Thursday, August 9, 2012

Expert in Marketing, or Expert in Buying?

When’s the last time you took a good, hard look at your buyers? 

As a business-to-business marketing consultant, it’s a constant battle to keep the focus of marketing projects and programs on the company’s buyer, not what the marketer (ME!) thinks the buyer wants!

This is a topic that gets a lot of play in this blog and other places.  These concepts were discussed at a presentation at the memorable Fall 2011 MarketingSherpa conference by Kristin Zhivago, a sales/marketing evangelist who stresses the importance of regularly checking in with buyers, their mindset and purchase rationale.

It’s worth checking out this archived post from MarketingSherpa, which excerpts Zhivago’s keynote. She reminds us as marketers, we tend to have among the least interaction with customers. And yet, we are the ones responsible for the messages aimed at those customers. 

Checked the Map Lately?
This past month, the industry blog iMediaConnection poses a similarly compelling question: when’s the last time anybody within the sales/marketing department mapped the buying process?
iMediaConnection shares the factoid that more than 60% of the buying process is being conducted without the help of a sales representative. Buyers have radically changed their buying behavior.

For b-tob technology buyers it’s likely over 90%. These folks are extremely well-informed purchasers, and purchase decisions happen independently of the traditional “marketing/sales funnel” we used to hear so much about.

Imagine how effective the sales and marketing team could be, if we could answer:
  • Exactly who within a target organization makes purchase decisions?
  • What factors influence the purchase decision?
  • How are purchase decisions evolving within the organization?
  • How do service, price, quality, features play into the purchasing decision?
  • Where do decision makers go to obtain 'neutral' information when researching purchase decisions?

This kind of discovery involves ongoing research which can be expensive.  But with a little out of the box thinking, there are ways to develop affordable specialized programs that assess the buyer and their process – from post-sales survey calls, user group surveys to online polls.

Got Medals?
It sounds impressive to achieve Gold Medals in the Marketing Biatholon, a la the Dilbert cartoon included here, but winning marketers know that insight into the b-to-b buying process serves as a tremendous competitive advantage.

Without a focus on the buyer - and the journey they go through -  we "expert marketers" might head off in the wrong direction! 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Heading Up North with Steve Wozniak

One of the best parts of summer is spending time at our Lake Huron cabin, in the Northeastern part of Michigan.

We Michiganders refer to this as “Going Up North” and most weekends you’ll find me, the banjo, Ethel the dog, and any other family members who can spare the time heading North on I-75 to our little slice of heaven.

Most of those road trips are spent listening to an audio book, usually whatever one strikes my fancy at our local library. 

I’ve been on an autobiography kick the last year or so, and just finished listening to iWoz, Apple Founder Steve Wozniak’s engaging biography from 2006.

iWoz is an engaging look into the mind of a technical, naturally curious and enthusiastic mix of artist and engineer who played an integral role in one of the great revolutions of our time.
There’s a lot about the electronic engineering behind those early Apple Is and Apple IIs, entire sections devoted to schematics and documentation of chips, CPUs, microprocessors and command language. 

(I must admit, I skipped a few of these sections, especially while driving over the Zilwaukee Bridge.)

Key Takeways
Yet the book has a lot to offer in terms of key lessons learned in life and business. Here are a few of the main lessons:

  1. If you’re not having fun in life or work, do something else.
  2. Love what you do.
  3. Be loyal, but be smart.
  4. Don’t take others too seriously.
  5. Don’t take yourself too seriously.

A quote from the book that illustrates some of these lessons - 

“I hope you're as lucky as I am. The world needs inventors--great ones. You can be one. If you love what you do and are willing to do what it really takes, it's within your reach. And it'll be worth every minute you spend alone at night, thinking and thinking about what it is you want to design or build. It'll be worth it, I promise.”
Steve Wozniak, iWoz

Bigger Ideas
In all, the book offers more than a marketing or business “how I did it” perspective, and shares ideas that are bigger than engineering, Apple, personal computers, technology, and entrepreneurship…a good read, if you haven’t discovered it already.