Findability: Catch the Fourth Wave
“We made a major sales push. Ad campaign, direct mail, outbound telemarketing, new brochures, the works. Results were … very disappointing.”
We hear this lament a lot, from companies stuck in 2009.
Findability is the fourth wave in connecting enterprises to customers. The evolution:
• manufacturing-driven companies to
• sales-driven companies to
• marketing-driven companies, and now
• findable companies. This last one is a huge sea change, so take notes while history class is in session.
11,000 years ago last Thursday,
we gave up the hunter-gatherer life, settled down into villages, divided the tasks, and lookie here, we raised more wheat than we can use. Let’s load it on the wagon, and sell it to Og, who brews beer in the next mud hut over.
Lest you think we evolved past this, there are to this day manufacturing-driven companies who make stuff because they can, then afterward try to find who the heck can we sell this to? Remember Kodak disc cameras? Antibacterial toothbrushes? The Pontiac Aztek? The Zune?
have also existed for centuries. A skilled sales force used to be able to move whatever you gave them. Think Glengarry Glen Ross. Or Avon. But a sales force with too much say in a company’s marketing strategy invariably leads to lower margins and “opportunistic” deviations from the brand strategy. “I just need an extra 5% to land the Biggo account… annnnnnd a small product modification…” Short-term wins, long-term disaster. These are dinosaur enterprises, unaware of the approaching meteor…
The marketing-driven company
has been the success story of the last 80 years. Peter Drucker taught us to go out to markets, find out what people want (and therefore need), then go back to the factory to nail it together, confident that a genuine segment of the population will buy, and profitably, too. This was the ideal business model, until very very recently.
New rules. New tools.
Though different in many ways, all three of those types of enterprises depend on outbound communications that are increasingly expensive and often ineffective. “Sales Avoidance Technologies” are killing traditional OG sales tactics, including most offline advertising. Today, you’re up against voice mail, spam filters, caller ID, DVRs, downloadable (un-sponsored entertainment) programs, and a dozen other obstacles. Run all the morning drive-time radio you like; iPod users just ain’t going to hear it.
Welcome to the Fourth Wave: the Age of Findability
Your customer today feels empowered to gather information, source vendors worldwide, draw up selection sets, research to their heart’s content, then consummate a purchase … usually without you being involved or even aware. Is this just for big-ticket B2B considered purchases? Awhellnaw. The imperatives of findability today apply to the $12 pizza delivery as much as to the $12,000,000 corporate HQ relocation. 100% reliance on costly traditional outbound media to become visible to everyone = budget depletion = a slow death spiral.
Consider the implications, first from a cost-of-customer-acquisition perspective. Sales-driven enterprises still rely on such dubious practices as cold calling, extensive sales forces, and communication budgets bloated by excessive waste circulation. (Any cold-calling success stories lately? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?)
The marketing-driven company has been (in theory, and in practice) more efficient.
If we have evidence-based confidence that our new improved product/service/thingee/candidate/idea will be a big hit with, say, Asian females ages 35 to 59, we can focus our messaging, establish distribution where it matters, and advertise with less waste circulation. No spray & pray.
But even this more-cost-effective model often involves heavy outbound communication costs and immeasurable waste. A traditional advertising strategy to introduce a new national brand for example, (150 TRPs on network TV for 8 weeks, 50,000,000 high-value coupons in FSIs, sampling in the supermarket, skywriting, prayer, fasting, Jennifer Aniston tapdancing, choirs of angels, etc.) are becoming more expensive, less effective and more zapped every month. Consumers have many more media and entertainment options than ever, have learned to tune out Selling Messages, and just plain don’t want to be Sold anything. They do, however, still love to Buy.
And that’s the point. People love to Buy as much as they hate being Sold. So, in category after category, they’re taking control of the transaction, looking for and finding findable companies. The hunted became hunters.
Consumer example: who sold you your pair of running shoes? Probably nobody. You did your own research on the web and perhaps made up your mind and never visited a shoe store.
Business example: 20 years ago, manufacturers had the upper hand over retailers, since they had relevant information: market tests, sell-through rates, research. The rug got pulled out from under them when scanner data gave retailers more and better usable information. Now retailers dictate terms, set slotting fees, and push vendors around.
Twenty-first Century truth: buyers, not sellers, control all transactions.
That’s a sweeping generalization, but let’s sweep together: Your prospects feel entitled to do their own research, given they believe they have all the information resources needed to find you (and, of course, your competitors). Since a brand’s first duty is visibility, it’s essential that every organization with competitors (let’s spell that out: You) must engage in findability engineering. Your future depends on it.
Immodest self-serving example: type “renaming a company” into Google, and we’re normally found on the first page. Sometimes first. So? Here’s how this plays out: we get serious inquiries from organizations we might never have found, but who found us. How cost-effective is that, in a profession that last century was 100% referral-based? We have no sales force, and yet we get proposals from interested firms on three continents. Ridin’ the fourth wave, babe.
One more food-for-thought snack: if you were made more visible (and we can help you do that), then found by a good prospect – versus playing hunter-gatherer to find them – how much would that shorten the sales cycle? Also, remember, now it’s their idea. How much easier will it be to close the sale?