Email? Direct mail? SEO? Free stuff?
How the heck can you reach customers, prospective customers and interested others when you’re competing with EVERYONE in channels that are NOISY?
Enterprise software sales executives I know have teams of salespeople virtually unable to penetrate the front door of corporate I.T. in order to get their value propositions in front of people who could buy them. Why? There are simply too many software companies banging on the same doors all trying to do what they’re all seemingly mandated to: “Get in at the “C” level and get our story heard.”
Almost all the under, say, $100M firms led by people I know well have a really hard time getting their messages heard so as to sell, grow or position their company, products or services in a better way. Do they still try to use the virtually-completely-ineffective email blast? Go back to the expensive — and low effectiveness — direct mail game? Get better at search engine optimization (SEO)? Give away free stuff in order to build an audience and then try to sell them something later?
Startup-after-startup I deal with are also trying these routes in addition to buzz and viral marketing approaches. “Do a funny video for YouTube” I hear often. “Go after A-list bloggers” is the next refrain. “We’ll lose money for the first year or so but we’ll get the eyeballs and make it up when the advertising hits” is also an oft-heard strategy. It’s getting tougher and tougher to come up with unique things that gets people’s attention and isn’t cheesey.
There are no magic bullets. Most of these traditional (and even new) approaches are simply not working anymore. So what is, Borsch? What do you know that we don’t (and will you tell us)? I’ve certainly got some ideas but I do know that most methods of getting the attention of customers and prospects fail because most recipients are not interested, do not have a need, or already have what you’re trying to sell.
So let’s flip the problem around. Instead of figuring out how to find some sort of magic, efficient and more effective way to scream louder than your competition (or loud enough to be heard at all), instead let’s focus on ways to let your customers and prospects be heard and how you can give them what they need and help them buy.
1) IDENTITY: This is an enabling technology fix, but we’re getting close to an internet identity and a 3rd party repository for our identification (Identity 2.0). My dream at some point is to have all my demographic data (zip code, marital status, kids ages, income, net worth, home ownership, assets (like tech toys), hobbies, self-selected status (technoweenie, Luddite), and other psychographic identifiers that would give a seller/advertiser an enormous amount of extremely specific data about Steve Borsch…
…but I could provide access to all of this data anonymously.
Let sellers compete for my business. I’d love to send out an request for proposal/quotation if I was in the market for a car, for example, and have dealers compete for my business through price, value-added items, or through superior service and followup. If I couldn’t do so anonymously, I’d have every plaid sportscoat sales weanie calling, emailing, sending direct mail or otherwise trying to sell me vs. helping me buy.
Rather than have the incredibly inefficient, resource/energy/effort wasting attempts at shouting out messages in the hope that some receptive buyer will come into possession of a message, let the buyer be approached with specific, targeted, appropriate (and spam filtered) information that’ll help us all buy.
2) CUSTOMER INNOVATION: More and more companies are putting in place methods so their customers can help them create their products and services. Going from push-to-pull models of innovation seem to be gaining alot of traction but this certainly feels like “harvesting” your customers energy and effort instead of providing them with what they need and serving them.
Customer innovation is the new buzz phrase that attempts to outline ways in which organizations can “leverage” their customers and help them tell the companies what they want…and provide knowledge about what the products need to be in order for them to buy.
There is already too much abundance, too many me-too companies, products and services and — until we can have true mass customization of products that’ll meet the needs of every single individual — we need to find ways to innovate and meet the needs of the buyer. Maybe it’s as simple as providing a means for buyers to tell sellers what they will buy…but sometimes I don’t even know what I want until it presents itself to me.
3) CONVERSATIONAL MARKETING: As those of us who blog and podcast know, there are so many ways to get in the conversation with customers and prospects — authentically and with values-based meaning — that there is not reason not to find ways to engage. The premise originally laid out in the cluetrain manifesto (that we’re not “eyeballs” but people and talk to us as such) there is a wealth of tools available to do so today.
All I know is that each situation is different, market approaches and customer needs unique and finding ways to efficiently and effectively engage with people is the challenge…and doing so without shouting and still being able to be heard above the noise is possible.
About Steve Borsch
Connecting the Dots Podcast
Podcasting hit the mainstream in July of 2005 when Apple added podcast show support within iTunes. I'd seen this coming so started podcasting in May of 2005 and kept going until August of 2007. Unfortunately was never 'discovered' by national broadcasters, but made a delightfully large number of connections with people all over the world because of these shows. Click here to view the archive of my podcast posts.