I was speaking with my colleagues in Marketing the other day (a mind numbing event in itself) and they were pushing me and my team for more press releases.
“We want something every month for each facility!” came the battle cry.
“What if there genuinely isn’t something worth telling our customers?” was my response.
“Tell us about a brilliant project you have won! Tell us how busy you are!”
At this point I resorted to silence (see Crucial Conversations), as starting a fight in a meeting generally doesn’t end well.
This final comment always gets me animated. “Tell our customers about a project we have won”. Like this is somehow ground-breaking. Or that people actually want to read about how great we are for winning a contract.
This approach is completely riddled with problems.
Firstly, it isn’t news. You, as a sales professional have done your job. It’s what you are paid to do. (And if you actually doing your job is such an unusual event as to make it newsworthy, you probably really ought to be in a different job.)
Secondly – and more importantly – what if this project you have been making news of, decides to go really badly wrong? It does happen .. even to the most skilled and professional company. Sometimes projects just don’t work out the way they are meant to. So “The Marketeers” have alerted the world to this great big project, and everyone is watching. Then your company makes a mess of it. Congratulations my friend, you have just done your dirty washing in public.
Thirdly – you have just announced to all your existing customers that they don’t matter. Your workshop is full with this new big project. Your workforce is now so over committed, that your existing customers know their work has just gone to the back of the queue – or at least somewhere close. This is really not a good message to be sending to your customers.
This exact scenario happened recently, when one of our competitors lied about the size of the project they had won – let’s call them Company Z.
Company Z sent the story to the media with a splashing big headline – something like “Company Z wins $XX million dollar project, biggest in world EVER!”
Is the result of this a nice round of applause for Company Z from all their existing customers? Well .. no. Suddenly my team start receiving calls from several customers of Company Z, asking if we have capacity to take their work on. Obviously, as I know my market, and also know these are long standing customers of Company Z, one of my first questions is “What’s forced the change of heart?” The customer’s reply every time, was that they recognised their work was going to slow, and they needed a viable alternative.
The net result was, not only did we secure more business overall and have a record year, but the project our Company Z competitor was working on went so badly wrong, we ended up securing the lions share of that work as well. As for Company Z, they had nowhere to hide. The whole of their industry knew about this project, and every customer and competitor also knew just how badly it had gone.
So, how do you give marketing what they want, without totally alienating your customers? In short, tell the world about things you have done.
Not what’s in the pipeline.
Not what’s just landed in your lap.
And you definitely don’t exaggerate.
Talk about the successes. Talk about the skillset your company has, which was instrumental is making those successes happen for your customer. Talk about the professionalism of your company, and your ever-expanding ability to serve the customer well. Tell your customers things that can be referenced by them, and how you can give them what they need. Because proven credibility builds more credibility. Proven success breeds more success.
And as for “The Marketeers”? Well .. sometimes it’s better to just say nothing.