Why comparison of bids is a great B2B Marketing Opportunity

The 4th Step in the B2B Purchasing Process is comparison of bids received. This can be a great B2B Marketing Opportunity for new suppliers trying to get in .

Here is why:

Deciders in the Buying Center are unlikely to see all the bids in detail. Generally the initial shortlisting work is done by someone from the user department and/or the purchasing/supply chain department. These two shortlisters are likely to be solid but junior professionals. Their primary task is not rejecting viable offers from the shortlist. A bidders’ goal should therefore be to appear as a viable vendor in the documentation submitted.In addition, your web presence must support what you are writing in the bid documents.

To clarify: the B2B Marketing opportunity for new suppliers, happens only when your bid reaches the buyers’ shortlist. Only shortlisted bids will appear in comparative analysis. This analysis would include a comparison of features, prices, after sales service, warranties etc. Do not assume that price is most important as it rarely is in B2B markets, unless the supply item is a commodity.

So how do you get into the shortlist? Here are some pointers:

  • Think of your bid documents as a job application: Your B2B customer needs a job to be done, and that is why the RFP is issued in the first place. Just like job description, RFPs’ tend to also have something equivalent to “Essential Qualifications” and “Desirable Qualifications”. Your bid documents should establish that your company has all the qualifications needed.There are three types of resource people in your organization , you need to tap for the coming up with an effective RFP. Effective RFP’s are those that get you into the vendor shortlist:
    • Your most market aware – salesperson: This is someone in your team who is most “clued in” or market aware the industry and market you are trying to submit your RFP. Ideally, this person has contacts or friends in that industry or is able to find friends/contacts. With LinkedIn it’s not hard to reach out to Buying Center folks and establish a connection. Sometimes RFP’s have the name of the contact person and its best to ask your questions directly to the concerned person.RFP’s do want to generate several great offers from suppliers. So if you have questions- Ask. Just make sure that the person who is doing the asking is knowledgeable about what you can do and is market aware. Even if you do make the shortlist you need to give the impression of competence and confidence even when you seek clarifications on RFP’s.
    • Your team member with the best academic grades: Those students who get the best academic grades have one major ability. The ability to respond appropriately to the exam questions. They have a great sense of what the examiner is looking for and they deliver and get those “A” grades. This person is usually not your best salesperson (everyone does not have all skills!) and could work in another department. Once you have a draft response ready get this academically inclined person to review your submission to check : Do the bid documents address the RFP requirements? In other words the review should identify anything missing so that the submitted documents are comprehensive,concise and complete. You really want the bid documents to look so professional that the supply chain folks feel like “winners” bringing your RFP documents to the review meetings. Excellent bid documents get discussed and several members of the buying center get to know your brand.
    • Your agile digital and web person: Once the bid documents are getting ready, it’s a good idea to update your website to ensure that all related materials are also mentioned prominently on your website. You can expect that the buying organization will be Googling you. If you are already advertise digitally, consider starting a brand awareness campaign highlighting the capabilities you showcase in your bid documents.
  • Follow up : When you follow-up be polite but persistent. Your persistence shows that you are interested to become a supplier. Also offer to do a meeting. In the post-Covid world you can offer to meet via Zoom and we predict that meetings will become more effective via video. Reduction in travel time might allow you to talk to different buying center folks in different locations. Depending on your product or service it is usually possible to get a trial order that allows the organization to get to know your brand and its associated people.

To summarize, for the B2B Marketer getting into the RFP shortlist is a great way to build your brand with the buying company.

About StratoServe.

B2B Process 3: Request for Proposal- RFP does not mean Equal Opportunity

3.B2B Process -RFP-StratoServe

The third step of the B2B Purchase Process is the Request for Proposal (RFP). As our dear readers have learnt, just because the job description is detailed and you check all the boxes, you do not get a job interview! Similarly, from the point of view of the B2B Marketer responding to RFP’s does not mean that there is equal opportunity for all vendors.

Unless there is a huge demand for your product or skill.

For example, in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic , if you could supply PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) like N95 masks, gowns and you responded to an RFP, you were likely to get a positive response. Because health systems worldwide were in crisis for these supplies.

In normal times though, two words : “Forget it”.

So how does this RFP thing really work? Who uses it? How can you get into serious consideration? Here are some pointers:

Why and Who uses RFP? Any entity that needs to have a paper/documented trail that there was no nepotism or corruption in supplier selection uses RFP. Auditors don’t look kindly when you purchase high value stuff from the cousin of the CEO. But if the company is privately owned with the CEO’s family owning 100% shares- there is no need for a systematic, documented purchase process. Although it’s desirable to keep things transparent for family member owners, to avoid future family conflict.

These entities include Federal and State Governments, Government owned agencies. The oversight process include formal audits, opposition party and media watchdogs all have a job to do. This encourages the purchasing function to follow documented procedures and proper authorizations before contracting to spend organization funds.

The US Federal Government is the largest B2B buyer also B2G (Business to Government) buyer in the world. The US Federal Government’s 2019 spending was $586 Billion as per the US Government Accountability Office.

How do you keep up with relevant RFPs? In the post COVID world you can expect that RFPs will be available online. Once you have a clear idea of your target market defined by company, government agency etc. it is possible to create Google alerts to learn about upcoming opportunities. The US GSA offers useful advice , as do avariety of vendors. Just search for “Open RFP in (name of your product or service) in ( locations that interest you).

Will you get an order the first time when you respond to RFP? The short answer is No.Read on to understand why.

So all the effort of responding to the RFP is a waste? Responding to RFP becomes a lot of work for the team. In old industries like construction there are estimating softwares developed over the years. In new industries like artificial intelligence and biotechnology it can be hard to estimate how much an expert employee will cost.Or even if you would be able to find the employee, once you start searching. After getting the order! And No, the responding to RFPs is not a waste. Because the procurement folks have to read, analyze your bid as part of their job. Your company’s name comes up in documents and discussions with the rest of the Buying Center members. Thus, responding to RFPs build your brand awareness. Frequently, you should be able to get a face-to-face meeting which becomes your pathway to get a trial order and regular orders.

Be prepared for a long sales cycle of several RFP rounds. Many B2B marketers get dejected after their first failed RFP submission to an organization. As explained in the B2B process steps, there is a lot of context to what goes on in organizations. Be prepared for a long haul and follow-up every failed bid. So that your next bid is better. The reason the sales cycle is long, is because the buying center needs to get to know your brand.

Persistence, in dealing with RFP opportunities is the key to long term orders for B2B marketers. And eventual equal opportunity as a supplier!

About StratoServe.

B2B Process 2: Why does product specs/SoW feel like a rigged job description?

2. B2B Buying Process – Specifications/SoW -StratoServe

In Step 2 of the B2B Buying Process, the buying organization develops the Product Specifications/Scope of Work (SoW). This is the document that will be put out for request for proposals (RFP) or tenders. If you have never supplied to the buying company, and you are generally capable, you can face a sudden roadblock. That roadblock feels similar to rigged job descriptions that our dear readers have all experienced. Because … there is an internal candidate!

There is nothing nefarious going on. It’s just the nature of organizations that they need to get something done. For all B2B suppliers who want to serve new customers, B2B Marketing and Sales efforts do help as depicted in the visual above. To make the B2B marketing efforts effective, it is useful to understand what could be going on as specifications are being drawn up at the buying company.

Here is how the B2B Process for the specifications stage plays out:

The B2B Buy is ongoing: Ongoing purchases are also known as the “re-buy task”. The items might have started informally (like forged metal parts) and local manufacturers started supplying the part. Now the volume had grown and the finance and audit folks point out that this is getting big. It should have a formal purchase process. You must invite bids, compare offers, negotiate and place orders with suppliers who have the right price quality offer. Now what would a supply manager/purchasing manager do? They would talk to existing suppliers whose products are already working. They talk to the B2B sales folks for draft specifications. What do the B2B Sales folks of existing suppliers do? They go back and ensure that top leadership is involved in two ways (a) Ensure that they stay in once the purchasing becomes more formal (b) Throw in some specification that only they can do with current or ordered machinery, skilled folks etc. For example, merely mentioning a specific software language or integration can lock out competitors. Once the purchasing folks have some draft specifications, they’ll put together something and call for bids.

Once the call for bids is out- it may be too late: Because the whole point of a formal purchasing process is to compare “apples” to “apples” and not apples to oranges. It is therefore, during the specification process that B2B marketing and sales efforts must be very active for any suppliers who want to get in. Digital marketing (expect the purchasing/user folks to Google something) and sales emails and sales calls can get you a place at the table. See Buying Center.

Modified ReBuy and New Task Buying: In many new task and modified rebuy situations, the process will include internet searches for sure. Even more so, with all the remote working after the Coronavirus pandemic. Internal experts , like R&D scientists and hired consultants can have a huge say in developing specifications. These consultants could include architects for building products, management consultants for all kinds of software and systems. The existing suppliers have an advantage here because if they maintain a close helping relationship with all members of the buying center, it’s very likely that they will be informed and sometimes encouraged to diversify into the new task product. This is very similar to being tapped for a new job, within the same company.

To summarize, existing suppliers have a huge advantage in B2B markets – if they are alert and open to new opportunity. Strangely, they don’t jump on new opportunities or technology and the alert and new entrant can jump in.

For suppliers, being visible through digital marketing and sales is the best option to have a chance to shape the specifications in the B2B Buying Process.

About StratoServe

“Business need” starts the B2B buying process

B2B Buying Process – Step 1- Business Need by StratoServe

If you research “B2B buying process” you’ll come up with the steps that a business goes through in the B2B buying process. These include (1) Business need recognition (2) Developing specifications of what will meet the need (3) Request for proposals (RFP) (4) Comparison of proposals/bids and negotiate with suppliers (5) Purchase order placement (6) Delivery and receipt of goods or services (7) Evaluation of suppliers.

Sure, the above process occurs in some form but it is not sequential. Neither does it account for the marketing and sales efforts of vendors. This series of posts explains each step as it really plays out in organizations. We believe that understanding the B2B buying process helps everyone understand the customer’s context. We start with “Business Need Recognition”.

Here are three ways to think about Business Needs

Business needs are not whimsical. As a consumer we can buy small ticket items on a whim. We like something because we saw it on the shelf, saw an ad – we like it and buy it. In contrast , for more expensive products like cars, consumers put in more research friends and family members can be involved. Businesses are not whimsical even for small ticket items. As a business team leader you can buy cake with your P-Card to celebrate a team member’s birthday.Chances are that company policy encourages spending on team building activities and most teams at that location celebrate birthdays. Similarly if you are the manufacturing manager it is unlikely that you’ll pick up hardware spares for your main machine on your next trip to Home Depot. Why? Because a 10 cent hardware piece might be so critical that your factory might shut down in case of failure. The hardware will go through the buying process.

There is a business purpose. The business has its own customers. It’s success depends on its customers continuing to buy. Thus the biggest focus of any business is Direct Materials including equipment,software that goes to make the product. That finished product is what gets them paid by their customer. Then there is a lot of goods and services that support the main purpose of the business. These include buildings,furniture,stationery,travel and transportation etc. These supportive purchases are often called “indirect materials” where the Supply Manager or Purchasing Manager has the biggest role. Why? because these items are like commodities and are easier to compare on feature and price.

  • When Business Purpose is Continuing – Repeat Buy. Imagine a cookie brand ( eg. Oreos) where consumers keep buying the same brand. The ingredient suppliers to the Oreo factory like flour, baking soda, chocolate powder are in a repeat buy process. See our Buy Task post. It’s hard for a new supplier to get in because the incumbent supplier is working for years and has deep relationships across the buying organization.
  • When Business Purpose Changes- Modified rebuy. Modified rebuy can be thought of as a modification in the final product. Let us think of Oreo in a new flavor like strawberry. First the Oreo factory will ask their existing flavor suppliers if they can supply strawberry flavor. And most suppliers in B2B markets are eager to please and there is only a little chance for a new supplier to make inroads.
  • When Business Purpose is New- New Buy. A “New Buy” happens when the Business is facing a challenge and needs to find new suppliers. For example, before the Coronavirus grocery stores and restaurants had no suppliers for face masks and sanitizers. Today, after eight months of the pandemic an entire industry has grown around Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Any business or organization that has a physical place of business has PPE as a prominent”New Buy”. For many heavy PPE user businesses like facilities maintenance these items have become repeat buys. Just like the Coronavirus has (sadly) opened up the market for face masks and sanitizers, there is always some change in the lives of customers that compels businesses to go for a “New Buy”.

Startups and Innovators face an uphill task to inject their product or service into the buying process. The marketing process for such companies is made much easier if they place themselves in the shoes of a business in their target market. The target market frequently has their own marketing challenges. For persistent marketers of innovation, who truly understand their target markets problems – an opportunity to showcase success soon comes along.

How Strategic is the Purchase? Even among direct materials, some items are strategic and quite literally “the family jewels.” See Risk-Value Matrix. These are critical components or ingredients where even a minor variation can affect the end product quality adversely. When anything is strategic, the line managers have a big say on what will work. Supply Managers or Purchasing Managers always work closely with the user department to ensure that they buy what will really work.

In the next post we will discuss the second step of the B2B Buying Process of exactly how specifications are developed.

Wish everyone a Happy and Safe 2020 ThanksGiving!

About StratoServe

Service Recovery: The secret to retaining loyal customers

Service Recovery-StratoServe

All organizations are ultimately in the service business. And when people are involved- mistakes do happen. And customers can become unhappy. This is “service failure”. How you make customers happy again, is “service recovery.” Happy customers are loyal customers.

Even when you supply a tangible product the customer is looking for a great “user experience”. This includes experiences of (1) ordering the product online (2) getting an order acknowledgement (3) Shipping info (4) Unboxing experience (5) User experience with the product itself. You can think of service recovery like a great product return policy.

It’s easier to think about “Service Recovery” in the restaurant business ( yes during dine-in before/after COVID times!). You order something and what the waiter brings is different or not upto your expectations. You complain. What happens after you complain is service recovery in action. Here are some ways this can play out:

  1. Deny,Deny, Deny : The waiter denies that there is a problem. Yes this is rare in restaurants but does happen in a variety of customer situations. Some organizational cultures simply do not want to admit fault. This could be because of a variety of reasons including (a) fear of lawsuits (b) fear of being questioned on the processes in place (c) overconfidence about the unique product or service provided (d) admitting failure always involves some costs that the system is not willing to take.
  2. Listen,Apologize but Do nothing: The waiter can listen patiently/respectfully but really do nothing. Possible and viable excuses could be “the kitchen is closed for the night” etc. If there is a genuine situation , eg. its really late night customers are quite happy with this approach. They may even come back.
  3. Listen, Apologize, and Delight: Organizations that understand the value of their customer,brand and reputation have budgeted for errors. Employees are empowered to replace orders immediately. Some restaurants make a big deal of this and the manager comes to your table, apologizes and delights you with a “free” small dessert. In many organizations , the frontline service provider is authorized to directly take action like replacing or offering a “feel good” small dessert! You can bet that the customer will come back and will tell friends about the positive experience.

Whatever, your organization’s policy from the above, its critical to learn from every incident of service failure. This learning can improve your process and keep reducing service failures.

We do advocate the third option of Listen,Apologize, and Delight for your good customers. Good,loyal customers are very hard to find.

About StratoServe.

The “S” Curves of radical and incremental innovation

The “S” curves of radical and incremental innovation-StratoServe

Following a 2014 LinkedIn piece Sharpen the Saw, cut the Tree or look for non-Trees?, here is some more detail on the “S” curves of innovation (first published in 2014 and updated 2020). The “S Curve” innovation thinking is attributed to Richard Foster (1986) and made famous by Clayton Christensen in the book “Innovator’s Dilemma,” where he discusses how each successive computer hard drive industry got wiped out.

[Note: Due to the great interest of our dear readers this post was updated in January 2021]

What are the “S” curves? Each of the above S curves represent a technology platform. Movement up an “S” curve is incremental innovation while stepping down on a lower new “S” curve now, may lead to radical innovation, as the new “S” curve surpasses your existing “S” curve. There is a risk that the lower “S” curve does not get better. We only hear of technologies that won and we don’t remember those that lost. So trying out a new technology when you are doing great in your current technology is scary!

The Cost and Performance Y axis, Time on X Axis: If you look at the Y axis you see performance going up and cost coming down. Just as time goes on. In other words over time a particular S curve and technology platform gets improved. This improvement is through factors such as experience, techniques like 6 Sigma, more adoption by customer. The adoption by customer mean higher sales volumes and costs keep going down. However there is a catch for each S curve.

And that is the limit to improvement on the same technology platform. This has happened in numerous industries where dominant players in one “S” platform refused to jump down to a lower “S” curve. And became extinct.

Why is it so difficult /scary to jump onto a lower “S” curve? No one wants to come down in life by choice. And a lower “S” curve can mean less efficient performance and higher cost. It sometimes means a complete rethink of your revenue model. In the example of the music industry records,cassettes, CD’s were sold in stores and a large number of people found employment just in the sales side of the industry. With streaming music on Spotify and Apple the distribution channel and employees have disappeared.

The music industry, as shown in the image above , is a great example to understand “S” Curves:

  • 1970’s Cassette Tapes: You had workers who specialized on manufacturing cassette tapes, there were specialized suppliers and of course the Sony Walkman that made music cassettes so special. Cassettes came in 60 minutes and then 90 minute formats. Avid listeners (the final consumers) tried getting the 90 minute cassette that must have involved a lot of incremental innovation by suppliers and personnel in the plastic music cassette industry. You can visualize six-sigma and total quality programs at cassette factories, that reduced waste and defects in the product.
  • 1980’s Music CDs :The next “S” curve involved CD’s.. Suddenly you had music on CD’s that improved quality a whole lot and “Sony Discman” became popular as the cassette industry started dying, just as vinyl records had died before that. The CD industry had its own players and supply chain. CD’s went on improving and you could buy rewritable CD’s. Cars had CD players and around 2006-7 had both a Cassette player and a CD player.
  • 1990’s MP3 Player: Next off course you have the MP3 player, iPod and literally thousands of songs on your device and then the iTunes store on the cloud. The MP3 players and cloud also require a new set of employee skills and a differently skilled supply base. This is not shown in the picture.
  • 2007…. iPhone, Music Cloud of Spotify and Apple: As Tom Friedman points out in his book, Thank You For Being Late, 2007 was a tectonic shift year starting with the iPhone. If you work in any part of the music supply chain you need to adapt to the new “S” curve of cloud music. Today’s new cars do not have CD players and will allow you to connect the car audio to your phone. Or your Spotify account.

If you think about each industry, it ignored the march of technology and refused to get started on the next technology “S” curve from the current technology “S” curve. This reluctance was because at the early stages, each new “S” curve looked unattractive from the existing “S” curve.

You see that the dominant players in each technology type became extinct just because they thought that the upcoming technology was too much behind- and will never catch up. And there was a lot of resistance to change from within. By the time the new technology ( second and third curves) became really comparable in performance and cost – the incumbents of older “S” curves were too far behind.

The takeaway for all types of organizations is to have the courage to invest time, energy (more than merely money) at successive “S” curves that seem less attractive today but have the potential to vastly surpass what you offer your market today. About StratoServe.

Is your Value Proposition Authentic?

How to make your value proposition authentic-StratoServe

The Coronavirus pandemic has all types of organizations reviewing their value proposition. Whether you are a bricks business or a clicks business. Because, interactions between employees, employees with clients and suppliers were all affected.

Traditionally, the value proposition has been about what you “tell” the customer.For example, here are 7 Best Value Proposition examples from WordStream. And a comprehensive academic article by Payne,Frow and Eggert (2017) summarizes academic work in the field.

Since marketing is (only) about customer value, it’s important to look at the idea of value proposition and why and how it can be authentic.

Why your value proposition needs to be authentic

Before the Internet and Social Media you needed to have a team dedicated to dealing with public relations. Others in the organization or value chain were not supposed to talk to the press about the brand. There were a large number of journalists employed by media organizations and ad revenue helped fund a variety of stories. Consumers were interviewed by journalists (eg. doing a holiday gift story) – and those comments could become widely available. But this was very rare. Sometimes journalists would put out expanded stories based out of PR releases ( and PR and journalists were two sides of the same coin). Yes in times of a product recall and health concerns the media would be on top of the story following the “if it bleeds then it leads” principle.

The above scenario has changed radically with social media. Now traditional media considers highly popular or viral🙂 social media posts as important sources of building a story. PR departments may become extinct as the recent announcement by Tesla suggests. Similarly advertising is becoming much more in tune with society’s current priorities. Why? Because it’s very easy to find what’s on everyone’s mind from social media and web analytics. Once brands have a sense about what their target market is thinking- they fall in place with their messaging for the brand.

We believe that the word “proposition” has become misleading. It sort of promotes the USP ( Unique Selling Proposition) idea. USP suggests that you say how you are unique and different from the competitor. Value proposition assumes that it is not essential for the back end value partners to buy in to the value proposition. The value chain partners include the distribution channel like retailers and distributors, the organization and all its employees, suppliers and the supply chain.

So how do you make your value proposition authentic? Here are some thoughts: :

How to make your value proposition authentic

Stay with the value proposition with all stakeholders:Truth is simple but mixed messages to different stakeholders is complicated.As pointed out the value proposition is historically a “pre-sales” kind of thing. In fact, many organization from consulting, factory machinery and complex software projects the value proposition is handled by the pre-sales team. And then there is a different team that implements. Everyone has access to social media. This implies that if there is any mismatch between what the company says and does- you can expect to hear about it. More vocally for negative customer experiences. So it makes sense to stay with the truth of what you are promising your customer. It keeps things simple and if you communicate intensely your employees, suppliers, distributors and other stakeholders will hear you. And they will support you. Everyone understands that the B2C customer pays the bills.

Revisit your value proposition often: The company mission statement tends to be diffuse and generally derived from discussions within the company. It tends to be internally focussed. Everyone feels happy after a mission statement exercise but the customer point of view is not front and center. It’s probably better to have the value proposition guide all operations in every product line. And yes, the value proposition should align with your mission statement.Value propositions at the product line level is a good idea. Because, the same group of suppliers, production, distributors. ad agencies are involved. Thus, if you manufacture and market washing machines, it very unlikely that you would have different ad agencies for each model of washing machine. Also most suppliers of components for all the washing machine product line would be common.

Start and End all meetings with the value proposition for the product line: Whether you are meeting your ad agency, market research agency, production folks, suppliers start with referencing the value proposition for the product line. Why? because it reminds everyone of what you are trying to deliver to the customer. And addressing issues become clearer. If you end all meetings with the value proposition- people are likely to think how well a particular decision supports the customer value proposition.

About StratoServe.

Move from Perfection to Excellence

Perfection vs. Excellence- StratoServe

In the Coronavirus age (yes it’s just six months but seems like an age!) there are great challenges and no “re-opening” strategy seems to be perfect. Organizations can just try to do their best (be excellent) instead of trying to be perfect. The virus is invisible and thus it brings the “Excellence vs. Perfection” dilemma into sharp focus.

The “Excellence vs. Perfectionism” is a debate that is prominent in psychology Here is an article from Psychology Today that favors excellence over perfectionism. Brene Brown the “Vulnerability/Shame” guru puts it nicely in her interview with Oprah.

Our parents want us to be perfect, our teachers want us to be perfect, our spouse wants us to be perfect, we want our children to be perfect, at work the boss wants us to be perfect, colleagues want us to be perfect. Even friends want us to be perfect.

Or are these just our perception? If so, it is extremely limiting to our growth as individuals and companies. Here is why:

Excellence has a deadline Perfection is never ending: Think of your own social media behavior. Why do you hesitate to post something? Because you are worried about being judged. Most businesses keep trying to perfect their content and eventually it loses relevance. On the other hand, excellence is an internally focussed metric. You did your best and put it out there. One reason that journalists, TV writers are productive is because their job involves deadline. The show must air! The viewership and ratings may sometimes disappoint but the content is out there. On the other hand academics work on deadlines only for conferences. For journals, academics take a long time trying to perfect their work. The “blind peer review” of academic papers are ruthless and even Nobel Prize winners, as anonymous authors, are not spared ! But then the purpose of academic discourse is to advance science and you write up your research to try and convince your peers.

Excellence is internally focussed Perfection is externally focussed: The motivation for perfectionism is the fear of being criticised. Or the fear of ridicule. In short, “fear” drives perfectionism. Striving for excellence on the other hand, is competing with yourself for quality. If you do reach perfection by your own reckoning there is no room for improvement. You lose a learning orientation. In contrast, when you strive for excellence and do your best, you know that there is scope for improvement. You have a learning orientation.

Excellence has a Learning Orientation -Perfection is already perfect:By definition perfection is perfect! Organizations that have leaders who want “perfection” don’t admit failure or mistakes. Mistakes in anything, to anyone including themselves! This can lead to close mindedness at the organizational level. It goes away from a growth mindset and stops inter-departmental learning and communication. This in turn hinders innovation as this highly cited article by Calantone,Cavusgil and Zhao (2002) explains.

Excellence spurs innovation Perfection hinders innovation. As a striver for excellence you are ready to learn from all and improve. Innovation becomes possible as you are ready to experiment, learn and try again.Perfection is like the end of story. You get stuck on one “S” curve of innovation while new competitors come along with radically improved offerings.

To summarize, it’s far better for organizations and individuals to strive for excellence rather than try to be perfect. We do hope that the pandemic will be behind us soon.

About StratoServe.

Why marketing is about customer value – and not social media

Marketing is about value-Labor Day 2020 -StratoServe

Ask anyone – What is marketing? And you’ll get answers like advertising, social media or mobile marketing. Others, who have taken a formal marketing class, will say 4 P’s (Product, Price, Place, Promotion). This is surprising and at the root of any marketing effort that fails or provides a less than hoped results. And as anyone who has tried to market anything has learnt – marketing results tend to disappoint. Unless, the marketer is razor focussed on the customer and their perceived value.

The American Marketing Association has spent enormous hours in defining marketing. And this definition is in every marketing book starting from high school. And yet…. the confusion…

Why this acute confusion? Here are some thoughts:

Advertising and Social Media are more visible? : Social media is everywhere, all the time. If anyone has lots of social media followers- it’s because they provide value to their audience. Just look at at the “Table of Contents” of any marketing textbook. There is a reason that Advertising and Social Media appears towards the end of the book. The target market,product,price,place all have the value baked in. The last step is promotion which includes social media, and depends on the previous steps. Thus, the advertising agency must truly understand the client industry and domain. When you as a customer do buy something because of an ad, the product must provide you value. If so, you would buy again and recommend it to your friends-often on social media.

Marketing evolved from Sales: Marketing in its “value” form evolved from age old “sales”. In sales, the salesperson tries to sell what he/she has already got to sell. Here the sales mantra is to “sell what is selling”. And denounce what is not selling! More commissions and hailed as a hero, it makes more sense to sell products that have value clarity.

Top sales performers are rainmakers and respected as heroes across the organization. Except when consumers value perception changes…

Recall the famous case of Encyclopedia Britannica in book form that sold door to door. When the PC (personal computer) emerged in the mid 1980″s the customer got a free one compact disk “Grolier encyclopedia.” Folks at the Encyclopedia Britannica realized that the computer was going to change the game. And yet no salesperson could make the $600 commission on a CD. Resistance from the sales force was so high that Britannica was unable to change its business model. The internet was to come over a decade later and then there was Wikipedia and Google.

The consumer is always changing: Effective B2B sales people know about value in marketing. They can understand early in the sales process whether the client sees value in the product offering. Then they spend more time with prospects who are more appreciative of their product’s value.

Driving B2B is B2C. When consumers change, B2C changes and B2B must change as well. Clayton Christensen recounts about the computer disk drive industry. Given a choice consumers would prefer a personal computer that does not occupy a lot of desk space. And that preference drove the preference in B2B supply chain for smaller disk drives. The legacy large disc drive manufacturers became extinct.

There are many examples of changing consumer behavior. A widespread change in young people is that they prefer cell phone text/social media messaging to a phone call. Think of how many times you see young people “talking” on the phone? At the other demographic end are the elderly. It’s astonishing how much people adopted the mobile phone, apps and social media during the Coronavirus pandemic.You may be old and high risk but once you set your mind to it, you can (and do) order groceries through the grocery app!

You can be sure that all the technology enabled processes like apps, family zoom meetings will augment life after COVID.

There always will be some folks who see value in your product

Remember that there will always be some customers who think that your product is of value. And today digital marketing allows you to reach those loyalists online. Thus it is possible for a singer to find a thousand listeners on iTunes or Spotify. The challenge is whether your market is big enough to generate enough revenue for your goals.

We wish our dear readers a very Happy Labor Day weekend in the US. We ask everyone to follow local public safety guidelines. We will soon put the Coronavirus behind us!

About StratoServe.

Direct Mail through USPS -why now?

The heart gladdens to see the USPS van although there might be a few direct mail pieces and some bills.

People are at home. And now that there is agreement that incoming mail and packages don’t bring in the Coronavirus, it’s time to look at dear old direct mail again. And the time is now for all US businesses.

This blog is a strong supporter of the USPS. Because the postal system workers have always been “essential workers” deeply embedded in the community. The Coronavirus pandemic demonstrated the great community service that the postal employees do.

Here is why/how you should consider Direct Mail/Advertising Mail in the pandemic world:

USPS in the news

USPS is in the news for mail in votes in the November US Presidential Elections and here is a BBC story that summarizes the issues. We were delighted to note that there talk of USPS funding of $25 Billion. This will probably help with additional infrastructure that would allow USPS to provide improved delivery times.

As our previous USPS-Direct Mail posts over the years indicate, this seems to be the first time , that everyone realizes the importance of USPS. In the past, before Coronavirus, it was that Direct Mail “is dead.” It was only digital going forward.

Digital Marketing owes a lot to Direct Mail

If you think about it, most digital marketing principles originate in the world of direct mail. The notification alerts for social media, email and messages on your phone grew out of AOL’s famous “You’ve Got Mail” chime. The digital world was trying to capture the anticipation and excitement of new mail. Today there are so many notifications that you need to turn them off. This deluge of digital messages is our argument for another look at direct mail.

Direct mail starts with a prospect with a known mailing address. This data comes in when you ship a purchased item to the individual. Before the digital world you had no way of tracking someone who entered your physical store but did not buy. Now you can remarket to a web visitor because they leave a digital but anonymous footprint on the website. In addition, there is profuse data about individuals browsing behavior that can help narrow down your prospect. For example, if you know that certain sports lovers buy from your e-commerce store, you can target advertising to those sports lovers as they visit sports sites. At the core of all this is the direct marketing mailing list and a history of past purchases.

If you have digital analytic data for your website it is possible to narrow down a mailing list that is pretty effective.

What is the number of direct mailers per day?

In the US about 182 million pieces of mail are delivered every day. Estimated US population of 328 million in 2019 has about 78% adults over 18 or about 256 million adults. By this calculation the average postal mail received is less than two pieces by every person over 18 in the US. Okay some days a household might have more postal mail but it would rare that an individual would get 10 or more letters in a day!

Contrast this with email. People get at over 126 emails a day. That is about a hundred times more than direct mail. We are far more likely to read a direct mail piece than an email. Just the brand hanging around the house for an estimated 17 days is great for the marketer. Some more interesting data on direct mail is here.

To summarize, now is the time for you to try Direct Mail if you had exited that platform. People are at home and adirect mail piece, properly targeted can do wonders for your B2B or BC product.

About StratoServe.

%d bloggers like this: