Marketer and customer advocate by day, guitar hack by night, husband and father.
This post is in reaction to an interesting blog from @econsultancy. If you read through it, though I don’t advocate the notion of attacking a competitor, you’ll likely find it common sense. But the thing about common sense is that its often rare in practice. How often do we really consider how our customers feel emotionally about their problems or our products in the B2B environment?
It seems to me we, as marketers, spend way too much time articulating features / benefits and not necessarily about what drives customers emotionally. Some key emotions that come to mind relevant to B2B –
1) Security and peace of mind
2) Fear of complexity (and a need for simplicity)
3) Fear of obsolescence
4) Disdain for the big, evil OEM or corporation (that could even be you)
5) Need to be top dog or seen as a thought leader (not necessarily as an organization but as an individual)
6) Fear of unpredictability, inconsistency or failure (not at the product level but as a team or organization)
7) Desire to be perceived as charitable or benevolent
Obviously not every customer in your world is going to share all (or even one) of these emotional needs (that’s where the segmentation comes in). But when it’s all said and done, hard as we try, people are irrational decision makers.
How often have you tried to rationalize a purchase that in your head you knew was irrational? We see it all the time in the consumer world – products and services become emotional extensions of ourselves and we rationalize in our heads why we need something that we really don’t. I refuse to believe the same can’t be said in B2B. Buyers are still people, and people are still irrational. There are just different emotions at play.
In my current role we are commercializing a new solution playing to some extent on #s 4, 5 and 6 from above. That said, we’re still in the early phases so I won’t try and convince you of my genius…yet. In the meantime I would love to hear about what others have seen or done to tackle emotional needs in B2B. I’m all ears, so what have you got?
Posted in Marketing & Branding on July 7, 2011
A few weeks ago I was in Chicago wandering through the water tower shopping plaza with my family. Foot traffic was light to moderate with the exception of two stores.
The Lego Store – Looking beyond the life-sized Darth Vader, the store was standing room only. At the pinnacle of co-branding from Starwars to Cars to Toy Story, there is no end in sight to Lego’s product evolution. All the while you could argue the fundamental product hasn’t changed or evolved since inception. More importantly people love it. My kid loves Starwars and he loves Legos (I know, apple…tree). Together, they’re a co-branding force (no pun intended).
The American Girl – I’ll admit I’d never heard of this brand until a few weeks ago. But just about every little girl below the age of 10 was carrying around an American Girl doll. I didn’t think much of it until my wife pointed out The American Girl’s store front. In it was a packed floor of girls and their moms. Of course the dads were all huddled to the side staring into their smartphones, no doubt reading ESPN to compensate for a general lack of testosterone… but you get the picture.
Now I’m not sure how much market research these organizations invested in (I’m sure they did enough) but clearly these two companies have their target audience hanging on every word. More importantly, whether or not they did any market research is completely irrelevant. My point is that these concepts just make sense. And sometimes that’s all it takes; finding whatever it is that excites us as a user. Case in point the movie clip below, from one of my favorite movies growing up…
Walking through through both of the stores mentioned above, I was reminded of this scene from the movie “Big”. It serves as an important reminder not to get caught up in nailing down all the facts and figures. Forget for a moment the conjoint. Forget the exact market size.
Does the idea make sense?
Clearly, the idea of a Transformers skyscraper made little sense what-so-ever. But, two of the coolest innovations of all time, Legos and Starwars make perfect sense. Dare I say like chocolate and peanut butter. And while I’m not exactly the most female savvy consumer, a customize-able doll that little girls can carry around and build as a reflection of themselves, something they can actually create – that too, makes sense.
I’ll end with this thought. We all (myself included) need to do a better job of embracing our inner child. Embrace that impulse to just run out and do something if it makes sense; to let ourselves get excited about an idea, not about a market size; to get passionate about creating something, not selling something. You just may find yourself on the verge of something big.
Posted in Marketing & Branding on June 8, 2011
In case you haven’t picked it up on it, I’m in the business of marketing people. Yes, I market B2B solutions with a complex array of services and technologies, but at the end of the day those solutions are designed by, implemented by, managed by and bought by people. And one of the worst things an organization can do is sell a technology without keeping in mind the people that it takes to really maximize the value of that solution. So why then do marketers overlook the people that make their solutions attainable and tangible to clients?
As I like to say to my consultants and engineers, the technology on its own is the sizzle. Yes, the sound and the smell is what draws people in; it’s the “sexy” part of what we sell – but when the sizzle eventually dissipates, it’s the experts in front of the customer, strategically evaluating the situation, who will ultimately be held accountable for the technology’s performance.
And rest assured – the sizzle will dissipate. And unless you’re really not in to retaining customers, this should be a pretty big deal for you. No one, I repeat no one, is safe from the “so what have you done for me lately” conundrum.
So go ahead and keep marketing the crap of the technology. It is after all what brings customers in the door. But getting them in the door is only half the battle. Once they’re in the door – the technology needs to tell a story, and that story ultimately needs to be about marketable people. For without people, technology comes down to bits and bytes and eventually we all start to look the same (see PC industry).
One of the senior executives I work with and whom I have a tremendous amount of respect for has a mantra I oft hear him recite.
“People do business with people they like, trust and respect.”
We’ve reached a point where technology is a great differentiator but also our greatest challenge. In this age of rapid obsolescence, something better will eventually come along. But good people, trustworthy people, who have a vested interested in their customers can quell that fear.
If you stop and think about it, we are surrounded by companies who win because of the people they market, who are bringing products and solutions that are not only at their respective forefronts, but also backed by great people. From Apple to Xerox, these organizations win because there are people behind them that we like, trust and respect.
Posted in Sports, Entertainment and Media on May 20, 2011
Every now and then I come across some really great advertising and when I do I try to make a point of calling it out. Though usually just post it on Facebook, occasionally I may also blog about it. This is one of those times.
Volkswagen has over the last several months put out a handful of really good commercials, a couple in particular that I would say are great. That said, before I make my case, I’ll let you decide for yourself.
OK – so here’s why I think these stand out in particular…
VW tells a compelling story in under a minute. And it’s a story that resonates with a generation of parents across the nation. StarWars, yeah we get that. Heck, that particular commercial could have been filmed in my house, it was so close to home (minus the VW in the driveway). And the parental fear of a kid sneaking off with the car… again, we get that. But they told it without the tired father-son speech about someday this car will be his, blah blah blah.
Besides a great story, and perhaps more importantly, VW demonstrates a clear understanding of their target segment and show cases the brand in a context meaningful to that segment. Affluent suburbanites, Gen-Xers with kids, above average tech savvy, who want functionality as well as aesthetics.
VW doesn’t try to go after BMW here or any other “performance” brand. I mean, it is German engineered and no one would have been surprised nor faulted them if they had. But the car never even leaves the driveway!!! Much less fly around some curvy hillside with the disclaimer of “professional driver, closed course”. Instead, there was a clear focus on NOT being BMW. VW is “your” car… you, the hard working, white collar, family-values parent that clearly has a desire for something above average, but without being extravagant or superfluous.
I love what VW has done. Some might perceive this as a risky route. They’re not talking performance (BMW), they’re not talking safety (Volvo), they’re certainly not competing at the entry level value segment (Hyundai). And yet, I’d argue they’ve captured a valuable segment, one that has long been overlooked.
Well done, VW. Das marketing.
Posted in Product Marketing on May 16, 2011
People who own Flip cams will tell you how much they love(d) them. I’m one of them. If you are too, ask yourself one question – are you carrying around your flip? Do you have it within an arm’s length of you right now? Probably not. And that my friends is why Cisco ended up closing up it’s Flip business. In it’s heyday it was pure cinematic magic. It fit in your pocket, was easy to use and may have even recorded in HD.
Today, those things are still important but now you’ve got your iPhone, your Android or (gasp) your Blackberry. Mine is 8 inches away from my left hand and it’s rare for it to be much further than that. And oh besides pics and movies, my smartphone also has music, texts, apps and this crazy thing called e-mail.
Do you know who is the #1 manufacturer of cameras in the world? …wait for it…. Nokia. That’s right. The world’s #1 camera maker also happens to be one of the worlds top cell makers. Now you could quickly interpret this as a blog post advocating feature integration, and it is to a degree, but simplicity doesn’t have to be about integration. In fact – adding more features isn’t necessarily a good thing. But it’s important to note that simplicity of yesterday may quickly become the inconvenience of today (which I surmise is why flip struggled to make it in today’s environment).
So here are three more products besides the Flip, who in my opinion, are on similar paths. At one time great products, these now face some serious issues in simplifying their functionality, whether it be a more integrated experience, changing market dynamics or simply better competition.
1) Rhapsody Music. I love the idea of Rhapsody. I never have to actually “pay” for music. For a flat fee, I download as much music as I want to multiple devices and I never have to worry about backing it up. That said, Rhapsody to-go, due to digital rights management, only works on a select number of handheld devices. It’s great if most of your consumption can be via computer and streaming but bad if you are a commuter or frequent traveler. And it should come as no surprise that Rhapsody and Apple haven’t really figured out how to play ball on this particular issue.
2) Time Warner Cable – or cable companies in general, at one time a must have in every American household. The advent of DVR and on-demand programming likely helped stave off some user attrition but cable companies are in for some rough times as most of the major networks are already giving content away for free and on demand. Then add in services like Netflix. Paying for cable and DVR subscriptions is quickly becoming more of an annoyance than a convenience. Most services still haven’t figured out how to let people access their recorded content remotely, not to mention we as consumers have gotten use to getting content for free.
3) Healthcare providers. I’m continually shocked by how few providers actually provide value added services like remote consultations via video conferencing. How few actually let you schedule appointments online. How many still confirm appointments by phone rather than text or email. Healthcare is in a sorry state. The only saving grace right now is that everyone is more or less in the same boat – competing against mediocrity. But sooner or later, that will shift and the winners will quickly be separated from the losers. Here is a great article from Fast Company that paints a very encouraging picture for the future of the patient experience.
I’m sure collectively we can think of dozens more but these are the products/services I use today that I believe face some serious challenges if they are to compete in today’s integrated market, one where consumers in a singular voice are demanding simplicity. Marketers can no longer create products in a vacuum where they address a singular need. Needs are converging and the lines are becoming blurred. What others can you add to this list?