Category Archives: Insights

“I Love It When Retail Brands Ignore Me.” – Said No Customer Ever.



In 1995, Gary Chapman published a book called “The Five Love Languages.” This book highlights five common ways individuals express their commitment and loyalty to their loved ones including giving gifts, spending quality time, sharing words of affirmation, planning acts of service, and providing physical touch. Love languages need to be nurtured in different ways, in order to show you care.


Harvard Business Review highlighted that companies should pursue emotional connections with their customers as both a science and strategy. The article titled, “The New Science of Customer Emotions,” stated, “Although brands may be liked or trusted, most fail to align themselves with the emotions that drive their customers’ most profitable behaviors. Some brands by nature have an easier time making such connections, but a company doesn’t have to be born with the emotional DNA of Disney or Apple to succeed. Even a cleaning product or a canned food can forge powerful connections.”

As an integrated marketing professional of 10 years, I often apply the “love language” approach to my own strategies in creating interest and engaging conversations with target audiences. Do my clients know I appreciate them and hear my thankfulness expressed often? Do my customers have face-to-face interactions with the products I support to tangibly hold and interact with their services? Here are three of these love languages to best highlight and gain recognition for your brand, while ensuring your customers feel appreciated.


In a Google Holiday Consumer Intentions Study, 80% of retail shoppers reported they still prefer to experience a product in-store before buying. Another 50% of shoppers stated that they research products online, but still purchase items in store.

It’s important to provide tangible touch points to help move shoppers emotionally. Give them a hands-on experience to discover, understand, desire, buy, and love your products and services. It’s one thing to read about a product online, but it can mean love at first sight to actually see the product in action! That face-to-face, hands on experience, can be the customer’s deciding factor between cutting the conversation short or taking the product home.


In 2014, 80% of all sales took place in-stores. Only 6% were through e-commerce, and half of those were ultimately transacted through a brick-and-mortar store. Consumers are more aggressive than ever in their search to find the best bargains, deals, and ideal products for their shopping needs.

Retail associates are the key! These reps are your loving “boots on the ground” armed with knowledge and product expertise that can assist in wooing a shopper to become your customer. Educating a retail sales team on the features and advantages of your product is like arming reps with retail cupid arrows. It empowers in-store employees to validate the customer’s questions and either reaffirm or redirect interest to making the right purchase. Reps are the last contact customers have before the sale, prepping them with these tools can successfully help them promote your brand amidst that final courtship of any lovers quarrel between other competing products.


Everyone wants quality time with the ones they love. For a manufacturer, this equates to cozying up to a shopper at an experiential store event. Experiential events are designed to create and combine tactile sensations and emotional resonance with consumers. Shoppers are emotional and rational beings who look for experiences and interactions every day, and not just with other people. They seek out these experiences with brands, products, and retailers.

A recent study conducted on the effectiveness of experiential events for an automotive brand demonstrated the power of an experience. Following an event, 67% of attendees said that they now considered the automotive brand to be a trustworthy manufacturer as a direct result of their experiential activity, while 86% said they had a more positive opinion of the brand. When asked if they would consider purchasing a car from them, 58% of attendees said they probably would.

Creating an experience that makes people feel good, valued, and appreciated is the key to their hearts. By combining an opportunity to interact with your product, with an atmosphere that is built for the product, you win on every level.


In closing, customer loyalty increases by strengthening their confidence in your product, offering, or service. This loyalty drives your customers to buy time and time again. So to help your customers feel loved, make sure you are speaking their “love language.” It’s all about their experience. Work to address the way your customers are seeking appreciation, validation, and interaction with your products. Turn their brand awareness into brand advocacy, and help spread the love.

Are You a Burden on Your Partners?


Back in 2011, while writing one of my first white papers on partner enablement, a seasoned channel colleague told me about the three elements a manufacturer must provide to its partners in order to make them successful.callout-1Since that conversation, the channel has seen many changes…again. Four years seems like a lifetime ago in terms of the channel, but those three elements have always stuck in my mind; and they are still sound rules to live by.

So as we head into 2016, let’s revisit one of these three simple rules based on what I’ve been observing with our clients. Let’s talk about what it means to be “easy to do business with” so you don’t become a burden to your partners.


Whenever someone asks me to explain the channel, I always feel I need a whiteboard and three or four colored markers to draw it out for them. It’s not a simple task. But if you have a good product or solution, and you have a loyal set of partners, it doesn’t take rocket science to build revenue. If it is priced well, has a competitive advantage in the market, you’ve done your job to properly incentivize partners and show them how to sell it, your offering should move.

But the truth is, the channel has NEVER been easy and it will continue to get MORE complex. What starts out as a well-conceived and well-executed solution quickly becomes encumbered by complicated deal registration systems, convoluted MDF procedures, a difficult incentive model, and the daunting task of bundling multiple vendors into one alliance.

What started out as a great idea is now buried by layers of programmatic sediment weighing down your program and your partners.

Simplify! We gain sales and partner loyalty by not just building a great solution, but by creating a channel program that is easy to navigate and does not add unnecessary weight to a partner. I won’t try and solve any problems with this post, but there are a few simple points to think about – which should form questions in your mind and expose the real problems.callout-2Three simple questions, but simplicity is the key to being easy to do business with. If you have to fumble and stumble over your answers to these simple questions, you just might be a burden. You probably need to have a strategy session.

Building partner sales and loyalty is a complex process as it is. The manufacturer has to continue to introduce innovative approaches to enable partners.

With a sea full of partners with limited attention spans, manufacturers who act strategically, actively enable their partners, and respond to their needs will win both wallet and mind share.

7 Must-haves to Enable your Direct Sales Team


Technology over the last five years has integrated into nearly every aspect of our lives, and it’s not just coming from Silicon Valley anymore. It’s spreading (some may think like the plague—thanks mom), from New England based start-ups to the newly termed Silicon Slopes of Utah. Huge surges of technology start-ups resembling the dot-com days have emerged. Everything has become more efficient, better integrated, and dare I say more complex. Especially as we start talking about direct sales teams.

Whether you’re talking inside sales or outside sales, account based selling, or consumer sales, the complexity of setting up an efficient “knock your socks off” sales team can be difficult and complex. Lets explore some must-have technologies and the keys to drive “real ROI.”

Tell me if you’ve heard any of these words from your executives over the last year: automation, acceleration, predictive, attribution, prescriptive, data viz, modeling, alignment, etc. the list goes on…If you have, you may be experiencing symptoms of stress, blurred vision, neck pain, or fatigue. They are looking for answers and demanding results. Technology has come a long way over the last few years and if your sales team hasn’t evolved you’re behind the ball.

Let’s break it down: Think integration, think automation, think acceleration, and think accountability, and we’re off to a great start.


  1. sMarketing - An integration and alignment of Sales and Marketing from both a vision and technology perspective.
  2. CRM - A robust hub of data commonly referred to as a CRM—call me a nerd but I prefer a multi-relational database.
  3. Marketing Automation - A system for automating outreach allowing for prospects to be targeted, nurtured, and prioritized.
  4. Predictive Tools – We’re talking predictive dialers, robust forecasting, modeling, neuralytics, and predictive/prescriptive analytics.
  5. Sales Automation - Gone are the days of a cubical farm of dialers hitting every number in the phone book. Your message needs to be thoughtful, on-point, and prescriptive. Let’s talk sales enablement, sales efficiency, sales coaching, and automation. This technology enables your sales rep to be efficient and on-target.
  6. Social Selling  – An informed team with ties to social media tools and online media to aggregate the pie in your face data coming at you every second from every angle—just try to keep up, “I dare you.”
  7. Prescriptive Results - What we used to call diagnostic reporting or data collection has evolved and now requires thorough analysis, modeling, and prescriptive business intelligence with result driven analysis. We not only need to show what we think will happen, we show how changing just one variable in the complex direct sales formula modifies the end result.

The old man on the block these days is Marketing Automation—experienced, proven and robust. The new kid on the block is Sales Automation—up and coming, with the biggest potential for improvement in efficiency and cost. We are not talking “old and busted” vs “new hotness”, but taking the best of both to lower cost, increase ROI, and drive results.

Gartner predicts that the CMO will spend more on technology by 2017 than the CTO. Based on current trends in sales technology, I predict that the CSO (Chief Sales Officer) will also outspend the CTO by 2017. Keep an eye out for shifting budgets over the next few years.

7MustHave-WhereDoIStartHire a skilled professional or an outsourcing SaaS (Sales as a Service) company with a track record of results. Take a look at these companies that are changing the game in direct sales: LinkedIn,, SalesPredict, ClearSlide, ToutApp, Yesware, Salesforce, Marketo, Pardot, Eloqua, InsightSquared, LeanData, Hootsuite, FrontSpin, and ConnectAndSell—to name a few.

7MustHave-Callout2Remember, leverage experts and don’t try to do it alone, but beware of “shiny object” syndrome. Meaning make yourself aware of new technologies and make changes as appropriate, but don’t chase everything just because it’s new. The key to measuring ROI across your entire direct sales funnel is consistency—you can’t measure something if the foundation keeps changing. Leveraging a robust technology stack all the way through the sales funnel is key to “real ROI”—it’s possible, it’s here, and it’s what your executives require, so make it happen.

Expand Industry Knowledge through Insights Brief

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Keep an eye out for your first Insights Brief, and happy reading.

It isn’t you, it’s me. Retail has changed and are brands losing out?


Most people have heard those words at one point or another in their lives. When it comes to the love triangle of retailers, brands, and customers, is the customer choosing competitors or retailers over your brand? After building retail solutions for five years, I’ve learned that the new face of retail isn’t about selling the customer the items you want, it’s about selling the customer what they want.

Retail was once an unshakable distribution standard, but now it’s an omni-channel experience, where purchases are made wherever they are convenient. It was once consistent and reliable, but mobile Internet came along and online sales grew at a dizzying rate. Insiders were convinced that the death knell for retail had been called. But did you know that online sales have never surpassed brick-and-mortar retail? That’s right, never.

In 2014, 80% of all sales took place in stores, while only 6% were through e-commerce, and half of those were ultimately transacted through a brick-and-mortar store.* What’s more, the rate of online sales growth per year is slowing down at an incredible rate, indicating that retail and e-commerce may be stabilizing into a form of synergistic equilibrium.


Retail isn’t fading into obscurity, it’s evolving to match the customer’s tastes, lifestyle, and access. Retail is no longer a fixed experience that can only happen one way, it’s an experience consumers decide for themselves. Retail is now everywhere and everything.

What matters now isn’t where you get the product, but how you get the product. Smartphones have created a limitless gateway for customer interaction, the key is making sure customer eyes and screens stay on you. This isn’t lost on retailers, who have begun using big data to better reach customers. These retailers aren’t as concerned with which brand customers purchase, only that they make a purchase. Brands and retailers each see the customer as exclusively theirs, often with differing marketing messages which can confuse customers, who ultimately purchase based on value and convenience over loyalty.

All of a brand’s efforts can culminate in a competitor’s product being sold in the last moment of sale, because the customer’s eyes are inevitably on the retailer right before purchase. It’s like taking your date to Prom, and having your date leave with someone else. The retailer knows what the customer wants from the minute they walk in the door, and thanks to big data, they often know where they are in the store, and what might entice them to pull the trigger today. All the customer needs is a nudge, and now your date is theirs.

So what can you as a brand do about it? Your first step should be to shore up your customer engagement model. Rather than rely exclusively on former customers and sales associate recommendations, or new signage and merchandising to draw the eye, you need to actively engage the customer in a direct motion that appeals to their sensibilities. This includes sales events, demonstrations, awareness campaigns, gamification, data execution, re-targeting, and engagement platforms that provide meaningful direct interaction. You need to woo your customers and make them feel special at all times, otherwise they will move on to the next relationship.

Not-you-callout2This is why it’s so important to be aware that the retail channel isn’t just a destination. It’s the entire journey. You need to make every effort to ensure your customer leaves the dance with you, and isn’t distracted by what the retailer or competitors may offer. You just need to adjust your strategy to be where they are, when they need you to be there, and if you do it right, you won’t hear them say: “It isn’t you, it’s me…”

*Brick-and-Mortar Retail Is Alive and Well,, 2015

Do You Enable Your Partners for Success?

Enable Your Partners Banner

We are currently seeing a very interesting trend within the partner channel – the need for enhanced enablement. Our view is unique because with so many great clients, we have a very broad vision of the channel as a whole. We are positioned to see emerging trends, and quite honestly, we are able to anticipate how the channel needs to evolve.

The biggest part of this constant evolution is how much more the partner seems to be dictating the terms of the partnership. The pendulum of power has swung from manufacturer to partner and it’s interesting to see how our clients are reacting to this.

Not long ago, manufacturers were clearly out front in the relationship and driving the channel value propositions. They created a strong channel program, partners hitched themselves to this flagship platform and that’s how they did business. They relied on one large manufacturer to be their lead product and they took full advantage of discounts, rebates, and MDF. Everything else just became a part of the rate card and everything ran relatively smoothly.

Enable Your Partners Subheader

Partners have moved to building a solution that includes many products and services. It’s not just a one-brand install any more. It’s a cloud solution with a security layer and cloud storage, mobile devices (with service), thin clients on-site with virtualization software, and an integrated communications piece to bind it all together. It’s a more complex (and at times, convoluted) solution, and rarely does one large manufacturer dominate the message. So with large manufacturers being just a part of a more diversified solution, what makes THEIR program so special? What makes them stand out with the partners?

It all comes down to enablement – and not just enablement on YOUR products and YOUR programmatic systems. Provide them with a marketing and demand generation engine.

It’s time to be the manufacturer that truly enables the solution-selling partner. We are talking about enablement that drives pipeline and sales, not just knowledge and incentives. The trend is to provide a program that generates leads (not lists…actual leads), self-serve automated marketing platforms, ready-made marketing campaigns, and concierge support.

Enable Your Partners Callout

Many manufacturers have struggled with generating demand in the past, and it’s always been a headache for partners. But in the age of cloud solutions and a new recurring revenue model, customer demand has rocketed to the front of the pack of priorities. The way we see it, it’s a great opportunity for the manufacturer to be the vendor that enables this practice. Make YOUR enablement platform the weapon of choice, and seize the opportunity to be the most valued player in their complex solution.

Many vendors are moving in this direction, some are not. Several have recognized this glaring need and they are not just ready to change, they are turning to us to help them enhance this enablement. Some of these vendors have recognized this, but are a bit paralyzed by their lack of know-how and organizational flexibility. And a few others have not recognized it yet and continue to overlook the situation.

We see all three cases, so we are speaking to all of our clients (and non-clients) about how we can generate true demand for partners and build a “through-partner” marketing platform. The question is, how are you enabling your partners?

Are you the manufacturer that enables, or is your head still in the clouds (no pun intended)?


The MarketStar Enabled Inside Sales Rep


Every company needs to acquire new customers and strives to increase sales. For many years, sales reps have relied on their instincts and dedication to close sales, spending hours researching new prospects, making hundreds of cold calls every day trying to reach the right decision maker, devoting weeks working a potential client, and even driving for miles with hopes of scheduling an appointment. Although all these activities help generate sales, they can leave even the most dedicated employee overworked and frustrated.

Today’s technologies present huge opportunities to improve efficiency and productivity for sales teams by helping them be successful while keeping them motivated and more satisfied. Sales processes that once consumed hours of reps time, are now streamlined to deliver better results by targeting the right prospects, with the right message, at the right time.

This infographic shows how MarketStar enables inside sales reps with the technology necessary to increase your sales and maximize your ROI.


The State of Partner Profitability


Recently, I represented MarketStar in a Partner Path webinar in which we examined the solution provider’s prospective as it relates to profitability from their relationships with vendors. Our MarketStar Insight team worked with PartnerPath to gather and analyze input from both, solution providers and vendors, to identify ways each side can improve the profitability equation. You can download the full webinar recording here.


Based on my experience in supporting vendor-partner relationships, we’re really seeing a trend over the last several years, in which solution providers wield much more power than they used to. They are more emboldened to trim unprofitable vendors from their line cards. To increase channel loyalty, vendors should consider the following topics we discussed in our webinar:



When working with the channel, front-end margin is easy to calculate for vendors, but it does not reflect true partner profitability. This is a much more complicated formula that takes into account commissions, overhead, capital investments, and other expenses. Solution providers will typically factor in how much opportunity the vendor offers through market demand, financial rewards, and program support, and then divide the opportunity by the amount of investment to be made through sales enablement, relationship, and the ease of doing business. If providers feel the relationship with a vendor takes more investment than the amount of opportunity they can experience, they will gravitate to other vendors.



So how do vendors enhance the opportunity and incentivize their partners? We posed this question to each group in our study and found differences in the way solution providers and vendors weigh the elements that produce opportunity. Solution providers prioritize market demand above financial reward. Vendors, on the other hand, believe that financial rewards are more important than product/brand strength, which improves market demand. Too often, vendors think all their partners care about is how much money they make. In reality, vendors should be asking themselves if they are creating enough value for the partner. If this is not the case, then the partner has to create that value to drive demand and that’s an uphill proposition for the partner.




In our study, we found another disconnect as it relates to solution provider investments. Providers rank unquantifiable relationship elements like resolution of channel conflict, experienced account managers, and trust in the vendor, as factors, which produce the greatest impact to their profitability. However, vendors rank these intangible relationship components as the lowest priority. Creating relationships and removing complexity from how business is conducted can be very expensive for vendors, but it is necessary for improving mindshare and loyalty.


You can get more insight from downloading the complete study, “The What and the Why of Partner Profitability.”

Internet of Things – A Glimpse at the Market


Editor’s note: click here for Part 1, or here for Part 2.

As expected, the Internet of Things (IoT) was a hot topic at this year’s CES. From wearables, to connected homes, to connected cars; the focus was on the top trends for this market.

A lot of innovative products from great brands were highlighted during the show earlier this month, and our MarketStar team was there to gather some insights.

Brenda McQueary, MarketStar’s Business Development Manager, said: “Wearables and 3D printing seem to becoming more and more accepted – and adopted. With so many options, education and brand awareness are going to be critical in the competitive landscape.”

Even though there are still some hurdles facing this market, such as consumer privacy and storage management, analysts project Internet of Things will experience massive growth by 2020:

  • Gartner predicts the Internet of Things sector will include 26 billion units installed by 2020, representing a 30-fold increase from 2009. Gartner estimates that IoT product and service suppliers will generate incremental revenue exceeding $300 billion in 2020.
  • Business Insider reports that revenues from devices, services, and software will reach $600 billion and a massive $1.7 trillion of value will be added to the economy in the form of revenues and efficiency cost savings
  • IDC forecasts that the worldwide market for IoT solutions will grow from $1.9 trillion in 2013 to $7.1 trillion in 2020.
  • Cisco projects the number of connected devices at 50 billion by 2020.
  • ABI Research estimates that IoT will drive wireless connected devices to 40.9 billion in 2020


Internet of Things Impact for the Retail Industry

Most analysts divide this market into five main categories: Smart Homes, Wearable Tech, Industrial Internet, Connected Cities, and Connected Cars, which means IoT will touch everyone in some way.

As for the retail industry, no matter how we analyze it, the Internet of Things represents huge opportunities for retailers, including new ways to interact with their customers.

By building a clear strategy and choosing the right technology partner, the Internet of Things will help retailers grow their business and:

  • Enhance customer experiences
  • Learn more about consumer behavior
  • Manage their inventory more efficiently
  • Expand their marketing initiatives and promotions
  • Increase efficiency – staff productivity

Upon his return from CES, our own CEO and President, Dave Treadway said, “creating great experiences to support the evolving consumer journey, using digital capabilities, and connecting with customers in new and more meaningful ways is key to capturing consumer sales in the Internet of Things”.

At MarketStar, we focus on solutions that create memorable experiences for your customers through the art of engagement and the science of sales.

Learn more about the Internet of Things, Smart Homes, and Wearable Tech in our latest infographics:

          Internet of Things     Smart Home     Wearable Tech

International expansion: the future of Latin America


As I wrap up this series on International Sales, I wanted to touch on the future of Latin America and why to consider expanding internationally. As per the chart below, B2C e-commerce sales figures in Latin America are forecasted to grow to 78.15 Billion US dollars by 2016. That’s a lot of cash, and that’s just e-commerce!


Source: Statista

But did you know that according to the state of the US internet survey 35% of respondents engaged in showrooming? So, with this growth in sales, do you have the proper presence in stores to train reps and customers on your product? As discussed in this series, there are many things to consider in an international strategy. But most of us want to know: what is the future of our sales, and the future of regions we choose to expand into? Here are some thoughts to help you decide:

Out of the five key emerging markets in the world (Mexico, Brazil, China, Russia, and India) LATAM has two. We have 40% of the major market right next to the US! Why not take advantage of this opportunity?  The future is nothing but bright for these areas.

As far as the future of your international sales program is concerned, your model for the region is the most important part of the strategy to consider when forecasting. The model has to be region-centric to have true impact and keep up with economic fluctuations. Having a single “Latin America” model is too broad. It’s necessary to focus on the business cultures where you want to expand, and create specific models for these cultures as needed. Say, for example, we are talking about the two key areas: Mexico and Brazil. You must have individual sales programs for each of these countries.

Another thing to consider when looking toward the future is that Social Media is very prominent in these countries. Did you know that for many years Colombia was the #1 country for Facebook? Social Media is going to continue to explode, and if you are in the Social Media industry you will want to place your bets in LATAM. (Side note: keep an eye on!) Another industry going strong is Telecom. As people move from feature phones to smart phones, and internet access continues to drop on cost for those devices, having a phone in Latin America is becoming more affordable. Across the board, technology is becoming more consistent and key to the LATAM culture.

While Social Media and Telecom are on the rise, the last point I would like to make are the industries that are more challenging in Latin American regions. Here are some of the challenging industries to be aware of (in order):

  1. Services – LATAM can duplicate services based out of the United States at a very inexpensive rate because labor is a lot less expensive in LATAM regions than it is in the U.S.
  2. Software – rather than using expensive, established platforms originally developed in the United States, LATAM regions can inexpensively develop apps from scratch on a local-level.
  3. Hardware – companies in the hardware and networking industry are experiencing huge price pressures as the price per product is considerably dropping.

As a whole, expanding internationally is a great choice once it’s done carefully. Catch up on prior posts to these series here:

Part 1Making the Leap: Tips on expanding your international market

Part 23 strategies for targeting international sales

Part 3 How to execute your international sales strategy

Or, if you have any questions about your international sales strategy, please connect with me on LinkedIn or contact me at Saludos and Obrigado!