Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Deal Me In

You hear the word relationship a lot in business- often to give indication that one has a favorable position over a competing interest.

We have a relationship with XYZ Company. WE HAVE CONTACTS. We’ll be able to get the business…we have the relationship.

I’m calling bullshit on this mindset.

I think contacts and relationships have never been worth less. Especially between vendors and their customers. The vendor is always playing the relationship card. Customers want the best deal, period.

Roger Waters sang: I’ve got some bad news for you, sunshine. Some pop fiction writer I’m too lazy to Google said: They’re Just Not That Into You.

The Information Age- once again- has put all the leverage in the hands of the buyer. It’s so ridiculously easy for buyers to shop around. While you’re telling everyone about your gilded status with a buyer, they’re looking for a better deal.

If your product or service has been commoditized (some or entirely) what else are you bringing that keeps them buying from you? In only the last 2 decades, untold offerings have moved from proprietary to commodity. Even incredibly sophisticated technologies can now be manufactured by dozens or hundreds of low-cost competitors. That $400 laptop you own cost $1,800 15 years ago. Services in/around telecommunications? Forget about it. Not even a generation ago, people used the expression: “I’m on the phone, LONG DISTANCE!!”. How hilarious does that sound now? Not only is it a commodity, it’s essentially free. And the tailored service you once provided can be provided by others in short time or immediately- soon your customers will be getting their Christmas Cards from someone else- not you.(and you thought that card was such a nice sentiment, didn't you?).

Ask a retailer about their “relationships” with their customers. While their answering your question, their customers just dropped three hundo online with Or worse, they went to “Wally World” Wal-Mart and got what they needed for 20% less.

Of course there are many, many exceptions that will keep them loyal to you. Great service still counts plenty. Innovative and creative value-adds; most buyers like and appreciate these plenty. But if customers feel you’ve profited enough without upping your game, they’re looking for a better deal. It doesn’t matter if their assertion about your value is correct or fair….they’re gone.

You might say “good riddance” to this type of customer. They’ve been squeezing you for years, you shout. You’ve bent over backwards for them a thousand times and all they do is fight you on everything. Fire your lousy customers, I get it. But it’s a mighty slippery slope you’re on because you can’t fire them all. And even the sweetheart customers will leave you too. This is nothing short of the everyday reality of 21st century commerce. Competition has always been a beast and this beast has never been more fierce.

Can someone deliver on what you deliver and charge less? To a degree, the answer is almost always going to be “yes”. Don’t hit the “Panic” button…yet. But if at your core you know many of your customers buy from you because you believe they like you, you may be in for a world of hurt.

This doesn’t mean you lower your prices. But it does mean you get REAL HONEST with yourself on why people buy from you. They like you or even the convenience of familiarity isn’t cutting it anymore. You treasure these “relationships” more than they do. They want the best deal.

Thursday, September 18, 2014


An industry was born a couple of years ago that calls itself Inbound Marketing.

I find it interesting for a couple of reasons- not the least of which I invented it. Well, sort of. It took someone else to actually bring the thing to life. Apparently I was too busy doing whatever the hell it is I do.

To anyone who would listen, I have been shouting that people have tuned out 99.9 % of all marketing or advertising messages. They have no interest in your pitch about how great you or your company are. The original invention that shielded them from your obnoxious sales pitches was the remote controls of their television. Now they have an arsenal- to keep you out of their face.

New media has exploded and the means and methods of either ignoring or escaping your propaganda has grown with it. But companies continue to spend billions on traditional marketing and sales campaigns that nobody is paying any attention to.

This is not an opinion.

Clickthrough rates on Internet ads are essentially 0%, telemarketers are either prohibited from calling you, are flagged by Caller ID or have been replaced by robotic "Robo Dial" messages that may have redefined the adjectives worthless and annoying. DVR’s have made TV ads the proverbial tree falling in the forest. Your companies’ salesforce and the wildly biased word they are trying to spread is (at best) filtered by your customers or (at worst) immediately deleted. Junk mail, pitiful car dealerships blaring on the radio, print ads and their bravado messages- this list could go on for paragraphs. Customers would be screaming “leave us alone!” but they don’t even hear or see you: They tuned you out YEARS ago.

You’re the singer or stand-up comedian performing in front of 5,000 empty seats. You’re the Construction worker emitting a whistle wolf call to the pretty lady walking by. It’s all he knows, the whistle…just like the salesman telling the customer about his “amazing” products. It’s all their employer knows.

Along comes this thing that is currently called Inbound Marketing.

It says this: If you want them to buy something from you, THEY MUST COME TO YOU (not the other way around of the old model). You make this happen by being relevant and being known. You make this happen by producing content that has real value (video, audio, text). Something relevant to what they want, something they can use, or find informative or entertaining. Do it consistently, do it methodically. Turn this stranger into an acquaintance. Once this stranger no longer thinks you’re some carnival barker with an agenda but actually someone who can provide them something they need or want, they will contact you. They will be an INBOUND call, email. That's when you get your chance to tell them they've come to a good place.

There are no shortcuts. Inbound Marketing shows up to work every day dressed in work overalls, not a salesman suit. There’s no place for the mouth-breathing morons who still believe the "sacred" marketing maxim “if you see my marketing message NINE times, you’ll come around!”.

Real data shows this has been underway for a few years now. It not only works, it’s the only thing that will work.

For decades now, people have been SPRINTING away from the oncoming salesperson. Until relatively recently, their sprint led them into a corner. Now they sprint into open fields.

Are you going to drop marketing leaflets on their heads as they stand there, free in the fields? Or are you smart enough to get their attention to get them to come to you.