Let’s Tell the World – Part 2

You may have seen my previous piece, where I discussed the benefits of telling your customers about projects you have actually done, rather than new projects you have won.

To continue this theme, I recently read that one company – let’s called them Company J –  had “won” several deals with major customers.  This type of news gets our CEO quite uppity, because our CEO wants to know why our team wasn’t involved in the tendering process.  I know one of the companies very well.  So, as an exercise in calming nerves, I got on the phone and followed the news story up with a senior member of their team – let’s call her Susan.

Me : “So Susan, this deal you have struck with Company J, what’s it all about”

Susan: “What deal with Company J?”

Me : “The one in this article I’ve just read.”

Susan immediately gets on the phone to colleagues and marketing/press department, clearly fuming that this unplanned and unauthorised press release has happened.

Susan: “There is no deal.  Company J sent us a price list, we agreed with the prices, that’s it.”

Conclusion: Company J had decided they were going to put this all across the press, without telling their client what they were doing. And it wasn’t even true!

Company J is a big company by the way – not some half dime outfit (well not in size anyway).  And it got me thinking: at what point do you get so desperate to have something to say, that you bang out any old crap just to get your name in the press?  I am guessing in the case of  Company J, someone in their Marketing team could tell me – because they have recently done it a further three times with different Customers.

And I know they did it,  because I followed up the story every time.

This can only mean one thing: Marketing HAS to change

The world is wise to this level of chicanery, yet this is what some professional “Marketeers” think is acceptable.  What concerns me further is many CEOs think this stuff is great!  But ask yourself this question:  Since when was issuing a price list the cause for a press release to all within the industry?  Because let’s be truthful here – that’s what actually happened.  Company J sent some prices to the client, and the client said “Yes, that will do.”  End of story.

Or it should have been.

What happened next was “The Marketeers” took that same, really rather mundane story, and spun it out of control into something more like this:

“Company J has formed a framework agreement with XXXXX.  This groundbreaking form of agreement shows the strength of relationship between the two long term partners.

Insert name here said “This showcases how our range of services surpasses that of all our competitors blah, blah, blah.  Corporate rubbish inserted here to act as if named individual actually knows what they are talking about, when clearly they don’t have a clue.  In fact they are an accountant, or a legal type who doesn’t actually know what the company does, but is good at counting beans/sending out nasty letters threatening legal action.”

If this is what we are coming to as professional business people, then “Marketeers” across the board really ought to be hanging their heads in shame.

Which brings me to my point:  Why tell lies, when your company could tell people what you have actually done?  Why not talk about the projects you have worked through, succeeded in, and completed with a genuinely happy client at the end?  Why not tell the world about the good stuff!

Unless of course, you don’t have any good stuff to tell …

What “fake news” and faux marketing is actually saying is, “We haven’t done anything good for a while, so here’s some empty-headed rubbish to fill some space in a magazine.  Now please look the other way.”  Everyone in your industry knows what they are looking at; and a good competitor will always follow the story up.  You have been warned!

Watch out for this in your own industry, because rather than being a sign that a company is doing well, fake news is actually a big chunky neon sign saying “We’re knee-deep in the brown stuff.”

Oh, and for any CEO (or “Marketeer”) who might have read this far down and still thinks making stuff up = good coverage: It’s not.  Fake news in business is just as fake as anywhere else in the world.

Fake news is tantamount to lying.  Fake news tells everyone you’re really not doing very well.

Or to put it another way, it’s like walking down the street with a bare backside.  And trust me, nobody needs to see that …

Let’s Tell the World (or maybe not)

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.