What Olive Garden Can Teach B-to-B Companies About Innovation

Olive Garden – the casual Italian dining chain – recently ran a one-day promotion offering free babysitting to parents. By partnering with My Gyms – a chain of gymnastics facilities for children – the restaurant allowed parents to drop their kids off at My Gyms, enjoy a child-free dinner at Olive Garden and show their restaurant receipt at the gym when they picked up their kids. Why would Olive Garden do this? Obviously, the company hoped that free babysitting would attract more customers – particularly those who wouldn’t otherwise have been customers. (I’ll admit that, as a parent of small children and someone who rarely eats at Olive Garden, I wondered whether the prospect of free babysitting would entice me to visit.) This is a great example of identifying hurdles in the buying process – and leveraging a partnership to address them – to open up a potential new customer segment.

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From Likes to Leads: Tips for an Effective Conversion Strategy

The overuse of the word “like” in our everyday communications is flagrant. As much as I hate it when I hear others tossing the word meaninglessly into their conversations, I still catch myself doing it. Like so many others before me, I blame Frank and Moon Unit Zappa and their 1982 song “Valley Girl” for my transgressions. Now, thanks to the introduction of the “like” button on Facebook in 2009, we have another “like” to contend with – and this one is just as rampant. Sure, Facebook “likes” have their place; it’s the quickest and easiest way for a contact to show appreciation of a post or a page. But clicking “like” has become almost as commonplace as peppering our conversations with the word “like.”

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And the Award for Best Solution Type Goes To…

Here in Southern California, where the Hollywood sign serves as a tourist landmark and a symbolic gateway to the entertainment industry, it’s awards season – specifically, Oscars season. Before the ceremony, there was much promotion, speculation and hand-wringing about the best Hollywood players and their roles. Whether someone is nominated for best actor, best supporting actress, or best director, editor or cinematographer, each category has its own merit, and each is needed to create a successful movie. The glitz and glamor of the entertainment industry are rarely found in the b-to-b world. But as in the entertainment industry, multiple categories are important, especially in the context of the solution portfolio. The SiriusDecisions Solution Model defines four b-to-b offering types:

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Reflections From Sonoma: Sales Leadership Exchange 2014 (The Days of Wine and Closers)

On February 26 and 27, more than 85 senior sales leaders gathered at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa for SiriusDecisions’ inaugural Sales Leadership Exchange (SLE). While the weather was a little wet on the first night (we’ve been asked to run the event throughout the Southwest to help with the drought), it didn’t dampen the energy and enthusiasm of our attendees. We designed the SLE to foster networking and conversation by limiting the number of guests and holding it in a venue that allowed folks to unplug for a few hours. Mission accomplished – according to feedback from attendees and sponsors. Our theme was productivity – which was fitting for our locale. Sonoma is famous for vineyards that produce some of the best wines in the world – and one thing we learned during the wine tasting is that to grow great wine grapes, you have to “stress” the plants. The idea is not to provide the best soil or plenty of water, but to provide just enough nutrients, and just enough water, so that the plants create fruit with concentrated flavor. So instead of yielding lots of mediocre grapes, you end up with fewer grapes of higher quality, which yields better wine. This is analogous to the challenges our sales leaders face – how to improve yield in markets that are “stressed” by improving their sales organizations’ productivity to ensure growth.

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Five Tips for Shorter, More Impactful Advocacy Assets

Once upon a time, when the world seemed to spin a bit more slowly and there were significantly fewer distractions, marketers were able to create tome-like customer case studies that went to great lengths (literally) to extol the value that customers were receiving from their company’s products and solutions. Well-constructed and comprehensive, these success stories were chock full of value and seemed to contain everything a potential customer would ever want to know about what it would be like to own the product or solution. Well, times have changed. As most marketers have found out the hard way, customers and prospects no longer have the time to review lengthy case studies. Rather, these time-starved folks want just the facts, and they prefer that marketers get to the point in as few words as possible. The challenge for modern marketers is to adjust their advocacy strategy with an eye toward brevity. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

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Process Improvement: If Not You, Who? If Not Now, When?

In my last post on exposing the hidden hurdles to real process improvement in sales and marketing, we explored how being an efficient middle man can give a false sense of security. In this post, we’ll delve into another topic: lack of ownership. While process improvement may be urgently needed, marketing and sales leaders are often reluctant to take on yet another challenge. “Sure, I can see how messed up this process is, but it’s not up to me to fix it,” they say to themselves. “No way I’m taking on THAT political battle, and besides, I’ve already got enough on my plate. The last thing I need is some special project.”

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Marketing Automation Benchmark: How Do You Stack Up?

Do you know how your marketing automation performance stacks up? Do you have a benchmark or authoritative standard you can reference to compare your marketing automation performance to peer organizations? Do you have a way to compare the number of resources you use for marketing automation to similar organizations? Unfortunately, the answer is no for most companies, but the answer for you can be yes.

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The Importance of Hidden Personas in the Healthcare Industry

Let’s face it – healthcare is a complex industry. Not only are healthcare marketers strapped with some of the most challenging regulations in the country, healthcare organizations are often highly matrixed – leading to decisionmaking as a “team sport.” It’s not unusual for a healthcare marketer or salesperson to think they have a hot prospect…only to have their stellar efforts derailed by a stakeholder they didn’t even know existed. I call these the “hidden personas” in healthcare. These buyer personas might be outside of your typical target personas, or even outside of your prospect’s usual stakeholders, but ultimately, they may hold the keys to your marketing and sales success.

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