September 23, 2013

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Crowdsourcing Software Reviews Buying CRM software is a pain in the ass. Each suite starts with a different premise. Most software firms have a single core expertise but pretend to know everything or claim it’s easy to bolt on automation tools or ERP software. Rarely do the day-to-day users get a voice in the choice. Prospects confront a tsunami of techno-blab focused on features and functions, which rarely translates into a clear understanding of how this stuff will actually work to meet your practical business needs. And then there’s the money part. The software costs X. You must spend Y to install it. Then caught up Z for training. Then there are costs for add-ons and upgrades. (This Total Cost of Ownership number often makes the high priced offer seem more affordable.) Usually, a team undertakes the search and makes the decision. A line executive or CFO type assesses strategic value. A CIO or IT guy looks under the hood. And a procurement or business affairs person negotiates the deal. Until recently, the only source of help were consulting firms who evaluate, rank and display the relative positions and merits of competing software vendors. The problem with this is three fold. In some cases the evaluators are not technicians but journalists who can be manipulated by vendors. The evaluations are an amalgam of undocumented opinions with no way to evaluate their validity, weight or bias. And the consultants are not independent like Consumer Reports. They sell the evaluations to vendors and to buyers. So there is a financial incentive not to slaughter anyone and a natural tendency to give everyone the equivalent of a “B.” Buyers are still left trying to figure out which one is the best. Now Matt Gorniak, and fellow software sales refugees, thinks they can crowdsource software reviews to yield better, more genuine, more democratic and more practical insights to help buyers. A belief in word-of-mouth advertising led them to create G2crowd.com, a customer ratings site for software featuring 2000 software products in 200 categories, with a name reminiscent of the designation for military intelligence (hopefully skipping the oxymoron). According to Matt, the average buyer asks, “How do I make a good decision among a set a complicated products with an endless array of claims?” His answer is to look at software the way you look at travel (TripAdvisor.com), restaurants (Zagat.com) or contractors (Judyslist.com) by relying on the wisdom of the crowd. Relying on multiple identified sources, you get unbiased software reviews that come at the products from a variety of perspectives. Reviews can be filtered by function, price and vendor. The stated goal is to fairly review software products away from the influence of vendor marketing. Reviewers are vetted by being forced to sign up/in with their LinkedIn ID. Supposedly the sheer mass of users and the diverse points of view will give buyers enough insight, direction and intelligence to make the right decision. Importing a B2C technique into the high-ticket B2B universe, G2Crowd.com aspires to be the Yelp.com of software and knock off Gartner, Forrester and their competitors. And while the freemium model sounds goofy, especially to someone like me who worked at SAP, its probably worth a try. G2 will try to make money by selling deeper, richer reviews and reports to more serious buyers. I’ll be watching to see what happens.
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7 Ways to Sell Obamacare The introduction of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) is a marketing case study in what not to do. Health exchanges are a new fundamentally different and untried way for consumers to approach healthcare, especially for those millions without it. Established insurance brands compete with lesser known brands and start-ups in a free-for-all retail arena that is driven primarily by monthly costs. Communications have to take a retail direct marketing approach rather than a wonky policy-making tone and manner. Governments and insurers need to become 24/7 retailers. And the websites ought to scale and work properly. This unique marketing opportunity is especially challenging because nobody really understands what Obamacare is or how it will work. And political voices on the left and the right are dedicated to keeping it that way. Surveys of healthy millennials, the most desirable and necessary customers, indicate many see no need to insure themselves. To compete in this marketplace, consider these seven tactics: Brand Identity Rules. If they’ve heard of you, you have a fighting chance. Awareness and preference are top priorities. Even well established insurers, used to selling through employers, will be below the radar. Establishing a clear brand voice and positioning is critical to retail success. We just might be on the cusp of a new round of spokespeople on the order and magnitude of Flo, The Gecko or the AFLAC duck. Though early efforts in several states seem to be very fluffy and short on details. Voice, tone, attitude and manner count. The classic insurance industry posture; we-know-what’s-best-for-you will not fly. Two-Way Conversations. Establishing a direct-to-consumer brand requires engaging your target customers in a meaningful conversation. Your best prospects don’t just buy a product; they buy into the company providing it. Aligning brand values and sentiments with best prospects is critical. Establishing a position, as a knowledgeable friend and adviser without preaching or scaring prospects matters. Giving consumers opportunities to ask and to tell will separate the winners from the also-rans. Name It. Keep it simple and intuitive. Bundling plans with snappy, telegraphic names will assist consumers. A “Young Family Plan” instantly communicates targeting, intention and value. Anticipate likely consumer segments (e.g. singles, partners, new families, growing families) and construct affordable packages with fewer rather than more choices to resonate with millennial consumers. Talk Price. Millennials are unemployed, underemployed and strapped. Every thing they do is run through an affordability filter. The driving marketplace variables will be the what’s-in-it-for-me compared to the monthly price. Consumers will separate “must-have” from “nice-to-haves” then decide how the price will impact their monthly budgets. Don’t be bashful about communicating price and value. Don’t hesitate to offer different payment schemes. Even though its mandatory, if the fine is cheaper than the fees, there is no incentive to buy. Smart players will sell-in very affordable plans and then up-sell over time. Be Present. Millennials are on the move and highly social. Presenting your brand in social and mobile media is table stakes. Understanding which devices and forums serve which marketing objectives is important. Insurers need the ability to target, segment and engage millennials in multiple channels at any time of the day or night. Nobody will fill out an application on a smartphone in the back of a cab. But they will fill out the form on a tablet or on Facebook while they are searching and researching the competition and consulting friends. Concentrate on Channels. Speak with one voice across channels. Your website, TV and radio spots or print ads, 800#, Facebook presence, e-mail and postal mail must look and feel similar. Leverage the inherent qualities of each channel for maximum customer engagement. Expect consumers to use multiple channels to discover, research and assess offerings before and after buying. Use Technology as a Utility. Make it easy to print out, email and share content. Don’t fear comparative shopping. Anticipate the conversations and frequently asked questions that will come up in the news media, in online communities, on blogs, in search or live chat and in-person between friends and family members. Develop content for those situations and deploy content and PR assets accordingly. Think about ways to syndicate or seed branded content in places where your best prospects regularly go. Related articles Millennials Need Your Healthcare Organization 5 Tips for Marketing to Millennials from a Millennial

Danny Flamberg

I am a veteran marketing consultant working with leading and emerging brands

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