when is a hard sales pitch too much?I’ve always felt that if you’re going to educate customers, educate them. If you’re going to sell them, sell them. 

Think of when you’ve been getting what seems like great, impartial advice from a realtor or a mechanic and they slip into selling you something. You know it instantly and you suddenly start doubting everything they’ve said. Not good for the old customer/vendor sales process.

I got to thinking about that when I picked up a cool marketing tool from DZone Inc. out of Cary, N.C., at the recent Red Hat Summit in Boston. The handout was a “Refcard” on “Preparing for Continuous Delivery.” One of more than 150 the company has developed, it looks like one of those glossy two-sided cards you see in bookstores that provide a quick “cheat sheet” on anything from Algebra to European history.

On the “Refcard“ for continuous delivery, the goals include “delivering software more quickly and frequently,” “increasing software quality” and “increased efficiency.” They described prerequisites including “development practices such as automated testing” and “tooling such as source code management.” So far, so good. The presentation looked, as Fox News like to say, “fair and balanced.”

Cheat sheets for algebra, European history and now, continuous development.

Cheat sheets for algebra, European history and now, continuous development.

Then I stumbled on a separate section titled “The Key Building Block of Continuous Delivery: Release Automation.” It said, in part, “the overriding aim should be to increasingly automate away more of the pathway between the developer and the live production environment. Here are some of the major areas you should focus your automation efforts on…”

Get Your Hand Out of my Pocket

That’s when I double-checked the sponsors of the reference card. One was PaaS (platform as a service) provider CloudBees. The other was application release automation vendor XebiaLabs. Bingo!

Yes, automation is important, but giving it such an outsize role in a description of “continuous delivery” tainted, for me, what is otherwise an excellent, in-depth summary of a complex subject. Other sections of the Refcard went into great detail on vendor-neutral topics such as “implementing a deployment pipeline” and how to “capture audit build information.” In such a context, the specific focus on automation stood out all the more.

It also stood out because education is something you do with relatively “top of the funnel” prospects. These are the folks who are just beginning to think about whether they need what you’re selling. They need to know what’s involved in using your product and how it works before getting a hard pitch.

Now a Word from Our Sponsors

In a white paper, of course, after the (relatively) impartial discussion of the subject, it’s perfectly fine to end with something like “We provide an automated intelligent deployment framework that reduces release costs and delays, and supports agile, DevOps and continuous delivery strategies.” But in a white paper, I try to keep this “word from our sponsor” it short, sweet, and contained in one section where it isn’t confused with the higher-minded education.

Now, if I were to include my own pitch here, it would say something like: “I provide clear, concise and powerful white papers, product briefs, case studies and other marketing content for prospects at any stage of the sales cycle. Drop me a line or call at 781 599-3262 if you’d like to learn more.”

So how did I do with my pitch? And do you think DZone went over the line with theirs?

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

Goodbye Marketing Funnel; Hello Marketing Tornado

B2B buying patterns are getting more chaotic and unpredictable – even to the buyers. That makes it more important than ever to track what prospects do, rather than what they tell you, so you can find those who suddenly need your products or services.

Four out of ten B2B buyers had little advance notice of when they would need what they bought, according to a recent survey by the Demand Gen Report and sponsored by marketing automation vendor Act-On Software. It found that 43 percent of the buyers it surveyed who made purchases had no budgets for those purchases at the start of the year.  Thirty percent said they set a budget only after soliciting multiple bids. That makes the question “What is your budget?” one a buyer may not even be able to answer.

The obvious conclusion is that B2B customers are making purchase decisions much more quickly. A customer who tells you they’re not ready to buy – however sincerely – might be a hot prospect months or weeks later. This is especially true for small to medium-sized businesses,” says Act-On Chief Marketing Officer Atri Chatterjee. “Don’t assume that just because they’re not buying now, that decision is fixed.”

To reach and grab prospects caught in this new world:

  • Give them more help than ever making the business case to buy from you. Along with case studies and ROI calculators, spend the time to understand their needs and make a bulletproof purchase case.
  • Prospects themselves often don’t know when they’ll need to buy. Monitor their reading habits to learn when their purchase needs and timetables have changed. (Read how an IT services provider found a latent need in an existing prospect.)
  • If in doubt, share more information with prospects, rather than less – especially when it comes to pricing. Many “may not pick up the phone to call you to find out about your pricing,” says Chatterjee. When they do, they don’t want any surprises.

We all talk about the marketing funnel, an upside down triangle in which buyers enter at the “awareness” stage, with prospects drop out through the education, consideration and evaluation stages before a select few make a purchase at the “bottom” of the funnel.

But in today’s uncertain world the funnel is like a tornado. Prospects spin unpredictably from awareness to evaluation, then back to the awareness if they can’t make the business case or get distracted. The CIO may then fling the organization back into the evaluation or conversion stages overnight if the business suddenly needs (or panics into thinking it needs) a new capability.

Consumer companies know this unpredictable, event-driven process is how we buy everything from junk food to iPads. That’s why they’re always keeping their brand names in front of us. With prospects caught in the marketing tornado, B2B vendors must do the same.

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.