Is different enough?

Without a doubt there is a conversation happening with marketing teams around the globe as I write this post trying to nail down differentiators. The more aggressive marketers might even be searching for “core differentiators” as if being different isn’t enough. Now we have to be different right down to our core.

Different is not good or bad. It’s not valuable or invaluable. Different is just, well, different. Who places a value on whether different is worth something extra, or worth something less?

Identifying your differences – or core differentiators – is a complete waste of time, money, and effort without first truly understanding your potential buyer. After all, who are you trying to appeal to with your differences?

Instead companies tend to begin on the inside rather than outside. Meaning, we tend to take the path of least resistance. Sitting in a conference room pontificating on why we’re different, and how much better we are than others does not get the job done. No. In fact, putting yourself in the market to truly listen to your buyers, and becoming vulnerable is what leads to innovation and disruption. Companies that do this well have no interest in being right….just in getting it right.

Does your buyer want different? What if all they want is better? Perhaps no one wants to relearn something entirely new. Perhaps all the buyer wants is for the “thing” they are currently using, to work better, or perform better. How do you know? Have you asked them? Have you asked enough of them to have a dependable sample size? Have you truly listened or did you embark on that research with a predisposition or set of biases? Were you tempted to skew the results to fit what you have in place?

In my book The Customer Mindset; Thinking Like Your Customer to Create Remarkable Results, I share an easy to implement process to map your buyers journey, starting with engaging your buyers and ultimately solving for the “so what?”. Yes, different can be better. The question is how much better, and does your prospective buyer care enough to pay for it?

When you look at your core differentiators, don’t forget to ask yourself (and your team), “so what?”

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Enough With The Spam! Get Permission to Market.

Permission

Tired of SPAM?  I’m not talking about the the stuff in the can that comes from the great state of Minnesota.  No.  I’m talking about the massive amounts of content that continues to be pushed down our throats via direct mail, email, advertisements, billboards and all the other various forms and mediums of media.

The vast majority of all incoming marketing messaging we receive is forced upon us.  We didn’t ask for it.  We didn’t invite it. We don’t want it.  And we especially don’t want all those pesky calls that come throughout the day from those companies who feel they have won the right to interrupt us with their message.  You know those calls.  The ones where you answer your phone and there’s a pause while the phone system uploads the call to the salesperson on the other end.  UGH!

Why do companies continue to take this approach to telling, and selling, their buyers?  The truth is that it’s comfortable.  It’s what they’ve always done.  It’s what your boss demands.  There is math that supports an ROI – make this many calls and you’ll get this many deals.  The other side of that same equation that is never considered, is how many potential buyers have you pissed off forever given this arrogant approach?

Permission based marketing takes time.  It’s a relationship.  Imagine walking up to a woman and saying “hurry up, we need to get married right now”, or bumping into that guy you see at the coffeeshop each day and saying “I see you here everyday, you should buy me my coffee today”.  Relationships don’t work that way.  Okay.  Maybe sometimes they do, but by and large, most lasting relationships take time.  Trust.  A commitment on each side.  Yet because approaches like these work sometimes many companies feel that if they do this often enough they’ll win with volume.

Asking for permission seems almost as uncomfortable, if not more so, than asking for the sale.  Can I talk to you?  Can I share my thoughts with you?  Can I connect with you over time to get to know you?  These are the questions you should be asking.  But to ask those questions you need to have something of value to offer.  Why do you want to talk to me, or why should I let you talk to me?  Your response should be clear, concise and focused.  You’re not about selling as much as you are about sharing.  But again, sharing takes time.  It takes patience.  It takes trust.

Think about approaching your prospects to gain their permission rather than the sale. Of course you’ll need great content, time, and most of all a genuine belief that you’re helping your customer.  Yes, it sure is a mind shift; and not one that is easily adapted.  Yet as the number of voices in the marketplace continue to increase, all fighting for shelf space with each prospect, it becomes crucial to win the hearts and minds of these prospects by gaining their permission.  Being, acting, looking, and sounding like your competition only helps your prospect weed you out quicker.  Provide value, in a safe and easy environment for which your prospect can consume it and get to know you and you’re on the path to increased revenue.

Does Inbound Marketing Work?

Inbound

Yes.  Right out of the gate, Inbound Marketing does work.  But like everything else in life, success is largely dependent upon a few key ingredients beginning with a clearly defined objective.

Many companies look at Inbound Marketing as a way to simply accelerate their cold calling efforts. These are the companies that still believe that the only way to generate more revenue is to shake more hands.  The concept of Inbound Marketing however is focused on a virtual handshake evolving into a virtual hug.  It’s about creating a safe environment for your customer to learn, ponder, and explore at their own pace.  For Inbound Marketing to work your customer must believe the content you’re offering has value.  They must also believe you have a passion…a purpose…a genuine desire to help solve their problem the best way possible. This means the content you develop answers their questions and provides enough information to lead them to ponder new ideas or considerations.  It all begins with great content.

Some companies try to disguise their sales materials as content.  Don’t bother!  It won’t work!  Your customers are too savvy.  They know too much.  They have access to other competitors content that they are comparing yours against!  No.  Your content must be factual, original, thought-provoking, specific, and end-result focused.  That means you must understand your customers needs; in fact better than they know them themselves.

Once you’ve created killer content be sure to have a system in place that enables you to manage your Inbound Marketing efforts.  There are a number of solutions available for companies of all sizes to manage their Inbound efforts without breaking the bank.  Check out HubSpot, Marketo, and Pardot.  Each of these systems have their pros and cons depending on your own objectives.  The good news is they all produce great content to help inform you in your decision making process. After all they are in the business of Inbound Marketing.

In summary, Inbound Marketing is about being invited to the party rather than crashing the party with traditional Outbound Marketing activities.  It’s permission based.  Inbound’s philosophy is to establish virtual credibility and rapport first, before a sales attempt is made.  It’s about nurturing.  Cultivating.  It’s about content.  In my next blog I’ll show you some easy ways to great started on creating content that matters to your customers.

Let me know if this was helpful.

 

3 Ways Selling Has Changed In The Last 10 Years

RotaryPhone

Most of us in Sales began our career with the Yellow Pages in hand.  Sales training consisted of two words – start dialing.  Call your family, then friends, and work your way down to those you didn’t know at all..  COLD!  You started with the “A”‘s and worked down to “Z” dialing the phone 150 – 175 times a day.  If you were lucky you spoke with a handful of potential buyers and perhaps made 1 sale.  Your success depending solely on a rapid fire approach.  Dialing as fast as you could, ending the calls that didn’t present an immediate opportunity and on to the next call.  No strategy.  No connection.  No value.

Today things have changed but many Sales organizations are still operating with a pre-80’s selling style.  They refuse to accept the reality that there is in fact a softer side of selling.  This side of selling acknowledges a great deal of strategy and includes the elements of education, communication, and value.  Here are 3 areas that have changed dramatically in the past decade with the flow of available information on the web:

  1. Gamesmanship versus Education.  Not more than 10 years ago a sales persons goal was to outplay or outmaneuver the prospect.  This is not to say that salespeople were bad people.  They did their jobs with the tools at their disposal and the direction given to them by their managers all of whom were trained the same way and advanced in their careers accordingly.   Given the scarcity of information buyers were completely reliant upon the salesperson.  While best case scenarios involved a sales person simply being viewed as pushy, worst case extremes included those sales people who mislead, misinformed, and misguided their prospects into making a poor purchasing decision.   Thankfully today there is an abundance of information available starting with the Web and including education content made available directly from companies selling their goods and services.
  2. Push versus Pull communication.  Remember direct mail with all those post cards that companies sent out through the U.S. Postal Service?  Or the letters that were sent out offering 3, 6, or 12 months free.  Urgency words and phrases like “For the first 100 callers”, or “in the next 90 days”, or how about “while supplies last”?  Sellers created a sense of urgency for the buyer that if they didn’t act quickly they would lose out on this incredible deal.  By stating the offer was only available to the first 100 callers, sellers attempted to manipulate prospective buyers into believing that there were swarms of ready-buyers who were crashing the gates to gobble up all product being offered for sale and soon there would be no more.  After all, we all need at least one if not two “gophers“.
  3. Discounts versus Value. Imagine Mercedes-Benz, ExxonMobil, Apple, or Goldman Sachs giving their work away at a heavy discount or even for free.  Premium brands only become premium by protecting their brand value.  Any offers that include give-a-ways do nothing more than diminish the value of your brand.  Think for a moment about your sales experience with a premium brand company.  You’re almost shaking with excitement to hand over your money just to say you own what they sell.  Remember your first iPod, iPad or Macbook?  You never complained that there were no discounts.  And what about the UGGs you bought?  Premium companies stand by the value of their brand, selling it for the price they believe is justified to not only make a profit but to also protect their brand’s value.

Respecting your prospect, your buyer, and your current customer is paramount to your continued growth and success in selling.  Taking the time to educate your prospective buyer through high-value communication will help position you as more than just a sales person.  The sales professional able to do this most effectively will be the one that the buyer can’t live without.  They will become an indispensable resource to the buyer and will become the go-to person for all their needs.  Said simply, the one who delivers the most value wins today, tomorrow, and the next.