Marketing | Explore. Engage. Excite.

W. Edward Pierce, ITA Communications

As any great sales per?son will tell you, sales is not about a great prod?uct or ser?vice, it?s about the customer?s per?cep?tion of value.

For corporate buyers, value is help?ing to max?i?mize the con?tri?bu?tion of his or her area of responsbility to the company?s strate?gic goals and/or the sav?ings derived from con?trol?ling costs.

The more mean?ing?ful the value story, the bet?ter the chance that a ser?vice or prod?uct provider can begin, or move along, the sales process.

Even if the com?pany has been an indus?try leader for 100 years, insists that every man?ager earn a Six Sigma Mas?ter Black Belt, reg?u?larly wins pres?ti?gious ?Best of? awards, and reports fan?tas?ti?cal total cus?tomer sav?ings every quar?ter ? even with all of that, it?s impor?tant that you under?stand how to dif?fer?en?ti?ate your value propo?si?tion in terms that are mean?ing?ful to the cus?tomer ? because that?s the real key to win?ning and keep?ing business.

As explained in the last col?umn, ?earned media oppor?tu?ni?ties? ? print and dig?i?tal adver?tis?ing, pub?lic rela?tions, trade shows, direct mail ? are impor?tant tac?tics for telling the value story. Yet, many times that story gets lost in trans?la?tion, espe?cially in advertising.

Here are three com?mon exam?ples read?ily iden?ti?fi?able in most trade mag?a?zines rep?re?sent?ing every industry:

1. Smug?ness (The ?Top of the Moun?tain? View) ? The mes?sage: ?We are XYZ com?pany, the indus?try leader, with the best peo?ple, the best ser?vice, and the best technology.?

The Hype: The name says it all! A customer can be con?fi?dent that this company?s ?star-power? will rub off on him or her. It is the safest bet even with?out sub?stan?tive proof.

2. Prod?uct ?Fea?turette? ? The mes?sage (an exag?ger?a?tion): ?Our G-Wiz gizmo uses a pro?pri?etary motion?less thermo-nuclear gen?er?a?tor that snatches free energy from a vac?uum to deliver pre-real-time data.?

The Hype: Daz?zling prod?uct fea?tures will blind prospective customers into think?ing a com?pany has the best prod?uct or ser?vice despite the lack of ben?e?fits or real-world application.

3. Buzz(word) Kill ? ?The mes?sage: ?Our inclu?sion of indus?try buzz?words reflects our high level of indus?try knowl?edge! TCO. Telem?at?ics. Life?cy?cle. Bot?tom line. Ana?lyt?ics. 360 degrees. Web-based. Real-time. Pre?dic?tive. Big data. Excel?lence. ROI. Look how many we crammed into this ad!?

The Hype: Buzz?words sound excit?ing, espe?cially as they echo inside the halls of the ven?dor. How?ever, in the mar?ket?place, they quickly become clich?s used by every adver?tiser, con?firm?ing prospec?tive buy?ers? belief that the prod?ucts or ser?vices are undif?fer?en?ti?ated commodities.

Most assuredly, every B2B com?pany offers value. Yet, when it comes to pro?mo?tion, the value is too often lost in the hype. Mean?while, managers are on the hot seat every day, in need of real-world fixes for day-to-day problems.

I will dis?cuss form and style of pro?mo?tional mes?sages by spe?cific media tac?tics in next month?s col?umn, but reap?ing the ben?e?fits of ?earned media oppor?tu?ni?ties? begins with a clear mes?sage, a dec?la?ra?tion of the product/service/company value from the customers? point of view.

How is that value expressed? How-to arti?cles (problem-solution). Suc?cess sto?ries. Tes?ti?mo?ni?als. Blind case stud?ies. Thought lead?er?ship (from the cus?tomer point of view).

The more spe?cific the prob?lem descrip?tion, the bet?ter. The more detailed the facts, the more believ?able. The more numer?ous the cases, the broader the rel?e?vant audience. Reach?ing out to what may seem to be a single tar?get mar?ket with a sin?gle mes?sage doesn?t work. And, ss seen in the inef?fec?tive exam?ples above, gen?er?al?iza?tions obscure value.

At the start, I noted that any great sales per?son will tell you: it?s about the customer?s per?cep?tion of value. Note that ref?er?ence is singular! Micro-marketing aims to get mar?keters to the indi?vid?ual level, but it is expen?sive, and most business-to-business com?pa?nies have yet to address the much more viable approach ? mar?ket seg?men?ta?tion. Again, I will make this a topic for a future column!

I wel?come feed?back, ques?tions, sug?ges?tions, expe?ri?ences and dif?fer?ing points of view from fleet prod?uct and ser?vice providers as well as from fleet man?agers, cor?po?rate buy?ers, con?sul?tants, trade asso?ci?a?tion and media rep?re?sen?ta?tives who want to help build bet?ter connections.

Just send an email to If you have a spe?cific mar?ket?ing issue or ques?tion, call me at (215)839-1306.