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Martin Wales

Customer Catcherâ„¢


[July 5, 2000]

Marketing Is More Than Just Materials

You sell communications solutions. Your customers buy communications solutions. Sounds like a simple relationship -- but it's not just the product or service they're buying. Each time you interact with a customer, you're selling and they're buying a relationship with you. They judge you based on your every move -- that includes each and every employee they deal with, and each action those employees take. They evaluate all that you do outside of the materials generated by your smooth, creative marketing department. The trade show booths, four-color pamphlets, and promotional toys bearing your corporate logo are merely visual support of your verbal claims: Your marketing must be more than your brochures.

Simply defined, marketing is the communication with prospective clients in order to influence them about the benefits of dealing with your company and buying your product. It is also communicating with your existing clients to get them to buy more, to upgrade, or (at least) to maintain your current relationship. This communication takes place through phone calls, brochures, business cards, advertisements, direct mail campaigns, and more.

What Your Customers Want, And What They Don't
Of course, marketing is far more complex than that. Astute businesses recognize the importance of building and increasing awareness of a company's image through branding. We see corporate logos, public and investor relation campaigns, elaborate trade show booths, and quality promotional items as ways to sculpt the market's perception of a company. Yet, your marketing must be more than just the stuff you give out at trade shows or on sales calls.

Practically speaking, customers are looking for dependability and functionality when it comes to your products and services. Emotionally, customers are seeking companies whose employees exude professionalism, credibility, competence, and empathy. For years, various studies have shown that prospective customers buy based on their subjective emotions, and then create the rationalization for their purchase decision from the objective features you present.

Consumers and businesses are seeking more than just a product. They want to feel confident about that DSL solution, that workforce management software, or that network interface card they've chosen. How do you close the emotion-driven part of the sale?

Generally, customers are looking for a company that understands and respects five basic tenets:

  • Save Time. Save me time. Don't waste my time. Even better, "make" me time. Everything you do -- from your communications, your product features, and your delivery and implementation -- has to allow me greater productivity. Give me more freedom with my time. Time is one of the most precious and highly-valued resources in business, and in our personal lives. Customers will pay a premium for time-savings.

  • Communicate Clearly. You can't sell if you can't communicate. You must speak in your customer's language. This means English, or any other language. Notice I stress "natural," rather than the techno-speak we love to use. Don't assume your prospects and customers are knowledgeable and sophisticated regarding your technology and industry acronyms. Yes, some customers are up to date on the jargon, but you must continually check that they comprehend your pitch. No one can be an expert in everything: A fax board manufacturer may not be aware of the intricacies of coding for call accounting software.

  • Take Responsibility. Whomever a customer deals with at your company should be able to say, "Yes, I can help you." Your employees should be able to take ownership of a problem or question, and track down the answer within your company. They should then bring the answer back to the customer. A customer should never hear, "I'm not sure. Let me pass you on."

  • Have An Attitude Of Gratitude. Your prospects and clients want someone who cares, and caring is in short supply. Customer-denigrating jokes among customer service representatives are commonplace and more pervasive than ever (not that some customers aren't deserving). There may even be truth in this humor. These jokes may help dealing with the daily grind, but they ultimately lead to a general feeling of disdain for customers. Clients and prospects sense this quickly.

  • Keep Your Word. This is not an easy thing for an individual to do, and it's even harder for a company. How many times has a rep, or even a personal friend, promised to call and failed? These small instances eat away at your customer's trust in you, and their perception of the reliability of your company. This point is perhaps the most important of all. It is a combination of the four previous points. If I have to search to find, or even chase, you to get help, then you're wasting my time, you're not communicating, you're not taking responsibility, and you're not showing me an attitude of gratitude.

So, whether your prospects are individual consumers, small businesses, or large corporations, they are all looking for this combination of characteristics. They constantly evaluate your sales and marketing processes, your technical delivery, and your implementation and support, in addition to their interactions with your company. When things go wrong with customers, it inevitably leads back to one of the above tenets being forsaken, or at least taken for granted.

You only confirm your prospects' and customers' confidence with those four-color, high-quality marketing materials. You create and sustain it by making the standards of saving time, clear communication, responsibility, gratitude, and keeping your word your company's mission.

Martin Wales is the eFounder and Chief Catcher at Customer Catcher.com. He welcomes your e-mail at martin@customercatcher.com. He is a technology-marketing specialist, speaker, and facilitator focused on maximum results with minimal risk using your existing resources.

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