strategic marketing

Embracing Sustainability to Boost Sales

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Sustainability. Green. Environmentally-friendly. However we refer to it, it is top of mind.Sustainability is about how your company and its products are affecting, and trying to achieve balance within the economic, social and environmental systems. This isn’t just an issue for the “big” companies. Regardless of size, every company and its leadership team needs to be exploring what green and sustainability means for the company and its products. Because strategic planning incorporates opportunity identification, risk management, talent development, and financial strategies, all of which fall within the domain of the C-suite, sustainability which affects all of these should be the concern of the company’s leadership team. Practical green and sustainable solutions can help reduce risk, meet compliance, and create market opportunities.

There are many ways for a company to integrate green into their strategic plan.Image For example in October of 2007, P&G announced a corporate strategy around three goals: developing and marketing $20 billion in sustainable innovation products; improving the environmental footprint in operations; and the social sustainability area of increasing the number of children in need that they reach. Fast forward 6 years-the results? $52 billion in sustainable product sales as of 2012, a 68% reduction of waste disposed, and over 400 million children helped that were in need.

Goals are good, but implementation is where the rubber meets the road. So how did they accomplish surpass their goals set in 2007? P&G has a VP of Global Sustainability responsible for operationalizing each of these goals. Companies have found that this issue
is important enough to appoint someone as a champion of their sustainability initiative.

Green encompasses many factors. These factors can range from developing and manufacturing new green products, to looking at ways to make existing products more “green” by reducing their carbon footprint whether that’s in terms of the raw materials they source, the suppliers they use, how the product is packaged, the energy the company uses during production to the types of lights in the office. Whatever your approach, as you explore your company’s route to sustainability you should also discuss marketing the “green” aspects of your company to your customers

While being green is quite appealing, the journey takes time, investments, resources and commitment. You will want to establish performance targets and success metrics to help monitor the return on this investment. Is it worth the investment? The research suggests that it is. Sustainability is beginning to impact a company’s reputation. According to the firm, Conscientious Innovation, more than 70% of consumers link social responsibility to a company’s environmental behavior. Given the trend, sustainability in all its forms is becoming a necessary part of the way a successful company does business. And a recent study by Forrester revealed that 63% of US adults claim that they are concerned about the environment as a whole, and these concerns translate into spending changes. As this trend continues it will be important for every company to have a green marketing strategy designed to boost sales and increase loyalty. These two metrics – sales and loyalty – should be used to determine the success of your efforts and the return on your investment.

To get started you will want to create a roadmap to “sustainability” that identifies the strategies and tactics you will deploy.This roadmap should be integrated into your strategic, operational, and marketing plans. It might help to provide some examples of companies who have already embarked on the journey and what they are doing.

Steps every company can take:

1. Establish a Chief Sustainability Officer or a similar position to head your effort. For Mitsubishi, this is their President and CEO, Ken Kobayashi. When the CEO is the Chief Sustainability Officer, it signals the important of environmental and green considerations within the company. At P&G, Len Sauers serves as the Vice President of Global Sustainability.

2. Create a cross-functional team. Herman Miller has what they call an Environmental Quality Action Team (EQAT) which is composed on employees from across the company who address all the multiple components of the green strategy.

3. Assess your carbon footprint. The first thing the team should do is assess your current carbon footprint. The carbon footprint is a way to measure the impact your organization’s activities on the environment in terms of the amount of greenhouse gases produced. Every aspect of your carbon footprint needs to be inventoried from activities having to do with how the company uses energy or the quality of your customer database in order to reduce direct mail waste. For example, Gwen Migita, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility recently reported that at Harrah’s Entertainment, which operates 51 casinos worldwide, and significantly leverages direct-mail after a substantial database cleaning efforts was able to cut its mailings to the 40 million customers in its database, saving the company $3.5 million. Often one of easiest ways to start down the sustainability path is by focusing on how to reduce your environmental impact from the extraction of raw materials, the production of goods, the use of those goods and management of the resulting wastes.

4. Develop new opportunities: Reducing your carbon footprint is one side of the equation the other is developing new initiatives. These new initiatives can take the form of new products, which is what Home Depot is doing around their Eco Options products or be in the form of take back programs where companies will for example take toxic chemicals back. If new initiatives are not something you can tackle solo, consider looking for a partner or making an acquisition, which is what Clorox did by buying Burt’s Bees.

5. Integrate your strategy into your business. The best way to approach green is to look for ways to integrate it into what you already do. For example, Armstrong International, Inc., is looking a number of ways to modify what they do today. This includes exploring how to return hot condensate to be reused, installing double-pane windows and low-fluorescent lighting, using gas fired hot water heaters to heat their buildings, monitoring air quality in the welding area, reducing trash by 10 percent annually, increasing the amount of recycling, eliminating the use of Styrofoam cups, reducing storm/sewer water discharge, and saving carbon dioxide by replacing travel with videoconferencing.

6. Develop a Plan: The carbon footprint reduction is a good measure of progress but the ultimate goal is to have these investments result in cost savings and revenue growth. Trying to tackle everything can quickly become overwhelming. Apply the concept of Pareto analysis in your decision making. Select a limited number of things you can address that will produce the most significant overall effect – things that will increase sales, garner more customer and employee loyalty and the right return on investment. Develop the plan to address these items and how you are going to:

A) Communicate this plan and status internally.

B) Communicate this plan and your achievements to customers, prospects and other external stakeholders.

C) Measure and report on results.

This means your sustainability officer and the company’s marketing leadership will need to join forces. While the sustainability officer/department may be looking into the processes, practices and products that enable the company to become “more green” and manages the technical expertise; it is the marketing organization that is responsible for building and communicating the strategy. Your marketing organization needs to communicate how the end-user can be environmentally sustainable through the use of your products as well as the company’s progress with its sustainability initiatives.

7. Establish a company culture and align the business plan. All the best laid plans can go awry if the company’s business values and culture don’t support the effort. Part of the process will require you to set policy, implement changes, review successes and failures. Hold periodic sustainability milestone meetings to demonstrate your commitment, address issues, and measure progress. CEO Mike Duke of Wal-Mart takes this approach. Wal-Mart’s sustainability department runs lean with the focus on integrating sustainability into the overall business.

8. Measure and report results: Sustainability and green are new ways for a company to
demonstrate its social responsibility and serve as good community citizens. However, companies and organizations are in business to see a financial return. So where should you expect to see the results of your green investments and marketing initiatives? On the increase sales side your efforts should pay off in faster product adoption rates and an increase in the rate of growth in your category. And on the customer loyalty side of the equation, you should expect to see increases in share of wallet and referral rates. Using your performance today as your baseline, monitor the changes in these numbers as you ramp up your sustainability efforts and your promotion of these
efforts to track the degree of impact.

In summary, getting your customers to use your sustainable products to help them become more sustainable themselves achieves three key things. First, it boosts your sales and helps build stronger brand loyalty. And it helps your customers become more sustainable in return, creating a ripple effect making your efforts extend beyond just your company

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How Vulnerable Are You to Customer Defection?

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In this article, you’ll learn…

  • Five factors for maintaining successful customer relationships
  • How to identify your most vulnerable customersImage
  • How to calculate your company’s vulnerability index

In the early ’90s, the term “customer relationship management” (CRM) joined the marketing lexicon. Though the idea is often thought to refer to the implementation of some kind of technology, the real idea behind CRM is that the management of customer relationships is a business imperative.

CRM is about deciding which customers or segments to target, and then developing customer acquisition, retention, and growth plans that will attract and keep your best customers. CRM is really about making your customers the heart of your business.Our job as marketers is to acquire, grow, and retain profitable customer relationships to create a sustainable competitive advantage.

How do you measure customer relationships?

We’ve all come to accept that creating customer loyalty is an integral part of any organization’s strategy and focus. Various factors influence the success of any customer relationship initiative.

Here are five critical success factors:

1. Clearly defined business outcomes related to customer acquisition, retention, and growth

2. Agreement about who the customer is and what they want and need from your category (and you)

3. Well-defined customer segments (and their desired behaviors) and customer-experience objectives

4. A documented, integrated customer strategy

5. Explicit measures of success, and the data and processes needed to support the metrics

Customer satisfaction and loyalty are two of the most common measures of success. A variety of models are used to measure and quantify customer loyalty, ranging from simple recency and 2 referral models to RFM and customer lifetime value models. Recent research is examining those models to ascertain which, if any, truly measure customer loyalty.

Many organizations would agree that a loyal customer…

  • Stays with the brand despite competitive offers, changes in price, negative word-of-mouth, and product failures
  • Increases business/engagement in some way
  • Actively promotes the brand to others

Though there are many approaches to measuring customer loyalty, one metric that many
organizations should consider is the Vulnerability Index.Add the vulnerability index to your marketing KPI’s. A vulnerability index serves as a way to measure loyalty in the face of competitive pull. Its purpose is to help you identify your most loyal customers—those who are going to stick with you through thick and thin.

To calculate your vulnerability index, you will need excellent market intelligence about your
competitors’ campaign’s channel, offers, and markets. Once you have this information, follow these seven steps to construct your vulnerability index:

1. Map the competitive activity. Include the competitor’s name, offer, duration of offer, and the offer’s focus area and market.

2. Generate a list of loyal customers in the market where the campaign ran.

3. Map their repurchase and engagement cycle based on frequency and last purchase date.

4. Isolate all the customers whose repurchase or renewal dates fall within the competitor’s campaign period. This is your observation set (OS) and the set of customers who will experience the greatest competitive pull and are, therefore, the most vulnerable.

5. Define your observation period, which is generally the campaign launch date and one purchase cycle after the last date of the competitor’s campaign.

6. Monitor the purchases by vulnerable customers. Track all the customers whose purchases drop during the observation period. These customers constitute your vulnerable set (VS).

7. Calculate the vulnerability index. Divide your VS by your OS and multiply that number by 100:

Vulnerability Index = (VS/OS) x 100.

The index will give you a good idea of the proportion of customers who are succumbing to
competitive pressure and some idea about the level of loyalty in those customers. If the index is high, you know that there is something to worry about. If the index is low, you can assume, with some degree of certainty, that your customers are exhibiting robust loyalty to the brand.

Because Marketing is charged with finding, keeping, and growing the value of customers,
customer retention falls within the domain of marketing. Therefore, marketing organizations
should have at least one objective aimed at retaining customers. In addition to monitoring customer loyalty and advocacy and customer churn, Marketing should also keep tabs on customer vulnerability. If your vulnerability index begins to climb and exceed that of your competitors, you can anticipate that your defection rate is going to increase. By monitoring your vulnerability index, you will know who your most loyal customers are, and you will be able to develop and implement strategies to withstand competitive pressure.

Measuring Marketing’s Contribution to the Pipeline

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For businesses, a pipeline is a targeted list of potential buyers who might have an interest in your products or services. Many companies face the challenge of capturing the attention of potential buyers and moving as many of these potential buyers as possible through the pipeline stages of contact, connection, conversation, consideration, consumption, and community. More and more companies are relying on Marketing to continuously and effectively grow their organization’s opportunity pipeline. Potential buyers who are not converted into customers are often referred to as leaks or pipeline leakage. Our role, as marketers, is to “plug the leak” and improve conversion rates. If the Marketing and Sales aspects of the pipeline are not connected and aligned properly, the potential pipeline leakage can be very large. So a crucial step is ensuring Marketing is properly aligned with Sales. Marketing and Sales alignment allows for the creation and implementation of strategies, programs, and tactics that will facilitate pipeline opportunity development and movement. Once your company achieves this alignment, the next important step is for Marketing to focus on marketing initiative that will effectively and efficiently contribute to pipeline performance and the generation of customers. We must be able to clearly demonstrate and measure our contribution to the pipeline.

Unfortunately, a Forrester Research study, “Redefining B2B Marketing Measurement,” found that “the metrics that most B2B marketers say they use — like number of leads generated and cost per lead” — rank in the lower half of the effectiveness list.” In fact, number of leads generated and cost per lead may actually work against us if we don’t look further into the buying process. At first blush, one program may produce more “leads” than another at a lower cost and therefore appear more efficient. But what is really important is how many of the opportunities convert (don’t leak) to the next stage in the buying process. If there is a higher conversion rate from the more expensive program, than it is actually more effective. If we only look at a marketing program in terms of qualified leads generated and cost, we could potentially be eliminating programs that actually help build the pipeline.

Therefore, we need to move beyond the lead as the marketing metric and leverage metrics more meaningful to the organization — metrics that are more closely tied to customer deals. Customer deals– that is, sales — is for most organizations one of the most important business outcomes. Every company establishes a revenue goal. This revenue target is generated by some number of deals and dollars from existing customers and some number of deals and dollars from net new customers. This brings up the question of what metrics should CMOs and their teams use to measure Marketing’s contribution to the pipeline? Here are four metrics to consider:

1. Pipeline contribution which measures the number of opportunities generated by Marketing that convert into sales opportunities and ultimately into new deals. This metric helps ascertain to what extent marketing programs and investments are positively effecting the win rate and reducing the number of qualified leads that wither and die or are rejected by Sales.
2. Pipeline movement which measures the rate at which opportunities move through the pipeline and convert to wins. This metric helps assess the degree to which marketing programs and investments accelerate the sales cycle.
3. Pipeline value which measures the aggregate value of all active marketing opportunities at each stage within the pipeline. This helps determine what increase in potential business marketing investments may generate.
4. Pipeline velocity which measures the rate of change within your pipeline-both in speed and direction. This enables you to determine whether your sales are accelerating, decelerating, or remaining constant.

When examining each of these metrics it is important to compare the marketing generated opportunities compared to non-marketing generated opportunities. This means we need to understand what is the difference in the win rate, average order value, conversion rate, and velocity between marketing generated opportunities compared to non-marketing generated opportunities. Ideally, over time, by monitoring results and analyzing the data related to these metrics, Marketing can begin to create more predictable results in terms of contribution, conversion, and value.