Make Being Local Work for You

market 1

market 1 (Photo credit: tim caynes)

Today’s guest blog is written by Mindy Jeffries of Stealth Marketing. She will be writing a series of blogs that will appear here occasionally. If you want to contact Mindy you can call her at (314) 880-5570. Tell her you saw her here!

I look at small telephone companies and as a marketer I see tremendous marketing potential due to their advantage of being local. I would have a blast with marketing in these markets. Here are the questions I would ask myself and my team:

  • What is going on local in my community?
  • Can I create something that would be a resource to my community?
  • What could I do to bring my community together in the new virtual world? What could you do that is useful from the customer’s perspective?

I would find something the community needs, such as listing of local events and get it on the web. Then, using social media you have to advertise news of the local application that you have created and the content within.  This will start bringing people to your site to check out the latest news on what to do around town or the weather or whatever you choose.

Once you get your current and potential customers coming to your website or social media site for useful information, then the next step is to ask them for their email addresses. At this point, you don’t care if these people are customers or not, just provide each person with useful information. As you create value, your prospects and potential prospects will give you their information including email addresses because they want to interact with you.

Then you start housing this information in a database application that can automate, score and deliver very customer-specific news and offers to your prospects and current customers.  Your prospects get offers for new services, and your current customers get retention offers, or news on programing or movies or VOD coupons.

Start simple, but there are lots of ways to take a program like this to the next level.  You can incorporate your advertising clients and distribute their offers as well. This could be your retention program!  Some examples might be coupons for the pizza provider in town or coupons for the local theater.

Your imagination can run wild, but today digital environment exists to help you organize and filter messages and marketing.  Social media have changed the world.  Instead of always talking about you and your services, you need to look at the world through a customer/potential customer lens and asking the question from their perspective – what can I do through the resources I have, to make myself useful to them?

It’s an exciting times to be a marketer!

 

A New Model for B2B Sales

Earlier this year the team of Google and CEB published a report that shows that over the last decade that business customers have drastically changed the way they work with vendors. Historically there was a very classic sales model that defined how vendors sold things to businesses, but with the Internet the entire sales process has changed.

Historically sales have been done by the book, and there literally shelves full of books about sales that laid forth the classic sales process. These books preached that the sales process involved the following steps:

  • Identifying the sales opportunity
  • Qualifying the opportunity
  • Making a proposal
  • Closing the sale
  • Post sale implementation and follow-up

But the Google and CEB report says that businesses, on average, are already 57% through the historic sales cycle before they first talk to a vendor today. And this is all due to the Internet. A customer is able to do now fully research the products and solutions they are interested in. They can read reviews from other similar companies who have already bought what they are looking for. They can compare prices and service from alternate vendors without talking to any salespeople. And by the time they contact a vendor they are mentally much of the way through the sales process and generally are ready to make a choice.

So how does this change the way that companies sell telecom services? I would suggest it means some of the following.

  • Listen to Your Customers. First, it means that your salespeople need to become adept at listening, something that is not always a salesperson strength. If a potential customer has already done their research then they want to discuss the nuances of the products they are interested in and they want to ask questions. They do not want to start at the beginning of the above sales process. So ask your customers how much they already know about what you are selling to save you both time.
  • It’s Harder to Sell on Price Alone. Customers who have done their research are already going to have a price in mind, and this makes it hard to sell on price. So instead you need to be able to define the value proposition of why a customer should buy from you and not one of your competitors. Telecom companies are famous on selling by price alone since we inherited a world with many services greatly overpriced by the incumbents. But web research is beginning to kill price as a differentiator and so you better have other reasons why a customer should pick you.
  • Be Knowledgeable. If customers are doing their homework then your salespeople need to really understand the products. Again, this is another reason you can’t just send out salespeople who are just going to offer a discount from the current monthly telecom bill. It means sending out somebody who really understands the nuances of what you are selling.
  • Master Consultative Selling. The most effective sales technique to use with a knowledgeable customer is consultative sales. This means that you are not there to sell them a product, but instead there to find them the solution that best fits their telecom needs. This is the one advantage that a good salesperson can have with a customer who has done their homework. Such a customer will understand only so much about telecom products and is usually going to be willing to listen to creative solutions that might be different from what they thought they needed.

To sell in a consultative way rather than on price alone means you are going to need a well-trained sales staff, and probably are going to have to pay them more than the traditional salesperson. But the upside is that customers become very loyal to a vendor who helps them solve problems. For many telecom firms, that kind of loyalty is going to be a refreshing change.

Branding your Company and Products

Just FYI, no blogs last week due to flu bug. Funny how you can’t write when you can’t sit up.

Today’s guest blog is written by Mindy Jeffries of Stealth Marketing. She will be writing a series of blogs that will appear here occasionally. If you want to contact Mindy you can call her at 314 880-5570. Tell her you saw her here!

In my last blog, I talked about branding things – things with which your customers interact! “Things” is a little vague, so let’s clarify – your branded assets include things like: your office, trucks, people (uniforms), website.  What about branding your product?  What are the stepping-stones of branding your service that you’ll be delivering to your customers?  This gets complicated really quickly, so how can we simplify it?

Let’s begin with the strategic analysis of the brand.

The first step is a customer analysis.

Here are questions you have to ask yourself:  what are the current trends in the telecommunications industry? What is affecting your business?  We all know some of those major trends; landline disconnections, and streaming TV, for example. But now let’s add motivation questions.  Which customers are motivated to use cell phones in which parts your geographic footprint?  What are the unmet needs of your customers?   Brainstorm these questions with your team and figure out answers relevant to your brand. In the end you’re shooting for stellar customer service, making each customer happy beyond expectations.

The second step: Competitor analysis.

What are your strengths compared to all competitors including these new Internet competitors?  What are your answers to the “cell phone problem”?  What are the strategies to attack the segments we have previously identified? And last but not least, what are your vulnerabilities?  Examining your vulnerabilities is hard, you have to strip away your bias, take a step back and look at the big picture. Be honest with yourself. Analyze yourself like you would your competitors. Which leads nicely into…

The third step: Self-analysis. 

Ask yourselves and your customers: what is the current image of the brand?  What is the brand’s heritage?  What does your product provide? What are its strengths?

The last step: Determine your organizational values.  

What are the positive attributes of your leader or leadership team? It might be something as simple as: “we always go the extra mile!” or “We’ll make sure the customer is always satisfied.”

Still not sure what organizational values look like?

Here are the Stealth values to give you an idea!  We exist to help others, we are passionate about what we believe in, we are perpetual students, we love challenge, we like to stretch boundaries and evolve to the next level of everything.  We are driven by relationships because relationships drive communication and good communication drives success.  We work to achieve success.

Telecommunications Enters a New Marketing Era!

Today’s guest blog is written by Mindy Jeffries the President of Stealth Marketing. She will be writing a series of blogs that will appear here on Fridays for a while. If you want to contact Mindy you can call her at 314 880-5570. Tell her you saw her here!

In this blog post, my intent is to examine the history of telecommunications marketing so we can all have an appreciation of the work we have today, the products and the marketing solutions in the fast paced environment we find ourselves. From the day I started in 1978 until today, one thing is certain and that is change. So this post will provide solutions and ideas on how to make that change fun and manageable.

Cable started as a technical product that solved a problem for people in places that could not get the new invention called ‘television’.  The cable industry solved a need. Today those needs are rarely present with products that telecommunications companies market. So, what started as a technical-needs-based product became more of an everyday consumer product, and a story had to be told in an effective and compelling manner which would help new consumers choose which product fit their needs the best. This is when it got a lot more fun for marketers.  But wait, telecom companies had no marketers!

Telecom began to get more competitive and a need emerged to tell the ‘how are we different?’ story in an increasingly compelling way. Competitors came in on the television side, on the phone side, and on the Internet side. All of a sudden, telecom companies had competitors emerging at every door.

In the early days of cable television we told the story through products. HBO, ESPN, and other similar companies would help pay for the marketing. Our competitors started marketing with those same brand names. Cruel. Products became ubiquitous, available through all competitors. Those premium product offerings were no longer a differentiator.

Of course, a few other things happened in the world of marketing in the last 30 years. A truckload of marketing options started to become available to us. The marketing industry was introduced to new technology, new research entities, new methods, new philosophies, etc. In the end, that yielded options, more than one way to skin a cat. More marketing options means more places to spend your money with a lot of variation in response rates to different audiences with different marketing methods.  Sophisticated, targeted, analytical marketing became very important.

The problem became: how do we effectively differentiate in a quickly emerging telecom world . . . how do we tell our story, what is the target market, who is the target demo and what is the best way to place that communication? How do we utilize all of these marketing innovations? Those are the questions we will answer over the next few weeks. Hopefully these blogs will explain the process behind the curtain and I hope to show you the processes and strategies behind effective marketing.