Avoiding the Pitfalls to B2B Success: Final in a four-part series

In my B2B Executive Playbook, I take my readers through the four steps that can simplify strategic planning, focus product development and sales and marketing efforts, and most importantly, create a clear path to market leadership. In this four-part series, Avoiding the Pitfalls to B2B Success, I review the common pitfalls that challenge B2B firms. Be aware of them and act quickly if they surface in your company.

Pitfall #4
Chasing the competition 

Chasing your competitors is the fastest path to the bottom, with only two possible outcomes: First, there is a very strong possibility you are following a competitor that doesn’t know where it’s going—and you will follow them down. Second, there is the possibility the competitor is right—and you will finish in second place.

Even if you do succeed in achieving sustainable, predictable, profitable growth in this way, you will only achieve it after your competitors. Stanford Graduate School of Business professor William Barnett calls this “Red Queen Competition”—you run faster and faster, but you never get ahead. 

Bottom Line:

If you chase your competitors, they will always have the edge. Don’t put your fate in your competitor’s hands. In the end, only one path to sustainable, predictable, profitable growth will yield industry leadership: a strategy grounded in the intersections between the needs of the market and a B2B company’s business model and core competencies.

geehangroup.comExecutive customer-focused strategies and tactics in The B2B Executive Playbook enable B2B companies to avoid the four common pitfalls. But even with this Playbook as your guide, it will take constant vigilance and commitment to gain the full benefits of your executive customer programs ©2017 Geehan Group

 

Read the other articles in this series:

Pitfall #1: Inside-Only Thinking

Pitfall #2: Limiting Input to End Users

Pitfall #3: Following a Single Customer

 

 


Sean Geehan is founder and CEO of Geehan Group, National Best Selling Author of The B2B Executive Playbook and a celebrated speaker. Sean has more than 25 years’ experience successfully guiding B2B executives to sustainable, predictable, profitable growth for their organizations. To schedule Sean as a speaker, contact him at (877) 226-1621 or visit www.geehangroup.com.

Looking for more information on how to be successful in your B2B business? Download Sean Geehan’s free article “B2B: A Different Game.” Click here

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Avoiding the Pitfalls to B2B Success: Third in a four-part series

(c)Geehan Group

In my B2B Executive Playbook, I take my readers through the four steps that can simplify strategic planning, focus product development and sales and marketing efforts, and most importantly, create a clear path to market leadership. In this four-part series, Avoiding the Pitfalls to B2B Success, I review the common pitfalls that challenge B2B firms. Be aware of them and act quickly if they surface in your company.

Pitfall #3
Following a single customer 

It’s a common story: a new CEO takes the reins and goes to visit the company’s key customers to establish relationships, make sure promises are being met, say thanks, and offer access. On each of these visits, the CEO asks the CEO at the customer company, “What are your biggest issues?” and “What keeps you up at night?”

Terrific questions. 

But then things start to unravel. The CEO hears something at one account that strikes a chord. A big idea; a game changer. He comes home and redirects the company’s development teams, strategy, and resources, based on a single conversation. 

(c)Geehan GroupImagine having your entire leadership team, including functional heads, tethered to a single reference point – and that one reference point is a group of 10 to 25 true decision makers from your most important customers. Once or twice a year, they gather offsite to discuss developments in their industries, markets, companies, and specific areas of responsibility.

Executive Customer Advisory Council meetings have a transformative effect of leader-to-leader relationships, both externally and internally. The executive customers who attended the meeting now seek you out because you provided such a valuable forum for them to network and learn from their peers. They want to do more. They have become part of your team.

Case:

The CEO of a $10 billion manufacturing services company met with the president of his company’s biggest customer. The president suggested a solution to a problem with which he said twenty other major players in his industry were also struggling. This convinced the CEO to invest more than $100 million in developing the solution. Two years later, no one, including the original customer, was willing to buy the solution. The B2B seller had rechanneled its key resources, lost credibility in the market, fallen behind its competitors, and ended up writing off the entire project. 

(c)Geehan GroupBottom Line:

The only way to secure market alignment is to enlist a market collective to validate direction and major development projects. Most B2B offerings need a market, not just one customer. ©2017 Geehan Group

 

Read the other articles in this series:

Pitfall #1: Inside-only Thinking

Pitfall #2: Limiting Input to End Users

Pitfall #4: Chasing the Competition

 


Sean Geehan is founder and CEO of Geehan Group, National Best Selling Author of The B2B Executive Playbook and a celebrated speaker. Sean has more than 25 years’ experience successfully guiding B2B executives to sustainable, predictable, profitable growth for their organizations. To schedule Sean as a speaker, contact him at (877) 226-1621 or visit www.geehangroup.com.

Looking for more information on how to be successful in your B2B business? Download Sean Geehan’s free article “B2B: A Different Game.” Click here

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Avoiding the Pitfalls to B2B Success: Second in a four-part series

Geehan Group 2017

In my B2B Executive Playbook, I take my readers through the four steps that can simplify strategic planning, focus product development and sales and marketing efforts, and most importantly, create a clear path to market leadership. In this four-part series, Avoiding the Pitfalls to B2B Success, I review the common pitfalls that challenge B2B firms. Be aware of them and act quickly if they surface in your company.

Pitfall #2
Limiting Input to End-Users

The second pitfall is triggered when B2B companies depend too heavily on customer input gathered from end users. This overdependence usually results in more of the same. Most companies are very good at establishing customer dialogue at this level. However, end user input is typically focused on product improvements aimed at maximizing the user experience. As Henry Ford is reputed to have said, “If I’d asked my customers what they wanted, they’d have said a faster horse.” 

The problem with endlessly adding features and functionality to products is that at some point it no longer adds business value for the customer. And if there is no added value, executive customers will not pay a premium for incremental improvements. Thus, more bells and whistles equal higher costs and lower margins. 

Leaders can become too focused on the users they interact with and not on the business issues the company was hired to solve. They find they’re talking to people at the wrong level, taking them off track, which then begins to marginalize the business and value. 

Case:

A $100 million manufacturer produces high-quality industrial tubing that is the Rolls Royce of its market. This tubing exceeds the current industry standard for tolerance by 50 percent; the product has never failed in the field. When we met with the company’s leaders, they proudly informed us that they were working to raise the tubing’s tolerance to 100 percent above the industry standard. 

This excited customer engineers (end users of the tubing), who thought the additional tolerance would be “great to have.” Unfortunately, no customer projects or plans required anywhere near this new tolerance level. Further, executive customers knew the proposed tubing far exceeded tolerance levels that had been successful for decades, and they saw no reason to pay a premium for it. It was a classic example of over-engineering in pursuit of a better user experience. 

In the B2C world, where the consumer is the user and the decision maker, it works just fine. I’m thirsty, so I buy and drink a Diet Coke. If I like it, I do it again and again. But in the B2B world, user satisfaction does not necessarily result in customer retention or increased sales.

Geehan Group 2017
Bottom Line:

Ultimately, executive customers fund your company and decide with their dollars whether your strategy (in terms of offerings, pricing models, direction of industry, etc.) is successful. You should secure input from as many customer levels—purchasing agents, users, influencers, and decision makers—as your budget and resources allow, but always remember that it is the decision maker’s input that matters most. So, start with your executive customers.©2017 Geehan Group

 

 

 


Sean Geehan is founder and CEO of Geehan Group, National Best Selling Author of The B2B Executive Playbook and a celebrated speaker. Sean has more than 25 years’ experience successfully guiding B2B executives to sustainable, predictable, profitable growth for their organizations. To schedule Sean as a speaker, contact him at (877) 226-1621 or visit www.geehangroup.com.

Looking for more on how to be successful in your B2B business? Download Sean Geehan’s free article “B2B: A Different Game.”  Click here 

 

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Avoiding the Pitfalls to B2B Success: First in a four-part series

(c) Geehan Group

In my B2B Executive Playbook, I take my readers through the four steps that can simplify strategic planning, focus product development and sales and marketing efforts, and most importantly, create a clear path to market leadership. In this four-part series, Avoiding the Pitfalls to B2B Success, I review the common pitfalls that challenge B2B firms. Be aware of them and act quickly if they surface in your company.

Pitfall #1
Inside-Only Thinking

The first pitfall is a mindset among the leadership team that goes something like this: “Hey, we’re smart and we’ve been in this industry for many years. Let’s brainstorm among ourselves and come up with the next great solution we can bring to market to change the game and win back our leadership position.” The leadership teams of B2B companies do indeed have deep stores of knowledge and creativity, but when they choose to go it alone, what they are really saying is, “We know better than our customers what they want and need.”

And this is a prescription for failure.

Far too often, the inside-only ideas and solutions that come out of these sessions are not created with current market conditions or even company resources, business models, and competencies in mind. In fact, they are usually based on legacy customer needs, current competitor offerings, or misguided ideas about a problem that may not even exist in the customer’s mind. This insular approach significantly contributes to the 60-70 percent product failure rate that continues to plague companies.

Case:

The leaders of a $1 billion company invested more than $100 million in developing a single solution they were convinced would revolutionize their market. They did this without asking a single customer to validate the idea. The result was a disaster. Virtually no customers wanted the solution because it couldn’t be integrated with their existing operations, and the few who did buy, demanded to return it for a full refund, plus damages. The stock tumbled, the leadership team was fired, and the company was sold off at a major discount to a company one-fifth its size.

Bottom Line:

Successful B2B companies systemically include their top customers in the development process. At Henny Penny, for example, all innovation and planning initiatives begin with the needs of customers and the market. “This is the backbone of our culture, strategic planning, and success,” explains President and CEO, Rob Connelly. With so many strategic and development alternatives to choose from, you must tap your top customers to prioritize, justify, and focus on those options that will deliver the most impact. Leveraging their industry knowledge through “outside-inside” thinking is the best way to secure market alignment and achieve profitable growth over the long-term.©2017 Geehan Group

Read the other articles in this series:

Pitfall #2: Limiting Input to End Users

Pitfall #3: Following a Single Customer

Pitfall #4: Chasing the Competition

 

 


Looking for more on how to be successful in your B2B business? Download Sean Geehan’s free articleB2B: A Different Game.”  Click here 

 

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Customer Retention is 24K Magic

It is simple: Everyone gets excited when a new customer is signed. There’s a celebration, bells are ringing, and lots of recognition and rewards are handed out. Song’s like the Bruno Mars' “Uptown Funk” or “24k Magic” are blasting in the hallways and everyone feels as though the most popular person in school just asked them to prom.

Been there, done that: But let's think about your customer retention for a minute. How much celebration is there when a long standing customer renews for the 6th straight year? Forget that they haven’t bid out the work in 3 years (no competition=greater margin) and they are already in your system (low cost of support, faster payment = greater cash flow).

It still only generates the excitement of listening to a has-been, one-hit wonder backup band like the frosted haired Vanilla Ice. Yes, you’re at a concert, but it’s short and stale.

Now the reality: Here's the bottom line. It costs 3-5 times more to acquire vs. retain a customer. Getting your current customers buying more of your stuff means it’s harder for them to leave you (increased switching cost) and current customers are much less likely to bid out your work (increasing profitability). Shouldn’t you evaluate how your how you are spending your sales and marketing dollars? If that sounds like your firm, don’t fret. Even carpools and Karaoke can be cool (thanks to James Corden). 

Opportunity: Evaluating your sales and marketing mix today re-prioritizing the balance of acquisition to account growth can make a huge difference in top and bottom line results. Now that’s something the entire leadership team will be thrilled to hear about. 

 

Just maybe then you’ll become the most popular person in the company (or at least the leadership team) and the CEO throws you the keys to the company G6, backstage passes, and VIP access to the after-party on the Bruno’s current tour. Now that’ll generate 24K Magic in the air!

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Customer Success: Applying Science to the Art of Customer Engagement

Over ten years ago, our team built a model to describe what we believe is the core of B2B sustainable growth. Called the “Customer Engagement Lifecycle,” it depicts the importance of active, meaningful engagement with your customers and why you cannot realize profitable growth without it.  Market leading companies such as Oracle, AmerisourceBergen and HCL have long understood this principle, and their return to investors shows it.

Others have not been so easily convinced, and I have always scratched my head wondering why stock charts and sales figures have not provided sufficient proof.  Perhaps “end results” metrics such as these do not provide the short term measurements needed to guide the daily, monthly, and quarterly activities that lead to profitable growth.

Enter Customer Success, the professional function which is becoming increasingly critical to companies in the subscription economy.  Unlike Marketing, who historically has been criticized for not applying enough math to its art in order to demonstrate returns, the basic function of Customer Success is measured by a key metric, churn rate.  And since churn can be measured almost daily, it is a number that can galvanize the efforts of an entire organization.

In a recent interview in the Huffington Post, Shreesha Ramdas, CEO of Customer Success Automation platform Strikedeck, explains that Customer Success has quickly become essential for companies to retain and expand their customer accounts, especially those in SaaS and subscription businesses because they feel the pinch of churn much more than other type of business. According to Ramdas, “There is pressure on public companies utilizing a subscription model to report on churn, since venture capital firms give high weightage to churn rates. As such, Customer Success has become equal in importance to Sales, Marketing, Engineering, and Product teams within SaaS companies.

“Today many companies use Customer Success as a competitive differentiator and lever for growth.  The importance of Customer Success can be understood by looking at four statistics:

  1. There are currently more than 200,000 jobs open for CS.
  2. Google search traffic volume for Customer Success has tripled in last five years.
  3. More than $150M in investment has gone into the industry.
  4. There are now more than 500 new meetups, conferences, and events on this topic.

Making Customer Success a priority is no longer an option, but rather an imperative.”

To me, this means customer engagement, which is a key driver to Customer Success, now has a metric to which CXOs must pay attention and invest.  Successful customers are often the ones willing to proactively endorse your company and product to the world.  If you sustain long-term relationships with customers, your business will be able to use that revenue to expand and improve your offerings, resulting in more sales with higher margin.  In one of our previous blog posts, 3 Keys to Retaining and Growing B2B Revenue, we discussed how 80% of most companies’ revenue comes from 20% of their established customers.  By that measurement, losing just 5% of your customer base to churn can potentially sink an organization. The solution for churn is Customer Success, the post-sales retention team who ensures engagement and encourages advocacy.

Given the expansion of the Customer Success field in the past five years, toolsets to help manage its operations (and of course measure and monitor churn) have become extremely prevalent.  Forrester has called Customer Success a Hot New Software Category, and points to the growth of the subscription economy as the catalyst. Vendors such as Amity, Bluenose, Gainsight, Natero, and Ramdas’ Strikedeck all provide software in this space to operationalize the way customer accounts are managed in order to “preserve revenue, expand revenue, and boost customer advocacy.”

Last week, we witnessed first-hand the Strikedeck platform bring together customer engagement and advocacy to define, enable, monitor, and optimize Customer Success.  Impressed by the approach they have taken, we believe that tools like Strikedeck will be required by almost every company, be it a SaaS, Subscription, eCommerce, Service, or even non-software companies.  Simply measuring happiness using customer surveys has become passé.  Strikedeck’s ability to collect data on customer happiness from a variety of sources, including drops in product usage, increases in support ticket volume, and degrading sentiment in customer communications, is amazingly simple, yet innovative.  

What is most powerful about the Strikedeck platform, however, is its ability to provide not only predictions on causes of potential churn in a given organization, but also guidance on actions to prevent it from occurring, such as additional user training, enhancing the skills of support staff, and even how to proactively engage with all levels of the customer base.  Automation is important for scaling customer engagement, but their tools such as workflows and playbooks help standardize best practices and optimize economic value for customers.

Even further, this use of predictive analytics can help organizations proactively retain and grow its current customers by using the toolset to understand what drives their satisfaction.  In his recent article on CMS Wire, Ramdas summarizes the role platforms like Strikedeck play, “The game is no longer a race to acquire new customers, but rather to hone in on retention and upsells.  What can companies do to prevent churn, ensure renewals and drive upsells? The first step is to know which customers are likely to churn, and which ones are likely to renew and/or expand.  This sets the stage for predictive analytics to become the hero.”

For over 15 years, our team has delivered services around customer engagement, from conducting assessments to planning and delivering the initiatives that lead to sustainable, profitable growth.  I am excited to see how the profession of Customer Success management applies the science necessary to give customer engagement the credibility and funding it deserves.  

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Beware of the Invisible 2x4 to the Head

The acceleration of change continues to shift gears, from the speed of sound to that of light. And it’s impacting more than the just the hot topics of today, such as the Internet of Things and Big Data, as well as the hot disruptive organizations leveraging technology, like Uber and Tesla.

Did you ever imagine that transparent wood would become a reality?  Apparently a team of scientists at Sweden’s Wallenberg Wood Science Center sure did, and it’s no longer just the stuff of science fiction.

While, for some reason, I wasn’t moved to digest the full official scientific paper “Optically Transparent Wood from a Nano-porous Cellulosic Template: Combining Functional and Structural Performance,“ simply reading the WSJ summary was enough for me to recognize yet another case of how combinations and convergences of seemingly unrelated scientific advances could upend both longstanding and new markets. For instance, this new wood contains properties that can trap light for extended periods of time which would provide a remarkably light-weight and efficient solar panel, much more so than materials currently used by commercial manufacturers.

What’s more, this “transparent” wood is actually stronger than wood’s natural composition. It could revolutionize all areas of construction, energy, and any other industry which uses or produces wood, including logging, timber, and lumber. So I suppose this new material, a technology I never imagined could be on the drawing board, could even disrupt the metaphor of living in glass houses. Now that’ll give @claychristensen something to think about (the disruption of metaphors).

I’d now like to request the folks at Wallenberg make the Harry Potter invisibility cloak a reality.

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Develop Market and Leadership Team Alignment for 2015

 
The leadership teams of many B2B companies are beset with conflict.  Often, this conflict is based in competing executive opinions about how to best move the company ahead.  These conflicting opinions can blind them to external developments that could have a powerful affect on the company and its markets.  
 
• Rogue ideas 
• Resist change
• “Not-invented-here” mindset 
 
Further, the personal ambitions of leadership team members can stifle alignment and consensus, and limit support for critical initiatives. 
 
There is no better means of overcoming these sources of conflict than executive customers.  
 
When the leadership team of a B2B company works directly with executive customers, it becomes more unified and aligned.  These customers, especially when gathered together into a group, provide an unimpeachable source of information, insight and opinion that acts as a filter – quickly dispatching the conflicting views that can splinter a company’s strategic focus or create barriers to change.  An executive customer collective provides a single point of reference for the entire leadership team—in contrast to the information overload and endless debates, which can paralyze companies when key decisions and faster and bolder moves are most needed.  
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B2B Marketing's Huge Opportunity to Drive Profitable Growth

Marketers often times find it easier to apply the trusted tenets of B2C marketing to B2B selling. Unfortunatley, they then end up with disastrous results because of B2B marketing’s more complex and lengthier buying cycle. While some basic rules apply, B2B marketing is quite different and needs different tactics. It demands marketing involvement for a longer time, and with more specificity.

What else makes B2B marketing different? What should marketers change to get more results from B2B campaigns? How can a B2B marketer connect with customers and leverage innovation to drive business growth?

Join this free webinar sponsored by Regalix for a chance to engage directly with Geehan, as well as other marketing professionals. Don’t miss this insightful discussion on:

  • Unraveling the differences between B2B and B2C
  • Increasing marketing’s credibility with the Leadership team
  • Aligning strategies to market needs
  • Engaging & leveraging your most valuable customers
  • Achieving sustainable, predictable and profitable growth

All registrants will receive an abstract from Sean's National Best Seller, The B2B Executive Playbook.

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Learning to Drive B2B Profitable Growth at Ariba Live

Business strategy books fill bookstore shelves, but none draw attention to the unique ways in which B2B organizations need to strategize and run differently than B2C companies in order to achieve true sustainable, predictable, and profitable growth.

Please join me at Ariba Live In my feature break out session, where I will identify those unique differences and demonstrating how B2B companies need to apply B2B strategies with proven approaches. Everyone attending this session will receive a signed copy of The B2B Executive Playbook.

Don't miss this amazing event where you’ll learn to optimize the connectivity and analytics made possible by business networks and the Cloud, gaining essential insights that empower you to transform business commerce. This event includes informative breakout sessions, dynamic keynotes, and engaging networking opportunities, where you'll learn how to buy better, sell more, and manage cash more efficiently.

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