Are You Making Hay While the Sun Shines on Your Business?

From the LookoffOn the weekend we took a drive down to the Valley – our local agricultural mecca, where farms stretch as far as the eye can see. Everywhere we turned there were busy folks from the city, wanting to relax from their busy work schedules and take in the pastoral landscape, kicking back, and dreaming of the country life. Imagine it…just living by the rhythm of the seasons.

It made us smile.

The fact is, there’s precious little downtime for farmers in any season. But certainly we could all take a lesson from them on work-life balance, especially if we’re salespeople, entrepreneurs, or anyone else whose living depends on building business. And it’s this: when there’s work to be done, they work. Hard.

Oh sure, they might complain from time to time. But by and large they understand all too well that whether it’s planting, weeding, watering, or harvesting, it needs to be done, and it won’t wait. Moreover, it doesn’t always arrive in easy, manageable increments. It’s the planting that leads to the harvest. It’s weeding that keeps profitable crops from being overtaken. And there’s a reason why they make hay while the sun shines. Because they must. So the next time we’re complaining because there’s too much to be done, we’re going to give a thought to the farmer. And when it’s the opposite, we’re going to

  1. Appreciate the downtime, and
  2. Use it to do everything we can prepare for the next harvest, which will come as surely as the summer sun.

Hard at work,

Megann and Steve

But I’m sure that’s what you said…!?

Since our last blog, where we recommended beginning with the
end in mind (thank you, Mr. Covey), we’ve completed another project. In this
case, we were working on some new messages with one of our clients and their
agency. We all gathered together for two days of mock sales presentations, each
followed by an in-depth interview. As with every project, we were tasked with
delivering our recommendations as quickly as possible.

Each of the sessions, both the presentation and the
interview, was video-recorded. Ideally, we like to go back through each
recording and watch for visual cues we’ve missed, and to be sure of we’ve
heard. We’re often asked, is all that time really necessary? Here’s what we
found: there were several key areas where what everyone in the room thought
they had heard or seen, wasn’t exactly what had transpired. So how can you be
sure that what you learned from qualitative research was right?

Here are a few steps that can help:

  1. Have someone attend the research from your team who doesn’t work on that brand (they’re less likely to frame what they hear based on their pre-judgements, assumptions, or wishes for the product).
  2. If it’s a business-to-business project where the respondents are known to you, resist the urge to promote or discount remarks based on how you feel about the respondent.
  3. Make sure you record the sessions or, at a minimum, have a note-taker who is an objective third party.
  4. Take time to review recordings and/or transcripts, asking, “When I make a conclusion, can I back it up with a specific verbatim or visual example?”
  5. Then, and only then, finalize the conclusions and decide what they mean for the project.

Practicing active listening,

Megann and Steve

 

Are you a Business Facilitator?

Megann has been busy with her appointment at Queen’s this fall, teaching integrated marketing communications, along with her usual customer work here at Panoptika. It’s a great chance for her to get more involved with her alma mater, but it has also spurred some interesting discussions around our office about how we and our clients are communicating with customers. It also has us thinking more and more about the non-verbal communications between marketers and their prospective or current customers.

Well-integrated marketing communications plans consider what the company knows about the customer. They consider the best way to communicate (outbound), as well as how to be receptive to receiving messages and how they plan to get involved in a dialogue with users or consumers of their product or service. But we’ve been wondering…are companies really thinking about their non-verbal communication with customers?

Sure, marketers work on advertising. They think about public relations and how they or their brands are perceived. They’re always trying to find the newest and best way to get their message in front of the right audience, at the right time. But what if all their efforts are wildly successful, yet when the customer tries to actually purchase their product, or contract for their services, or even just give them feedback, the process of doing that is just too difficult? Does this sound like your organization, or are you a business facilitator – a company whose team spends real time figuring out ways to make it easier for their consumers or clients to do business with them?

As an example, Canadian customers found that shopping from U.S.-based catalogue retailers was increasingly appealing this year, in the face of a stronger Canadian dollar. But while some companies such as Crate & Barrel (through www.borderfree.ca) or Land’s End (through www.airmilesshops.ca or Sears stores) have gone out of their way to make shopping easier, other retailers haven’t been business facilitators. They’ve missed a tremendous opportunity.

Given the recent state of the economy, we’re betting you’re looking for ways to strengthen your relationships with customers. We’d like to suggest you give some thought to how you can make your organization a business facilitator.

Here’s to all our customers; may they be well-served,

Megann & Steve