If the role of marketing is to start a conversation, then the role of the marketing manager is to come up with new answers to a handful of questions from prospects.
Consider everything you have your marketing communications writers do for you in light of a few life-or-death questions that your prospects pose:
1. “Who are you and what the heck do you do?” This is pretty elementary. What piece of marketing do you have in place to present yourself to prospects? Is it easy to digest? Are you convinced that people understand who you are and what you do when you explain it?
Melinda Brennan wrote about business mistakes around targeting a niche. If your niche is annihilating termites, it’s pretty easy to tell people who the heck you are. But if you also kill rats and remove beehives, you need to figure out how you’re going to introduce yourself when you wear multiple hats.
Have a look at how JDSU does it.
Format of choice: Website
2. “Why should we buy from you?” This is a trick question. The prospect is really asking, “What’s in it for me to buy from you?” Security? An end-to-end, well thought-out system? Warm fuzzies?
Answer this question with a question: “What has your hair on fire, Ms. Prospect? What nagging problems are you dealing with?”
You’ll do two things by asking a question here: prove that you are willing to listen and help both you and the prospect qualify each other. These are perfect business goals for a marketing manager.
Format of choice: Prospect questionnaire
3. “What makes you different from everybody else?” To answer this, you reflexively contrast yourself with your competitors, but that’s not as important as aligning yourself with your prospects and figuring out what they want that is different from what is already out there.
Inebriated by the potential of wireless and brisk consumer uptake, carriers out-cooled one another for years – more devices, more services, lower rates, better plans – until they got hip to the fact that subscribers (that’s us) really just wanted their calls not to drop. That realization has brought AT&T and Verizon to their current mine’s-bigger-than-yours campaigns, with billboards claiming coverage for “97% of Americans” versus hundreds of technicians walking behind the guy with glasses.
Formats of choice: Surveys, primary research
4. “How will that help me with my business problems?” I constantly paraphrase David Meerman Scott on the issue of figuring out which problems you solve for your customers. They don’t care that your technology is a neat hack, or that you can manage agile development among 100 software developers in your sleep. In fact, they probably can’t even hear your explanation because they’re distracted by problems they’re trying to solve.
If you can show them how it solves their business problem, it will be easier for them to envision paying you.
Format of choice: Business-benefit white papers
5. “Interesting. How does your product/service work?” Do you have materials that explain how your product or service works under the hood? Sooner or later, somebody technical needs to see and be convinced of the merits of your approach.
If you’re selling a car that improves mileage by disabling one spark plug above 65mph, plan on telling prospects how you do it. If you help filthy rich people stay filthy rich, get ready to explain how you do it.
Mind you, not everybody asks this question. It’s the hallmark of the analytical buyer personality type, which is about 25% of the population. Can you afford to not have a story for 25% of your prospects? I thought not.
Format of choice: Technical white papers
6. “Interesting. How much does your product/service cost?” You knew they were going to ask this sooner or later. Note that it doesn’t prove that they want to buy; some people ask just to have the information, or to disqualify themselves.
You’re better off making absolutely certain that you understand all of their needs before you name a price.
Format of choice: More questions
7. “How do I know I can trust you?” There’s an easy answer to this, which finally landed in a memorable movie this year: Inception.
Cobb: How do I know I can trust you?
Saito: You don’t.
And that’s about what it boils down to. Prospects don’t really know whether they can trust you, but until they have at least some glimmer of confidence that you’ll do what you say you’ll do, they won’t buy from you.
Formats of choice: case studies, customer success stories, blog, real-time media
What are the questions you face, and the formats you use to answer them?
photo credit: Hamed Saber