By John Favalo, CBC, Managing Partner
Eric Mower + Associates (EMA)
Time: Six months post launch of a game-changing new product.
Place: Conference room at HQ of category-leading B-to-B marketer.
Players: VP marketing, director of marketing communications, divisional GM, product manager, EMA team members
In the conference room, faces drooped like wet laundry. Fingers poked at the tabletop making invisible squiggles. The hazy unknowing was too dense even for mobiles and email.
“This product should have taken off like a rocket,” the GM said. “When a product cuts labor by at least 50%, and it’s priced right, everybody in every segment should buy it.”
The product manager offered, “I’ve been asking myself what we missed. We covered sales; they’re trained and equipped. Our distributors bought in and we prepped their people well.”
“Pre-launch media relations resulted in lots of ink and our target audiences noticed our advertising. We know that from the website activity,” added the marcom director.
Then the product manager said, “I don’t get it. There was nothing like it on the market.”
That’s when the haze began to clear.
“Maybe that’s the problem,” the VP marketing said, “maybe it’s too new.” On that note, heads in the room turned and tilted and we all heard the unspoken, “Hmmmmm.”
An EMA team member wrapped it up when she said, “The six dirty words. That’s what’s holding this product back.”
Will the six dirty words cause your launch to fizzle? The Six Dirty Words in marketing are, “We’ve always done it this way.”
Many, many buyers and/or users in B-to-B are creatures of habit. They trust what works. In EMA’s research among several types of specialty audiences, the number one driver of brand preference is “trust.” It’s rational behavior – they can’t afford something that fails and disrupts a project or business system. Worse yet, the problem shows up later and they have to go back in for a no-income after-the-fact-fix. But, it’s highly emotional, too. They must believe in the promise of a brand. A promise broken equals disappointment. Disappointment equals, “I’ll never buy that junk again.”
Our client’s product was truly game changing. It really did lop off half the install time. Not to mention it was cleaner to use, and that carved even more time off the project. The kicker was this: the product functioned at the system-level. It lived throughout the application. To try the product was to commit to an installation. So, even with price incentives, the perceived risk overshadowed the savings. Decision makers said, “We’ve always installed this product, this way. It works and we rely on that. We’re not taking a chance that this new thing won’t work.”
The six dirty words can foil the best plans for products like this, or far simpler ones. Adoption can languish even when the payback is significant. How do you alter ingrained behavior?
New product or technology adoption is a key area of study for EMA. As a result, our teams have identified several ways to change the actions … or inactions of your audiences. “The Six Dirty Words” explores ways to overcome resistance to change and prompt faster adoption (and sales) of your breakthrough, or even improved products.
One way is “giveaway” and it’s what really helped our client’s product succeed. While demonstrations can be helpful, in some instances proof-of-concept needs to be more comprehensive. Given that the product was integral to a large system, the magnitude of risk precluded simple trials and demos. The solution had to be no less comprehensive, and thus … “giveaway.”
Our client was so convinced that the product would deliver outstanding, never-seen-before results, the VP marketing and division president committed to a “giveaway program, plus.” To targeted, highly visible prospects, our client gave away free installations. Yes, all the product needed for an entire project, or a complete subsystem within the project, no charge. As the “plus,” our client offered a guarantee – if the product did not perform to promise or if it failed the installation in any way, our client would pay the company for the time, the trouble and the replacement material.
We suggested adding a quid-pro-quo: require the company to agree to a case history of the installation documented by video. We’d use the testimonial with broader audiences and build stories around it for distribution to the press. We’d also use video releases for online properties and as sales tools.
“Giveaway” gained traction and ultimately drove momentum. A small number of projects got done with the new product and the case histories were compelling and convincing. Smartly, our client leveraged this small program into big results. They used these “betas” as referrals in proposals to other prospects. In addition, the satisfied customers spread the word personally and digitally. Today, adoption is high and our client’s product nears category leadership.
If you’re planning a launch, perhaps building in a “giveaway” up front will accelerate acceptance and purchasing. But, even if “giveaway” isn’t appropriate there are other means to solve the problem. Watch here for a different way you can clean up by swearing off those “Six Dirty Words.”
JOHN FAVALO is a defender of the B2B faith. He has devoted a career of more than 35 years to proving the value of unconventional business-to-business marketing and communications to those who preach nuts and bolts and feeds and speeds, as well as to college students whose eyes are dazzled by bright lights of consumer marketing. Along with his duties as managing partner for EMA’s Group B2B, where he focuses on strategy and planning, brand building and new product introduction, he has served the Business Marketing Association International as Chairman, Vice Chair and Treasurer, and teaches advertising as an adjunct professor at the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. Throughout the years he has won numerous Effies, Addys, and “Best of the Bests,” all for B-to-B client work.