Guest Column: Solve More, Sell More
If you're someone who was born and raised in the sales field, it probably seems odd to think that in order to be effective in today's multichannel world, you need to redefine the idea of "selling." In fact, selling may be the last thing that you actually do today in order to help your client achieve their goals.
So, how do you "grow your client sales" by not necessarily "selling," you may ask?
The first step—and this is hard for anyone, myself included, who grew up in the old-school world of sales—is to stop thinking of yourself as a seller, and start thinking of yourself as a "solver." What problem or challenge is your client trying to solve?
● Are they struggling to gain market share against a competitor who's more nimble at social media?
● Are they inconsistent with their brand messaging across mediums and can't quite figure out how to get everything in alignment?
● Do they want to launch a new product, but are concerned and confused by the overcrowded landscape of media options?
● Are they being challenged by their chief financial or procurement officer to meet return-on-investment (ROI) measurements, but with half the budget they had in the past?
Understanding clients' problems and challenges requires more than just a simple and easy solution like having them put all of their eggs in one media basket. It requires research: What is the biggest challenge they face, and how can you help them get past that challenge quickly and efficiently? Sometimes it requires testing and learning, because insights are the key.
If anything, speed matters in today's marketing solutions world, and those marketers who are "solution driven" with their clients will not only succeed, but thrive. You have to be nimble and test quickly to see what works and doesn't, while also being able to implement quickly once you have your strategic solution.
For example, we worked with a client who wanted to break through with social media and, in particular, reach massive amounts of moms quickly. One typical solution in this kind of situation is to purchase lots of "targeted" ads on social media sites that reach moms, and create enormous reach through scale.
Our solution was to create a whole new digital community (a custom social media site aimed at moms using our content knowledge, insights and analytics). This was combined with our existing social and digital media platforms to create a powerful platform for conversation among moms about what really matters to them in their daily lives. We then built regular questions that were asked of this community about what they needed to make their lives more manageable, or at least reduce their daily levels of stress. This conversation included blogs, video messages, Facebook chats, and e-newsletters, among other elements.
The result? A two-way conversation with moms and our client that offered our client insights into how their products could make moms' and women's lives more productive and less hectic. In other words, a solution-driven program to help our client achieve their marketing goal.
Building Long-term Partners
The second step requires you to remember that the best sales come from long-term relationships, not just short-term transactions. A partnership is built over the long haul.
We are all under enormous pressure in this fluctuating economy to meet tight budget levels, yet grow our businesses. But how often do we sacrifice long-term success for short-term gain?
In other words, if we really want to solve our clients' marketing challenges, we may not be selling them anything at all.
For example, often I will spend time with former clients consulting on their businesses, even though right now we are not working on anything together. I ask them, what is keeping them up at night? What is working for them right now, and what's not? Where do they see their efforts a year from now?
In many cases, clients may not be able to answer these questions as they battle the daily (or more likely hourly) fire alarm bell in their marketing careers. Let's not forget the typical chief marketing officer only lasts in a job for about a year or two.
What I've discovered is that many clients appreciate the fact that you are watching their business, even when you are not getting paid to watch it. It tells them you are paying attention, and actually care, not only about their marketing success, but also about their careers.
When goals change or clients move to a new role, they will remember the people who gave them time and energy and good advice when they were being challenged. They will also value solution providers who want to see them succeed over the long term, not just when they are on retainer.
Immerse Yourself in Marketing
Finally, in order to sell more, you need to become a student of the media.
In my role, I am exposed to an incredible gamut of marketing solutions offerings and assets from within my own company. Everything from experiential events involving tens of thousands of women, to social media campaigns, to broadcast webisodes, to cutting-edge database marketing and analytics.
While the exposure is important, I also take time to immerse myself in how my clients and their competition are effectively using these and other offerings.
For example, I recently read how a company (and former client) was using a combination of social media and augmented reality to drive awareness for a new product campaign. I made myself walk through the experience as if I were a consumer. What about their efforts impressed me? How would I react if I were (and in this case I was) the target audience? What else might they have done to get me fully engaged?
It is amazing what you can learn, and the insights provide me with even more creativity the next time this client approaches me with a problem that needs a solution. It opens my mind to think: What assets might we offer around this kind of challenge that would supplement or build on this kind of program?
In other words, the next time I want to sell more by solving more.
Jeannine Shao Collins is Chief Innovation Officer at Meredith 360, the marketing solutions division of the Meredith National Media Group focused on building brands for clients and customers using the company's broad portfolio of print, digital, broadcast, mobile and social assets.