Category Archives: Sales

Buying Criteria and your Target Market

How well do you know your prospective customers?  Do you know why your customers decide to buy from your firm?  It may surprise a Modern Marketer to find out that most senior executives cannot answer these questions definitively.  And, if the senior executives are not able to answer these questions, how can they expect the organization as a whole to be able to articulate a common, differentiated value proposition?

It’s not easy.

The only way you will truly know about your market’s buying criteria is to survey qualified people in your market.  We did this at my firm several months ago and some of the results were very surprising and quite different from what we assumed.

I just read a fantastic paper published by Openview LabsA Guide to Competitive Messaging, that offers a really good framework for analyzing  your market, defining a message and making it common throughout the organization.  You can register to download your own copy here if you like.  Just so you know, I don’t have any affiliation with Openview, I just like the paper.

Buying criteria is not the same as importance.  For example, if you ask someone what is most important when choosing an airline.  Typically, safety is most important.  But, when you ask the same person what criteria they use when purchasing a ticket, the answer is not safety because safety is assumed in this modern age of flight.  Buying criteria could be any number of things; price, speed of delivery, availability of service, where it’s made, etc.  You should also understand the relative weight each criteria carries with the market.  Perhaps low price is a criteria, but it is weighted less than speed of delivery.

Once you know the criteria and the relative weights of each criteria, you are ready to align your message, core competencies and differentiation with the target market’s buying criteria.  You may look at several different segments and find different results.   For example, head of a family of 4 living in the suburbs may value fuel efficiency as number 1 and price as number 2 when purchasing a new vehicle.  Whereas a single male in an upper income bracket may value power as number 1 and prestige as number 2.  Once you know the market’s criteria, you should focus on the markets where you fit or develop competencies in markets that are attractive but you do not fit at the present time.

If your firm is one of the majority who does not understand their target market’s buying criteria, get busy and put together a plan today!

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2 Simple Rules for Trade Show Success

We just finished our single largest trade show event this year, Interphex 2012 in NYC and I realize, once again, trade shows are here to stay.  In spite of all our digital tools like marketing automation, content management, webinar platforms, VOIP video calls and even virtual trade shows, we all love the real excitement and energy of a live trade show.

10 years ago when I owned a marketing production company, as a pioneer in content marketing, I taught small Chambers of Commerce and other Associations about trade show best practices.  As I reflect on the best practices, I come to the conclusion that trade shows require a lot of work to make them successful.  The fundamentals that drive booth traffic and increase ROI have not changed in 20 years.  As I strode along the aisles of Interphex 2012, I saw a myriad of booth sizes from the large 40’x40′ to the small 10’x10′ with all kinds of booth components, slogans, dress, give-aways, ad nauseam.  Remarkably, if you asked people who stood at similar booth sizes and locations how the show was going, some said “great show”, others said “it’s kind of slow”.  How could this be?  It’s the same booth size, same show attendance, same location but different results.  I would bet that the ROI directly correlates to these different perceptions as well.

Although a successful show does take a lot of work, if you follow just these 2 simple and basic rules, you will be one of those who say “great show” and not one of those sad booths with no traffic and no energy:

  1. Let them know you’ll be there and why they should visit your booth.  I’ve seen the oft quoted statistic that 80% of trade show visitors decide which booths they will visit before ever setting foot on the show floor.  You need to let your target audience know ahead of the show that you will be there and give them a compelling reason to put you on their list of booths to visit.  What’s that you say, of course our customers will seek us out, they love us and how could they resist our charm and our magnetic smiles?  Think again my friend, you even need to give your customers a reason to visit. We offered a very simple promotion this year at Interphex; stop by to see some new products and pick up a free t-shirt for your trouble.  It worked like a charm.  We had more visitors than any previous year.  I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the booth across the aisle with not much activity and a booth size twice as big.  Undoubtedly, they did not tell their target audience or their customers about the show or give them a reason so visit.  But, they did seem charming and magnetic.
  2. Follow up quickly.  After 3 days, every day that goes by causes an exponential decrease in your show ROI.   Make sure the sales people follow up on requests immediately and that everyone else who visited the booth gets some type of follow up correspondence or action within 3 days.  You would be amazed at the number of companies who spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars on a show but never follow up with the visitors after the show.  It’s hard.  The poor salesman spends 3 days at the show, offline or partially offline and when he gets back, there’s just too much “real work” to do, so the leads go into the CRM or sit on his desk, never to be heard from again.  This scenario is the BIGGEST killer of trade show ROI above and beyond any other issue.

If you’re a Modern Marketer, you need to face it, trade shows aren’t going away and you, as the marketer, need to make sure they pay off.  These two rules will help you make it pay.  There are plenty of books and gurus out there to give you good tips.  Or shoot me an email and I’ll be glad to chat with you about your trade show challenges.

Next blog finishes out my 5 Key Success Factors for the Modern Marketer.

New model – ‘Revenue Team’ or Old model – ‘Sales Dinosaur’

There is a lot of talk in the blogosphere about this topic and I’ll add my comments based on my past 18 years of B2B sales and marketing experience with products and services.

My title is ‘Global Marketing Manager’ and for all intents and purposes, I act as CMO of this global organization.  One of my responsibilities is to create a thought leadership position for the business and one activity we execute is to teach a series of seminars.  We also attempt to learn more about our customers by polling the audience.  One of the questions I always ask is “How do you decide what [item] to purchase?”.   Think about how you make a purchase in this modern age.  Clearly and by far, the top choice is always ‘web research’ followed by ‘vendor website’.   I remember a presentation by David Meerman Scott during the Eloqua Experience conference in 2010 where he showed a series of videos in several different countries around the world, asking the question ‘how many people use the Internet to make a purchase’.  Every audience around the globe had the same response with about 90% raising their hands.  By the way, if you haven’t read his blog, check it out, it’s informative and entertaining.  Take away from this story – people buy using these 4 basic steps; gather information on the web, make a buying decision, engage with a few companies to confirm the decision, then purchase.

It’s way past the time to acknowledge the fact that the sales and marketing game has changed forever and will continue to change at a rapid pace.  People (including people who comprise the so called B2B world) don’t need the ubiquitous field salesman as a source of information.  It’s not that the salesman is not needed at all yet, but, a day will come in the not-to-distant future where the expensive, bag carrying salesman will be a thing of past economies and cultures.

Clearly, the game has changed.  I fondly remember my younger days when I was a bag toting salesman traveling all over the country peddling my wares.  Like many young and new salesmen, my company sent me to a sales training class put on by a franchise called Sandler Sales Institute.  Dave Sandler founded the business and the selling method or philosophy which was based around the idea that I, the smart salesman, have information that you, the buyer, need or want.   In days past, buyers needed the salesman’s knowledge about the industry, new technology, what other companies are doing, and pricing.  Sandler taught us to use this leverage to gain commitments from the buyer and to forge a bond with the buyer to facilitate a perception of trust and reliability.  This model is obsolete.

In the current age of the Modern Marketer, the Internet is now the primary source of information for individuals and companies to gain this valuable information during the early phases of the buying cycle.   For example, we’re able to scan a bar code with our iPhone and immediately know pricing and availability around the globe.  We are able to go to Yelp and instantly see reviews about a certain restaurant we are considering.  We can search with Google, MSN, Yahoo et al and find a white paper about any and all technical topics.  We can immediately post satisfaction or dissatisfaction with a product or service on Facebook where we have potential access to more than 850 million people around the world!  Information is free and available, who needs a (potentially annoying) salesman anymore?

What does it mean to you, the modern CMO, VP Marketing, Marketing Manager, VP Sales or CEO?  If you don’t know what it means, you had better get up to speed fast!

Feet-on-the-street sales is expensive and ROI is rapidly shrinking.  If you want your firm to gain market share or even just survive you have to change from a field sales oriented culture to a holistic revenue generation team culture where content marketing, expert inside sales (consultants), and voice-of-customer drive the business.

Old model – marketing girls (not meant to be sexist, just realistic from my past experience) down the hall make brochures, set up tradeshows, and generate leads are dictated to by the field sales guys based on their latest whim, thought or impulse.

New model –  a “revenue team” drives the business by understanding voice-of-customer in the clearly defined target market;  creates relevant content (papers, seminars, webinars, micro-sites, etc) that help the people in the target market improve their daily lives; maintains top-of-mind awareness with ideal prospects; generates engagement with relevant people; responds with intelligent solutions, services and products to support a clear value proposition.

If you’re not aware of and following this evolution, you are already falling behind.

The Value Proposition, Message Hierarchy and The Elevator

2011-08-12-Elevator-Pitch1
Does your firm have a value proposition? Is it developed into a messaging hierarchy that every single person in the company can articulate? If you were in an elevator with your absolutely best prospective customer, could you succinctly state how you offer value to that person and their firm? Could everyone and anyone in your company deliver the value proposition in, say, an elevator?
What’s that you say, you don’t know the definition of your ideal prospective customer? Don’t worry, we’ll cover that in a separate blog post.
Here’s a quick 4 step process to get you started with a messaging hierarchy based on the value proposition:
·       Step 1 – Answer the question ‘What does [insert company name] do?”
o    If you say, we manufacture widgets with feature, feature, feature and benefit, benefit, benefit then you might as well shut up and go home right then and there. If you haven’t realized it by now, features and benefits do not foster engagement unless there is a distinct and immediate need at the very moment you state your F’s & B’s. Statistically speaking, chances are slim that you’ll be lucky enough to hit that sweet spot.
o    Instead, try starting with your (or your company) unique and interesting value. You might say, “we [state your value proposition]”,  then you have a good shot at gaining your elevator companion’s interest. For example, you might say “we’re in the business of reducing risk of FDA violations for food manufacturing companies”. Hmmm, thinks the VP Quality of Kraft.  Since your prospect is the VP Quality for a major global food manufacturing company, maybe he’s interested in a bit more information.
·       Step 2 – Answer the question “Just how do you do that?”
o    Here is where you can introduce your offering and how the features and benefits support the value proposition
o    “By providing environmental monitoring systems with feature and benefit that is unique to the market, our customers see a 40% reduction in FDA violations.”
·       Step 3 – Prove it.
o    Here is where you could tell a success story or talk about a major customer and how they use your company’s offering to achieve the value proposition you opened with.
o    Tell how you are unique or different. “We’ve just launched a patented product that does this and that” or “we’re the only company with this technology that ……” We’ve been in business for 80 years and here’s how that may benefit you and your firm….”  State that you are providing this service for a major competitor (must be authentic here).
·       Step 4 – Leave the elevator. If you did well and your elevator mate is indeed one of your ideal prospects, she will not let you go without getting your business card.
Naturally, good and proper message development takes thought and should align with corporate strategy.  In any event, if you can’t make a 30 second speech like this one, you should take a hard look at your value proposition.