February 28, 2006

Savvy Marketing to Growing Decision Teams Usually these new advisers come from IT, from finance, corporate strategy or from initiative teams; like those implementing an enterprise CRM system. Each looks at the deal through a narrow lens and seeks very specific kinds of information to make their assessment and contribution. Brian Carroll calls for “a more intelligent approach” to creating a sales and marketing nexus for “evaluating the best way to make a connection.” No shit. Savvy marketers are addressing the growing decision team in a variety of ways. They are devising role-based value propositions and contact strategies so that the right information is vectored to the right team member in time and in enough depth for him/her to play out the role. Sirius Decisions reports that there are 3.5 more people on average participating in complex b2b purchasing decisions than in 2001. It’s not surprising. As the value of a deal increases and the impact of the proposed solution crosses departmental or geographic boundaries and the number of people who become involved and who can say “no” increases while the number of decision-makers who can green light a deal remains the same. Many of the new participants are involved solely to determine if your product or service is compatible with their system, their policies, their budget, their previous choices or their bosses’ idiosyncrasies. They are using private intranets as document repositories and to facilitate direct communication during deal cycles that can last up to 18 months. They are using specialty telemarketers to build robust profiles of client teams, technology ecosystems and political landscapes so that they anticipate questions and prepare themselves for the inevitable zigs and zags in every deal cycle. And they are carefully casting the sales team, targeting specific interactions, tactics and messages to individuals at different stages in the deal cycle to insure that objections and questions are answered, political or technical roadblocks are cleared and that the few who can say “yes” have the information and the incentive to do so.
Rethinking Information Offers Marketers have used information as an offer and as a conversation starter since the beginning. But in an age of information overload this tactic sorely needs to be rethought. There are mountains of information, data and opinions available for every industry and every segment in newsletters, e-zines, search engines, trade magazines, professional organizations, news wires and vendor websites. Anyone who is marginally interested can find whatever they want in two clicks. There is no real need to aggregate this information in one place because there is no reason to believe prospects will seek it out in one place. Recently we have evaluated attempts by several clients to collect information and present an information portal as a “service” to their industry and use information as a lead generation lure. The data showed that in spite of significant outbound marketing and significant investments of resources to assemble information, very little traffic found its way to these sites, very few of those who showed up actually read or used the information and hardly anyone came back frequently for updates. Similarly when we evaluated a range of newsletters, reports and white papers available from clients and from third-party publishers, we found that a great majority of the content was warmed over or gussied up sales collateral, pseudo studies written by moonlighting academics or repetitive compilations of factoids and conventional wisdom culled from speeches or PowerPoint decks; none of which would demonstrate subject matter expertise or convince anyone to begin a meaningful conversation. If you are going to use information as a lead generation offer it has to meet several criteria to truly engage a prospective customer. It has to tell them something they don’t already know. If it is something new or different – all the better. It should have a distinct perspective and point of view. Billions of bytes of blandness are already available. Take a position on a topic under debate. Don’t be afraid to mix it up a little but don’t BS your way through. Personality counts. Neutral, vanilla corporate-speak is ubiquitous. It is routinely ignored, filtered out and unheard. People buy ideas from other people. Put it across the way you would in-person. Give prospects an insight into the personality of your company. Be precise. Everyone really wants to know what is really going on; how you are doing the same task they need to do and how they stack up against the competition. Survey data, benchmarks, realistic practical advice, hard data on timing, costs and staff requirements go a long way to establish credibility and to provide enough true value to begin a meaningful interaction and exchange. Bottom line – if the information doesn’t resonate with and make a difference to the end user, it won’t have any value as an offer.

Danny Flamberg

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

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