As to my background and credentials as editor of this publication: I began my career as a sports journalist, where I worked closely with Sports Illustrated, and later as a reporter at the Cincinnati Enquirer and as Weekend Night Sports Editor for the Cincinnati Post. I moved on to work as a copywriter in the marketing department at Union Central Life, then one of the top 50 insurance companies in the US. My next stint was as a Marketing Manager for KDI Corporation, a high-tech A&D conglomerate. From there I served for a couple of years as a writer and account executive at a promotion agency, working for Champion Spark Plugs, Owens-Corning and Jeep. I did a stint as editor of an international trade magazine and then made the jump to marketing management at a chemical company, and later at NuTone, a manufacturer of home building products. That’s when I made the big jump, opening a sales promotion agency with partners Richard Blumberg and Barron Krody. Over the next two decades we built the agency up to one of the 50 largest in the US, serving Procter & Gamble, Toshiba, Florida Power & Light, 3M, Imation, Quaker State, Pillsbury, St. Paul Insurance, among others. I sold the agency to join Cincom Systems — the oldest software company still in existence — where I worked with a phenomenal group of marketers as Marketing Director for Manufacturing Customer Strategies and to manage marketing programs with Microsoft Dynamics, our primary business partner . I retired from Cincom at the end of 2015 to put renewed focus on this online magazine.

7 Steps to Market to Personality Clusters

By Dale Wolf

Your customers are moving targets. But one way to put them in ‘still frame’ is to look at their behaviors and define a message framework that goes up squarely against each cluster of behavior-types. As long as you are conversing against the customer’s behavior model, your content will achieve pin-point relevance.

Here’s the process I follow when developing a message framework:

Step 1 —
Action is to align on target audience needs and marketing objectives; the outcome is team consensus on measurable objectives. If you get Step 1 wrong, your goose is cooked. But achieving internal consensus is often like shadow boxing. Key managers for one reason or another have their own hidden agendas and agree in public but undermine the objectives as the process moves forward. The project leader must skillfully get all the cards on the table and motivate all stakeholders into consensus on measurable objectives for which they all take accountability.

Step 2 —
Analyze and score existing messages in current documents. This audit runs through existing brochures, presentations call center scripts, elevator speeches, etc., that are now put in front of customers. Underline each "core message" and chart them. Typically this will reveal that there is a wide variety of messages being sent to customers. It helps to see this in chart form, with numeric rankings to underscore the fact that there is no real message strategy. Everyone is doing their own thing and the brand equity is swirling down the drain.

Step 3 —
Gain buyer insights with 1-hour interviews using Rule of Ten to tell you when to stop gathering input. I prefer face-to-face interviews because this method tends to bring out the customer’s needs, wants and expectations in their own vocabulary. First identify the personality clusters that most impact your business success. Then listen to customers from each personality cluster and notice how they describe their needs, wants and expectations. Look especially for emotional words. This cuts through all the in-bred jargon most of us live with inside the company. The Rule of Ten says that once you see a pattern across 10 individuals, you have arrived at a consensus that will not get better even if you interview 100 more. I’m not a big numbers person. I like to keep it simple and over the years my Rule of Ten has proven reliable. The trick however is to look for patterns by personality behavior type. If you define messages by ten customers who are "best value" buyers then you should be looking on the flip side for "best price" buyers. Compare the messages that appeal to each.

Steps 4 and 5 —
Develop and then test message platforms for each behavior cluster that you believe will impact the measurable objectives. Use plain English with few if any adjectives, no jargon, no superlatives. First write up a clear and simple description of the business you are in, from the customer’s point of view. Next, describe how you uniquely bring value with this business … this is your Value Statement. Lastly, develop the Proof Statement to describe how you can validate to your customers that you can deliver on the promised value. This framework, developed for each personality cluster, becomes the acid test that you use to evaluate all creative executions. Stay focused on the value you deliver instead of the features and benefits. One other group to test against is your internal team, especially those who tend to be opinion leaders — you need to gain their consensus support or risk the liability that your message strategy will be undermined from the inside out.

Step 6 and 7 —
Turn your creative people lose. Have them execute creative across a variety of media: ads, direct mail, brochures, powerpoint presentations, call center scripts. Make sure the message is one that can be creatively powerful without wandering off into blind alleys. Then test by showing concept boards to your various personality clusters. Make sure that the targeted individuals can see both the creative impact and the underlying message.

Roll Up Your Sleeves

I did not promise this was easy work for it is not. But you will end up with a message framework that will guide success. If you don’t achieve the success based on your initial measurable objectives, you at least have very specific process steps that you can back up to and analyze. This leads to a message strategy that stays fresh, relevant and focused on business success.

Pick up the ten ton phone … preparation will make it feel light as a feather.

By Dale Wolf

We all want fatter pipelines and our group has determine that one way to do this is to get more successful with the initial prospect contact. We want to talk our way into more deals.

We can all imagine the scene on the other end of the phone. The prospect accidentally takes the phone call instead of dumping us into voicemail. It’s not that they are rude, but just that the people we want to talk to are rather popular with all vendors. They get 25 calls a day from vendors and that could be a waste of their time. When we get them on the phone, they are immediately doing their best to get us off the phone. It is a gargantuan struggle of wits.

What we say in the first few seconds will determine if we can take a warm sales lead from telemarketing or a cold call that we are making into the pipeline.

There are two immediate paths – a product path or a solution path. Either way, should go through a relevant reference that proves we can address the customer’s situation and earn the right to get the first face-to-face meeting.

“Hello, my name is (Richard). Thanks for taking my call. I’ve been looking into the comments your CEO has made about improving distribution productivity. Do I have that information correct?

“Yes, distribution is one of our major initiatives.”

“We have done a lot of research in this area ourselves, including some interviews with agents who sell your services. We helped XYZ Company with solutions that improved their processes by 15%. I’d like to share some of this information with you. I will be in town next week. Would Wednesday or Thursday be best for you?”

“What company are you with?”

“I’m glad you asked. I am with Serious Systems. We have been bringing process improvement solutions to over 5,000 clients around the world for the past 15 years. We are just coming off a record profit year. We’re doing great because we have clients who value the solutions we offer.”

What happened there?

We thanked the prospect because we genuinely appreciate it these days when a busy person takes time to pick up the phone. We did not start off with Serious Systems, but instead tried to establish empathy and dialogue. We established a key metric along with an example of how we fixed a similar problem. Get them to tip off what their pain really is. Get the appointment.

This calls for doing the right research before the call. Get the story right. Get the approach right. Get the call objective right. Know your value proposition.

Ignore rejection … stay disciplined to overcome the resistance factor.

By Dale Wolf

The best-in-class sales professionals understand the importance of account strategy and of staying the course. This takes vision. You have to see it first and feel it second. Some sales reps see things as they are and ask why. The best see things that never were and asked why not.

While you are researching your top 100 sales prospects, begin optimizing a disciplined process that you will follow day after day. Sales people who fail typically have no process: “I just make calls and start off talking football.” You laugh, but in our years of consulting you would be amazed at the number of times we have heard that exact comment from sales people attending our seminars.