In my career marketing e-business solutions and services, I’ve produced and consumed an abundant amount of products from our trade. So I feel comfortable stating this: Many of the approaches we take to plan, promote, and ultimately sell products to companies are fundamentally flawed.
This week, I’m going to provide you with my perspective on what works, what doesn’t, and what irritates customers.
Approaches That Work Effectively
Customer-driven strategy and planning. The days of long-range marketing plans created in a vacuum are over. In our era of connected enterprises and short-product life cycles, markets reward companies that sense, react, decide, and act faster than their competitors. I like to think of this approach as the Japanese notion of kaizen on amphetamines. Successful companies tend to roll out product and iterate based on customer feedback with frictionless efficiency.
Product demonstrations. Customer-driven marketing implies that product is placed in the hands of the buyer; in the e-business case, this is another company. The product demo is the most efficient and pure way of signaling product direction and strategy. It serves as the input channel for future iterations and engenders a level of trust between a company and its customers.
Good whiteboard ability. Effective marketing requires an ability to collaborate and solve your customer problems. “Whiteboarding” solutions with your customer and articulating how your product or service addresses its needs provides a personalized approach that can’t be matched by product specs or data sheets.
Measurable value. Business value and return on investment has never been of greater concern in the area of e-business. Effective marketing programs and strategies quantify measurable and positive impact on business drivers that are relevant to the customer.
Passion. I call this the magic ingredient. A visible commitment to help your customer succeed is the intangible quality that can mask flaws in other areas of a marketing approach. Trigger this “sixth sense of the customer,” and you can create long-term loyalty and achieve the elusive goal of emotional lock in.
Approaches That Are Marginally Effective
White papers. Company-written papers or articles that resemble objective research or analysis produce poor results. Often, these breezy explanations of product value or service fail to connect effectively with the customer.
Canned PowerPoint presentations. When marketing historians look back at this era, they will be amazed at the liberal use of computer-generated slides to communicate a point. I am as guilty as the next person of relying on PowerPoint as a communication device. But increasingly, I find that the slide presentation is an obstacle to engaging the customer in a real conversation.
Big, expensive trade-show booths. Meeting people is the beauty of our business; conferences and gatherings are great ways to interact with potential partners or customers. However, does it need to be under strobe lights, house beats, and intermittent raffle announcements? I don’t think so.
Approaches That Irritate Customers
Preponderance of technobabble. If there is one lesson to learn from the first wave of e-business, it’s that customers want to engage in real conversation — and they are not afraid to ask for real results. Pick up any recent edition of an e-business publication, and you will probably see ads from 20 to 30 companies that all sound the same. It’s impossible for customers to differentiate between companies that produce similar copy that is choppy, abstract, and jargon laden. Plus, it insinuates that a company does not understand, nor is interested in learning more about, the customer.
In short, I think e-business marketers occasionally let the integration of the Internet into our professional lives detract from, rather than enhance, our ability to communicate effectively with customers and relate to them. After all, many of the traditional techniques of marketing were written before the Internet entered our business lives. All we can do is hope to get better and understand that markets are now bazaars and customers want to engage in conversation.