PLAJust today, I was doing some client work and wanted to check out the competition for a search – so I typed in a search “canon sx30 is“. And I was expecting a typical set of PLAs – 8 or 16 all from merchants I never heard of…but I have never seen a single pane PLA. (If this is old news, then please forgive me.) But this was one of the most high-impact presentations for a search result that I have seen. Google’s foray into Schema.org data to identify products and then mixing that with the power of PLAs is great. I feel sorry for all CSEs out there. This just kills your business.

The Knowledge graph explosion has been pretty incredible too – especially in the world of books. Title and author searches lead you into the world of Google books – do a search for “italo calvino” and see what you would rather click on – 10 blue links or the gorgeous Knowledge graph entry?

As a consumer, I love this – Google is aggregating information and giving it to me so I can make an informed click. As a marketer, it feels, a little bit, like Google is trying to keep my traffic rather than refer it to me. Wasn’t that the point? That Google finds everything and tells you where to go? Know, they are telling you what you want to know without you having to experience the site that has given them the information that they are serving you.

I am loving and hating this. You?

Here is a snippet of an article I wrote for FounderDating:

“Everyone who’s ever taken a shower has an idea. It’s the person who gets out of the shower, dries off and does something about it who makes a difference.” -Nolan Bushnell

I have started a small handful of companies–some successful (SpinShark – sold to PM Digital), some not (The Kilroy Group crashed and burned so hard they brought in FEMA). And the start is always exciting. You are full of ideas, opportunity, visions and dreams.  But then the work

Adchemix, my current company, started innocently enough in the shower. I was in the midst of one of those deep-thought reveries, chewing through problems that I wanted to solve, enshrouded in steam and hot water. And then the solution hit me. It was electric. I ran out of the shower, soaking wet, and started writing down my explosion of insight. For some other founder, that might be the start of an amazing overnight success story. But, truth be told, that shower was nearly 3 years ago. (And  I have taken other showers since, but few have been as exhilarating)… Read the Rest at Founder Dating

I have been crazed this summer. Adchemix, my new company, has started down a fun path, and it has taken up all of my mental energy. But, there is stuff on my mind as the first chilly day of fall arrives, in no particular order:

  1. The Red Sox: In December, I pegged them for 5th place in the AL East. Who woulda thunk that they’d be at the top of the AL East? I guess this why I always get crushed in fantasy baseball.

     

  2. Syria: The New Yorker nailed the complexity of my feelings about Syria. WaPo totally put the morass in context. And speaking of ass – Ed Markey voting “present” makes him seem like an ass. And the Repulicans continue their assery – Obama can’t do anything without congressional approval, but Congress stays on their summer break. And then complain he isn’t moving fast enough. Seriously, WTF?
  3. Congress: I simply can’t get over how broken congress is. The partisan BS is just killing the progress this country is trying to make. Syria sucks and it is hard, but we have got to decide what we are doing. The president can’t be right and wrong, and Congress shouldn’t demand to be involved, agree to what the President has suggested and kill him for it. This is passive aggressive behavior at its best (or worst).
  4. Congress 2: The debt ceiling is here again. This is such a simple issue. We can’t spend and save at the same time. The sequestration was supposed to be the poison pill that stopped this nonsense. Great. We’ve had the sequester and nothing happened. Get off your asses and compromise. Find a way. Stop grandstanding and get to the work that you were elected to do. The debt ceiling is NOT a zero sum game. Everybody can win (from a political standpoint.) Inaction that grinds the country to a halt makes it more difficult for us to move forward because our credit rating is dinged, and makes it difficult for us to have the international authority that we want. Our credibility is compromised because we can’t agree on our checkbook. That is really cutting off your nose to spite your face.
  5. Books: Salinger looks salacious. Zealot looks interesting, too. And for fun, I am reading Rob Sheffield‘s Turn Around Bright Eyes – a fun ditty about mourning, love and karaoke. Totally worth the time. (By the way, all of the book links point at Bookish.com. They are a client. They are doing awesome stuff in the world of books. They are, in all the right ways, the anti-Amazon for books. They aren’t selling books because they think they can disrupt something. They sell books because they LOVE them. It’s different.)
  6. Retail: My company spends a lot of time thinking about large-scale search for retailers. So we have a good look at what is happening in the economy as represented by retail sales. Here is what we are seeing: a) Online sales are up double digits, store sales flat to up a few percentage points b) Online budgets are taking away from print in a big way – more bad news for newspapers and magazines c) People are spending more – in our look at things, average order values are up 10-12% – significantly more that the rate of inflation
  7. Music: I had some small part in helping birth OMusic, an upstart Indian music service that allows for streaming or local playback. If you have an Android device, check out the OMusic application. Some of the music is just awesome. Congratulations to Parijat Shah and his team. They have worked incredibly hard and done amazing things on a shoestring budget. I wish you every success! On other musical notes, I have spent a crazy amount of time listening to X – See How We Are and I miss my cassette of “Introducing John Doe” that I listened to incessantly in 1990 and I can’t find a digital version anywhere – any ideas?

I had the pleasure of working with Kevin Chan, and know the team at BloomReach really well. They are a terrific fit and I wish them all the very best of success!

BloomReach Completes Acqui-Hire of E-commerce Startup ShopLogic (via PR Newswire)

CEO Kevin Chan and CTO Dennis Maskevich Bring Ad Technology Expertise to Big Data Marketing Leader Download image BloomReach. (PRNewsFoto/BloomReach) MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., May 30, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — BloomReach, creators of the first big-data marketing applications, today announced the acqui-hiring…

Read more…

My wife has an analog habit that she never wants to break. You see, she likes to get the Sunday New York Times and read it. You know, ink on paper. I suspect that the real thing is Sunday mornings are just about the only time that is remotely quiet in our house, and the newspaper makes a wonderful companion to hot french press coffee. The ritual of the Sunday paper is awesome.

And here I am – Mr. ADHD and Mr. Digital – I like it when things are flashy and blinky. I like the internet. I like the busy, I like the constant, I like the now. The newspaper, well that was printed last night, and honestly by the time it hits our doorstep, it is old news. But there is one thing that draws me to the Sunday paper, especially the NYT, and it is the ads. Print ads are wonderful. They are sensuous, even the all text ones, they are stately, they are composed. And they draw me in and capture me in a way that the digital advertisements that surround the rest of my life never do.

Perhaps it is because for the advertiser, the printed page really is a blank canvas. There are no limitations to what you can express other than maximum size and minimum legibility. In the digital world, there are limitations like text character limits, image size limits, file size limits. It seems to me, as a marketer, that print is like the luxury form of marketing.

But as a consumer, the print advertising, although wonderfully delicious to behold, is hardly relevant to me. Unlike the web, where everyone rushes to make the right impression on me at the right time, print has no idea who the f*@# I am. And to some extent, I hate that. For the magazines that I subscribe to (Inc., Fact Company) I am starting to resent the intrusion of ads that aren’t relevant to me. These publications know where I live. They know how long I have lived there. They know how I engage with them digitally. They have an enormous trove of online and offline information about me. I would suspect that only my iPhone, in-car GPS, and debit cards know more about me. So why don’t these publishers leverage what they know about me an make their advertising programmatic. As online publishers know, programmatic buying can improve yields on pageviews. Perhaps print players could keep some spots available for personalized ads. I know that I did some very sophisticated print of demand stuff for direct mail 10 years ago – could it be time for large scale print operations to move away from a 100% premium (and potentially irrelevant) ad model to a mix of premium and ads printed just for me? After all, the newspaper delivery gets the paper to my house, I invited it there. What advertiser wouldn’t to be part of that platform and provide me with relevant advertising in its most luxurious form. Ad think of the ad sales opportunities – print, digital and personal – all in one.

Could this be the thing to make print relevant? Is relevant advertising an opportunity for success?

Amazon Frown

It is Amazon 4Q earnings day. Normally this is a day of both joy and despair. The e-commerce community revels in the sheer scale of Amazon’s revenues, thinking that they can capture some fraction of that. Amazon is ongoing proof that e-commerce is a rocketship. At the same time, there is despair because at the bottom line of the earnings report, there is marvelously little left over. Profits, when there are any, are minuscule.

But Amazon, when it’s results come today, will surely show that it won the holiday. Amazon is simply killing it in e-commerce. The world’s e-commerce poster children, like Fab.com, and Wayfair, and One Kings Lane, in aggregate, do less annually than Amazon does monthly. (In 2011, Amazon did something like $4b in sales a month. Good luck catching that any time soon.)

The question remains, however, is why anybody else even tries? Amazon has nailed the logistics of e-commerce. They have nailed the essence of customer service. They have nailed the ease of payment thing. They offer added services that make it hard to want to shop other places (Prime, Video, Music).

So, why do we even try to compete?

The answer is really simple. Amazon sucks at telling stories. When you buy a suit, you want to see how you might look. When you buy a couch, you want to imagine how your room will look. When you buy a toy, you want to see the wonder in your kids eyes. In its essence, Amazon has come as close as anyone to perfecting the transaction engine. And Amazon is great for making refinements to your purchase process. You can find alternatives to what you want to buy, or options, or what have you. But Amazon is simply too big to endorse. And unless the shopper is really a buyer (namely, someone who is in the transaction zone rather than the discovery zone), Amazon is a hugely overwhelming place with no sense of context.

Amazon has everything, so they have no idea what you want.

That is why the rest of us try. That is why the rest of us can make more profit on a dollar of revenue. Because we share the human element of story and context that allows us to help you discover what you want. Shopping – the discovery part – is fun and social and engaging and somehow elemental to our societal experience. After all, here in America, we’ve built thousands of shopping malls to give us the opportunity to shop socially and collaboratively. Window displays work because they help discover. Glossy print ads create desire. Believe me, I am not bullish on the prospects for most real-world retailers, and while I am an Amazon fan, Amazon does retail a disservice because of it’s mastery of the narrow end of the funnel.

Shopping and selling are fun. There is joy in the discovery of the right sweater for you. There is little joy in deciding amongst 25 versions of a yellow sweater from 60 different sellers. Customers want to have romance, and curation, and serendipity and joy in their purchase experience. And those things don’t have to happen in a store. They can happen on your website. They can happen in your e-mails. They can happen in your display advertising.

Don’t chase Amazon at its strengths. You will never be able to do Amazon Prime. Attack it at its weakest point – the essential human activity of storytelling.

I spend a lot of time thinking about growth. I help companies generate more traffic, generate more leads. I spend my days thinking about scale, share of voice, acceleration. I have worked in search, in display, in mobile, brand advertising, direct response advertising. I’ve been around the block a couple of dozen times. Someone that I was working with looked at the plans that we were putting together, and he said, “OK, so what do we do with all the traffic we are going to get?”

 

Nobody ever asks that question.

 

For many companies, how to treat your visitors is an entirely separate exercise from getting visitors. There are “Acquisition Managers” and “Site Experience Engineers” and “Director of Low Intent Consumer Engagement” (that is a real title, by the way). Each of these chops up the consumer experience into silos. But customers don’t perceive your efforts that way. Acquisition and engagement are part of a continuum for consumers.

 

So, as my client and I started to talk about ways to engage the new visitors that we were starting to drive. He immediately jumped to reviews as a method of engagement (and I can also share that they have a measurable impact on search engine visibility). And I think when I was an SEO guy, I would have stopped the conversation right there and dialed up PowerReviews. But my experience as a CMO of a $200mm fashion retailer tells me a different story. We had product level reviews on many of our 20,000 products. The SEO boost from those reviews was 1-2%. But we were redesigning our pages and were trying for simpler. So we started doing some multi-variate testing of the new page design. Amongst other things, on the new page, there were no reviews. At the end of the testing, we saw a meaningful difference in conversion on the cleaner page. And when we did all the math, removing the reviews resulted in about a 9% increase in conversion.

 

I, to put it mildly. was shocked. How could this be? Reviews are supposed to add the texture and nuance that drives consumer trust and conversion. In our case, it was the exact opposite. Why?

 

Our brand already had a high degree of trust with our consumers. We were the authority in our space. This is where math fails a little bit, because we couldn’t do a sophisticated sentiment analysis, but it was our opinion that reviews are too subjective. Products got bad reviews because they didn’t fit, or the color was not as expected, or the shipping was too expensive. Reviews tended to be experientially-based rather than product-based regardless of how they are written. And reviews are written by two kinds of folks – those with an axe to grind or those who are cheerleaders. And to be honest, neither is unbiased.

 

So, I started to reflect on my other experiences in online retail over the last two decades, and at the largest online furniture retailer, we tried to improve the customer experience by adding all of the product specific Q&A from our customer service department to the product page. We had questions like “How heavy is this item?”, “Will it fit through my door?”, “What is the seat depth?”. These aren’t sexy questions. But we saw real conversion lift with this tactic. But my client doesn’t have 200 call center employees with reams of data at their fingertips. What he does have is 7 years of customers who have experience with his product.  They know the facts about his products. And by shaping the information that is asked for from those consumers by making them specific questions about the product (“Will it fit in a space X by Y?”, “Does it work in Europe?”, “How long is it from shoulder to cuff?”) it removes the subjective nature of experience into objective fact distillation.

 

It is the answers to questions that make you want to buy. It is the product as solution that justifies the purchase (honestly, shopping online isn’t all that much fun, so if you end up on a product page, the impulse to buy is probably pretty high). UGC does make me want to buy the product. It is the information that removes the reservation. But why doesn’t that work in the review space? Frankly, the review justifies what you want to hear. If you have enough reservations, inevitably, you will gravitate towards those reviews that make it easy to walk away. If you want to make the purchase, you will, of course, focus on the positive reviews. Product reviews can be self-reinforcing events. The cheerleaders hang out with the cheerleaders, and the axe-grinders hang out with the axe-grinders. Reviews are a self-reflexive lens.

 

I’ll share a personal holiday shopping anecdote – I bought a Chromebook for my kids for Christmas (shhhh…don’t tell them). I read a million reviews and they were all positive…but too high-level. I don’t actually care about processor power or inane memory specs, those things that professional reviewers care about. And the product reviews definitely fell into the “GOOGLE ROCKS – The Chromebook is the end of Apple!” or the “It isn’t as good as Windows because you can’t install a faster graphics chip, who would buy this….” And, truthfully, those reviews were just noise. I had one simple question – is there something like Skype for the Chromebook? That is what I needed to know. That was my point of reservation. I travel a lot, and I love to video chat with my kids while I am away. It is meaningful to me and them. So I asked that question on a product forum (NOT on the product page, mind you, but rather a forum that I had to search for…). As it turns out, it doesn’t do Skype, but someone was nice enough to tell me that you can do a private Google Hangout, and someone else told me that Skype was actively working on a browser only plug-in, so there would no need to download a client. These were objective answers to my objective question. And that single bit of information that was relevant to me, when answered, made the purchase decision simple.

 

Consumers are looking for information, not opinion. Decision purchases are made on rationalized facts, not influence. Passion and emotion run high on the engagement end of things (Do I like the site? Is this a good price? Is my credit card safe? Will my friends laugh at me for buying this?) All of that happens before the decision to buy. What drives the “Add to Cart” button click is information that helps me make the decision.

 

And just like Detective Joe Friday, we all really just want the facts, ma’am.

 

This post was originally published on the Turn To Networks blog – they do Social Q&A like none other.

Just today, Google announced the appearance of WYSIWYG microformats and RDF implementation. This lets you take webpages with dates and events on them, and mark them up as structured data that Google can better understand. This is a really elegant solution, to a really, really difficult problem. You see, Google has been getting better and better and better at identifying text on pages. It understands a lot of structured data without any help. For instance, when I was at Karmaloop.com, we were a search mess. Because of some long-standing tech limitations, our website had global page titles and meta-tags. When I started in search, page titles and metadata were crucial to Google understanding the content of your pages.  But over time,  Google has gotten better and better at truly understanding what is on the page without those signposts. Today, perhaps because of the development of low-level semantic elements, or perhaps just a decade of experience, Google doesn’t need anything quite so basic as page titles and meta-data to help it parse the meaning of the page. Google can now use things like context, site type, and structure to understand what’s on the page. Karmaloop is a traditional retail site. There was nothing complicated about it. It had a well-defined taxonomy, a well-defined navigation, and that made it easy for Google to understand it. It flowed from category page, to child pages, namely, products in that category.  Because of this facility and ability to recognize a retail taxonomy, Google understood, to a large extent, what was happening on the site. Consequently, we still saw about 15% of our total traffic coming from non-branded keywords. So even without the traditional signposts that Google calls best practices, Google was  still able to see and understand the contents of category and product pages. In 2005, or even maybe 2008, Google would have been clueless. They have come a long way.

But today, with the request that website owners who have structured data begin to tag that  data, Google raised a white flag. They have essentially said that they can’t figure this stuff out fast enough. Because they have invested the engineering resources to create tools to make that tagging easy, Google has reached some kind of dead end in terms of their processing or capability to understand structured data.

Now this isn’t  really a admission of failure, but it is a very subtle way of asking for help. Google doesn’t do that often. So today, Google has essentially asked everyone on the web to help them categorize their own content. Most marketers, will be really well-inclined to do this very thing, because these microformats help get more information into the search engine, which translates into better search rankings, which translates into more visitors, which translates eventually into more dollars. So a little tagging,  can be really beneficial.

But I want to focus on the remarkable thing here – Google, the benevolent overlord of indexation, has just asked millions of webmasters to pick up the slack. Google has recognized that there is a limitation in their understanding of structured data. So rather than wait for some kind of breakthrough, Google has just asked everyone to share the load. Eventually Google will not need microformats and rich data snippets, but today those things help with relevancy and context. Google can’t grok that adequately now. I’m quite sure, that in a year or two or three, Google have such an amazing database of RDF data that they will be able to more intelligently recognize structured data when presented with it, that microformats will not be necessary anymore. But today, Google has just turned us all into data monkeys.

I’ve said for long time, that it’s really Google’s Internet and we just play in it. But today, by raising the white flag and asking for help, Google  has just turned us all into unpaid web crawlers. Google will finally understand what were talking about, right after we explain it to them. Google’s mission is to categorize all the world’s information, but apparently they can’t do without our help.

Hey, Sergey & Larry, can I get some Adwords credit for every RDF I drop?

My last post on sales, Selling to the C, was by far and away the biggest success this blog has had to date. It has driven more traffic and been shared more times than any other post in the many year history of this blog, and that is quite gratifying. So I have decided to turn this into a series (and I am threatening to turn this into a book for 2013…stay tuned). So let’s imagine that you’ve done all of the things that you need to do to get the meeting with the C. You’ve provided value, you’ve created relevance, etc. Then you’ve given the presentation of your career..It was relevant, personalized and on point. But still, the C-level executive says NO. There are four basic reasons – Time, Money, Value, Competitor. Let’s dive into WHY:

  1. It’s NOT the right time:  Listen, when you are selling, often, all you have is a hammer, so every prospect you have look like a nail. And regularly, that prospect IS a nail. You can solve their problem. But the big issue is that the C is not ready to solve that problem. The C-level suite, regardless of how proactive they are, is constantly force-ranking the available solutions against the friction they feel in their business. The friction may come from the board of directors (profits, velocity, etc…though this is pretty rare), department owners (VPs and below that handle the divisions that report to the C…this is, I daresay, the key part of the force rank), or another C (the CEO is pushing against a CxO to accomplish some metric) and sometimes, the force rank is driven by the vision that the C has for the business. So, it’s not the right time, it means that your solution is not the answer to the top problem on the C-level list. This means that you either did not present your opportunity in its best light (which rarely is the case), or that you have fallen off the force rank. Let’s imagine, the C has the bandwidth to handle 6 initiatives this quarter, but your hammer hits nail number 7 or higher. What do you do now? This is the time to keep your prospect in the flow. They aren’t going to close this quarter, so how do you manage this result? By keeping your prospect informed. This slides you into relationship and expertise development. Keep plying your prospect with intoxicating information. Keep the case studies coming, keep the invitations to social and professional events coming, keep the questions about your prospect’s business coming. You are no longer closing in on the sale, but rather bringing the prospect closer and closer to the engagement. Be especially sensitive to questions and concerns during this phase, because while you have lowered the prospects concerns about the solution, you haven’t sealed the deal. Imagine that you are a hunter. You’ve weakened the prey, buy not claimed the trophy. Another hunter may be on the prowl. Keep the trophy safe by insulating them with layers of information and a real personal connection.
  2. Money: If your prospect did not know you existed during their last budget planning cycle, they didn’t plan for you. You aren’t a line item in their budget. Few companies have an unassigned budget item to fund an unknown expense. So, it may be if you have an unexpected expense, their is NO budget for you. Or they have a significantly smaller budget than your solution costs. What do you do? You need to start focusing on the ROI or the unique opportunity that your solution presents. You need to help your prospect understand the math…paint this as higher ROI, unrealized ROI, cost savings, or any numerically-based solution to make the position in the budget undeniable. The prospect isn’t saying no, but rather, “I want this, but can’t afford it”. Think of yourself as a problem solver now. Go to war inside your company to find a way to meet your prospect’s budget. Become their advocate and find a way to bend your company to the prospect’s need. At the same time, make a full-out assault on your customer. Make them understand that your solution becomes self-funding (that is, increased revenue or decreased costs pay for for your fees). Make them understand that the benefit of your solution creates funding for other initiatives. At this point, you are on your own. You are at war with your company to bend their pricing to your prospect’s will, and you are war with your prospect to make them fund your project. This is the most difficult time for the sales professional. But at this point, let’s figure out what your advantages are. First, you have a new prospect to bring to your prospect. Your company LOVES this. You have the prospect saying, “Yes, but…” So, you have a company hungry to get new business, and a company hungry to say yes. This is where your experience as a business person comes into play. Make sure that you can position this to your company and your prospect as a win. Find ways to give on some pricing, and get on some others. (Maybe you waive the upfront fees, and add more on the backend, or offer a lower-cost 2 year deal rather than a higher-priced one year deal. Focus on the total value to both sides…you will find that spot where your company makes money and the prospect is happy..)
  3. Value: Value is different than cost. Value, for the prospect, is the combination of ROI and intangibles. For me, as a C-level executive, the goal was always for the vendor to do as they say, obviously, but also to make my company smarter along the way. If all I got from my vendor was results, then I would feel as if I spent my money poorly. I needed added value, I needed to learn as much about what my vendor offers and the market space that they inhabit as possible. If I fired them after six months, would I have more than a campaign? If the answer was yes, then I had value. The second part of value is, in fact, financial. If I offer a 3x ROI, and the prospect has said that to be comfortable, they need a 5x ROI, am I providing value? The short answer is no. If you can’t stretch your ROI calculation to 5x, then you need to make your prospect feel so comfortable with the financial worth of your added-value that the disparity between 3x and 5x is moot. Can you do that? This is 100% on you. See above (Money) to handle the issue if your cost isn’t in line. But focus on making the softer side of your offering more valuable. (Maybe this is the time to offer some free passes to a great conference, or perhaps an introduction to the data scientist at your company who can do a free project for the prospect?) There is a lot that you can do, here, without focusing on cost. Maybe you can provide a good introduction to another client that makes value, or perhaps you offer a case-study and free consulting to the prospect.) This is an exercise in your creativity. How do you barter what you have to close the gap between the cost and return metrics that the prospect wants? Look carefully at your arsenal. You cannot win by adding quantity…you MUST offer quality. Ask the prospect what creates value for them. Ask the prospect what makes their life better. Then deliver it. It is the only way to win.
  4. Competitor: This is the most difficult answer to get from the C. That they understand the need for your solution, but have chosen from another’s offerings. I’ve been through this…many times. It sucks. I will tell you two stories, briefly. Before I was a C, I was a VP, tasked with driving revenue for a search agency. We were a nascent company in the space. We had skills, a great story and super competitive pricing. The prospect, a storied brand with international recognition, chose a more expensive, slower moving competitor. GRRRR. I was a little crazed. And to race ahead to the end of the story, we never got the business. But the prospect told me, flat out, that they picked the competitor because they were more mature, not better. They essentially decided to make the safe choice, rather than the choice that excited them. I tried drawing a corollary between our clients and their needs, I tried adding free audits and opportunities from our other business lines, I tried making the price lower (I added value, and lowered the cost…) There was no winning the business. What to do? I focused on what we could do. I never sold against the competition (that, regardless of how good it feels, is rarely productive…prospects buy because you are better, not because the competition is worse), I focused  on our best attributes. It didn’t work. Why do I share a success that never happened? Because the next time we faced that situation, we trumpeted even louder what we did well, but moreover, we captured our weaknesses and make them strengths. Rather than be a nascent provider, we were a disruptive force, rather than the lowest cost provider, we were uniquely focused on high-ROI and mutually-aligned business goals, rather than  an industry that we hadn’t worked in before, we were laser-focused on products and services that were similar to theirs. This isn’t spin, it’s jujitsu. We use our strengths to compensate for our weaknesses. We won the next nationally known brand we encountered. This was an exercise in learning. In the second anecdote, when I picked another provider, the jilted vendor assaulted me with why they were better, and why the competition was worse. This wasn’t helpful, but a singular point of excellence that this vendor mastered was burying me with information. They focused on making me smarter, they focused on making me a better user. I did not rescind my choice of vendor, but at my next opportunity, this vendor was at the top of my call list, and, in fact, I hired them the next time. Competition does not end the dialogue. Focus on what you do best, focus on why you are the leader, focus on why your prospect will thrive, and focus on why your are the right choice. It may not be this quarter, or this year, but when you create the right nexus of cost and value, competition will not matter.

 

The primary message here is to get feedback and be ready to respond. Create better value through knowledge (and potentially cost) and drive depth of relationship through knowledge transfer and social engagement. Saying NO is hard for C’s to do. They WANT to says yes. I have found the the C-level is always focused on opportunity and what happens next. Take advantage of that. If they aren’t ready, bide your time wisely. If they say no because of cost, create more value. If they say no because they chose someone else, then stay in place. Create value and they will says yes.