Monthly Archives: January 2010

Sales as a Conversation

I’ve been saying for some time  that sales is turning into a more of a “conversation” than a “sales pitch”.     The days of the old “sales pitch” that captured someone’s attention and compeled them to buy has gone by.  In it’s place, we’re being forced to carry on a “conversation” about our products over time (and multiple mediums).

Think about it.  If someone sees your ad and they’re interested in knowing more, they go to the Internet and check you out.  They read reviews (both from consumers and consumer publications).  They compare prices.  And then, finally, they come in to “try and buy”.

That ties into this interesting article written by Sean Silverthorne in the blog “The View From Harvard Business” (courtesy of BNET).

“When I walk into an Apple retail store, I get the feeling that I am on my own to explore, touch, lift, try and compare. Sure, I can get help if I want it. But what the store is designed to do is get people engaged with the product directly.

MIT’s Michael Schrage calls this a “selling themselves” strategy, opposed to the “sell to” approach we get when we listen to a sales pitch.

“I’d argue that the future of salesmanship and innovation alike will increasingly depend on giving people easier ways of selling themselves on whatever it is you’re selling,” Schrage writes. “It’s not enough to be persuasive; you’ve got to make it easier for people to persuade themselves.”

Even professional service firms should adopt this approach, Schrage argues on his HBR.org post, Let Your Customers Persuade Themselves. A PSF would be well advised to ask the question, “What can we give away to entice prospects into a serious conversation about becoming a client?”

It’s all a matter of degree, I think. Some people are uncomfortable trying on a new technology or law firm without some guidance and context, which comes in the form of a quick sales pitch.

Schrage admits he doesn’t like being sold to. I don’t mind it at all, as long as the sales person is listening to what I want, a point sales guru Tom Hopkins makes in this nice interview with my BNET colleague Geoffrey James.

So at the end of the day, your best bet is to understand how your own customers want to be approached, and be ready to mix and match tactics to help them make a decision.

From your experience, what company really gets it in terms of a compelling sales experience? Who gets the balance right?”

New Apple IPAD Promotes Internet Radio

Amid all the hype and excitement of introducing Apple’s new “IPad”, one item caught our attention.

“By tracking 200 apps being tested on 50 devices at Apple headquarters, Flurry Analytics has concluded that “there was a strong trend toward news, books and other kinds of daily media consumption, including streaming music and radio. (Thus) we speculate that the new Apple tablet will focus heavily on daily media consumption.”

That’s good news for anyone (like us) who beleives that “internet radio” is the next “killer app” and the most powerful Social Medium imaginable.

5 Reasons Press Releases Should Be in Any Recession Survival Kit

PREReleases has come up with an interesting list of “5 Reasons Press Releases Should Be in Any Business’ Recession Survival Kit”.

According to them, scores of businesses wounded or simply frightened by the economic downturn have slashed marketing and public relations budgets, yet press releases continue to roll over the wires at a steady pace.

“Smart business leaders are not retreating to their fallout shelters or raising the white flag,” stated Mickie Kennedy, founder and CEO of eReleases (www.ereleases.com). “They are in the game for the long haul and are devising creative solutions to survive the stalled economy. These businesses may even be at the peak of their creativity, training staff to reinvent their roles and participate in public relations and trying outside-of-the-box ideas they were hesitant to test in ‘safer’ periods. These are the trendsetters of the new economy, and they know press releases are a no-brainer approach to reinforcing their market position.”

eReleases works in the trenches with these businesses every day, helping craft press release messages and disseminating them to achieve optimal media and online visibility. Based on this experience, eReleases has formulated the top five reasons press releases should be in any businesses’ recession survival kit:

Out of sight, out of mind. Consumer confidence is low, and members of
the traditional press are distracted by their own problems in a
shrinking market, but no one will know how great a company and its
offerings are if heads are buried in the sand. Companies can invest in
maintaining a public presence — and even attract some business —
with a persistent stream of press releases. They should not let their
competition’s voice be the only one heard.

Savior of shoestring budgets. Press releases are as close to
shoestring as a company can get when it comes to marketing and PR
strategies. Here’s the basic formula: Write a few hundred words about
your latest news then pitch it to the media. This costs staff time,
but not a great deal of it. Affordable services like eReleases that
will take charge of this effort are also within reach.

This too shall pass. The slowdown will not last forever. How are
companies going to account for what they were doing all those months?
Were they licking wounds, or cheerleading for business-as-usual?
Businesses can document their outreach to the media and public with
press releases, and a consistent thread of communication will be in
place when the economy revives.

Lemonade from lemons. Any positive message is a glimmer of hope. The
media are on the hunt for stories that cut through the melancholy. A
new product or service, an award, an initiative to boost employee
morale or lend a hand to the community: These are all positive topics
that show a company is making the best of tough times.

— Virtual multi-tool. A press release may in itself be the ultimate
hard-times survival kit. When a company uses a press release
distribution service that includes Tier-1 newswire distribution, trade
media targeting and online visibility, it is employing a
self-contained PR campaign that places the company on the media’s
radar while also providing SEO benefits. This is one of most
cost-effective site traffic, branding and buzz boosts around.

Tipping Point for Traditional Radio

Traditional Radio will be left out of Steve Jobs’ new mobile tablet device that he is expected to announce next Wednesday.

Malcolm Gladwell in his book of the same name defined the tipping points to be “the levels at which the momentum for change becomes unstoppable”.

My friends, we are about to witness history next week when Apple provides the electronics, the infrastructure and the consumer confidence (no small thing) to save traditional media.

A recent article in The Wall Street Journal alluded to Apple’s goals. No one will know until Apple CEO Steve Jobs comes down from high to announce the next big thing, but speculation is running rampant.

The tablet could allow for cable television subscriptions customized by the user and billed to their Apple account. Music may be streamed and safely tucked away on a “cloud” for instant access anywhere on any device — again, for a monthly fee.

Monthly fees have failed miserably in the music sector but Apple could pull it off with a cool new device that allows consumers to read books, save the newspaper industry from itself, access school textbooks, read PDFs, go online, use apps from Apple’s app store, play video and movies at a whim, listen to Internet radio and Pandora and on and on.

But what appears to be left out is radio — terrestrial radio.

You see, the tipping point has already been reached in radio and the momentum cannot be stopped. Consolidators and their followers have killed off local programming and local personalities. They’ve done this with a smile on their faces (after all, remember a year ago when Clear Channel laid off almost 2,000 people and said that was going to fix the industry?).

Maybe it would be better to rename the tipping point the Dipping Point in the case of the radio industry. Turns out less was never more. Any idiot knows less is not more.

Even an alien from Mars would know that to dilute local radio for the economies of repeater radio, Imus in the Morning, syndication, voice tracking and cheap programming is compromising the industry’s future.

And now, next week, radio will see just what bean counter planning earned it — a footnote at best on the most fabulous new consumer device and entertainment platform ever devised.

Radio is not necessary to people other than radio executives.

Yes, I know — 236 million people listen to radio every week according to Radar and big CHR stations still pull in millions of listeners (if you count People Meter metrics as listeners).

I would respond, if radio is strong at 236 million people, why was the industry declining even before the recession? I know from my work teaching the next generation — radio has by its own hand removed itself from the soundtrack of its listeners’ lives.

Radio studies layoffs and new ways to get health care companies to buy spots while consumers get their news and entertainment online and from mobile devices. And advertisers are now telling radio stations what they think of them by driving the price for commercials down to the lowest levels ever.

Steve Jobs studies sociology and then invents the technology.

Radio studies “layoffology” and then invents a breed of radio that is easily left off the next must have media device.

We’ve got it all ass backwards.

The Wall Street Journal article’s only mention of radio is Internet radio.

Here it is:

“People familiar with Apple’s plans say a central part of the new strategy is to populate as many Web sites as possible with ‘buy’ buttons, integrating iTunes transactions into activities like listening to Internet radio and surfing review Web sites. ”

This is what we talk about in this space all the time and what I will cover at my Media Solutions Lab next week.

Innovation!

Yet, the radio industry is content to sit still and miss the next wave after having denied its way through the Internet revolution for the past decade. Why do you think every major broadcast company budgets less than 3% at best for Internet/mobile and digital operations? Isn’t that wrong? The Internet will be the thing historians look back on 50 years from today — not towers and transmitters.

Not good for companies whose money is tied up in FCC licenses and old transmitters.

One of my readers points out,

“When Google retreated from trying to sell radio advertising, radio companies saw that as a victory. I saw it as a defeat. When I ran radio stations, I embraced dMarc and then thought it was great when Google bought it. Pfft. Gone”.

The Dipping Point for radio is next week — when all the foolish, selfish, destructive things consolidators and their equity holders have done to the industry comes home to roost.

But the Tipping Point for new media also arrives on the same day. This exciting future — creating content, marketing brands, selling things — becomes a growth industry.

This growth industry isn’t going to come to us — we have to go get it. Learn about it. Retrain ourselves. Certainly, we must become adept at understanding generational media. (I am doing an impactful and entertaining module on generational media at my Lab next week. It will give attendees a sense of how to see the similarities and differences in generational media and what to do with them).

Radio people have all the raw talent to learn skills for the era of new media content that will be institutionalized next Wednesday when Apple speaks. The ones that sit back and refuse to think differently (as Apple would say) will most certainly be left behind.

The long-awaited digital future is days away. Let’s watch it develop together and find ways to become a part of it.

Courtesy of Jerry Del Colliano and his outstanding “insider blog” Inside Music Media.

Engage Boomers By Making it Experiential

The 18-to-49 age group has been the Holy Grail since the 1950s. Today, the baby boomer generation makes up about one-third of the U.S. population but it controls three-fourths of the wealth. It wields $2 trillion in annual buying power. Nevertheless, frustration is mounting because the $275 billion ad industry still gears only 10% of ads toward 50-plus customers.
So How Do You Connect?

Marketing communications should be easy to read and be experiential in nature. They should reflect and understand the values of this demo and positioned as a gateway to desired experiences. Values and motivators for this group include:

Autonomy and self sufficiency (independence/participation)
Social connectedness (relationships/friendships)
Altruism (opportunity to share wisdom and ability to do for others: family, community and country)
Personal growth (gain knowledge)
Revitalization (need to rejuvenate)
The more ads and sales approaches that reflect the product or service is in harmony with these values and motivators the higher the success rate.

Aging-related changes like reduced vision need also be considered. For example, as we age, we need more light to see, pastel colors become distorted and blend to dark, etc. Large font, serif type, vivid colors, etc. are recommended.

We See What We Want To See

There is also evidence that communications that take a “less is more” approach to this demo are more effective. Presenting your company or product in a manner that is more suggestive than descriptive allows the target demo to subjectively interpret the message based upon his/her needs, values and motivators.

Most marketing and sales center on customers’ objective identities (demographic and psychographic) and research shows that a product’s message succeeds when it connects with a customer’s subjective identity (allowing for individual interpretation). Brilliant messages and sales presentations not connecting with the subjective mind are usually unproductive.

Stories Work Well

Another good communication tactic is the greater use of story-telling techniques. Stories are generally quicker to arouse emotions than straightforward propositions about a product’s features. Think Hallmark cards. They surpass most in using stories to present its products.

Today’s customer universe is age-weighted toward midlife values. Resistance to emotionally neutral information (mainly processed in the left hemisphere of the brain) increases in midlife. Receptivity to emotionally enriched information — such as stories — increases in midlife. Storytelling has become an important part of market strategy. Whoever tells the best story and tells it best will most likely win.

Courtesy of Jim Gilmartin, President of Chicago-based Coming of Age, Inc. (www.comingofage.com) and Media Post.com

5 Social Media Secrets for 2010

Social Media is Here to Stay

Social media took a wild ride in 2009. The mainstream press fell in love with Twitter, Facebook grew aggressively and a new wave of companies starting taking social media seriously as a business tool. Below are 10 secrets to staying on top of it all in 2010, courtesy of SLIDESHARE.NET (the simplest way to share slideshows on the web…so simple I even added them to my LinkedIn site!)

1. Pay Attention to the Metrics
You can’t manage what you can’t measure. Chief Marketing Officers are going to pay more attention to metrics and tie in social media more directly to overall business goals, not just web-related goals. When starting up new project agree on what the metrics should be and what goals are appropriate.

2. Scale Good Habits
As you grow, make sure you match your structure, policy and guidelines to your organization size. What works with 2 people won’t work with 20 people. All in all your structure should encourage good habits. Your entire team should be motivated to respond quickly, post consistently and talk like a human. Speaking of policies and rules…

3. Have Rules, But Trust People
As your social media strategy matures, you’ll add in more rules and guidelines. However, you can’t have a rule for every situation. You need to trust your team. Lead by example, don’t manage with rulebook.

4. Creativity & Personality Trump Big Budget
Social media is definitely one of those areas in life where more money doesn’t always win. Two of the most powerful ingredients in social media are creativity and personality. They are the key to having a viral message and to being a trusted resource. They are also essential to discovering useful strategies and tactics. You can’t be afraid to try something new or go against the grain.

5. Listen Listen Listen
Don’t focus so much on you and your message. Put that farther down on your To Do List. Focus first on your customers. Hear what they are saying, see what they’re up to. Once you’ve been able to connect, and figure them out, then see how you can help.

PR Newswire Scoops Everyone

Just when I start wondering if ANYONE reads the flood of press releases published each day on the Internet, my favorite “press release service” scoops all the real “wire services” by publishing Conan O’Brien’s public reply to NBC (about their sudden demand that he move the Tonight Show back to midnight to accommodate Jay Leno’s return to Late Night).

Consider it the “scoop of the decade” (not hard since we’re only 12 days into this new decade!)

When I was a “press agent” (right after the heydey of the “studio system”) we would have taken out an ad in Variety to answer such a public spat.  Now they publish a press release on the Internet.   What do you think?  Am I the only one, or is this weird?