Legendary Strength in Simplicity

A key component of marketing and promoting a product is the development of a marketing strategy, based on the history, culture, and community associated with a brand. But, how should these items be structured when a brand is new, in development, or is being refreshed?

Customer Focus

The Sampson Data-Pattern Index (DPI) is a revolutionary computer technology that uses an original, internationally patented data structure devised by Wes Sampson, CPA and PhD. Dr. Sampson developed the Index to assist the U.S. Department of Defense with the tracking of certain security risks. The DPI facilitates product mix, OLAP, bookkeeping, inventory updates, and scheduling. New areas of operating-system reporting, such as reports of program stack content and tracking of objects, are also made easier.

dpnavAs a marketing consultant for the Data-Pattern Index, I met with Dr. Sampson to plan the marketing materials needed to support the DPI. In order to build on the success Dr. Sampson was experiencing with the patent, funding, and development stages of the technology, we knew that a logo befitting the brand and invoking the strength represented by this “quantum leap” in innovation would be required.
As part of our creating a logo and theme for the marketing materials, our team also worked in tandem with Dr. Sampson to envision, rewrite, update, and produce materials for use with the funding stages of the Sampson Data-Pattern Index. This included the formats required by funding and enterprise development groups. We also assisted Dr. Sampson with the search for compatible technology and sales partners, as well as the selection of software development and allied firms for the Sampson DPI.

This search included relationship-development with technology firms in Silicon Valley, in addition to the Northwest, Boston area, and international markets, leading to lucrative sales contracts. The theme of a powerful logo, however, continued to prove elusive. Atomic structures, circuit-board layouts, and a number of different styles were explored. Popular at the time were “swoosh” and “semicircle” logo icons and logotype. None seemed to fit.

The Breakthrough

During one of our many meetings about the marketing strategy for the Sampson Data-Pattern Index, where we were discussing future events and how to showcase capabilities in an upcoming venture-capital group event, we finally had a breakthrough: Since Sampson was the name of the client, why not represent his intellectual strengths and expertise through a logo that made use of his name? The Greek god Sampson was associated with these positives, among others.

While variations of the name Heracles, Hercules, Samson, and Sampson all survived in historical and in Israelitic biblical texts, the name Sampson alone would immediately convey the strength of the Data-Pattern Index. What luck! The client, who initially demurred on the basis of humility, realized that this simple connection was a solid one, and the logo was constructed shortly thereafter, to great reception.

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Why Can’t Everything Just Get Along?

Years ago, frustrated by YouTube’s lack of connectivity between devices, I called them on it. My gripe was that while I could access a video on my PC by copying/pasting the URL into my browser, plugging that same URL into the search window on my phone got me nowhere. To my surprise, YouTube implemented this fix. How satisfying! Unfortunately, this functionality vanished a year later, when Google acquired YouTube.

Internet-of-things

There are many examples of devices not playing nicely in the sandbox. For instance, in the early 2000s, you could purchase a full-color, touchscreen mobile device from Samsung (i300) that ran Palm OS and allowed the user to set a moving mobile wallpaper by adding the proper video file. The Apple iPhone did not offer users motion in a wallpaper until not that long ago, but even now will only allow images from Apple. It also used to be that with Alexa’s Spotify connection, you could tell Siri to skip to the next track and “she” would. This is no longer the case unless using Amazon Prime Music. These are just a few examples of functionality that hardware will allow, but is being blocked or even rolled back for business reasons.

Corporations have long understood that a silo mentality doesn’t work. When departments or groups within an organization are unwilling to share information or knowledge with other individuals in the same organization, it leads to communication problems, friction, counter-productivity – and it limits growth. In contrast, some companies have achieved unprecedented success simply by being open and cooperative with partners, customers, and prospects.

Today’s internet ecosystem allows for the interconnectivity of many rule sets, data streams, and functions. As firms mature, however, they often lose sight of the open and interactive landscape in favor of locking down revenue. When solutions and conveniences are limited to a private pool of functions, and a user is unable to take advantage of them, these firms are ultimately setting themselves up for failure.

Now that many platforms factor into the equation the “customer journey” – the complete sum of experiences that customers go through when interacting with a particular company and brand – the ability to carry a transaction (a full shopping cart, for example) across multiple devices is becoming increasingly available. Amazon seems to understand that browser experience across desktop, laptop, and mobile platforms must be seamless, no matter how many times users switch devices. Apple’s “Handoff” feature allows a user to instantly move whatever activity they’re doing to whatever device they want to continue doing it with.

The next generation of platforms will need to evolve in order to claim client market share away from outdated options. The user experience is what drives long-term revenue growth, expansion into new markets, and the true “word-of-mouth” that all marketing departments strive for. Adapting to a changing landscape, opening up platforms to modular use, and offering what customers are searching for – and demanding – is what will determine which firms flourish and which don’t.

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The Best Logo of the 1990s, Today

Never underestimate the power of a good logotype. Logos, which provide a business with the means to instantly communicate its identity and branding, are the most powerful marketing tool known. The merger between Citicorp and Travelers Group, and the need to create a unified design representing the combined entity, led to one of the most innovative and memorable logotypes of record.

What’s in a Name?
Citi Logo with the Traveler's Umbrella
While Citicorp, throughout the 1980s and 1990s, was undoubtedly one of the strongest financial services firms to expand and grow by customer addition and retention, the organization also added tremendous revenue by buying up other profitable concerns. In fact, Citicorp’s success in this arena during an era dominated by mergers and acquisitions is still a case study in flexible, sustained increase.

Enter Travelers Group
In 1998, Citicorp announced that it would merge with Travelers Group, a well-known insurance and financial concern, with tremendous potential for cross-selling and additional service offerings at existing locations. Every successful merger requires that the organizations’ operations be married at all levels, but what might stand out the most about this combination was the new entity’s legendary branding and logo.

Creating an Icon to Last
The design team that toiled to visually represent the merger of these two giants had several approaches they could take: Retire both icons and create an entirely new look and feel; take the colors of one and carry them over to the style of the other; or combine the two icons and create an emotive, solid look to the merger, one that would last for years to come. Decades, as it turned out. The stroke of genius that resulted incorporated the original feel of Citibank from the 1970s and 1980s and Travelers’ well-known umbrella icon.

This red umbrella was so beloved that several years after Travelers left Citi, as soon as it became available again, Travelers bought it back. Citi retained a red swash over its name, and the grace, simplicity, and power of its logo also endures.
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Herding Cats? NO, Sales Teams Are Dog Packs

The road to hiring solid business-development leaders can be littered with misjudgments and potentially costly mistakes. However, while it might appear that creating a winning sales team is more art than science, it absolutely is possible to establish a methodology that leads to success.

Who Sells the Sellers?
WolvesOne of my favorite communities for salespeople and business development is Sales Gravy, which I discovered in the early 2000’s. Jeb Blount, the founder, is a career sales leader who understands the mindset of the seller and who early on recognized the need to connect online. The informal community that he built is now complete with forums, a strong presence on social media, and a steady growth plan. I was introduced to Sales Gravy purely by chance during the period of time I was running a realty brokerage and mortgage firm. While listening to podcasts, I found myself wishing that more guidance existed with regard to driving real estate sales. While Jeb’s podcast was not specific to that industry, it was very much applicable – both then and now. He succinctly discussed sales, the rigors of keeping up with both product knowledge and the marketplace, and, most important, he addressed the need for regular outbound prospecting to achieve sales success.

The ‘Aha’ Moment
If you google “better sales and [ANY INDUSTRY],” you will see that there are hundreds, maybe even thousands, of options being offered that all but guarantee better sales growth. Everything from more online advertising, to specialized software, to sales training, are all available for a modest investment – but not one of them is a magic bullet. In fact, there is a great article on SalesHQ (part of the Monster.com brand for job hunters) that details the Top 5 Fastest Growing Sales Jobs. It’s interesting because while the industries vary greatly (Realty, Insurance, Retail, Technology, Wholesalers), the key practices recommended to help a good seller grow into being a great one are identical across the board:

  1. Keep Up With Your CRM
  2. Know Your Inventory
  3. Do Your Dials

Getting Good Sales Talent
“Want good sellers working for you? Pay ’em right.” This was the advice I received a decade ago from Lori Chmura, the second-generation owner and director of the Middleton Real Estate Academy. At the time I was attending classes there in broker ownership and contract law for my real estate broker licensing, Middleton was the highest-rated and most respected school for real estate licensing in Michigan. It really can be simple. Salespeople are good at sales because they are both outgoing and driven by financial reward. Selling is a career choice that rewards regular, intelligent, prospecting activity with opportunities to begin, and close, sales that pay. “Your raise starts when you do,” as one of my early sales mentors once told me.

Advice to the Pack Leaders
It’s not uncommon to hear people outside of the selling profession gripe about salespeople. Oft-heard complaints include: “So cheesy” and “impossible to deal with.” To grossly simplify, what lies at the heart of the matter is the difference between cats and dogs. Pet owners know that cats will always behave like cats: somewhat aloof and ultimately independent. They are trainable, but to a very limited degree. Dogs are the opposite. Like salespeople, they are always hungry for more, they are motivated by pecking order, and they are highly trainable when it comes to following the “boss.” When chaos rules and no lead orders are handed down, or when there are issues with regard to rewarding good behavior and punishing bad, the dogs are unhappy – and, more to the point, cease to function as a cohesive pack. However, when expectations are clearly set and enforced, and pack members understand that meeting these goals – or, better yet, exceeding them – will result in reward, the pack can be managed and will excel. If we can train Huskies to run the Iditarod, we can train the individuals on a sales team to follow the leader, assuming the leader leads. This will keep salespeople from being “cheesy” or “impossible” and will transform them into highly productive winners.

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Learning Sales Courage From The Late Tony Soprano

Sales leaders often succeed by being consistent and aggressive. But when is enough enough, and when is the soft touch needed? The most important thing to consider in a sales opportunity is what can happen if your prospect won’t close, and sharing with them what is at risk.

Anecdotal Evidence 

The magazine Private Wealth recently released an article titled “Sopranos Star’s $30M Misstep,” where the details of James Gandolfini and his $70 million estate’s loss of what is estimated to be $30 million by dying without protecting his assets in a private trust or some other vehicle for ensuring the IRS and local authorities couldn’t tax so much of what the actor left behind for friends, family, and charity.

k-bigpicIt is true that financial choices, indeed all choices, we make as human beings in this life are our own, and are our responsibility. But imagine the responsibility of Gandolfini’s financial advisors: Was there a possibility someone didn’t “sell” him hard enough on a review of his situations?

Sales Pressure

Apply pressure evenly and consistently for best practice. Prospects may have their own opinions (sometimes accurate, sometimes wildly fanciful) on how salespeople earn and receive compensation. Often, a CPA offering a valuable but low-cost analysis can be disregarded by a client’s psychological distrust of “selling,” which leads to delaying the close of a sale or putting it off entirely. This introduces a danger, not just in a salesperson missing a commission or falling short of a quota, but of the client not benefitting from the sale. If your car was in for service and the mechanic told you that your brakes were about to fail, but you ask, “can it wait?” Is your mechanic doing a good job if he or she backs off from your response, even though you will be driving at risk of a terrible crash?

"I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail."
 - Abraham H. Maslow, Toward a Psychology of Being (1962).

As a salesperson, you will find that your strongest and best ability to persuade, educate and push is a power often tempered with timing, strategy, and relationship management. But the delivery of quality and quantity of contact with a prospect, or current client, is what is most important to averting the treacherous future without your product or service in your prospect’s employ. It is your duty to deliver to them the information they need about the risks they could suffer if they don’t work with you and your organization. Only armed with this possibility can they make the decision to buy or wait properly.

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Collaborative Consulting Confirms Commitment To Financial Services Practice With New Hires

As seen on The Wall Street Journal, week of 22 April 2013

Move Deepens Collaborative Consulting Services In Financial Sector

BURLINGTON, Mass.– Collaborative Consulting today announced it has recruited three executives with extensive experience in the financial services industry. Joining Collaborative’s financial services team will be Gary Jones, who brings a long history of experience in the wealth management business; Sandeep Singh, with deep technical and domain experience in financial services; and Sean Dykhouse, a seasoned business development professional. All three most recently ran the wealth management practice for eBusinessware where they delivered IT service offerings to the asset management industry.

Sean Dykhouse (Photo: Business Wire)

Sean Dykhouse (Photo: Business Wire)

Combined with Collaborative Consulting’s recent acquisition of the SMART Consulting Firm last year, the additions further enhance Collaborative’s Managed Accounts practice. All three hires bring experience and skills that advance Collaborative’s financial services offering.”By adding these three, very talented and experienced individuals, Collaborative will be gaining incomparable expertise and managed accounts consulting capability in the financial services field,” said William Robichaud, President and CEO of Collaborative Consulting.Jones comes with over 25 years of experience in the Managed Solutions industry having spent a significant period of time as a part of the leadership team in Merrill Lynch’s Advisory solutions business. He currently supports the Money Management Institute (MMI) as a private consultant in its effort to bring greater efficiency to the managed solutions industry.

“We are excited to join one of the industry’s strongest IT consulting firms in financial services and look forward to what we can achieve together,” said Jones. “This week’s MMI Annual Convention is the perfect opportunity to introduce our new team,” he added.

Collaborative’s acquisition of SMART Consulting Firm in July 2012 boosted its expertise in business development, enterprise and project management in the capital markets industry. That practice is based in offices at 77 Water Street in Manhattan.

“Collaborative Consulting has made rapid strides in the financial services industry and Mr. Jones, Mr. Singh, and Mr. Dykhouse will be valuable assets in expanding our existing systems architecture and implementation capabilities,” said David Gardner, Senior Vice President of Collaborative Consulting.

The recruiting of these industry experts comes about a year after Collaborative broke new ground with its “onshoring” initiative and the hiring of over 70 new IT specialists, jobs that in the past would have gone offshore to facilities in places like India and China. The Collaborative Domestic Solutions Center (CDSC) in Wausau, Wisconsin recently celebrated its first anniversary focusing on onshore application development and testing and is on track to hire up to 200 IT experts within the next year or two.

The announcement today about the firm’s financial services practice comes only weeks after Collaborative announced a boost to its life sciences capabilities with the acquisition of the Maxiom Group. Maxiom provides pharmaceutical, biotechnology, medical device and healthcare technology consulting services.

The growth at the CDSC has resulted in significant new job creation at Collaborative Consulting’s Burlington, MA headquarters.

Collaborative is a leading management and IT consulting services organization with offices in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Texas, dedicated to helping clients achieve business advantage through the use of technology. The company delivers a full complement of services across multiple industries with a specific emphasis on financial services and life sciences. Collaborative’s foundational service areas are Information Management, Application Development, Program Management, Software Performance Engineering, and Quality Assurance. They deliver these services through a combination of traditional consulting and the Collaborative Domestic Solution Center providing optimal value to clients. Collaborative was recently awarded a spot in Software Magazine’s Software 500, a ranking of the world’s largest software and service providers. Collaborative is headquartered in Burlington, Massachusetts.

See the full article on WSJ.com

This article is also available at the following syndicated sources:

Gary Jones (Photo: Business Wire)

Gary Jones

Sandeep Singh (Photo: Business Wire)

Sandeep Singh

 

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Of Cabbages & Clients

While some metaphors are effective because they are memorable, and some are regrettable because they are forgetable, this sales example of becoming and staying focused is one that always brings smiles.

Customer Focus
cabbage
One of the most common fallacies you can observe in modern business marketing efforts is the inability to overcome personality in order to offer customers what they want. It is true that you can sell more than what people think they want, but it is a terrible mistake to sit in meetings with marketing and promotional leaders and declare “don’t make the widget purple, I always hated purple.” Big wins and big breakthroughs come from surveying and listening to what customers really desire. If market research shows purple widgets are what will make the biggest impact for purchasers, mismanaging the process to offer only orange based on one opinion is too large a risk.

The Buyer’s Perspective
If a woman walks into a grocery store, and she is only looking for cabbage, she is not looking to buy anything else, although other upsell opportunities exist. Trying to sell her a hammer, or a box of pastries, may or may not be effective, but it is not what she walked into the store looking to purchase.

Purple Cabbage
The old adage, “sell the sizzle, not the steak,” has never been more true than today. Imagine the markets of England, where even today, in open air bazaars, sellers loudly hawk their wares,” Cabbages! Get your cabbages here,” they announce. In modern marketing practice, it would make more sense to holler the experience your customers could want. By getting your potential buyers to imagine a tasty sauerkraut, or a crisp cole slaw, even a warm and steaming rice and saucy cabbage roll, will make a far greater impact towards selling the cabbage alone.

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