Seeing (and seizing) the opportunity

It’s a while ago now, we were talking to an interesting business, a supplier of specialised equipment. Turning to digital matters – we’d already seen their website was woeful – ‘So what’s going on with you online?’ we asked. We were met with the broadest of smiles, clearly we’d asked the right question.

img_0541‘Oh the website’s a joke – been there years. We’re on top of it now though. You’ll be able to see the new one by the end of the week – we’re just about to go live with it. Absolutely marvellous, it is …’ We were pleased for them; their enthusiasm for the shiny new cog in their sales process was palpable and infectious.

The end of the week duly arrived, did we check out the new website? Well no, actually, we forgot. In fact a month or two passed before it came back to us and we feverishly tapped it into Google.

So, the new website .. has it raised the bar from where they were before? Undeniably. Is it a masterpiece of minimalist design? No doubt. Is it yet another example of a company ticking a box whilst wasting a huge opportunity? Absolutely.

Looking beyond the occasional 404 and the occurrence of ‘also’ twice in one rather conspicuous sentence, what else is there that stands out?

Nothing. That’s just it – it’s a site with a personality bypass. In an industry of largely characterless websites, they’ve succeeded in adding another. Rather than standing out from the crowd, they’ve merely joined it.

img_0543Ironic though it may be, this essentially is the problem when sites are designed by erm, well, designers. Often they’ll even say that the new whatever isn’t about design awards, that it’s all about the business and contributing to the bottom line. Then they go and produce something far more suited to the mantlepiece than the engine.

Successful sellers know that ultimately, doing business is about personality and rapport. People still buy from people, yet for so many websites it’s like the normal rules of human interaction somehow don’t apply. Not enough attention to tone of voice – big on design, navigation and calls to action, low on personality, likability and humour.

Then there’s the impact any new website could and should have on the overall process. With a shiny new tool in the toolbox, referring back to it, using phrases and expressions taken from it, effectively corroborates what the salesperson is saying. To some extent it even provides social proof. And consistency is convincing.

img_0542Far too often, a new website is like a stone chucked into a pond: once the ripples die down, things carry on pretty much as before. For many, sales and marketing alignment is about where and when marketing people pass prospects to salespeople. But websites are marketing: how salespeople work with and refer to them – that’s alignment too!

In the end, as with anything new, how you introduce it is key. It’s about change management, seeing the bigger picture, deciding how and where the new component should fit. Above all, it’s about attention to detail. The genius sales process – it’s 10% constitution, 90% execution!

So the next time you contemplate a brand makeover, web refresh, or whatever, remember the true purpose .. It’s an opportunity, not just another to-do box awaiting a tick. Yes the clean new look will be stunning, but in 6 months time, what difference really will it have made?

Collaboration: what it means really

imageA quick online trawl shows that there’s certainly no shortage of businesses claiming to work ‘collaboratively’. But then a closer look will reveal that for many, collaboration is really just another way of saying they work with other businesses. More often than not, the term itself is little more than a buzzword used to pad out the value proposition.

Which is a shame, because real collaboration in business is a powerful instrument worthy of far more than mere lip service. Basically, when collaboration gets invited to the party, everyone stands to benefit.

So what does real collaborative intent in a working relationship actually look like? Herewith the necessary and sufficient conditions that underpin all true collaboration:

1. No ‘us’ and ‘them’  The usual buyer/supplier relationship is replaced by something more akin to a collective mindset, involving full two-way transfer of knowledge. The collaborative partner is materially on the same team – the idea of them being treated, say, as some kind of customer to be sold/upsold/cross-sold to, never comes into it.

image2. Neither party solely owns the risk  When this holds true, no one is left to carry the can should the project fail. If it doesn’t work out then the costs are effectively split – it isn’t the case that one party picks up the tab whilst the other merely collects their fee and moves on.

3. Neither party solely owns the reward.  Uncommon, though no less essential, project revenue doesn’t flow into one partner’s coffers before being paid on to settle the second partner’s bill. Instead it is viewed as entering a notional holding ‘pot’ from which all earnings are paid according to prior agreement.

So there it is – shared knowledge/aspiration, shared risk, shared reward – it isn’t rocket science but get these in place and you’re well on the way to true collaboration…