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Martin Wales

Customer Catcherâ„¢


[May 2, 2000]

This Column Is About YOU

This marketing article has been specially crafted for you. Why? Because your marketing should not be about you! You will increase your sales, brand recognition, and market share -- read: profits -- once you realize it's not all about you.

The most prominent customer thought is, "What's in it for me?" Notice that it's not, "Wow, can you tell me more about your proprietary H.323-compliant client interface," or, "Tell me why your WAP solution is better than others and how it integrates with my back office."

Customers don't really care about you, or your company, or your products. They care about themselves, their career, their company, and their products. You may be thinking you've heard this "customer focus" pitch before: you may believe in it, and you may have implemented it in your company. Still, a majority of marketing gives priority to company characteristics and product features.

There are several ways to refocus on your customers. Your success will be determined by your commitment to act as your customers' advocate for better products and clearer benefit statements in your marketing materials. These rules sound simple, but they're easy to forget when surrounded by ad reps dressed in black:

  1. Involve your customers from the beginning.
    Companies continue to develop the world's next best mousetrap because they believe their customers buy "pest control products." Those companies don't know that their prospects have termites, and have no use for a mousetrap. Get it? Ask your prospective market very specific questions about their problems, and then build what they do need. Nothing is easier to market than what people are asking for already.

  2. Continue to concentrate on your customers' problems.
    Don't stop asking them after your product's development. Continue to inquire about their challenges. Their industries change constantly, just like ours. Can you identify or foresee problems they haven't? What can you do to eliminate or minimize your customers' problems?

  3. Clearly describe the customer benefits resulting from your features.
    List your features. Take each one and put it to the "What's in it for me?" test. What does having that benefit mean to the customer? Then probe further to uncover the benefit of the benefit, by thinking "What does that benefit mean to our customer or to their clients?"

    For example, a unified messaging platform means you get e-mail, voice mail, and faxes all in the same place. So, "What's in it for me?" Convenience due to one location with one software program. Followed by, "What does that really mean?" It means more time to call prospects and greater profitability.

  4. Speak and write using "you" instead of "we."
    Look at all your business communications -- from brochures to your Web site. How often are you talking about you, your company, and your products? Compare it to the number of times you mention the customer, generally referred to as "you." Talk more about them, and they will be more interested in you.

  5. Avoid industry jargon and acronyms (or at least explain them).
    Let me just say that VoIP, ISP, xDSL, GSM, SS7, WAP, IVR, and CTI aren't standard in most conversation. Even people who seem technically astute tend not to reveal their true level of understanding. If prospects are confused they trust you less, lack rapport with you, and won't buy your product.

  6. Invite customers to offer their opinions for improvement.
    In plain English, give them a place to criticize your efforts and reward them for it. Take as much feedback as you can get. When a customer invests their time, even to complain, they are demonstrating that they value their relationship with you and want to return it to a level of mutual satisfaction.

  7. Use technology to customize service.
    While we sell our technology, we are sometimes too busy to notice how another's solution would benefit our customers and us. Take the time to invest in systems that improve your customers' experience with you. Conversely, a company might invest in technology for status or because they are early adopters. Either way, ask yourself, "How do my customers benefit directly from this new software?" If there is no concrete reason, you could probably do without it and save money.

These are just a few ideas to think about when attracting new prospects and serving your existing customer base. Future columns will look deeper into marketing communications technology. 

Consider this monthly piece as a place to share your success stories and learning experiences. I will be throwing in my own two cents (four cents on occasion) regularly  to facilitate discussion. But, this column is not just for reading. You are invited to participate by forwarding questions and offering your own suggestions to others. We can approach our marketing challenges together, as industry compatriots in communications technology.

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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