Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Nobody Knows Your Product Exists

Periodically, I am asked to find out how much prospective customers of the companies for which I'm working know about the company's products. I'm always amazed at how little they typically know. I am also typically astounded how much the executive team thinks our customers and prospects know about us.

After so many years, however, this knowledge chasm no longer surprises me. It's natural for us to imagine our market knows about us and follows our every move--after all, we spend all of our time thinking about our company. Why shouldn't the prospect or customer do so too?

Put yourself in the customer's shoes for a moment. If you're reading this blog, you probably work at a company and perhaps have a say in some of the things that company buys. How much do you really know about any of your vendors? Does it come near to the amount you know about your own product or service?

Years ago, I worked at Dollar Bank, a regional bank with a fairly large customer base among small businesses. My boss talked about a particular small business owner who was also a private banking customer. He called his Relationship Manager one way to rail against us for not being available by phone on the weekends. He hadn't realized that we had phone banking, despite the fact that we had implemented weekend hours in the telephone banking center fifteen years earlier. And touted those hours on marketing materials. And on the website. And in every single bank statement. And in mailing inserts. And in TV commercials.

I believe that many companies think that if they have a great product, it will eventually sell itself the way Google and Facebook have done. I disagree. Google and Facebook are the exceptions that prove the rule: almost nobody knows your product exists. Proving the rule are companies like my current company Vocollect, which has a proven product that has saved money at almost every single one of the thousands of user sites where we have implemented and yet continues to face prospect skepticism. It's a proven solution that will boost productivity at any distribution center at least 10% and usually more like 20-30%, and yet I hear every day from prospects and even some current customers about objections to sale that are just plain wrong, as proven at the >80% of the top 75 US/Canada grocery retailers who are Vocollect customers.

I thought about this lack of prospect knowledge recently when I heard about Asana, the company former Facebook founder Dustin Moskovitz started. By all accounts, when I go to the Website, it looks like a pretty cool company. Whether it will be successful, I think, depends at least partly on whether anybody ever learns that it exists. Based on a cursory look at their staffing in the marketing area and from their apparent marketing efforts, I think they believe in the Google/Facebook non-model for marketing.

Good luck, Dustin.

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