Last week marked the Shop.org Annual Summit, a must attend for e-commerce and multi-channel leaders. The content was thought provoking, and the networking opportunities were plentiful. Attending as a consultant, I spent a fair part of my time touring the exhibit hall on the lookout for solution providers that I can recommend to my clients or learn about for strategic consideration. In a couple of cases though, I got some terrific examples of how NOT to market to prospective customers.
One thing is for sure: the number of exhibitors has grown. I used to know all of them, now I am overwhelmed by the choices. It's not so much that I mind having a lot of choices. What I mind is not being able to figure what most of these companies actually do.
Here's a real life example: A friend and I walked past a booth, where under the company name (deleted here to avoid embarrassing them) it read:
Consistent multi-channel branding strategy across offline and online catalogs maximizes the shopping experience for your customers and employees by creating an end to end online solution.
Wow. Now I ask you: do you have any idea what this company actually does? A casual and totally unscientific, statistically insignificant poll I took at the lunch table had at least six people wondering.... did they slap it up on the booth really fast because they were in a hurry to get ready for the show? Or worse, did they spent hours in a smoke filled room trying to craft the perfect sentiment that contained all of the right buzzwords? (They left out Web 2.0, though)
Here's another example. This company had banners on the side of their booth that displayed the following:
Transparent and simple pricing. Customizable. Increasing your revenue. Truly international. Easy implementation. Scalable. Improving profitability. Open standard. Guided navigation.
So, what is this company actually? A web design firm? An e-commerce platform? Site optimization tools? Analytics? I'll bet if I walked up to them, they'd probably tell me they do all of those things.
Now, I know that e-commerce is complicated, but ask any retailer and they'll tell you that marketing 101 is about articulating a value proposition; being very clear about what your product is and why people should buy it from you. If you're an e-commerce solution provider, the same rule applies.
I know your product is probably very technically sophisticated. While I'm not a CTO, I've spent enough years as a business leader in technology driven roles to be able to hold my own, and the same is true for most of us attending Shop.org. Don't be afraid that what you call yourself will be "too technical" or "too boring" if it really is what you do well. Like web hosting and development for example. Just say it.
I know your company is probably multi-faceted and capable of many things , and that saying you're JUST a development shop or JUST an analytics tool doesn't do justice and you do so much more than that. And it's so hard to say it all on a booth. But here's the thing. I'm actually looking for companies that do development and offer analytics tools. Once I know you do that, you can tell me about all of the other great things you can do for me.
Just like the retailer who can show a customer she has the skirt she's looking for and then sell her a sweater to go with it.
I can see it now on next year's booth: People who bought our web design services also bought natural search optimization and rich media applications.