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Email Summit 2015 Replay: Tips for tech support selection and contract negotiation

July 30th, 2015 No comments

In the world of marketing, there’s always a push to stay ahead of the curve and, more importantly, ahead of competitors.

However, it’s hard to dedicate the time, money, manpower and technical know-how to launching truly eye-catching (and revenue-generating) campaigns. This is especially true for smaller companies with marketing teams consisting of only one or two employees.

Enter the potential best friend to most campaigns: the vendor.

At the MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2015 Media Center, Erin Hogg, Reporter, MarketingSherpa, sat down with John A. Caldwell, President and Founder, Red Pill Email, to discuss the finer points of vendor negotiation. Specifically, John explained what to look out for when considering tech support vendors and what you should — and shouldn’t — negotiate when it comes time to draw up a contract.

Watch the below interview to learn tips on how to handle vendor negotiation:

 

What to look for when it comes to tech support

John emphasized the importance of interviewing the companies you’re considering for tech support. It makes sense. Your company is going to end up spending several hours with the employees of the tech support vendor you choose.

It’s in your and your company’s best interest to make sure you’re not just looking for the best price but also the best support.

“Make [interviewing tech support people] part of the purchasing process, part of your due diligence,” John said.

When interviewing vendors, remember to keep your company’s needs at the forefront of your questioning. Specifically, John recommended asking interviewees about concerns your company has, what kind of questions they typically receive and what the vendor’s turnaround time and process is.

“There’s ticket time and there’s resolution time,” John said. “Some vendors will put a ticket in, and they have X number of hours to act on that ticket. Their ticket time may be 24 hours, but the actual resolution time is, say, an hour. That might not work with your company.”

“You don’t want to wait until you’re at the point of contract or after contract to find that out,” he added.

He also recommended asking your representative to give you the tech support line and to call it. This will give you an idea of how quickly they answer the phone.

“It’s good to interview them too. I find that helps a lot — no surprises,” he said.

 

Navigating the contract 

John’s advice was framed primarily through his emailing background, but it’s also applicable as general advice when it comes to drawing up the vendor contract. His main piece of advice? Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Specifically for email, John emphasized focusing on the break points.

“Little things like [penalties] can have big consequences a little further down the road. Other things you can negotiate,” John said. “There are hard costs, there are soft costs.”

For example, for an emailing vendor, a hard cost may be a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate. The cost of this certificate most likely won’t be something the vendor will negotiate because it will be paid for out of pocket. This is a hard cost.

However, if that vendor is already paying an employee to set up the systems, the vendor may be able to lower the set-up fee. This would be a soft cost.

“Don’t be afraid to go ahead and ask, ‘What can I get away with?’” he advised. “But don’t be firm on something that is a hard cost. Accept those, and hammer them on the soft costs.”

John joked, “And vendors that are watching this, they’re not going to be too happy with me right now.”

 

You can follow Kayla Cobb, Reporter, MECLABS Institute, on Twitter at @itskaylacobb.

 

You might also like

Register for MarketingSherpa Summit 2016 — At the Bellagio in Las Vegas, Feb. 22-14

Watch Full Sessions from Email Summit 2015

MECLABS Email Messaging Online Course [Register now]

Vendor Selection: A 5-step process for choosing a marketing automation solution or agency [More from the blogs]

Marketing Automation Vendor Selection: B2B marketer reduces unqualified leads 341% [MarketingSherpa case studies]

Vendor Selection: Test leads to $500,000 in revenue and 20% lead gen connect rate [MarketingSherpa case studies]

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Process-Level Value Proposition: How marketing can leverage the value it creates

May 18th, 2015 No comments

If I am your ideal prospect, why should I buy from you rather than your competitors?

This is the essential value proposition question, and many major business decisions must be made to truly discover and deliver on your company’s value proposition — from the CEO down to the intern.

But today, let’s focus on the small stuff to raise this question for you …

 

What minor changes can you make right now to deliver a better value for your customers?

Once you have the big stuff taken care of, once marketing has communicated (and sometimes even created) value, sometimes the little touches make all the difference. They are the tipping point to help your ideal customer decide to choose your product or service instead of your competitors’.

Let me give you an example.

 

Really, they’re more than just stickers

My wife and I needed to buy some Mother’s Day cards, so we stopped by Deerwood Village, a shopping center near our house. As soon as we swung into the parking lot, we were confronted with three choices right next to each other that all likely offer Mother’s Day cards:

  • Publix (a grocery store)
  • CVS (a drug store)
  • Hallmark Gold Crown store (a gift shop)

We decided to buy the cards at the Hallmark store, and a simple but profound thing happened at the checkout. The cashier handed us stickers.

But, they weren’t just stickers. They were a signifier.

When she was done ringing us up at the cash register, she said, “Wait. Let me give you some of these to put on the back of the envelopes.”

With that, she reached down and counted out four gold crown stickers.

  Read more…

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How to Avoid Losing the Value of Your Value Proposition

When a customer comes to a page or an ad, one of the primary questions asked in their subconscious is, “If I am your ideal customer, why should I buy from you, rather than your competitor?

The answer to this question is, essentially, your value proposition.

However, what happens when you’ve formed a perfect value proposition, but it’s not giving you the results you wanted? You’ve filled out the worksheets, read all the articles on value proposition and followed all the rules you know. So, how is it that you’ve done everything, seemingly right, but it’s still not working?

For a quick example, let’s imagine for a moment that you’re reading through an online article. As you’re reading, you see the following advertisement on the side of the page with the caption, “Let’s look at the world a little differently.”


When we look at this ad, the first thing we see is the text in all caps; “Retired old man intercepted on his way out of the bank.” Below that is a confusing image of what looks like a diagram, followed by, at the very bottom of the page, what appears to be the value proposition: “Open happiness.”

The customer is left with the question: What can I do here?

Read more…

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Direct vs. Indirect Creative: Which ad is better?

April 20th, 2015 No comments

Most people spend their lives trying to avoid ads. Not me. This may make me a complete marketing nerd, but I actually enjoy reading ads. I have for some time now. I love studying the different approaches of persuasive communication. I love attempting to uncover the underlying value propositions under each ad. I love just seeing how other marketers are attempting to communicate value to their potential customers.

Recently, I was on a Delta flight to San Diego, and I began to sift through the different ads in the Delta Sky Magazine. The first ad that caught my attention was an ad from Little Caesars. Now, I am no Little Caesars expert by any means, but its brand real estate in my brain up to that point was simply this: We do cheap pizza.

This ad was trying to combat that perception in a decently creative way.

 

Ad #1: The creative (indirect) type

The ad was mostly made up of white space (or perhaps orange space). The first positive thing about this ad was that it stood out from the other pages. It also had one bold image in the middle — an industrial mixer. A single line of ALL CAPS text centered beneath the mixer simply stated, “Saving the commercial mixer from becoming extinct.”

 

Now, there are very few elements to this ad. Its creative is simple and elegant. Its creative also takes an indirect communication approach. David Ogilvy (widely hailed as “The Father of Advertising”) would be proud.

What are they trying to say by putting a big picture of a commercial mixer? What do you think the implied value proposition is? What is the message underneath the creative approach?

Read more…

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Direct from the Source: What a value proposition is, what it isn’t and the 5 questions it must answer

March 30th, 2015 No comments

Michael Lanning invented the term “value proposition” back in the 80s. Since then, it has become a staple in the marketing lexicon, and volumes have been written on the subject, including Lanning’s own book, Delivering Profitable Value: A Revolutionary Framework to Accelerate Growth, Generate Wealth, and Rediscover the Heart of Business.

I had the privilege of speaking with him recently about how the concept has evolved over the past three decades and what he thought about that evolution.

“‘Value proposition’ has been widely adopted since the 1990s as a marketing and selling tool — everyone knows they need a good value proposition to sell their product,’” Michael said.

However, Michael believes the focus is too narrow and misses the opportunity to influence business strategy. Michael explained that value propositions should:

 

1. Drive, but not be equated with, your message. It should be an internal articulation, to be echoed by your message. It should not be your actual selling line or slogan.

 

2. Focus on the specific, measurable experiences customers will derive by doing business with you.

“Contrary to how things may seem, customers don’t really care about your product. They care about their lives or businesses; they care about what they may or may not get out of using your products or services,’” Michael said. “So what matters and what must be at the heart of a real value proposition is those customers’ resulting experiences that happen because they buy [or] use your stuff rather than some other option.”

 

3. Be reflected across and influence your entire business — not just your messaging, marketing and sales.

“It should be the fundamental choice, creatively discovered, then debated, articulated and agreed internally by leadership across your entire business,” Michael  said. “It should fundamentally determine the very business you are in, which customers you seek and what your business will do to improve their experiences in return for their business.”

Read more…

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Value Prop: How Radio Shack lost its way by losing sight of its ideal customer, Pt. 3

March 23rd, 2015 No comments

As marketers, Radio Shack should serve as an important cautionary tale of how quickly our businesses can erode if we lose sight of our core value proposition. The first two parts of this three-part blog series (read part one here and part two here) documented Radio Shack’s meteoric rise to retail prominence throughout the 1960s and 70s, accomplished by identifying the ideal customer (the hobbyist) and offering to the market a unique, authentic value proposition built upon a foundation of four key factors:

Credibility — Can I trust your claims?
Clarity — What are you actually offering?
Exclusivity — Can I only get this from you?
Appeal — How much do I desire this offer?

By honoring this core value prop — Radio Shack stores provide specialized, innovative parts and merchandise not available anywhere else, sold by the most tech-knowledgeable staff in retail Radio Shack grew from a handful of bankrupt Boston electronics stores to a retail juggernaut with more storefronts than McDonalds.

The mid-1980s would mark the beginning of the end for Radio Shack, as the company continuously diluted, rather than refined, the comparative strengths of the exclusivity, appeal, credibility and clarity that served as the bedrock for its core value proposition.

 

The Mid-1980s — Marginalizing the core customer

Who is your customer? How did that customer find you, and why did he buy from you? What does that customer tell others about you? Even more important, what does the customer wish your company would do for him? That knowledge is your only true source of power.

— Kristin Zhivago, Revenue Coach, Author of Roadmap to Revenue: How to Sell the Way Your Customers Want to Buy

By 1984, even though Radio Shack’s stores continued to stock parts and components popular with hobbyists, the company’s specific focus on the DIY market was clearly beginning to shift.

The success of the TRS-80 had given Radio Shack a sense of arrogance, and the company began claiming that small businesses and schools were Radio Shack’s new target market, rather than hobbyists, who were “not the mainstream of the business.” This pinched-nose approach to hobbyists would pervade Radio Shack’s messaging for the next 30 years, whether explicit or implicit.

In fact, hundreds of neighborhood Radio Shack stores saw products aimed at the hobbyist and tinkerer disappear entirely when the stores were converted into Radio Shack Computer Centers.

 

Ironically, these hobbyists that Radio Shack alienated were among the earliest adopters for new technology, including the TRS-80, and many were quickly growing frustrated with some of Radio Shack’s practices.

Although Tandy’s computers boasted superior hardware performance to competitors — often running up to three times faster than its IBM counterparts — the software library for Radio Shack’s line of personal computers was not nearly as robust as IBM or Apple’s.

Because of the company’s insistence on offering mostly private-label products, the TRS-80 computer was designed to work primarily with inferior Radio Shack-brand software. In the absence of MS-DOS, largely superior IBM-compatible software was not compatible with the TRS-80.

Further, expensive peripherals that customers bought for the TRS-80 were purposely designed to be incompatible with other personal computers.

Read more…

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