Sand and Stand for One Thing

Quick Summary: Select one message and demonstrate it often.

Abstract:

No company wants to be known as a “me too” company that does not standout from its competitors or is not noteworthy and easily remembered by prospects and customers.  Focusing on one key attribute that is subtly, but easily recognized by everyone internally and externally is an excellent method of breaking away from the pack.  Focus on it and spread it like grains of sand that can infiltrate everywhere.

The article in this collection, “Be Like Sand,” discussed a technique to build consensus across a prospect’s organization by reaching out to multiple individuals in various functions.  These efforts can be performed by various individuals within your organization, with each person’s activities coordinated by the sales rep.  The resulting grains of sand, like those brought home after a day at the beach, although small, can find their way to into places that a direct approach may never be able to reach.  A method to make this process even more effective is to focus on one and only one attribute that the company wants others to associate with its brand.

At first, most companies want to tout all of the attributes that differentiate themselves from the competition that are also important to their customers.  Marketing literature is typically full of all of the features and benefits that the company’s product or service provides.  I remember a company, in their new product announcement, bragged about the use of captive screws that would help eliminate the problem of losing screws when a technician opened up the unit for repairs.  At the time, I wondered if the unit required so much maintenance that captive screws was a requirement.  Compare that silly feature to the simple messages delivered by some major brands:

  • Federal Express: Absolutely, Positively
  • Lexus: Quality
  • BMW: Performance
  • Rolex: Prestige
  • Four Seasons Hotels: Outstanding Service
  • Wal-Mart: Everyday Low Prices
  • Whole Foods: Healthy Alternatives
  • Apple: Innovation

Of course, each of these companies has many more outstanding attributes than those listed above, but they primarily focus on the single items listed.  These attributes convey a positive feeling about the product or service.  Although companies can actively promote these attributes, they become Ingrained in a prospect’s and customer’s mind through personal experiences or those of others.  In fact, “saying” one of these attributes when history has shown it to not be true can be extremely damaging.  If the target audience knows that the attribute is false, they will probably conclude the other positioning statements are equally false.

Deciding on one attribute to “push” will not work.  Instead, the selected attribute must be internalized and followed in all internal and external interactions by everyone.  This is not a marketing or sales program, but must be a carefully chosen characteristic ingrained in the company’s culture.  It must become part of the natural actions of all personnel in all departments.  Below are some characteristics worthy of consideration.  Upon reviewing the list, the natural tendency is to think that your company should exhibit all of these qualities.

Responsive          Meticulous          Caring

Reliable                Flexible                Adaptable

Resourceful        Dedicated            Efficient

Agreeable            Agile                     Sensitive

Clearly, every company should exhibit all of these attributes since most are interrelated or naturally occur when one of them is emphasized.  Most companies also focus their attention on emphasizing these attributes when interacting with external customers, but seem to ignore or de-emphasize them when dealing internally. Companies need to internalize attributes for them to truly become part of the culture so that the attribute becomes second nature and is always the default reaction.

To be most effective with prospects or customers, ideally the chosen attribute is “discovered” by the customer and not introduced through a marketing program or a media blitz.  For example, is it more effective to declare that, “quality is job one,” after years of questionable quality or have a proven track record of high quality previously experienced by others?  Which is more believable?  Or brag about low prices through its new sale or exhibit low prices every day?  With consistent application of the same underlying theme, the defining characteristic will emerge based on the actual experiences of many individuals.

A list of examples of statements that could be made to various employees in a prospect’s organization were included in the article, “Be Like Sand,” and are shown below.  All of these examples were based on the company’s focus on one key attribute of “caring.”  Re-read the list with “caring” in mind.  In each case the theme comes through on a one-on-one basis, but is never overtly said.

 

Field Operations

We have used Ajax Electronics as our local field installation and maintenance partner, are you familiar with them?  Do you think they would be a good choice for us to use if we move forward?

Field Service

How did the s/w patch installation go?  Was our pre-installation notification process clear and was the installation successful the first time?

Development Engineering

Through some system logs that we routinely review, we observed some anomalous behavior in our system that you are using, who can I discuss it with to better understand…

System Engineering

Our Customer Service team mentioned that you had some coverage problems; we would like to better understand…

Product Management

We have this idea for a new feature and would value your opinion on…

Training

It has been 2 weeks since our session, do you have any follow up questions on…

System Quality Assurance

I would like to talk to someone about the trouble ticket you opened; perhaps we can test for this condition in our labs…

Marketing

I heard from Bob that he delivered our proposal; I am just calling to see if you had any questions or needed some additional information.  We have a number of reference customers that we can put you in touch with to…

Customer Service

We are changing our on line CRM system and want your opinion on…

Product Management

We are planning our next release and would like you to help us prioritize the thoughtful inputs that you provided to our sales rep can we…

Customer Service

We covered a number of topics yesterday when you called Customer Service; I am just calling to follow up to make sure our response answered your questions.

Marketing

DHS is conducting a seminar on…. I thought you might be interested in participating…

CEO

I would like to spend some time with one of your field operations people to get their candid one-on-one opinion on…

 

The above list was not created by the sales or marketing department.  Instead, the list was created by representatives of each functional group.  Once the key attribute, in this case, caring, was agreed upon, each member of the group participated in a role-playing exercise creating examples of how they could not only project, but also internalize the concept within their own groups as well as with external partners, prospects, and customers.  Each member then discussed the process within their own organizations to insure that everyone in the organization understood the goal and reason behind the program.

Like most other new initiatives in any organization, the initial enthusiastic support can quickly fade as individuals focus on their day to day activities.  A simple method to help ingrain the new program into each individual’s daily activities is to ask them to spend 30 seconds in the morning, perhaps while they are waiting for their computer to complete its log in sequence, to think about what they can do on that day to promote the attribute (caring) internally and externally.  Similarly, at the end of the day, as their last activity, ask them to spend two minutes to think about what they had done that day to demonstrate the attribute.  To further ingrain the concept, ask individuals to send a quick email to a “collector” briefly describing what they did.  Once a month or so, randomly pick an email and, with no judgment of its value or effectiveness, acknowledge it and reward the entrant with a small present, perhaps a lunch or a “We care” plaque for their desk that they will retain until the next drawing.

Although this program is aimed at improving relationships with prospects and customers, the true value will be on the impacts within the company.  Spreading the “sand” of any one of the selected attributes within the company will have a major positive impact throughout the organization.  It is simple, requires very little time or effort, but will provide lasting benefits.

 

Article Number : 5.010404   

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