The First Thing Your Customers Buy From You Isn’t Your Product

They buy your "communication product" first

Communications Products are the first purchaseLook at any product description on any Web site. Peruse any brochure. You will find a list of features designed to tell you why the product will do the things you need it to do to solve your problem.

They will probably have a check mark next to them.

What you will not find on these lists are features like these:

  • A helpful Web site so you make the right decision
  • Informative reports and white papers offered free of charge
  • An active Facebook page full of the opinions of our users
  • A well-labeled box placed in the right part of the store so you can easily find it

How a product or service communicates is not considered an important feature. This is why marketers — who develop the communication features — struggle to keep their staff and budgets during a downturn. This is why Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) don’t have a seat at the executive table with the CEO, President, COO and CFO.

To the executives, marketing doesn’t create products or sales. Marketing is a cost.

Prospects actually become customers when they buy your communication products

The first purchase a prospect makes from your company is a communication product. It is the flyer, brochure, Web site, report, article, press announcement, blog post, Webinar, etc. that you provide, ostensibly to help them understand how your product will help them solve a problem or entertain them.

They only occasionally pay with money. More often, they pay with their time, their attention, or their contact information to continue the conversation. Since they don’t pay with money, marketing never shows up on the bottom line. It’s always seen as a cost.

Now, if a customer is satisfied with their "purchase," they become a repeat customer taking more communication products. They also buy your company’s offering — for real money. Sales will get credit for the latter.

The mistake marketers make is creating communication products that are only focused on persuading prospects to buy the money-based products. How would things change if they focused on building great communication products instead?

The New Marketing Department

Imagine a marketing department run like a product development department. How would that change the focus?

Marketing Department Communications Products Department

Develops campaigns

Develops products that communicate (educate, inform and entertain)

Creates promotional content

Creates relevant, educational, or entertaining content

Targets product users

Targets influencers, approvers and gatekeepers as well as product users

Watches marketing metrics and buzz

Watches time spent with the "products," customer satisfaction, repeat "buys"

Has a Web site

Provides online services to help prospects solve their problems

Creates a competitive matrix

Creates better communications products than competitors (who are stuck with a marketing department)

Prepares "messaging" and approved copy matrices

Discovers new ways to help their communications product customers

Stays "on brand"

Improves the brand with great communication experiences

Bases budgets on the cost of campaigns

Bases budgets on the feature set needed to win in the communications marketplace

Builds brand with frequency and relevance

Builds brand by frequently helping prospects find information they are looking for

Segments the marketplace and creates targeted messages for each segment

Creates buyer personas for their communication products, and then delivers the products that serve them

This list could go on. What would you add? Tell us in the comments.

I’ll be talking about how buyer personas drive bigger marketing budgets at ProductCamp Austin on Saturday, August 15. Come out and let’s talk about great communications products.

Photo courtesy http://www.sxc.hu/profile/lusi

Categories: Marketing Strategy