Provide value before you take a customers' money. That might seem very contrary to how some sales and marketing people feel, or to the way we are typically compensated. But today's business customer is busy. We are all competing for their time, attention and wallet. So, the question becomes how do you grab the attention of a prospect and keep it all the way through the buying or decision cycle? And keep them year after year. The “consultative” sales methodology is sometimes used as a mechanism to do that…but what can the marketing department do to provide value to a prospect even before the salesperson gets involved and even after the sale is done?
I'm a business buyer, so I asked this of myself. My email, phone (voice and text) are hit constantly for offers to buy marketing tools from email lists, marketing automation, analytics, etc. The ones that get my attention (yes, if any of you are reading this take note), tell me something useful upfront that would be good for my business, which I may not already know, and then offer to help. They don't try to sell me a product. They tell me about a best practice that others are doing in my same vertical for example. That's value. Once they have my business, they continue to provide insight and information that keep me informed about industry trends and how I can keep up (because I'm pretty busy myself). They tell me how I can even get more value out of the investment I've made with them. This is how they make me an advocate.
One of the keys to this is what has been loosely called the “give to get” model. An example of this is something that I did when I was at Symantec and which we are now starting to run here at Parallels. To get more understanding from the prospect, we give them information that would be of use to them. We continue to give them learning tools or information once we capture their initial business -- and they give us back their insight, feedback and recommendations. I've seen this done through different marketing vehicles, such as surveys that provide the survey respondents results that show how they stack up to their peers. With your advocates, the “give to get” model could simply be about giving them the opportunity to tell you what they think. What you get in return are insights to make your product more market ready.
Let's take a recent example of what we are doing at Parallels. The market is seeing a major shift in businesses increased adoption of Macs. This movement of “Macs in the Enterprise” has put pressure on IT professionals to rework their existing compliance policies and support practices. It's not an easy or trivial task. So, to help, we have published a series of papers on what others are doing, reworked our Web pages to be a source of helpful information, created an Apple in the Enterprise blog, and executed a survey to continue to collect information that can be shared later. It doesn't hurt that there is a contest – filling out the survey could win you a MacBook Air. Who doesn't want a Mac with Parallels Desktop software, so they can run Windows without rebooting? The results have been strong: increased SEO ratings, visits, interest, sales leads, and conversion rates.
The key point is that value is delivered through genuine and ongoing engagement.