By John Graham
As the insurance organization's marketing meeting began, the president stated, "We need more sales." This may seem like an inappropriate comment for a marketing meeting, but it accurately expresses the confusion that exists in so many companies when it comes to marketing and sales.
A sales mindset is based on figuring out how to get in front of customers to persuade them to buy. A marketing mindset, on the other hand, focuses on building relationships so customers will want to do business with you. One is all about trying to find customers, while the other is about customers finding you.
Matt Davis, an inside salesperson for Craftmaster Hardware Co., Inc. of Northvale, NJ expresses the two mindsets clearly. "I had never done inside sales before I took this job four years ago," he says. "When I started, I was told to make out-going calls all day. And I did, for about four months. Sure, I was able to 'get lucky' along the way and make a few sales, but I couldn't meet my draw. Getting nervous, I knew something else needed to be done (after six months if you didn't make your draw you would have to pay back your commission over the next month)."
Then he adds, "We had a new catalog and I acted quickly. I drafted a letter introducing myself, adding information about our services and enclosed a catalog. The response was outstanding. I've made my draw (and more) for the last three-and-one-half years and now regularly beat out some of the other salespeople who have been here for 10+ years. I consider myself an informed consumer and I have cultivated my clients to also seek answers as well. I teach and train them and that's why they come back to me."
Matt figured out the value of a marketing mindset. Here are more insights into this concept of creating customers:
1. The power of a marketing mindset. Even marketers who think they possess a marketing mindset, often lack one. They can be captured by the company's "message" or the company's "story." This is actually an "anti-marketing mindset," a way of thinking that puts the company at the center of the marketing. Whether it's an ad, an email message, a website or a newsletter, the message is all about "us."
It's easy to spot an anti-marketing approach, the focus is on how well the company serves its customers and how much it does for them, but they never get around to understanding what their customers want.
But it doesn't need to be this way. Progressive Insurance, the direct insurance writer, embodies a powerful marketing mindset, particularly with TV spots. The customer is put at ease in a "retail store" environment. "I'll bet you want to save money on your auto insurance," asks the quirky clerk. In another spot, the same clerk asks the reticent customer, "How much do you want to spend on your insurance?"
With its marketing mindset, Progressive Insurance stands insurance marketing on its head: rather than being sold insurance, customers buy it as they would any other product. It's as easy as going to a store and taking what you want off the shelf. In other words, Progressive puts the customer in charge of the sale.
2. Strategy drives success. Most marketing efforts are doomed to failure from the start: they lack a strategy. This applies to the use of social media, all types of advertising and public relations, along with every other marketing activity.
As a sales manager was heard to say, "We're behind the curve. We need to use the social media." And now that videos are "in," that's next on the "just gotta have" list. But starting with tactics is like building a home without a set of plans. It doesn't work.
All too often entrepreneurs and sales managers find planning a useless and time-consuming exercise. Thriving on spontaneity, their approach is to "just do it." Ignoring testing, they want to grab an idea and run with it. Then, it's on to the next one. They become impatient with anyone who asks, "What's the strategy? What is it we want to accomplish? And how does it all fit together to produce a clear, customer-focused message?"