Sunday, 16 February 2014

Guest post: How to ensure AR programmes deliver to the bottom line - part three

The third of my guest posts, courtesy of Eria Odhuba, a founder member of The Comms Crowd and our resident analyst relations guru:

In part one of this series, we looked at the reasons AR programs fail and what you need to do before speaking to analysts. In the second part we provided some metrics you should consider measuring and a few questions you need to think about to maximise the impact AR has on your marketing. And in this final part, we look at how to integrate your good work with analysts and your wider marketing activities, ensuring everything feeds into your overall business objectives...

Do people REALLY know what they will get from the description of your products or services?

Your problem: If you only offer services, this can be one of the hardest things to do correctly. How do you convince prospects to buy from you if it takes time to realise any major benefits? Are you confident that the way you have named or packaged what you sell clearly articulates the benefits that clients would get if they bought from you? If prospects don’t know what benefits they get from what is on offer, then price is all they’ll use to make purchase decisions. 
The impact on your bottom line is huge if your competitors package themselves much better than you do. Quite often, poor product packaging happens when marketing and sales teams don’t interact effectively. 

How analysts can help: Analysts can provide guidance regarding product or service packaging as part of wider marketing efforts. Their unique insight into the various strategies used by competitors, means they can help build services around your unique perceived benefits (UPBs). They can also show you how to break services down into logical processes that are easy to follow and which, more importantly, clearly show what prospects will get.

Do you know your customers’ lifecycles and do you change the way you provide value to them over time?

A customer lifecycle is the journey someone makes from the initial discovery of your products / services to being a client. It is important to understand lifecycles so that you manage client relationships effectively and tailor your messages or services accordingly. 

Your problem: Marketers, therefore, always need to answer the following questions so that they add value to each stage of a customer lifecycle: What factors influence initial purchase decisions within specific niches? What do competitors offer? What end results do clients actually desire? What are the market / technology changes that impact the continued use, or upgrade, of specific technologies or services? Without this information, marketers will struggle to effectively manage each step of a typical customer lifecycle. For example, think of companies that have simply tried to renew contracts or upsell additional services without tracking client needs properly. Tales of woe after deals have been signed are common, and a lot of this is down to the inability to manage the various stages of customer or partner lifecycles effectively. When you are fighting day-to-day battles and trying to get quick wins to justify marketing budgets, it can be hard to step back and have a big picture view of whole lifecycles and the different engagement methods necessary to nurture early prospects or long-term clients. Getting independent feedback on how best to do so might not be something you have considered.

How analysts can help: Analysts, especially those that have a good knowledge of licensing and contracts, can provide independent advice to companies to help them manage customer lifecycles better. Of course, the products and/or services you provide have to be spot on in the first place. However, given the fact that there is almost always an alternative choice that could be made, marketers should use industry analysts to stop customers getting fed up and looking elsewhere because their continually changing needs are not being met.


Are you using the right traditional and social media channels to communicate?

Every marketer knows they have to communicate through the media channels that their prospects and clients use to look for information.

Your problem: Whatever media channel you use to generate leads, solidify thought leadership or remain top of clients’ minds, you need to know which ones the analysts use to share information. For example, you need to know whether you potentially lost a deal because of comments made by an analyst via a blog or online forum. The problem here for marketers is the perceived loss of control and the lack of resources to do this effectively. It can be tough to justify the time and effort given the tight budgets many marketing departments have. It all comes back to the feedback you collected from clients and prospects (see part 1 of the series).

How analysts can help: If prospects / clients are influenced by specific channels that analysts also use, then you need to make sure you engage with the analysts via the same channels (on top of regular briefings) so that you can positively influence their output. Commenting on their blogs and participating in discussions helps you understand the frustrations analysts have with technology vendors. It also means you engage with them more effectively and, hopefully, can convert them into advocates. 

In conclusion

AR is often seen as an add-on to marketing and PR activities that is hard to measure and whose budget is hard to defend. It can be tough to stick your neck out and plan long-term engagements when we are all judged on quick wins. 

But, trust is a hard thing to come by now, and we are pretty cynical about most of the content and claims from many technology companies. Engaging wth analysts, earning ther respect and winning their support can deliver the esssential credibility factor into the marketing mix.


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Post script: These three AR posts have proved pretty popular. So we've put them together, ripped out the fluff, given it a bit of structure and turned them into a whitepaper, which you are welcome to download here:




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