How to identify your customers

The lifeline of any business is its customer. Hence, a loyal customer is like gold. In this contemporary age of widespread and extremely tough competition, businesses are vying with each other to get and retain the customer’s attention.

Even before setting up a business or releasing a new product, the first priority should be to identify your customer. Marketing and sales have some typical workflows. Once the business is up and running, then building a customer base would be the next priority. To identify the ideal customer we would need to ascertain the spending behaviors and needs of the customers. Here we would like to suggest techniques to identify business customers.

Conduct Surveys

Another very effective way to identify the target customers for your business is by conducting surveys relevant to the product you are offering. Surveys should be detailed, meticulous, and widespread, based upon every age, gender, and profession class. The data, in the aftermath of the survey, should be recorded and the product should be launched in the areas with a greater density of interested people in the survey; as a result, there are bright prospects of locating key customers of your business. In the survey, the phone numbers, location, and important contacts must be garnered. Furthermore, it would be help to find out the prevalent shopping methods of the customers: Do they prefer to shop by the store? Or, Are they inclined towards online shopping? In either or both cases, the appropriate provision of buying conduit is going to identify a large number of customers and also help them buy the service easily!

Advertise your services

Let people know about your product or service. How do you stand out from the crowd? What can you offer differently that would make their life easier?
You can take to social media marketing, which is a highly effective and popular channel. This may include: Facebook marketing carried out through creating pages, groups, making profiles of your products; you can also create a YouTube channel to promote your product as well as short ads. Furthermore, you can use physical advertising using banners on famous streets. You can also conduct seminars pertinent to your business that may be free or at a nominal cost. Customer interest can be easily developed by focused product marketing/promulgation. The proper advertisement that categorically addresses the requirements of buyers can only be effective.

Immaculate product/service description

To develop frequent and key customers, it is important that you be conversant with their needs and the quality of service they are looking for. During the advertisement or survey, notify the people about the great features and attributes of your product/service. Make the best endeavors to eliminate customers’ apprehensions relevant to your service if any; so that they may try your product, and even may become potential customers. The description of your product must have all the statutory information to help the customer to understand the components of what the product is made of. Product description can be tuned to attract customers of a particular age group, gender or social class. Underscore the core benefits of your service, and indicate how it is better than the other competitor’s services. In my perception, it is the key step to develop permanent clients in your business!

Product/Service quality and cost

When you advertise your service, it is necessary that you highlight all qualities of the product or service you are offering. In all probability, people of various classes may show an affinity towards different properties of the product. Similarly, when customers start contacting you, you must maintain the quality of the product you described to them. Improving and maintaining the quality of the product being delivered increases potential customers and strengthens the trust of key customers. In addition to maintaining the quality of the product, the price of the product should be appropriate to the market segment and social class that the product is aimed for. Fine quality and reasonable cost will fetch a deluge of key customers to your business, who will be frequently buying your product. On the other hand, if you have a high price, it will reduce the number of customers but will bring the concept of exclusivity and desirability towards the product. In a nutshell, accurate and successful product/service description will surely facilitate customer identification.

Fine Customer Support

Another important factor that is surely instrumental in generating a lot of buyer traffic to your business is brisk and readily-available customer service. To respond quickly to the queries of the buyer or the interested person indicates the quality of the service and also identifies your customers. Good customer support enables the customers to notify you about fruitful modifications and features they want you to add to the product. The quicker the customer service resolves the issues of the buyer; the greater will be the probability of key customers being driven to your product. So, make your business customer service available 24/7 with courteous and capable staff as it will be helpful in meeting the customers’ needs.

Conclusion

Plan well, advertise your product with full force. Deliver the product of your business by maintaining the quality at appropriate prices and expand your customer base. Using these proven tactics will surely drive a deluge of common as well as key customers to your service. Your business will thrive and the overwhelming performance of your business will definitely help you overtake the other competitors in the market!

Business Guide: How To Deal With Business Competition In 2020

Considering the increasing number of companies that perform in different domains, staying above the floating line may be a tricky task. It is very important to know how to deal with business competition. Also, you must be able to keep your knowledge up to date and adapt to the 2020 business environment.

How to deal with business competition in 2020? There are various ways of dealing with business competitors in 2020. However, the most noteworthy are:

  • Analyze the market
  • Understand your competitors
  • Know your customers
  • Explain what makes you different
  • Improve your marketing
  • Take care of your customers
    • Customer service
    • Loyalty programs
    • Discounts

Now that you know what the most commonly used tactics are, let’s take an in-depth and find out what works best for you!

how to deal with business competition in 2020

Why You Need To Know How To Deal With Competition

The total number of businesses that appear on the market every day is very important. However, many of these companies cannot keep up with their senior competitors. This happens because of various reasons such as

  • Improper dealing with competition
  • Customers trust well-known companies
  • Lack of initial financing
  • Too rapid expanding pace
  • Lack of prior market investigation

Statistics state that up to 70% of small businesses fail in the first 10 years. This number is astonishing considering the enormous amount of companies that are founded every day.

As mentioned before, the incorrect dealing with business competition is one of the most common reasons a company fails. That’s why it is very important to know how to deal with business competition.

How To Deal With Business Competition In 2020

Now that you understand how important overcoming business competition is, let’s find out what the most efficient ways to deal with your competitors are. Keep in mind that to perform better than your opponents, corroborate all the methods explained below. It is definitely not a one-and-done job.

Analyze The Market

The market is your workplace. To achieve high proficiency in terms of sales, analyze the current market. You want to know as much information as possible about how things are going worldwide/locally, what problems other businesses encounter, what the nowadays trends are, etc.

Statistics are very relatable in business. Even if it may not fit perfectly to your situation, you may find yourself in a position that could have been predicted using statistics. However, analyze the latest statistics available as things change wildly. For example, you can learn more about the most important statistics in matters of small businesses in 2020 here.

Understand Your Competitors

You cannot possibly overcome an unknown obstacle. Conducting a market analysis is very important especially before starting a business. If you choose a domain that is already saturated you will definitely struggle to break the ice.

However, constantly analyzing your competition is very important too. You want to know their perks and drawbacks and what makes them perform better (or not) in the current market. This way, you will understand what you are doing wrong, what they are doing wrong, and what you should work on.

Being able to compare your business against your competitors will give you a better understanding of what the most important aspects of your company are.

Know Your Customers

Business imperatively involves two persons: the seller and the customer. Considering that you know what your pros and cons are, get to know your customer. An excellent idea is to create a customer persona.

A persona is basically a set of characteristics that represents your usual customer. When creating a customer persona, you consider different meaningful aspects, such as

  • Age, gender, location
  • Occupation, hobbies
  • Spending habits
  • And more.

After completing the persona, you will understand what you should improve to gain your buyers’ attention. Having a well-researched persona will help you make educated decisions that will positively affect your company’s sales.

Explain What Makes You Different

What makes you better than your competitors? This is a very important question that you must be capable of answering. You must have a crystal clear understanding of your advantages ahead of your competition. Your perks may be in terms of logistics, prices, quality, offers, and any other matters.

Also, it is a brilliant idea to emphasize why customers should choose you instead of your competitors. However, make sure not to exaggerate this type of marketing method. You may end up in a trial for denigrating your opponents if you go too far.

Improve Your Marketing

Marketing is the spine of a business. That’s why constantly improve your marketing content and adapt it to the 2020 trends. You can advertise your business in a lot of distinct ways, such as

  • Digital
  • Flyers
  • Television
  • Radio
  • And more.

It is very important to adjust your marketing strategy to the changing trends. For example, in 2019, 60% of smartphone users have contacted a business directly using the search results. This reveals that you should prioritize the digital environment for advertising your business.

Do your best to reach out as many customers as you can. However, make sure that all your ads are relevant. It is a commonly used tactic to bait clients on your website. Keep in mind that a customer that feels like cheated from the second he accessed your website will never invest trust in your company.

Take Care Of Your Customers

Whether they are new or repeated, customers are the key to dealing with competition. There are some important aspects you should take into consideration if you want to attract as many customers as possible. The most noteworthy aspects you should consider related to your clients are:

  • Customer service
  • Loyalty programs
  • Discounts

Customer Service

It is the most crucial part of keeping your customers happy. Let’s be serious: would you hire a company that does not care about your needs and only wants your money?

Whether we are talking about pieces of advice about future orders, technical support, or any other issue that your customer may encounter, it is very important to have a team of experts that are ready to satisfy your clients’ requirements.

Loyalty Programs

Existing customers are pure gold in business. It is easier, cheaper, and more proficient to keep an existing customer than to find and gain the interest of new customers.

One way you can attract the existing buyers to keep buying your services is to provide loyalty programs. There are lots of possibilities in terms of loyalty rewards, starting from discounts and loyalty cards to birthday gifts and priority for future orders. All you have to do is to be creative. Think for yourself: what would make you repeatedly buy one’s services?

Discounts

Even if discounts can be a part of the loyalty programs, why not include them in your everyday business routine? You can analyze the latest sales and offer a discount on the products/services that you are having trouble selling.

This may represent an impulse for the customers to try out and buy less demanded products. The same rule as before applies: be creative! But make sure you don’t exaggerate with the discounts. You don’t want to diminish your profit too much.

Expect Future Changes

The service market is volatile. That is a fact. You must take advantage of the changes that may occur in the future. For example, predicting a drop in the currency market will definitely help you minimize its effects on your business.

Always look to the future! You have to be ready to adapt your business to any changes that you may encounter during the following years. Make an imagination exercise: Where do you see your business in five/ten/twenty years? Answer this question and you will get a better understanding of what your expectations are about your future business timeline.

Final Thoughts

To sum it up, dealing with business competition in 2020 may be a tricky task. However, now you know how to respond proficiently to your opponents in the business market.

Make sure you combine all the mentioned pieces of advice to get an effective competitive approach.

Introduction to After Sales (Webinar)

A free webinar introducing Aftersales as an important process for customer retention and loyalty.

Join us at 4pm IST, Saturday 4th April 2020

In this introductory webinar on Aftersales, the topics that will be covered are:

  • What is after sales service?
  • Maintenance contracts
  • Costs associated with aftersales
  • Product improvements

Duration: 30 minutes
Time: 4pm IST
Date: 4th April, 2020
Location: Online link or paste this in browser https://meeting.zoho.in/meeting/register?sessionId=1372142262

Panel Speakers:

Dr John Mathew (Principal Consultant)

Jacob George (Principal Consultant)

On Site Retail Marketing

Let’s talk about retail marketing. Perhaps we should begin by addressing what is a retail sale and who is considered a “retailer.”

A retail sale happens when a finished product or “good” is purchased by the end user. You buy your groceries, shoes and most items from a retail seller. When, for instance, your grocer buys cases of soup for resale that is called a wholesale transaction. Your grocer is a “retailer” as he sales his goods to you, the end user. Your hairdresser is also a retailer but they sell services to you, again the end user.

Specifically let’s discuss on-site (within the walls of your store) marketing. We can, and should, look closely at reaching out and attracting potential customers via print ads, radio, TV and especially online advertising as it is second in cost only to your on-site marketing.

Top 5 Steps to Building your Customer Base

Greet Every Customer

If you don’t greet your customers as they enter your shop, don’t worry about it – you’ll probably never see them again!

This is so basic and yet far too many store managers don’t do it. We have all experienced this; you enter a store, the manager or employee is right there and yet they are “too busy” to smile and say hello? What could be more important than making your visitor feel welcomed and that you are happy to see them?

If you greet each person upon entering and thank them as they leave – even if they do not make a purchase – you will have made a great impression and secured a second visit.

Trickle-Down Ownership

You can tell the people that work for you what you want them to do….and some of them will, but more often they will do as you do. You must lead the way; greet every customer you see with warmth and a smile.

This trickle-down style of ownership, where the people that work for you see YOU doing what you ask of them, leads to teamwork and a “buying in” of all you as the owner/leader say and do.

As a store manager, I was over-the-top concerned about cleanliness and organisation. I constantly swept the floors, cleaned the rest rooms, organised the shelves and made sure the entry way was clear and presentable. In a short period of time even new employees were mirroring my efforts. Trickle-down-ownership is a great investment in your people and your business.

Make Sales Obvious

If your featured item is as hot as you think it is, make it accessible. When your new customer steps into your store your key item should be obvious. Whether it’s lighting, traffic flow or signage there should be no doubt that your offering – today’s sale item – is a great value.

Auto dealers always have the shiniest, sportiest and quite often most expensive cars in their showroom.

Along with this wonderful item you have for them it is essential to your business to expand your total sales dollars by having close at hand all the items that go along, or accessorise, your key item.

If it’s a man’s suit that is front and centre then a display of shirts, ties, belts and shoes should be nearby. A simple sale such as buying a coffee is quite often accompanied by a pastry and a suggestion that perhaps the customer would like to take advantage of a large coffee for only a few pennies more!

Solve a Problem

When a person enters your place of business it is your job to help them, to satisfy a need or solve a problem. They have come to you hoping that you will fill a need for them.

Maybe they need a new phone or a ring, perhaps a scarf to match their winter jacket. Now whether-or-not you have what they seek if you can help them in any way you will have made a new friend and began setting the foundation necessary for this customer to return to your shop.

So, it may be that you did not have the exact ring they were looking for today but, owing to the fact that you were so helpful they are quite likely to return to you when next they are looking for some other pieces of (hopefully expensive) jewellery.

Make a Friend – Earn a Customer

By helping to solve your customer’s problem you have made a new friend. They will be quite likely to speak well of you and your shop and to frequent your business when in the area.

To solidify this relationship and increase the probability of repeat visits a reward of some kind is a great idea. Many places will provide a gift or coupon based on number of visits or amount of sale. This is also a great opportunity to introduce them to your social media offerings as a way to increase your exposure and customer base.

As there are things you must do to establish your business there are also some things to avoid.

TWO SURE MISTAKES THAT WILL HAVE YOUR BUSINESS CIRCLING THE DRAIN

  1. If your place smells bad, it is bad – it’s a bad place! This should be a no-brainer but I bet that you, like me, have been driven out of an establishment by foul or strong odours. If you happen to be nose-blind (can’t smell) be sure to get a friend’s opinion.
  2. Dirty floors or carpets – once again this is a mistake that is so obvious that if you find you’ve committed it perhaps you should relinquish your plan of opening your own business.

If you truly want your own business and would enjoy working in your chosen field, then the secret to success is working so hard that you make it look easy…and then it will be.

References

  • Moltz, B and Lesonsky, R. Small Business Hacks, 2018
  • Karmoroff, B. Small Time Operator, 2013
  • Small Business Administration <https://www.sba.gov/> [Accessed 21/01/2019].

The Rationale of Intermediary Sales Channels in an Organisation

A sales channel or marketing channel is one of the most essential and crucial tools for management in any business. It’s the way products and services get to the consumer from the point of production. Thus, its purpose in establishing an effective and well-planned sales strategy.
Sales normally depends on the way goods are distributed. There being, the route that the product takes on its way from production to consumer is very important. To ensure a clean and successful sales process, every business have to decide on the best route or channel for its products. The various sales channels that are normally used are manufacturer to direct consumer; Manufacturer to Retailer to Consumer; Manufacturer to Wholesaler to Customer; and, or Manufacturer to Agent to Wholesaler to Retailer to Customer.
As for the intermediary Sales channels, their functions normally consist of buying products for resale to customers. They also help in distributing products and supporting sales to customers by offering services such as financing. Playing on account of the organisation they facilitate exchange of efficiencies and creating of utility. Following is a discussion of some of the reasons as to why, or the purpose or the logic behind intermediary sales channels in any business or organisation.

Logistic functions

Distributors and wholesalers help reduce the burden on organisation’s logistics operations when they assume the responsibility for the physical distribution of products to organisation’s customers. They store the products and provide transport so as to fulfil customers’ orders. Some partners even make a point of taking bulk deliveries from the organisation and split them into smaller quantities that customers order.

Transactional functions

This is one of the most important functions played by the organisation’s channel partners. They help increase the total revenue range when they purchase organisation’s products and sell them to their own customers. Through this the organisation is able to reduce its transaction costs as it’s only dealing with the channel partner. The channel partner in turn gets the product to their bunch of customers. Apart from accessing the consumers on the organisation’s behalf, the channel partner also takes the risk of holding inventory for them. This helps reduce the cost of stockholding and the risk of holding excess inventory for the organisation.

Added value

Channel partners add value to a transaction by customising an organisation’s product which could have been an expensive practice to the organisation. Besides, they (channel partner) are able to add value by grouping related products and services into packaged solutions that enable customers to obtain all their needs from a single source. This help enhance the reputation of the organisation for the needs of the customers are met effectively.

Facilitating functions

Channel partners such as wholesalers and distributors use their sale force to deal with customers , negotiate sales and provide customer services. This facilitate and support sales of organisation’s product. At times channel partners offer credit so as to make it easier for customers to buy which still support sales of organisation’s products.

Support

In case the products are intricate and require support, the organisation is capable of allocating responsibility to its channel partners. The partners then set up service operations that can install, maintain, service and repair products in their locale. This backing reduces workload for organisation’s service teams and also it ensures that customers can get local support when they require it.

It is the aim of every business or organisation to see that it has succeeded in attaining its long run goal. There being, the management thus has the obligation
of choosing the most effective channel. A channel which is well evaluated depending on the cost and benefits, as well as customer convenience.

References

  • Blunt, L. Types of marketing Channels. [Online] Available at <http://smallbusiness.chron.com/types-marketing-channels-21627.html > [ Accessed 19 June 2017].
  • Linton, I. What Are the Kinds of Marketing Channel Functions? [Online] Available at < http://smallbusiness.chron.com/kinds-marketing-channel-functions-20828.html > [Accessed 19 June 2017].
  • Chand, S. 10 Most Important Functions of Marketing Channel. [Online] Available at <http://www.yourarticlelibrary.com/marketing/10-most-important-functions-ofmarketing-channel/5784/ > [ Accessed 19 June 2017].
  • Markgraf, B. What Are the Different Channel Organizations in the Marketing System? [Online] Available at <http://yourbusiness.azcentral.com/different-channelorganizations-marketing-system-24068.html > [ Accessed 19 June 2017].

Building a robust Marketing and Sales Capability – Part 2

This is 2 part post. See the first part here

Confirmed Information

Once the marketing team or the sales team identifies the lead to be a potential customer, and the sales team does have an interest to pursue a particular lead, it is then converted. This conversion has a few of different categories of information; a contact, an account, an opportunity:

  1. A contact is a person within a company. It is possible to have multiple contacts within a company. Most interactions with a company is to a contact
  2. A company is also referred to as an account. Some systems have the capability to have parent and child accounts. This relationship is to ensure that head office and branch offices are maintained under the same account.
  3. The third aspect is the opportunity. An opportunity is a clear potential to make a sale. The opportunity in many systems are gauged by a timeframe within which the sale can be conducted and the value of a sale that can be done.
  4. There are other optional aspects such as events, notes and campaign logs that can be maintained for a converted lead. The reason behind these optional aspects is maintain a history of interaction with the customer. For example, for which marketing campaign did our company first meet with this customer or when was the email campaign sent.

The confirmed information about a contact and the company that she works for is a static data point that usually does not change over time. Contacts and account details can be used for a variety of activities such as sending proposals sending quotations, sending invitations to events or for specialised discounts and promotions.

People moving

One thing to note about a contact is that, the person may choose to work for another company in due course of time. In such a case, usually I would recommend that you mark the current contact as terminated or change the status to dead. It is very rare that you would transfer the contact data to the new company that she works for. However, you would create a new contact and the new company and keep a reference note under this contact mentioning that she had work previously for another company.

Duplicate data

Most systems will be able to detect duplicates within the contact database using fields like email, primary phone number or a combination of name and address. Duplication must be seriously looked at during this phase of the sales cycle.

The Sales Cycle

We had discussed about targets and is being part of the marketing campaign and everything  beyond leads to be part of the sales cycle. The sales cycle has numerous steps and depending on the complexity of the product or service that is being sold, the length of the cycle can drastically change.

Qualification

Qualification is usually the first step in the  sales cycle. Once the lead, or contact is qualified,  it means there is a clear need for the product or service that is being sold. The exact need would be identified in the next step of the cycle.

Needs Analysis

Based on the information that is received about the qualified lead which is converted to a contact and also an account, the exact pain point is identified. A single product or service may not address all the pain points, however, so long as there is sufficient number of pain points a value can be found.

Value Proposition

Understanding the value that the product or service will deliver to the customer is important because this value has to be clearly expressed to the customer. Before a sale, the customer has to believe that the product or service will deliver what is expected. Most of the value proposition will have to be built around solving the pain points that the customer has exhibited during the need analysis. This is a stage where the mapping of the product features to the pain points of the customer takes place.

Identifying Decision Makers

When selling a product or service to a large firm, there are usually multiple people who will be using the product and therefore, it will be necessary to identify all those who will influence the purchasing decision.

Perception Analysis

There could be other components that is required to ensure the sale can be closed. The perception of the customer is understood to incorporate the additional requirements to satisfy all the possible needs of the customer

Proposal/Price Quote

A detailed proposal is presented along with the price of the product/ service

Negotiation/Review

Most cases for large contracts, there will be negotiations that are conducted. There could be specifications that are changed or general price negotiations

Closed (Won/Lost)

This is the final stage where, the sale is closed and result is either a win or a lose. If customer is won, then the next step is to bill the customer. If the customer is lost then there could be a assessment to understand the reasons why this customer was lost.

Maintenance/Recycle

In most cases, the customer contacts are maintained for future business, whether the sale was won or lost.

Not all sales cycles follow this exact pattern. The type of product or service will determine the length of the cycle. For example, the sale of a chocolate bar to person would last a few minutes, while the sale of a large commercial oil tanker may take a few months. This difference is not because of the physical size of the product but rather the time taken to make the decision to buy or not. Most individual buyers tend to be much faster in their decision making as compared to a large corporate entity. Therefore all the phases of the sales cycle mentioned above may not pertain to the sale of a chocolate bar!

Now that we have explore the different stages of a sales cycle, do let us know how you conduct the sales cycle in your firm. Please provide your comments below!

Building a robust Marketing and Sales Capability

Most companies are aware that revenue is of utmost importance to ensure growth and sustenance for the company. This is a 2 part post. Read the second part here

The two vital components of revenue are marketing and sales. Though most firms are well aware that marketing and sales functions are important aspects, very rarely do they look at marketing and sales as a capability not as an end goal  for generating revenue. This article does not downplay the importance of sales and marketing goals, but it does show that companies with systems and procedures can sweep up more opportunities than those firms with random or incomplete processes with goals at the end.

Another aspect is that, at times, companies fail to understand the boundaries of marketing and boundaries of sales.This creates an overlap of tasks and activities thereby causing loss in effective revenue management. The separate tasks and activities of revenue management as part of marketing and sales are described next.

Sales and marketing process has a variety of tasks and activities that can be sequenced in a linear fashion. This process is quite generic and can be adopted to a variety of industries and categories of companies. The following sequence shows the overall process of a typical sales cycle:

A typical sales cycle

Target → Lead → Confirmed Information (Contact, Account, etc) → Opportunity Exists → Understanding the pain point → Proposal → Negotiation → Closing → Maintenance or Recycle

What are targets?

Targets are pieces of information about a person or a set of persons from a particular source of marketing activity. For example, if a company has conducted a seminar, then all the attendees of the seminar would be potential targets for future marketing activities. There is no potential impact on the marketing or sales activities if targets change or have incorrect data. Target are quickly changed, deleted or modified depending on the type of information that is obtained about the target. There could be additional activities done on targets such as data cleaning or a call centre based verification. In some cases email subscriptions are requested to ensure targets are real. The most cost effective method is used to ensure targets are cleaned and moved to the next stage of qualification.

A target is just the starting point to a more personalised communication to a person or a company.

The next stage of activity in the sequence is to convert a target to a lead.

What are leads?

Leads are targets that have been qualified based on an email confirmation or a phone call. Since leads have origins in the target list, their conversion depends on the campaign activity.

Each campaign activity may have different types of qualifications and therefore not all targets get converted into leads. Targets which do not get converted, may not be important for the current campaign. In some cases, a marketing campaign starts from existing leads, that were used before or were those that would never converted in previous campaigns.

The stage of leads in the sequence of marketing and sales activities represents the boundary between marketing and sales.

A lead has sufficient information  about a person or a company to to have an effective communication. However a lead does not have all the information required to make it a sustainable data point for future interaction. This is because leads can appear as duplicates or may appear across different companies with different names.

Not all leads come from targets. Some are created directly in  the system based on the Information that is received by the company. These created leads are sometimes created by the marketing department and in some cases done by the sales department. Usually the volume entries for new leads are done by marketing department and lead corrections and data scrubbing is done by the sales department.

The conversion from targets to leads, exposes a level of efficiency that the marketing campaigns are able to achieve.

Why is this lead necessary?

In most companies the sales department may feel that marketing departments waste a lot of budget with no direct return on investment. A marketing department can use the ratio of targets to leads conversion to show a clear value of the different marketing campaigns that were conducted.

Usually leads have the same data that is in the target and therefore, most sales and marketing tools are not able to distinguish unique leads within their system. In the next stage of activity, the leads are changed to a more static data point and hence duplicates can be identified more easily.

Now, as a company, we are quite sure that the customer exists and the person we are talking to exists. The information about the lead has a significant level of confirmation. The next stage of activity in the sequence is to convert a lead to a contact.

Read part 2 of Building a robust marketing and sales capability

From Risks to Audits

Risk management and audit management are distinctly separate in terms of personnel involved and the techniques used. Most organisations that have ventured into assessing risks, have found that moving from risk assessment to audit (control and test creation) is quite a daunting task. Conceptually, moving from risk assessment to audits is the ideal and logical step to take, but there has be considerable hesitation from numerous organisations.

The GRC Envelop tool has a risk management module for the enterprise version. Risk registers, associated risks, stakeholders, risk opinions/scoring, risk treatments and many more features are present in the risk module. However, there is no connection between the risk management module and audits module.Why is this left out?

Once there is a decision by the business management as to which risks exist and which are to be assessed, the next step is vague for most of the clients. Here are some of the approaches that have been noticed when we implement GRC Envelop at organisations who have started risk-based auditing:

  • create a new audit and define a “relatively” new set of controls that will assess the risks
  • map the risks to a department or division and create a new set of controls
  • modify existing controls and tests to cover the new risks, but later realise there are control gaps

Over time we have observed two aspects that should help overcome the hesitation while moving from risks to audit creation; first, the understanding that risks are part of a process that exists in the organisation and second, the overlap between existing controls/tests and the new ones has to be taken care of.

Risk as a part of a process

Risks do not exist independently within an organisation.

The recommendation is to attach a risk that needs to be handled, to an existing process. This existing process forms the basis of the risk based audit. Attaching the risk to a process is the most efficient mechanism to track where the risk would fall within the entire organisation.

However, attaching risks directly to a process may not be the ideal situation because risk exists with reference to an objective. A risk is the situation when an objective fails to achieve the desired output of a process. Therefore, attaching the risk to an objective is a much better alternative. This results in the overall structure being: Process (at the top), having numerous objectives, and each objective having numerous risks.

Do keep in mind that risks may span multiple objectives.

Control and test overlap

Though it is true that newly identified risk may need a new set of controls and tests to capture the assurance that business management needs, it is not true that these controls and tests have to be new completely new. Most large organisation have quite stable processes and keeping this assumption means that the newly identified risks may have been implicitly captured in some other control.

Understanding control overlap caused by the newly identified risk is a painful process of weeding out controls and tests that are no longer needed. This also maintains an optimised number of controls and tests for each process (not to mention control owner satisfaction).

Not so easy to find a common path

To conclude, I agree that moving from risk assessment to audit execution is not a straight forward task, but the framework of using the process/objective hierarchy will help ease the transition and help manage the ever growing risk control matrices in large organisations.

One aspect that I’d like to throw in is, the feedback from audit results back to risk assessment, but I think I’ll keep it for another post.

I look forward to your feedback on how you move from risk assessment to audit definition!

Looking for an Audit management tool at low cost?

When looking for a GRC software, how much would price affect your decision? Would you try a free open source, but reduced feature software?

An interesting comment on the Norman Marks blog asks why you would stick to a fixed set of features rather than look for “á la carte” GRC software. At what “point” would you choose product that covers a fixed feature set over a pick-and-choose approach to software or visa versa?

The GRC Envelop is a risk and audit management tool that is web – based and has risk and audit work flows. To answer the price issue, GRC Envelop tool is available in 2 licences: an open source licence and an enterprise licence. The open source licence is referred to as the community version. The enterprise licence is refer to as the enterprise version. The enterprise version has commercial support and many additional features to help with risk and audits. Please take a look at the feature list to decide which one is better for you.

GRC Envelop tries to blend the price and feature set issue by the classic software design of breaking the tool into modules. For example, the risk management module that can be swapped for another risk management tool, using APIs provided.

Audit and risk management tools are quite common in the enterprise, and they help structure the audit work flow, maintain a common repository of audit/risk related information (such as objectives, risks, controls, and tests) and manage the people around the audit/risk activities. Assuming we look at audit management for now, there are four basic areas for every audit management tool should have:

  1. Creating audits – Title, description, start and end dates are of some of the features that are available while creating an audit. You can also attached work papers to an Audit. While creating an audit, you can create the processes, the objectives, the risks, the controls and the tests. At each of these levels you can attach work papers too.
  2. Managing and executing audits – to manage or execute an Audit, the GRC Envelop tool provides a separate workflow to ensure that auditors can only enter test results and test descriptions. While executing the audit you can create findings and actions. The ability to make control and test assessment is only available in the enterprise version.
  3. Report generation – the main use of this tool is to provide easy report generation at the end of an auditing exercise. report generation template can be modified according to your needs. The community version has only one default report generation template. The enterprise version has the ability to have multiple templates.
  4. User management – Restricting users to their areas is an important task for a tool. The community version has only one user type ( auditor) whereas the enterprise version has 6 user types (Audit manager, auditor, external viewer, internal business user, repository manager and risk manager)

The GRC Envelop provides all these basic areas. Paid support is also available for the community version. The community version has to be downloaded and installed on your machine or server. The enterprise version can be run on your servers or hosted on a public server. Please take a look at the feature list to understand which version will be most suitable for your use. Here are a few questions that we’d like to pose:

  1. Do you think there are other basic areas that was missed out?
  2. How would you define if a audit tool is easy or complex to use (steep learning curve)? The time it takes to learn a tool is one aspect, what else affects complexity?

Let us know in the comments below.