Archive for August, 2015

Role Of Emotion In B2B Sales

Friday, August 28th, 2015

People buy from people. People have emotions. Ergo, emotions play an equally important role in B2B and B2C sales.

There’s a school of thought that subscribes to this view. I could be prejudiced but it largely seems to comprise of B2C marketers who have migrated to B2B e.g. Deanna Lazzaroni in Dear Modern Marketer: I Dare You To Make Me Feel.

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Emotions like winning, looking good among peers, fear of failure, and so on do underpin B2B purchase decisions. So the notion is a no-brainer in principle.

However, acting on it is anything but.

Before marketers go out and add mushy stuff to their B2B messaging and content, they need to appreciate that emotions impact B2B purchases in fairly different ways compared to B2C purchases. Some of the key differences in the role of emotions between B2C and B2B are described below:

Emotion is influential but not decisive

A consumer can buy something with a simple “I like it” emotion whereas a corporate buyer would need to enumerate the benefits to their company of selecting a particular vendor. This is true even for the same product like, say, tablets. In fact, in government and some business cultures, colleagues and superiors might even suspect the intentions of a B2B buyer who demonstrates too much fondness for a particular vendor.

Whose emotion?

B2B purchase involves several people aka committee. All committees are rife with group dynamics in which Interpersonal Persona” is a key factor, as CEB Worldwide points out.

So the question is whose emotion to consider when different members of the purchase committee are driven by different emotions.

Emotion is never raw

Although companies urge employees to check their emotions at the door, there’s always some emotion left in play. Problem is, the residual emotion manifests itself quite differently from the original emotion. As a result, at least on the surface, buyers are generally on the guard whenever sales attempts emotional appeals.

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For all these reasons, it’s tricky to leverage emotion in B2B sales.

But that’s not to say that it can’t be done.

The trick is in packaging the offering in such a way that the prospect has a set of logical reasons to defend the emotionally-triggered selection of a vendor. From personal experience, SAP seems to be doing a great job of this. Many IT teams see SAP as a launchpad to their own careers. They make up their mind to buy the world’s #1 ERP based on the emotion of personal gain. But they justify their choice of SAP by touting several benefits for their employer such as superior fitment via industry-specific solutions, large network of implementation partners, access to global best practices, and so on. As highlighted in The More ERP Changes, The More It Remains The Same, many of these benefits prove elusive in actual practice but, by the time a company realizes that, it’s too late to backtrack.

To conclude, emotions play an important role in B2B but any amateurish attempts to bring them into B2B sales and marketing will backfire.

Leading Insurer Boosts Sales With Omnichannel CRO

Friday, August 21st, 2015

Here’s our latest success story:

Leading Insurer Boosts Sales
Omnichannel CRO increases conversion of browsers to buyers

This leading insurer uses integrated marketing to drive sales of its automobile, health, and other general insurance products. Traditional marketing comprises of ads in newspapers, bus shelters and so on. Digital marketing includes banner ads, SEO, etc. QR codes are used to transition prospective customers from physical to digital media. GTM360 recommended an array of omnichannel Conversion Rate Optimization techniques to the company. By implementing them, the insurer expects to increase conversion of readers / website visitors to customers. Read more>>>

How To Remove Features And Increase A Product’s Appeal

Friday, August 14th, 2015

rf-fiYes, you read that right. There are indeed ways to remove features and still increase a product’s appeal. This post was sparked off when I heard about GPSVoice, a new mobile app that uses GPS to help parents track their children’s location without draining battery life.

More on the app in a bit but lest you think I’m spouting some new-fangled product management / marketing theory, let me assure you that product managers and marketers have been using this tactic for a long time.

Once upon a time when I had more hair on my head and less head on my shoulder than now, I used to sell PCs, Servers and other types of computer hardware at a leading IT company. This was the late 1980s and the PC/AT, based on Intel’s 80386 processor, was the hottest selling model in the mainstream commercial market. For the niche but burgeoning scientific market, Intel introduced the 80386DX processor, which integrated the so-called math coprocessor / Floating Point Unit (FPU) into the basic 386 chip. A couple of years later, Moore’s Law beckoned and it was time for the next model of processor. Out came the 486. In line with the prevailing expectation at the time that a new model of a processor – or anything for matter – must be a superset of the old model that it superseded, Intel included an FPU within the basic 486 chip and called it 80486DX.

Unfortunately for Intel, sales of 486DX-based PCs didn’t take off as expected. The mainstream business market felt that a chip with an integrated math coprocessor was more suited for AutoCAD, Desktop Publishing and other high-end applications. They thought their 386 machines sufficed for regular office automation applications like wordprocessing, spreadsheet and presentations (Word, Excel and Powerpoint hadn’t yet became household names).

Desperate to grow revenues, Intel had to release a new chip for the mainstream market. Out of the blue came 80486SX. Intel positioned its latest CPU as 486 minus the FPU and priced it aggressively compared to 80386DX. The market responded very favorably. Sales of 486SX machines soared.

Hardware vendors and other industry insiders were wondering how the heck Intel could design a new CPU so quickly.

It was only a few months later that we learned that Intel had created 486SX from 486DX by breaking a pin on the latter to disable its math coprocessor function! In other words, 486SX chips were actually i486DX chips with a defective FPU!!

As far as I can recall, this was my first exposure to how you could remove a feature and actually broaden a product’s appeal.

Cue to today and the aforementioned GPSVoice app.

If you’re a frequent user of location-based apps or the developer of LBS apps like my company is, you’d know that GPS drains battery very rapidly.

As parents of Millennials would know, Gen Y and Gen Z kids hate to be stalked by their parents (Well, members of Gen Xs and Baby Boomer generations were no different when they were kids, just that lack of cellphones in that era rendered the judgment moot!).

rf02Against that backdrop, when I read that GPSVoice used GPS to track children’s location without draining battery life, it sounded like double Holy Grail!

Has the app cracked this by developing some patent-pending technology? Unlikely.

In all likelihood, GPSVoice has removed the perpetually-on property of GPS whereby, once it’s switched on, the GPS remains on forever, draining battery life in the process. While children don’t like to be stalked all the time, they surely know that they owe an update about their whereabouts if they failed to answer their parent’s call asking them, “Where are you?”. I surmise that GPSVoice has leveraged this human behavior insight to use an unanswered call from a predefined number to switch on the GPS, which is otherwise off.

This way, GPSVoice has killed two birds with one stone.

  1. It doesn’t need GPS to be on all the time, thereby saving battery life
  2. Since it reports the children’s location only if they don’t answer their parents’ call, it removes concerns about stalking.

Only time will tell whether this approach will help GPSVoice gain mainstream adoption. For now, my teenage daughter has agreed to install it. Going by that data point of one, the outlook of GPSVoice seems bright!

Mitigating Fraud Does Not Pay The Bills

Friday, August 7th, 2015

fm02Many discussions of security standards emphasize how Chip + PIN and Two Factor Authentication reduce fraud loss and exhort countries using Magstripe / Chip + Signature and Single Factor Authentication (e.g. USA) to immediately migrate to the newer technologies. Take for instance Campaign pushes for US adoption of chip and PIN on Finextra.

They’re totally missing that mitigating fraud does not pay the bills. For it’s only when a transaction goes through that a merchant makes revenues. And not when some security algorithm blocks a transaction as potentially fraudulent.

I’m not for a moment suggesting that merchants throw caution to the winds but imploring them to remember that an obsession with fraud control could hit sales and cause customer dissatisfaction.

This is because virtually every security measure designed to prevent fraud causes collateral damage by way of friction viz. need to remember the PIN in the case of an offline Chip + PIN transaction. Security pundits have been claiming for years that there are ways to implement security without compromising on convenience but there are far too few implementations of such technologies in the mainstream market for merchants to take these claims too seriously as of now.

The amount of incremental friction caused by a security measure needs to be seen in the context of many factors specific to local culture and business practices viz.:

fm03Cards Per Customer

If consumers have only one card, remembering just one PIN is not a big deal. However, if they regularly use multiple cards, the need to remember multiple PINs poses a lot of friction. (Most probably, people belonging to the latter category would write down all their PINs on a piece of paper and keep it inside their wallets, which would defeat the basic purpose of security.)

Recourse Against Fraud

In some countries (e.g. USA), when a cardholder spots a fraudulent charge on their credit card statement, they can report it to their bank and have it reversed, pending chargeback investigation carried out by the bank behind the scenes. So, compared to their ease of seeking recourse against fraud, any friction during the payment would seem severe. On the other hand, a cardholder caught in a similar situation in some other countries (e.g. India) gets shunted between the issuer, acquirer and the merchant, so they might be willing to tolerate additional friction at the point of payment.

The impact of friction is two fold:

  1. Customer abandons the transaction and the business suffers a loss of revenue, or
  2. Customer completes the transaction with an alternative method of payment viz. cash. Let’s assume that there’s no net impact on the merchant in this case since the incremental cost of cash handling could be offset against the savings on credit card processing fees.

So, while steps taken to mitigate fraud could result in lower fraud loss, they could stunt revenues.

Therefore, any discussion about payment security is complete only when it addresses both:

(A) Fraud loss as % of Sales

(B) Revenue loss.

In the migration from magstripe / Chip + Signature to Chip + PIN for offline payments, it’s too early to predict which of these two losses will prove more critical. But, in the related case of online card payments, it appears that concerns about revenue loss owing to friction have far overshadowed those over fraud loss, given how leading merchants like Amazon have still not implemented 2FA (VbV / MSC / OTP) despite FFIEC having issued its 2FA guidelines way back in 2005.

fm-fiI’m not alone in advocating a balanced approach towards payment security. “The challenge is friction from a checkout point of view. If merchants are looking for security perfection, then they are going to be turning away good sales.”, says George Peabody, a partner at Glenbrook Partners here. “When you are doing checkout out of a merchant’s shopping cart ? particularly on a mobile device ? it is really important to be as friction-free as possible.”, he adds.

End of the day, it all boils down to how a business wishes to treat the risk of fraud loss – or any other risk for that matter. If they follow the advice of Sam Zell, the famous American real estate magnate and private equity investor, they’d analyze the risk unemotionally and take it if they get commensurate returns. Not because the technology is new or old.