The fast-changing buyer, business and competitive environment has implications for all players in the IT channel.
In some cases, a company's marketing strategy might be sound, but the practical execution of the necessary support tactics and activities, also called marketing mix variables, often let the side down.
I use actual and hopefully relevant examples to demonstrate. Some time ago, and in response to a request, Canon sent me information about their photocopiers. The package was unremarkable - not like the TV ads at all. It didn't inspire me to do anything. Worse still, I didn't hear from Canon. I later received information about fax machines and extended warranty from the company. This assumed I was a qualified fax prospect, when I was not. Extended warranty was the feature Canon was promoting to all, I guessed. On top of this, this local mailing was printed or copied very cheaply, ie low quality - not what you'd expect from Canon.
No one from Canon has ever spoken to me - until now. I got a call out of the blue. You'd guess the caller would use the previous information they held about me, whatever it was. No. The caller got me because she was calling businesses in my district. Information on inquirers is clearly of little value to Canon, unless they are presumably prospect buys. But that's another story.
The Canon telemarketer wanted to know about my office equipment. She said that they might be able to help. There was nothing about improving productivity or efficiency. Nothing about who I was and what I would like to do. No real benefits for me. There were just model numbers and age. After all, she was just setting up appointments for the local rep, as she admitted.
By asking a few more questions, Canon could have obtained the information needed to define what sort of prospect I was, and what action might best suit. I was ready to talk, at much lower cost to them than sending out a rep.
As part of its strategy, Canon is trying to go direct to the customer. But, would you associate this vendor with efficiency, productivity or cost savings? Do you think Canon would care to work as my business partner? Is it really a "can-do" company, like it tells us in the ads?
We all know that having great IT products is not enough to win. Look at the vendors in the printer business competing against the leaders. Having a big budget like Canon does not ensure effective strategy or execution.
Maybe a small Accpac reseller could show how it's done? Recently I received information about Accpac software. A few weeks later I got a call from a reseller in Adelaide. This person lacked confidence, did not ask the right questions about me, nor offer any answers to my questions. She seemed roped in to do a job she did not like without much training. Despite this, I asked for more information to be sent, and this was agreed, or so I thought.
Many months later, I wait in vain. This same reseller claims to be an Accpac dealer of the year.
What does this say about the rest? Do such awards mean anything to the customer? Does quality management not extend to marketing and selling? In this case, small budget (relative to Canon) also resulted in poor execution.
Needless to say, the Accpac reseller did not, or rather will not, get any business from me.
No points raised in this article are new nor should surprise the IT channel. However, they should prompt each of you to review your marketing and selling activities and assess how well the pieces of your offer fit together.
Executing effectively means better results and lower costs, and may be the biggest single difference between your business and me-too suppliers. After all, you all want to do better than Canon and that Accpac reseller. More lessons to come next time.
John Goslino is principal of specialist IT marketing consultancy Professional Marketing Assistance. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org