepared to describe the problem you solve in plain language, and explain what it means to the market. Focus on the what and not the how to spark interest.

With external investors, introduce yourself and help them understand what makes you qualified to grow this idea. Tell them about yourself and your credentials, how you came up with the idea and how you plan to take it to market. Startup investors also want to know whether you have plans beyond the one product idea. Can you deliver not just a product, but a business?

Tip #2: Create a plain-language narrative that focuses on the problem you solve, not the technology that you’ll build.

If you’re pitching an idea internally, you need to spend more time emphasizing how the idea helps the organization move toward its strategic goals. They know you; now you have to prove your knowledge of your company and how it intends to grow.

Highlight the Overriding Benefit

What is it about your idea that makes it stand out? Why would an investor put money into this opportunity versus another? It’s critical that your idea offer some unique benefit to the market—and therefore the investor. Is it an exclusive solution to a problem (rare), or does it solve a problem in an entirely different way?

Tip #3: Be specific about how you crush the possible competition, or exactly why your idea is unique. These differences have to be ones that the market is willing to pay you to solve.

How will you crush the existing competition? Netflix crushed existing behemoth Blockbuster by delivering the same product—games, movies and old TV shows on DVDs—through a different channel (mail delivery versus in-store rental), and by offering subscription rather than by-the-day pricing.

Do market research and spend time to make sure you’ve solved a problem the market is willing to pay you to solve. “Cool” doesn’t bring out wallets.

Find an Advocate

Whether you pitch internally or externally, a powerful, knowledgeable advocate is vital. If you’re pitching a startup to angel or seed investors, find an insider willing to vet your pitch. When I started a small consumer products business I reached out to a former boss who’d been a COO responsible for creating the business case for rounds of funding within multiple startups. His critique of my first effort was painful to hear, but invaluable. He also put me in touch with the right investors for the product I was building and continued to help with advice and connections.

Internally, seek advice from someone who is involved in making budget decisions—finance is a great place to start. Or get your chief counsel to dig into your proposal before you pitch it to other company executives. And of course, you want your department on board.

Tip #4: Get internal advocates and decision-makers on board ahead of time.

When I was the vice president of product and marketing at a smaller company, a young product marketing manager came up with an idea that would make it easier for our transactional customers to buy from us. Essentially, it was a change in the buying workflow.

But he didn’t just come to me with his idea. First, he went to people he knew needed to be involved in the actual production of the product.

He started with the head of customer service and asked, “Could you do this?” The customer service director said, “We can’t do what you ask, but if IT can build a plug-in to make our customer information more secure, we can do this other thing to create an easier path for our transactional customers to buy from us.” They sat down and figured that out beforehand. Then they went to IT and got a commitment on what it would take to build. They worked with finance to put the numbers together. They also got legal’s blessing on the security level.

By the time they invited me and our CFO to talk about their proposal, the legwork was done and we all agreed that it made sense. And when we took it to the CEO, she also bought into the idea.

The product marketing manager and head of customer service did a great job advocating for their idea. They created a path to the revenue. They understood the obstacles, they got finance involved with the costs, and they showed us the benefits. It just couldn’t have been any easier. They were able to demonstrate that within five years their idea would generate $5 million in revenue, which made sense to the company and aligned with its goals.

Make the Ask

Ask for the money, and show them how you will use it. If you’re looking for later funding rounds for a startup, you will likely work with an accelerator program or private equity or legal team. Be specific about what you’re asking for, how you’ll use it and how you’ll measure success.

While people argue that a formal presentation isn’t necessary, I disagree. The 10-slide deck—no longer—is a classic benchmark that works. An added bonus: creating a succinct presentation that gets their attention requires you to focus. And while internal stakeholders may already know who you are, if you share a specific, well-crafted PowerPoint, it won’t fail to make a good impression.

Tip 5: Ask for the money, show how you’ll spend it and what success looks like.

Regardless of whether your pitch is internal or external, be excited, be passionate and be clear. Then back up your enthusiasm with numbers and a solid plan. Never let your exuberance get in the way of a clear-eyed assessment of risks, costs and competition. You need to be a hard-headed business person and an evangelical advocate. Tell your story to get them hooked, then pitch the data to get them to commit.

To view the article, visit: https://www.pragmaticmarketing.com/resources/articles/pitch-to-win-how-to-get-funding-or-approval-to-build-your-great-idea