February 26,2015- Byline by Gavin Finn, published by IT Best of Breed.
Selling and marketing has become more complex as customers perceive products (and services) to be more commoditized.
This has resulted in an acute need to clearly articulate and communicate differentiated value. Unfortunately, research has shown that traditional sales presentations are not effective in this kind of environment. Beyond slide presentations, looping videos and brochures, what alternatives do sales and marketing teams have, when it comes to effectively communicating value to the prospect?
When channel salespeople and marketers think of engaging with their target prospects, they should be thinking about a wide variety of interactive experiences, both online and offline. Why? Because interactivity is the best way to ensure that prospects and customers remember important information. When people engage interactively, their knowledge retention increases by a factor of three.
True interactivity is the process of engaging in a dialogue involving three primary dimensions:
1. Sensory: using any combination of touch, visual, audio, smell, and taste.
2. Emotional: developing an emotional response or connection to the experience.
3. Intellectual: the exchange of information that is relevant and useful.
When an experience involves these three aspects of connection and communication, true interactivity has taken place. Interactivity is non-linear, meaning that specific responses are provided based on individual actions, resulting in a meaningful exchange of ideas and information. The user does not have to follow a prescribed sequence of events; rather, they create their own personalized path by exploring areas of interest to them, at whatever degree of detail is relevant.
In today’s digital world, access to interactivity in the selling and marketing ecosystem is readily available, in the form of “interactive applications.” Delivering interactive experiences well beyond passive sales materials (such as slides, PDFs, and videos), interactive applications are apps that can run on any device – on the web, on an iPad (or Android tablets,) on smartphones, on PCs, and on large interactive touch screen appliances at trade shows or sales offices. These applications contain a combination of visual and text information, and allow users to navigate through the experiences in any sequence they choose, and at the pace that suits them.
Interactive applications work by showing how products and solutions help solve problems, through animation and interactive dialogue between the user and the application. If the user is technical, they would explore the details of products and solutions at a greater technical depth than, say, an end-user, or a financial buyer. But the application is successful at conveying the necessary knowledge because it crisply demonstrates the solution to each particular user so that they can understand the value of the product/solution, and can access any supporting evidence or detail that they may need in order to make an informed purchasing decision.
In a sales meeting, for example, it is often necessary to explain how a technology solution will be beneficial to a variety of the customers’ departments. How will end-users’ workflow be improved, or why will the quality of their work improve? How will the systems integrate within the existing or future architecture of the company’s IT infrastructure? What will the total cost of ownership of the solution be, and how can the finance team see return on the investment?
When an interactive application integrates all of these stories into one environment, the sales meeting becomes very productive and efficient. The customer can navigate to that section of the application, and can interactively learn about the value message that is most significant to them.
In the above example, the IT solution can be explained through an interactive network architecture diagram, perhaps. If the financial buyer asks about ROI, then the sales person can turn the application over to that individual, and they can explore the section or areas that show the financial value. The end user can understand the outcome of the solution’s deployment from the perspective of improved workflow, or quality. Each of these users can control their own interactive experience so that they are not subjected to the same slide presentation or video as everyone else, creating an extremely personalized engagement.
For channel marketers and salespeople, the goal should be to turn every encounter with a prospect or client into an interactive experience. By leveraging interactive applications across a variety of platforms and venues, new levels of engagement can be achieved, more successful relationships built, and more deals can be won.
Gavin A. Finn is president & CEO of Kaon Interactive.