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Know Your Product & Customer

17 Feb, 2002 By: Wes Phillips imageSource

Know Your Product & Customer

month’s article highlighted that advertising is not a “magical” solution
to creating marketing leadership. Advertising is a reasoned, methodical process
just like any successful business procedure, whether it is managing cash flow or
building an efficient and productive sales structure. Advertising by itself will
not compensate for “loopholes” or inefficiencies in the internal marketing
structure of your company. 

this month’s article, we will analyze two important internal marketing issues:

Your product, and specifically, the product your team sells and the product your
company advertises.

2. Your customer, and specifically, whether you and your team see the customer
as a “real” human being.

we have addressed these internal issues, we will proceed next month to examine
some of the “technical” aspects of building an efficient and successful
external advertising program.


Much has been written about our country’s transformation into a more service
and technology-oriented economy. Office technology dealers are at the forefront
of this phenomenon. The relationship between your company and your customer is
not a “one-shot” product selling cycle.

an office technology seller, your goal is to make a profitable sale. The goal of
the office technology buyer is to purchase a tool, which will help them maintain
or increase profitability. So, on one hand (the dealer’s) a sale looks like
the end of the process, yet on the other hand (the customer’s) a sale looks
like the beginning of the process.

you (the dealer) are responsible for understanding this process and planning
accordingly. In other words, the tangible product which your vendors supply to
you must be repackaged into a new product, which contains the ongoing solutions
your customer wants or needs. As many office technology dealers have discerned,
buyers are demanding that the seller provide the complete solution (now and
ongoing forward) to their problem.

point of all of this is you should be selling solutions—business solutions.
Your product is not a mere item (i.e. a digital printer/copier), rather it is a
whole bundle of value that satisfies the buyer. This includes being an office
technology company that keeps promises, supplies, and stands behind what they


Before we progress to an actual example of powerfully identifying and packaging
your product, it is appropriate to review how you chose to view your customer.

times, my business partner and I have been in situations where we are sharing
the core principals for effective advertising. Inevitably, someone will
challenge us by saying that business-to-business advertising is different. What
they (and many of them are office technology dealers) indicate is that some
rules of advertising do not apply to them, since they are not “retail”
advertisers. What they mean by this conclusion is they believe that their
customers/prospects only want facts and information. They also believe that
business customers are not motivated by emotion.

reality is your prospects and customers are just like you and me. They have
goals, desires, motivations—they are multi-faceted, real human beings. They
have lives beyond business. When you begin to view your customer in this light,
you will have available to you a much richer avenue of communication. By
choosing to view your customers as “real” people with “real” issues,
“real” concerns and “real” problems, you will be able to more
effectively define your product, and the corresponding marketing and advertising

connection with seeing your customers as “real” people, it is also useful if
you view yourself the same way. There are many compelling reasons why you choose
to start and run a business. You passionately believe in your company, product,
and people. This emotional belief is a “real” human trait and it offers a
significant opportunity for effective advertising. How? By being willing to
confidently speak on behalf of your company.

business owners I have met are very reluctant to be used in their own firm’s
advertising. The reasons are varied. Some express the fear that it is not
professional, while others think their peers will feel it is an ego trip.
Finally, some think that “real” companies just do not advertise this way.

reflecting on Lee Iacocca, who was discussed in last month’s article, there
was something special about him saying, “If you can find a better car, buy
it.” The same is true with Wendy’s founder, Dave Thomas and Men’s
Warehouse founder, George Zimmer. The point is, are you willing to share
yourself, your belief and your passion in such a way that your customers will
perceive you, your company and your product as “real”? The outcome may be
that your confidence will be rewarded with sales and profit margin increases.
Whether you choose to be part of the advertising or not, it is essential that
your customers are viewed as “real” and communicated with as if they are
“real.” The bottom line is you are not doing business with companies—you
are doing business with “real” people.

Your Product

Returning now to how to package (or merchandise) your real product, consider how
one office technology company in Florida has handled this challenge.

like many of this magazine’s readers, this company has transitioned from
analog to digital technology. Realizing that they confronted extensive
competition on the hardware front, an in depth analysis was conducted over a
year ago to determine what differentiated their company from the competition.
What was discerned was interesting. The company discovered six categories, which
when combined, separated them from the competition:

How they interacted with customers

2. How they evaluated customer needs

3. Their written guarantees

4. Their hardware technology

5. Their acquisition options

6. Their network division

this information was gathered, two simple steps were taken. The first step was
to organize the categories in a logical order and then list, in outline format,
the key business solutions provided by each category. The second step was to
create sales tools, which effectively and quickly communicated these
differentiating categories. The decision was made to produce two-full color
pocket brochures. The final result is that these tools are visually dramatic,
powerfully identifying the company and its key differentiating benefits, and,
believe-it-or-not, the pocket folders do not include any images of digital
copiers or printers!

how can you use this insight in your company? First, define and organize the
solutions your customers want. Then, define and organize how your company is
providing, or how you can, with operational adjustments, provide those
solutions. After you have developed your marketing strategy, develop your sales
team beyond charismatic closers and into marketers who are able to understand
the prospect’s business needs and sell to those needs. Finally, incorporate
that system into your advertising strategy.

is hard work, but there are several benefits. First, you will have the basis for
a coordinated theme between your sales efforts and advertising efforts. Second,
your sales team will be equipped to properly demonstrate their business value
over the competition. Third, your advertising will add value to your target
prospects. Finally, you will have the foundation for a long-term marketing
strategy, which will assist you in becoming the leader in your geographic area.

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