The first level might be best described as integrated marketing communications. This is where every aspect of a brand’s communication efforts–from advertising to publicity to online to social media–are integrated beneath the umbrella of a single brand idea. As simple as this sounds, most companies are still chasing the pot of gold at the end of this rainbow. It’s not easy to do.
A second level of integrated marketing might be called integrated branding. This takes the first level and extends it through the other elements of a brand’s Four Ps–not limiting it to promotion, but extending it to pricing, place and product expressions. Think Apple Store, or Target, or perhaps Nike and Starbucks. Few are the brands that have achieved this level of consistency.
Yet there is still another frontier, as touched on in a recent piece by Sue Shellenbarger of the Wall Street Journal about the use of “sounds that sell”. Audio is one aspect of what I call Sensory Branding, and it entails integrating a brand across all five forms of contact consumers may have with a product or company– sight, sound, feel, taste and smell.
This would include, of course, marketing communications, but at a much more thoughtful level–going beyond simply concept, design and copy into texture, shape, scent and other sensory expressions. And it covers all Four Ps, but goes beyond them as well–to the sound of a well-tuned Harley engine or Dyson vacuum, to the feel of a BMW suspension or Ritz-Carlton sofa, and to the scent of Matouk linens or a brand new Sharpie.
We have but scratched the surface when it comes to sensory branding. To those of us who are still working hard on integrated branding or even integrated marketing communications, call it job security. As long as we’re making progress.
Are you looking to improve or modernise the way you sell?
Do you want to learn how you can use the social web to help you sell more?
In this post I will discuss both the traditional and the new ways salespeople can work.
After reading this post you will have an insight into what the future of selling will look like. Hopefully you will start to see that there are alternative ways of working that will help you to help your customers more, which in turn will help you hit your sales targets.
Basically a salesperson attempts to convince a potential customer that there is more value in what his company is trying to sell than what they are charging for it.
Imagine a world without salespeople? The world of business would stop. Right?
I want to share my perspective that the value a traditional salesperson has in an organisation is shrinking. I will begin by explaining the two types of salespeople.
What does a traditional salesperson do?
If you were to survey every salesperson in the world, these are the kind of activities they would include in their typical day:
Chasing people for commitment to the next step in the sales process
Qualifying if someone is a good prospect
Trying to convince a prospect they should buy a product
Trying to speed up the sales process so that the customer buys before the end of that month/quarter/year
Receiving leads from marketing (and usually complaining they are not very good!)
Watch this video to see how bad cold calling can be!
A Forrester marketing report said, in technology sales, two thirds of the customers’ buying process is done before they engage with the sales team. Even if the split varies in different industries the principle is the same. Traditionally customers would rely on salespeople to share information about the products but now customers now have many more sources of information to help make their decisions. Sources such as:
Ratings and reviews
What do people type into Google?
People don’t start their buying process by typing into Google your company name or your product name. More often than not, they have no idea who your company is or what products you sell.
What they actually type are things like:
How do I do X?
How can I fix problem X?
What is X?
How can I improve X?
How can I cut costs in X area of my business?
Even when they have an idea of what they want to buy a lot of people will be searching for:
Product X vs. Product Y?
How much does Product X cost?
What are the pros and cons of product X?
If you choose only to get involved in the sales process when the customer is ready to talk to a salesperson, you are missing a big chunk of what has already influenced a customer’s buying process/preferences. That is assuming you even get a chance to be involved at all.
You need to influence the start of the sales process rather than just the end of it. You need to be the person educating the customer while they are learning about your industry and the types of products you sell.
Case study – O2 mobile network – How do I transfer data between iPhones?
Below is a great video from a mobile phone network in the UK called O2. They launched a YouTube channel call O2 Guru TV. It was a video help site designed to help anyone with issues relating to their mobile phones. A small percentage of the videos make reference to O2 specifically but do not promote O2 directly. They position O2 as a brand who are very helpful and a company who provides great customer service, even to people who are not their customers. The result is, that in a very competitive industry with high churn rate, they have a competitive differentiator. They are selling indirectly to their potential customers by showing them why they should do business with them.
The video below illustrates the concept. When anyone in the world searches “How to transfer data between iPhones?” this video is going to be there to help them.
If your product has a unique benefit over the products it competes with, then you do not need to talk about your product specifically. If you wrote a blog or recorded a video about that unique benefit then the potential customer can decide how important that benefit is to them. You are just educating your potential customer and in the process helping to shape their requirements about what is important to them and what they need. If that benefit is not important they may buy from your competitor, but they would have done anyway. If it is important, when they are ready to buy, they will only buy from you.
From push to pull selling
Imagine you never had to make another cold call again? Imagine if every time you called someone they always took your call and knew who you were? This is the future.
I foresee a world where no individual will ever accept any unsolicited approach from anyone in any way. Facebook has developed EdgeRank to prioritise what information you see.
Facebook description of EdgeRank
The news feed algorithm uses several factors to determine top stories, including the number of comments, who posted the story, and what type of post it is (ex: photo, video, status update, etc.).
I can see this idea spreading outside of Facebook.
This idea has spread from the world’s largest social network to one of the largest free email providers. Google mail has begun to prioritise people’s inboxes by labeling certain posts as important. It figures out which mail is important based upon who you email regularly, which messages you open and reply to and what keywords are in those emails.
Content and information are a commodity. Cold calling, generic email shots, radio/tv/magazine ads and most, if not all traditional marketing methods, are not going to work.
In the future the only way to reach people will be by creating great content which is helpful, interesting, useful, educational or entertaining to your potential clients.
The importance and relevance of content and communications will dictate whether people read the information or not.
Not how you want to sell but how your customers want to buy
It is not how you want to sell which dictates the relationship, it is how your customers want to buy. A social business sells in the way people want to buy and not the way the company wants to sell.
If you can educate your potential customers well enough, although not all those customers will buy from you, those who do, will only buy from you.
I believe a traditional salesperson will become an order taker and be pushed down the value chain. Customers are now empowered to do their own research from both biased and unbiased sources. The need for a sales person to come along and give an opinion biased towards his own products is reducing.
I always remember a mentor told me many years ago when I questioned the value that marketing had vs. sales. I didn’t think you could earn as much in marketing as a salesperson can. He said:
If you run a business, what would you want? A product people wanted to buy or a product you had to sell?
Sales and marketing people need to understand that the old ways of doing business will not work in the future. I would advise you get ahead of the curve and change the way you do business, before the old ways grind to a halt.
In my last post I gave some simple tips about expediting the planning and budgeting process that have stood me in good stead throughout my career and budgeting guru Steve Player talks about the same thing in his most recent post, asking does finance ‘feel the need for speed’.
Well in these uncertain times, any company that is still struggling through a 4-6 month process that takes multiple iterations to arrive at an acceptable compromise that business managers feel they can achieve (and still earning their bonus) and the executive is prepared to sign off on, ought to be striving for something shorter.
With unknowns about demand and input prices there are too many assumptions to review to let budgeting remain as a once a year process and Steve recommends continual rolling forecasts fed by inputs from sales and operations. While he doesn’t spell it out, what he appears to be talking about is driver-based planning and budgeting where key inputs (and indeed KPIs) such as productivity ratios, the sales pipeline, the unit cost of inputs, exchange rates and the like can be actively monitored and managed on a daily basis with corrective action taken as required. I’ve long been sold on such an approach, worked with it a couple of roles and see it as the catalyst that will really get finance working alongside the businesses as partners.
But until now, driver-based budgeting models have been somewhat onerous to work with in that recalculating a large multi-dimensional planning model that contains lots of business rules than span time periods and departments could take some considerable time even when models have been partitioned across servers and the ingenious workarounds have been brought into play. Similarly updating sales and operational drivers relied on waiting until contributors found some quiet time to open up their laptop, which is never easy with managers who are out in the field or based in a busy production or distribution unit.
Secondly building planning models that make use of in-memory calculation engines such as SAP HANA means that even the biggest driver –based planning and forecasting models will run in real-time. That way everyone in the business from a junior line manager to the CEO can get instant insight into where they stand against their goals and targets. What’s more, as the model is based on drivers, automated variance analysis will show them exactly where the issue are that need to be addressed and they can run scenarios to assess the impact of any changes that need to be made.
Admittedly, finance would need to plan the collection of drivers starting with sales and working through production, distribution and finally back office, repeatedly calculating the model so that contributors could see what demands the new forecasts of earlier upstream contributors make on their own responsibility center. So I guess we are talking a couple of elapsed hours to generate a new forecast. But coming from 4-6 months, surely this is as near real-time planning and budgeting as it’s possible to be. Bring it on.