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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Turning Advisory Council Insights into Actions

We all have our to-do lists.  They include things like register the kids for summer camp, call the bank about the extra service fee that showed up on last month’s bank statement, call insurance company to find out why they didn’t pay for my last trip to the doctor, etc.  We all have a way in which we prioritize that to-do list whether it is by due date, money related items or by some other means.  The companies I work with are faced with similar, albeit more daunting, to-do lists that result from each Advisory Council meeting.   How do they prioritize their to-do list?

Turning the insights and feedback gained from your Advisory Council members into action isn’t an easy task.  We have successfully implemented a process that is more engaging and interactive with our clients through a Market Alignment Planning (MAP) workshop.  As outlined in Sean Geehan’s book, The B2B Executive Playbook, MAP pulls together the inputs from the Advisory Council that will then feed directly into the strategic planning process.  A MAP workshop can turn that to-do list into a manageable list of prioritized actions that reflects the collective voice of your Advisory Council members.

And, since these are your top customers, integrating that input into your strategic planning process, will better align your organization to the needs of the market.

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3 Tips for an Impactful Customer Advisory Board

I recently attended a breakfast briefing, Street Smart Secrets for Change Management, where Jeff Cole, co-author of Driving Operational Excellence, shared nine tips for changing behavior throughout an organization. I found it intriguing. In less than 90-minutes, Jeff managed to get me thinking differently about how customer advisory boards impact an organization.

I’ve seen first-hand how customer advisory boards provide strategic insight, focus marketing direction, and promote leadership team alignment.  My clients have leveraged their customer advisory boards to acclerate sales, improve customer retention, and advance product innovation. Customer Advisory Boards are proven to drive sustainable, predictable and profitable growth (SPPG), as outlined in Sean Geehan’s book, The B2B Executive Playbook. So I know how customer advisory boards can truly impact an organization. I did not consciously realize, however, that an organization’s inherent resistance to change can make transformational impact extremely difficult, or kill it altogether.Resistance

Launching a Customer Advisory Board often implies that change needs to happen in your organization.  After all, that’s why you are investing in it!  Savvy leaders see the need for change (a new direction, increased sales, improved relationships, etc.) and realize customers can provide the guidance to make it happen.  In fact, organizations that utilize advisory boards to their fullest potential have made them synonymous with continuous improvement and drivers of transformation.  But, you have got to get everyone on the same page.

To achieve truly impactful results, consider the following when developing your customer advisory board.

  • Stakeholders inherently resist change, so communicate progress, both big and small, early and often.
  • Culture impacts an organization’s ability to change, so build a tolerance for ongoing change into your corporate strategy. 
  • Change doesn’t just happen overnight. It takes time and requires a certain set of skills, so designate a change agent/architect to manage the process.    

As you can see, I had a few “Aha” moments during Jeff’s presentation. So much so, in fact, that I immediately ran out and bought his book.  I recommend it to all who aspire to be the agent of change and transformation in their organization.

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8 Building Blocks of World Class Customer Advisory Boards

Are you responsible for your organization's Customer Advisory Board (CAB) program? If so, you don't want to miss Sean Geehan's session at the Customer Advisory Board.org conference on Thursday, June 7, in San Francisco, CA: 8 Building Blocks of World Class Customer Advisory Boards.

Many companies have tried to launch successful Customer Advisory Board programs but have struggled to realize the potential and value of a World Class Advisory Board.  Sean and his team at the Geehan Group have developed and perfected bullet-proof methodologies to assist project managers and their executive stakeholders in executing World Class Advisory Board programs across multiple industries.

Sean's presentation will cover the key elements for success, from executive involvement, to strategic alignment, to recruiting the right customers, as well as best practices for designing an engaging agenda and providing a great meeting experience, to the right follow-up and communication techniques post-meeting. 

“We never could have imagined the results Geehan helped deliver from day one, which have exponentially increased since.”
Anubhav Saxena, VP & Global Head, Business Marketing, HCL

Sean Geehan is CEO and Founder of Geehan Group, the leader in guiding B2B executives to building sustainable, predictable and profitable growth.  He is also the author of the national best-seller, The B2B Executive Playbook.

 

 

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Planning Ahead and Being Prepared for Growth in 2012 - Starts Here!

Back in September, Gartner came out with their rather controversial CIO Advisory:  Four Recession and Growth Strategies That Make Sense for 2012.  Though forecasts for growth in 2012 are modest, Gartner recommended that clients plan ahead and “avoid consuming time preparing for growth should growth opportunities suddenly arise” and that “however long a distressed economic climate may last, growth will remain a top priority of CEOs and boards of directors.”

Many organizations may prefer to wait and see what the economy does, but that would be a big mistake. I agree with Gartner that organizations must be prepared to take action when the opportunity arises.

Plan ahead. Get started by attending Geehan Group’s upcoming B2B Executive Summit:Summit logo Navigating Growth & Transformation. Designed exclusively for VP & higher executives, the B2B Summit provides an intimate setting (attendance is limited to 50 attendees) for learning from a prestigious roster of speakers, including Paul Gottsegen, CMO at Infosys, Joe Austin, SVP Customer Experience at Juniper, and Brent Ahrens, General Partner at Canaan, as well as author Jim Hauden.

  • Learn how Bill Fathers, President of Savvis, helped shape the company’s international presence, increased its market share, and developed leading-edge products for the financial services, media and telecom industries.
  • Discover how John Schwarz, former CEO at Business Objects, doubled the company’s revenue to more than $1.5 billion, improved profitability, and oversaw seven strategic acquisitions.
  • Hear how Joe Morgan, CEO at Standard Register, is transforming his organization from a document printing company into a provider of communications technology.
So get started. Plan ahead by attending Geehan Group’s B2B Executive Summit and begin preparing for growth in 2012. You’ll be glad you did!  

Click here to learn more and to receive your personal invitation.


“Rarely do you find an approachable business environment that invigorates your social senses with intriguing conversations, collaborative exchange of inventive ideas, fascinating speakers with applicable war stories, and the urge to network well beyond the two days that the Geehan Group brought us all together. What I gained out of this B2B gathering of like minds expanded my strategic thinking, opened new opportunities about how marketing can make an impact, plus enlightened me on similar management challenges with realistic solutions and results.”

Greg Jorgenson, SVP Marketing, VeriSign



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2012 Planning - A Golden Opportunity

Have you ever experienced a “moment of fame” when everything you need for your business to succeed comes together perfectly?   It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s “golden!” 
What if you were able to take those “moments of fame” and make them a consistent practice within your organization?  Customer Engagement Programs provide the opportunity to do just that.

Recently, my client experienced one of those moments.  After conducting an Advisory Council meeting with the decision makers of his most strategic customers, he gained invaluable insight into the market, learning what his customers need, and what they are looking for from his organization.

As a member of the executive team, he walked into a strategic planning meeting with the CEO and his peers, armed with information no one else had—even better, it was validated by his most strategic customers:

  • Sunset a core product in mid-term development – a savings of $8 dollars in future development, marketing, sales, and service, not to mention resources that can be devoted to high impact products.
  • Eliminate a new solution from the product roadmap – a total savings of $3 dollars, six months in development and valuable resources.
  • Get positioned to make an acquisition – of an innovative services company.

Gaining insight from your top customers provides a tremendous amount of confidence to participate in your organization’s planning process.  Sharing this information among the leadership team was a “moment of fame” for my client.  His CEO responded, “I’m so impressed by your knowledge this early in our planning process.  You are months ahead of your peers.”

When it comes to internal planning make no mistake—you are competing with your peers for resources and dollars to make the best decisions for the organization.  As you prepare for 2012, part of your plan should include gaining market insight at a decision maker level with your most strategic customers. 

In Sean Geehan’s book, The B2B Executive Playbook, he explains in detail how the market can provide insight, and help validate the following four areas (see diagram below):

  • vennYour “Exploit Solutions” – those areas that align to your business model and for which you have a core competency – in other words, what you do well.
  • Where you should “Evolve” – the market is telling you they want something that is in your core competency, but it is not part of your business model today. 
  • What you should “Acquire” – the market is telling you they want something that would fit into your business model, but you don’t have a core competency for it.  This is an opportunity to gain additional insight for potential companies to acquire.
  • Areas to “Evaluate” – this is something that is part of your business model and it is a core competency, but the market is not willing or interested in buying it.  This is an area you should look to eliminate or sunset the solution or product.

Validate Your Plan with Your Most Important Customers

My client learned that the best way to capture the areas outlined above was through his Advisory Council.  The value of a well-managed Advisory Council is that they can help you capture strategy, marketing, sales, service, product, and merger/acquisition information all at the same time.   

At their inaugural Council meeting, members were presented three specific initiatives for feedback.  The first was a legacy product they had for years—a “me too” in the market. The second was a new product they were getting pressure from sales to develop.  And finally, the third was to look at potential acquisition targets that would fit their business model, but for which they did not currently have a core competency.

The result of the feedback is what my client shared with his leadership team outlined in the beginning of this article.  And it saved his company over $10 million … all from listening to his customers.

Make 2012 a great year by seizing your Golden Opportunity.  Engage the decision makers of your most strategic customers to gain valuable market insight to help drive your strategic planning.

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HCL's Formula for Success

In October of this year the Information Technology Services Marketing Association (ITSMA) held their 18th Annual Marketing Conference and Marketing Excellence Awards Ceremony. Our CEO, Sean Geehan, spoke at that conference on "How Winning B2B Companies Achieve Profitable Growth."  It was exciting to be part of that conference for two reasons:
  1. The opportunity for Sean to present the principles of his new book, The B2B Executive Playbook
  2. The chance to witness one of our customers receive the ITSMA Diamond Award for Marketing Excellence in the category of Building Client Loyalty and Trust.
That customer is HCL Technologies. Evaluated by a panel of renowned industryGowri Shankar Vembu, Head of Global CACs @ HCL, receiving the ITSMA Diamond Award for Building Client Loyalty & Trust experts, organizations were judged upon innovation, execution, and business results - three critical aspects to marketing success.

HCL won the award based on its Customer Advisory Council (CAC) programs. HCL's global, collaborative initiatives involve over 80 of its Fortune 500 C-level customers and thought leaders who convene on a regular basis to advise HCL on industry trends, changing business priorities, and HCL's strategic direction. HCL applies the advice received from Council members into actionable plans that transform business and technology needs, creating more value for their customers. With their customers' help, HCL has achieved 25% CAGR (compound annual growth rate) over the last five years, going from revenues of $1.4B to $3.5B. The CAC also serves as an exceptional platform for HCL's customers and their industry peers to exchange ideas and best practices, and to network.

Awards such as this exemplify the value of spending time with your customers to build solid relationships, gaining a better understanding of their business, and becoming a trusted advisor over time. Customer engagement programs like HCL's Advisory Councils are key drivers for account retention, customer loyalty and revenue growth.

A fundamental reason for the success of HCL's Council program is the internal team leading the initiatives. Executive Sponsor Shami Khorana, President, HCL America, leads the team, stays closely involved, communicates to members, and attends all CAC meetings. Samir Bagga, VP and Head of Marketing, and Gowri Shankar Vembu, Associate General Manager and Head of Global CACs, are equally committed to keeping the Councils at a high-quality and strategic level. They work hard to ensure meeting agendas are robust with relevant, engaging topics, while at the same time giving members the opportunity to serve as "advisors" to HCL.

We at Geehan Group are honored to work with a company the caliber of HCL, and look forward to our continued partnership to help them run world-class customer engagement programs and continue to lead their industry with a market driven strategy, bringing company-wide internal team alignment. Congratulations to Shami, Samir, Gowri and all of the HCL team on this much-deserved award!
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Driving Market Awareness

A common challenge executive's face is building awareness in the market about their organization or a new solution to drive sales. In the B2B world, one way to drive market awareness is through Executive Summits.   Executive Summits traditionally consist of a compelling keynote speaker that focuses on an important topic, one or more case studies from strategic customer(s) and a few sessions that stimulate thought and conversation. This creates an environment where the participants are talking 80% of the time. 


Typically, marketing events focus on the end user or even the influencer but the real opportunity is focusing on the decision maker.  In order to attract decision makers to your executive summit you need to create the right environment to entice them to attend, especially if you don't have name recognition.  Securing compelling keynote speaker, focused on a relevant topic, will make all the difference in attracting attendees because the use of a strong keynote will position your organization as a thought leader. 


Another option when planning an executive summit is to leverage an influential industry group (i.e., magazine or industry group).  This will help you to broaden your reach of decision makers in a more efficient manner (working smarter vs. harder).  Once you have speakers identified you need to think about the number of attendees you want at the event; more is not better in an executive summit.  Executives like a more intimate setting where they can have access to the keynote speaker, network, and really participate in the event.  Creating an intimate environment with no more than 50 people will allow you to do that. 


We recently executed an executive summit for one of our healthcare customers that did not have name recognition with their decision makers.  Their primary contacts within the hospital were with material management and procurement.  They knew they needed to get to decision makers in order to change the perception of their company and their brand.   They wanted to focus on patient safety and invite Chief Nursing Officers and Chief Medical Officers.  


This is where focusing on an influential group such as a trade publication gave them leverage.  They partnered with an influential magazine within the healthcare market and spoke to their editor about what they were trying to accomplish.  The editor was so impressed when she learned about the keynote speaker and the intimate environment to learn and share (80% participants talking), that she was energized to help them recruit key industry leaders to be on a panel discussion based on her own relationship with these individuals.  This gave our customer the start of the ground swell they needed. 


Our customer decided to leverage two panels which now gave them access to eight creditable executives.  Once they locked down the keynote speaker, leveraged the editor of the magazine, and recruited the panelist, the panelist were able to invite two peers in similar positions. They were now on the path to success.


An additional element that added to the success of the event was the use of social media tools such as LinkedIn and Facebook.  This enabled the head of the business unit to personally invite people as well as post and share updates to the event. 


The event was a huge success.  Our customer's goal for this event was to build awareness, executive relationships, and form a clinical advisory council.   They achieved the following:


·         50 healthcare executives in the room that saw our customer's organization as a thought leader


·         Attendees rated the Summit as the best event experience ever


·         100% of the attendees want to be involved in future events


·         Created solid candidates for their Healthcare Advisory Council


An additional benefit for our customer was that their internal leaders who attended the event also got to see first hand that they can be relevant with executives, which helped give them the overall confidence they needed to make some key decisions about where they wanted to go in the market.  


If you are serious about driving market awareness and growth at an executive level conducting an Executive Summit is the way to go.   Our experience continues to show that when Executive Summits are done in conjunction with an Executive Advisory Council, the results of increased brand awareness, revenue, and executive relationships accelerate even faster.

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Using the Voice of the Customer to Create an Outside in Plan

In my last post I discussed three key elements for strategic planning:
  1. Use the voice of the customer to create an outside-in plan
  2. Ensure the plan is well understood by employees
  3. Integrate the plan in your management system

Let's focus on the first element: an outside-in approach.

Your business in constantly changing. Agreed? The individuals closest to this change are your customers. Still with me? By tapping into their knowledge base, you stay ahead of the curve and create strategy that can live, grow and adapt with your organization.

Your customers know what is happening in their business. They know where they want to be in the next 12-24 months and they can tell you what you need to do to be a partner in getting them there. So to have a dynamic and organic plan, you have to be connected to your customers and you need to have deep relationships with your most strategic customers.

How do you do this? Through Customer Advisory Councils (CACs). This is a formal program involving the decision makers from your top customers (define top as largest revenue, most profitable, or most strategic). 

Geehan Group research shows most B2B companies have 80% of their revenue tied up in as little as 20% of their accounts. What does this look like for your organization? Segment your base and I think you'll be pleasantly surprised to find this is true.

Imagine what you can learn about your direction and strategies from the customers driving 80% of your revenue. Now imagine the impact these customers can have on future growth when you start building relationships with them and enabling them to advocate on your behalf. 

During the initial meeting you can gain market insight to help drive your strategic plan. At a follow-up meeting you can validate elements of the plan or gain input for your product/service/solution roadmap, brand position, innovation...you get the idea.

This group becomes an integral part of your strategy development process. They also become tightly linked with your company and an advocate for your success.

In the next blog we'll look at what to do with information gained from your Customer Advisory Council.



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