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Friday, May 13, 2005

Salespeople: Shooting Ourselves in the Foot 

B2Blog: Is it too much to ask to talk to our salesperson?

My friend Dave Jung of B2Blog posts a story of frustration--trying to get an apparently qualified prospect to talk to one of his salespeople: "...we wanted to find out what he was up to and whether the model he picked out was the best choice--exactly what a salesperson should do."

Dave wonders: "Are these prospects afraid of a starting a relationship? Do they think they are smart enough to not need a salesperson? Are they overwhelmed with vendors?"

I love salespeople. I usually see one when I look in the mirror. But I think we all know that some salespeople ruin it for the rest of us.

Recent story: we're doing a little remodel around the house, and we need some new windows (okay, a lot of new windows.) We did our research--talked to friends, searched the 'Net, made some initial choices, and set appointments with two salespeople.

The first came to our home, vaguely insulted our half-finished remodel, looked at our windows and told us all the things he couldn't do. When we asked him how his windows compared to the competition, he cockily explained that his were the best, and that every other window was shoddy in comparison. He couldn't give us an exact quote on what he thought he could do (which wasn't what we wanted.) "Come to our showroom, look around, then I'll quote you."

The next guy came a few hours later. He listened to what we wanted, made a few measurements, sat down with his laptop and designed a solution that was even better than what we had come up with. When we wanted to look at other ways to do it, he reset the design, as many ways as we desired. He always had a total price running on his computer for the design. We finally made a decision, wrote him a deposit check, shook hands and were done.

One guy's a salesperson in name only, but he's leaving a trail of 'fear of salespeople' behind him.

The other guy--the guy from Pella--was a true salesman--confident in his product, but not cocky, able to create an answer to our needs, and price it out on the spot.

There aren't enough salespeople like that out there. And I think that's why a lot of people do everything they can to avoid having anything to do with salespeople.

The trick is to convince prospects that your salespeople will listen and solve problems--not push products.

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Impactful Synergistic Value Adds for Stakeholders 

800-CEO-READ Blog: Business Book Smarts

Brand Autopsy blogger John Moore reviews "Why Business People Speak Like Idiots" (Free Press, 2005) over at the 800-CEO-READ blog.

According to the authors, there are four idiot 'traps:'

The Obscurity Trap
"The Obscurity Trap catches idiots desperate to sound smart or prove their purpose, and lures them with message-killers like jargon, long-windedness, acronyms, and evasiveness. "

The Anonymity Trap
"We outsource our voice through templates, speechwriters and email, and cave in to conventions that aren't really even rules."

The Hard-Sell Trap
"We overpromise. We accentuate the positive and pretend the negative doesn't exist."

The Tedium Trap
"They tattoo their long executive-sounding titles on their foreheads, dump pre-packaged numbers on their audience, and virtually guarantee that we want nothing to do with them."

I've met a number of B2B media executives prone to this kind of 'vague, dull and conformist' talk (self definitely included). But media execs, of all people, should know how to communicate clearly and honestly.

I'm going to read the book, and try the authors' free Bullfighter software.

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Thursday, May 12, 2005

Stats on the German B2B Market 

Hugo E. Martin on Media, Marketing & Internet: 2004 German B2B Press Annual Statistic

Fellow B2b blogger Hugo Martin has posted a translation of The Deutsche Fachpress's 2004 stats for the German B2b media market.

Hugo posts from Berlin, offers a mix of German and English commentary, and is worth a read. Danke, Hugo!

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Web Sites as Quilting Bees 

The always excellent and insightful Steve Smith, new media editor for min's b2b (which you should subscribe to) offers his take on one of his favorite b2b web sites, agriculture.com, in the May 9 edition.

Key grabs:

Wisely, AgOnline leverages the natural tendencies of the ag-world to swap stories and trust one another's experience in the field, and it should be a model to other b2bs that talk at, rather than with, their customers.

What we really like about AgOnline's approach is the way it validates the audience's expertise.

The lesson: The online community has got to go beyond hosting forums. Genuine interactivity means showing users that their input matters in the very shape and tone of the publication. These days, a Web site is less a magazine than it is a quilting bee.

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Podhoretz on The Problems with Mass Media 

MASS-MEDIA MELTDOWN

Interesting piece from New York Post columnist John Podhoretz.

Best grab:

But the key will be understanding that the self-satisfied conduct of media professionals — peddling unwatchable nonsense in Hollywood and on TV, and foisting politically correct pseudo-information on increasingly sophisticated consumers of news — isn't going to hack it any longer.

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Technology Rules the Roost 

USATODAY.com - What's ahead for Net, digital entertainment

Thoughtful roundtable from USA Today. Rapper Chuck D offers the best grab:

Technology has always ruled the roost, but the companies who are intermediaries are never first to admit it. They always thought that they ruled the roost.

I agree. But there will always be a need for intermediaries--'editors' who help people sort through the mass of information and entertainment to find something they like and want.

As Chuck D continues: A lot of people like to play basketball. I could do a different thing with a basketball than maybe Patrick Ewing or Michael Jordan. It doesn't interfere with the NBA. Eventually, the cream does rise to the top.

The key is that many 'citizen-consumers' see their current intermediaries as exclusionary and elitist. Note the citizen-journalist movement, which operates under the assumption that 'professional journalists' aren't telling the whole story, or are so biased that they choose to tell only the stories they see fit, or are so beholden to their financial masters that they won't tell stories that need to be told (but may offend an advertiser).

Perhaps the better intermediary model isn't 'editor,' but 'critic.' Not critics who bash things in an elitist or biased way, but critics with broad tastes and experiences, who share interesting information and entertainment. These critics can be anyone--a friend, a trusted blogger, a decent magazine or newspaper editor.

What technology does is break down elitism and exclusion, but it doesn't eliminate the role of the intermediary. It just gets rid of self-appointed gate keepers, and replaces information-access dictatorships with democracy.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2005

MediaPace: ABM's B2B Blog 

MediaPace : Setting the pace for business-to-business dialogue

American Business Media (ABM) has started a blog. It will be interesting to see how the association proceeds with their experiment.

This grab has me a little worried: But what about the business-to-business world -- a slightly slower-moving (some would say timid) environment -- where blogs, like this one, are toes-in-the-water experiences trying to gain exposure in the lickity-split blogosphere.

I think the B2B world moves very fast, and usually innovates solutions well in advance of our B2C media brethren. If top b2b media executives (and ABM members) are dithering over the impact of blogs and the Internet, they can rest assured that their clients are not.

B2B media should be at the forefront of the development of any and all new ways to create communities of buyers and sellers.

Any B2B media company not at this forefront faces the true impact of the web and blogging--being cut out of the process of reaching the end consumer. If our clients can sell direct, who needs us?

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Paul Conley on Blog Ethics 

paulconley: Product endorsements and journalism ethics

My fellow B2B blogger Paul Conley offers a take on blog ethics as it relates to product endorsement. It's a thoughtful look at what a blog is and is not.

Click the link, and offer him your feedback.

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Monday, May 09, 2005

Is Not Magazine 

Is Not Magazine

So, is it a magazine, or a poster? Does it matter? This very-old-style media (posters and notices preceded formal newspapers and magazines in the relatively brief history of printing) continues to show that a magazine is really about the "idea" of being a magazine, rather than a certain size, paper, stitching, printing schedule and so on.)

Grab: It’s a design challenge and a reading experiment; a paper saving device; a bastion of editorial complexity and a grey area for the discerning communal reader. It enriches public space and brings reading to life. Approach it from any angle; bend down curiously; lean in for a closer look; embark on a treasure hunt to find a story that ends in another location.

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Client News 

Religion News Service Promotes Eckstrom

Congratulations to Kevin Eckstrom, newly-promoted associate editor of our client, Religion News Service. Kevin developed and led RNS' coverage of the death of the Pope and the installation of the new Pope (who apparently believes in freedom of the press--that is, he who owns the press is free to do as he pleases.) RNS's coverage of the process was stellar, in my humble opinion, and clients seem to agree. We had our best revenue month ever in April for both the text and the photo service.

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Nick Denton Gets It 

A Blog Revolution? Get a Grip - New York Times

Nice story on Nick Denton's Gawker Media. Grab: He says that there is no magic behind Gawker Media, his three-year-old venture based in New York. To his mind, it is built around a basic publishing model.

Exactly.

And more:

The idea of grouping the blogs, Mr. Denton said, was to give the company an air of respectability. "The only reason we're listed as a group at all is for advertisers," he said. "Advertisers treat Gawker titles more seriously because it's part of a group."

The counterpoint:

But others have begun to wonder if the brand itself is a form of compromise. Stowe Boyd, president of Corante, a daily online news digest on the technology sector, suggests that there may be something lost when networks like Gawker Media and Weblogs turn blogs into commodities, churned out for a fee, owned by an overlord and underwritten by advertisers.

"They're pursuing a very clear agenda and they've done very well with that," Mr. Boyd said of Gawker. "But they're just an old media company in new media clothes, and I still maintain that they are missing part of the point."


The point being something about following your muse. Which is fine, if you want to keep an online diary, or create written performance art. But if you want to build an audience, a community, and make money from that, those old publishing models come in mighty handy.

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