I was talking with a friend of mine recently, one of those rare individuals who has managed to avoid working in the “business world” for most of his career. His lifelong profession was artistic in nature, and his talent in that area was sufficient to provide him with the means of making a living.
Our conversation was related to “big business” and why people “hate” big business. I personally don’t subscribe to the premise that business is either good or bad, but my friend felt strongly that big business was the object of scorn.
He went on to suggest that business needs a voice. He felt that businesses should hire people to explain why they are good, and then perhaps they would not be hated.
I thought, wow, doesn’t he get it? I’ve been in marketing doing just that for most of my professional career. Doesn’t he know what marketing is?
Is He Right?
Then I thought, what if he’s right? Maybe we marketing geniuses are not getting the job done.
How many of us really know what our corporate vision and mission statements are saying? I’m not talking about the specific wording, I’m talking message. What do they really mean? How are we building that into our communications?
Marketing spends a lot of time and effort crafting direct-selling product collateral, web pages, campaign support materials, white papers and blog posts. This stuff is important, but we also need to convey the larger message to the larger audience. We need to convey the institutional message as well as the specific product messaging.
This is important to all businesses, but especially to businesses that depend on multi-channel distribution.
Know What You Want to Say and How to Say It
So before everything else, you have to figure out how to articulate your high-level messaging, then how to successfully integrate that with your specific product messaging. Finally, you have to tweak those messages to the audiences you are targeting.
Once you have your messaging confirmed, you need to know how effective you are at conveying that message to your audience. That requires data and analytics.
Businesses run on numbers. If you can’t get the numbers, you are managing by guesswork. For marketing, this is especially true. At the end of the year, it comes down to what did you sell? How much did you make?
There are lots of numbers to look at, but getting to them can be a challenge.
Like any other discipline, effectiveness must be measured. What resonates and what is lost in translation? All of those marketing “Ps” that you learned about can be tweaked and modified. The question is, did your tweaking help or hurt? Is the new price stimulating new sales, or are you just making less per sale? Are more qualified people considering your message or are fewer people taking notice?
How Does CPQ Software Help Sales Forces Achieve Incentives?
CPQ is one technology that will help you pull the data—the hard numbers—to facilitate analysis and decision-making related to selling incentives, product features, benefits and pricing options. CPQ puts every transaction into focus in terms of what sells and what just goes along for the ride as well as what pricing met resistance, killed the deal or was perfectly aligned with value delivered
CPQ is the source for the data, but how do you interpret that data? Thinking about your bundling strategy? What option combinations have been selling? How many of each? Who’s buying them?
How about pricing? How many sales were made at a discount? What types of discounts? Were there any special off-the-list discounts? One pricing guru I knew would ask, if you halved the price, would you sell twice as much? If you doubled it, would you lose half your sales? Can you answer these questions?
How effectively is the message being promulgated? Are your written RFQ responses earning new sales? Talk to your reps about lost opportunities. What was the issue? Was there confusion on the part of the buyer?
Ultimately, the data will help you answer the big questions—especially the all-important “why” questions. Why don’t we sell more of these? Why do we always lose to this company? Why is our best seller this model instead of the other model?
Remember the Toyota five whys? This is what you need to make that work.
Get the Message?
When you are selling via a third party, there is a lot of trust involved. You know what your direct sales force is selling to your customers, but, are you sure your indirect sales channels really embrace the message you are trying to convey? If you leave that in the hands of the sales rep, you are really rolling the dice as far as making sure your target customer understands what your brand is all about.
More importantly, the marketing materials you are creating should be based on that messaging as well. Guided selling functionality makes sure your sales agent has access to the right message for any particular point in the selling cycle and any audience being engaged. This might be sales collateral for an early cycle, web copy for informational inquiries or white papers for decision-making executives.
As marketing folks, we can’t ride along with our salespeople and jump in to correct the conversation during sales calls. However, we can help minimize the problem of selling with messaging that is either flat out wrong or improperly delivered.
One of the very first ads for the Mustang featured an early middle-aged business man pausing in a dealership to look at a new Mustang. Ford was masterful with this ad because they knew the car would sell to the young and to those who are attracted to high-performance automobiles. This ad made it okay for conservative business types to like cool cars. They didn’t have to drive around in stuffy old sedans. The ad would have been totally ineffective if it had been directed at youth.
Imagine if messaging was left to the dealers; the conventional wisdom would have prevailed. Mustang equals sports car equals kids’ car. Ford wanted to sell to a much larger, financially secure demographic. The kids would come on their own. They needed the message to get to young and middle-aged professionals.
The success of the Mustang was due to Ford’s ability to sell it outside the demographic normally associated with sports cars. This was accomplished entirely by specific messaging aimed at a specific demographic.
Once again, this is where guided selling and CPQ come into play. They are your technological vehicle to ensure that the message travels with the product correctly and consistently and that it reaches the right audience.
Marketing’s Most Important Role
As my artistic pal helped me understand, articulating your company’s vision and mission are key and just as important as articulating the product messaging, the value proposition and the brand itself.
Marketing has resources to help with the rather awesome challenge of harmonizing, articulating and delivering the corporate message and the product message and to reinforce the image attributes associated with the vision and mission of the organization. There is technology to help you succeed—some which may already be in place within your organization.
Take advantage of the helpful technology that is available right now. Guided-selling via CPQ is a great place to start data gathering and performing meaningful analysis. Your message will be more apt to resonate with truth and honesty when it is based on actual data.