Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Direct marketing - a measure to tracking

Direct marketing is a sub-discipline and type of marketing. There are two main definitional characteristics which distinguish it from other types of marketing. The first is that it attempts to send its messages directly to consumers, without the use of intervening media. This involves commercial communication (direct mail, e-mail, telemarketing) with consumers or businesses, usually unsolicited. The second characteristic is that it is focused on driving a specific "call-to-action." This aspect of direct marketing involves an emphasis on trackable, measurable positive (but not negative) responses from consumers (known simply as "response" in the industry) regardless of medium.

If the advertisement asks the prospect to take a specific action, for instance call a free phone number or visit a website, then the effort is considered to be direct response advertising.

Sales Diagnosis

Most sales reps think that they're uncovering customer needs by merely asking about them.  Unfortunately, most of the time, the customer is either too close to the problem, or lacks the knowledge required to figure out what's wrong.  As a result, the wrong needs are surfaced, resulting in a solution that won't work.

The analogy between a B2B sales rep interviewing a customer and a physician interviewing a patient.  Here are three conversations:

VERSION 1:
Patient: My stomach hurts.
Doctor: No problem. I have a special introductory offer…

VERSION 2:
Patient: My stomach hurts.
Doctor: What do you think is causing the pain?
Patient: I ate too much last night; I need a strong antacid..
Doctor: No problem. Here's a prescription…

VERSION 3:
Patient: My stomach hurts.
Doctor: In what way and at what times?
Patient: After I eat pizza, I get this burning sensation.
Doctor: Have you noticed an itchy mouth when this occurs?
Patient: Well, now that you mention it, yes.
Doctor: It sounds like you may have an allergy.
What kind of pizza have you been eating?
Patient: Actually, it's been pepperoni the last few times.
Doctor: We'll run a few tests, and if it's from the pepperoni,
a change in diet will take care of your stomach problem.

Most sales reps tend to have conversations with their customers that are either like version 1 or version 2.   Version 1 is the old "pitch whatever you've got" routine.  Version 2 is what usually passes for "consultative" selling — it assumes that the customer knows the problem and simply needs a solution to that problem.

Version 3 corresponds to the way the B2B sales world really works.  Most of the time, the stuff that you're selling is outside of the understanding of the customer and probably addresses problems that the customer doesn't really understand.

Therefore, it's your job to correctly diagnose those needs and, only then, figure out what's good for what ails them.