Archive for August, 2009

When you think about it, it’s pretty obvious.  Seven out of ten B2B customers say they need to understand a vendor’s value proposition before making a purchase.  Which, to those customers, means one thing: they want justification for the price they’re being asked to pay.  Seven out of ten.  In electoral politics, this is a mandate.  Know how many vendors convey this kind of a value prop today?   Nine percent.

We’ve done the research. It’s all here in our book.  And it’s not anecdotal.  We plowed through hundreds of commercial web sites across a number of industries and questioned hundreds of customers.   Another way of looking at it:  only one out of ten vendors is imparting the knowledge wanted most by seven out of ten customers. Seems like a few opportunities are being missed here, doesn’t it?

Problem is, when a buyer starts asking questions, a vendor reflexively starts reciting from the company hymnal.  The buyer wants to hear about a benefit and gets a lecture on features.  Buyer wants to know what the product’s going to do for him/her and how hard (or easy) the process will be to get there.  Vendor keeps repeating variations on the “better, cheaper, faster” mantra.  In other words, the buyer and the seller are not only on different pages, they’re reading different books.  In different languages.  What we have here is a failure to communicate.

To us, it begins with the whole concept of what a value proposition is: simple math.  It’s the quantified value the buyer perceives in the product’s benefit minus the cost of adopting the product and the price paid.  The greater the positive difference, the stronger the “value” proposition.  It is a measurable quantity. And therein lies the problem. To a lot of vendors, their “value proposition” becomes an elevator pitch about the product’s competitive advantages and subjective superiority.  It’s qualitative.  And wholly inadequate.

So what does this have to do with cold-calling?  If you believe that your “value proposition” is simply the right combination of words and effective delivery of them, you’ll assume that interrupting someone with a plea to listen to you is as effective a means as any to start the selling process.  If, on the other hand, you understand your target well enough to know the relevance of your proposition to his perception of value you’ll know exactly how that target is best approached.  And it’s probably not a phone call out of the blue.

"Finish that brewskie and make a few more cold calls."

"Finish that brewskie and make a few more cold calls."

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I sat across the table from Satmetrix boss Richard Owen the other day and got an earful about the difference between a satisfied customer and loyal one.  You want to cultivate the latter.  Aiming merely to satisfy doesn’t cut it anymore.  In fact, it never did.  Loyal customers will lead your cheers.  Evangelize on your behalf.  Sing your praises to friends and family.  In the parlance of Owens and Satmetrix, they will become “Net Promoters”. Best of all, they’ll be back, more often, to buy more. That’s what I’m talkin’ about.  A satisfied customer?  Meh.  May not even return.  “Satisfaction” is a low bar.  Satisfaction is unsatisfactory.   Zappos knows how to create loyalty.

Loyal customers always run back to Zappos

Loyal customers always run back to Zappos

Apple, of course, has done it repeatedly for years. Best way I can describe it is to strive to offer the kind of experience you want everytime you’re shopping for something.  Anything.  What kind of experience would it take to inspire you to tell a close friend how cool it was?

To say that the tactics of the PR world have changed in the 21st century is the understatement of, well, the 21st century.  The tactics have changed right along with the technological jolts that have left mainstream media a shambles.  Marketers deploy PR operatives today to engage in very specific discussions with equally specific groups of customers and prospects, as well as the old-school influencers.  Which include a dwindling number of increasingly overworked editors and reporters.   All of this is described in an extremely well conceived slide show that was delivered yesterday by Todd Defren, principal of Shift Communications of San Francisco and Boston.  Defren’s thesis, substantiated by my own 30 years of, shall we say, lively debates with corporadoes in Silicon Valley— and PR results ranging from resonating success to abject failure (more of the former, fortunately)–is that effective PR has never been about column inches, airtime or, more recently, web hits.  It has always been about growing your sales line. And, to do this, attracting qualified prospects who want to talk to a sales rep.

What this means today is not all that different from what it meant a generation ago.  At least in the strategy formulation stage.  Step one is to DEFINE who it is you’re pursuing in terms of a customer.  Then, the PROFILING begins.  What is about this customer that makes them a perfect match for the value proposition of your product?   And now that you know everything knowable about them, where do they congregate?  On Facebook groups?  LinkedIn?  Twitter?  Obscure blogs and discussion groups?  None of the above?  Once this is determined, the “art” kicks in.  Defren’s take is compelling and relevant.  Just like a good value proposition.

The growing importance of cloud computing was made clearer recently when Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, resigned from the board of directors of Apple.

Cloud computing is the general term used to describe anything that delivers hosted services over the Internet. The name was inspired by the cloud symbol often used to illustrate the Internet in flow charts and diagrams. When a service or an application of any kind can be downloaded from the Internet to your device, whether a computer, laptop or cellphone, it is referred to as existing in the “cloud”.

In fact, Google has been on a collision course with Apple for months as it offered products and services from the cloud in direct competition. Just last month it announced its new Internet browser, Chrome, which amounted to a competitor to the system that runs Macs. Chrome is an open system that is downloadable from the cloud. And Google Apps and Google Voice are both making inroads.

As if this weren’t enough to strain the relationship between the two companies, Android, the search titan’s free operating system for smart phones, is mushrooming on smart-phones that go head-to-head with Apple’s iconic iPhone.

Unlike Apple, whose business is making and selling devices, Google wants a world in which the mobile web is as open as the Internet and is accessible to any and all devices running any and all operating systems. More open access for more devices and services creates a more searchable cloud or mobile web. This is very good for Google. But not necessarily for Apple.