Four tangible takeaways you can put-to-work right now
Recently I spoke at the NACM Business Credit Services Winter Credit Forum in Honolulu (I know, tough duty in January). The topic was applying marketing communication tactics to the credit department to grow your company revenues and opportunities. Full credit is due to my colleague and friend Adria Campbell, National Accounts Director for Dean Foods. Her background in both Finance and Sales represents a dual expertise on this very topic. She and I both agree that the Credit Department is the unsung hero of your company. While all business flows through the financial operations team it’s the Credit Department that helps maintain cash flow, ultimately driving business operations.
“Cash flow is everything,” says Adria. “The Credit Department can play a pivotal role to increase daily, weekly, or monthly revenue.” Adria’s specific expertise in both Finance and Sales operations offers an invaluable perspective on how your Business Credit team can help your organization.
Follow these steps and soon your CFO will say: “Everything the Credit Department touches turns to gold!” Here’s how:
Make an intentional shift from Descriptive to Predictive to Prescriptive contributor. “Three types of people make up a company’s financial team,” Adria observes.
• Descriptors, who report out what happened.
• Predictors, who estimate the future.
• Prescriptive leaders: These team members offer intelligence and recommendations about the company’s financial resources.
“The NUMBER ONE thing you can do is lead by contributing insight and advice,” Adria says. “You can provide essential guidance on how to reduce days sales outstanding (DSO) and increase cash flow.”
Care about the business of your customers and vendors. And, take note. Author & speaker John Maxwell is renowned for saying “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” How does that translate into your daily work with customers and vendors? Along with ensuring you invoice them or paying them in a timely fashion, get to know their business. When and where possible, ask how you can help build their business. Turn the tables on the notion of asking for a referral and ask how you can provide an endorsement or recommendation. Could they use a positive review? You bet! If they are bidding on new business, you can refer them and provide an important endorsement. If their business grows, so does yours.
Become a collaborative partner with your Sales team: The essential next step, Adria advises, is to share this intelligence with your Sates team.
“In any business, the Sales team is a profit center. Contributing this valuable data ensures can be added to the CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system or incorporated into sales calls, immediately," she explains. "For example, in the retail food sales business we have different buyers for different lines within one company.” We need to know that the ice cream buyer is paying bills in a timely fashion but the milk buyer is not. That type of guidance provides an invaluable contribution regarding not only risks but further opportunities for success in our sales efforts.”
Share your passions and joys—all in the spirit of service. At NACM Business Credit Services division, based in Seattle, WA, their CEO, Jon Flora, is passionate about model trains. Needing inspiration for his monthly blog, last winter Jon wrote about his love of trains. As he said “it had absolutely nothing to do with our mission at NACM. It was all about the spirit of Christmas and electric trains.”
The response was overwhelming. All year long Jon heard from a trove of members and customers—some responses were funny, several heartwarming, and a couple included special remembrances. He connected with each person and appreciated the many conversations that ensued.
As Jon observed, “We spend an inordinate amount of energy Tweeting, posting, worrying, and fixated on things that we can do nothing about or just don’t matter in the larger picture. We all have so much more than we’ll ever need except possibly, gratitude.”
With that in mind, what could you share? Do you LOVE to knit? Do you LOVE to follow football? Or, do you have a thirst for sharing tips you’ve learned about your business? The ideas spring from your passions and joys and are found in your desire to inspire and encourage others.
Offer a personal “Thank you”. We all say “thank you” so often. Next time, express your appreciation in ways that are personal. Send a handwritten note, make a phone call, or drop by their offices one day just to say “thank you” – all of these are very much appreciated … especially in this day and age of instant messenger, email, and texts.
Yes, you CAN be a marketing pro from the Credit Dept.
The Credit Department can be a pivotal contributor to your company’s success. “You can become a Prescriptive Leader and strengthen your influence by redefining your team,” Adria says.
“It’s true that nearly every transaction concerning either a customer or vendor involves Credit. Without Business Credit, your company would not exist. A strong partnership with Marketing and Sales, and strong relationships with your customers, greatly benefits your organization’s lasting success.”
Your Four Tangible Takeaways:
- Contribute to your vendors/customers success: Submit positive reviews, serve as a reference, or offer a formal recommendation. Help them build their business because as they grow, so do you.
- Collaborate with Sales and Marketing: Share what you know and provide guidance and recommendations to leadership based on that intelligence.
- Share your joys and passions: Whether tips in the work you do or by a glimpse into your other pursuits and purpose. Allow others to get to know you by sharing what you love and connecting with them in personal ways.
- Express your gratitude: And do so in specific ways. A phone call, visit, handwritten note—offer a unique and personal thank you.
Three organizations from three different industries consider where to start in updating a website.
By Jacquie Goodwill, Principal/CEO, Peninsula Strategic Communication
Since Tim Berners-Lee created the first website, a lot has changed online. We now buy things, sell things, raise money, gather votes, educate and entertain, and so much more…could you imagine a day without the World Wide Web at your fingers? We shudder at the thought.
So, its a natural consideration every few years or so, as web publishing and cloud technology innovate the Internet.
Should you simply revise and update your website or re-make it completely?
To answer that question, here are some issues faced by three different companies from three different industries.
1. Do you have a unique product or service? Or, have you changed or added considerable scope in products and services?
- Arbor Health System: Over the years, Morton Hospital, located in the shadow of Mount Rainier, had grown into a full-fledged community-based health system. The organization’s website hadn’t kept pace and didn’t reflect the scope of healthcare services provided to patients.
- Family Law Resolutions: “My website really needed to reflect my business philosophy,” says Felicia Soleil, a Family Law Attorney and Mediator in Puget Sound, WA. Her practice is committed to marriage dissolution without resorting to litigation. “Family Law Resolutions is an industry disrupter and transformational law practice concept. So, our services needed clear and concise descriptions on each landing page, to help prospective clients understand the differences from traditional representation.”
- National Association of Credit Management/Business Credit Services (NACM BCS): In a similar fashion, NACM BCS, based in Seattle, WA, also needed differentiation. “We offer credit reports, collections services, and education and networking events for those in the credit and collections industry,” says Jon Flora, CEO. “But it’s the support and guidance we offer that make the biggest difference. We felt our website didn’t reflect how our team service philosophy benefits our member and customer bottom line.”
2. Have you changed your brand, your graphics and color scheme?
- Arbor Health: Everything was changing. “The Public Hospital District leaders chose a new name for the organization, to reflect its evolution from a small hospital to a community-based health system,” remembers Diane Markham, Marketing Director. “And, as a result, our entire identity was about to evolve.”
- Family Law Resolutions: Felicia’s practice had recently re-branded to reflect the concepts of peace, resolving conflict, and the importance of healthy negotiation. Those graphic elements had already been adapted to its website.
- NACM BCS: There was talk of branding changes from the national headquarters and yet, nothing had come forward yet.
3. What does your website “say” to your stakeholders and/or customers?
- Arbor Health: “Our strategic planning, renaming, and branding efforts all came together and are now reflected in our new website,” Diane explains. “Whatever location or service you want to learn about, or, if you just want to read our history and get to know our leaders, we’re now telling that story in a way that’s fresh and easy-to-navigate online.”
- Family Law Resolutions: “All of our website core elements were in place,” says Felicia. “We just needed to hone our message. For example, the peaceful, feng shui art was so generic that I sometimes received inquiries from across the country, yet I practice law in Washington State.” Once our imagery combined peaceful concepts with Puget Sound settings, it could better engage likely clients.” The website artwork and other brand elements were also incorporated into social and print media platforms. “Once we had a cohesive and unified presentation, our website was a wholly more effective tool.”
- NACM BCS: “Given the legal, regulatory, and education requirements in the Credit and Collections industry, differentiating our organization often requires a longer conversation,” Jon Flora observes. “We have more to say about our products and services than can be listed in a simple landing page. So, our website needed a place to house a variety of communication vehicles.
- Arbor Health: At the New Year, the organization launched an entirely new website, featuring their new name, a fresh logo and brand color scheme, and listing all healthcare services for the community. Year-over-year results for website visit volume and time spent on the site show consistent increases. Importantly, a mid-year digital mammography ad campaign further drove website utilization and patient volumes by 25%, compared to prior year results.
- Family Law Resolutions: No change was made to site architecture but a gentle refresh flowed throughout. In particular, new brand imagery was adapted and copywriting refined in just about every section. Furthermore, Felicia re-engaged a Blogs series. All yielded important results. Following an impressive spike in business, Felicia’s practice volume now maintains a steady and constant flow.
- NACM BCS: The organization made specific changes to their website. These included adding sections to post and sign up for the organization’s monthly eNews, a CEO Blog series, and to prominently display the events calendar on the main landing navigation bar. Over time, the Blogs platform has expanded with contributions from other staff leaders. Recognizing differences in how news and education are consumed, this year the organization launched “The Credit Roundtable,” a podcast series, with current and past editions posted on the website. Results show engagement via events as well as member and customer volumes holding steady, at what is a time of change for the credit industry as a whole. Later, when the organizational headquarters adopted a new logo, it was a much easier prospect to replace artwork and adopt new color scheme throughout the site.
Summing it all up:
While each organization chose a different design/revision plan for their website, there was a specific commonality across all three organizations. Though representing dissimilar industries, they all shared an abiding commitment to ensure their websites appealed to their patients, their clients, or their membership.
Whether you completely scrub your website and create a new one or just make specific renovations, first consider how your changes will engage your customers and fuel growth.
Jacquie Goodwill is a transformational leader offering B2B and B2C MarCom services for start-ups and those who need to refresh brand identity. She specializes in providing hands-on support during times of major transition in an organization. Peninsula Strategic Communications: Strategic thinking for valuable, great solutions.