Not Sure What They Are Selling

I’ve been seeing a number of different car commercials lately, but, other than the obvious, I’m not really sure what they’re selling. Some examples:

  • GM, yet again, is offering employee pricing on its vehicles. This year, they attempt to couch it in terms of an anniversary. This is something they have been doing since around 2000, and they pull the trick out whenever their sales are in the dumps, which seems to be most years. If your vehicles weren’t relevant before, resurrecting a bad sales idea isn’t going to change that. Sell your cars on their merit, not the fact that you’ve been overpricing and underdelivering.
  • VW seems to think that German engineering is best expressed through black Beetle acting as a talk show host. Saying that you have German engineering doesn’t make it good—the engineering itself does, however. Tell me what it means and what I can expect to experience from it.
  • Mitsubishi has introduced a new engine, yet doesn’t feel the need to explain to anyone what makes it unique or at least different. When you spend that kind of R&D money, market the heck out of the result.
  • Ford has introduced a new box on wheels with so-so EPA estimated mileage, touting it as something people should desire. Two things: one, average or slightly above average EPA estimated mileage isn’t enough, you have to do something revolutionary; two, most of us don’t care one lick what the EPA estimates the mileage to be in a vacuum on a treadmill with no friction, we care about the actual mileage from driving on real roads.

When you are marketing a product, no matter what it is, you have to focus on the actual features and benefits. If you don’t have any, save your money and reputation and stop selling it. Focus your energy on creating something that actually creates a point of differentiation. Be unique. Serve a market others ignore. Make a positive difference. But don’t, under any circumstances, try to treat your customers like gullible fools. That is the quickest route to irrelevance.

Compensate for the Right Goals

Last week, there was a story on the news about a guy in Tucson who followed a speed camera van around and held a sign warning drivers the van was there. He reasoning was that there was insufficient notification to drivers that the van was there to catch them speeding. The van is a contract role for the police department, paid, most likely, per ticket issued or collected.

That is the problem.

Follow me on this. The ultimate goal should be speed abatement. In other words, the desired outcome needs to be a reduction in the number of people who speed in a given area. Compensating based on catching people doing something wrong, is going to drive the company to catch as many people as possible doing that thing wrong.

Turn it around and compensate the company for a reduction in speeding, then you will find far fewer people speeding. But doing it that way is much harder. First, you may have the wrong company/employee. Second, you may be taking the wrong approach to reach the desired outcome. Either way, it won’t be the simple way to devise the compensation. That is a guarantee.

When designing a variable compensation system (salary plus bonus, for example) be sure to understand what your desired ultimate outcome is, as well as, and this is critical, what it will take to achieve that outcome is the most desirable manner.

For instance, let’s say you have a sales goal in place. You could compensate based on the employee reaching a certain number. Then their objective is simply hitting that number, doing whatever it takes. On the other hand, you can identify the key steps in the sales process that best match your brand promise and compensate based on the employee successfully achieving those steps, along with the desired overall results. If they do all the steps as they should, and the results don’t follow, you need to change the steps, not the desired outcome. Fix the steps, then start it up again.

In the end, you are going to get what you pay for. Just make sure you’re paying for the right thing.

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Ensure Your Customers Are Successful

Here’s a quick question for you. When you sell to your customers, what are you doing to ensure their success? This most likely is targeted to you B2B folks, but it could go to just about anyone selling anything.

Because to the best companies, selling isn’t just about the sale. Or even the repeat sale. It’s about making sure your customers truly are successful in using your product. It’s about building a long-lasting relationship focused on mutual growth.

In other words, when your customers are successful, so are you. When they aren’t, neither are you.

So I go back to my original question: what are you doing to ensure your customers’ success? Train them on how to most effectively use the product. Show them how to price it for resale. Offer them assistance on managing their business. Learn about the results they are getting with your product and why.

Invest in them and their success. It’s what will lead to your own.

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Selling It Back

This past weekend, I heard a co-worker talking to a customer, and she said she didn’t want the customer to sell the product back to her. I hadn’t heard that phrase in several years. But it’s one of those that makes perfect sense.

We sell all sorts of things to all sorts of people. It doesn’t matter what business you’re in, you are selling something to someone. The key is selling the right person the right product, not selling just anybody everything you’ve got. Why? Because if it doesn’t do what you promise or meet their needs, they’re going to sell it right back to you. And it’s going to cost you more than it cost them.

For you to be successful in your business, you need results—the positive kind. Over the long-term, those results need to come from taking the time to make the right match of product and consumer. Satisfied customers typically don’t sell their purchases back. But when they do, that is your opportunity to sell them the right product.

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Let Me Shop

I was out shopping (browsing, really) at some shops this weekend. In one of the stores, I was particularly interested in a couple of shirts. As I am checking out one of the shirts, deciding whether to buy, one of the salespeople walks up to me and points me to a table of sale items a few feet away.

Admittedly, I became curious and checked it out. Unfortunately, for them, I lost interest in the shirts I was considering and had no interest in the sales items.

I walked out without making a purchase. Alas, another sale thwarted by someone being a little too helpful.

Here are a few hints:

  • Don’t ask yes or no questions. 99% of the time, the answer will be no.
  • Don’t divert someone from a higher ticket sale to a lower one, unless it’s what they need or it’s right for them.
  • Engage the customer to find out what they are looking to purchase. What is holding up their decision? What can you do to help them along?

If you go shopping and don’t have an engaging experience and don’t buy something or as much as a result, then don’t replicate that in your own job. That’s just not smart.

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Categorically Speaking

Marketers love to speak in terms of categories related to their particular brand—premium, super-premium, ultra-premium, giga-premium, you get the picture. From the consumer’s viewpoint, however, brands get considered a bit differently.

Think about the various things you buy (where there is some choice involved). What you actually purchase is based on how it fits into one of the following categories:

  • Strict loyalty—”I’ll only buy computers from Dell” or “A Honda is the only thing I’ll drive”
  • Consideration set—while the consumer may not be strictly loyal, your brand is in a select group whose purchase or use depends on the mood
  • Convenience set—people buy it because it’s easy due to location, availability, ease of transaction, etc.
  • Price set—you are the best price on the shelf (this time)
  • Ignorance—the customer really doesn’t know any better

Chances are, you’re in more than one of these categories. And that is perfectly fine, as long as you use it to your advantage. And do use it to your advantage. Talk to your customers in those terms. Create your customer service to reinforce it.

Make it work for you.

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Wanting and Wanting to Buy

Last Thursday, a story came on NPR’s All Things Considered titled “From Clunker to Cruiser, Ford Posts Quarterly Profit”. One of the interviewees stated that people didn’t want new cars right now. I quickly turned to my wife and said, “That’s not true. People want new cars, they just don’t want to buy them.”

That is a significant difference. Think about all of the things you want to have. If you are anything like me, you could probably make a list a mile long. Think of the things that you have or use at little to no monetary cost.

Of all the things on those lists, how many of them are you willing to purchase? Right now?

Your reasons may vary. It may be because of the cost. It may be because it’s not practical. Or it may be because you just don’t want it that badly.

Your customers feel the same way, even if the things on their lists are different. Your job is to create a compelling case for the right customers to buy the right product of yours that is going to meet their needs. And by compelling, I mean that the product must perform as advertised. Unless you don’t want them to repeat as a customer or to spread good word-of-mouth about you.

They might want what you’re selling. Give them a reason to buy it.

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