Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Zero Motorcycles Rocks - How To Create New Fans

The PTA for my my son's elementary school raises over $100,000 a year at their annual auction.  The money goes to fund in-class aides, catch-up reader and math programs, the music program and half the library staff. <insert rant about the sorry state of school funding in California>  This year, Zero Motorcycles played a fabulous part in the auction and they deserve a shout out for it.

The auction is a combination silent auction, live auction, dinner and dancing.  It sucks up all available baby-sitters in a 10-mile radius but is a fun night out so parents can have a night out and raise money for the school.  The silent auction items include parties, wine, gift baskets, services, lessons and the usual stuff from local merchants.  The live auction is for bigger ticket items like weekends in Tahoe, sail boat cruises, four kids riding a fire truck, items made by some of the classes, etc.  The PTA have been doing it for a while and are VERY efficient at it.  Let me know if your PTA is interested and I can put you in touch with some rock star organizers.

Zero is based here in town and like most businesses in the area they get zillions of requests from multiple PTAs and other worthy groups scrabbling for cash.  Zero consented to giving one of their urban-cross bikes at cost for the live auction part of the evening.  Cool.  Someone was going home with a green ride and the school was going to get some more money.

When it came time to sell the bike during the live auction, one of the organizers rode it into the ballroom to great effect.  The only sound was people cheering.  Another organizer got on her cell phone and said that she had a 'phone bidder' on the line.  The bidding went from $1000 to $7000 in a heartbeat and didn't slow down until there were two people left bidding at $11,000 (well over list price).  The person on the phone then announced that she was talking to Zero and Zero said that they would give another bike if both bidders went in at $11,000.  Sold!  Two guys went home happy, the school got double the money and Zero Motorcycles got hundreds of new fans - me included.

It's not so extraordinary that people were willing to pay over list - we can chalk it up to the worthiness of the event and quantities of alcohol.  What's extraordinary is that a business understood its relationship to its community and stepped up in a big way.  My biking days are behind me but it won't stop me from being a rabid evangelist for them.  If you're looking for a bike, check them out.  You'll not only get one of the coolest sets of wheels going, you'll help out a great school.

Key Take-Aways:
  • Fans can come from many sectors - even well outside your buyer persona.
  • What are you doing outside the norm to find and create those fans?
  • Your company's responsibility goes well beyond delighted customers.  Look for ways to create delighted local communities, neighborhoods or schools.  You'll benefit in the long run.
Next Up: Reflections of a Product Camp Newbie

Monday, March 14, 2011

A Tale of Two Companies

This week is about the right way and the wrong way to interact with a prospect.  We recently looked at Rain King for data intelligence and they did an impressive job in dealing with us, especially after a rocky start.  Boris and I went to RSA and I talked with Data Thingies mainly to chat with an old friend there.  The follow up from deep within his company was not impressive at all.

We've been considering sales databases and Rain King was suggested as an option.  (odd name and silly logo but still worth a look).  I took their online challenge and entered a job title on their web site and waited for a response.  Several days passed with no response, then almost a week later I got what I would consider a lead nurturing email talking about this or that - not a response to my challenge.  I sent a grumpygram back to the sender saying I was less than impressed.  Within 5 minutes I got a reply assuring me it was not their normal practice and promising corrective action, which followed in a few minutes.

About an hour later I got an email from their CEO, Bill Kapner, assuring me this was not their standard level of service.  He also followed up later that same day to ensure that I got what I needed.  I did.

Before the demo, the rep, Josh Shaw, contacted me and said he'd checked out our web site and was confident they could help (of course he can, he's the sales guy).  During the demo, he showed that he had indeed done his homework because everything he showed us was in the context of a similar customer: the things they searched, reports they pulled, usage, etc.  It was relevant and the features were directly related to problems we wanted to solve.

We bought two days later.  Executive involvement in the process, fast follow up when they promise it and a rep who takes more than a passing interest in what we do will carry the day every time.

Contrast that with Data Thingies (not their real name):

My company MAY be a potential partner but it's not a priority.  It will take a chat with my friend who works there for us to know the way forward.   He lives in the same city so we will get together on a Friday when he doesn't commute.  No hurry, we'll get to it.

Then comes the follow up email from the inside guy who got the lead list dumped on him.  Yikes!  I would slap myself if I ever sent something this bad.  To whit:

Subject: Next Generation Technology in Sensitive Data Security
"Thank you for taking interest in Data Thingies at the recent RSA Conference in San Francisco.  My name is Fred and I am contacting you on behalf of Data Thingies.  My goal is to present a Next Generation software technology to you and your staff.  We protect large volumes of sensitive data throughout your enterprise database environment."
Boris might think the email subject line is cool but I certainly didn't.  That first paragraph is a corker.  Not only does it not make any sense, why should I care what his goal is, especially when he obviously has no idea what we do our why we'd be interested?  I only opened his email because I was stumped for an idea for this blog and wanted to see how he thought the phrase "next generation" was going to be effective.

Fred then went on to give a description of his whole product line, a quote from Gartner, a link to an interview with a Doctor Somebody and attached a white paper - all on a first contact email.  And all without taking a moment to look at our site to have a CLUE about what we do.

The sad part is his second paragraph had the money line in it:  
"Data Thingies helps companies like Amgen, FaceBook, University of California at Berkeley to fundamentally change the way they secure sensitive data."   
Okay, so he capitalized Facebook wrong but the statement is provocative, tells what they do and elicits the response, "How do you do that?"  That should have been his opening statement with a link to his white paper and a promise to call the day after.

This is clearly an example of Product Marketing not arming their sales team with the right tools - or just not arming them at all.  Fred had to Make Stuff Up (MSU) on his own and went for the cool sounding, everything and the kitchen sink approach.  As Nature abhors a vacuum, Sales abhors a marketing tools vacuum and will MSU so they can at least look like they are trying to make their numbers.  The result will not always be this ugly but if you are a Product Marketer, why take the risk?

And if you are a sales guy, take a moment to look at the web site of the lead so you can at least sound intelligent in your first contact.

Key Takeaways:
  • Following through and doing your research can and does make up for an initial flub.
  • Executive interest in ensuring the UX doesn't hurt, either.
  • Not arming your sales people with the right tools will result in them making up their own stuff - and it's not their fault.
Next Up: Zero Motorcycles Rocks

Monday, March 7, 2011

The 'About Us' Slides Go at the End of the Presentation

I had the 'pleasure' (as in fingers on a chalkboard pleasure) recently of sitting in on a sales webinar from one of the leading providers of web-based CRM applications a few weeks ago. The first 10 minutes were torture - especially since the rep is a successful sales guy I worked with at a previous company.  He dutifully went through the obligatory four About Us slides that every rep has delivered in the first-contact presentations since Boris was just breaking into the industry in the early 80's.  ARRRGGGHHH!!

We already knew everything about their company because we have that Interwebs thingy and could look it up ourselves.  The director of marketing at the company is also a friend of mine and I sent him a flame-o-gram during the session.  He apologized and said he's been fighting that battle for a while.  The company is transititioning from a techy company to a sales and marketing company and he hasn't been able to change many people's behavior yet.  Maybe this will help.

It amazes me how long it takes "Best Practices" to be updated but this is certainly one that needs to be put to bed - NOW!  It's just more MABUSHI and it's insulting.

Back when the norm for making that first presentation involved getting on a plane, the only opportunity a prospect had to learn about your company was your advertising in trade magazines or the brochures you sent them.  Nobody got fired for buying IBM in those days and a whole lot of people made career-limiting-moves by not following that dictum.  The prevailing thought (and origin of the best practice) was to tell everyone who you were right off the bat in the hope of establishing some credibility.  You had to have solid bona fides to get to the second meeting, hence the About Us slides that talk about when you were founded, number of employees, product line card and the made-up list of customers or companies who once bought your stuff or maybe asked to be sent a brochure.

I have news for anyone who thinks they need to start their presentation this way (and that includes you, Boris):
Your prospects have the Internet - that's probably how they found you in the first place!  They can and do look up that info themselves - long before entertaining ANY thought of spending time on a webinar or letting you near their offices - so leave it until the end. 
Why waste their time and tick them off telling them what they already know?

If you want your prospects to pay attention, start your presentation by telling them what you're going to do for them or - even better - tell them what you know about their problems.  Be audacious, so long as you can back it up: "We're going to get you to the RIGHT cloud, faster."  Show them you know as much about them as they do about you.  Richard Fouts of Gartner spoke at a "Marketing to CIOs" seminar a few weeks ago on how to tell a powerful story.  He recommends two models for story telling: SIR and BOBCC.  Talk about the Situation, it's Impact on the company (or the industry) and the Resolution you provided.  You could also talk about Busines Outcomes first, then the Business Case and your Capabilities.  Make it real, make it interesting, make it relevant. Don't make it up.

Once you tell me the audacious story, demonstrated you understand MY problems and have outlined how you will fix my problems, finish off the presentation with the About Us slide (one and ONLY one slide) as a summary of everything you just told me.

Key takeaways:
  • About Us goes at the END of the presentation
  • Start the presentation with a story or a demonstration of your knowledge of the problem.
  • Kill off any other "Best Practices" that only serve to bore your prospects to tears (or worse)
Next Up: How Rain King Did It Right and Data Thingies Did it Wrong.