Customers Come First

August 12, 2009 at 8:27 pm | Posted in Adrian Miller Sales Training, Adrian's Network, Blogroll, entrepreneurship, Marketing, sales, Sales Training | Leave a comment
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Wow. I say these words to each and every prospect and client but Scott Hornstein (Hornstein Associates, scott@hornsteinassociates.com) says it best.

As printed in Sales & Marketing Management magazine and penned by Scott:

When customers experience a marketing message, there are three subliminal questions they ask themselves: “Who are you, and why should I care?” “What do you want from me?” and, “What’s in it for me?” If the answers aren’t apparent and compelling, the customer will be long gone.

A successful marketing effort will formulate responses to these questions by bringing prospects to the planning table early on, through “voice of customer” qualitative research, via one-on-one interviews, which can hone a company’s competitive edge, and challenge marketingassumptions. First, however, marketers have to ask themselves the following: How do customers view my company? What attributes or values do they think of? The answers will help build the most effective positioning, and will tell customers who you are and why they should care.

Take this example: A small manufacturer of printed circuit boards found a new competitor was initiating a price war. To formulate a response, he asked his best customers the basis of their loyalty. They told him: “We are your customers because of the quality and service we receive; price is meaningless without that.” They showed that there are always buyers who’ll want price first, but they aren’t the loyal market segment.

Marketers must also be knowledgeable of how the customer decides to adopt the particular product or service. Who are the influencers, and what information do they need? Marketing messages ask customers to listen, learn, and be motivated—understanding the decision-making process enables marketing to bring the right message to the right individual at the right time.

For example, when Productivity Point International (PPI), a training company based in Morrisville, North Carolina, prepared to enter a new market segment called customer education, it found that the decision-making process differed by company, and often involved non-traditional decision makers who weren’t familiar with PPI. To get acquainted with these decision makers and educated about their process, PPI implemented a focused, longer-term public relations effort that involved case histories, webinars, articles, and other materials to raise awareness and generate response—which helped them get their foot in the door.

As far as what’s in it for the customer, their reactions to your messaging provide the basis of your competitive differentiation. After Hewlett-Packard (HP) and Compaq merged, they asked customers for their reactions to their new marketing messages. Customers responded with concern that basic HP values were getting lost in what they saw as hype or spin. Representative comments include:

“HP has a good technical heritage. This should be your focus. Is this boring to you? It’s important to us!”

“The benefit to us is people and service. Keep the people partnership in your messages: HP is there for you.”

“Steer clear of competitor bashing. Play to your strengths: the breadth of quality products and robust support. HP is the standard.”

All of these examples show how important it is to get customer input early in the marketing process. Gordon Johnson, former director of marketing at PPI, sums it up by saying: “Listening to and incorporating customers’ views is our reality check. It helped us to make some very important and successful marketing decisions.”

Scott Hornstein is principal at Hornstein Associates, a direct marketing consultancy in Redding, Conn. Clients include Microsoft, HP, The Phoenician. He is the co-author of Opt-In Marketing: Increase Sales Exponentially with Consensual Marketing (McGraw-Hill, 2004). Contact: (203) 938-8715; scott@hornsteinassociates.com.

How to Get ROI From Your Networking Efforts

August 12, 2009 at 7:04 am | Posted in Adrian Miller Sales Training, Adrian's Network, Networking, sales, small business | Leave a comment

Have you noticed the ever-growing number of networking groups? While there was once only a handful of opportunities to network at Chamber of Commerce breakfasts and local trade association get-togethers, you know have to decide among the thousands of online and offline groups that seem to be sprouting up on a daily basis.

The problem is that you only have so much time in the day. If you joined every networking group out there, you’d inevitably be meeting some useful contacts, but you’d have little time for anything else. To effectively make connections and save your sanity in this age of hyper-networking, you need to be selective. The following five tips will help you filter through the vast and sometimes murky world of business networking to find the groups that can offer you the greatest ROI from your networking efforts.

Define Your Networking Style

With countless networking events, you have the ability to choose what type works best for you. Speed networking, cocktail parties, conferences, informative seminars, online get-togethers – each format has its own unique advantages and disadvantages. You most likely will gravitate to one or two types of events. That’s ok. You’re better off sticking with attending only the activities in which you have the highest comfort level.

Do Your Homework before You Commit

Once you’ve found a handful of groups that are in line with your networking style, research the types of members, their companies, and the focus of the group. Don’t be afraid to attend a group’s events two or three times to get a feel for their dynamics. You may love it, or you might find that it’s not in synch with your goals, interests, or personality. The key is not to commit yourself to anything until you are confident that it’s a good fit for you.

Stay Focused on What You Can Give

Many networkers leave groups frustrated because they feel that they are not getting enough. Yet, they haven’t put any effort into giving. As in the famous words of the Beatles, “The love you take is equal to the love you make.” This certainly applies to networking. Always think about what you can give and offer to your contacts before you ask for or expect anything from them. Once you begin to focus your energy on helping others, you’ll quickly find that they are enthusiastic about helping you!

Follow Up and Follow Through

Interestingly, it may seem like you’re networking at the events you attend, but in reality, the true networking doesn’t actually begin until afterwards. If you neglect to follow up or connect with the contacts you’ve made, you’re merely socializing and not networking at all. It’s 100% about how you maintain those connections that will determine your level of success.

Be Realistic

The reality is that not every networking connection you make will be able to produce leads and referrals to you. Yes, you need to be helping others, but you also have to devote the bulk of your energy to cultivating your most valuable resources. Assess each contact and determine how you can work together. If there just isn’t a great deal of potential with a particular connection, it’s ok to minimize your dealings with him or her. Both of you will be better off shifting energies to others who will be more beneficial.

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