When Your Price Really Is Too High

When I get asked by sales professionals all around the county how they can overcome the “Your Price is Too High” objection, my response is you must first understand that in their operating reality, your prospect is right. Your price is too high. For now.

when-your-price-really-is-too-high[Editor’s note: Though this post talks about sales, it does get into issues marketers find vexing. It also provides solutions marketers may be able to use.]

When I get asked by sales professionals all around the county how they can overcome the “Your Price is Too High” objection, my response is you must first understand that in their operating reality, your prospect is right. Your price is too high. For now.

Your price is too high because you have not done one or both of the following:

  1. You have not uncovered a good and compelling reason for them to buy from you. Put simply, they have not recognized a need.
  2. You have a value problem. You have not established what your product or service will provide to them financially, operationally or personally and what problem you are solving for them.

You have choices when you hear that objection.

You can ask “Where do I need to be with my price in order to close this deal?” which many salespeople resort to. Selling on price, however, is always a losing proposition. You might win a deal, but you are left defenseless because someone can always come along with a cheaper price and take your client away. The other option is that you can take the time to uncover needs and sell value.

The most effective strategy against the price objection is preventing it in the first place.

What’s the Problem?

Let’s assume we have a great handle on all the features and benefits of our product/service. We also have a target set of clients that have been predetermined to likely need what we are selling. We might have even been trained on why they need what we sell. This combination can often be deadly — especially to the seasoned sales rep. We think we know the problem our client has (because we’ve seen it before) and so we charge in to solve it! Even if we are right, we set ourselves up for failure. Why? Because we didn’t take the time to ask about their situation, really listen to them and create something that will be meaningful to them personally. You must show that you care and that you want more than anything else to understand their operating reality and see if you can possibly make it better. If you do this, they will acknowledge a need for what you are selling. The only way to accomplish this is to use effective questioning skills and active listening skills.

So What?

True sales professionals concentrate on first understanding the client’s current challenges and identifying how your product or service will solve their problem. Think of it like this, no one buys the product or service you sell, they buy what it will do for them. 

WIIFM. What’s In It For Me. That is what they buy. Picture your prospect thinking to themselves with every sentence you utter about your product or service. “So What? So What does that mean to ME? What’s In It for ME?” If you can take the problem you uncovered and communicate the value you can deliver in those terms, you are well on your way.

Value = Benefits – Cost

Value has a price tag. And it varies depending on the buyer – not the product/service. Long before the price is ever mentioned, the sales professional must uncover what their prospect perceives as valuable and what the consequences of not buying are worth. With that in mind, they can position it so that the buyer feels as though the price was a great deal for them, regardless of the price. ROI! The equation Value = Benefits – Cost shows that we put a price on cost AND we put a price on the benefits. If in our mind, the benefits are greater, than there is value in making a purchase.

Let’s use buying a highly commoditized item as an example. A cotton, short-sleeved, T-shirt. These types of T-shirts can range in price from $5 to $100 or more. Things matter to buyers; color, sheen, logos, convenience of purchase, weight, etc. And, they often also appeal to emotions such as a souvenir of a great vacation, your favorite band, college, a show of super-fan for a favorite sports team. Personally, I wouldn’t pay much for a Mets T-shirt, but would spend plenty more on a Cubs T-shirt and even more still if I bought it at a game, where I had a great time watching them beat the Mets. But, that’s just me.

You can be prepared in advance to uncover the problem, position what you are selling in terms of what it means to them and in terms of their perception of value, AND help them justify their purchase when they state your price is too high. Or you can lower your price. It’s your choice.

 

6 Thorny Data Problems That Vex B-to-B Marketers, and How to Solve Them

B-to-B marketers are plagued by data problems. Business data is complex and fast-changing. Customers interact with us through a variety of channels, and often provide us with conflicting information. Our legacy databases are not as robust as we need. New tools and technologies emerge and must be evaluated. It’s a never-ending battle. To shed some light on B-to-B data problems, Bernice Grossman and I compiled a working list of problems and solutions. Here are some of the thorniest.

B-to-B marketers are plagued by data problems. Business data is complex and fast-changing. Customers interact with us through a variety of channels, and often provide us with conflicting information. Our legacy databases are not as robust as we need. New tools and technologies emerge and must be evaluated. It’s a never-ending battle. To shed some light on B-to-B data problems, Bernice Grossman and I compiled a working list of problems and solutions. Here are some of the thorniest.

  1. Data entered by our sales people ends up as mush. They don’t follow the rules; or there are no rules. That may be okay for the rep, but it’s not okay for the company.
    Here’s the best practice: Create a centralized data input group. Train and motivate them well. Give them objective rules to follow. Develop a simple method for testing the accuracy from this group as an ongoing practice. If this group cannot follow the rules, then the rules should be re-evaluated.

    Then, develop a very simple process by which reps pass their data to this group. Dedicate particular group members to certain reps, so the input person builds experience about rep’s behavior and communication style. The bonus: these two parties will team, build a valuable relationship, work together well, and improve data quality.

    Consider enabling the data input group with a real-time interface with a database services provider to prompt the standard company name and address. This can be an expensive, but very helpful, tool.


  2. How do I match and de-duplicate customer records effectively?
    Some approaches to consider:
    • Establish—and enforce—data governing rules to improve data entry, which will keep your matching problems under some semblance of control.
    • Find a solid software vendor with a tool specifically designed to parse, cleanse and otherwise do the matching for you. Test a few vendors to find the one that works best with your data.
    • Create a custom matching algorithm. As a place to start, ask several match/merge companies to show you examples of the results of their algorithm against your data.
  3. When data elements conflict in my house file, how do I decide which is the “truth”?
    The short answer is: by date. The most recent data is the one you should default to.

    But also keep in mind when importing data to enhance your records that appended data will always have its limitations, and is best viewed as directional, versus real “truth.” Be careful not to build targeting or segmentation processes that are primarily dependent on appended data.

    You could consider conducting an audit to validate the quality of your various append sources. (This is usually done by telephone, and it’s not cheap.) Then you can add a score to each appended element, based on its source, to manage the risk of relying on any particular element.

  4. Which corporate address should I put in my database? There’s the legal address and the financial (banking) address, which may be different. Or there may be a street address and a P.O. box address. Equifax and D&B often supply the financial address. The address to receive proxies is different from the address to receive advertising mail. How should I sort all this out?
    As a marketer, your concern is delivery. You care about a bill to and a ship to. Focus on the address where mail and packages are delivered.
  5. Measuring the impact of each touch in our omnichannel world is driving us nuts. Any ideas?
    The attribution problem has heated up recently, fueled by the rise of digital marketing. But it’s really nothing new. The traditional attribution methods of assigning the credit have long been either the first touch (the inquiry source medium) or the last touch (the channel through which the lead was either qualified or converted to a sale). Marketers are in general agreement today as to the deficiencies of either of these traditional methods.

    Digital marketers are experimenting with various approaches to the attribution problem, like weighting touches based on stage or role in the buying process, or by the type of touch—attending a two-hour seminar being weighted more heavily than a content download.

  6. How should I handle unstructured data, like social media content. All this “big data” stuff is getting bigger, and meaner, every day.
    User-generated social media content may offer valuable insights into customer needs and issues. But marketers first must think through how they will use the information to drive business results. First you must develop a use case. Then, you must develop a way to attribute the information to a record. For example, one method to allow the match is collecting multiple cookies to find an email address or other identifier. There may be situations where you want to track sentiment without attributing it to a particular customer but to a group, like large companies versus small. In either case, we suggest that you test the value of the data before you put a lot of time and money into capturing it in your marketing database.

You can find more thorny data issues and solutions in our new whitepaper, available for free download. Please submit your issues in the comments section here, and we’ll be happy to suggest some solutions.

A version of this post appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

Data Athletes in Modern Organizations

Let’s look at the ideas, insights and strategies for becoming what I have termed a “Data Athlete.” This term has evolved during the many years I have been involved with training and developing exceptionally smart creative analysts. These professionals have a high aptitude and passion to solve big data challenges and possess the dexterity to leap from the intellectually engaging problems to the immediately actionable digital media plays that yield a high ROI. I have found smart analysts love this term—they enthusiastically consider it a badge of honor in making it to the major leagues, where they solve complex marketing problems and optimize campaigns.

Let’s look at the ideas, insights and strategies for becoming what I have termed a “Data Athlete.” This term has evolved during the many years I have been involved with training and developing exceptionally smart creative analysts. These professionals have a high aptitude and passion to solve big data challenges and possess the dexterity to leap from the intellectually engaging problems to the immediately actionable digital media plays that yield a high ROI. I have found smart analysts love this term—they enthusiastically consider it a badge of honor in making it to the major leagues, where they solve complex marketing problems and optimize campaigns.

I’m sharing all of these learnings with you, as organizations are under ever greater pressures to change in a world that only grows more digital, and in the process is generating more and more data at a blinding pace. Keeping up will require a shift in thinking about businesses, marketing and data—and of course its value, or lack thereof. This will require you and/or your team to become or be more of a Data Athlete to compete in an ever more digital world.

What is a Data Athlete?
Like any athlete, a Data Athlete is competitive. If you’re striving to become or to be more of a Data Athlete, competitiveness is important. Data Athletes compete with the norm—challenging it and outperforming it. They also challenge all assumptions, opinions and even the data they work with. Nothing’s too sacred not to inquire, challenge and test.

Most importantly, Data Athletes build brands by creating solutions based on the evidence and the impact. They seek to affect change based on the impact it will realistically have. They methodically create the future and its outcomes.

Data Athletes have that internal drive to solve and to accomplish. Contrast this with the kitschy T-shirts at the Google Developers Conference that say “data nerd” (disclosure, I have one myself). Data Athletes aren’t interested in tech for tech’s sake, or data for data’s sake.

Data Athletes Don’t Come From Traditional IT Structures
Traditional IT organizations may have staff entirely comfortable with data, having spent entire careers working with databases—building and maintaining infrastructure, building cubes, reports, integrating systems and data sources, and performing the necessary “care and feeding.” Until very recently however, traditional IT and marketing have organizationally been far apart. Bridging that gap may realistically take years in some organizations. The cultural differences between Athletes and Traditional IT aren’t trivial, and they are well-founded. IT has, for decades, been focused on stability, consistency, repeatability—command and control and gradual cautious change.

Data Athletes, on the other hand, will seek to fail and fail fast, test and learn. They require an environment that is not only tolerant of, but embraces the rigorous, ambitious development of multiple hypotheses informed by customer data, rapid testing of those hypotheses, and speedy implementation of those tests—quickly weeding out the ideas that don’t work through a data-driven system of meritocracy and speed. Gumming up that value creation process through a traditional IT process and “queue” stifles the innovation and positive change. Data Athletes often have engineering backgrounds—and have little patience, as they know the cost of slow and lumbering improvement, or lack thereof.

Not surprisingly, Data Athletes don’t come from traditional IT departments, even though many come from software engineering, front-end development, Web analytics and data science. They bring direct marketing logic and understand how brands are built. They enjoy marketing and they are creative—they challenge marketing that “can’t” be measured and improved.

So while the circa 2015 Data Athletes has a deep appreciation for traditional IT and the back office, they are different from traditional IT in critical dimensions. Data Athletes are typically driven to engage, communicate and connect with the end customer at scale, where traditional IT tends to serve corporate management and internal customers.

So, why is it so difficult to cultivate an environment that nourishes and rewards data athletes? Why are some large organizations with abundant operational reporting capabilities slow to address the evolving needs of the more digital, “big data” marketplace?

Let’s answer these questions and discuss how companies can move the ball downfield with the help of data athletes, our future organizational stars, and thinking about your level of fitness as a more “data athletic” organization.

Here are four major considerations in the era of the Data Athlete as a mission-critical team member:

1. Data Athletes Differentiate Quickly Between Reporting and Analytics
More than 90 percent of the analytics programs I’ve looked at, specifically in Web analytics, are little more than reporting programs. Visits, clicks, time on site, sales, etc. All good. All interesting, and all are short on actionability.

2. Actionability Is The Data Athlete’s Priority
Successful businesses have the habit of tracking progress over time. It’s often driven by the CFO’s office. All rhythms drive from those operational metrics: sales, units sold, turnover, etc. They have reports on top of reports. No small effort or expense is required to make those reports and answer questions based on them. These are good for business. They also can shape a culture, a culture of looking at the same things. A culture of reporting.

A “report-driven” culture isn’t all bad. Maintaining that continuity of reporting over time doesn’t, in itself, address new challenges, new consumer behaviors, the impact of Pinterest on your customer relationships, or the threat of a new intermediary who’s putting pressure on you and driving up your acquisition costs. These things affect those top-level, “operational” numbers driven by that reporting. By the time they really hit the reports hard enough, you’re already behind, which sets up “fire drills” and suffocates marketing strategy. The direction is oftentimes driven by opinions. More about that in a moment.

Reporting by definition is reactive, where analytics is really driving the creation of strategies to affect change.

3. HiPPOs Usually Aren’t Athletes.
This isn’t the “hippo” at least some of you were thinking of …

A HiPPO is the “Highest Paid Person’s Opinion.” You probably know from experience how often the HiPPO in the room has an opinion—and challenging it isn’t easy. Or maybe you are the “HiPPO” in the room, at times. HiPPO-dominated organizations don’t need evidence that data provides. They don’t assess the impact of decisions with data, either.

HiPPOs often come from backgrounds where data and evidence are non-existent or primitive. Their ideas are rarely tested or proven, they are qualitative and only shoot straight from the hip.

In comparing Amazon to JCPenney, Fortune described Amazon’s perspective on HiPPOs as “leaders who are so self-assured that they need neither others’ ideas nor data to affirm the correctness of their instinctual beliefs.” HiPPOs sometimes frown on using data to inform and shape a business, labeling anything that seeks to create business model scalability through the intelligent use of customer data as “analysis paralysis.”

HiPPOs miss the fact that Data Athletes don’t just gorge themselves on data, they actually loath excessive unusable data and the overhead that comes with it.

An Athlete does not believe in data for data’s sake. They know what they need, and what they can do with it.

Instead, they see the HiPPO’s experience and knowledge as a source to shape problem definition. They validate the opportunity and problem with the right data. Without strong and accurate problem definition, it’s hard for anyone to effectively choose what data matters and what can be thrown away.

If you have these smart data athletes in your organization, don’t be a HiPPO and trample them—for when you do, you miss opportunity.

If you hire smart Data Athletes, it’s a business risk to ignore them. When you do, you’re under-leveraging and you’re not learning and growing yourself.

How Does This Help a Marketer?
First, think about your own organization, your own challenges, and evaluate if you’re dominated by HiPPOs or if you’re leveraging Athletes in your organization. It’s hard to debate if you need them anymore—you do, and you will. Partner with the Athletes in your organization, and you’ll begin the process of performing at an advanced level.

In future articles, we’ll discuss more specific strategic approaches and tactical executions that can help you execute and become more of a Data Athlete and introduce this unique type of “athleticism” to your organization.

Death of the Salesman

There’s no question that the Willy Lomans of this world have been dying a slow, agonizing death—only instead of losing the fight to travel exhaustion, the opponent is the Internet … And marketing

There’s no question that the Willy Lomans of this world have been dying a slow, agonizing death—only instead of losing the fight to travel exhaustion, the opponent is the Internet.

According to a recent CEB article in the Harvard Business Review, 57 percent of purchase decisions are made before a customer ever talks to a supplier, and Gartner Research predicts that by 2020, customers will manage 85 percent of their relationship with an enterprise without interacting with a human. That shouldn’t surprise anyone since we spend much of our days tapping on keyboards or flicking our fingers across tiny screens.

In Willy’s day, the lead generation process would have consisted of making a phone call, setting up an appointment, hopping a plane to the prospect’s office, and dragging a sample case through the airport. In the 1980’s, that sample case turned into an overhead projector, then a slide projector and a laptop, and finally a mini projector linked to a mobile device or thumb drive. In 2014, salespeople are lucky if they can connect to a prospect on a video conferencing call.

Clearly the days of gathering in a conference room for the sales pitch are long gone. We’ve always known that sales people talk too much and buyers, who’ve never had the patience to listen, now have the tools to avoid them altogether: websites, whitepapers, case studies, videos, LinkedIn groups, webcasts—virtually anything and everything to avoid talking to sales.

As a result, the sales function has now been placed squarely in the hands of the content strategists and creators. And yes, that means that the sales function is now in the hands of marketing.

Now a different problem exists. Most marketing folks don’t know how to help the buyer along their journey because that’s not how they’ve been trained. They have no idea how different types of buyers think, or how they search for information, or make decisions, so they don’t know how to create nor position content in a meaningful and relevant way—and that’s long been the complaint of sales. In their opinion, all marketing does is churn out “fluff” that is irrelevant to a serious buyer.

Now marketers must step up and really understand how to optimize marketing tools in order to help that buyer reach the right brand decision at the end of their journey. That’s really why content has become the marketing buzz word.

And just like we despised the salesman who talked too much, potential buyers despise content that is full of sales-speak. While a product brochure has a purpose, it is not strategic content. Similarly, a webinar in which most of the supporting slides are simply advertising for the product, turns off participants who quickly express their displeasure via online chat tools to the host and by logging out of the event.

Great content should seek to:

  • Be authentic: What you say needs to sound genuine and ring true—no one believes you are the only solution to a problem. On the contrary, the discovery process is all about evaluating your options (the pros and the cons). Avoiding a question because your answer may reveal the flaws of your product or service only shines a spotlight on the issue. Honesty is always the best policy.
  • Be relevant: Share insightful information that leverages your expertise and experience; help the buyer connect the dots. “How to” articles are popular, as are comparison charts—if you’re not going to do it, the prospect will be doing it for themselves anyway, so why not help by pointing out comparison points (that benefit your product) they might not have previously considered?
  • Be timely: To get a leg up in the marketplace, you need to be prepared to add value when the timing is ripe. It’s highly unlikely that your marketplace hasn’t changed in the last 50 years. Help show buyers how your product/service is relevant in today’s marketplace—how it deals with challenges you know they’re facing or are going to face tomorrow.

Smart marketers have a lead nurturing strategy in place—an organized and logical method of sharing relevant content along the buy cycle. And that content is well written and segmented by type of decision maker. The CFO has a different set of evaluation criteria from the CEO and the CTO. Business owners look at purchase decisions through a completely different lens than a corporate manager.

Depending on the industry, business buyers have different problems they’re trying to solve, so generic content has less relevance than content that addresses specific issues in an industry segment. Those in healthcare, for example, perceive a problem from a different perspective than those in transportation.

The new name of the selling game is “Educate the Buyer—but in a helpful and relevant way.” And while Willy Loman may continue to sit at his desk making cold calls or sending out prospecting emails, the reality is nobody has the patience or interest to listen to his sales pitch any more. So marketers need to step up and accept responsibility for lead generation, lead nurturing and, in many instances, closing the sale.

5 Tips to Sell Media Multitaskers

How many gadgets do you juggle simultaneously? Assuming you’re like most people, you’re on your laptop/tablet, smartphone and other media devices checking email, texts and social media at the same time. And so are your prospects. Their mind (and your mind) is multitasking a lot. But here’s scary news: You could be shrinking important structures in your brain. So are your prospective customers. And this is going to impact…

How many gadgets do you juggle simultaneously? Assuming you’re like most people, you’re on your laptop/tablet, smartphone and other media devices checking email, texts and social media at the same time. And so are your prospects. Their mind (and your mind) is multitasking a lot. But here’s scary news: You could be shrinking important structures in your brain. So are your prospective customers. And this is going to impact your selling success whether you like it or not.

Intuition tells us that it’s tough to media multitask, that is, attempt to watch TV and be on your computer and/or your smartphone checking email, texts and social media all at the same time. If you’ve done it, you know you’re not completely present with any one of these. Rather, your focus diverts from one media to the other with the end result of losing out on the whole story of any one thing.

New research by two neuroscientists has found that people who use multiple devices simultaneously have lower gray matter density in an area of the brain associated with cognitive and emotional control. With these new findings, there is increasing concern about how simultaneous multiple media consumption is altering our cognition, social-emotional well-being, and brain structure.

Media multitasking is also associated with emotional problems, like anxiety and depression, as well as cognitive problems, like poor attention. Gray matter is also central to muscle control, sensory input, decision making and self-control.

And there’s more: we’re losing gray matter which affects “executive function” in the brain. “Executive functions” include judgment, analysis, organizing, problem solving, planning and creativity. With those “executive functions,” the mind can more deeply groove new memories into long-term knowledge.

So while there is reason for you, on an individual level, to be concerned about this development, as a direct marketer, you have additional challenges selling your prospective customers.

Since there is little you can do to change the course of how your prospects will media multitask, you have to take steps to adjust your marketing approach. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Command Undivided Attention.
    If you want your prospective customer’s undivided attention, one way to get it is through activating fear in the brain’s amygdala—the emotional hot button-that reacts in flight or fight mode.
  2. Encourage Thinking.
    Once you have undivided attention, take quick advantage of it by encouraging your prospect to pause and think.
  3. Be the Problem Solver.
    Your prospect wants easy and quick solutions, especially in this media multitasking world. Become their virtual problem solver.
  4. Organize Yourself First So You Can Organize Them.
    When attention is split apart, you must do the heavy lifting of organizing your message and quickly delivering it with clarity. Confusion kills interest.
  5. Relieve Anxiety.
    Since loss of gray matter creates anxiety, be the salvation in your prospect’s life to relieve it. Be credible. Solve problems. Be your prospect’s hero.

Let’s face it: there is nothing you can do to prevent your prospective customers from media multitasking. And you can’t save them from the risk of losing all-important brain gray matter. But you can be smarter and better positioned to sell with an awareness of how to present your messaging in a complex multimedia and multitasking world.

Too Big to Fail – But Not Too Big to Suck

On a recent “Real Time With Bill Maher” show, Maher responded to the announcement that Time Warner Cable would merge with Comcast Corp. in a $45 billion purchase. He noted that, combined, the two cable systems represent 19 of the 20 largest U.S. markets; and, apart from suppliers like Dish and DirecTV, they have no competitors in these metros. Further, Maher said, the two companies have the lowest customer satisfaction ratings of any cable system. So, as he asked his panelists, where is the value for customers in this merger if both companies are known to have questionable service performance?

On a recent “Real Time With Bill Maher” show, Maher responded to the announcement that Time Warner Cable would merge with Comcast Corp. in a $45 billion purchase. He noted that, combined, the two cable systems represent 19 of the 20 largest U.S. markets; and, apart from suppliers like Dish and DirecTV, they have no competitors in these metros. Further, Maher said, the two companies have the lowest customer satisfaction ratings of any cable system. So, as he asked his panelists, where is the value for customers in this merger if both companies are known to have questionable service performance?

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will, of course, have a great deal to say about whether this merger goes through or not. During the past couple of decades, we’ve seen a steady decline in the number of cable companies, from 53 at one point to only six now. Addressing some of the early negative reaction to its planned purchase of TWC-which would increase Comcast’s cable base to 30 million subscribers from the 22 million it currently has (a bit less than 30 percent of the overall market)-Comcast has already stated that it will make some concessions to have the merger approved. But, that said, according to company executives, the proposed cost savings and efficiencies that will “ultimately benefit customers” are not likely to either reduce monthly subscription prices or even cause them to rise less rapidly.

Comcast executives have stated that the value to consumers will come via “quality of service, by quality of offerings and by technological innovations.” David Cohen, their Executive VP, said: “Putting these two companies together will not deprive a single customer in America of a choice he or she will have today.” (Opens as a PDF) He also said, “I don’t believe there’s any way to argue that consumers are going to be hurt from a price perspective as a result of this transaction.” But, that said, he also admitted, “Frankly, most of the factors that go into customer bills are beyond our control.” Not very encouraging.

As anyone remotely familiar with Comcast’s history will understand, this is not the first time the company has navigated the river of communications company consolidation: 1995, Scripps, 800,000 subscribers, 1998, Jones Intercable, 1.1 million subscribers; 2000, Lenfest Communications, 1.3 million subscribers.

In 2002, Comcast completed acquisition of AT&T Broadband, in a deal worth $72 billion. This increased the company’s base to its current level of 22 million subscribers, and gave it major presence in markets like Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Denver, Detroit, Miami, Philadelphia and San Francisco-Oakland. In a statement issued by Comcast at the time the purchase was announced, again there was a claim that the merger with AT&T would benefit all stakeholders: “Combining Comcast with AT&T Broadband is a once in a lifetime opportunity that creates immediate value and positions the company for additional growth in the future. Shareholders, employees, and customers alike are poised to reap considerable benefits from this remarkable union.”

There have been technological advances, additional content, and enhanced service, during the ensuing 13 years. But “immediate value” and “considerable benefits”? Having been professionally involved with customer research conducted at the time of this merger, there was genuine question regarding the value perceived by the newly acquired AT&T customers. In a study among customers who discontinued with Comcast post-merger, and also among customers who had been Comcast customers or AT&T customers prior to the merger, poor picture quality (remember, these were the days well before HD), service disruption and high/continually rising prices were the key reasons given for defection to a competitor.

Conversely, when asked to rate their current suppliers on both key attribute importance (a surrogate measure of performance expectation) and performance itself, the highest priorities were all service-related:

  • Reliability of cable service
  • Availability of customer service when needed
  • Speed of service problem resolution
  • Responsiveness of customer service staff

On all principal service attributes except “speed of service problem resolution,” the new supplier was given higher ratings than either Comcast or AT&T. And there were major gaps in all of the above areas. Overall, close to 90 percent of these defected customers said they would be highly likely to continue the relationship with their new supplier. When correlation analysis was performed, pricing and service performance were the key driving factors. In addition, even if Comcast were now able to offer services that overcame their reasons for defection, very few (only about 10 percent) said they would be willing to become Comcast customers again.

Finally, we’ve often focused on unexpressed and unresolved complaints as leading barometers, or indicators, of possible defection. Few of the customers interviewed indicated problems with their current suppliers; however, as in other studies, problem and complaint issues were frequently surfaced for both Comcast and AT&T.

It should be noted that having lost a significant number of customers to Verizon’s FiOS, Comcast has a winback program under way, leveraging quotes from subscribers who have returned to the Xfinity fold. In the usual Macy’s/Gimbel’s customer acquisition and capture theater of war, this marks a marketing change for Comcast. As often observed (and even covered in an entire book, with my co-author, consultant Jill Griffin), winback marketing strategies are rather rarely applied, but can be very successful.

One of the key consumer concerns, especially as it may impact monthly bills, is the cost and control of content. For example, Netflix has agreed to pay Comcast for an exclusive direct connection into its network. As one media analyst noted, “The largest cable company in the nation, on the verge of improving its power to influence broadband policy, is nurturing a class system by capitalizing on its reach as a consumer Internet service provider (ISP).” This could, John C. Abell further stated, be a “game-changer.” Media management and control such as this has echoes of Big Brother for customers, and it is all the more reason Comcast should be paying greater attention to the evolving needs, as well as the squeeze on wallets, of its customers.

Perhaps the principal lesson here, assuming that the FCC allows this merger to proceed and ultimately consummate, will be for Comcast to be proactive in building relationships and service delivery. There’s very little that will increase consumer trust more than “walking the talk,” delivering against the claims of what benefits customers will stand to receive. Conversely, there’s little that will undermine trust and loyalty faster, and more thoroughly, than underdelivery on promises.

When Mistakes Happen

Mistakes are a part of the learning process. Every company will experience them at one time or another. Ideally, with good planning, they will be minor and won’t happen often. With better planning, there is an action plan in place to quickly right the wrong. Knowing what to do before it needs to be done simplifies fixing the problem.

My Coke Rewards Apology Email
This My Coke Rewards apology email was delivered quickly and followed the four best practices of making amends for a marketing mistake.

Mistakes are a part of the learning process. Every company will experience them at one time or another. Ideally, with good planning, they will be minor and won’t happen often. With better planning, there is an action plan in place to quickly right the wrong. Knowing what to do before it needs to be done simplifies fixing the problem.

Handling mistakes well is a great loyalty builder. You can measure the effect by conducting a comparative analysis. Pull two segments to compare from customers who made their first purchase five years ago. Choose customers who are very similar in order source, size and selection. Select people who had seemingly perfect orders for the first segment. “Perfect orders” describe orders that are processed quickly and delivered without issues. Place people who had problems quickly resolved for the second segment.

Detail sales history, average order and returns for each segment. Use the information to compare the value of the customers who had problems with the ones who didn’t. This analysis almost always finds that the people who had problems quickly resolved are much more valuable than those who had a perfect order. I believe there is a simple explanation for this: People who have problems resolved to their satisfaction trust the company more. Trust and loyalty go hand in hand.

Planning for failure seems counterintuitive, but it is the best way to be prepared. The first part of the action plan is determining the extent of the problem. Will an apology suffice, or does something need correcting? Apologies are sufficient when the mistake is simple and doesn’t overly inconvenience the person or create an expense.

My Coke Rewards provides us with a good example of a mistake where an apology is enough. Last month, the automated points’ expiration notice malfunctioned. Members received a notification that they needed to add or use points or they would expire. The deadline for keeping the account active was two weeks before the email was sent. The apology came quickly and followed best practices (refer to the image in the media player):

  • Be direct with the apology and explanation.
  • Tell people what they need to do (if anything).
  • Thank them for their business.
  • If necessary, offer a reward for the inconvenience. (If you offer a reward in the form of a discount, make it dollars off with no minimum. This is a payment for a mistake, not a marketing promotion.)

The email from My Coke Rewards was simple, to the point and didn’t offer compensation. The mistake was minor, so an apology after the correction was enough. Bigger mistakes require more. There isn’t a magic formula that determines the ideal response for every problem. Customers are individuals with unique expectations.

The second part of the action plan is determining the specific resolution for each problem. Creating a general list of potential problems and resolutions provides a guide for the customer service team. Anything that satisfies the customer and falls within the guidelines should be resolved immediately.

The best way to determine what needs to be done is to ask the customer with the problem. Lead with an apology and follow with the inquiry. For example: “I’m sorry this happened. What can we do to make it right?” There will occasionally be an outlandish demand, but usually the requested solution is less than you were prepared to do. Asking customers how to right a wrong simultaneously gives them respect and shows that you care. Here are some other best practices when a mistake happens:

  • Minimize customers’ investment in resolving issues. Strive to resolve issues on the first contact without involving other people whenever possible.
  • If you discover the mistake before the customer, reach out immediately. This shows your customers that you are watching their backs.
  • Use the appropriate communication tool. Email works well for most correspondence as long as the messages are not from “do not reply” boxes.
  • When the resolution process is complete, ask customers if they are satisfied with the solution. Every customer cannot be saved, but letting them go without trying is unacceptable.
  • Avoid fake apologies. Apologizing works so well in relationship building that people are making up reasons to do it. Don’t.

3 Questions Before Implementing Any Mobile Solution

I often get super excited when I see other businesses doing cool and innovative things in mobile. You read an article here, a blog post there, see a speaker at a conference … It makes me excited … I go back to review my notes and identify all of the things I want to execute. It’s usually a long list that has some low-hanging fruit and some things that are probably not going to happen any time soon …

I often get super excited when I see other businesses doing cool and innovative things in mobile.

You read an article here, a blog post there, see a speaker at a conference …

It makes me excited …

I go back to review my notes and identify all of the things I want to execute.

It’s usually a long list that has some low-hanging fruit and some things that are probably not going to happen any time soon …

Does this happen to you?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked to figure out how to incorporate a new technology into a strategy the minute the news breaks, just because someone in a C-level position read a press release.

I then realize how easy it is as a marketer to get hung up on shiny objects, such as Google Glass, and start plotting how to leverage it moving forward. BUT, then I stop myself and ask myself three important questions.

These questions help me determine how, and more importantly when, to move forward with a new mobile opportunity.

  • What problem is this solving? This could be a customer problem or even an internal operational problem.
  • How will using this mobile solution make my customer’s life (or employee’s life) better?
  • How and how soon will it contribute to the businesses bottom line?

You see, at the end of the day I call myself a revenue marketer.

Leveraging mobile solutions that either solve a problem or make your customer’s life better usually end up in increased revenue.

This means the mobile solution you implement may not be super flashy or sexy, but it gets the job done.

That’s why so many brands still heavily rely on SMS as their mobile marketing workhorse. It just works.

So, I challenge you to ask yourself these three questions when you’re approached with an opportunity that sounds cool and innovative.

Just because someone higher up than you recommends it doesn’t mean it’s the right solution.

Innovation is relative.

Solve a problem. Make your customer’s life better. Make more money.

Have you ever had this challenge? If so, we’d love to hear about how you got through it.

5 Steps to Generating Leads From Your Blog in Just a Few Months

“How long should it take to start generating leads on my blog?” The answer will surprise you. In many cases we’re talking about just a few months. Really? Yes, really. Here’s proof and five steps you can take right now to make it happen for you.

“How long should it take to start generating leads on my blog?” The answer will surprise you. In many cases we’re talking about just a few months.

Really?

Yes, really.

Here’s proof and five steps you can take right now to make it happen for you.

A Few Months? Really?
Ed Worthington of Action Business Systems sells office copiers and service contracts—faster and more often with his blog. It took him just a few months to get his first copier sales leads from his blog, Ed Worthington’s Baltimore Copier Buying Guide. Prospects found his blog on Google and contacted him.

What’s his secret? Ed blogs in question-and-answer format. This helps him get found by clients searching for helpful advice. He also writes blog articles that give customers guidance-making sure they don’t get ripped off. He steers them clear of risks.

But being helpful, transparent, honest and all that jazz is not the key. Ed explains solutions to problems customers have in was that creates clarity AND active curiosity in him.

This creates response! (leads)

Todd Giannattasio, of Tresnic Media, challenged himself to write 50 articles in 25 days. His results? 1,000 percent increase in targeted traffic to his website and, within a few months, business leads.

In some cases, it can take as little as two days to get listed on page 1 of Google … if you play your cards right. And if you have a track record of posting relevant, actionable content in ways the Googlebot can understand.

#INLINE-CHART#

Here’s an example of a video I uploaded, optimized for keywords and Google listed on page 1 in just two days.

How Can You Get Results Like This?
Let’s talk about what it means to “play your cards right” and start getting leads in a few months.

Here’s what to do:

First, I’ll be honest. I’m not getting leads from my Vimeo video listing that is 2 days old. But will I soon? Yes.

I know this based on my success with the below formula. Here’s what to do:

1. Do your homework: Understand how your prospects search on Google. I know many of my prospects are trying to start “using LinkedIn for sales leads.” Plus I see HubSpot has top placement here. This search term is important enough for them to be there, too.

2. Solve a problem. Ed Worthington knows people want to avoid getting ripped off when buying office copiers. And I know people need to find a way to start using LinkedIn for sales leads. Ed and I solve problems. This is essential for you to focus on when writing blog titles and articles. Right now, ask yourself: What pressing problem do I solve? What pain do I remove? What pleasure do I create? What freedom do I permit? What connection do I allow?

3. Create response. My videos and blog posts are structured to change the success rate of prospects. Materially changing prospects’ ability to move the needle was a game-changer for me. It will be for you too. Show prospects your “better way” and invite them to join you on a journey to teach them how to have that same success.

4. Keep it brief and ALWAYS make a call to action. My video (in the above example) is two minutes long for a reason. More importantly I go for it. I try to get a lead. Don’t be afraid to. You’re not selling-you’re helping prospects take a step toward solving their problem, learning a new skill or avoiding a risk. Make sure you don’t confuse your prospect’s strong desire to get some relief (for free) with their not wanting to be pitched what you sell. Short videos that scratch itches and contain calls-to-action (using URLs in the description and within the video) work. Period. Make sure all of your videos have calls to action.

5. Dominate. I’m currently dominating page 1 search results for this term. I’m not bragging. I’m saying, “Look … you can too!” Now, with this video, I have increased my chances of being discovered as an expert and engaged with. This leads me to … leads!

How long should it take to start generating leads on your blog? Yes, “it depends” but in many cases we’re talking about a few months. Good luck!

Mobile Isn’t Just About Marketing

When we talk about mobile, it’s often about how we can leverage it to market offers that connect with our customers and drive engagement or sales. … You need to determine what you’re trying to accomplish and then see if mobile could help you achieve that goal. Mobile may not always be the answer. Yes, the mobile guy just said that mobile will not always be the answer.

When we talk about mobile, it’s often about how we can leverage it to market offers that connect with our customers and drive engagement or sales.

The other day, I had someone call me for advice and he was interested in leveraging mobile in his business-to-business-focused company that optimized shipping/boxing for small- to medium-sized companies.

He was unclear on how to use mobile to market to other businesses that might be interested in his company’s services and was sort of skeptical that mobile really could even work for B-to-B companies.

I asked him a simple question: “What problem are you trying to solve or are you using mobile for mobile’s sake?”

He was sort of confused for a second and asked if I could clarify. I explained that he gave off the impression that he didn’t really know why he was interested in using mobile in his business other than that people are talking about it.

You see, just like this gentleman, you need to determine what you’re trying to accomplish and then see if mobile could help you achieve that goal. Mobile may not always be the answer. Yes, the mobile guy just said that mobile will not always be the answer.

The most unique aspect of mobile is its utility. When it comes down to it, mobile can do, and be, a lot for your business that doesn’t involve marketing. You just have to approach it strategically and not tactically to start to see it this way.

Don’t jump to tactics. Trust me, you won’t find success that way.

The most successful uses of mobile are ones that are so seamless that your customers even forget they are using a mobile device.

Because mobile threads through all of our daily experiences, you should look to use mobile to help solve a business problem or eliminate inefficiencies.

I wanted to share three ways mobile can impact your business that aren’t directly tied to a marketing initiative.

Solve an Operational Problem

Not too long ago, I interviewed the head of mobile for Yamaha. We chatted about how they’ve slowly integrated mobile into their operations over the last two to five years. Yamaha originally thought it’d leverage mobile to connect with customers. But, little to their surprise, their dealers and dealer staff began leveraging the tablet application to sell on the floor.

Boats are expensive … As a dealer, you can’t afford to have every single model with every single feature on the showroom floor. So, Yamaha’s sales teams used the app to show customers what a specific product may look like or cost by using their consumer-facing tablet application.

Yamaha realized this was creating a more efficient system to deliver the latest and greatest content to the dealers and make sure everyone was showcasing the most up-to-date materials.

Shortly thereafter, they eliminated delivering printed materials for dealers and equipped them all with tablets and can now deliver the latest product information on the fly.

At the end of the day, the dealers were able to engage with customers and showcase products that would never have to be on the floor to help close deals and give the best customer experience. Oh, and they even saved money from their continual printing costs.

So, if you have a sales or business development team, think about leveraging mobile to enable them to do their job better, more efficiently and always be equipped with the knowledge they need out in the field.

Your Product or Service Can Be Mobile

Have you ever used the app Hotel Tonight or Uber? If you haven’t, you should check them out as both of these businesses rely on the mobile device to deliver amazing customer experiences. Their apps drive their business by delivering a utility to their customer.

Hotel Tonight lets you find last-minute specials on hotel rooms in the city you’re in. When you open the app, the latest room rates will display around midday and you can book for that evening.

They don’t let you book hotels in advance … only that day and that day alone.

Uber is an application that lets you request a private driver based on your location. You can order a taxi, a black car or even a nice SUV. When you need a ride, you open the app and you can see all the vehicles in your proximity. When you request a driver, the app notifies all drivers in the near proximity that you’d like a ride.

Shortly thereafter, you see which driver is coming to pick you up and the time it will take for them to get to your pick up destination. The whole business is powered via this app. Your credit card is on file, so you never even exchange any cash. The tip is included and you pay a slight premium for the service, but it’s amazing.

I was just in San Francisco for five days and used it frequently to get around. I never had to flag a cab on the corner—I just pulled out my phone and, in minutes, I was on my way.

You see, both Uber and Hotel Tonight generate business by offering their customers an easy-to-use tool right on their phones to accomplish tasks that were once a pain to complete.

These are two great examples of leveraging mobility AS your business.

Mobile Can Be a Training or Education Tool

I follow two online marketers and business owners who recently launched their own apps as a part of their overall business. Now, they didn’t just go and repurpose their content from their site and put it in an app.

They wanted to deliver tremendous value that helped their customers.

Ramit Sethi, a blogger and best-selling author of “I Will Teach You To Be Rich,” teaches people how to earn money on the side and get their dream jobs.

Over the last few years of studies and research he was able to give his students word-for-word scripts to help them get a raise, get a job, work from home and much more.

He knows a lot of the situations he trains his students for don’t happen at home … they happen while they are out and about nowhere near a computer to refer to these resources.

So what did Ramit do?

He built an app called Negotiate It that includes scripts to help you negotiate just about anything. You can open the app and find scripts to use to lower your credit rate, lower your credit bill, get a raise at your job and a ton of other common situations. He even charged about $4 and turned it into a revenue-generating product that was solving a super-specific need for his students.

Then there is Grant Cardone. He is an amazing salesman and businessperson. He frequently trains people about how to better sell and sell “the right” way that can actually impact your business.

He decided to create a mobile app called CloseTheSale, which offered scripts of closing techniques for just about every single scenario you can think of. They all have clever names and you can refer to the app whenever you’re preparing for a big sales meeting or you want a quick selling strategy to learn.

Both of these guys realized that creating an app would allow them to put so many valuable lessons in the palm of their customers’ hands to help them reach their own goals. Very specific use cases, but both demonstrate how mobile can be a training or educating tool for your customers.

As you can see, mobile doesn’t have to be a marketing tool. In some ways, these three examples indirectly affect your marketing. But their main purpose stems from something entirely different …

So, I challenge you to first ask yourself if you’re just doing mobile for mobile’s sake. If you are, you need to re-evaluate your “why” immediately.

If you’re about to get started using mobile in your business, be sure to have a problem you’re trying to solve, a process you’re trying to optimize or a product or service that could best be used by a consumer’s mobile device.

What are some non-marketing use cases you’ve seen with mobile?