Customer experience: Are you in the short game or long game?

Introduction

My recent visit to Kuala Lumpur for Chinese New Year and some business meetings prompted me to contemplate what real customer success and service is about two customer experiences I had. We know everyone seems to be short term focussed these days but if you take things into perspective, I wanted to prompt some thought around the short term game or long term game businesses are demonstrating in terms of customer experience, customer success and setting the right strategies focussed on effective ways to address retention challenges and also customer lifetime value.

One was from an airline, Qantas, and the other from a leading hotel chain, IHG – Intercontinental Hotel

It led me to think that whether it’s old or new, modern or traditional, human or digital based, customer experience basics are still the same!

Most services still need human to human interaction at the end of the day. Digital is just a channel for connecting and automation interaction which can help streamline the process to handle more volume or increase scalability to service customers.

I will share some recent observations and my customer experiences and insight for customer success which I need to remind myself to apply with habits and business clients.

In relating these basics back to modern day customer success which businesses are investing through people, process and systems  helps gain clarity for sustainable customer centric strategies and growth. It also helps enable decisions based on human values of your well skilled staff, standards and trained culture with maintaining standards of how to deliver exceptional customer experience and service.

The common theme here is personalisation and also consistency of service. This definitely helps differentiate your core services against your competition.

Customer Experience #1

1) Qantas – Melbourne to Jakarta customer-experience-qantas

After a late turnaround and clearly some preparatory challenges from ground crew whilst working on a tight schedule, the Qantas crew were pretty stressed by focused on the customers first.

Peter was excellent in providing service with the Customer Service Manager, Julie. He diffused easier the challenges pre take off they had to ensure the crew were focused on the customers.

Having a record of previous customer data allows for personalisation of the service (this is example of how being informed helps).

That left me impressed in the follow through of the crew at the end of the flight. I know not everything goes according to plan but it’s how you recover. It’s about setting or resetting the expectation and how you manage it along the way with actions, follow through or communication to your customer.

Customer Experience #2

2) Intercontinental Hotel – Kuala Lumpur

customer-experience-ihg

 

customer-experience-IHG

 

 

I have returned to KL, one of my favourite cities which I travel to yearly to visit family over Chinese New Year.

For the past 3 years, while I have been staying at Intercontinental Kuala Lumpur, I have been served by Jason and his team.  The first year I recall Jason coming over and introducing himself to make known that he can assist or be of service not just in the hotel restaurant but other team members who can help during my stay.

I was pleasantly surprised for making the effort to ask about my stay and also intended travels and trip in KL.

Since then as I have known him a bit more with subsequent visits I have observed his own personal standard of service he strives to provide along with his team.

Jason has 46 years of customer service experience in hospitality. For him it’s a hobby and he works 7 days with limited time off. Whether it’s rush hour for breakfast or towards the end of morning service, the approach is the same.

Some basic tips and observations for customer success

Jason prides himself on and sets this example for his team with:.

  • Personal Greetings – Making sure he values you by knowing your first name
  • Consistency – Every morning he follows a routine and ensures level of service.
  • Customer Data Retention – Having a previous knowledge and retention of your customer preferences and interests helps build the customer care and success required. If you underpromise and overdeliver that is one basic element which helps manage your customer expectations.
  • Knowledge and curiosity – He makes and effort to ask many questions and show interest to engage with the customer.
  • Team player and multiple touchpoints  – The co-ordination in sections from his team members including introducing them allows customer service continuity if he isn’t available.
  • Going over and beyond – When nothing is too difficult and there is service with a smile, that can’t be faked. The authenticity and genuine nature comes across.
  • Attention to detail – The team doesn’t miss a beat and knows exactly where and when to attend to customers starting with front of house and a process.
  • Succession planning – He mentions that he is grooming his upcoming customer service talent for the next generation when he retires.
  • Helpfulness in other areas outside his department – customer focussed within a team. Naturally asking and offering help? – Can I get you anything else?

Pay attention to all of your customers proactively!

I’ve observed the way he worked the room and made time to personally attend to each table’s needs and ask questions. Even though it was one of the busiest times of the year, he was able to spend the time talking to guests and not rush. With his experience and wisdom he was still able to keep an eye out for his team and guide/ advise with the detail required for a smooth operations and experience during breakfast service time.

I observed him help a young child at the buffet servery also from care not because he had to as his job. His work and passion becomes a hobby as a reason to continue serving customers. This isn’t just applicable to the F&B sector but to all customer service industries.

Importance of succession planning

All of the younger team members are following suit with being trained with a customer care mindset and aware of digital travel apps like TripAdvisor and other review apps which reflect on their performance and customer experience.

Personalisation

Jason knows me by first name basis, which room number and also some of my preferences. He customised his service towards me, proactively a “teh tarik” and suggesting I try a chef special.

The care is authentic and genuine, not because he has to but because he wants to. This is something natural with sincerity which can’t be faked. I look forward to seeing him again next year at the Intercontinental Hotel.

Outcome

For many businesses, there is a basic level of ability and knowledge in how to increase in customer satisfaction and loyalty , average customer lifetime value, relationship and consistent positive feedback. The ongoing delivery can be a challenge but feedback always help keep standards and the management attitude and support towards the team.

Often the ‘short game’ played these days only achieve transaction goals in that moment but I think a balance is needed today.

By playing the ‘long game’, there is better engagement and the experience sustainable for repeat business and a reflection on the brand awareness and service standard also.

Would you like more happy repeat customer which keep growing with you or many average or less desired customer that you feel you are obligated to but given a choice you may not choose to deal with them?

In closing

What I have seen is that Human factor still applies either in digital or face to face form. When business refer to customer success it requires the dedication and commitment as well as ability to build upon initial relationship by delivering consistently and increasing the experience overall to delight the customer.

Whether it’s manual or digital still requires a human process and awareness of the customer. In saying this many businesses I have seen say they want to deliver customer first service however delivery and execution has been questionable.

One method to look at this is with the Customer Centric Flywheel Model adopted from HubSpot:

Funnel to flywheel

Source: HubSpot

In today’s market, all three elements of customer success, marketing and sales needs to be integrated amongst teams or between front of house and back of house. It’s not just about running your sales, marketing and service departments separately, but to be customer centric you need to place the customer at the centre of your ‘flywheel’ not just a single funnel. To me the customer experience is why I will gladly come back to the Intercontinental Hotel in Kuala Lumpur. l have realistic expectations and this applies across any service based industries where you need to value your staff and team but starts at management level setting the example.

If you would like to explore how well your sales, marketing and customer teams deliver customer experience across all channels, we can help you assess your customer improvement plans.

Simply register for your no obligation initial 1 hour consultation below

 By the way if you missed one of our case studies for the importance of face to face and digital customer experience here is a good read about #poor customer experience to prompt some actions to review in your organisation:

How not to deliver Customer Experience in the retail sector.

Czech Microsoft partner enters Australian market with global D365 rollout

Our new client – a fast growth Czech Republic Microsoft Gold Partner provides workflow automation solutions and has won a contract with a distribution business to implement a global rollout for Microsoft Dynamics D365 Finance and Operations as well as CRM modules including an Australian based site.

New market entry scope requirement:

A local Australian delivery partner with strong Microsoft certifications was required with D365 F&O skills and understanding of the local Australian accounting standards and Australian taxation rules for compliance requirements.

new-market-entrySecondly an ongoing local support engagement is required for the post implementation period as part of a Global Support contract.

The consulting engagement brief for Alchemise was to locate and identify the best fit Australian D365 partner to help fulfil the functional consulting for the rollout scope and partnership fit with right expertise and ongoing support/maintenance capability.

From our new market entry experience working with fast growth technology companies coming to Australia from UK, Europe, US and Asia we know there are many country specific nuances to consider in terms of the broader partner considerations when forming a channel alliance and partnership which needs to include the following.

Culture considerations:

Both the end client relationship and your global support model needs to be considered for a compatible cultural fit. This needs to be a seamless experience for the local client and parent client experience with compatible operating values and processes as well as how the project management structure is setup.

We understood the learnings from the current EU market that experienced Microsoft Dynamics 365 functional consultants are difficult to find amongst Tier 1 & 2 Consulting firms and a trade off between highly structured engagements versus a partner who are more flexible to suit with partnering with a growth company.

Local Australian market considerations:

The end parent client expressed preference of the physical location being Czech based without offshore but local access and fly in fly out but having a local office in Australia.

The local requirement was to arrange an in country partnership with a credible sized Australian based organisation with national presence to assist with the functional Microsoft D365 experience and also ongoing support.

Remote support considerations:

This mode is time efficient to be able to offer local business hours coverage for Level 1 support in Australia as part of the global support “round the clock” agreement required to be managed from Prague, Czech Republic in line with Contractual Service Level Agreements.

They spoke with Alchemise to assist given our technology services background, local network of Microsoft partners and understanding of the subject context from an integrated technology sales & marketing perspective.

Timeline:

There was limited time frame to arrange a local partnership as the global rollout scoping for 2019 was already in place with the Australian site.

The Czech team was flying out in two weeks for the client scoping workshop and needed the right options in place prior.

We addressed the brief requirements and qualified a shortlist of five suitably qualified potential Tier 1 & Tier 2 partners and helped to conduct shortlist criteria/ interviews within this time to deliver the client outcome required.

New market entry outcome:

Given the challenge of the local Australian Microsoft partner criteria, skills, timeline, and experience for Microsoft Dynamics 365 needed as well as the accounting background expertise required to interpret Australian accounting policies, we managed to deliver the results with just 2 weeks lead time.

We successfully scoped outcomes with the pressing urgency to find a local Australian project functional D365 consultant following market research for the correct Microsoft Partner which was suitable with Microsoft D365 skills as well as industrial and distribution sector experience.

We conducted the local Microsoft partner interviews and assessment to ensure the right fit for both current project need for client location and also ongoing support for D365 and also CRM modules. Once the shortlist was completed, we facilitated the conference call introduction with our client and was able to advise from market research around market contracting rates and local insights about the local Microsoft partner network.

Our value with ICT sector and technology domain knowledge of the market and Microsoft partners helped position the confidence and network of suitable providers for this need.

A shortlist was compiled following several discussions and interviews with prospective Microsoft partners. The learning was that current knowledge is required for D365 not Dynamics AX or previous versions that some partners might be using as a migration or training ground but the selected Australian partner has real compatible experience to meet this client need and fit.

The other shortlisted Microsoft partner interviewed didn’t have the capacity to scale with overflow work and was very dependent on 1 to 2 dedicated resources with required expertise. From a partnering risk perspective this “ability to deliver” needs to be evaluated as part of a local go to market partnership strategy. In the future this may fit with ASEAN based locations.

What our client was looking for wasn’t just the lower pricing as a criteria but the ongoing reputation and commitment to the Australian market which the Australian partner has been established for 30+ years and also a proven current track record which minimises the client risk.

The value of a flexible arrangement and value of the Australian Microsoft Dynamics Partner with their support and consulting model provided our client with the confidence to look at a back to back agreement in the first instance and a time and materials engagement for the initial functionals D365 scope consulting as part of the client’s team.

The client were happy with the outcome and has managed to meet their end clients expectations as well as a suitably qualified partner to build the relationship upon beyond Phase 1: Scoping but also for support and Phase 2: Implementation of D365 F&O and also access to strong D365 CRM skillsets.

If you would like specialised technology solution marketing and sales optimisation and help with your go to market plans, we can assist with an initial no obligation consultation and can be contacted on ….  By the way if you missed one of our other case studies for new market entry into Australia here is a good read:

New Market Entry Assessment saves 40% start up costs for UK ICT Services Provider

Alchemise Insights Interview – 5 minutes with Andrew McFayden – Sales Development Representative

Here is a 5 minute interview for insights with Sales Development Representative,  Andrew McFayden, on tips and what his experience and learnings has been to perform as a successful Sales Development Representative. He shares his view about how the modern customer centric approach is different to traditional lead generation methods which don’t work anymore.


Question 1: What is your view on the role of an Sales Development Representative in today’s market? 

Answer: Andrew 

When I started with Alchemise Consulting it became apparent that the role of the Sales Development Representative today is a unique offering very much different to the standard inside sales positions. While they wear a sales, commercially focus hat, they also need to sit on a marketing chair. What makes this role unique is prior to the 90s (and the digital age of data collection, such as names, phone numbers and email addresses, etc), the marketing department/agency was engaged to attract the customer and compel them to pick up the phone or walk through the door. The sales people then qualified those that walked in and then proceeded with the sale process.

Today the Inside Sales Role (ISR) or Sales Development Role (SDR) performs a bridging function between the two business units and in part prospects/researches and initially qualifies the contacts before introducing the sales team/contact to follow through with closing the sale.

Where the role is able to be fed qualified contact lists from established sales enabled processes, it facilitates the efficiency and focus of the position to facilitate the commercial outcome needed for the business.


Question 2: Have you needed to be more sales or marketing focussed in your day to day activities?

Answer: Andrew 

My focus in the role has been more on sales to qualify the prospect while balancing this with the marketing aspect of researching and profiling, looking for online triggers relating to the companies and challenges/changes that the company may be going through that are relevant to begin initial engagement. This balance of both sales and marketing understanding provides the experience with focus on being customer centric.


Question 3:  Is relevant industry experience or sales experience required, for example to market technology based solutions or high value services?

Answer: Andrew 

Having industry experience for ISRs does provide value with the comprehension of the on the ground language when speaking with the prospective contacts, especially with the acronym saturated Information Technology world. If this is a gap in the ISR’s comprehension and it is not addressed early in the engagement of the ISR then confidence in phone discussion will not be present. This can also lead to misinterpreting key information that is conveyed by the contact. When talking with people in the industry, trying to ‘fake it till you make it’, will destroy the ISR’s credibility.


Question 4: What specific skills/experience and approach do you need to develop to increase your success in the role? 

Answer: Andrew 

As mentioned above, understanding of the industry vertical jargon is important for the Inside Sales or Sales Development Representative. Of equal importance also is the mental fortitude, resilience to be able to shake rejection off, like water off a ducks back. Being phone (trigger) happy as opposed to phone (gun) shy is vital to have in this role. I believe that having an approach of being willing and able to speak to anyone would be an ingrained quality/skill in your ISR. Making numerous calls in a focussed way is also another key requisite of the role.

If the ISR has a customer service/centric approach to the position, in that they are looking at ways that they are able to help their prospective contacts will also be of benefit to the business, the client and success in the role. If the skills and experience are needing fine tuning then having someone to coach you is vital to future success. The other key skill that needs to be developed is common courtesy. Lacking this level of etiquette can ruin the business reputation fast.


Question 5: How did your manager help mentor or guide you in bridging the gap between sales & marketing as a team?

Answer: Andrew 

With the above mentioned, it is worth stating that even with the skills that I started with at the beginning of the engagement. There were additional areas of learning that were also needed. I found being able to verify some of the unfamiliar industry speak, along with a higher level of industry understanding from Chak Ng, greatly assisted with my own knowledge gaps and approach not to mention the guidance on courses best to take that would further improve my own skill set. This highlights the importance of working together and keeping the communication lines open. Working as a team as opposed to having a siloed approach is one of the stark differences, I have seen with Alchemise Consulting as opposed to other organisations that I have engaged with previously.


Question 6:  How did the use of marketing and sales tools CRM/marketing automation help you in your role? i.e HubSpot value.

Answer: Andrew 

Part of this is having processes in place to ensure smooth engagement, a team approach, the use of a CRM that is more intuitive and of value straight out of the box, along with the marketing automation that the tool supplies were of great assistance. The tools and automation enabled me to gain visibility on prospect interactions, thus being able to reach out when the contact had viewed the content/communication that was sent to them and not fly blind and pester the contact when they have been busy with BAU issues that draw their attention. The analytics also provided insight into being able to understand which part of the (PDF) communication was viewed and for how long. This was especially true when used in campaigns.


Question 7: What type of training did you required for each campaign?

Answer: Andrew 

As for the campaigns the additional training that was undertaken was very much bespoke to each business that was engaged with. Knowing the client’s business in preparation with being onsite, immersing and spending time within their business  or reading through additional marketing collateral along with a content map to furnish individual material relevant to prospect discussions. In addition to this any cultural idiosyncrasies relating to geographic region was also required. This all comes down to distinctions or details of the engagement. Without the additional research and pertinent information, it would have been difficult to achieve the results that were gained.


Question 8:  How important is preparation during a campaign setup and which aspects are vital to having a chance of success? 

Answer: Andrew 
This comes back to the initial preparation when starting a campaign. Which as mentioned previously comes down to understanding what the client’s needs are and also making sure that all systems, tools, internal contacts/stakeholders and needed processes are in place before starting the engagement. While I have been at Alchemise I have seen other clients who have adopted a cowboy, gung ho approach and have not realised the success that they were hoping for. When you consider the capital outlay and personal reputations put on the line, it is exceptionally important that informed preparatory ground work be in place prior to implementation of on the ground activities.


Question 9: Can you share two examples where the use of a sales enablement process worked well and what type of customer engagement made sure everyone was in sync?

Answer: Andrew 

A client event set one month in advance is an example of the preparation needed that provided a tangible result through the use of a sales enablement. A list of relevant enterprise companies where supplied by the marketing department and additional scripts and supporting collateral. This facilitated confident discussions with supporting documentation that could be supplied to clients that was relevant to their position in the company. The result was 19 pre-registrations were booked in from C-Level contacts for the event in this time period.

Another example was for another organisation providing Cloud management services that needed to warm up a list that had gone cold due to the timing of the previously implemented campaign by a 3rd party. Scripts were put in place with along collateral marketing material. The use of a CRM that supplied analytical information on individual contact engagement also enabled me to further successfully interact with prospective contacts. The result on this engagement was in just 30 days, from 200 contacts, we achieved 53 leads, 23 MQLs and 8 SQLs.


Question 10: How did you measure success in the campaigns? Can you give me an example of where greater conversion was achieved?

Answer: Andrew 

With each of these two examples above the success was measured in initial qualified preregistrations for the event and with the second engagement it was a pre defined qualification process on what stipulated a MQL (Marketing Qualified Lead), SQL (Sales Qualified lead) and leads that needed further nurturing.


Question 11: What would you suggest to a company that is searching for more leads and approach to lead generation?

Answer: Andrew 

With qualified leads being vital to a company’s survival, I would suggest that with other companies with their own lead generation process, that they work out exactly who they are looking to reach. Have a sound marketing strategy in place with supporting marketing collateral. Define what success will look like with the commercial return that is expected with a set time frame.


Question 12: What is your advice to the many start-up and SME companies you have spoken in the last 12 months about their business growth aspirations?

Answer: Andrew 

For the companies in the last 12 months that I previously spoke to there have been some real observations and useful tips about handling some growth obstacles.

  1. Don’t engage with a creative company unless you have a defined plan on what the commercial return will look like.
  2. Ensure that the agency defines the process that they plan to implement to generate leads.
  3. Make sure that the leads generated are categorised into levels with each level clearly defined so it can be prioritised. If your creative agency is not able to at least provide marketing qualified leads from the work that is undertaken then this should be a warning sign for you.

For more insights about how Inside Sales and Sales Development process and resources can increase performance and conversion, please look at these previous blogs.

To read more about our recent sales and marketing insights and related articles please visit our

Alchemise Consulting News link.

Good luck in 2019!  To kick start your year, we would like to offer you our FREE E-Book on “How to increase your profits with 7 Profit Multipliers!

 

Are you reflecting about your 2019 plans and where you need help with Sales Development or Inside Sales structure, processes or resources?  Feel free to contact us for an initial discussion about your sales & marketing challenges and to book in your independent health check. We can demonstrate specific value by identifying where we can help you and your business accelerate your sales engagement and increase your sales development performance and effectiveness.

Contact Alchemise Consulting at  info@alchemiseconsulting.com or @alchemise_cons or call our office on +61(3) 9225 5022.

 

Alchemise Business Growth Newsletter #8 – Q2 – 2018/19

Business Growth Newsletter Edition #8 

Q2 2018-19 – December 2018

Alchemise Sales & Marketing Market Wrap 2018

Welcome to our final quarterly newsletter for the year and hope you are looking forward to a well earned Christmas holiday break!

To close off this year, we wanted to highlight our top sales & marketing insights during the year for your reflection and awareness over the break…

Measuring the right ROI is more important than ever before

Marketing-ROI

This year we have still seen many businesses not be able to measure the effectiveness of marketing spend. The typical average benchmark that seems to still be a measure is 5% spend of revenue, however this is still not enough for many digital marketing initiatives for lead generation and brand awareness.

The maturity of the local market seems to still require much awareness and reason to shift into a growth mindset. Unless you are willing to try and seek the right help, the same patterns will be repeated over and over again. Is doing nothing or not changing an option for the viability of your business model to scale?

If you can adopt a scientific approach with the right data, your insights and results will be tangible.

Here is an example of what is possible to measure ROI as a starting point by aligning your sales and marketing goals.

DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE ROI CALCULATOR

Smarter demand generation for technology marketing campaigns

It is possible to achieve better than industry marketing standard conversion rates for lead nurturing and lead generation campaigns for complex technology services/solutions.

With the challenges of reaching out to your contacts, social and content based engagement needs more personalisation of the right type of content and also context. To do this you need to understand what type of challenges they might have,  how you can provide value or help them to solve these challenges and when is an appropriate time to be front of mind to them.

If you would like to find out how you can also take a different customer centric process and approach to achieve 20%+ success rate then call us to discuss how we achieved this for our client.

Here is a snapshot of the results in just one month!
customers by lifecycle stage

Are you willing to do something different to get a different result if you feel you aren’t getting the results you need? We can share some insights around how…

Also don’t miss our latest Case Study: Digital Realty drives APAC Hyper-Scale, Multi Cloud Data Centre Campaign with Alchemise Consulting.

Inbound 2018 – HubSpot Customer Flywheel

A fundamental shift was announced to the HubSpot business model at this year’s conference. The complete customer lifecycle isn’t just a funnel but positions the customer in the centre of all sales, marketing and service/customer focused interactions.

Introducing the customer flywheel – The shift from funnel to a sales, marketing and service/customer centric focus:

Funnel-to-flywheel-hubspot

For more information about the shift published in Harvard Business Review by the CEO of HubSpot, Brian Halligan please click here.

The philosophy of shifting the traditional full funnel to a flywheel concept makes sense in putting the customer at the centre of your business.

Business partner succession and risk planning 


Our first Business Growth Workshop earlier this year featured our guest speakers from Maxsum Consulting and Macquarie Group. A real situation arising from many business owners is the lack of succession planning or risk management within the business or between partners. AlchemiseWorkshop_MaxSum Jun 18

When involved in a business partnership have you thought about planning your exit strategy or growth strategy and how to mitigate business risk?  Your hard work and wealth needs to be protected by having the right buy/sell agreements or succession plans in place. 

More information can be obtained from us about the first steps with an initial discussion – reach out to us to start the conversation.

Why did your marketing campaign fail?

If you are not achieving your ROI or wondering why your marketing efforts aren’t reaping the rewards of sales results, then let us share some insights as to why you may need to take a different approach. Alchemise Consulting-Feedback

We are seeking to hear from approximately 200 business owners or sales and marketing managers to share how they have felt and what their experience has been in their marketing campaigns’ success, failure or ROI expectations and why.

Our Alchemise Survey for ‘Why my marketing campaign failed’ is still open for your input. We will share our insights once we complete the survey during 1H 2019.

CLICK HERE TO COMPLETE OUR MARKETING CAMPAIGN INSIGHTS QUESTIONNAIRE

Strategic go-to-market and new market entry considerations

We have spoken to many start-ups and more established businesses looking to enter Australia or grow into other markets on limited capital and funding to scale, including those working with investor funding.

BLOG – Start-up businesses: Capital raising and ROI

I understand margins are tight and the drive to scale to grow in exploring other markets or new segments can be a good strategic move. However, I wanted to highlight that it’s best to get some independent help to test the go-to-market and market entry position with research and feasibility studies (across financial, sales and marketing aspects) before launching your product or services.

CASE STUDY – Go-to-market strategy – Australian telco solutions provider

There may be some pitfalls to consider and analyse first with a strategic go-to-market plan such as:

  • Testing the revenue and profit model
  • Understanding your cash burn rate and payback period of investment.
  • What is your go-to-market strategy for the local market/segment?
  • How do you develop initial brand awareness?
  • What is your sales and marketing go-to-market plan including resources, process and systems to support your growth?

We are offering a Digital Readiness Assessment as part of an initial self discovery (including digital identity risk check) if you are interested.

digital-readiness-assessment

Our Top 10 most Popular Blogs in 2018

Our top ten headline blogs and case studies this year… Alchemise-Consulting-Top-10-Blogs-2018

  1. Case Study – IBM business partner drives up lead conversion rate by 25% 
  2. Blog – My customer experience: 5 ways a major Australian department store failed to deliver
  3. Insights Video – How to turn your website into a customer centric approach 
  4. Blog – How business owners can maintain focus and discipline for success
  5. Blog – Reflections on global business: Diversity, leadership and experience
  6. Blog – Software start-up businesses: What is your sales and marketing plan? 
  7. Blog – How do you protect your business identity and digital risk? 
  8. Case Study – Sales and marketing strategy: Australian HR advisory firm
  9. Blog – 9 steps to calculate your sales and marketing ROI
  10. Case Study – What sales commission do I pay my new sales BDM hire?

Looking forward into 2019…

Alchemise-2019-calendar Don’t forget to take the opportunity to reflect on the past year, but also to kickstart and set aside time to work ON your business in 2019, not just on blue sky ideas but getting help to become clear on your business purpose and goals.

If you are looking for more information or to arrange an initial consultation with us, please contact us. Email us at info@alchemiseconsulting.com or start the conversation on Twitter @alchemise_cons, otherwise feel free to phone our Melbourne office on +61 (3) 9225 5022.

We wish our valued clients, partners and friends a
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Case study: Go-to-market strategy for SD-WAN – Australian telco solutions provider

When it comes to marketing complex technology solutions and planning, the engagement of a specialist sales & marketing provider such as Alchemise Consulting will ensure there is contextual and content understanding of the product and service to sell. Depth of understanding for the specific market dynamics to help develop an effective value proposition to develop a solid go-to-market plan both from an industry sales led and marketing perspective is a recommended investment to make.

What is SD-WAN Technology?

  • SD-WAN (software defined wide area network) is an emerging technology that offers several benefits compared with traditional, router-based WANs.
  • With SD-WAN, business decision makers with service providers can achieve cost savings, increased agility and simplification to support branch office connectivity.

The service diversification and growth plan decided by the directors was to look for the right technology vendor partner for SD-WAN solution with comprehensive due diligence before taking the solution to market and testing the relevant strategy.

In building a ground up new capability, several factors internal and external needed to be considered from a resourcing, commercial, product development, sales & marketing perspective.

They spoke with us to assist, given our technology services background in the market and understanding of the subject context from an integrated technology sales & marketing perspective.

Project Scope

Our senior consultant was engaged for five months to work in the role of ‘go-to-market manager’ and tasked with helping to develop the go-to-market strategy plan as Phase 1, ahead of the go-to-market execution as Phase 2.

The scope involved determining the right value proposition and messaging with market testing as well as sales enablement preparation of digital marketing assets.


Our deliverables spanned across both sales and marketing and product components:

Market Research – Phase 1

  • Business vision go-to-market
  • Market segmentation
  • Competitive positioning
  • Definition of offering


Marketing Plan – Phase 2

  • Market position and strategy
  • Sales and marketing enablement
  • Product market launch
  • Operational requirements
  • Financial analysis

Our deliverables and value of sales & marketing experience provided:

  • Developing relevant foundation content that was needed as well as relevant targeted customer centric presentation collateral
  • Digital website content to specifically engage the right audience
  • Understanding and mapping their buyer’s journey and customer problem as the first step of alignment
  • A new website domain and trial marketing automation usage with a CRM and marketing CMS/automation tool by HubSpot
  • Sales execution and demand generation processes and activities
  • Enacting a culture shift to engage internal client resources from digital, development, sales and technical solutions (both internal and from vendor)
  • As part of the go-to-market manager role,  we highlighted the importance of focus on product roadmap, pricing, positioning and packaging research to work at tactically as well as strategically.
  • Executing a strategy requires practical testing in the market as a well as a dynamic ‘hands-on’ approach

After five months fulfilling the requirement delivering the go-to-market strategy, the clarity of market positioning and sales strategy was established as well as deliverables scoped to market test.

Key Project Learnings

When starting from a foundation level, the Directors’ commitment and team time needs to be available for this to be a joint success for Phase 1.

go-to-market-strategy

What a business has in mind or brainstormed for their service offerings may not be a match for what the market wants or is ready for, so market testing or market opportunity research needs to be completed first.

A clear vision and strategic plan is needed as well as taking the time and investment to look at sales & marketing alignment in some detail as part of the go-to-market.

For smaller businesses or niche specialists, the shift to digital marketing in a customer centric manner is important to prepare for omni-channel engagement outside traditional relationship, referral and sales channels. The value of this approach is an ability to accelerate sales and marketing engagement when the solution and services are launched.

When considering new product introductions, there cannot be a solid plan until you complete market research and feasibility analysis.

When most business owners/directors are time poor, the speed to market and right launch preparation is important to develop the team expertise required to achieve this. If you are attempting to launch too early, the opportunity window might be premature to secure customers, or if you are too late, you need to be a market segment leader not a follower generally.

Outcome

We successfully scoped outcomes for the assessment of go-to-market strategy, market research for the correct vendor which was suitable and also developed the digital presence, collateral and sales enablement components of the content plan.

Our value with extensive ICT sector and technology domain knowledge of the market and competitors for SD-WAN helped positioning a productised and managed services model for generation of revenue opportunities in the Australian market.

The value of a flexible arrangement and value as part of the client’s team allowed much further consideration for investment and market knowledge to be developed for the Australian market for SD-WAN. The completion of Phase 1 provides future clarity when Phase 2 (execution) commences.

If you would like specialised technology solution marketing assistance and sales optimisation and help with your go-to-market plans, we can assist with an initial no obligation consultation – contact us for an initial discussion on how we can help you and your business at info@alchemiseconsulting.com or @alchemise_cons or call our office on +61392255022.


CLICK HERE for another case study where we assisted and added value to a UK technology company with their APAC expansion and new Market Expansion feasibility. 

Software start-up businesses: What is your sales and marketing plan?

This blog is part of a start-up series…
Part 1 is available here, if you missed it!

Start-up founders 

This blog piece is intended for a general overview based for a broad spectrum of audience to provide awareness based on examples of many people we have spoken to over in recent years who are venturing out for the first time on their own. We are not referring to serial entrepreneurs who have been very successful in business already.

It has seems a recent observation for successful engineers or IT professionals to venture into entrepreneurship and business ownership as a start up an aspiration. Commonly in a joint business partnership or sole trader may have seasoned commercial or sales and marketing acumen in their team initially.

For some, despite initial quick success it’s still a case of a feature/benefits or referral sell with not a solid go to market plan or strategic approach considered. Are you playing the short game or long game and reverse engineering your desired outcomes over chosen timeline?

Tip: Ask for help early to build an A-team of specialist advisors around you, and be willing to invest to help you test your concept, develop your go-to-market strategy and help build your foundations so you can scale.

Capital and funding

We have seen many start-ups run out of capital very quickly as they haven’t planned out their investment and costs required. For software application development it’s a never ending sunk cost to build the platform foundation from open source platforms and constantly improvement to evolve your offering for customer experience and integrations or address functional bug fixes etc.. If you are a services business the capital requires strong cashflow, securing good resources and a solid sales & marketing strategy for short term success. 

Are you releasing a feature update every month or 3 months or 6 months, or ad hoc? How much budget is required with your onshore or offshore development team? If your sales cycles are longer without the revenue incoming and tested go to market plan, how can you sustain short term investment decisions for growth?

A large portion of costs is initially to setup and progress from concept stage to prototype or beta release for testing . Is there a market for your app and where? There are so many variables to consider in this dynamic, fast moving and crowded marketplace.

Are you aware of Government funding programs such as Austrade Export Market Grant Funding (EMDG) or Department of Innovation, Industry and Science R&D Grant Funding Options?

Have you checked out your local council incentive programs for small business owners starting out?

Tip: Assess realistically and budget for your capital expenditure and cashflow to get a test platform off the ground without overcapitalising, prior to getting any customer end user feedback or usability assessment.


Strategy Go To Market plan: What is your Sales and Marketing approach for B2B or B2C?

start-up-sales-marketing

As a brand new home owner or developer, would you build a house with a builder without going through a planning process first using an architect or draftsperson?

As a captain of your boat, would you set sail in a boat without knowing which direction and compass map or GPS settings are required first?

In business, especially during the start-up stage, it’s the same to plot or determine the course you wish to take and solidify it on a blueprint first. It may not be the perfect plan or at least it helps provide a targeted direction of what is required to get from point A to point B and purpose.

However the investment of time and seeking advice to formulate the right plan seems to be considered in reverse order – ad hoc first before structuring something of a business plan or sales or marketing strategy.

For any go to market consideration you need to understand your business customers first and what problem or solution you can help them solve. In order to monetise your product or services the value of what your offer and charge reflects the urgency or size/complexity of the problem you are solving for your customer.

Too often I have seen little analysis about the financials including realistic cashflow, profit margins and also sales planning and how to create brand awareness through targeted marketing investments – this often seems to be an afterthought.

Tip: We suggest utilising an ROI calculator such as ours or establishing your objectives first: 


Sales Pipeline and Revenue model


We have found many perceived valuations of a business model untested and unproven to attract a buyer is like angel investing…

No real customers = No real dollars despite future projections. Let’s be real here.

Once a external capital round is raised, the pressure is on to deliver ROI to the stakeholders, every request and return for dollar asked is scrutinised about the real viability of the business model and financial returns to the shareholders.

When I have asked many business owners for some pricing numbers about the subscribers needed for their model to break-even in Year 1, or Year 2, many seem to be a pie in the sky guesstimate or hypothesised without some solid tested projections.

business-strategy-start-up

When I further question where and who is their target market, I haven’t received many solid, thoroughly thought out answers but a more whimsical ‘kind of’ or ‘generally’ description.

Without a solid business plan and sales and marketing Go To Market strategy worked through and tested first, many start-up app ideas never will get off the ground due to lack of planning or asking for help first from a business advisor or sales and marketing consultant.

There is a saying that family and business do not mix, this is true to some extent that emotions can influence some of the initial decisions from founders, especially those without some business background or sales/ marketing experience.

At the end of the day you might want to pursue a passion or great idea like many entrepreneurs, however if you are still relying on your job and/or regular income with a mortgage over your head, some of the path to exploring this can be mitigated by being strategic and planning ahead for your financial position, capital investment plan for growth and thinking about your purpose – whether it’s to scale and build a large business or just to replace your income and eventually exit by selling your business.

Make sure you think about your profitability and revenue first as well as market test your pricing strategy for how you will monetise your great software app idea.

TIP: Spending some time for an independent sanity check with a workshop or advice for your concept and business model with the right independent business professionals and also your potential customer base might save you time and sweat equity in getting your idea off the ground or determining if it is feasible.

Here is an example of one of how one of our New Market Entry Feasibility Assessment played out.

Start-up resources

Thinking about if you hire in-house or outsource, what parts of your start-up business and investment cost are required?

The cost of hiring a team of marketing resources like a social media manager, digital strategist, copywriter, graphic designer and web designer all add to the overhead costs of the business and initial investment to build your team.

As we know, the cost of skilled labour in Australia is one of the highest in the world. However is outsourcing functionally  to Asia or other parts of the world still an answer? Are you sacrificing quality over lower costs or lack of your own process and systems? Have you thought about a scalable model to access senior experienced resources that will only cost you a fraction of a FTE hire or long term contractor?

What are the must-have sunk costs, and what are the optional non-revenue generating costs?

How will you generate sales to your customers? Will it by distribution model or direct sales? Will you be paying commissions out of the sale or from your profit margin?

TIP: Consider what sales and marketing resources you need initially and budget required if you hired internally. Can you source alternative and flexible methods to deliver the same function at lower cost and higher ROI until the business model is proven.

 In closing…

There are many practical and commercial considerations from this blog series about when start ups look at determining funding requirements and capital raising approaches. Most importantly from our perspective we can provide experience in how to utilise this funding once secured with a solid sales & marketing go to market plan and leadership from several years within the tech sector and working with business owners to drive growth.

Feel free to contact us for an initial discussion on how we can help you and your business, from start-up to growth mode, at info@alchemiseconsulting.com or @alchemise_cons or call our office on +61392255022.

Software start-up businesses: Capital raising and ROI

What prompted me to write this article is that this year alone, we have been approached by many aspiring small entrepreneurial first time start-up founders in Australia with a great vision to be the next star tech multi millionaire with a great idea and concept for app development. From a Go to Market and feasibility perspective, much more time and conscious planning of a sales and marketing plan could be developed first and knowing your target market with a strong customer value proposition. The financial elements of your sales revenue and profit model particularly with Software as a Service or subscription models to scale in say two sided marketplaces need to be considered for B2B and B2C applications.

Read about a selection of our business owners examples we have spoken to below in hospitality, retail, legal services, trades, telecoms.

Typically they have worked in the technology field, banking or finance, hospitality or trades sectors, and have clearly seen a need for doing things differently or something which has frustrated them as an end user in this digital era.

So why not build a mobile app?  We have seen successful apps like Tinder for dating, Uber for car ride sharing, and many other disruptive business opportunities and approaches.

There has been more Australian success stories such as Canva and Atlassian and well as  Australian based start-ups of recent time, however a reality check highlights many failures also in small business that may not be highlighted with their challenges and how to overcome them.

What concerned me in talking to these business owners in early stage development, many of which who have continued working their day job, or those who have 100% committed to this idea and own self-funded capital, is that many have started building their business without many key elements that any start-up business should consider from a financial and commercial perspective.

In this customer centric and experience environment, it really surprising me why many aspiring app designers start with features and functions first before understanding who their customer is and if this is a commercial need to solve their challenge and if there is in fact a business case for their development.

The maturity of having some commercial acumen or seeking advice as an investment is an important first step. Some basic checklists should be considered first before expending any self-funded cash or investment capital cost.

Two important factors are cashflow and cashburn when you have limited funding to kick start your business. Whether it’s your own capital, crowdsourced, private or public funding sources, ROI and accelerated sales growth is needed in terms of new customers, actual revenue streams and cashflow considerations.  

We typically recommend a Digital Readiness Assessment or a Business Growth Assessment to help gain an understanding of the start-up business objectives and maturity before entering into the detail design or functional building blocks. Read our previous blog on 3 key elements on how a Digital Readiness Assessment can help clarify the right plan for you.


Some start-up and new venture scenarios we have heard from this year: 

Owner A: Hospitality Application

The two owners had come from a hospitality background and they wanted to build an app which allows restaurants and cafes to match and fill empty tables during both days and evenings, with a fee charged based on percentage of spend to onboard the vendor. Despite sharing the market with Deliveroo, Foodora and Uber Eats, they claimed their model was different. 

software start-up hospitality

The app had been built and tested already, and they wanted to focus on building the B2B marketplace to onboard customers and launch in Europe and Australia. The challenge was both marketing and sales to onboard an initial 200 customers.

It seemed to me that they had taken a back to front approach, by building the application first, before assessing if there is a valid market opportunity and developing the app to suit the market.

Upon an initial consultation, it was apparent that bootstrapping this application development cost resulted in missing key plans on the commercial go-to-market front, including:

  • Marketing and sales market analysis for each country
  • Profit and revenue model as a subscription model
  • Business strategy – how to scale and sell directly or via a referral/distribution model.

We presented an offer to look at developing their GTM strategy, however this wasn’t in their current budget as most of the funding was invested in the application development side, and therefore they could not proceed at the time.


Owner B: Industrial Equipment Hiring Application

Four business partners, all highly educated and ex-engineers, had built a two-sided marketplace B2B app to rent industrial equipment from vendors who had availability, and their platform facilitates a self-service rental catalogue listing and booking engine to connect vendor and renter.

Originally they came to us with an interest in digital marketing assistance, and upon looking at their website and type of content present, it wasn’t sufficient to take a customer centric approach as information about their target market or ability to collect customer data was unclear.

We questioned whether their pilot stage app had been tested, but they were looking to raise more private investor capital. We asked to see their pitch deck and hear about their sales and marketing plan. While there was an initial interest to engage independently first to help with their pitch deck, the subsequent response was to wait until they had raised the funds, then they can consider a marketing and digital initiative to get this off the ground.

An offer to develop a basic marketing high level strategy to include in their investment pitch deck was declined to help them secure the funding and demonstrate forward planning.

I asked how confident they felt about raising private capital and what approach they planned to take, and received a response which was unsure…


Owner C: Market Food Truck Application

A business owner saw the opportunity to setup a market food truck/vendor and customer app.

An initial consultation garnered interest from the venue event organiser. Capital was limited to build the app (to test stage) using an offshore web development team, and this was the first step to customise the app to get one initial customer to fund it.

After six months, I reconnected with the business owner and learned that due to the GDPR and tightening in data privacy using SSO with Facebook login accounts, the application development project couldn’t proceed due to many backend development changes and cost, and also the business partner had a change of course with his view.

The commercial and sales qualification of the initial opportunity with the market hadn’t been sufficiently completed firstly.

The actual go-to-market approach hadn’t been thought about because the functional design was launched first to solve an immediate idea of the perceived problem which wasn’t verified.


Owner D:  Billing Software Cloud SaaS Platform Application

A serial entrepreneur in the ANZ region has built and sold multiple tech start-up businesses previously. The latest venture has involved raising some capital funding directly at the US market and hiring a first team for technical and initial sales/SDR resource. software start-up technology

We proposed a go to market strategy engagement and market feasibility study for the Australian market, with our own network of consultant contacts and opportunities to explore.

When capital is raised from angel investors the drive is to achieve value for shareholders. The dependency is on cashflow for engaging this project, however a scattergun approach without an integrated strategy isn’t assisting to drive traction and capitalise on opportunities here in Australia.  The initial capital raised required a success model based on penetrating into the US market first.

The SaaS profit model for Telco/ISP and utilities as a pure play solution needs to consider the actually profitability and market positioning as part of a GTM targeted approach.

Overall in analysing the SaaS revenue model, I could see there being some challenges in their fixed percentage of revenue subscription model to be profitable.

Over 12 months later, since the initial conversation, the company is looking to raise another round of funding to sustain their current operations for traction developed in the US but not for Australia yet in a structured approach. It has been more of an ad hoc approach without investment in a solid business strategy and focus on ROI outside of their focus on the US market and shareholder expectations.


Owner E:  Legal Software Application

A prominent lawyer in Melbourne spent over $250K to build an online legal practice platform software over three years, to turn and sell off the IP and foundation.

His intention was for the purchaser to take it to market and commercialise it, with some software licence and maintenance projections to sell globally to be  compliant for all jurisdictions.

The request was for me to assist in pitching and presenting to HK prospective buyers but the founder had no sales experience.

The review of the business case and financial projections are only hypothetical with no real paying customers yet only a couple of small legal beta trial instances. There were some challenges I could see with this in developing a sustainable revenue model and especially the market feasibility with most of the software market moving to a SaaS – Software as a Service Cloud model.


Summary of challenges and considerations to make:

Mobile application developers – two-sided marketplace challenges

The cost of building an app warrants some business planning around the application first and customer profiling around usability and customer experience and processes for two-sided marketplaces.

How do you market to onboard users from both sides of the app?

What dependencies are on your third party open source apps like using Facebook or Google to login or sign up? With policy changes around data privacy for third party login and user data sharing, how does this impact on your business model if a few things change both on B2B vendor or end user side?

How do you attract loyalty digitally from not just initial sign up but actual subscriber usage of your app and continued feedback from customers with marketing and support channels?

Tip: Determine your ideal customer profile for each marketplace supplier/customer, whether it’s B2B or B2C.

software start-up customers

Part Two of this blog series contains practical guidance and tips around start-up capital raising, and what to do with the funds to achieve a solid ROI both for your business and investors.

Feel free to contact us for an initial discussion on how we can help you and your business, from start-up to growth mode, at info@alchemiseconsulting.com or @alchemise_cons or call our office on +61392255022.