Do prospects have a clue who your company really is?
Over 55 years ago, specifically in 1958, a powerhouse publishing organization, McGraw-Hill, ran an ad in their magazines that became known as the “Man in the Chair” ad and you’ve probably come across it because it’s become iconic. The ad showed a stern faced, balding, middle-aged executive wearing a bow tie and a brown suit, sitting in an office chair, hands clasped together and looking intently at the reader as if the reader was a salesperson. To the left of his picture were 7 very direct assertions, followed by an even more pointed question:
I don’t know who you are.
I don’t know your company.
I don’t know your company’s product.
I don’t know what your company stands for.
I don’t know your company’s customers.
I don’t know your company’s record.
I don’t know company’s reputation.
Now—what was it you wanted to sell me?
I think it would be safe to say that the importance of being able to address these questions is as important today as it was in 1958. Crazy how things don’t change. And it doesn’t matter if your business is a B2B or B2C marketer. It doesn’t matter if you sell DNA preservation directly to consumers, urns to funeral homes or run a chain of cemeteries, how you create and nurture your reputation in advance of a sales call can make all the difference between success and failure to launch. And one could probably argue that in today’s digital and social media world, it’s maybe even more powerful. (Click on the video at the bottom to see what I mean.) It remains a clear outline of fundamental sales and marketing questions every organization must be able to answer. How your people and marketing efforts address these seven “I don’t know’s” might very well determine if you get the new business…or not.
I don’t know who you are
When was the last time you made a major purchase without knowing anything about the company? Every sale requires a knowledge base or understanding of the brand or the person prior to a sale taking place. Now, however, salespeople spend less time on cold-calling, so that familiarity has to come from somewhere else. What is that “somewhere else” for your organization?
I don’t know your company
Buyer behavior has changed a lot… in even the past five years. The main change is that today, a buyer has practically infinite sources of information. In fact, the buyer probably doesn’t want to talk to the seller or vendor because they’re the least credible source of information. So the buyer goes around and does all their research often without first talking to the seller. And could conceivably talk to many, many sellers before getting around to speaking to you. The implication is that sales opportunities depend on how easy it is for the buyer to find your info and say, “I’ve heard of you.” And the only way you can do that is by producing really amazing, useful, relevant content that a prospect is happy to engage with, happy to consume and happy to share. How strong is your presence in the digital and social media space? How visible are you when your buyer is reading magazines or watching TV?
I don’t know your company’s product
Personal selling is still an important part of having people know something about you, but not in the way it used to be. Word-of-mouth was always important, and it’s ten times easier to get word-of-mouth advice today as a result of the all the online resources available. People want the information right away, and if it’s not available or where they think it should be, they’ll look somewhere else. Another prospective sale — which could have led to numerous repeat sales — goes to a competitor. Your making sure that product features and benefits are clearly known beforehand will be the difference between speaking to a prospect or not.
I don’t know what your company stands for
Whether you call it a USP or value proposition, without it, without a good one, you’re dead! If you can’t very quickly describe what makes you, your service or your company truly special in the eyes of the customer, don’t expect your customer to do it for you. By default, they’ll just put you on the shelf called “commodity” and there you’ll stay. To have a lasting, profitable business, building both brand awareness and credibility is job-one in marketing. After all, it is much easier to open doors when the potential customer inside knows who you are, what you’re about and why you might be a better alternative than the next guy who knocks on the door.
I don’t know your company’s customers
Especially in the funeral business, a word from a satisfied customer counts most. In today’s world, those words show up, both good and bad, with a simple Google search. Today, buyers depend more than ever on word-of-mouth references from people who have used those brands or products – often in the form of online reviews or client testimonials. Think Google reviews, Angie’s List, Buzzillions or Yelp. In fact, according to a the marketing group, ODM, about 90% of consumers trust the word of people they know and 70% of consumers trust the word of people they don’t know. Just look at how we shop online: one of the first things we do is check the customer rating number on the product. And then we typically read the actual customer reviews to see why someone gave that product 1 star and why others gave the same product 5.
I don’t know your company’s record
Letting prospects know your company’s track record is easier today than it used to be. There are channels upon channels – from your website to social media to e-newsletters and email blasts to press releases – that can be used to ensure that the message is delivered in a consistent manner. Buyers want to have some comfort in knowing that you’re a company with a record of achievement and innovation, a company that has won awards for products or service or operation, an organization that’s been around for a while, one who isn’t caught up in multiple lawsuits, etc.
I don’t know your company’s reputation.
We’re talking about your company’s standing…status…character. Things that boil down to “can people trust you?” How will your prospects find out that you do what you say you’ll do? Do you come across as thought leaders in your industry? Is your brand aligned with other organizations that have good reputations? You get the idea. Buyers cast verdicts on reputation with their pocketbooks, withholding business from companies they believe are ethically deficient and rewarding those with positive reputations. And, it doesn’t take long for judgments to spread. Will prospects see a company that values its customers or a company that people have no problem calling out in social media?
Now, what was it you wanted to sell me?
The original “Man in the Chair” ad was published long before Twitter, Facebook, Google, blogs, and digital hangouts. We’re in a new era. We’re all learning new ways to connect with prospects. But as things look like they have changed in the ways that we engage, inform and become known to our markets, the basic message behind the ad is just as relevant today as it ever was. Being visible to our prospects and winning credibility in word and deed is still critical. Today it takes new ways of thinking and new ways of engaging in our markets and conversations as well as reframing some of the old ways that we went about it before.
As we know, sales start before a salesperson makes contact. Times change, markets change, technologies and approaches change…but marketing fundamentals and human nature don’t. What would be said if the next sales conversation your company had, over the phone or even in person, was with “the man in the chair?”
Click on the video and see a comparison of the original “Man in the Chair” with how that would play out in a modernized version for today’s world. It’s eye-opening.
# # # #
Dan Katz is president, creative director of LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Dan on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit www.LAadsMarketing.com. You can also connect with Dan on LinkedIn. See agency work via this link.