I’m Pedaling Just as Fast as I can — Why it’s Tough to Hasten Enterprise Buyers in 2012

We have had some conversations with parties who have expressed confidence that enterprise business customers can be pushed forward to buy now (regardless of budgetary constraints) if, in fact, they can be convinced that they have, in fact, a burning need for a product or solution. The rationale is that there are always dollars that can be had within enterprise businesses. We respectfully disagree with this view. Here’s why:

  1. We do not believe that enterprise customers who have to be convinced that they need something are, in fact, reliable customers. We are after customers for whom we can facilitate a purchase decision through a diagnostic process that opens a subject for discussion that, ultimately, the customer walks through to an inevitable conclusion in our favor. In this we agree entirely with Jeff Thull and his approach to The Complex Sale. Of course, if a buyer refuses to participate in the diagnostic process, or fails to move forward on an obvious conclusion, then we will walk away just as fast as any other sales team. Nevertheless, we strongly believe that the biggest pot lies at the end of a diagnostic rainbow with a customer who is 100% convinced that our product is precisely what the organization is after.
  2. Budgets are budgets, take them or leave them. If dollars are not available today, they may be available, appropriately, at a right time within a budget year. It makes no sense to pressure a customer to move now if, in fact, the customer can be trusted to move forward at a later time. The key here, of course, is trust. We think the best way to develop this confidence in the customer is to proceed through an extensive diagnostic process while, at the same time, a mapping exercise is undertaken to ensure that our buyer is precisely the buyer we are after, meaning someone with the authority within the organization to push an order through the system and into our hands. In sum, we err on the side of respecting the budgetary boundaries within which buyers say that they must operate

We think further, that this whole discussion emanates from cash constraints. Why else quibble about the amount of time it takes buyers to move forward? After all, sales is responsible for managing a funnel. The funnel should be kept at an optimum level to feed the troops throughout the entire engagement, not just right now.

The best solution for cash flow, as we see it, in tough markets is to look to online content and, potentially, ecommerce solutions to augment feet on the street and ear to the phone selling efforts. We think that there is lots of action out there in the ecommerce space. We strive to ensure that our customers participate fully in that activity.

If you like our point of view and care to further a discussion, then please contact Ira Michael Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved


A Cohesive and Integrated Direct Marketing Strategy is an Imperative for all Planned Events

One of our client recently subscribed to our recommendation to coordinate email newsletter campaigns with telemarketing outreach. As we have recently written in this blog, we pieced together much of our strategy in this area from Ernan Roman’s “Integrated Direct Marketing” published by NTC. We regret that this useful book has gone out of print. We did manage to obtain a used copy through Amazon and expect that others can do the same. Bottom line: we highly recommend reading this book and implementing the pieces of the strategy that makes sense for one’s business.

Our client enjoys a very high open rate on his email newsletters. He distributes his copy through iContact. When we accessed the receipt data we were amazed at some of the corporate names in the list of recipients. Our amazement arose from the fact that our client had been largely unaware of the important enterprise prospects (and even customers) that receive each of his publications without fail but, nevertheless, remain lurking on the periphery of his business focus. Now, with an added telemarketing follow up within no more than 72 hours of an email open, we are able to add considerable value to his publication by contacting the most important prospects from the group. All contact information is added to our client’s CRM.

We are pleased to say that the ratio of engagement with these leads has been far greater than is the general rule for unsolicited telemarketing outreach programs; therefore, we can confirm the statistics that Ernan Ronan includes in his book, approximately an engagement rate of 15-20% as measured against all outbound calls placed. We carefully scripted our presentation to recipients around a simple “thank you” for their interest in our client’s offering and an offer to field any/all questions that they may have about our client’s market message.

The result has been a bonanza of information. Our contact staff has strictly adhered to a diagnostic approach to the remainder of each of these calls, peppering prospect engagement conversations with many questions which have facilitated collection of invaluable information on our client’s value proposition, market place perception of his products, and areas of enormous potential still untapped but readily accessible. With specific regard to the latter, we identified a government agency with well in excess of 100K staff members where our client’s penetration, to date, has amounted to no more than sales to 20 of these staff members. Thankfully, the 20 customers are quite influential at this government agency, which sheds a favorable light on the likelihood of our client penetrating further into this opportunity. The old story “your best customer is your customer” still holds true.

If you would like to hear further about this success story, then please contact Ira Michael Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved


Diagnostic Sales People are a Rare Breed Strong on Listening Analyzing and Facilitating

If our sales staff is to play the role of diagnostician with our prospects, then we need a team of individuals strong on listening and analyzing and short on oratory and, perhaps, group presentation skills. Further, these individuals should exhibit lots of patience and careful attention to detail. Finally, much like a psychologist, or a therapist who is adept at putting patients at ease, these individuals need to expertly facilitate conversation and information exchange with prospects.

It should be clear, then, that the personality type for sales diagnosticians is far removed from the alpha male or female who takes over a room and bullies a prospect over a finish line to a sale. Of course, both types of sales people — diagnostic and hard sell — share a proclivity for making money, but the way each one goes about getting to the goal is, in fact, radically different.

We like to refer to true diagnostic sales personnel as individuals who have a skill for “playing chess with people.” The worst example of this type of personality will be less than forthcoming, prone to lying. Further, the low end of the employable spectrum for these personalities will exhibit an ability to manipulate others in a self serving manner. On the other hand, the high end of the spectrum on this personality type can produce extraordinary results when armed with well thought out products and prospects that fit a buyer’s profile. In fact, the high end of this spectrum can be trusted to finish the qualification job if the lead development team has not done its job completely.

To an extent this personality type is introverted. Introversion works to be benefit of a facilitation process as this personality type will certainly be responsive to the need to allow prospects the stage to share as much information as they see fit on specific topics.

Nevertheless, when selecting hires, it is recommended to look for a hint of extroversion and leadership. After all, once the diagnostic has been completed, the sales person will have to modulate into a different role, one where he or she can truly lead the prospect forward towards an inevitable decision that should be completely crafted around the product at hand and no other. The best examples of this personality type will have the composure to exercise these skills with care and subtlety.

We have ample experience identifying and recruiting team members for clients based upon targeted types of personality. If you are looking to hire diagnostic sales staff for a complex product, then we would be most interested in speaking with you. Please contact Ira Michael Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved


On the Need for Enterprise Sales Staff to Play the Role of Diagnosticians

In 2012 it is essential that sales planning for IT products and services targeted to enterprise businesses and other large organizations in the public and not-for-profit sectors allocate as much time as required for the compilation of a comprehensive diagnostic report on any/all prospects. As we have written elsewhere in this blog, purchase decisions are now generally much more complicated than heretofore; therefore lots of information needs to be accumulated on each aspect of how a purchase decision might be framed by a typical customer for a specific product or service, or integrated solution. This diagnostic process (we credit Jeff Thull, author of “Mastering the Complex Sale” for coining this phrase) provides sales with an opportunity to facilitate prospect movement along a path towards identifying needs (now commonly referred to as “pain points”).

We characterize many of the prospects with whom we have engaged over the last 2-3 years as “dysfunctional” decision-makers. Dislodging dysfunction is far from an easy task; nevertheless, we have obtained very good results through a thorough analysis of prospects, requirements, etc. By walking prospects through this information fact finding mission we’ve managed to help them clarify what they really need to do about all of the factors that influence a purchase, from budgets, to targeted areas for cost savings, to business units, etc. In the best of cases this process has produced sales. In the worst of cases this process has helped us to manage our time and move along to better opportunities. Regardless of outcome, we can say that this diagnostic process is the optimum way to engage with the type of enterprise prospects for the products and solutions that we have represented.

The complement to this type of purchase decision-making is an entirely online process where prospects identify what they are after, research possible solutions and simply approach vendors for pricing and availability. Typically this type of engagement — simply shopping price and timing a purchase — is characteristic of a commodity purchase; but we have seen this type of purchase occur, this year, with regard to complex intangible solution. The best method of fostering this type of sale is to optimize web sites with Search Engines for the most helpful set of keywords possible. Social media certainly may play a role in prospect decisions for these products, but the subject of how to leverage social media, effectively, to nurture sales, is still in flux.

We are most interested in hearing from innovative tech companies looking to improve sales team performance.

IMB Enterprises, Inc. is most interested in opportunities to work with IT innovators who wish to approach market opportunities with an effective sales strategy. Please contact Ira Michael Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved


Connect IT Systems to Business KPIs to Begin to Understand how Purchase Decisions Arise at Enterprise Business Prospects

Enterprise businesses, large organizations in the public and/or not-for-profit sectors make use of key performance indicators (KPIs), scorecards and data dashboards to, as Dr. Michael Hammer noted in his 2007 article, “The 7 Deadly Sins of Performance Measurement and How to Avoid Them”, to “[design] and [use] metrics to track and improve operating performance.” Oh, if it were only so easy! Dr. Hammer noted in his article that ” . . . there is a widespread consensus that [KPIs, balanced scorecards, data dashboards, etc] measure too much, or too little, or the wrong things, and that, in any event, they don’t use their metrics effectively.” Nevertheless, analyzing operational performance with these tools is a rich area of interest for nearly all businesses and organizations in this class. After all, the search for a means of deriving accurate and useful metrics on business performance that will support predictive modeling is as close as one can likely get to identifying a “search for the holy grail” like endeavor for these prospects. Therefore, top product marketers will keep ears and eyes open when prospects share information about these endeavors.

In fact, IT innovators targeting this class of prospect will do well to study a related comment made by Ms. Carole J. Haney, Process Owner – Process Management and Process Performance, The Boeing Company, Integrated Defense Systems, Rotorcraft Division, Mesa, Arizona, that is included in the MIT Sloan Review Article on Dr. Hammer’s research on this topic. Ms. Haney notes that her group “took an evolutionary step toward a process point of view by implementing ‘shared metrics’ across [their] value stream. Customers are now involved as part of the process team when creating process definition; a process team that comprises cross functions, including the customer, is more readily postured for success.” As we have written elsewhere in this blog, the slow pace of complex sales may be attributable to a dysfunctional decision-making process that is, nevertheless, a real factor for customers. By participating alongside customers within a process of determining needs and solutions (to cure this dysfunction) IT innovators, who can afford the time the process may take, will substantially differentiated their value for the market from their competitors. In fact, and as noted by Jeff Thull in his book “Mastering the Complex Sale,” the final product may be entirely unique and solely available from the IT innovator who spent this time with the prospect.

Analyzing KPIs, balanced scorecards, etc is equally valuable for the indicators that will, in all likelihood, be forthcoming on operations afflicted by “pain points,” as well as business operations that are “bleeding” cash. Of course, these indicators promise very rich returns for relevant products and/or services.

IMB Enterprises, Inc. is interested in opportunities to work with IT innovators who wish to approach market opportunities to collect the type of high level/very high value information characteristic of KPIs, etc. Please contact Ira Michael Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved


How to Skillfully Follow Up Direct Marketing Communications with a Telephone Call

eMail messages sent to lots of recipients at the same time are synonymous with direct marketing communications. We think most of the guidelines for how to implement printed and mailed direct marketing communications hold true for bulk email message campaigns. The difference is that we think much higher numbers of targeted recipients must be reached in order to drive any level of useful response.

Ernan Roman in his book “Integrated Direct Marketing” published by NTC in 1995 contends that an Integrated Direct Marketing (IDM campaign) can deliver anywhere from a 5 to 18% total response rate through the inclusion of a “carefully timed follow up phone call” (p59 of the text). Of course, for direct marketers used to a typical 1/10th of a percent response rate from bulk email messaging, these types of numbers are earth shaking and quite encouraging. The question that invariably arises is how to skillfully coordinate an outbound unsolicited telephone call within a day or two of sending an unsolicited email message. Obviously it benefits neither your business, nor the recipient to intrude in an unwanted manner.

The solution, per Mr. Roman (to which we entirely concur) is to carefully frame the telephone call around a sincere interest to collect any questions that the recipient may have about the information sent. The method of framing the telephone call carefully is to thoroughly script the planned discussion so as to transform an unexpected telephone call into, at best, a helpful contact and, at worst, simply a friendly contact that a recipient can opt to ignore.

The intended outcome of the telephone call, of course, is to stimulate the recipient to engage further with your business in a dialogue specifically focused on the points made in your email message. Therefore, care ought to be taken to carefully construct the email message into the principal communications vehicle for this engagement with the prospect. Any topic targeted for your message and a follow up telephone call has to be implicitly included in the text of your email message. Having your telemarketing effort inject any additional content into the discussion can end up undermining the opportunity to engage with recipients; better to keep the telephone calls carefully scripted around the topics created by the email message.

A carefully orchestrated campaign, as we have sketched out here, will result in good opportunities to nurture conversations along. Some of these conversations will emerge as sales leads. Therefore, the best team to handle the telemarketing effort is your sales team.

If you are contemplating a campaign like the one that we have sketched out here, we’d like to hear about it.

Please contact Ira Michael Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved


Marketing is more than just Marketing Communications

It is important to distinguish marketing activities from simply marketing communications, which is merely one of many marketing functions. Admittedly marketing communications includes all print (electronic or hard copy) promotional materials and, in part, any public presentation of products and/or services (for example business participation in trade shows, conferences, customer conferences, etc). However, the overall product plan (which is usually built by product marketing) usually specifies the resources available to marketing communications as well as the expected deliverables. Finally, the business plan itself sets the terms for product marketing, in other words, the product marketing objectives as well as the resources that will be provisioned to marketing (usually the budget) to attain targeted objectives.

Any so-called lead nurturing activity, as we see it, is a sales function. It is important to understand this distinction. Any activity like “lead nurturing” that is designed to deliver sales for the business, regardless of the length of time that may transpire from first contact to order, is a sales activity. In contrast, marketing communications activities (as a subset of the overall marketing strategy for a business) are designed to ensure that a marketplace recognizes, correctly, an intended presentation of products and/or services. Usually, marketing communications activities are implemented (and cost justified) to deliver specific levels of incoming inquiries from a targeted marketplace. Certainly it is appropriate to hold marketing communications accountable for failing to deliver planned levels of incoming inquiries, or for failing to deliver planned levels of incoming inquiries from representatives of a targeted marketplace. Nevertheless, we do not think it is appropriate to hold marketing communications accountable for legitimate inquiries that require “nurturing.” Inquiries need to be “nurtured” as the result of economic realities in 2012. The team needs to hang in for the long haul on these “nurturing” requirements, as we see it, is sales.

Tech innovators will benefit by keeping these distinctions in mind. Attending to these distinctions, we think, will lead to allocating as much of a businesses resources to product marketing in advance of a marketing communications effort as possible. After all, to follow our distinction along, the product marketing plan constitutes the best possible opportunity that tech innovators targeting enterprise business customers have to do better than the recently reported drop of 50% in the effectiveness of online and offline lead generation efforts from prior years.

IMB Enterprises, Inc. maintains a keen interest in advising tech innovators in how best to maintain distinctions across a range of marketing functions. If you agree with our position and care to discuss your specific needs with us, directly, then please contact Ira Michael Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved


Pharmaceutical Product Managers Could Still Use a Dose of Michael Porter’s Five Forces Competition Theory

We read a blog post by Dr. Jim Anderson, Product Managers Could Learn to Love Lipitor. We were interested to learn the steps that Pfizer has publicized that it will take to protect market share once its patent for Lipitor® expires. According to Dr. Anderson, these steps include:

  1. offering cards directly to current retail customers that will not expire when Pfizer’s patent expires. These cards lower out of pocket co payment expenses for these customers to $4.00 per month
  2. Directly delivering the product to retail customers. In addition, Pfizer will notify retail customers who choose to participate in the program when prescriptions need to be refilled
  3. Negotiating with Health Benefit plans to ensure that the cost of Pfizer’s drug is completely aligned with the cost of generic alternatives

The common theme that runs through each of these three steps, as we see it, is an effort to lower cost for retail customers (only) and improve access (for retail customers only) to this medication. The third step, negotiating with benefit plans, could end up benefiting Pfizer at the expense of benefit plans.

If, in fact, Pfizer has taken these three steps as Dr. Anderson contends, we think they could have done a much better job had they paid some serious attention to Dr. Michael Porter’s Five forces. As long as Pfizer has demonstrated that their production costs are lower for Lipitor than is the case for their competitors and, further, that they can retain profit margin despite keeping retail customer out of pocket costs at no more than $4.00 per month, then the card program works. Ditto for the notification program.

Nevertheless, we think they should have attempted to identify customers using their drug for unexpected conditions with an eye towards identifying higher margin markets which, if developed skillfully, would permit Pfizer to retain present pricing levels despite a pending onslaught of generic competition.

Further, we hope that Pfizer thoroughly briefed its benefit plan partners about its planned three steps well in advance of notifying the public of its plans. All three steps could end up benefiting Pfizer at the expense of its benefit plan partners — not a skillful tactic over the long run. We think that methods of defending Pfizer’s market position could be formulated that would benefit benefit plans as well as Pfizer. These latter methods deserve study in that we don’t think that Pfizer should hastily burn its bridges with benefit plans. After all, benefit plans provide very high volume conduits into the marketplace.

If you are interest in product management approaches and are grappling with products in commodity markets, then we would like to hear from you. Please contact Ira Michael Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved


Telemarketing Calls Deliver More Return as a Follow Up to Marketing Communications

Tech innovators with products and services for complex markets should include telemarketing programs within their sales efforts. But telemarketing campaigns will deliver much higher results when they are initiated subsequent to completion of electronic and/or print marketing communications efforts. Simply placing telemarketing calls from “out of the blue” to unsolicited recipients will deliver substantially less favorable results.

Obviously, the trick is how to obtain addresses for mailings, email blasts, etc. Certainly the best solution for accumulating addresses is to reach out to existing contacts (prospects, customers, industry participants, etc) to collect addresses; there is a stronger likelihood that these “familiar” contacts will be willing to provide addresses. We don’t see much value in purchasing address lists. We think participants in these lists have little “skin in the game” and, therefore, constitute a low probability as regards sales development. Therefore, better to collect addresses through any/all ongoing market outreach activities. Over time a sufficient number of addresses can be accumulated to justify an initial marketing communications campaign.

As Ernan Roman pointed out in “Integrated Direct Marketing”, NTC Publishing, 1995, the telemarketing campaign should commence within 24 to 72 hours of distribution of marketing communications. If your marketing communications effort is an email blast, we think it makes sense for you to use an email delivery service that will provide you with statistics on the number of times your email piece is opened and, even better, by targeted recipient. This type of tracking can be obtained by popular services like Constant Contact or through Outlook Services for Microsoft Office 365. Obviously, telemarketing should reach out to known recipients before working on the larger group of recipients who do not appear to have opened the communications piece.

Where truly opt-in recipient addresses are in short supply, another method of contacting the market is to distribute a press release. There are lots of services presently available in spring, 2012 to distribute press releases. It must be noted, however, that contacting a market through a press release will produce a bunch of contacts from the press, itself. Any sales prospect contact will have to be forthcoming from readers of your press release who opt to reach out to you for contact. These responders will be much fewer in number than participants throughout the rest of the market.

The best use of telemarketing in the aftermath of a press release campaign is to call media contacts who received the press release through the campaign. Once again, time is of the essence. Therefore these reporters, etc. should receive calls no later than 72 hours after your press release has been opened.

If your firm would like to learn more about how to coordinate telemarketing with print marketing communications, then please contact Ira Michael Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved


Social Media Communications will be Adopted by Enterprise Business

Opportunities to publicize products, promote sales and build prospect and customer relationships over electronic media should be exploited by tech innovators marketing products and/or services to enterprise businesses as well as large groups of users in the public and not for profit sectors. In fact, ignore these opportunities at your peril. When this group of buyers needs to purchase a solution they will research markets, and select purchasing options through online activities, including Internet search along with a review of web page content that speaks to their needs. All of this translates into a general tendency to reach out to sales at a later stage in a purchase decision, generally when pricing and availability need to be determined.

We need to presently add “gauging vendor reputation” to the above list. The fact is that social media is playing a significant role in the online behavior of buyers today. Therefore, tech innovators must maintain thorough familiarity with their online reputation as well as with prospect perception of product and services. After all, massive businesses like Dell Computers, HP, etc. have crafted social media features into their online customer support options. We think these companies gain important perspective on just how a marketplace perceives their brand through participation in these venues. Further, we think that certainly, over time, this specific class of buyers — enterprise business and large groups in the public and not for profit sectors — will make even more use of social media. The realities are that successfully implementing an internal Twitter, or FaceBook like online feature will cost substantially less than the cost of hosting legacy user conferences, etc.

These buyers are making the requisite effort to get these online social venues to work. For example, we have learned recently of a coming approval for NewsGator, a social media add on for Microsoft® SharePoint® by a very large asset management firm headquartered here in the United States. This approval is important. The approval demonstrates that even within a heavily regulated business sector like Asset Management, businesses are taking the necessary steps to craft social media into authorized tools. In our opinion the obvious justification for this level of effort is the tremendous cost savings that these firms will realize through implementing a successful social program with their external counterparts, meaning prospects, customers and other industry participants.

We are very interested in this type of development. If your firm would like to learn more about this industry trend, then please contact Ira Michael Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved