By Carole Alexander November 10, 2003 -- When 50 million people signed up for the Do-Not-Call List recently, it was a wake-up call for anyone who sells something, not just telemarketing. It reflected something we all feel every day as consumers—that we can't possibly absorb more information. We don't want to be rude, but….ENOUGH!! I actually went so far as to pride myself on instant detection of a telemarketer's call and hanging up before they even spoke. Last month I threw out, unopened, every piece of mail that wasn't responding to a request I had made. Unfortunately, I was in Chicago when I found out the bank had changed my credit card number and I was supposed to have opted out if I did not want this change—they had sent several letters. Clearly, we do need a certain amount of information that can be missed if our “firewalls” are too tough to penetrate. The way we feel is the way our customers feel. It is increasingly difficult to get our messages across because customers are strengthening their “firewalls.” They are tuning out a message or messenger that appears the same as hundreds of others. As business managers and owners, we know we need new ideas and products/services to do our jobs well. Our customers know that too. What we can do is help make it easier for them to hear us. No company can afford to sell the same old way any more. As you consider purchasing that exciting new digital hardware or sexy new software, consider revamping your outdated sales approach at the same time. Adding Some VIM One way to approach customers in a more relating way that you can start today is Vertical Industry Marketing. By knowing your prospect's industry, jargon and issues, you are no longer on the outside looking in. You are part of their team. Think about how much effort you would ordinarily have to invest to gain the kind of credibility that vertical marketing gives you right away. When you have expertise in an industry, you can give your prospect three things they are craving. • You add time to their day ! They do not have to educate you about the details of their industry. This is good for the salesperson too, because less time is spent on each call and the time is maximized for discussing solutions. • You help them drop the “firewall.” – you know what their competition is doing! If you are selling in a consultative way, you are not talking to Purchasing but to document owners in Marketing, Finance etc. You are also calling as high up as possible (maybe the President) and working your way down. You are meeting with people your prospect knows, or has heard of or plays golf with. You now have their attention. • You give them relevant information . As a consultant in the industry you know how the major accounts are solving the very same problems. If certain solutions have been successful, you know that. If your prospect is on the cutting edge, you know that too. You know how their industry is using digital printing successfully, and especially, variable data. Your information is already focused and targeted on the customer. As Peter Ebner, industry consultant on sales, says, “Buyers want to work with an expert, not a printer. Vertical marketing is the only way to prospect on a regular basis. Finance, Manufacturing, Healthcare etc. all have unique printing needs and you have to change your presentation each time. If you focus on an industry, you won't sound good on the first call. But by the fifth call, you will sound like an expert in the industry.” What you should know about an industry before your first call: • Overview -- know what the industry does, the major products or services, who the major players are, who their customers are, the size relative to other industries, geographical concentrations of companies, changes in growth rate over the past 5 years and prediction for the next 5. • Latest big trends -- both positive and negative, such as mergers and acquisitions, deregulation, effects of technological advancements and increased competition from a particular source. • Overall nature of their document s—are they heavy on color? concentrated in b/w manuals or statement production? do the documents change frequently? do they require fast turnaround? do they have security issues? heavy or light on outsourcing? pioneer or reluctant with digital printing? • Industry segments —every industry is broken down into anywhere from 5 to 20 segments. In some industries, especially ones with deregulation such as Finance, the segments have very similar products, services and applications. In others, such as Healthcare, each segment has very different document requirements. • Trends affecting print —some of the relevant trends would be: increased competition, cost cutting, missed deadlines, fast product introductions and many mergers and acquisitions • The benefits they need – increased competition means the need for more marketing materials (also short run color and variable data,) faster product launches means they need quicker turnaround, while a fragmented customer base may indicate the need for short runs. • Key applications— in some industries, such as Legal and Accounting, key documents are the service itself (legal briefs, accounting report) and in other industries, such as Technology, accompanying documentation is critical. With the Auto or Finance industries, competition is so fierce that marketing materials are key. • Who are the buyers to target?-- there is usually a Marketing Manager title in every industry, but responsibilities can be different. Other titles will change, so you need to identify the correct ones to find the document owners. • Basic jargon --every industry has it's own vocabulary. You may have some questions about how to gather the above information easily and which industries are best to target. If you want to put some VIM and vigor into your Sales, I will discuss both of those in part II.