Wednesday, March 19, 2008

New Wave BlogCasting

Laura Benjamin, nationally known communications expert and career coach is embarking on a career in radio. But for starters, she's created a blogcast/podcast program that you can access from her site :

I was honored to be among her first interviewees. Just click on the play button under "Laura Benjamin Interview" on the right, or download the mp3.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Obama's Pastor Problems - Marketing Analysis

I like to look at political campaigns from a marketing perspective. After all, it all leads up to influencing individual decisions on a specific date. A daunting challenge for any marketing professional. So what can we learn from Barak Obama's latest problems regarding the fiery, seemingly anti-American sermons delivered by his pastor of twenty years, Reverand Wright?

I think this is a case study in niche marketing vs mass marketing. The Reverand Wright has tapped into a segment of the market that is extremely suspicious of the US government to say the least. This is probably something like 10-15% of the general population. One can understand the appeal. After all, if you are aware of the complex and evil conspiracy being perpetrated by authorities and most of the rest of the people are not, doesn't that make you smarter and wiser than most people? This is an audience eager for validation. One can become very successful and very wealthy going after a share of that 15%.

However, Obama needs much more than a percentage of 15% to win the presidency. He needs to appeal to the mass market. In this case, the two don't mesh. We are a country at war and the majority of people are not likely to embrace a candidate who seems to think that Al Quaida may have a point. I don't think Barak Obama actually believes everything that the Reverand is selling (frankly I think the Reverand probably doesn't either). I think Obama saw in this high profile, energetic congregation a ready-made, grass roots support group. Had the views and proclaimations of the congregation's leader not come to light, this may have been a useful tool. Now it has become a liability instead.

The lesson here is to know what you're selling and to whom. If you can accomplish your goals with a small percentage of the total market, niche marketing may be a good way to go. You can make a good living selling the best sardine sandwich in the country. But if you're trying to support a nationwide network of thousands of fast food franchises, McSardines is probably not going to fly. The more you associate yourself, your product, your company or service with a narrowly defined segment of the population, the more you risk alienating the public in general.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Knowledge - Your Most Valuable Sales Tool

Having the right look, the right speech pattern, using the right buzz words will all lead to some degree of success in the short term. Real working knowledge of what you're selling will lead to lasting relationships and a lucrative career.

Speaking as someone who is approached by more than his share of salespeople, nothing turns me off faster than a well-rehearsed sales pitch. When presented with one of these I immediately ask a question that addresses my concerns, not a set-up for a manufacturer's talking points. Invariably the salesperson will attempt to redirect the conversation, either because they don't like, or don't know the answer.

If you want to make quick sales, get employee of the month, win the latest office competition, stick with the schtick. If you want to establish and promote your own reputation and build lasting relationships and long term accounts, get to know your product and how it can best be employed by your potential customers. Listen to their questions, their comments, their criticisms. If you don't have answers, find them. If you do an objective analysis and determine your product is not suited for a particular prospects needs, don't waste their time and yours. Thank them for their time and input and move on.

Remember, talking points provided by management, manufacturers, service providers are just starting points. They are the best guess by the various marketing departments as to what your prospect might be interested in and respond to. Don't try to adjust your prospect's state of mind to fit the talking points. Adjust your talking points to the reality in the field. Let the prospect tell you what their interested in. Listen, learn, evaluate, then respond. If necessary, take notes and set up a second meeting for when you're better prepared to answer questions. Don't go back and get advice on how to "hook" the client. Go get real answers to real concerns.

Don't think of yourself as a salesperson. You're a solution provider. Behave like one. The benefits of this approach are at least two-fold: Better customer retention and the opportunity to gain knowledge and insight into a variety of businesses and models. Every sales call should be seen as both a challenge and a learning opportunity.

Knowledge is an asset. The positive deployment of knowledge is wisdom. If you pass up the chance to gain some of both on the job, you're missing out on a big part of your potential compensation.