How to Get Your Business to Sell with Herman Lundquist: B2B Marketing Advisor | Curiosity Code 006
21 Mar, 2024
In this episode of the Curiosity Code podcast, Alex welcomes Herman Lundquist, a seasoned marketing specialist with a rich background in helping B2B companies flourish. Herman shares his unconventional journey from a globe-trotting DJ to a marketing maven, emphasizing the invaluable insights gained from diverse cultures and business practices. His transition into the corporate world saw him revolutionize sales and marketing strategies at Canon, significantly boosting B2B solution sales in South and Southeast Asia by focusing on customer needs rather than product features. Herman's philosophy of simplification in communication and strategy shines through as he discusses his approach to consulting, aiming to make marketing more accessible and effective for small and medium-sized businesses. His methods stress the importance of understanding and articulating a company's unique value proposition in simple, compelling terms to facilitate growth and customer acquisition. Throughout the conversation, Herman and Alex delve into the challenges and opportunities in marketing today, offering actionable advice for businesses looking to refine their strategies in a rapidly evolving landscape.

Alex: Hi everybody and welcome to another episode of the Curiosity Code podcast. Today our guest is Herman Lundquist. He's a marketing specialist helping B two B companies to grow their business. Welcome to the show, Herman.

Guest: Thank you, Alex. Glad to be here.

Alex: It all right. As usual, I so curious about our guests that I start these conversations with trying to understand better their background because there is no right way to become a specialist in particular domain. And everybody has their own story. So I just want to spend next five to ten minutes learning about Herman's story because I find it really fascinating and I think it starts with unexpected thing that I rarely see on people's experience list in LinkedIn. And it's a DJ. Tell us about that, Herman.

Guest: Long time ago I referred to that as that was before my grown up career choices. But I spent years and years on the global DJ scene as a full time international DJ. That was my first real full time job. And I spent six and a half years in nightclubs across the world. What I got from that actually, that I find very good to have in my baggage today is different cultures, different countries, different ways to do business, different ways to communicate exposure to all the world's religions and faiths. And it was a really good thing to do at a young age in life because your perspective on people and businesses, I guess, becomes really broad and you learn to see what people do rather than listen to what they say, including yourself, of course. So after that, I met my former wife and we moved back to Europe. We met in Dubai, we moved to Europe and lived a couple of years in London. And I started working in offices like a proper grown up. Moved back to Sweden later after that, spent a year or two working for TV both before and behind the camera. And then I started to work in sales and I was invited by a friend of mine who said, you have this gift of being able to convince anyone into doing anything. So here we go. Come for an interview. And I got the job. Big japanese company Canon, you might have heard of them, spent many years there as a salesperson and became a sales manager. And as a manager in Stockholm, I had some issues with the way the product marketing team was giving sales support to the salespeople because it was too much focus on the products and it was not enough focus on the customer benefits or the unique value proposition that we were offering. So that's the starting point for me getting into marketing because I applied for the product marketing job in Sweden and did really well there. And we changed the whole way. Salespeople, demo service, for example, demo software or approach customers and the sales presentations changed. After doing that, I started applying this in the european office because other countries had the same challenge as we had had in the nordic countries. Stepping away from selling the product and all the features and all your awards and whatever it is that you think makes you unique. But the fact is, in the eyes of the market, you're maybe one of three, one of five that in their opinion are exactly the same and they can't tell you apart. If you put your hand across the logo in the upper corner on the website, it looks the same. To them it's not true, of course, but to them it does. And we cracked the code. So we changed the perspective and started talking about the customer. Having done this a couple of years in Europe, I was asked if I should move to Singapore. So I was heading marketing B two B marketing for Canon in South and Southeast Asia, doing the same thing. We just scaled the same solution to the problem up and it went really well as an example, because this might sound like a bit fluffy and uncomplicated to some, but that's why it worked. So we increased. Canon had been selling business solutions for ten years in south and Southeast Asia. And after we changed everything, we increased solution sales with 256% in one and a half year. In a market that is like cutthroat tight, we had Xerox, we had Conica, Minolta, we had all of them. And we just left everyone behind because we started focusing on the prospects and the customers instead of on our own product. Sounds easy, right? But like any other easy thing or things that sound easy, these things are not in reality that easy to do because you need to change the way people behave, not the customers, but the salespeople. So then after that, spent some years with American Express marketing for Singapore and Hong Kong, worked at Standard Chartered bank and in their global head office and the wholesale banking industry. And I also had the chance to do two stints as business manager, one in JWT, which is one of the, if not the world's oldest advertising agency. So I've been sitting on both sides of the marketing proposal, moving back to now. I stopped working in the corporate environment in 2019, started my own business in 2020. And what I'm doing now, in short, is to help small and medium sized B two B companies increase their sales or improve their business, whatever their goals are, by giving them sound advice. And my advice are based on years and years. We're talking like 25 years of experience in B two B internationally. And all the things that we did in these big companies applies to small companies as well. You just package these things a little bit different. So that's what I do. I help companies keep it simple because nobody likes complicated. Anyone can complicate things, that's really easy. But to simplify things and make sure that my clients use what they have for resource, time and money on the things that will work best for them, that's the value of bringing me in. So, short story, from DJ to marketing consultant.

Alex: Yeah, that's fascinating. And the simplification part rings the bell to me. When I was checking your profile on LinkedIn, I saw lots of articles that you wrote. And what fascinated me is that you're taking complex frameworks, complex concepts like, I don't know, jobs to be done, for example, and you're explaining it in such a simple terms, in such a simple words, does it just make sense? So simplification sounds like it's one of the key approaches in what you do.

Guest: Yeah, I mean, to simplify things or to help people think in different terms, to make it easier for them to make decisions, that's in a nutshell. That's the value that I bring. And many people, regardless, or if you're a sales director in a larger company, or if you're the founder and only person in a startup, say tech, whatever, you're so passionate, hopefully about your business and you're driving this forward and it's improving, and you're finding people to collaborate with, and you're getting finance board and you're doing everything to take that little seed into growing as fast as possible in the directions you want it to. And this is fine and this has to be done, but it also, in the same process, makes you more or less uncapable of thinking about your business from the market's perspective, because you know way too much about your business, you know every little thing. And your unique selling points, for example, they might be five or ten of them. You think, this is what makes me unique. And they're part of my unique value proposition, which is not just the product and the benefits, but it's also the people and the company. But you were kind of incapable to get this across to the market in a long way. So simplifying, yes, it's really necessary, and also in terms of communication, because it's not just about simplifying the hard decisions for my clients, but it's also to help them. We often do workshops where we talk about five things during the day. And after that day, they have answered to the most important questions that they've been struggling with. And these questions are usually what's the best way in telling the market about my business? Every employee in the company, how do we tell people? When you stand on the bus stop and someone says, what do you do? Everyone must say the same thing. It's tricky without help, but when you do that, it means that it's so easy to remember what you're saying, so people remember it. So when someone else says, hey, we're thinking about fintech project and we need branding and Dev and mean speak to Alex, because Alex said, I don't know if you have your ultimate sentence together, Alex, but if it's short enough and it talks about your target, what you do for the target and what problems you solve for them and how you do that in one single sentence, people will remember it and they will understand it, even if they know nothing about your business or about fintech. And then you're kind of skipping a lot of marketing efforts, but you're still reaching, in my opinion, the holy grail of marketing when you only get business from referrals. Because if someone says, oh, I got this trouble with my DevOps team, and then someone says to me, oh, go to this company, I know them, they do that. Then I'm not going to be bothered going out on Google and look for five other options. I'm going to trust this person that I know already and I'm going to contact this company. And chances for them to get my business are obviously way high all of a sudden because it's a recommendation. So in B to B, in my opinion, unless you run an ecommerce business or you have landing sites for conversion, as a huge part of your inbound, B to B is really about putting a representative from the company in front of a prospective client. That's B to B, or as we're doing now in an online meeting, but to get people to interact. So people say, well, we've been given as a case about how people maybe do things wrong. They want to do well and they have money and they have time and resource. They have a couple of doers in the marketing department. They might not have a strategic person on board, but they have people who are really good at digital marketing and content creation and all that, but they haven't got the map and they haven't got the compass. So they're asking colleagues, they're asking friends and relatives, they're getting advertising agencies approaching them, telling them what to do and consultants like me, and it's really hard for them to know what of all these things is best for me? And sometimes they try and do all of it as far as they go, with money and time. And this discussion usually comes up in the beginning of a relationship with a client of mine. And I say, tell me about the next year, especially if it's service or if it's it, because there's so many things that need to happen, and it's so easy for us to do it ourselves. We're going to do this and this and this and this. And I say, how many call them prioritized initiatives do you plan to do in the next year? And it's usually somewhere between five and ten, or even 15. And all this is usually about building your brand and getting on people's radar. Automated outreach, automated inbound. But the whole purpose of this is to generate business. So I say to them, okay, let's say that you have ten prioritized things. That literally means that you have 10% chance to succeed in each one of them in this year. And if you shorter people, it's probably less than 10%, right? So we sit down and it's a five minute discussion, really. We say, what is the low hanging fruit out of these ten? It's obvious if you talk about it or if someone asks you the right questions, which are the low hanging fruit, and we decide on cutting it down to three. So these are really the three that's going to fly fastest. And then we say, okay, good enough, three. But which of these three supports the overall goal for your whole business this year the most? Okay, let's start with that. And we skip and pause everything else. Do this now. And when that flies and takes off and starts working as it should, then we can reevaluate number two and number three, or we can even take a look at the other six or seven, because things have changed while we spent two months doing this. The market is different. Competitors have done different things. Tech is changing. So it's a constant thing. And sometimes we talk about fireworks as a bad thing. It's a celebration, and it's beautiful. But in marketing, if you think too much in terms of campaigns rather than the long game, especially on B two B on LinkedIn, it's easy to think that, okay, I got this money now, so I'm going to spend it on. I'm not going to say any advertising is better or worse than the other or any systems or outreach, because it depends, of course. But if you spend something on reaching a lot of people and exposing your message over a short time, that's it. The money is gone in this type of marketing and for what you're trying to achieve, which is to be maybe a thought leader, you want to be on people's radar, you want to stand out and look different from other customers. And so on this firework thinking doesn't work, and it doesn't really matter how much more money you spend, it's still fireworks and it's going to be gone in two weeks or two months if you could afford it. But then you're back to square one and you still have the same problem. So it's about finding cost effective ways that allow you as a company to produce things by yourself without external help and make sure that your core message is there. It's very obvious who you're talking to every time you're talking about something. So you get stuck on people's radar. So next time there is an opportunity for someone in your network, maybe you're one of the people who would get the question, because it takes time. So these workshops are about fixing these more simple problems, if we can call them simple. So, best way to talk about your business, best way to present your service or your products, because this is also very common in B to B in small and medium sized companies. They have all the content they need. They do really well in face to face meetings with clients. Some of my clients have way over 80% hit rate once they get the first sales meeting, because that's it. And they've been learning from every sales meeting they've had since the company started to exist, and they've been tweaking it. And they can moderate this hour of meeting and the conversation and land and hopefully with a handshake, close the deal in the end. So they're thinking, great, that content, we're going to make a short film now, 60 seconds for LinkedIn will use the same content, and that's fine, but not in that order. Because usually when you go into a face to face meeting, you have booked an hour with a person that clearly is interested because they are willing to spend an hour talking to you. That's fine. But on social media, it could be an article, could be a post, a blog or a short film, if you do the same as you would in a face to face meeting. Meaning, let me tell you quickly about this company of ours. Let me tell you quickly about what we do and our history. And these are our services. Here are some features of our services, and here are some unique selling points with these features. And then you come to the end of the meeting and you enclose it and you say, the benefit for you, should you choose to work with these services, is this. How does that sound? Fine in the meeting, but in a 62nd film, if I wait to the last 10 seconds with explaining who is this for and what's the benefit of having it, it's a complete waste of time. Great film. It took us two days to record it. We spent the last budget. Everyone's going to watch the first 5 seconds and keep scrolling because I don't understand who this is for and I don't understand what they're talking about. It's some dude talking about his own company. Why would I watch that? So my recommendation is keep the content you have. Just do everything backwards. So in the first 10 seconds of the video, you can say, so if you're a CFO in this industry, I can tell you how you could save up to 70% on whatever it is that CFO is going to watch the film because they think, yeah, on my agenda this year and it will affect my personal bonus is to cut costs. Here's a guy who says, you can cut up to 70% of something that is relevant to me in my industry. So of course I'm going to watch the film and the film backwards then says, and hey, by the way, this is the name of our company. Contact us. So it's literally backwards. And this works really well when you do it. So people shouldn't be too eager to go out and pay copywriters or agencies or people like me in different areas to change everything they already have. Because the stuff that works in the face to face meeting obviously works. So just repackage it and use it in the right way. Because if you change your content, your tonality, your brand, too often it becomes really strange because I see a post from you now and I see a film from you in six months and it feels like two different businesses. I'm going to get worried. I mean, what's happening with this company? Why are they changing? Just like I would come to you and say, can I just speak to five people in your company really quickly before we go into the workshop? Because usually it's the board, it's the management team, and then maybe people who are in charge of actually doing things that are decided in the strategy. So we get everyone aboard at the same time. So I asked them one single question. Tell me as short as quickly about your company, like we mentioned before. And then I put this up on a slide. And when we start the workshop, I say, I asked five of you to tell me as quick as possible about your business. And I've never today experienced five people saying the same thing, right? And then you see the CEO going, oh, this is going to be a long day. And that's the whole point. And then the third question is, why should we choose you instead of someone else? It's a very valid question. And it would be really strange if everyone who works in the company don't know the answer to this if they get asked again on the bus stop. But I know another company. Why should people work with you? It should come like this. And this is not something that you as a CEO take lightly on and think, well, I think that our company, because you need to ask the market, meaning every time you close a deal and get a new client on board, ask them old school, why did you pick us and take note of these things? Usually they would say, because I like you as a person and I trust you, so let's do business. But that's also a good reason. So when people say, why should we pick you instead of others? Or even if you're not in a sales situation, you're just talking about your company and people saying, well, to me, you look just like everyone else. And then you can say, let me tell you something I'm sure you didn't know. And we just put it up on our website. 93% of our customers over the past three years has come to us via recommendations from our clients. That's why people choose us. And they go, okay, trust check on that one. And you engage. So again, it's really simple stuff once you have created it. But if people have done certain things and communicated about their business for years and years, they're not that quick to change because it's like changing your children's personalities. You don't want to do that because you've been with this for so long. So change can be tough, actually, especially if you're a founder of a business and you're really passionate about what you're doing. And I'm not saying you have to change logo types or tonality, but changes don't come quickly because you're unsure. If I do this change and it doesn't work, what's going to happen to my business? And I have nothing. I don't have the old brand and the new didn't work. But usually people don't come to me if things work.

Alex: Herman, the question I have is, I know you're working mainly with established companies, so the strategies that we just covered, would they apply to brand new startups as well or will be completely different environment. And things that work in well established companies don't necessarily work for just businesses that don't have clients yet and they are trying to close their first deals.

Guest: It's a good question because like I mentioned, in my career previously, I've been working at huge companies, huge agencies, huge budgets, lots of people in the marketing department. But the challenges we're trying to solve on scale are the same challenges. When you start a small business, like when I started my business, when you started your business, marketing is the same and there are tools, but if you take the tools of marketing and you put them in the hands of someone who don't know how to use them, it's like saying to someone, can you create great content and use chat GPT but they don't know how to write the prompts. You give them the tool, but it doesn't mean that the result is going to go well. And it's the same thing. Big company who have been doing something over years and been very successful about it, and all of a sudden they think, what just happened? This doesn't work anymore. Our marketing, it doesn't bring us any leads. Why we've always been doing this so it can be competitors changing. The market is changing so many things that affect you. And if you don't have an eye, an ear on the ground and are aware of these changes, your competitors will just overtake you and you're lost. And it's going to take you a long time to get back. And what you need them is a map and a compass, basically. So a new company who hasn't done this at all, it's the same thing. They need a map and a compass. We want to get from here to here with our business in the first year. How do we do this with the limited resource and time and money or staff or whatever it is that we have? So the questions are the same. And I sometimes compare it to my mom likes to hear this because she asked, what do you actually do at work? And I said, well, it's like you take your phone up and my mom is over 80 years old and if I can explain to her it's simple enough and then I'm on the right level. So I said, you know how you can use maps to get where you're going and you get assistance in where you're going? And she says, yeah, well, it's the same thing because people come to me and say, hey, we're here and we want to go here what's the best way? So just like working with me, you ask your GPS program of choice on your mobile device. I want to get from here to here, recommend me. And the first thing it's going to say is are you walking, are you driving, bicycling or public transport? So I'm going, oh yeah. And in marketing that could be how much money do you have? Do you have internal resources to do this? Do you know anything about marketing? Do you have a driving license for marketing? Whatever. And then it says, okay, you want to drive, fine. I propose these three routes and then you can click on each route and you can see this is the fastest route, this is the cheapest route. We want to avoid road tolls and this route is scenic. It will take longer, but you will make friends along the way and take great photos and whatever it is. And marketing strategy to me doesn't have to be more complicated than that. So what I do is I am that gps function to my clients and say, you could do this or this or this. Not too many choices. And we agree on this together in the workshop. There are ways to, without spending too much time on it, agreeing on all of these possibilities that you could do to go from A to B this year, which are the best. And then we agree on maximum five prioritized initiatives that would work given the budget and constraints and other challenges they might have. And then we agree on those. And then after the workshop they check internally and see what do we have for budgets, which one is most? And I help them with that sometimes. So we agree on, start with this and then this and this. So it's exactly the same process really. I mean, the way we increased sales in canon in Southeast Asia, by changing the way we present ourselves to customers, basically, instead of doing a two hour demo with inviting people for lunch and coming to a big showroom and telling them everything we do, and people almost nod off standing to saying to the client, let me show you in five minutes how our multifunction system with softwares in the network work and you're going to do it yourself. And they go, what? And then we do that, put the hand out and we have a deal. That's a very long story, very short, but that's what it was about. So when we launched this in 17 markets across Asia, I had to do this for them, for them to locally say, yeah, this is a good idea. If he can do it, I can do it. So we went to a country at a time, he meant a lot of traveling for me over the years, but it was worth it. So I go there and we invite press and we have a press conference lunch thing the day before that. I have trained these people in how to communicate these things and how to do the demo. And the next day I did the demo live in front of the press. It's a high risk thing to do, but it works because it's for real. And when the press sees someone do this, and I didn't do the demo, I ask like anyone, hands up, anyone of the journalists in the crowd came up on the stage and walked through this complex document management security feature thing in five minutes and said, oh, that was easy. I didn't say anything more or less. He said this was easy. And then you get the coverage and the headlines for free the next day. And after that the salespeople were trained. They see how this is done, they do it and they see that was five minutes instead of 2 hours. If I bring a customer in for lunch and then spend five minutes afterwards, this is going to increase my sales a lot because I spend time on the right things. And it's the same thing. Even if it doesn't really matter how complex your service is that you're trying to sell, if you can't find the core in why a certain target market should benefit from using that service which you're offering. If you don't make it simple enough for them to want to buy that thing, it doesn't matter how much money and time you put into your marketing, because you haven't got the basics right. Marketing is all about not selling stuff. It's about making people want to buy stuff right. People want to make their own decisions. So by taking the long game and just letting people know who you are and offering them knowledge over time. On LinkedIn, for example, great platform for this, of course, then you're there on the radar because the likelihood of you doing a campaign and then finding the required number of prospects right now, who has budget and time and said, yes, we're going to buy this service today. It's a really slim chance of success, but keep feeding them with things and whatever your tactics are depending on. Everyone is not comfortable, like we are sitting in front of a camera. But webinars over years, super effective. Some of the webinars turn into knowledge bases. You can use them on the website. Some webinars might even end up as Q and a material. It's all about trying to think of how do we do this smart, make a six minute film about your product and then cut it up in pieces and then use those as snippets. If you put your email in here, we'll teach you about how you can do this part of your process. If you have problems with that and then take the snippets down to teasers to get people to. There are so many things to do, and most ways to market today are good. If your customer, if they spend time on TikTok in B two B, go to TikTok. It's unlikely. Nothing is right or wrong, but you just want to get a little nudge in the right direction so you feel that I'm doing the right thing. I don't have to be sleepless over spending my money on the wrong things, right? Famously, someone said, it's over 100 years ago. I know that 50% of our marketing spend is a waste of time. I just don't know which 50%. And it's still true today. Many people are in this situation daily and they're thinking, why can't we crack it? It's because they're not marketeers. They should focus on doing what they're doing in their business and let marketeers take care of the marketing. Right.

Alex: Especially in such a changing environment as it's today. Things are changing so fast. The new technologies have been introduced, new ways to market introduced, like the old approach where you just run Google Ads and you get the leads. It doesn't work anymore. It's not there. I mean, probably it works for specific type of businesses, edge cases or whatever cases out there, but for majority of businesses, like my business, like other businesses that I dealing with, Google Ads won't help. So, to wrap up this discussion based on your hands on experience as of today, what would be your recommended tactic? The one that works in most cases, regardless of the context, if it exists, of course.

Guest: Well, I'm falling back on everything we've been talking about, but it's really about making sure going backtrack yourself and said when we did the work strategically on our ICP and our target market, and did we take that far enough? Can we slim that down? Are we still shooting with shotgun here or can we get the sniper site on? Don't waste time on talking to people or connecting with people who aren't your target. That's really good. And once you get in contact with them, make sure that you say these things that are important to them and as short and sweet as possible so it sticks. I can't say it enough times, but if it's short and easy enough, you have to remember that it's not only this person that is your target that remembers this. They might be able to say it to someone else that might be interested in your services who is not even on your radar. So keep it simple and don't run off too fast. Discuss in the company or get external help with finding out how can we do less and gain more? How can we slow this down? And nobody wants to slow down. We want to increase sales or whatever it is in the coming year, improve our business in many different ways, and we want to do it fast. But marketing today, it's not fast, not in B to B anyway. So you just need to calm down and do things right and do less, strange as it may sound, but doing less is often a better thing. And be patient because these things take.

Alex: Time thank you very much for your wisdom and insightful conversation. It's been a pleasure to have you here as a guest. Herman, I really enjoyed the conversation.

Guest: It was great being here and I hope that among your clients and in your community, I hope I've shared something that can get an idea going at some people's companies and try and do things simple. Of course, many of these things I've mentioned can be done without someone like me. If you just know that, here's how we need to think.

Alex: Thank you. And for the listeners, thank you for listening to this episode. Don't forget to subscribe and hit the like button and see you next time.