Thursday, March 10, 2011

Please don't sell me stuff I don't need

My regular readers can skip the next two paragraphs. I need a minute to talk to my brethren in the PR community... privately.

To the PR folks who have been pitching me on stories about computer viruses, streaming music to cars, online advertising solutions, and 3D mice, please stop. If you've read my blog or newsletter, you'd know that I do not write about these topics. While I appreciate your generous invitations to talk with the CEO, download screen-shots, or receive a review copy of your client's book, they're wasted on me.

Let me pass along some advice that I was lucky enough to get from a seasoned PR pro and mentor early in my career. "Read the papers!" Read what the editor, analyst, pundit, or blogger writes about before you pitch a story to them.

Identify your buyers

OK, regular readers, you can come back now. I was just asking PR folks to please stop sending me stuff I don't care about. Actually, that's a good practice for all marketers. Know who your prospective buyers are and identify them explicitly. Skyward, for example, does a good job of this:

This item sits on the top of their home page. If you're not responsible for student, finance, or human resource administration for K-12 school districts, you're in the wrong place.

And what about companies that have multiple audiences? They can try to sort out each audience and direct them each down the right path. Concur, for example, asks on its home page whether visitors are a "small business" or "medium & large business."

Coupa takes this a step further and asks visitors to identify themselves by their needs, their company's size, and their role in the organization:

Why we "spray & pray"

Targeting is much more effective than a broad, undifferentiated approach, where you blast your offering out to anyone with an email address. But the 'spray & pray" approach persists. Why?

For one thing, it's cheap and easy. The marginal cost of adding 1000, 10,000, or 100,000 email addresses to your distribution list is insignificant. That's the secret behind spam.

Another explanation is poor metrics. If marketers are rewarded for "impressions," "visitors," or "contacts," they're more likely to focus on activities that cast a wide net. This, despite the fact that most of the "catch" has no use for the product and will never turn into a paying customer. Rather than rewarding marketers by "how many people walk in the door" or "visit the web site," measure "qualified opportunities" and "wins."

There's also the fear that marketing to a well-defined audience will scare off some prospects who are excluded from the explicit target. Marketers don't want to rule anybody out.

The truth is, though, there really aren't a lot of enterprise software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions that can be used by everybody. When someone tells me that "this product can be used by anyone," I'm skeptical.

My advice: Find the people who truly can benefit and focus your marketing efforts on reaching them.

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This work by Peter Cohen, SaaS Marketing Strategy Advisors is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.