Vendors: Are You Trying to Hide from Prospects and Industry Influencers?

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In our research work at SMB Research, LLC we are continually researching, analyzing, profiling and/or reaching out to software, hardware, technology, and professional service vendors.  People, you are often not making this as easy as it could be!  You are putting unnecessary speed bumps in the way.

You are going to such efforts to develop technology, solutions, and products to serve your customers well – and then you are making your prospects, customers and influencers jump through the proverbial hoops to find you and contact you.

Particularly in this economy and the competition that exists, it amazes us how difficult it often is to find and to reach the right person.  If we, trained analysts and researchers, are finding it difficult to find you and to reach you, can you imagine what your prospects / customers / clients are going through?  How many potential deals is your unwitting “sales prevention” program delaying or preventing?

Many vendors and companies just do not seem to fully comprehend the importance of being not just visible – but accessible.

A common example of a speed bump:  Your company issues a press release.  At the bottom of the press release, you provide your marketing contact’s name with, alas, the main corporate phone number rather than their direct line.  This does not work if, as so commonly is the case, your company either does not have a central switchboard or receptionist, or “the main reception desk” option is buried in an overcomplicated phone (Interactive Voice Response, or IVR) menu, or your receptionist is not picking up.

In such cases, you are subjecting your visitor to the (often dreaded) “dial by name” function.  While the better “dial by name” functions provide the person’s extension or direct dial number before transferring the caller, most such “dial by name” functions more commonly transfer the caller without providing the extension or direct dial, ensuring the caller of the sweet privilege torture of going through the whole ridiculous dial-by-name exercise the next time they call in.

Your press release may (and should) provide the marketing contact’s direct email address.  Too often, however, what a company provides is a general “marketing@yourcompany.com” or “pr@yourcompany.com”.  Since no one truly believes that they will be speaking to a “department” or a “function” instead of to a person, the burning question is why your company is so unwilling to supply a real person’s name and direct contact information?

Other examples of speed bumps:

  • Limited to no direct phone or email contact information for any contact
  • Contact information for high-level executives who are too busy to act as direct contacts and to provide reliable and immediate response
  • Outdated Public Relations firm information;
  • No central reception desk function or, failing that, a well-thought out dial-by-name function;
  • Contacts who provide no out-of-office notification on their voicemail or email

We recently had one company flat out ask us – “How did you find us?”.  I could only reply “It wasn’t easy.”  If you are asking an Analyst how they found you, there is surely something amiss.  A huge “red flag” has been raised and you have created a headwind (if we may mix metaphors) that could take your company weeks or months, or longer, to overcome.

In twitterspeak: #FAIL

Providing a customer-facing website, with customer-facing contacts, and then making it unnecessarily difficult to find, to reach, and to speak to the right contact compromises your company’s public image as well as your company’s ability to sense and respond to opportunities.

From our combined 25+ years finding, reaching out to, and dealing with vendors, here are just a few tips on how to be more accessible:

  • Provide direct telephone number and direct email contact information for your marketing and customer-facing contacts.
  • Best Practice: Direct telephone number and email address for anyone / everyone listed on your website.  Mobile contact information provided for key public-facing individuals.  Direct email provided for management team.
  • Best Practice: one Fortune100 company made it standard practice from the central switchboard to provide on request name, title, email address, direct dial and mobile number, executive assistant’s name, executive assistant’s email address and direct dial number.
  • Your “dial-by-name” function should provide the person’s extension prior to forwarding the caller to the extension.
  • Institute a chain-of-responsibility practice: if a customer-facing individual is out for vacation, this out-of-office information will be on their voicemail together with instructions for who is covering and how to reach their coverage;
  • Show your public and your team your confidence and respect for your marketing function by providing ready, easy and direct accessibility to customer-facing marketing contacts (where necessary, multiple marketing contacts, with distinct responsibilities clearly delineated).
  • Make sure that your public-facing, first point of contact marketing contacts are experienced and trained enough to be knowledgeable and fluent in your products and technologies.
  • Regardless of whether you have dedicated Analyst Relations people, make sure you have a process for being able to quickly and properly responding to external Requests for Information.   Make no mistake – users, evangelists, Analysts and other influencers will spread the word, and their opinions, about your company. The only question is whether you are an enabler and contributor to the process and to a positive image about your company – and whether your company is as accessible and engaging as your competitors.
  • If you make it easy for end-users to find you and to reach you, then you obviously get more at-bats with contacts and prospects who should be your clients and customers.

Want to hear more of our ideas on this topic? Want to share your ideas with us?  Want an audit of your accessibility to customers, prospects, evangelists, influencers?  Now is a GREAT time (before business picks up in the Fall) to do an audit of your website and your accessibility.  Call us.  We would love to chat.  Robert Eastman (781.474.4734) Miles Prescott (339.933.0643)  SMB Research (781.904.0408)

Comments

  1. Dan Kraus says:

    Your thoughts are dead on. Rohit Bhargava in his book “Personality not Included” essentially makes the point that the days of the faceless corporation are fast coming to an end and I completely agree. All the worst practices you list above are remainders of being faceless. With all the social media communication methods and review sites, companies have to stop hiding their “people” because conversations about them are going on and if the “people” aren’t invited because they can’t be found, it doesn’t stop the conversations – they just go on without “official” input.

  2. Thanks for the validation Dan. We will have to take a look this resource. Miles

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