what's your story?
Your story may be very interesting. Maybe even important. Especially to you. But does anybody else even care? More to the point, does anybody know you exist? When you take your business to market, be prepared to assume a few things.
First, assume that no one will be aware of you, your company, your product or your message. And just because you have high awareness in an adjacent sector, doesn’t mean it will carry over to the new space. Research what you will need to do to make an impact. You can assume your competition does.
Awareness matters most of all. That's been the single biggest caveat to marketers since long before this iconic B2B ad targeting corporate advertisers was run by publisher McGraw Hill in the early 1960's.
Don't be fooled by the old dude in the bow tie. Today she may be your daughter's age, sporting an MBA, a discrete nose stud and some not-so-subtle tribal tats. And if she's never heard of you, you're already playing catch up.
Styles may come and go, but the important things never change. If your customers can't see you, they won't know you're there. And they definitely won't know your story. You have to be noticed to be relevant.
Woody Allen is famously credited with saying that 80% of success is just showing up. Are you showing up where your customers are? Being overlooked is often overlooked as the main reason that marketing plans fall short of expectations.
How well does your media choice, your outbound messaging, your social media presence and SEO match up with the interests of your target customer? Make sure that your current sales force story and your strategic marketing message are in constant alignment. Consistency creates credibility.
what was it you said?
Make no assumptions about the clarity, cogency or conviction in your messaging. Just because you understand what you meant to say doesn’t mean that they will. After all, you’re one very smart cookie. And, they’re… well, they’re just customers, operating in the current market climate, based on what they know from their learned experience and probably not thinking about new options or what possible solutions you may offer.
Get curious. Test your message whenever possible. Get feedback. Measure results. Assess options. Compare. Adapt your plan. Test again. The beauty of the digital economy is that you can continuously refine your message and create targeted versions with social media in real time.
what does it mean to me?
Next, it’s a pretty safe assumption that they simply won’t care. It's nothing personal. They're just busy and have other things on their mind. Thousands of other urgent messages and unrelated distractions are out there vying for their attention. Even more problematic are the messages from your competitors that are similar to your story.
Be different, be memorable, but be relevant. You may have to intrude, but don’t annoy or waste their time. You must make your point quickly, but in a way that sticks with the most slippery customer.
indecision: your quiet challenge
Even if your customer correctly heard your message, the pain of change and the unwillingness to change or to take any action may be your primary competitor. One recent study by Professional Sales Consulting firm Miller Heiman Group indicated that 22% of all sales opportunities in a company’s sales pipeline end in NO DECISION, and not as a WIN or a LOSS.
Your customer may have decided on another solution or simply decided not to decide at all. Change alone may cause them to become the proverbial deer in the headlights and not take any action. You may have to hep them decide for their own benefit.
Ask yourself, "Where is your customer in the buying cycle today?" Better yet, ask your customer. Early adopters are making very different buying decisions than latecomers. Each group reacts differently to product features, service capabilities, price and value.
are you in your own way?
Internal inertia is one of the most difficult challenges to overcome and one of the most common obstacles you may encounter. What are the consequences of your strategy to other parts of your organization? Have you out spent your budget? Is your corporate culture aligned with the moves you are about to make? Does your team may have all the right players in place?
Involving the right players early in your planning activities not only simplifies and expedites the process, it can weed out potential problems before they happen and make success that much more likely. The best time to work out contingencies for both good and bad scenarios is up front.
Why would you need a contingency plan for a good scenario? if your customers buy in to your program, you will need resources, inventory or funding available to follow up the way the customer demands. It's bad enough to be caught flat-footed by outside pressures, but the consequences can be worse when you do it to yourself.
move first. move fast.
That's no fun. Who wants to be the voice of doom? It’s much more uplifting to plan for the best and seems like it would be easier to fix things later. It helps to look for problems beforehand. It’s not enough to analyze when and how things went wrong afterward. By then it's probably too late.