Monthly Archives: July 2010

CompetitionProof and Social Media

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CompetitionProof means creating relationships that can’t be attacked by competitors. And the tighter the emotional connections with your customers, the more difficult it will be for a competitor to get in.

The good news is that it’s easier than ever to create emotional connections with social media. We can share personal  information that in the past we wouldn’t have time, nor the inclination, to disclose.

For example, one of my audience members who friended me on FaceBook has become a voracious cook (like me) posting  recipes and bakes cookies for her clients (what a great idea!). I would have never known this without social media. I feel  connected and it only takes a few seconds to maintain that connection.

The same goes for companies that I do business with that I watch on FaceBook. I’m much more likely to buy from them because I’ve developed an affinity and loyalty through our social interaction. It’s probably true for you.

So ask your clients to join you on LinkedIn, follow you via Twitter, watch your tech tutorials on YouTube, read your articles on Digg, check your blog, and even like you on Facebook. Sure, not everyone will oblige. Yet social network sites are visited by more than 80% of the U.S.!

I recommend that you use LinkedIn for professional clients, FaceBook for friends, FaceBook fan pages for clients, Digg, YouTube, your blog (I’m loving Posterous), and Twitter for the general population. Of course, interlink and cross post because people use them in various ways.

Make sure that your post has at least two of the following attributes for your target audience: entertaining, educational, emotional, and evocative.

Check FaceBook daily (be careful, some people become addicted). Make a post to LinkedIn three times a week. Tweet several times a day. Write an article or blog post a week. Total time required; about 90 minutes a week.

I do this waiting in line, filling five minutes before a meeting, and so forth, using my iPhone. I do sit down to write this blog, though.

And before you know it you’ll have many fans and followers, every one of them making you more and more CompetitionProof.

P.S. Never post after cocktails. Even though you can delete a post, you can never completely recall it from cyberspace because the search engines grab it almost immediately.

How To Win a Competitive Bid Discussion

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I’m hearing this question around the globe; regardless of what type of hardware or software being sold, and regardless of what region. The reality is that every vendor is very competitive, looking for any edge, and slashing prices. You are very familiar with your product, you know the pros and cons, you are familiar with the price point discussion, so what are you missing?

Become an Industry Expert

To be a successful, not only do you need to be extremely familiar with your offering, you also need to be just as, if not more familiar with the products that your competitors are enthusiastically promoting.

One of my favorite stories about competitive advantage happened to a colleague who was riding with the top sales pro for an industrial chemical company. The sales rep was on the phone to a prospect.

“Why are we so much more expensive? Do you have our competitor’s catalog there? Great! Look at page 50, lower left corner. See, they sell it in 20 pound cans. We sell it in 30 pound cans. Yes, that explains the difference. Yes, I can have that at your plant tomorrow.”

My colleague was aghast. “You’ve memorized your competitor’s catalog? What are you, Rain Man?”

“I spend a lot of time on the road, and instead of watching TV at night; I review my competitor’s literature. It doesn’t take much time and I can win most deals with what I learn, so it’s worth it.”

Take it Up a Level

You need to take the conversation beyond the competitive spec sheet (which counts to a lower-level employee) and position your technology as the way to meet their business objectives (which counts at the decision-making level). If you discuss your solution from a technical perspective with executives you are going to miss the opportunity.

You’ll always win when you create a clear differentiator between your solution and other offerings; from a non-technical, business perspective, and make it easy for executives to say ‘yes’ to your offer.

You might be thinking; yeah, but I only sell to the I.T. professional in the datacenter; I don’t have access to the other executives. This is true only if you’re selling small ticket products. Every proposal above a certain amount will go to the executive committee for review. If the I.T. professional brings your proposal to the executive committee; they’re already sold. All they need to do is sell their bosses and they rely on your proposal to do just that.

In reality, you are selling to the executive committee regardless of your point of contact within your customers’ organization. So intentionally craft your message to make it easy for the strategic thinkers within your customers’ organization to agree to your offer. Make sure that your written proposal is a business-based solution as opposed to a technical-based solution. Illustrate how your technology is the perfect ‘fit’, meeting the organization’s business objectives.

And when you do that, you’ll close way more deals regardless of the technology you are selling; bringing you one step closer to becoming truly CompetitionProof.

Creating Loyalty Means CompetitionProof

Most companies believe that customer satisfaction is the key to competitive success. Satisfied customers are ripe for picking by a company that knows how to be CompetitionProof.

The reality is that customer satisfaction is the price of admission to the market. Satisfaction simply means that customers will pay for what they’ve already ordered or won’t return what they’ve bought. But satisfaction doesn’t guarantee that they’d buy that product of service again nor even if they’d do business with that company again.

For example, I’m sure that you’ve had a recent meal at a restaurant where the food was acceptable and the service was passable. You were satisfied; you paid your bill and left a standard-size tip. But, do you have any plans to return to that restaurant in the immediate future? If not, your satisfaction has no value to that restaurant owner.

Now, think about your favorite restaurant. Would you say that the dining experience is satisfactory? Or would you use other words? Perhaps you might say delightful, amazing, or extraordinary. Do you have plans to return, perhaps to celebrate a special occasion or enjoy some extra money that came your way?

Becoming CompetitionProof means going beyond satisfaction to creating customer delight. And it’s really not that difficult to delight your customer. It just means thinking about doing the unexpected, like taking responsibility for a great customer experience.

For example, I recently ordered an old book on-line. I paid for the transaction but the book never arrived. I contacted the bookseller, and here’s the note that I received back from the book seller:

I am sorry. I don’t know what could’ve happened to your book. It was mailed out on the 21st, so something must have happened between here and there.

We will refund your card for the total amount (which was $7.27). We no longer have your card info, so you will need to send it in a couple of separate emails, or if you prefer we can send you a check.

If you prefer the check please send your address in the email.

Again, we apologise for this inconvenience.

Thank you. Susan and Chip

Wow! They totally took responsibility where most resellers would have said, “Tough, not my problem.”

I responded: Thanks for checking on it. The mail does get lost sometimes. Perhaps it will show up sometime soon. I’m not worried about $7.27.

So I’m going to decline your kind refund offer.

Best regards, Mark S.A. Smith

I don’t mind taking the hit when I didn’t ask for insurance. I’m willing to take responsibility, too. But they being people who know the value of a customer over a transaction they responded with:

Thank you. You’re very kind, however we don’t feel you should have to pay for something that you did not receive. We have found another copy of this book online and we are having it drop shipped to you.

Thank you. Susan and Chip

And the reordered book showed up in the mail the next week.

So if you ever need to find an old book, I heartily recommend Givens Books of Salem, Virginia, http://www.biblio.com/bookstores/chip53.html

And that’s a great way to create loyalty and become CompetitionProof!