You’re a marketer who’s worked hard to develop your product innovation. You’ve honed your message and perfected your offer. With great anticipation, you introduce your brainchild to the market and the standing ovation you’ve imagined is met with… indifference. While we all know the economy has left many a business stillborn, there is another unseen yet omnipresent enemy that threatens to dash the hope of many a marketer and it is this: the attention span of our consumers is as fragmented as the media landscape many of our careers are devoted to sorting out.
Unfortunately this truism doesn’t just apply to business-to-consumer marketing; it is equally prevalent amid business-to-business pitches. Between the ever increasing complexities of a multichannel world, and the technological tools that were suppose to emancipate us but instead threaten to enslave us with their barrage of pings and tweets, we have become a society under siege. As a result, far too often prospects simply cannot be bothered. They are spread too thin, amid a roiling riptide of attention deficit that threatens to drown out perfectly relevant and potentially profitable messages.
Here’s a case in point: recently a colleague suggested the CEO of a direct marketing company consider using Dial800’s RapidRecall numbers. RapidRecall is a bank of 50,000 800-prefix toll-free numbers that have memorable sequences; for example, a number ending in one thousand that is easy for a consumer to recall. In A/B split tests against random sequenced toll-free numbers, these numbers have delivered 20 to 69 percent more inbound telephone traffic. When you consider direct marketers would kill for this kind of improvement from their media buys, it is a message we’re obviously excited to tell the world about. Yet the CEO responded to this information with apathy. A kind of converse to this is getting “yessed to death” – where your proposition is greeted with a smile and a nod, but it takes forever to culminate a deal. Too often, the real reason for getting stiff-armed is not stated: there is an incumbent relationship, often anchored by a personal relationship, and people are loath to change.
Why do we resist change, even when it is in our own best interest to do so? In his brilliant treatise entitled Influence: the Psychology of Persuasion, Robert B. Cialdini, PhD talks about commitment and consistency explaining, “Once we make a choice or take a stand, we will encounter personal and interpersonal pressures to behave consistently with that commitment.” In other words, one of the reasons why a business prospect may be unwilling to consider a new vendor is that on some level they may feel that by allowing the new party in, that they are admitting they’ve made a mistake. Instead, Cialdini explains, what people tend to do is double down on decisions. That explains why when an incumbent president runs for a second term, it is virtually impossible to unseat them, regardless of how unpopular polls say they are. Put another way, even when a business owner is unhappy with an existing supplier, too often they ascribe to “the devil they know” precept. This hunker down mentality is amplified by difficult economic times where the only thing taking a holiday is risk. That’s why it’s essential for B-to-B marketers to remember they are running a marathon and not a sprint.
On the one hand, the direct marketing industry is refreshingly open when it comes to networking and schmoozing, but actually closing a deal – that’s another thing entirely. As my partner James Diorio wryly commented, “I get it now. It isn’t the thirteenth drink where someone does business with you. It’s the fourteenth.” In today’s environment, significant equity and trust has to be built just to have a chance to have your message heard. As Woody Allen once famously commented, “80 percent of success is just showing up.” In this case, that means showing up again and again because sometimes circumstances will change that can make your message suddenly resonate in a new way. For example, our call routing solution has seen its relevancy enhanced by two unforeseen disasters that have unfortunately befallen industry call centers, making marketers who might otherwise have thought they were “safe” realize the virtues of being able to route their calls to multiple centers. That is why it is critical that your differentiation not only be meaningful, but that it be distilled down to its essential core into a memorable message, and then repeated over and over. With the right amount of determination, that sea of fragmentation may actually part, revealing fertile ground. Describe it as common ground, for in its stillness, away from the cacophony of distractions, a prospect and a marketer can come together and find ways – at long last – to collaborate and prosper.