In this episode, we're going to dive into how to get people to see your value; how to get potential clients and existing clients to see the value of your company's products and services, and your company as a whole.
So first we're going to talk about the importance of timing. Then we’ll get into some of the basic parameters of what's important, some of the prerequisites, to get this right -- to better understand not only your value from an internal perspective but your value from the standpoint of your most important clients and potential clients.
We’ll look at the modern buyer's journey and why many companies in South Florida are getting found too late to be relevant.
Then we'll see the critical importance of demonstrating value throughout their buyer's journey and the sales cycle -- and why sometimes a lot of companies are talking about the wrong ideas, the wrong strategy, and the wrong issues at the wrong time -- and they kind of sabotage themselves. This prevents these individuals and companies from really getting compensated for the value that they bring to the table.
When and Where the Value Problem Starts
This whole problem of getting people to see your value actually starts a lot earlier on than you might realize. And it's only been exacerbated, made much far worse, in a world where people really want to take the bull by the horns and control everything -- where they're tired of getting interrupted. They want to be empowered.
Search engines and social media have become a lot more popular. The adoption rate of mobile devices is just insane. You’ve probably heard the stat about how there are more mobile devices in each household than toothbrushes -- which is kind of icky and gross. But if you think about a tablet and a smartphone for each person, smartwatches, smart TVs, cameras, and the Internet of Things (IoT) enabled devices.
Smart cities and self-driving, autonomous cars are only going to make this even more of an issue. There is going to be crazy amounts of data generated by all of these devices in an information technology context.
These changes are providing tremendous empowerment to consumers and businesses -- your prospects and clients. And it's shifting the power away from companies like yours. These are highly disruptive technologies that every CEO in South Florida should be factoring into their future business strategy.
It’s scary. It's disruptive. It's transformational. If you know what you're doing, you can be on the right side of these trends. But if you don't, it can be really frustrating.
Getting people to see your value starts very early on, based on their first impressions of how they come across your business in South Florida.
So to address this, think about
- Your business model -- Think about what you consider your company's true business model to be. What business are you really in?
- Product/market fit -- Think about who your ideal clients are, the products and services they purchase, the price points that they purchase from you at, and how often they repurchase.Or if there's a recurring agreement: the duration of that agreement.
- Your buyer personas -- Think about who your ideal clients are: at least your most important and second most important kinds of clients (your primary and secondary buyer personas).
- Their buyer's journey -- Think about the journey that they go through when they first realize that they have a problem and when they ultimately become a client of your company (hopefully!) or another company similar to yours.
- Your negative buyer personas -- What does a bad fit client look like? When it comes right down to it, you’ve seen dozens of companies just like this one. And the client relationship never works for “X” reason or “Y” reason or whatever it is. You've identified who your bad fit prospect and client is. Maybe they're not in the right geographic area. Maybe their company is too small maybe or too big. Maybe there's something wrong with their business model that’s not compatible with your company’s. Maybe the right kind of person isn't on their team to be successful in working with your team. This is what ends up being a bad fit customer that causes your company to lose a lot of money and gets your team really frustrated. So this kind of prospect needs to be disqualified sooner rather than later. (The clarity that comes from negative buyer personas is a big part of being able to unlock your value.)
No why are negative buyer personas such a big part of getting people to see your real value?
If you're taking input from bad fit clients, and giving it the same weighting as input from good fit clients -- especially your primary or secondary buyer personas, your most important kinds of stakeholders, if you’re equally weighing feedback from bad fit clients and good fit clients, there's going to be a problem.
All of a sudden, people are voting for the future direction of your company’s products and services: what you stand for, how you deliver it, and what makes your company special.
People that are your negative buyer personas shouldn't be getting a vote or a voice in your company’s future.
So make sure your have clarity on who your primary and second buyer personas are -- the most important kinds of clients and stakeholders to your company. And just as important, understand what kinds of prospects may sometimes show up with some interest in working with your company, but may end up being miserable to work with.
Maybe a bad fit client is looking for a much more sophisticated feature set than you currently have or vice versa.
Or maybe the bad fit prospect is a price shopper, and you can't have a rational conversation with that person. It’s like talking to a wall.
Why the Right Timing and the Right Context Matters So Much
So how do you get found by the right people, the right strangers, in the right places, at the right time, and in the right context?
The key: get found by one of your ideal buyer personas while that person is still very early on in the process of finding solutions -- before that person even knows to look for
- A company like yours
- The category that your company exists in
You need to intercept that person at a very early stage, when that person is just starting to express that symptom, ache, or pain. Or conversely, when that person is just starting to realize that there's an opportunity to pursue or a goal to achieve. Again, long before that person knows that a company like yours exists. Long before that person even knows that the category of your company, your business model, or your industry exists.
Get Relevant in the Modern Buyer's Journey
That person is just searching for information -- very much in the Awareness stage. And it's critical that you intercept that person in the Awareness stage because most people, in a digital-first world, are spending a ton of time in the Awareness stage and what comes next, the Consideration stage before most people would be ready to talk with someone from your company.
So you have to figure out a way to be relevant in that early stage -- in that first 60% to 70% of the buyer's journey; the first six or seven Innings of the ball game; the first three-quarters of the football game or the basketball game. Your company has to have a way to be relevant. And one of the most important ways to be relevant, to get people to see your value, is to elevate the positioning of your company from that of a vendor, or just a supplier, to be perceived more as an expert, trusted advisor, guru, or educator.
It’s absolutely critical that you and your company establish that trusted advisor relationship as a subject matter expert. And when you that properly early enough, you're able to influence prospects’ purchase criteria.
The Dangers of Arriving Too Late
We all have to contend with the modern buyer's journey -- unless you’ve come to the conclusion that your ideal clients
- Are terrified of using smartphones
- Would never in a million years look something up on a search engine or use a social media channel
- Would never purchase a smart speaker or use technology that empowers them to look up information on their own
Unless your primary and secondary buyer personas are at least 90 years old, you're going to have to contend with this huge, radical shift in the way that people research and make purchase decisions.
In this kind of context, if you and your company are getting found late, it is an enormous problem because someone else has gotten in there early enough to be the expert at that this prospect is now listening to.
That person or company -- more than likely some kind of competitor of your business -- got in there early and shaped the purchase criteria. This person or company is now highly favored. They’ve stacked the decks in their favor and on their way to shutting your company out, making your company completely invisible and largely irrelevant.
If you got there way too late, it is a big problem.
If just show up in the eighth inning or the ninth Inning, the only way that you're going to derail the game is by playing the price card -- by stooping, going down to the level of price competition. And there's always going to be someone more desperate than you and your company that’s willing to shave a few bucks to chase that down. It’s a sucky position to be in. You don’t want to be in that position.
What can you do to avoid it -- so you don’t put yourself into a situation where it’s nearly impossible to demonstrate your company’s value because you’re boxed into a corner?
It’s absolutely critical that you figure out:
- Who is this person? -- who are the two or three most important kinds of potential clients that you want to attract early on, long before that they know that your company exists. Long before they know that your category of company exists
- What’s driving this person nuts?
- What's keeping this person up at 2 o’clock in the morning?
- What are their biggest challenges and biggest struggles?
- What does this person desire most from a company like yours?
- What does their company look like (If you sell business-to-business (B2B))?
- Who does this person report to? Who reports to this person?
- Where does this person hang out online and offline?
You need to be able to answer those questions to insert yourself into those early-stage conversations as a trusted advisor and help shape the purchase criteria. So it's critical to arrive early enough to have that opportunity.
Otherwise, it's like trying to halt a marriage at the altar. You may see movies like that every once in a while; sometimes comedy movies. Sometimes the movies are dramas where someone is racing to get there because that person is convinced the bride or the groom is making the biggest mistake of their life.
So that person is going to stand up in the back of the chapel and interrupt the wedding ceremony. And it’s going to add a tremendous amount of sometimes comedy, usually drama to the whole situation.
Do you really want to play that game with your business and your sales cycle? Is that really how your company is going to demonstrate its value?
Isn't it a lot easier to get there early enough, so your company is the one that prospects fall in love with -- and you’re not trying to derail these nearly consummated relationships in the bottom of the ninth inning?
How to Demonstrate Value Early and Often
To do this effectively, your company needs to be able to demonstrate its value, in a contextually relevant way, throughout the entire buyer's journey.
Besides having a different approach at the three stages of the buyer's journey (Awareness, Consideration, and Decision), you also need a different approach depending on who they are.
If you sell to accounting firms -- and more specifically, a senior partner in an accounting firm with 10 to 25 employees, that's a very different value proposition than selling to the CFO of a financial services company with 10,000 employees.
So you need to know who they are and where they are in the buyer's journey -- because you have three different stages to contend with, that you need to demonstrate value in:
- Awareness -- How you demonstrate value needs to line up with prospects experiencing and expressing symptoms of a problem, challenge, or struggle. Or they’re looking for information about an opportunity or goal that they're trying to achieve. If you want the easiest way for people to see your company's value, to stack the decks in your favor and help shape that purchase criteria, to be perceived as the experts, educators, and trusted advisors, you need to intercept prospects during the Awareness stage. You need to prospects to find your company in the right context when they’re looking for this kind of information.
- Consideration -- If we can’t arrive in the first few innings, during the Awareness stage, the next best place to get found is in the Consideration stage, This is the middle of the game. Think about the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth innings. You show up an hour late to the game. Maybe your buddy catches you up on what you missed. Maybe you catch the recap on your smartphone’s app. But you missed some key things. You missed the opportunity to get there early enough to shape all of the criteria, but at least you’re there at the point where prospects are starting to compare their different options. During the Consideration stage, prospects have been clearly defined and given a name to their problem, opportunity, or goal. Being relevant in the Consideration stage, in the middle of the buyer's journey, is critical to shaping how prospects compare their different options. Again, you ideally need to get found during the Awareness stage. If you have to settle for the consolation prize, you’re certainly better off arriving during the Consideration stage than not at all or only in the Decision stage.
- Decision -- If you and your company are only first getting found during the Decision stage, it’s largely too late. The prospect has already decided on their solution strategy, method, or approach. Why have they already decided on their solution, method, or approach? Because someone else -- more than likely a competitor of yours -- got in there early enough when that prospect was just starting to show Awareness or just starting to consider their different options. If your company was fortunate enough, if it had the foresight, execution, strategy, and plan, to get there during the Awareness and Consideration stage, you’re sitting pretty -- really happy right now. But if you and your company are only arriving during the Decision stage, the decks are now very heavily stacked up against you and your company. In this kind of adversarial environment, talking with that prospect may feel like you’re talking to a wall. The only thing, again, that can derail your competitor’s home run -- from the option that this prospect has already fallen in love with -- is for your company to aggressively undercut on price. At this stage, the influencer or decision maker has picked their preferred option. So they’re just going through the motions to get three or five quotes or bids because their investors or board of directors is making them. So your company is quote number three or four. Your company completely don't matter. Your company is just there to bolster the support of what they already want to do. You're just wasting your time and burning your company’s resources -- which is a really crappy place to be if you're trying to get people to see your value.
Big Picture Strategy for Building Up Your Value
Differentiation -- To do this the right way: if your company in South Florida is trying to get people to see your value, think long and hard about differentiation: what makes you stand out from the pack.
Thought Leadership -- It’s also critical that your clients and potential clients see you and your company as the definitive experts on what your products and services are all about. Usually, the way to do this: package this up into some kind of educational resources and thought leadership.
Competitive Positioning -- Along the same lines, be very realistic about you or your company not being the only option that's in front of clients and potential clients. There's competition. And in a digital-first world, you're not just competing against the obvious competitors that you bump into at the bottom of the sales funnel. Search engines and social media empowers competitors in faraway places; competitors that are much smaller or larger than your company. Plus competitors that may not even have the same business model as your company are now perceived as competitors.
- Your direct competitors are more than likely companies that operate in the same geographic market as your company -- perhaps right in South Florida -- and are similar in size to your company.
- Your indirect competitors may be in a different geographic market, but the Internet now all of a sudden makes them accessible as credible competition. These indirect competitors may also be considerably smaller or larger than your company. So with indirect competitors, you know in the back of your mind that there’s some damaging criteria that you could introduce to prospects that would damage their appeal to someone that’s a good fit client, one of your ideal buyer personas. But that company is nevertheless a competitor even though that company is an indirect competitor.
- There are also non-business model competitors. In a world where everyone is racing to attract the right strangers, in the right places, at the right time, and in the right context, there will be other kinds of businesses and organizations that create content around topics that matter to your buyer personas. But these competitors will have completely different business models.
Take for example an IT security company that specializes in cybersecurity. So this company publishes a white paper for CFOs of insurance companies. But guess? The local newspaper or business journal has been contracted by a Fortune 1000 management consulting firm to create and promote a white paper on largely the same topic.
The cybersecurity company is certainly not in the business of publishing a newspaper or business journal. But the cybersecurity company is now in competition for the same eyeballs. Regardless of whether this is
- Organic competition -- getting found in organic search results on Google or Bing
- Competition to get found on social media
- Auction-based online advertising where you’re bidding on a cost-per-click (CPC) or pay-per-click (PPC) basis with Google AdWords, Facebook advertising, or LinkedIn advertising
That local cybersecurity company, with ten employees, is now in direct competition for attracting attention from the same exact audience -- and will be dueling with the publishing company and its Fortune 1000 management consulting client’s six-figure monthly online advertising budget.
So in the race to get found early by the right buyer personas, the definition of competitive positioning has even changed quite a bit.
Sales Cycle Acceleration -- Think about what you can do when you understand the buyer's journey and the buyer personas well enough that you know the next question that they’re always going to ask. By proactively addressing that next question, moving from the Awareness to the Consideration stage -- and then the Consideration stage to the Decision stage, by feeding the answers to their presumed questions proactively -- when it’s contextually relevant -- you can do wonders to accelerate the sales cycle.
Revenue Growth -- Everything needs to be grounded in the reality that all of these efforts should support scalable, profitable, and predictable revenue growth. This is where you need to use closed-loop reporting, so you know exactly which marketing activities in the top, middle, bottom of the sales funnel -- the beginning, middle, and end of the buyer's journey -- are positively influencing your ability to find your ideal clients. This needs to be a very data-backed approach, so you have answers to these questions. So you’ll know over time how to make your plans and strategy a lot smarter and a lot more effective.
The Bottom Line on Getting People to See Your Value
Think long and hard about
- What your differentiation is
- The kind of thought leadership that you’re publishing and promoting
- How you’re going to position your company against direct, indirect, and non-business model competition
- What you can do to better understand the buyer's journey for each buyer persona to accelerate the sales cycle -- you can close sales faster on your own terms having to concede terms that you don't want to concede
- Scalable, profitable, and predictable revenue growth with the kinds of clients that your company wants
This brings us back full circle to defining who those ideal clients are.
In this episode, we’ve been talking all about how the problem of getting people to see your value starts very early on -- certainly a lot earlier than most people realize. We looked at why it’s so important to understand your business model, product/market fit, buyer personas, their buyer's journey, and negative buyer personas -- who is not a good fit and whose input can get you off track.
We discussed the critical importance of getting found at the right time and in the right context, so your company is found early enough to be seen as trusted advisor and educator while prospects are thinking about foundational issues.
We talked about how the modern buyer’s journey really shifts power into the hands of your buyers -- and takes that power away from you and your company. If you don’t know what to do in this situation, it can become a huge problem that can disrupt and even threaten the survival of your company. Look at what's going on in certain industries --- retail, publishing, and travel have been completely blindsided by all of this.
Make sure that your company can demonstrate its value throughout the entire buyer's journey -- and that you’re thought about what's relevant when prospects are in the Awareness, Consideration, and Decision stages. Don't get ahead of yourself because you really need to get to prospects with your content in the right order, with the right information, which builds the foundation the right way.
So again this is all about what you can do to get your clients and potential clients to see your company's true value.
I'm so glad you have had you with us for this episode of the South Florida CEO Podcast.
I am Joshua Feinberg, and we look forward to seeing you back again next time.
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