Prospects keeping a low profile? Time to increase yours

Your prospects’ attention span was just too long this year! And that was a big problem for marketers. After all, our prime directive is to divert their attention to our message —interrupt the train of thought and say “Hey! I’ve got something for you! Look over here!”

Most

of the time, it’s not hard to pry prospects away from whatever their minds are on — whether it’s a lottery fantasy or the latest episode of Survivor, they’re eminently interruptible. It’s a fast-paced, noisy world out there; most of us are borderline ADHD by the time we become adults.

But this year was different. From terrorism to anthrax to stock market free-fall, everyone was riveted to the news, hanging on the edge of their seats to see what would happen next. It’s hard for marketers to compete with that kind of excitement.

Marketers ran into shocking results right after September 11. At ACCPAC, we chose to delay a prospect mailing originally scheduled for late September. But a month later it dropped headlong into the anthrax-powder-envelope scare that routed everyone’s mail directly into the trash. Result: our lowest response rate in years. The campaign we sent out a month later did little better; prospects had fundamentally changed their response patterns. If you were doing any marketing at the time — direct mail, telemarketing, seminars — your results probably left you curled in a fetal position, thumb in mouth. And maybe they left you determined to never spend money on marketing again. Apparently, a lot of companies feel that way. Advertising purchases, for example are down nearly 25 per cent since last year.

But, if you play it the right way, now could be the best time ever for your marketing programs. At ACCPAC, we’re getting our hottest leads of the last five years right now — even though the recession is still news and prospects are still worried, distracted and focused elsewhere. How? We went back to the drawing board to design our campaigns. Who cares what we learned about the prospect over the last ten years — it’s not meaningful now. What is the prospect thinking now? What is he looking for now? How can we connect with her now? Tests pointed to new realities that will work for you — if you have the courage to change your marketing quickly. All it takes is an understanding of the new prospect profiles:

Prospects are scared

People don’t like being scared. Reposition your products as solutions that take the worry out of business. Drop claims about your products or services delivering business growth; that’s soooooo ‘90s. It comes across to today’s prospect as dated and phony.

Prospects are scared about money

Price gets maximum scrutiny these days. Total cost of ownership or ROI calculators are compelling, but make sure none of the figures are fudged; you’ll destroy your credibility. And don’t compete on price alone — you don’t have to. Prospects are more worried about quality than ever before. Help them understand how your customer commitment actually saves them money.

Prospects are scared about making commitments

You have to set deadlines and reverse risks to get prospects to move in this climate. Continue to charge $1,000 for your needs analysis, but include a certificate for $1,500 in free services when they buy within 90 days. Insert $-off coupons in mailings, offer extended money-back guarantees. Always put a deadline on any promotion or special offer. Without it, they won’t budge.

Prospects are scared about trends, technology and getting “locked in”

Your technology story has to be clear, concise and hole-free. In the go-go ‘90s, they’d take a chance and figure you could “fix it in the mix” — but those days are gone. Integration is critical; they want to understand exactly how the parts relate to the whole. Support your claims with facts and illustrations — for the first time in ten years, prospects are actually reading those white papers.

Did we mention that prospects are scared?

Yup, real scared. And they’re looking for a solution provider who can make their life a little less scary. Make sure your marketing messages tell them exactly why that’s you!

Susan Sheridan is the senior vice president, marketing for ACCPAC International of Pleasanton, Calif.

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