IN THE SPOTLIGHT
The Internet: Advertising Medium or Sales Channel?
By Bud Hyler, Marketing Consultant
Most CEOs, CMOs and CSOs want harness the internet for increasing revenue, not just awareness. The messaging diagnostics that we published recently are only a stepping stone to the bigger issue of being able to fully leverage the internet for maximizing revenue.
The ability to increasingly leverage the internet for increased revenue at lower cost of sales is a significant goal for many companies. To date, much of the internet has been focused on either commodity products or just trying to increase awareness in the sales process. Alignment between marketing and sales includes utilizing the internet as a sales channel. Therefore, it is important to assess the information being provided on the internet to ensure that you are providing potential customers with the information they need to make a purchase decision when they are on your website.
Every company is evaluating how their web resources can be used to accomplish more of the selling tasks so they can both decrease the cost of selling and increase their sales capacity. Additionally, every customer is increasingly using the web instead of your salespeople to understand their buying options and learn more about the product capabilities available. The future belongs to those firms that lead the development of the internet as a complete channel since the cost and capacity implications are so significant.
The percent of the buying/selling actions that are currently addressed by the web is dependent upon the maturity of the product (i.e., the familiarity of the product/service being offered to the customer). Frequently for commodities like travel and books, 100 percent of the buying/selling process is web-based. For newer or infrequently purchased products, such as cloud services or medical procedures, the percentage of the buying/selling actions may only be 10 percent.
To increase the percentage of buying/selling actions, the product advocacy approach currently used by websites will need to include a consultative marketing capability to their web-based applications—one that leads the customer through their needs and determines the perceived customer value.
The buyer goes through a process of need-determining decisions that ultimately lead to a purchase selection. The marketing and sales priority is no longer just trying to get the customer to buy your feature set, but to buy the problem you solve and your approach to solving it. The goal is to present the best possible case for making the customer’s need-determining decision that leads to your product and teaching the customer about these buying decisions for use in their buying process. Usually it is a matter of identifying the customer decisions that are latent and making the customer aware of them so that they become active.
If firms want sales to lead their customers through the buying process—making the customer need-determining decisions that lead the customer to value the firm’s product more highly—then the web tools that enable this consultative selling need to be provided. One example of using the internet to teach the customer how to buy is a website that teaches people how to select the right kind of dog. Most websites ask what kind of dog the person is looking for (e.g., big or small, hairy or not, etc.). Instead, this website also asks questions about the prospective dog owner, such as how often they have visitors that are either infirm or really young. Imagine having a similar approach for either your products or your industry!
Bud Hyler began his career in 1972, when he joined IBM as a sales representative. In 1976, he accepted the position of Marketing Director at Digital Equipment Corporation’s Commercial Group, where he later became responsible for marketing. In 1984, he moved on to ATT’s PBX–Large Business Group, where he served as Marketing Manager. Two years later, he joined Trimble Navigation as the Vice President of Marketing.
In 1990, after many years of developing his marketing methodology, Hyler founded Logical Marketing, Inc. His objective was to provide clients with innovative marketing concepts and processes that move beyond conventional product advocacy to a customer-centered marketing approach that can influence the customer’s entire purchasing journey. To date, clients have included Lucent, Microsoft, Netscape, Hewlett Packard, Sun Microsystems, Accenture, Compaq and IBM, as well as major firms outside of the high-tech arena, such as Chase Manhattan Bank. Connect with him via email at Budh@logmkt.com.