By APNWLNS payday loans
February 28, 2012
The oddest request I ever received from the head of a sales organization was “Can you stop promoting the product for a couple of months?”
It was an old company with a new product that had gone nowhere before I took the reigns of their marketing department. I established a strategy that relied on precise market segmentation, focusing on the top two segments, then making buyers and strategic partners believe we were the only serious product in the market. Sales jumped 26% in the first year, we chased two competitors completely out of our target segments, and had a sales close rate above 80%.
The poor sales folks couldn’t keep up with incoming calls.
The strategy was to bias the opinions of buyers. This required them believing that we not only cured the generic problem (which our competitors did too) but we also cured the buyers personal job-related problem (in this case, that we could reduce their job stress) and that we were a safe bet (which reduced their purchase decision stress). The product was mainly used as a plug-in to enterprise-class applications and IT utilities. By focusing on two product categories therein, and partnering with the top three competitors in those segments, we were able to clearly target 66% or more of the potential buyers in those two segments.
In periodicals read by users of strategic partner software, we bought full page display ads (remember buying those) whereas out competitors kept their 1/4 page ads. This demonstrated greater strength to the buyers, clearly attached us to the partner products, and gave us ample space to communicate our solving buyer generic/functional and emotive problems. We also treated our strategic partner’s sales teams like our own, coaching them on what motivated buyers, what our brand and key advantages were, and why our solution made their product whole. Buyers heard the same story in ads and from their enterprise application vendors (which included HP, IBM, CA and some other obscure firms).
Appearing at partner trade shows merely solidified the concepts we were planting in their craniums.
Being boosted by both presence (ads and trade shows) and partner sales teams, set a brand that biased purchase decisions. When the need to solve the generic/functional problem arose in a prospect’s company, we were perceived to be the only viable choice. A default buying decision was created for them. This all demonstrates the difference between lead quality and lead viability.
A quality lead is one that meets certain criteria (qualifications). The problem with merely qualified leads is that the motivation to buy your product does not exist. Qualified leads are simply people who are approachable and might consider buying your product. A viable lead is one where the likelihood of selling them your product is enhanced. IBM develops viable leads largely through historical brand strength — nobody ever got fired for buying IBM. Creating viable leads requires creating positive differentiation in the minds of buyers. The differentiation can be functional — such as broader or superior features — or it can be entirely emotional.
Studies show that emotions sell better, even for B2B software products.
Interestingly, people will echo your biasing once they own your product, even if the branding is not entirely accurate. People need to believe the decision you forced helped them to make was the right one. Thus, biasing decisions to create viable leads then starts a cascade effect, turning buyers into brand advocates and generating more buyers — the buzz effect. Buyers not infected with biasing won’t do the same.
Pick a differentiated brand then find all the vectors through which your target buyers receive brand biasing. They soon will have no choice but to call your sales team.
February 21, 2012
I thought my client had stopped breathing.
We were going over elements of a large-scale survey he wanted Silicon Strategies Marketing to do for them. The mechanics were fine, the methodology was agreeable, and the timelines were A-OK. But when the cost to incentivize respondents was presented, I momentarily mistook his slacked jaw expression as a sign of a cerebral stroke. He quickly reached into his desk draw, took a slug from a flask, then asked if the incentive amount was a typographical error.
The benefit behind primary research is that it delivers precise answers about your market. Surveying remains the best way to build quantified business cases and MRD‘s. However, surveying on the cheap produces unreliable results, and surveying in some ways is getting more expensive by the minute. The basic problem is that unless the subject matter of a survey really excites people, they would rather not invest time taking one. This opting-out phenomena causes surveys to be answered by the least viable of all respondents, namely those with excess time and insufficient outside interest. Building a product or defining a market with input from such lackluster respondents is an expensive error, where the expense is accounted in bankruptcy filings.
This congenital defect in surveying has been exacerbated by cheap Internet technologies. Every monkey can survey online today, which has produced a flood of amateur surveyors, survey invitations, and an ever greater public desire to not participate. Survey invitations without incentives have less than a 0.5% response rate, and that average is dropping daily. Even well incented surveys often fail to rise above 1%. The most successful survey Silicon Strategies Marketing ever accomplished achieved a 23% response rate, but everything worked in our favor (solid house list, well targeted audience, and an innovative incentive).
To con or convince people to take a survey requires a few simple steps:
Target your audience: Sending my cousin Bubba `an invitation to rate silk scarves to would be fruitless. If you think blindly sending a massive number of survey invitations to undefined or ill-defined recipients will generate copious and quality responses, then you will be disappointed in the results.
Test invites and incentives: It only takes a little time to test several survey invitation email formats or several incentive offers. If one email option changes response rates from 0.5% to 1.0%, then you will save time, money and aggravation in mass mailing.
Reward participation: Bluntly said, people need to be bribed, and the higher up the economic food chain, the more creative the bribe must be. Some incentives, such as cash, work well providing your target respondents are not well heeled. Offering a “chance to win” something fancy only works when the survey is short (unless that fancy item is the Taj Mahal, and then even I’ll participate). Donating to charity is becoming more viable when polling executives and upper-income people, though you need to be specific about the charity and choose one devoid of controversy.
Keep it short: We all want to ask people a lot of questions, but people don’t want to spend a lot of time answering. If in doubt, find the two or three key questions that you must have answered, and triangulate the rest.
Better yet, drop Silicon Strategies Marketing a line and have us do all the hard work. We know how to get results without causing you a financial coronary.
February 14, 2012
“Our market is mature, and is saturated. We have to steal customers from our competitors.”
There are some absurd technology marketing truisms, chief of which is that anything is so static that a market won’t and cannot be changed. Resting on the notion that there is only one recourse to growing a customer base means certain cerebral sediment has set — that market leaders don’t. When your market is saturated, you should think about changing the market or at very least adapting to changes in and connected to your market.
First, no market is ever saturated. New companies come to life every day. A start-up limping along on open source and big dreams will be tomorrow’s Twitter and will need products they cannot afford to buy today. Freemium models work well in markets where long-term customer nurturing can be guided and automated. More mature companies occasionally switch technologies tied to yours, and thus create opportunities for you. There’s a customer born every minute (wait, that doesn’t sound good).
Technology users expand their operational base and augment what forms of technology they use. When a competitor’s customer upgrades their DBMS to support virtual storage, do you offer tools that provide value in the clustered environment? If you do and your competitors do not, then their customer has shifted to a new product category in which you provide value. The market may be saturated, but some products are designed to be more equal than others by anticipating changing customer needs.
Business is always evolving, and thus customer needs tied to changing business directions create new customers. Five years ago the concept of private clouds was vague, whereas today it is part of the IT linga franca. Adapting products to meet changing business trends moves a product along to new customers (those leapfrogging in technology implementation) or those who are following trends as they solidify. Same market, same customers, new needs.
Yes, in mature and saturated markets you need to steal customers from competitors. But how you steal them, how you create them, and how to find new ones is possibly more valuable than expensive toe-to-toe sales battles and prying unwilling people from their preferred technology.
February 7, 2012
It was an authentic question.
I shared coffee last week with a former boss who now is a VP at Google. He was surprised to learn that I founded a marketing strategy consultancy and had been successful at it ever since leaving his employ. He was curious how I promoted the business and was shocked to learn that approximately half of Silicon Strategies Marketing’s new clients come from the web.
It all hinges on authenticity.
Since the earliest days of snake oil, buyers have been wary of product claims. Anyone who has ever bought a used car is even more sensitive. Inexperienced marketers make unsubstatiated claims, and by doing so trash their corporate brands. The entire product world — both B2C and B2B — at times seem to lack any authenticity. People, pre-programmed as they now are, distance themselves from offerings that appear inauthentic.
Which oddly enough explains iPods and Clint Eastwood.
When iPods were introduced, Apple’s marketing wizards made us believe that the gizmos delivered an authentic joyous experience. They used happy, dancing silhouettes as a way of demonstrating the authentic pleasure most people get from listening to music (especially Apple’s target demographic, young people, as represented by the slim and full-head-of-hair silhouette models). Aside from the other marketing objectives, this made the iPod value proposition seem authentic based on the actions of those shady young people with white wires inserted into their ears.
This last weekend Clint Eastwood pimped government bailed-out Chrysler, which lost a lot of authenticity when a billion or so of your tax investment in them was written-off. They wrangled Clint Eastwood into appearing in an All American Superbowl advertisement to resurrect authenticity in the now Italian-owned automaker. Say what you may about the politics or foreign ownership of an American auto icon, but Eastwood reeks of authenticity, and exploiting Clint caused some of his authenticity to rub off on a car company that has twice been rescued by Washington.
B2B authenticity is more difficult than that for consumer products. This is in part due to the impersonal nature of business products, but also because consumer product buyers lack checks and balances outside of their spouses, and thus can be influenced by inflamed impulses (see Go Daddy’s Super Bowl ads for inflamed impulses). These restrictions cause B2B marketers to focus too much on substantiating claims as opposed to putting human believability into the mix. The importance of authenticity on the emotional side is so important that the lack of such in B2B, and especially technology marketing, is a sin.
Imagine for a moment two nearly identical technology products for business. Both have similar value propositions, features, benefits and price points. But one product’s web site has brief video testimonials from your industry peers in which positive emotions (relief, joy, ambition) reflect the product. The authenticity provided by these endorsements will bias you toward that solution because your claims become more believable. The other product may be equal in all practical respects, but their claims lack authenticity.
Long ago, when Silicon Strategies Marketing was helping SuSE Linux put heat on Red Hat, we focused on articulating the strategic goals of CxOs, and lightly tying that back to Linux. By communicating to CxOs their own thinking about evolving data centers, we made SuSE look authentic through association. The authenticity of caring about what CxOs thought was enough to assure SuSE was on CxO Linux evaluation short lists.
The VP at Google asked how the Silicon Strategies Marketing web site could be responsible for half our new clients. It is in the authenticity. Be it this blog, which seeks to educate and not sell, or client testimonials where real people have lent their face, name and quotes, the web site assures executives that our services deliver authentic value.
And we didn’t have to blow a ton of money on hiring Clint Eastwood.