Tag Archives: Message

How Do You Market to Company Insiders? Three Suggestions

Situation: The key to a career development company’s growth, historically, is leveraging relationships with insiders in potential client companies who know the needs of their own companies. The key benefits to these people are access to good people, no recruiting fees and feeling good about the experience. What is the marketing message to this group? How do you market to company insiders?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Ask them. You already have a number of company insiders who work with you. Develop a detailed survey to query what they see as the key benefits of working with your company, and which of these benefits are most important to them.
    • Consider a broad quantitative survey that you can administer via the web.
    • Complement this with a smaller in-depth interview survey to understand qualitatively how they benefit from their relationship with your company and the service that you provide.
  • Your equity is the experience that these people enjoy when they work with you – this is your leverage.
  • Your pitch is emotionally oriented. Stick with this. Saving recruiting fees will not be as important given your focus and the company insiders that you are likely to attract.

How Do You Focus Your Sales and Marketing? Eight Thoughts

Situation: A company has a technology road map and a flexible set of technical capabilities. To date they have elicited broad interest from a variety of different markets. They currently don’t have the resources to pursue a large number of different markets, and will likely need their next round of funding within the next year to year and a half. How do you focus your sales and marketing?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • A race to generate interest from a number of markets is a valid strategy at this stage of your development; provided that you raise or generate the cash to survive. This caveat describes your critical challenge – determining how long you can afford to maintain and fund a broad strategy.
  • Look at your burn rate and timeline. Pursue options that will generate cash before your next round of funding. Your top objective is to validate your ability to generate revenue prior to your next round.
  • You haven’t yet found the fish. You are fishing and have nibbles but no bites. Look at what your people are doing and start to eliminate options that are less likely to pay off both short and long-term.
  • To preserve development cash, create a new rule. Any project that you accept must come with development dollars. This will eliminate some smaller prospects and targets but will help you to focus on others which are more immediately promising.
  • When one company was in this position, their rule was that the first PO gets the engineers. No PO, no commitment of resources.
  • Another’s company’s policy is that they don’t work for free.
    • A softer version is to give the prospective client 30 days to produce an LOI for the proposed project or you will go elsewhere.
    • Even better is an LOI and $50K up front.
  • A third company’s strategy from the beginning was always to hunt for elephants – even when they had no money. This has worked well both short and long-term. It represented the level of faith that they had in their technology and capabilities.
  • The team needs to hear this message from you.

How Do You Communicate a Company Sale? Six Guidelines

Situation: A closely-held, non-public company is in negotiation for a possible sale. The CEO seeks guidance on when and how to communicate this to employees. What event would demand communication? The CEO is concerned that if the sale falls through this may significantly damage employee morale. How do you communicate a company sale?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • The trigger point for any employee communication will be due diligence. At this point, you may have a serious buyer.
    • Going into due diligence, limit updates to those who will be involved in the process.
    • Most acquisitions do not go through, so a broader communication risks disrupting the company – unless you are very confident that the sale will proceed.
    • Prior to due diligence, there is no benefit to communicating any possible sale to employees.
  • What message do you deliver to those who will be involved in due diligence?
    • We are entering a due diligence. This is an exercise that we’re doing for our own education so that we understand the value of the company. This is just a drill.
  • Keep your eye on the business and don’t be distracted by the offer.
  • Have a good idea of an acceptable sale price.
    • For a company with intellectual property or significant assets, three to five times EBITDA is a good starting point – unless the sale is a strategic buy to the buyer.
  • A possible deal is often spoiled by terms and conditions that the buyer attaches to the deal.
  • One buyer (at any one time) is the same as no buyer. When owners get serious about selling the company they will need a broker to develop multiple buyers, to advise them through the sale process and to defend their interests.

How Do You Succeed in Turbulent Markets? Seven Suggestions

A CEO is concerned about a possible downturn in the company’s market. They have survived the Great Recession and want to assure that they continue to survive future downturns. How do you succeed in turbulent markets?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • In turbulent markets, companies do everything that they can to reduce costs. This includes just-in-time ordering – regardless of lead times which they view as the supplier’s problem, delaying orders until they have confidence that they can sell what they order and produce, being miserly with cash, and demanding lower prices – even if supplier costs are rising. Dealing with each of these requires a steady head and creative solutions.
  • Spend as much time as possible meeting with important vendors and clients. Maintain the dialogue. They need you as much as you need them – without your products and services, their business is compromised, too. Spend time finding and cultivating the right relationships in client companies. Most of the time, this will NOT be the purchasing departments, but higher ups within the business units who are being pressed by their superiors to generate sales and revenue.
  • Pushing harder does not work in turbulent markets. Too many others are doing this.
  • Change your message – what used to work does not work now. Adjust your message to the times and adapt your message to your customer’s needs.
    • People want choice, and to do business with those whom they can trust to deliver.
    • Develop good case studies and testimonials – stories that your customer can share with others in their company.
  • Adjust your sales approach – look at SPIN Selling (Status, Pain, Implication, Needs-Payoff).
  • Don’t cut sales and marketing – focus it on the sectors that have cash and who are using the current market to grow. These people will continue to buy.
  • Look at what worked for you in the last five years – this situation is similar.
  • Look at your communications through the eChannels – if your competition is there, you should be too. For example, explore LinkedIn.

Special thanks to Jennifer Vessels of NextStep for her contribution to this discussion.

How Many Web Sites Should One Company Have? Three Thoughts

Situation: A company has two businesses in different locations serving different sets of customers in two separate markets. The CEO is evaluating whether it makes more sense to have one umbrella web site with pages for each of the two businesses, or to create two complete web sites with different URLs. How many web sites should a small business have, and why?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • The first question is whether you call both businesses the same or different names. Many small companies have separate businesses at different sites, and just differentiate the businesses through division names. Moreover, because you use the same company name for both businesses, you want to make it easy for customers to find your web sites. This argues for at least a single splash page, listed under your current company URL.
  • There are many corporations with diverse, unrelated businesses. Generally, these corporations don’t have any problem having a general web site, with separate links to the individual division web sites where customers and partners can drill down to detail specific to each division. The advantage to this strategy is that by having one corporate site, the larger entity strengthens its own market presence.
  • Given that the advice of the group is to have a single splash page how do you construct it?
    • You want to prominently feature your company name on the splash page, but not to include much detail. Maybe just an overall positioning message that expresses your core values or a distinctive visual that shows what you do.
    • On the splash page, create two links with distinctive pictures and names that enable your customer to easily go to the side of your business that interests them.

Should You Offer Employees Stock Ownership? Four Thoughts

Situation: When an early stage company was founded, the CEO made vague promises of stock ownership to new employees. Some original employees have asked whether and when they will receive ownership. Should the CEO offer stock ownership, and what is the message to employees?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • The first question concerns company policy on ownership. For example, what do the founding owners think about expanding the ownership pool? It is important for the founders to have this discussion and agree on official company policy on ownership. This can then be communicated consistently to employees.
  • Investigate practices for similar companies in your industry. If you find that there is a size at which companies typically start to diversify ownership, then have a conversation among the owners as to what your company will do. You don’t have to follow the pack, but you may risk turnover if your policy is significantly different from the industry norm.
  • Employee stock ownership is a double edged sword. Employee shares only receive a true value in a liquidity event – sale of the company or an IPO. Absent a liquidity event, employee stock ownership can complicate corporate decisions, and there’s also the question of the value of an employee’s stock if the employee leaves.
  • If you decide not to expand ownership, what’s the best way to update earlier promises of ownership?
    • Tell the story: stock ownership was one option that we considered. We looked at industry practice, and here’s what we found. We determined that at our size there are few advantages to broad employee ownership, and several potential disadvantages to additional owners including tax consequences. Therefore, we decided that we could achieve our objective more effectively through our profit sharing plan.

What Are Best Practices For Managing a Due Diligence Process? Six Suggestions

Situation: A family-owned business received an unsolicited letter of intent to purchase the company. The Board is split on sale of the company, but has agreed to allow due diligence. Only a few key employees are aware of the LOI. What are best practices for managing a due diligence process?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • A due diligence process can be a major distraction. Put as short a fuse as you can on the due diligence process; insist that the information requested be limited in scope to essential materials to minimize distraction; and that the process not interfere with scheduled company commitments.
  • It is exceedingly difficult to hide reality from the troops. Good due diligence is incompatible with secrecy. Absent communication about the situation, if rumors develop at least a segment of employees will assume the worst leading to possible employee loss and erosion of leadership credibility.
  • It is better to explain the situation and put it in the best light. Here’s an example:
    • The company is not for sale but has received an unsolicited inquiry.
    • This is happening because the company is successful, is producing consistent value, and others appreciate our success.
    • Whatever happens, the company will continue as a going concern and if the company is sold, all efforts will be made to assure the retention and security of the employees.
  • Ideally, communicate this through a company-wide announcement, with video link to remote sites, and with the opportunity for employees to ask questions.
    • Brief all key managers in advance, with Q&A scripts to deliver a consistent message and address individual questions.
  • Strictly control the due diligence process.
    • Restrict direct contact with employees and, to the extent possible, with key customers.
    • Maintain your focus on the business – there is no guarantee of a sale.
    • Put retention packages in place for all key employees.
  • If the deal does not go through, assume that it will negatively impact company results for at least one quarter. Adjust your forecasts and incentive programs accordingly.

Key Words: Due Diligence, Purchase, Time Line, Distraction, Communication, Message, Coordinate, Q&A, Limit, Incentive, Retention Package

What are the Strategic Components of a Marketing Plan?

Interview with Sanjay Sathe, President & CEO, RiseSmart.com

Situation: RiseSmart’s top opportunities are to increase visibility and gain market share. What are the most important strategic components of an effective marketing program?

Advice:

  • The best marketing plans don’t start with your company, product or service, They start with a focus on your customers, and the benefits you can deliver to them.
  • That means your first step should be to identify who your customers are.
    • This can be challenging in B2B businesses. For example, with RiseSmart’s outplacement solution, Transition Concierge, we have several possible customers: the HR department at the company seeking outplacement services; the CFO at these companies; the HR department at companies seeking good candidates; and the individuals who are going through outplacement and seeking new positions.
    • Each of these audiences has different objectives, priorities and approaches. To succeed, we need to connect to each of them where they are.
  • After you have identified your target customers, the next step is to develop messaging and message delivery systems that capture and maintain their attention.
    • Your messaging must express a differentiation that is easy to grasp – something that clearly sets you apart from your competition.  In technology marketing, Apple’s 1984 Super Bowl commercial, with its man-versus-machine contrast, is one of the most famous examples of this.
    • Your campaign must consistently touch your potential customer base. Research suggests that this requires a minimum of 4-5 touches to effectively gain customer attention and communicate your message.
    • Accompanying the messaging and the increased visibility that you seek, you must have an effective way to respond promptly and directly to customer interest or inquiries. Rapid and responsive follow-up are critical to success.

You can contact Sanjay Sathe at ssathe@risesmart.com

Key Words: Market Share, Visibility, Customer, Message, Differentiation, Consistency, Touches, Follow-up