Archives for Corporate Networking

SureToMeet is a technology company with decades of experience in the events and one-to-one marketing fields.  We have married those two areas of expertise in a new product design — but due to the death of our founding CEO, are struggling to find a new home for this innovative system that can make a real difference in the business networking niche.  

SureToMeet includes three innovative, experienced R&D designers:  Chris Allen is an Academy Award winning systems programmer and designer.  Carolyn Allen is a longtime marketing communications and Internet marketer.  David Hylton is an international communications and business strategist.  

Our founder, Cliff Allen, was a systems designer and marketer who wrote some of the early books on Internet marketing, who created one of the first event registration systems as well as a sales and marketing unification system much like  

Together we have designed, patented, and put together the implementation plan for the MatchUp system. MatchUp is a complete system for event organizers, attendees and sponsors to bring together compatible people face-to-face at events.  

It takes humility to know when you need to ask for help.  After struggling for almost five years to complete the patent application process and receive the patent, and developing the business plan, marketing strategy and detailed technology wireframe — we realize that the system we’ve designed needs a bigger company than ours to bring it to the marketplace.

So we are looking for a home for our child.  The ideal candidate will be an established events management or events services company who has a relationship with event organizers and sponsors.  They will also have in-house tech resources to rapidly develop the system.

Why would they do this?  Because the revenue potential is even greater than the valuable contribution they would be able to provide their clients by cutting the cost and inefficiencies of networking the old fashioned way.  This system provides a smooth pathway to development of both a Minimum Viable Product and future enhancements.  And the adopting company will have three dedicated founders to help with rapid development and implementation.

We have heart — as well as the desire to make a valuable contribution to business and the careers of people who rely on business networking.  In this day and age of social media and crowd sourcing, we are asking for your help so we can help others.  We would appreciate any assistance you can provide in finding a home for this innovative solution to business networking.

Carolyn Allen
CEO, SureToMeet

As a communications strategist, I recognized a big problem among our entrepreneurial clients — they needed a matchmaker to help them find the right partners, investors, clients and staff members.  My husband and I owned a high tech marketing agency and the need for productive networking was palpable, but the technology wasn’t there yet.  This is the time for smartphone enabled business networking

Our MatchUp (TM) solution that combines the Event Organizer with the Smart Phone & Computer System helps Attendees match with each other at the event.  We help sort out compatibilities with the algorithm.  The Organizer narrows the search with parameters… and the Attendee can fine tune their profiles to find the match they need today!

But the human factor is so important.  You can be matched with the perfectly compatible person, but if you do not engage in a meaningful conversation and then followup, your experience is useless.

Based on our experiences at networking and event organizing over the years, we’ve learned these tips for networking at events:

  1.  Know who you want to meet
  2.  Ask for referrals from people who know you…
  3.  Follow up, follow up, follow up

Know who you want to meet

Who do you need today to make progress in your job or your career?  Do you need a partner, an investor, clients or staff members?  Do you need someone part-time or full-time?  Know what you are looking for — the function in your life — and who the most likely candidates are.  That profile shapes YOUR profile!

Ask for Referrals 

If you don’t have a networking system available, use the old-fashioned one — ask for referrals.  But be specific and ask for the most common two or three attributes you need to find.  Your referrer needs to ask the right questions and give a bit of your information to help make a human match.

Follow up!

Following up is about making a business friendship.  It’s about learning more about each other and learning to trust one another’s judgment.  And it’s a long process to develop a really good contact.  Try to meet again soon.  Go for coffee together or meet at the next group meeting you have in common.  Send email.  Connect in social media and send short messages that might be of value to your contact.

Don’t overwhelm your new business contact, but connecting 3 or 4 times in the first month of your relationship can solidify your interest in them and flesh out the value that you bring to their life — and vice versa!

Make your business friendship friendly.  Don’t fall into gripes about your industry or colleagues.  Do promote positive ideas about how to make life better for both of you.  And share tidbits of helpful knowledge.  This is how trust is born and nurtured.

Successful networking!

Do you know all the key players (companies) in your industry niche, in your city or region?  If not, you are NOT ready to look for a new job!

Part of “You, Inc.” is knowing your assets (talents, skills, connections and experience).  But another part is knowing which buyers are best for you.

With the Web at your fingertips, there’s no excuse for not knowing each of your potential employers better than you know the attributes of your favorite movie or sports star.  Here are some features of each company you should know… and can find off of the Web (their company website, directories, associations, etc.)

  1. Name and kind of company (Sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, S, C or other corporation), and size (number of employees, divisions, or locations).  Where their headquarters is located — and how close you will be to it.  Remember — location, location, location!
  2. Number of employees, and what the name of your relevant department(s) would be.
  3. Key customers (Find in directories or association membership listings)
  4. Where the hub of your industry is.  Entertainment is not centered in Sante Fe, New Mexico — but the art world is!
  5. Key products and services … and where the money comes from!  Follow the money!  The departments that have the greatest impact on revenue get the most attention, resources and often, highest salaries.  Money talks in business.
  6. Job requirements.  Search for job descriptions on job websites to get a prioritized list of qualification they will look for.  Know how each term is defined, and relate it to your own training and experience.  Tell your story of qualification, successful experiences and networks that can help get the job done.
  7. Who do you know who works for the company?  Call, email or text them for insights about the company, industry trends, and the job or department.  Recognize that one personal opinion isn’t always complete or accurate.
  8. Check social media for relevant conversations about the industry and the company.  But DON’T make derogatory or inappropriate comments.  (And check your own social media postings and clean them up as much as possible.)  
  9. Visit a trade show booth or other public exhibit and check out the literature.  Annual reports tell a lot about the inner workings of a company.  Read it for at least two years, if possible.  Annual reports for public companies listed in the stock market are often posted on their website or linked to from
  10. Drive by all the facilities within driving distance — check out their look and feel.  Are they clean or unkempt?  Are their parking lots full or sparsely filled. Are they heavily armoured against crime, or open to the public?  You can tell a lot about a person (or company) by how they dress!

Getting to know the best companies in your niche can mean up to millions of dollars over a lifetime of work — so it is important to know where the best companies are, who their key people are, their trends and best products.  It’s like getting to know a person with many fascinating personality traits!  Have fun, but open your eyes to the attributes that matter most!

You have a supply chain inside your own company

and many of us have a supply chain outside the company.  We’ll discuss how to network within your company first.

A supply chain is a group of people whose job it is to get results and give aid to fellow employees working to achieve results.  

Some network members are in your own department, such as your supervisor and your contracts administrator.  Some are in departments before and after your role.  For example, if you are in sales — you need to know about inventory (before your department) and shipping (after your department), as well as others, such as order entry and order payments??.  

If you know these people by name, share some stories, and let each other know how your work optimally, you can get your work done much faster and smoother.  That process of getting acquainted personally and business-wise is productive internal business networking.

Step 1:  Write down the flow chart of your function… and the people/positions that come before you and after you in the flow of achieving your assigned results.  Well, maybe first, you need to identify what results really matter in your job!

Step 2. Identify the people at your own job level… and the people above and below your level. Meet them and offer them a token of your respect (information, cup of coffee, department ad specialties, etc.)  Be helpful to them by asking for their job goal and their wisdom and showing how you hope to support their goals.

Step 3: Add notes to your calendar to follow-up at least monthly.  Share helpful information (not trade secrets!) and ask for their input on what’s happening in the company or industry.  Ask how you can work together better.

Step 4.  Follow through.  Do what you said you would do.  It’s that simple.

Step 5.  Buy a box of “Thank You” cards and use them after every significant piece of shared information, referral, insight or connection your team provides you.  Be appreciative, but don’t gush.  Be sure to invite key members of your supply chain to a dinner or party at least once a year.  This is for their benefit to network with your trusted network!

This white paper describes the benefits and challenges of using e-mail marketing as part of a sales and marketing program for “considered purchases,” such as found in the sales cycles for business and industrial products.

E-mail has become a business tool that is almost as important as the telephone because it overcomes many of the communications problems of other media. It’s frequently faster to communicate with someone via e-mail than with voicemail and fax.

Email Provides Flexibility

Business marketers have found that e-mail has the flexibility to deliver a wide variety of messages, and it has the impact of a personal message. Of course, e-mail marketing cannot totally replace other forms of marketing and selling, but it can augment traditional sales and marketing techniques by increasing the frequency of exposure, delivering a high-impact message, and reducing sales and marketing costs.

E-mail marketing is proving its power to support both online and offline sales and marketing campaigns. Forrester Research recently interviewed companies about their results in using e-mail marketing techniques and found that the companies interviewed will triple their e-mail marketing budgets by 2004. It was somewhat surprising that these companies will spend half of their online marketing budget on e-mail marketing, but Forrester found that e-mail marketing is both effective and efficient. Their study reported that sending e-mail to in-house lists cost about $5 per thousand messages sent and that clickthrough rates average 10 percent. This means that e-mail marketing is much more efficient than practically all other forms of online or offline marketing.

While e-mail marketing has proven its value, it does present several challenges to marketers regarding implementation, such as:

  • Who should receive e-mail?
  • What content should e-mails contain?
  • How often should e-mail be sent?
  • How should an e-mail hosting company be selected?
  • What follow-up is effective for sales?

Permission Marketing

Regardless of how targeted, relevant, and informative you think your message is, unless the recipient specifically agreed to receive the information you send, you risk alienating a significant portion of your audience.

You’ve probably noticed that the unwanted e-mail you receive doesn’t come from large, recognizable companies who want to maintain their reputation. But large, well-known companies do send a great deal of e-mail promoting their products and services. So how do they obtain lists of interested prospects without becoming spammers? The answer is to send e-mail only to an in-house list of people who have asked for — or at least agreed to receive — e-mail newsletters and promotions from a company.

One of the easiest ways to implement a permission marketing e-mail program is to allow Web visitors to subscribe to a company’s newsletter. At the same time, visitors can be asked if they are interested in receiving promotions (sometimes called “solo mailings”) from the same company. In addition, a variety of offline techniques can be used to obtain approval to send e-mail newsletters and promotional campaign messages. Salespeople frequently obtain e-mail addresses from their prospects and customers. Other offline sources of e-mail addresses are trade shows, product registration cards, call centers, and other “touch points” where a company’s employees come in contact with prospects and customers.

One thing to keep in mind about permission marketing is that each individual’s permission only covers the type of e-mail explicitly mentioned when asking for permission. For example, if you change the format of your e-mail newsletter to resemble a solo ad or special offer, expect a large portion of people to unsubscribe from your list.

Frequency of Contact

Most marketing and sales executives know it’s important to contact prospects and customers frequently to create “top of mind” awareness. What’s not always clear is exactly why this is true and how to accomplish it.

In general, exposure to a message is cumulative, and each exposure to a message helps a person move above a “threshold of acceptance” where they will take action. However, impressions have a certain “decay rate,” which means that if not reinforced with additional exposures, awareness will fade away over time.

This means that it’s not just the number of exposures — it’s the number of times a person is exposed to a message during a certain time period.

Marketing research indicates that prospects need more exposures before they cross the threshold, while customers — who presumable are directly exposed to the product’s benefits — seem to require less frequent sales and marketing messages for them to remain loyal over time.

This means that it’s important to keep in frequent contact with both prospects and customers. The challenge, of course, is doing it inexpensively. In addition, it’s important to know when to increase the level of contact from primarily e-mail to a more intensive contact, such as a call from a salesperson. Fortunately, e-mail marketing techniques can meet both challenges at the same time.

As potential customers look for ways to meet specific needs, they move from initial awareness of their need through several stages of information gathering, and, hopefully, to product evaluation and selection. Traditional business marketing has called for mailing brochures and catalogs, sending direct mail pieces, and other expensive and time-consuming techniques to hopefully make the prospect receptive to a call from a salesperson. With sales cycles taking from 6 to 24 months, it can be expensive to have salespeople maintain frequent contact while waiting for prospects to become ready for sales calls.

A more efficient approach is to combine an e-mail newsletter and an e-mail promotional campaign with less frequent sales calls. Today, e-mail marketing can deliver a company’s marketing message more quickly and less expensively than many other customer contact methods. In addition, e-mail can accurately track when prospects are ready to hear from a salesperson.

Planning an E-mail Marketing Program

Creating a e-mail marketing program starts with determining the target market and objectives. In other words, who you want to contact, how do you want to help them, and what you want them to do next.

While e-mail marketing can be used to support offline marketing activities (such as calling your 800 number), its best use is to bring people to your Web site by including links to specific pages on the site. This can be done with a short synopsis of an article or a product description next to a link that takes readers directly to a Web page. Clicking the link in an e-mail, called a “clickthrough,” can update each reader’s profile to indicate interest in the article or product.

No other marketing medium compares with e-mail for immediate response to a promotion and the ability to track results.

Measuring Success

While the cost of actually distributing e-mail messages is very low compared to other marketing activities, it’s still important to test e-mail marketing campaigns and track results so you can measure and refine e-mail marketing activities. Even recipients of requested e-mail will only accept a limited number of messages from a company before becoming frustrated — so it is critical to track results to quickly learn what works and what doesn’t.

Most activities related to e-mail and Web marketing can be tracked, and it’s this feedback that makes it possible to determine what works and what doesn’t.

When using an in-house list, be sure to track mailings to customers separately from mailings to non-customers who subscribe to your newsletter. For e-mail newsletters we’ve seen the clickthrough rate for customers can be twice that of non-customers.

Until recently, e-mail messages were delivered in text format only, but that is changing. HTML messages heighten the visual impact of a message by using special formatting and images in newsletters, and many subscribers are choosing to receive HTML newsletters instead of text format. This not only makes newsletters easier to read, it also increases the clickthrough rate.

Relationship Marketing via E-Mail

One benefit e-mail marketing has over Web marketing is the power to deliver each message with personality. Most Web sites are written in “brochure style.” It’s appropriate to establish the size and stability of the company because it reduces concerns about dealing with the company. However, once those initial concerns have been reduced, it’s time to put some personality into marketing and sales activities.

Successful field and telephone salespeople let their personalities demonstrate that they are real human beings. It’s important to do the same in e-mail marketing because recipients are accustomed to receiving e-mail from individuals — friends, family and people with whom they work.

Traditional catalog companies learned many years ago that adding a brief personal message from the president increased response. Create the same impact in direct e-mail marketing by including a message from the newsletter editor, a top executive, or an enthusiastic product manager.

In addition to the choice of writing style, relationships with customers can be enhanced through using “personalization” software. By using profile data about each subscriber, the actual text of each message can be tailored to match the interests of each recipient.

For example, Providence College, Providence, R.I., uses both Web and e-mail personalization in marketing the school to high school students. Profile information supplied by students visiting the Web site, such as their high school and a potential major, is used to provide information on the Web and in e-mails about events near their home. The e-mail newsletter also automatically includes messages from faculty and student volunteers based on each individual’s profile information.

The relationship-building techniques used in the Providence e-mail newsletter are part of an integrated, personalized marketing effort by the school to help potential applicants learn about the people they will meet on campus. This familiarity with the people at Providence makes prospective applicants more comfortable in making a decision about applying.

E-mail marketing techniques can increase Web traffic, gain awareness, and generate revenue at a very attractive return on the investment.

Getting Started with E-mail Marketing

It’s relatively easy to begin using e-mail marketing through the use of an e-mail hosting service. One of the first steps is to select a hosting service that matches your service needs and budget (see sidebar). Then, design a subscription form for use with your Web site that collects names and e-mail addresses. The form will likely be hosted at your e-mail hosting service but will use the graphics and design of your existing site. This maintains your corporate image without having to involve your IT department to add a database or the other technical functions handled by an e-mail hosting service.

In addition to collecting subscriptions on your Web site, you should also involve your salespeople to collect e-mail addresses from existing customers and ask prospects if they can be added to the newsletter list, too.

Then, it’s a matter of developing short articles that show prospects how they can benefit from using your products and articles aimed at customers that show how to obtain greater benefits from products already purchased.

With the help of your e-mail hosting service, you’ll be able to contact prospects and customers more frequently and more efficiently. In addition, you’ll be able to track how well your e-mail marketing helps turn leads into qualified prospects, and how it helps your salespeople turn prospects into customers.

Case Study: Personalization Delivers Personality for Providence College

Selecting a college can be one of the most challenging tasks a high school student faces. From the time a college-bound student begins to think about higher education, brochures and catalogs fill the family mailbox.

When one college library starts looking like all the other libraries, it’s time for a little personal attention to prioritize the options. For Providence College, Providence, RI, personalized e-mail helps them tailor the message to their target audience — students seeking a New England liberal arts experience.

Their personalized Web site collects profile data about a student’s interests, potential major, and other aspects of college life. Then, e-mail messages tailored to each student’s profile help build a relationship as students gather information and make a decision about applying to colleges.

“Our e-mail and Web experience lets us tell our story over time to help them with their application and selection process,” says Brian Williams, Associate Dean of Admission.

When it comes to collecting e-mail addresses, Providence combines the Web with traditional direct mail. “If a student shares an e-mail address on our Web site we send out a personalized welcome e-mail message and encourage the student to sign up for our newsletter and create a personalized profile on our Web site,” says Williams. In addition, e-mail addresses are part of the information provided by outside agencies. Providence uses traditional postal mail to send a form requesting permission to send e-mail to that account.

Since moving to personalized Web and e-mail, Providence has seen the number and quality of applicants increase dramatically. They use the Web and e-mail software in an integrated Web and e-mail environment. “We use a Web-based content management system for the creation, editing, and delivery of our Web and e-mail communications,” said Williams. “Our goal is to allow our entire campus community to participate in creating our newsletter. This lets readers see themselves as a student here and decide if they would be happy here for four years. And, the system makes creation and delivery of this personalized experience an easy, fast process for our admissions team.”

Checklist for Selecting an E-Mail Hosting Service

Each e-mail hosting service has a different set of capabilities and fees, so it’s important to know which features you need to accomplish your marketing and sales goals. In evaluating e-mail hosting services, be sure to ask if they provide the following list of features and capabilities:

  • Maintain a database of subscription and interest data, not individual mailing lists
  • E-mail as many review copies of newsletters to editors as necessary prior to publication
  • Provide personalization based on each subscriber’s interest profile
  • Track clickthroughs in real time to monitor response to articles and offers
  • Provide Web and e-mail survey capability
  • Provide Web product registration capability
  • Enable Web-based management of the service and reports
  • Automatically handle unsubscribes and bounces
  • Provide for both newsletters and lead collection
  • Send both individual newsletters to subscribers and an ongoing campaign of messages to leads

Cliff Allen, cofounder of SureToMeet, president of Coravue

People visit Web sites for many reasons, but the quality and the depth of the content are the primary reasons people go to a company’s Web site.

Customers want to find out — whether through product descriptions at a consumer site or extensive product information at a business-to-business site — how products can satisfy their needs.

The quality and amount of content are major factors in the success of a site, because it’s the content — text, photos, and illustrations — that helps customers determine whether they want to do business with that company.

Can you imagine any commerce site being successful without describing the products it sells? Obviously not. Yet many sites have extremely limited product information. This leads to apprehension because customers don’t know if the product meets their needs or not.

Visitors are not interested merely in detailed product descriptions. They also want information about how people like themselves have used products successfully.

Here are several reasons why the quality and quantity of content have so much influence on the success of a site.

Content Builds Relationships

Many purchase decisions are “considered decisions” that are made over time as the customer weighs the alternatives before making a purchase. During the sales cycle, it’s important to continually provide additional content.

Some sites do this by continually providing new material, such as case studies and white papers. Another approach is to store the number of visits in the person’s data profile, then display new links to content each time the person returns to the site. This is especially effective when an e-mail campaign of messages is triggered by the number of visits to the site.

However new content is presented to returning visitors, the benefits become clear as the total number of sessions per person increases with the growth of the content.

Content Reduces Apprehension

Customers always want to feel good about the purchases they make. So any lingering questions about a product that go unanswered reduce the chances that customers will buy that product.

As they understand how they can use a product, and how it will help them, their anxiety about making the purchase is reduced.

So … the more questions you can answer, the more likely you will make the sale.

Content Creates Differentiation

You probably sell products that have a unique combination of features that make your products different from the competition’s. However, if your product descriptions are similar to those on other sites, customers can’t tell how you’re products are different from – or better than – the competition’s.

You can drive home your competitive advantages by making sure there is sufficient content on your site that appeals to people most likely to buy your products.

In other words, content should be meaningful to your potential customers. It should help readers solve problems, accomplish tasks, and, of course, help improve their lives.

A Content Case in Point

An example of how content differentiates two major competitors is the home-improvement market. The Home Depot and Lowe’s are similar in many respects. Both have large warehouse stores. Both sell everything from lumber to kitchen appliances. And, both have good prices. But when it comes to their Web sites, there is a significant difference.

The Home Depot home page leads off with products it wants to sell, but the top of the Lowe’s home page links to educational articles about how to use the products it sells.

In other words, the Lowe’s Web site is both a commerce site and an information resource.

While Lowe’s has a little less than half the revenue of Home Depot, the Lowe’s Web site receives about 85 percent as much traffic as Home Depot. If the amount of traffic to both Web sites is any indicator of future growth, it looks like Lowe’s is building a successful Web presence.

Every successful company has a continuous flow of new products and has new uses for existing products. Marketers can leverage such innovation to improve a company’s competitive position by continually expanding descriptive content about every aspect of its products.

The Content Management Challenge

Quickly creating Web pages that combine high-quality graphic design with compelling text requires exceptional teamwork and coordination. Combine that with the technology challenge of tailoring content based on profile data, and it becomes clear that new tools and production techniques are needed.

Coravue and other vendors have developed content management products that separate the design function from the authoring tasks. These content management products combine the text and graphics to automatically create Web pages and promotional e-mail messages.

Today’s content management tools help marketers take control of the workflow process of authoring, editing, approving, and scheduling content. This makes it easy for marketers to create the steady stream of quality content. But, more important, adding in-depth content to a site helps customers learn more about a company’s products and feel more comfortable making a purchase.

By Cliff Allen, cofounder of SurfeToMeet, President, Coravue, Inc.

Peppers & Rogers: Return on Customer Maximizes Value

It’s always been difficult to plan effective marketing programs because we can’t accurately project how much a program will contribute to the bottom line. There are several reasons for this, including

  • Lack of data about past marketing programs
  • Uncertainty about future programs
  • Lack of clarity about how marketing campaigns work together to affect actual customer behavior

With that lack of detailed data about past results, it’s amazing that strategic marketing plans can be developed at all!

Another issue that’s even larger than a lack of past data is forcasting the future. It can take years for strategic marketing plans to be fully implemented and have a significant effect on revenue. However, all marketing programs, such as advertising, promotion, and sales are expected to produce results in the current period.

So, how can marketers plan for long-term growth when they’re measured on short-term results?

There hasn’t been an effective way to evaluate the overall long-term benefits of current and future advertising, promotion, sales, and other marketing activities. These are the problems that are dealt with in the new book by Don Peppers and Martha Rogers, Return on Customer. Peppers and Rogers provide the financial building blocks we can use to measure the long-term value of all marketing programs.

If you’ve read their previous books on one-to-one marketing, you’ll recognize stories about airlines, banks, and retailers that focus on their customers. However, if you’ve not read any of the Peppers and Rogers books, this is a good one to read to understand their philosophy.

The book Return on Customer is filled with the concepts of identifying the needs and problems of each individual customer, and how to treat different customers differently, which is the key concept of one-to-one marketing.

Their idea is that “return on customer” can be calculated in the same way that the financial health of a company is calculated using “return on investment” techniques.

Peppers and Rogers define “return on customer” as the sum of a firm’s current-period profit from its customers, plus any changes in customer equity (the sum of the lifetime values of all current and future customers served by the firm), divided by the total customer equity at the beginning of the period.

The concept of return on customer sounds a lot like the concept of lifetime value of the customer, mostly because they use customer lifetime value as part of their equation. Then, they apply the same financial metrics used in return on investment calculations to calculate a return on customer.

Sounds simple enough — just measure the change in the current and future profit from each customer, then sum all those profits. But you also have to include the expected future profit from each customer you don’t yet have.

It starts to sound like an impossible task, but Peppers and Rogers include a number of concepts in the book Return on Customer on how to accomplish this.

Even though it’s hard to implement, the benefits of adopting the return on customer concept can be tremendous. Peppers and Rogers make the case — quite convincingly — that their concept can help marketers identify how much to invest in each customer, how much to expect to get back from each customer now and in the future. And, yes, they have a rather sound approach to calculating future profits from future customers.

The return on customer concept is built on thinking about customers as economic assets — much the same way that CFOs think about whether to invest in a new warehouse, a new plant, or a new type of manufacturing equipment. For CFOs, their financial analysis consists of projecting the future expenses and revenues for a new plant or piece of equipment. Then, calculating the compounding “interest rate” that would produce the same result, which is called the Return on Investment (ROI).

In Return on Customer, Peppers and Rogers encourage marketers to do the same thing for each customer. This means we need to allocate revenue generated by a customer, and the expenses incurred in obtaining and supporting that customer, in order to calculate the net cash flow from each customer — for every activity, response, behavior, and interaction with each customer.

The challenge, of course, is in obtaining the revenue and expense data attributable to each customer.

Step 1
Customer Tracking
The first step is to implement tracking techniques so you know what each customer costs — from the very first contact through every interaction at every touchpoint. This requires a unified approach to tracking responses to advertising, direct marketing, and sales activities.
Step 2
Marketing Cost Allocation
The second step is to allocate all marketing costs to each customer who makes a purchase. Determining the marketing expense of obtaining each customer requires knowing which customers responded to, or were influenced by, every ad, direct mail piece, and sales call. There are a number of techniques that can be used to allocate marketing costs depending on whether you sell to consumers, through distribution channels, or directly to business customers.
Step 3
Revenue Allocation
Determining the revenue from each customer is relatively easy — that’s an accounting function that already exists. One of the more difficult parts of implementing the return on customer concept is allocating future marketing costs and revenues to future customers. Peppers and Rogers suggest using historical data on response rates, per customer costs, and per customer revenues to project what similar marketing activities will generate in the future.But of course, there is no “typical” response rate for an ad or direct marketing campaign. It’s important to look at historical data by market segment, product category, and stage in the product life cycle, and other factors.

By calculating the sum of all cash flows from all present and future customers, you can estimate your customer’s “customer equity.”

As you collect more and more historical data on revenue and marketing expenses by customer, it will become possible to develop a return on customer model that can help you predict how proposed marketing programs will affect both short-term and long-term customer equity.

This is important because total customer equity — the present value of all future net revenues — is a key component in determining shareholder value.

In other words, by calculating the long-term future benefits from current marketing programs, you can more easily justify investing in, say, a brand awareness campaign, adding a new product line, or expanding sales into a new country.

The basic concepts in Return on Customer are not new — CFOs have been using financial metrics like net present value, discounted cash flow, and return on investment for years. What is new is the idea of applying these financial metrics at the individual customer level.

It’s challenging to implement because every company implements marketing activities differently.

Don’t expect individual departments to implementing the concepts in Return on Customer because it requires a strategic decision by top management to apply these concepts across all marketing functions — advertising, promotion, sales, and customer service.

So, if a company is to have long-term success, and not be buffeted by short-term variations in the market, it’s important to take a long-term view toward increasing customer equity — and, therefore, shareholder value.

By Cliff Allen, cofounder of Coravue and SureToMeet

Tips for business networking

Many organizations add networking events to their programs to encourage members to meet one another and build relationships. These networking meetings can be as small as 10-30 people or as large as 300-500 people.

Unlike small networking meetings where each person can easily visit with all attendees, large networking events present a special challenge for event organizers: How can we help attendees meet appropriate contacts when the room is filled with hundreds of people?

It’s impossible for anyone to meet every appropriate contact at a large networking meeting, so it’s important for the meeting organizer to create opportunities for everyone to meet appropriate contacts.

The challenge is not just the size of the event, it’s also the diversity of interests among attendees. There are a number of reasons why people attend networking events. These include:

As networking events have grown larger, these groups have a hard time finding valuable contacts at large networking events.

Improving Connections at the Event

To help attendees overcome this problem, an event organizer needs to make it easy to connect with compatible people. Two of these techniques are to:

  • Identify each person’s interests on their nametag
  • Provide locations throughout the meeting room for each interest

Some event planners identify an attendee’s interests on their nametag. This can be done by using a different colored dot for each interest. As an attendee moves around the room, it’s easy to spot the colored dots representing their interests, which makes it easy to identify who to approach.

However, some people do not want to be labeled as a job seeker or salesperson because it keeps other people from wanting to talk to them. Also, people who are especially desired, such as job recruiters and investors, attract so many people that they cannot easily network.

This makes the use of tall signs throughout the room much better because people can move through each section of the room without necessarily indicating a strong interest in that particular topic.

When it’s not possible to use tall signs, consider using colored helium filled balloons, with each color indicating a different interest. The difficulty here, of course, is letting each attendee know which color represents which topic of interest.

Electronic Networking Before and After the Event

In addition to helping people connect during the event, it’s also helpful to provide ways for attendees to connect electronically prior to an event to plan connections. This can be done by using a Web based RSVP system such as that allows people to make their profile available to others interested in attending the event.

One problem with trying to connect with specific people during a networking event is not knowing whether they are actually there. One technique that networking event organizers can use to help attendees is to suggest that each person post their business card on a large bulletin board. Then, as each person arrives, it’s easy to scan the bulletin board and see who has already arrived.

If you’re unsure of the interests of the people expected to attend, you can ask attendees which interests should be available on signs or other indicators at the event. This can be done by using an RSVP system, such as, that allows people to enter a note or comment along with their RSVP.

Even the best networker cannot meet every attendee who was appropriate for them to meet. To help attendees obtain additional value from the event, an RSVP system should be used that allows attendees to connect electronically with each other after the event. For example, allows attendees to provide their profile to each person at an event so they can contact people attending the event. This makes it easy to follow up on connections made during the event.

Increasing the Value of a Large Networking Event

Networking has become an important part of building a career or a business, which means that networking events will become larger and more valuable to attendees.
As the size of your networking events grows, so does the need to create opportunities for making connections quickly and easily before, during, and after each event.

These techniques can help attendees make a large networking event much more valuable — and increase the loyalty that attendees have for the event.

Cliff Allen is the co-author of the book One-to-One Web Marketing; 2nd Ed., published by John Wiley & Sons., and was co-founder of


Market researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst say a generational cohort is emerging from the group known as the Millennials and the change is coming in response to cataclysmic events that have occurred since 2008.

The Great Recession as Pivot Point

The Great Recession appears to be a defining moment for this group of younger Millennials, say the UMass researchers. The team includes Charles D. Schewe, professor of marketing, Kathleen Debevec and William D. Diamond, associate professors of marketing, and Thomas J. Madden, professor of marketing at the University of South Carolina. Their latest research finds that younger Millennials are beginning to exhibit different values on several dimensions than older Millennials, suggesting a splintering of the Millennial cohort and the potential emergence of a new cohort, a younger “entitlement” cohort.

Younger Millennials

Younger Millennials appear to be more pleasure-seeking and possessing a greater sense of entitlement than older Millennials, the team says. The severe economic downturn does not appear to have instilled the value of thrift and simplicity among younger Millennials, but rather the desire to enjoy life and make the most of it, the researchers say.

This may be because today’s late adolescents are more sheltered and removed from the economic realities of adulthood and they may be choosing to offset the effects of the bad economy by deciding to enjoy their life and satisfy their desires and not focus just on their economic needs, Schewe and his colleagues say.

They also say that the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the national response to them don’t seem to be one of the long-lasting impact events for older Millennials. “Because that only happened in specific places – New York, Washington and Pennsylvania – places not all Americans identify with, it hasn’t had the same impact as the poor economy, which hits everyone, everywhere,” Schewe says. “It seems that 9/11 was more of a television event, while the recession is a reality.”

Generational Cohorts

The concept of generational cohorts says that groups of people develop a different and distinct set of core values for their entire lifetime that are formed by so-called “coming-of-age experiences” that occur between the ages of 17 and 23, Schewe says. The “defining moments” often are dramatic: wars, political dislocations, assassinations or economic upheavals. The Great Depression, Pearl Harbor, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the turmoil of the Watergate scandal are examples. For the Millennials, the defining moment seems to be the wide-scale advent of the Internet in 1995. Many Millenial values today can be traced straight back to this lifestyle-changing event.

Millennials: Born after 1981

The Millenial generational cohort was born after 1981. They are the children of the Baby Boomers and the younger siblings of the Generation Xers. They are the largest cohort, numbering about 75 million, after the 78-80 million Boomers.

The values most strongly differentiating the younger and older Millennials were “piety” and “thrift.” The new sub cohort of younger Millennials is less thrifty and more secular and sexually permissive than older Millennials, the researchers say. They are also less patriotic and less concerned about politics, sustainability, saving and making mistakes in life.

Values of Entitlement and Live for Today

This would suggest that they have internalized the value of entitlement and are a new market segment with different values than those ascribed to Millennials. If the new job market for college graduates continues at its dismal pace, the soon-to-be graduates could very well return home to parents and languish in temporary jobs that do not produce a strong career path. Future research should also explore whether today’s non-college 20-year-olds, who are now in the workplace, “live for today” or whether they value thrift and living simply comparably to the older Millennials.

The Older Millennials

In general, the Millennials are identified as extremely techno-savvy and they believe their use of technology is what sets them apart from other generations. They have grown up with the Internet. They are characterized as ambitious and success driven, global in their perspective and very community-minded; they want to make a difference in the world. They are entrepreneurial and quite self-reliant. They are ethnically diverse and tend to accept diversity in their world. They also respect institutions and enjoy working with their friends as part of teams.

Sponsors need to tell people face-to-face about their products and services. You, as an event organizer bring people together face-to-face. What could be more natural than getting together to create a productive event for sponsors, attendees and event organizers?

Easier said than done! Matching sponsors with the proper event sponsorship opportunity take a goal, yes, but it also take specific project management skills and emotional investment.

The project requires

  • knowing what language to use that captures sponsor attention,
  • what channels can be used to approach potential sponsors,
  • how to write a market-designed event sponsorship proposal,
  • and in the end, how to shape value for both the sponsors and the attendees

Roberta Vigilance has written a book entitled “How to Secure Sponsors Successfully” in which she provides strategies and tools to help event organizers attract and support event sponsors with successful events.

Roberta is an experienced event sponsorship consultant. She shares her tips for effective events supported by sponsors and shapes a marketing strategy, from the event organizer’s perspective — “Because of you, your sponsors are fully aware of who they are placing their brand in front of.”

Be Passionate:  Be the FIRST enthusiast who leads the way from strangers in the room to connections brought together because YOU know these people can benefit from knowing one another!

Know Your Audience:  Events are most often designed and implemented  for specialized groups of people who share common goals, problems and potential solutions.  When you know your audience’s haves and wants — their needs and strategies, you can broker a great sponsorship event that helps your attendees find solutions for their specific needs.

Help Sponsors Achieve their Goals:  First, you need to know what the sponsor’s goals ARE.  Then you need to creatively help them achieve their goals.  There is a difference in event design for a meet and greet, and a product introduction to a new market.

Be Honest and Knowledgeable:  Promise only what you can deliver. Know what you can deliver.  Know what the sponsor wants delivered.  And know what your Attendees want.  And plan accordingly.

Be Persistent, Helpful and Effective:  Pitching your proposal takes finding the right person or committee in the sponsor’s company, arranging a meeting far enough in advance of the event, helping design an experience for great results, and smoothing the way at the event itself.  Selling a sponsorship is just the first step.  Implementation is where you earn your stripes… and your ROI!

For more information about Roberta Vigilance’s services and book (How to Secure Sponsors Successfully), see


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