Monique Reece: Real-Time Marketing For Business Growth - Author interview
Marketing consultant and founder and CEO of MarketSmarter, Monique Reece, was kind enough to take the time to answer a few questions about her practical and comprehensive book Real-Time Marketing for Business Growth: How to Use Social Media, Measure Marketing, and Create a Culture of Execution.
Monique Reece describes how there is no one simple all powerful marketing secret or technique, but instead sustainable business growth is the result of many small efforts.
Thanks to Monique Reece for her time, and for her informative and intriguing responses. They are greatly appreciated.
What was the background to writing this book Real-Time Marketing for Business Growth: How to Use Social Media, Measure Marketing, and Create a Culture of Execution?
Monique Reece: I have been involved in developing marketing and growth strategies for over 25 years so I have learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t work and how to improve the process and outcomes. I was also intrigued by the fact that some companies had developed an exceptional strategy to win in their market, yet would fail to execute on that strategy. What caused these companies to fail? Was it related to operational execution, or something else? The answer is “something else.” The secret to execution is company culture. If more companies knew this it would completely change their growth and success rate.
Why is it so important for a business to articulate clearly its purpose?
Monique Reece: Company culture is largely defined by its purpose, which is the vision, mission, values and goals of the business. Purpose is the soul of a business and it’s what makes up the DNA of the brand, both internal and external. If a business wants to have a powerful external brand, they must have a healthy internal brand first. The only way to create customer evangelists who become Net Promoters is to create happy, satisfied, and engaged employees. Most companies have this formula backwards.
Why are so many mission statements and visions so weak, and how can they be made more powerful?
Monique Reece: The reason they are weak and ineffective is because the purpose behind them is not clear and meaningful. Or if it is, it’s only to a small group of people who worked on developing it. Vision and mission statements mean nothing if they are not communicated on a regular basis AND brought to life so people know not just what they are, but really understand and believe in them. It needs to be part of their everyday experience.
Vision statements can be made more powerful several ways. First, it should be inspiring and compelling, something that people want to be a part of. Second, if people are inspired they want to know how they are going to get there. This is where a marketing and business plan come into play. It defines a roadmap to achieve the vision. Third, it needs to be communicated so people have the opportunity to interact with it, ask questions, and see how their role contributes toward achieving the vision. This engages them emotionally, and it also drives them on a very practical level through their day to day execution of activities that are aligned and working toward a common purpose.
Why is it so critical for a business to define and practice its core values?
Monique Reece: Core values are the most important component of a business’ purpose and culture. Core values define the beliefs and behaviors of the people who work in a business. A core value means very little if there is not a description of what it means. For example, the values of “Accountability” or “Customer Service Excellence” are nothing but sound bytes without meaningful definition and examples attached to them.
It’s interesting that you use the word “practice” because that is the key to execution. Values are more than words on a piece of paper, yet they are often not treated as such. Values drive behavior and the way people work together, so they need to be practiced, which is done through demonstration, modeling from the leadership team, and active discussion. Core values have a very direct impact on execution. They are so tightly integrated, yet this important fact is so often overlooked.
Monique Reece (photo left)
How can a business person measure what is truly essential in the performance of the business?
Monique Reece: Business performance is directly linked to the company goals and objectives. If these are clearly defined and based on what is essential to the performance of the business, then the measures will be aligned. Beyond the critical measures of revenue, profit, gross margin and cash flow, there are other essential measures. For example, customer retention, customer lifetime value, customer profitability and other marketing/customer metrics are vital measures of business performance. Because these factors are also the primary contributors to profitability, they should be measured and reported as often as other financial figures.
What is the biggest mistake that entrepreneurs make?
Monique Reece: The single biggest mistake businesses make is not creating a written marketing plan that serves as an operational roadmap to improve strategy and execution. Most entrepreneurs, and many large companies for that matter, don’t write a plan because they don’t have the time; they are too busy executing. Entrepreneurs make the mistake of believing they have a plan, but it exists only in their head. This leads to two critical errors that are often fatal for a business.
The first is overlooking or minimizing the importance of research to a marketing plan. A business can’t possibly understand all the market drivers of their business without understanding their target market, competitors, and most importantly, what their customers want and how they perceive their business. Everything is in a constant state of change so we don’t need less planning, we need more. The difficulty is how to keep pace with change and this is where real-time marketing planning comes in. When businesses integrate real-time planning into their business, not the old school method of annual planning, then marketing plan becomes an operational plan that guides day-to-day decision making. It’s both strategic and tactical.
Another advantage of real-time planning is that the process involves several teams across a business which creates a much more collaborative effort and solves another problem, the second fatal error, which is communicating the company strategy so people understand it. Research proves that 90% of employees don’t understand their company’s strategy and how their daily work connects to the strategy. When people do, this adds another benefit to planning which is improving the company culture.
How can a customer centric culture be started and then maintained over the long term?
Monique Reece: The most critical element of company culture is company values because they drive beliefs and behaviors. Values can be defined in a similar way as personal values, for example integrity, accountability, and trust, or they can be defined as a specific set of five to ten principals. But what is most important is how they are brought to life in the business so people understand what the values really mean.
A common mistake many companies make is to define values and then do nothing to promote them and ingrain them into the culture so they become the internal brand for a business. People need to understand what they are, why they are important, and be given specific examples of what it means to demonstrate the values. This needs to happen every day, all the time. When this is done well, a company’s external brand image is a mirror of its internal brand image.
Many business people market to the wrong people. How can a business person define the company's ideal customer?
Monique Reece: This is the central point that drives research. Market segmentation and primary research are the best methods for businesses to understand and define who their ideal target customer is, and why they buy. What do customers value and how well do they deliver it to them? Is it better than the competition? These questions can only be answered one way: ask them. An ideal customer can also be defined by analyzing customer segments and individual customer revenue, profit, frequency of purchases, cross-purchases, the level of service customers and segments require, and other criteria such as this. Once a business knows who its ideal customer is, then it’s easy to target the right market.
How can markets be segmented effectively to best serve the customers and the company?
Monique Reece: I suggest using the process described above. The best customer profile becomes the ideal target market, or “A” customers. Then segment customers into B, C, and D customer groups. “D” customers are deadbeats that are defined as being low profit, low revenue, and require a high level of service. In other words, they are an energy drain on a business and its people. “C” customers are typically high revenue and low profit and the goal in evaluating this customer group is to identify why they are low profit. For example, do companies in this segment tend to be large customers that demand price concessions? “B” customers present an opportunity because they are usually high profit, but low revenue.
The key question is how can you transform these customers into “A” customers? Sometimes it involves promotion to encourage purchase frequency. Other times a business learns that a customer is completely unaware that the company offers a certain service and they just need to do a better job of educating customers about what they do.
How can social media be used more effectively in marketing, while avoiding being spammy?
Monique Reece: The key is to be relevant to your target audience. Share resources, ideas, and insight to help others. The real value of social media is the opportunity to share, learn and engage with others. Businesses can use social media to increase their understanding of how customer use and value their brand. It can also be used to monitor customer satisfaction, improve customer experience, develop new products, or launch marketing campaigns. If the goal is to generate leads or promote a specific product or service, then it should be done in a way that is consistent with the brand image and messaging. Instead of pushing a strong sales message, provide a link to a landing page that will invite those who are interested to learn more about a specific offer.
How can pricing be improved for product or service?
Monique Reece: Prices can always be improved when a business adds or improves the experience customers have with a product or service. What would customers value so much that they would pay more for it?
Businesses should analyze all the competitive offerings and solutions, including substitutes, for their business. Then they should look at the added value and experience their solutions offer that differentiate them from the competition. The more solutions are differentiated to provide customer value, the more a business can charge.
How can sales and marketing channels be identified and enhanced?
Monique Reece: One of the best ways is to map the potential options for delivering products or services to customers. Each channel needs to be analyzed using several criteria such as:
• What is the reach of the channel?
• Will it provide access to new customers in your target market or access to new target markets?
• What is the estimated revenue from the channel?
• What additional costs will be incurred to market and sell through the channel?
• Do you need specialized channels or channels to reach certain geographic areas?
• Will the channel add expertise or enhance brand image for your company?
• How will you support the channel with training, marketing, and incentives?
This last point is important and it highlights an area that several businesses tend to underestimate in terms of size and budget. Training is not a one-time event that happens upon closing an agreement. A channel sales team needs ongoing training and development to continuously achieve, just as an inside sales team does. When a business establishes a new channel, it’s also important to set specific goals, discuss roles and responsibilities, and determine metrics and reporting expectations. Channels need ongoing feedback and nurturing to make them successful.
Many businesses face severe challenges with growth. How can these problems with growth be reduced or even avoided?
Monique Reece: When a business faces a problem in sales, marketing or business growth, the solution can always be found by remembering this: all roads lead to planning. Better planning always helps businesses overcome risk, anticipate the unexpected, and to make well-calculated decisions. It will also improve ROI for sales and marketing programs. When businesses plan, measure, and adjust they build in a process to continuously learn and improve results.
Innovation is critical for companies. How can an entrepreneur continue the innovation process while the business grows?
Monique Reece: Innovation is needed well beyond the engineering, R&D, and product development teams. Increased innovation drives new business processes, new customer value, cost efficiencies, and strategies to compete and win in competitive markets. There are several different types of innovation that a company can apply to specific areas of the business. For example there is process innovation, customer experience innovation, marketing innovation, and even organizational innovation which is reorganizing a business to deliver more value to customers instead of organizing around product silos.
Selling through new distribution channels like the Internet can also create new revenue streams through product and service transactions or through commissions from affiliate relationships. New revenue can also be produced by fees from memberships, subscriptions, licenses, installation, maintenance and service, click-through fees, and hosting or on-demand fees.
Aside from business model innovation, I would recommend that businesses look at simple ways to integrate innovation into their business culture. There are dozens of ways to do this. A few examples are to rotate employees to work in different parts of the organization for a few weeks or months. This will give them an entirely new, holistic perspective of the business and probably several new ideas they can apply to their regular job.
Another idea is to present a bi-weekly or monthly seminar program with outside experts or leaders from different areas of the company. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy; a brown bag luncheon works very well for this purpose. It shows employees that you care about their development, and the cross-functional interaction stimulates learning and new ideas for everyone. Businesses can also establish communities of practice so employees can work together on topics they are passionate about, or a special problem or issue that is important for the company to solve.
What is next for Monique Reece?
Monique Reece: I will continue doing what I love to do which is helping businesses grow to the next level. I’m building a tool that will help business measure and improve the results of their sales, marketing and channel programs. Another area of focus is company culture. I really believe this is one of the best ways for companies to improve their business results, yet as a strategy, it’s dramatically underestimated and underutilized.
My book review of Real-Time Marketing for Business Growth: How to Use Social Media, Measure Marketing, and Create a Culture of Execution by Monique Reece.
Tags: Real-Time Marketing for Business Growth: How to Use Social Media, Measure Marketing, and Create a Culture of Execution, Monique Reece, sustainable business growth, business author interviews.