I’m a potential customer for your product. Where do I begin my search? How would I find your product? What would I call it? If I’ve heard of it, what’s my perception of it? I’m also looking at your competition, so how should I evaluate you in light of them? What do other people saying about your product?
You want to persuade me to become your customer. How should you package your product? How will you ensure I find you? How do you manage my perception of your product? How do you market to me and Joe Customer 2, whose needs are entirely different, at the same time?
The Speed of Information
As little as a decade ago, businesses could trot out their finest marketing and sales packages. Businesses could gift-wrap their products and better control how I perceived, even labeled and spoke, about their products.
That was back when information crawled like maple syrup.
She who controlled the speed of that information usually won the battle of my perception.
Now, information travels at the speed of instant newswires, cell phones, mobile instant-messaging, BlackBerry devices, blog posts, and online user forums. Mass media is so fragmented, business can’t buy media fast enough to make a difference. Search alone has made it possible for consumers to approach businesses from countless angles of entry. Each angle is unique, carrying my expectations and perceptions. This is multiplied by the number of prospects who approach the company with different expectations and perceptions.
The Customer’s Angle of Entry
Today’s companies are now starting to harness the potential of multiple selling channels, but selling multiple channels is different from marketing multiple channels. In the old days, it was hard enough to manage the customer’s perception of a single company selling a single channel. Today, marketers are not only feeling the pain of trying to manage customer perceptions along all the company’s sales channels, they’re also scrambling to account for all the angles at which customers approach the company. Not to mention the challenge of being found to begin with.
Is it any wonder companies struggle with packaging and marketing? You know a marketing earthquake is afoot when advertisers question using the Holy Grail of all advertising vehicles, the Super Bowl.
While marketing becomes harder, it is also becomes more accountable to ROI (define). Talk about adding insult to injury.
For marketers to continue to successfully sell to their customer segments in the new order, they must wholeheartedly embrace two concepts:
- Plan relevant buy/sell scenarios that account for as many angles of approach as sensible. There just isn’t a quick fix. No company can account for the millions of angles they can be perceived by. But using persuasion architecture, a company can plan and present the prospect with honest and relevant information no matter what angle they use. Even the angle at which customer segment approaches, you can tell a lot about their needs, motivations, and buying cycle.
- Embrace transparency and customer intimacy, but don’t pretend you totally control how your company is viewed. Negative reviews and customers interacting with your company is not adversarial. It’s a new selling space, where companies that learn to use negatives to build relationships will win not only a sale but also a customer.
Become a Persuasion Architect
A persuasion architect uncovers the buying processes, business goals and competitive topology, psychographics, and demographics of the target to anticipate the modes of approach.
Case in point: Jacqueline Remus of Shopzilla.org recently shared with me the terms “compacted” and “non-compacted” information. Compacted and non-compacted info “handles” are how you describe yourself and your product; compacted and non-compacted “angles” are types of modes customers approach and use to describe your business category and you. They ultimately determine if consumers find you and buy from you.
Non-compacted information is the benefits people might not have a means of describing. The term “widescreen TV” is an example of a non-compacted, high-level broad search. A persuasion architect discovers all the modes and terms by which customers would arrive from. He even plans the content that would fall into view for the prospect who searches in a specific mode. What other angles or terms might they use to search? Are they looking for a specific feature they can’t describe? Do they know what options they have? Do they have a proper budget?
Say a consumer’s shopping for a widescreen TV. A friend recommends a specific model, so the consumer searches using a compacted angle of information, such as the precise TV model number she was referred. She discovers quickly this specific model and manufacturer won’t fit her needs. Now the prospect must zoom out from the compacted view; her angle of approach toward your TV would be different. Her contextual framework has now changed. She might even search compacted angles of information that seem out of your category, such as “buy a projection tv.”
A fatal mistake in today’s marketing world is presenting non-compacted information handles, such as complex products or services, and limiting the angles by which customers can approach you by compacting the information handles improperly. If you sell large plasma screens and don’t account for the term “big screen tv” or “projection tv,” you lose.
No More 2-D Marketing
Today’s successful marketing efforts plan and account for all the angles at which a business can be found, approached, and examined. Your company must be real, transparent, and ready to be honest with itself and with customers. Your company must plan for the wide array of modes and angles you’ll be approached from by customers regarding your company or products. You must answer their specific questions with maximum relevance along their self-determined angles.
No business is exempt. If you think yours is, let me know how that turns out for you.