Monday, July 30, 2007

Creating a Sales Buzz for Boring Products

All over the world, very few salesmen are blessed with hot sexy products: iPod, iPhone, Blackberry, Absolut Vodka, Red Bull, Sony, Xbox etc. These products are so well received in the market that the customers are eager to buy - and the salesman does not need to push for the sale. The reality in the market place is that the vast majority of products are not sexy or hot - many are outright boring. Therefore most salesmen are stuck with selling some arcane product or some boring product - which requires a lot of push.

Recently, a friend of mine who is a salesman complained that it was way to hard to sell his product. He sells an arcane enterprise software - which only a select few data center administrators appreciate & understand its worth. His major problem was that the users are not the buyers of his product. The buyer or the decision maker does not understand the product or its benefits - and that makes it a hard sell.

Being a marketer, I could not resist the challenge: "How to sell boring products?"
The first story that hit my mind when I heard his problem was that of Adventures of Tom Sawyer - where Tom sells the idea of painting the fence to his friends. If the chore of painting a fence can be made attractive, I am sure with some imagination one can sell any product in earth.
Unfortunately, innovative thinking is not something everybody understands or appreciates. As a consequence, companies that sell arcane products to rely on presentations that load up on features, specifications, and statistics. The exercise is repeated day-in & day-out and with every customer. This repetitive work kills all enthusiasm in the sales force and generally wears them out.

My experience and knowledge in marketing tells me that there is no reason why every company can’t deliver an exciting image to its audience and generate the kind of buzz and excitement that is usually associated with products like iPod or Segway or Victoria's Secret. So let me begin with explaining some of the basics.

BET Model

Identification of the market opportunities should be the core force that drives the marketing process. A market opportunity exists when there is a gap between what is currently available on the market and the possibility for new or significantly improved products. A product successfully fills a product opportunity gap only when it meets the conscious and unconscious expectations of consumer and is perceived as useful, usable and desirable. Successful identification of a market opportunity is a combination of art & science. It requires a constant monitoring of factors in three major areas:

1. Business
2. Economic
3. Technology

BET model is applicable only in a business to business sales. BET model can be illustrated as:

The buyer’s decision is primarily driven by these three factors. Some of these may drive towards a buy - while other factors oppose it. Identifying the right set of factors is an art. However, identifying the right set of factors influencing the buying decision is the key to success. At this juncture, it is important to do a force field analysis - explanation of force field analysis is beyond the scope of this article.

As you can see Product opportunity gap varies from organization to organization. Identifying the product opportunity gap and positioning your product as the one which fills the gap is the surest way to generate the kind of buzz and excitement usually associated with companies like Apple, Google, Benetton, Absolut Vodka, and Sony.

Emotional Connect

To create a hype, the product needs to have an emotional connection with the buyer. (Both customer & consumer) If an emotional connect can be established, then the sale is only a matter of time.

Creating emotional connection is not always easy. It requires identification of customer’s pain point, providing a solution to customer’s pains - and the customer realizing the benefit of the solution. This requires quite a bit of research, bit of investigation, probing and negotiation skills.

For example, Home Depot ran a series of advertisements with a husband showing his wife a series of power tools that he wanted.

Rather than try to convince his wife, and by association all the wives in the audience, that he needs another expensive toy, the husband points to each tool and states, "this is your new shelving unit" and "this one is your new kitchen"—a far more dramatic and effective way to make the case for a new purchase.

Another good example is that of Kleenex - paper tissues. The company makes a commodity product. Customers have a choice of various store branded products which are cheaper than Kleenex. To win in such a market place, Kleenex chose to create a video that connected very well with the buyer (often the women in the house hold)

The Kleenex campaign features prominent videos of articulate people telling their personal stories, all resulting in the need touse a facial tissue.

A pregnant woman discusses the emotional impact of having a child, and as her eyes begin to tear up the interviewer hands her a Kleenex. A second video features another well-spoken woman talking about her return to New Orleans after the devastation of hurricane Katrina. Again, as the woman becomes emotional and begins to cry, the interviewer hands her a tissue.
Nothing more needs to be said; this is very powerful storytelling that connects to the audience and delivers an image of the brand as caring and sensitive—the exact kind of impression the company wants to portray.

Use Technology to Connect

It is possible to generate a whole lot of excitement for arcane things like industrial abrasives, data management software, accounting services, and the like. Use of latest technology - You-tube, Web2.0, blobs, Videos, etc. Thanks to the Web and its extraordinary ability to deliver multimedia content, even the most mundane offerings can get hearts racing.

Company which wants to sell data backup products can create a very powerful emotional connection by showing the video of 9/11 attack or Kobe earthquake etc. and then showing off how the company was benefited by having a complete data backup or data mirroring.

Another good way to sell arcane products such as software's needed to run data centers would be to show a video of a fictional story - some thing in the lines of "Enemy of the state" - where the data center manager is portrayed as a super hero who saves the organization.

Videos can convey a very powerful message which emotionally connects with the customer. If these videos are made available on the web, it will create a buzz in the user community.

Six Steps to Turn Boring Into Exciting

1. Use people to sell to people

There is no substitute for people. Human beings are capable of communicating with an enormous degree of nuance and subtlety, using voice, expression, body language, and gesture; no animation, avatar, or artificial substitute can take the place of a real person for communicating meaningful, memorable marketing messages.

With relatively easy-to-use production tools, anyone can create a video, but not necessarily one that delivers the message or image that your company wants to present. We have seen far too many poor quality efforts both on the Web and even on local television, where company presidents with bad haircuts and ill-fitting suits uttering nonsense-riddled scripts in zombie-like performances expose themselves to audiences that are expecting so much more.

Skilled performers communicate in very subtle ways to an audience, and only the well-practiced professional has the experience and capability to deliver the intended experience. The cost of saving money by doing it yourself or with amateurs can result in delivering an unintended message that may undermine the impression and image you are trying to create.

2. Perception is reality, so use scripted professionals

You will notice that I described the women in the facial tissue videos as articulate. Now I cannot tell you whether they were actors or whether their powerful presentations were scripted; but if I had to guess, I would say these very effective videos were about as carefully produced and constructed as the latest episode of "Survivor." That by no means makes them any less effective.

The point here is that perception is reality, and the professional filmmaker knows how to tell a story and communicate a message; and that is not the same thing as being able to turn on a video camera.

3. Tell a memorable story

When we talk about a company's telling its story, it is important to distinguish between the company's history and the emotional experiences generated by the product or service.

Company histories can make for interesting videos and can produce a sense of trust associated with being in business for a considerable length of time, but that sort of presentation does not speak to the underlying emotional and psychological factors that actually trigger a sale.
It is difficult but imperative that businesses understand that marketing is not about you, or even the product or service; it's about the audience.

Like the Kleenex videos and the Home Depot commercials, every product and service that is purchased from your company represents an experience, a story that relates to your audience's aspirations and needs. It is the audience's story that demonstrates credibility, clarifies purpose, penetrates memory, and makes the message compelling.

4. Create an emotional experience

The vast majority of decisions we make are colored by the emotional relevance associated with those decisions. No doubt rational factors figure into our decision-making process, but the pivotal factors that attract the use of one product over another are emotional.

If you're not connecting to your audience on an emotional level, then you are left with a commodity that can only be sold on price and features, and unless you're a monopoly there will always be some competitor willing to offer your customers more for less.

When presenting your product or service, it is important to tap into an emotional element that your audience can relate to as its key purchasing-decision factor. When people purchase boring accounting services and software, what they're really buying is an improved lifestyle for their families.

It really doesn't matter what you sell, if you look hard enough you can find the emotional benefit that should be the central element of your marketing message.

5. Create a believable relevant personality

Part of the process of connecting with your audience is creating an appropriate personality for your company. Many corporations today believe in the cult of management personality, but this is a dangerous game. Your company needs a personality of its own, one that is distinctive and that will stand alone and not be dependent on senior management's ego and self-promotion.
Web-video marketing campaigns provide a vehicle that allows companies to create appropriate personalities that engage, inform, and entertain your audience in ways that establish your identity and create the basis for a prosperous business relationship.

Clever marketing can create a corporate personality, but it is imperative that you follow through and deliver that personality in all aspects of your relationship with your audience. Producing a campaign that promises one thing—and a website, staff, and product that deliver another—is one of the easiest ways to alienate customers.

6. Deliver a critical hot-button moment

Web-video presentations need to focus on single issues that are driven home by the addition of a hot-button moment or punch line. Remember, you are telling your audience a story that needs a beginning, middle, and an end. That story should build to a climax and deliver the point in a single memorable moment.

Closing Thoughts

If you are a salesman using power point slides - then consider yourself obsolete. There is no way you can create the kind of buzz and attract customer to buy your product with power point slides. Instead, use creativity, innovative approach to selling. Start with the benefits - and then connect the benefits with people emotions. Next connect the emotions with the business need. At this point, the customer will be able to connect the economic necessity and technology factors for buying the product - and la viola you have a super seller in your hands.

Use of BET model, Product Opportunity Gap & force field analysis helps you to identify the right customer base and once you have identified the right customers, work on creating the right emotional connection between the product’s benefits and the customer. Remember that features and technology mean nothing to customer unless customer perceives a value and benefits of using your product.

1 comment:

shussain said...

Fantastic insight for those of us in similar situations with challenging products that need promotion nonetheless. Some great very useful advice. Thanks for sharing