Are You Ready For A Dog Eat Dog World?

Let's talk about competitionWith that in mind, let’s talk about competition. To paraphrase Sara Lee, “Nobody doesn’t have competition.” We do, you do, everybody does. Do I hear you asking what’s the point?

Simple. Since having competition is a given, it’s what you do with it that counts.

What do you do with it? Ignore it? Hope it will go away? Bad mouth it?  Or do you learn from it? Do you make improvements to keep ahead of it?

For many of us, a big part of our current competitive situation boils down to one word. Price.

There are always small companies cherry-picking chunks of the market with lower prices on selected product knock-offs.  Do they offer anything else? Uh-uh. They can’t afford to. Have they embraced the very important concept of customer support that is key to a successful marketing effort?

The low price competitor is historically short on value

The low price competitor is historically short on value

As we’ve watched price-based competition come and go over the years, we’ve learned that your customers demand more than low price. They want comprehensive programs that include new product development, technological innovations and easily understood differences.

They also want merchandising support that really helps them sell. And, of course, they want service…before, during and after the sale. Moreover, they want it from pros who know their products, their markets and their needs.

It’s impossible to separate price and value

Your customers also know that it’s impossible to offer a comprehensive package loaded with value and always offer the lowest price in the market. But, they’re not searching for a shortcut to a quick buck. Like you, they’re in this for the long haul.

Dog Eat Dog World of CompetitionIf this support list describes what you provide to your customers, you should be able to weather just about any competitive storm. Your customers should recognize that in this industry, it’s impossible to separate price and value. A successful distributor-based business needs both.

The low price competitor is historically short on value. And, in this dog eat dog world, value is the thing on which we and you keep our incisors sharp.

For more on value, see the Channel Instincts posts Are You Delivering Real Value to Your Customers? and Are You Your Customer’s Biggest Fan?

Are You Struggling to Stand Out To Your Customer?

Do ever struggle to differentiate yourself from competitorsDo ever struggle to differentiate yourself from competitors?

My guess is that this is a constant struggle but one that is not addressed often by your marketing team. That’s because it’s not on their radar.

Perhaps it’s because they are too focused on the new product development processes you have in place and not listening to the critical input from customers.

When you listen to customers, you sometimes get an earful

When you listen to customers, you sometimes get an earfulThe commercial interiors business at Owens Corning struggled to differentiate itself from competitors. Sales were architecturally specified and product driven. The product was designed to absorb echoes in school gyms and classrooms.

In making calls with the sales team, customers emphasized that schools demanded a high level of performance. And also that many architects were becoming increasingly sensitive to being as green as possible in their designs.

Turning a black art into a differentiator

be differentAcoustics, however, was considered a bit of a black art.

Specialists were needed to figure out how much absorption a space needed. Surprisingly, we discovered that no one guaranteed the acoustical performance of their products, let alone have an independent third party determine their performance level.

This led us to successfully seek UL certification for all of our commercial interior products, a first for both the industry and UL.

Because Owens Corning was also the manufacturer of the base fiberglass boards the products were made from, we knew that those boards had a minimum of a 35% recycled content. This was enough to earn the product line a third-party certification (SCS), which would allow Owens Corning products to qualify for green projects.

Not all innovation is new product innovation

product_innovationWe combined these elements together with the standard 3-year warranty Owens Corning offered to create a program called Performance Marketing.

For the first time, our sales team had the ability to clearly position and differentiate our product line from the competition.

This  not only increased sales but also allowed us to create a significant trade PR program around our efforts to demystify acoustical performance.

Innovation can come from anywhere in the company. It can be product innovation, process innovation or, in this case, program innovation.

All of which will help you be more successful in launching impactful products and programs to grow sales and profits.

Good Selling!

How to Get Knowledge Out of Your Product Manager’s Head and Into the Hands of Sales

Product Dossiers for MarketersWished you could on-board new sales reps more easily? Ever had a green product manager who needs deep product immersion? Here’s a simple tool to help you do both.

Creating a Product Dossier brings the sales team up-to-speed on new products and programs while helping unlock what’s in the product manager’s head

Product Dossiers Sales TrainingIt’s easy to overwhelm a sales team when launching many new products and programs at a rapid pace. The same is true for a new product manager or sales rep that’s unfamiliar with your product lines.

New sales reps need knowledge to gain confidence. Unfortunately, what they are given is a sell sheet or, worse, a 150 slide PowerPoint presentation. “It’s in there,” says marketing vaguely.

Truth is the sales team – especially the new guy – has to know all the details about the product, not just some specs and fluffy words. They need the knowledge that to have confidence to present the product and, more importantly, make the sale.

A Product Dossier can help the sale team drive more sales by:

  1. Providing detailed product, pricing, channel and support information to the field in an easy-to-use format.
  2. Delivering information to the field in a shorter period of time to enable them to start selling quicker.
  3. Improving the productivity of the sales force.
  4. Delivering the business proposition by audience and answers the question “why should I buy?”

A Product Dossier gets the critical marketing insights for a product line out of the product manager’s head and into the hands of the sales team

Product Dossiers TrainingIn other words, we were asking the product management team to take the time and write down all the key details about a product line. We call this document a Product Dossier.

The Product Dossier is for internal use only and always has these key topics in the following order:

  • Product Description
  • Product Performance
  • Application
  • Features and Benefits
  • Packaging
  • Business Proposition to channel
  • Business Proposition to end user
  • Pricing
  • Order/Ship/Bill
  • Stocking Plants
  • Market Description / Market Segmentation
  • Channel Positioning
  • Objectives
  • Competition
  • Sales Tools

The Product Dossier is distributed to the field sales forces by email and should also be posted on the intranet. This tool can also easily become part of the broader set of tools that any new product commercialization process already has.

While the Product Dossier is an internal document, a Program Sell Sheet can be created from it for use by the field as a customer hand out and as a quick read cheat sheet just before a sales call.

Program Sell Sheets are based on the Product Dossier and can be used as a customer product knowledge and training tool

Marketing Communications EffectivenessProgram Sell Sheets are simply edited, formatted and printed versions of the Product Dossier and always contain the following information in the following order:

  • Product Description
  • Product Performance
  • Application
  • Features and Benefits
  • Packaging
  • Business Proposition
  • Order/Ship/Bill
  • Sales Tools

Notice all the internal details are stripped out – it is a generic sell sheet now, but with far richer content. These sell sheets can be now be used as a customer education tool. They are particularly valuable when the customer’s sales team needs product knowledge and training.

Product Dossiers don’t write themselves…they take time and effort to become valuable sales training tools

Product Dossiers KnowledgeDon’t be deceived, this process takes time. It forces the product team to make sure they have all the facts. This process requires deep immersion into the product line – which is why it’s such a great teaching tool for green product managers.

Don’t be so bold as to say you’re going to knock off 20 of these in a short period of time. Maybe you can but the best process is to start with your new products and then roll the process out to the more established product lines.

Be sure to save the finished Product Dossiers electronically. They obviously need to be updated every so often to stay relevant.

By the way, this process works for products, services and programs. The headings are broad enough that they allow you considerable flexibility.

Do you have other great ways of bringing the sales team up-to-speed? Let me know about them!

Good Selling!