A Call to Action (for Fleet Providers): Let ‘Content’ Open Doors for You

As any great sales per­son will tell you, sales is not about a great prod­uct or ser­vice, it’s about the customer’s per­cep­tion of val­ue.

By Ed Pierce, It’sTheArts.com

For fleet deci­sion-mak­ers, val­ue is help­ing to max­i­mize the con­tri­bu­tion of his fleet to the company’s strate­gic goals as well as the sav­ings derived from con­trol­ling costs.

The more mean­ing­ful the val­ue sto­ry, the bet­ter the chance that a fleet ser­vice or prod­uct provider can begin or move along the sales process with a fleet deci­sion-mak­er.

Even if the com­pa­ny has been an indus­try leader for 100 years, insists that every man­ag­er earn a Six Sig­ma Mas­ter Black Belt, reg­u­lar­ly wins pres­ti­gious “Best of” awards, and reports fan­tas­ti­cal total cus­tomer sav­ings every quar­ter … even with all of that, it’s impor­tant that you under­stand how to dif­fer­en­ti­ate your val­ue propo­si­tion in terms that are mean­ing­ful to the cus­tomer – because that’s the real key to win­ning and keep­ing busi­ness.

As explained in the last col­umn, “earned media oppor­tu­ni­ties” — print and dig­i­tal adver­tis­ing, pub­lic rela­tions, trade shows, direct mail – are impor­tant tac­tics for telling the val­ue sto­ry. Yet, many times that sto­ry gets lost in trans­la­tion, espe­cial­ly in adver­tis­ing.

Here are three com­mon exam­ples read­i­ly iden­ti­fi­able in most trade mag­a­zines rep­re­sent­ing every indus­try:

1. Smug­ness (The “Top of the Moun­tain” View) – The mes­sage: “We are XYZ com­pa­ny, the indus­try leader, with the best peo­ple, the best ser­vice, and the best tech­nol­o­gy.”

The Hype: The name says it all! A fleet man­ag­er can be con­fi­dent that this company’s “star-pow­er” will rub off on him or her. It is the safest bet even with­out sub­stan­tive proof.

2. Prod­uct “Fea­turette” – The mes­sage (an exag­ger­a­tion): “Our G-Wiz giz­mo uses a pro­pri­etary motion­less ther­mo-nuclear gen­er­a­tor that snatch­es free ener­gy from a vac­u­um to deliv­er pre-real-time data.”

The Hype: Daz­zling prod­uct fea­tures will blind fleet man­agers into think­ing a com­pa­ny has the best prod­uct or ser­vice despite the lack of ben­e­fits or real-world appli­ca­tion.

3. Buzz(word) Kill – “The mes­sage: “Our inclu­sion of indus­try buzz­words reflects our high lev­el of indus­try knowl­edge! TCO. Telem­at­ics. Life­cy­cle. Bot­tom line. Ana­lyt­ics. 360 degrees. Web-based. Real-time. Pre­dic­tive. Big data. Excel­lence. ROI. Look how many we crammed into this ad!”

The Hype: Buzz­words sound excit­ing, espe­cial­ly as they echo inside the halls of the ven­dor. How­ev­er, in the mar­ket­place, they quick­ly become clichés used by every adver­tis­er, con­firm­ing prospec­tive buy­ers’ belief that the prod­ucts or ser­vices are undif­fer­en­ti­at­ed com­modi­ties.

Most assured­ly, every fleet prod­uct or ser­vice com­pa­ny offers val­ue for com­pa­nies and oth­er orga­ni­za­tions with fleets. Yet, when it comes to pro­mo­tion, the val­ue is too often lost in the hype.

Mean­while, fleet man­agers are on the hot seat every day, in need of real-world fix­es for day-to-day prob­lems:

- How do I stanch the flow of fuel as pump prices con­tin­ue to climb?
— How do I find time to coun­ter­act the com­pli­ca­tions result­ing from stag­gered OEM pro­duc­tion sched­ules?
— How do I deal with per­son­al-use non-com­pli­ance?
— How do I address the fore­cast­ed down­turn in resale val­ues?
— How do I man­age the new cor­po­rate-man­dat­ed reduc­tion of vehi­cles?
— How do I dis­pose, relo­cate, re-assign, or store a quan­ti­ty of vehi­cles in the next 30 days?

I will dis­cuss form and style of pro­mo­tion­al mes­sages by spe­cif­ic media tac­tics in next month’s col­umn, but reap­ing the ben­e­fits of “earned media oppor­tu­ni­ties” begins with a clear mes­sage, a dec­la­ra­tion of the product/service/company val­ue from the fleet man­agers’ point of view.

How is that val­ue expressed? How-to arti­cles (prob­lem-solu­tion). Suc­cess sto­ries. Tes­ti­mo­ni­als. Blind case stud­ies. Thought lead­er­ship (from the cus­tomer point of view).

The more spe­cif­ic the prob­lem descrip­tion, the bet­ter. The more detailed the facts, the more believ­able. The more numer­ous the cas­es, the broad­er the rel­e­vant audi­ence.

Reach­ing out to a sin­gle tar­get mar­ket, like fleet deci­sion-mak­ers, with a sin­gle mes­sage doesn’t work. As seen in the inef­fec­tive exam­ples above, gen­er­al­iza­tions obscure val­ue.

At the start I not­ed that any great sales per­son will tell you: it’s about the customer’s per­cep­tion of val­ue. Note that ref­er­ence is sin­gu­lar!

Micro-mar­ket­ing aims to get mar­keters to the indi­vid­ual lev­el, but it is expen­sive, and most busi­ness-to-busi­ness com­pa­nies have yet to address the much more viable approach – mar­ket seg­men­ta­tion. Again, I will make this a top­ic for a future col­umn!

I wel­come feed­back, ques­tions, sug­ges­tions, expe­ri­ences and dif­fer­ing points of view from fleet prod­uct and ser­vice providers as well as from fleet man­agers, cor­po­rate buy­ers, con­sul­tants, trade asso­ci­a­tion and media rep­re­sen­ta­tives who want to help build bet­ter con­nec­tions.

Just send an email to [email protected]. If you have a spe­cif­ic mar­ket­ing issue or ques­tion, call me at 610–585-0801.

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