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Technology Vendor--Can You Afford Credibility?

Written By: Olin Thompson
Published On: April 10 2004

Introduction

Webster defines credibility as "the ability to be believed." Technology vendors need to define credibility as "the ability to sell." Research by The Credibility Forum (www.thecredibilityforum.com) shows that technology vendors are weak in understanding the impact credibility has on their efforts, knowing how to gauge their own credibility, and utilizing methods to build and maintain credibility.

Defining credibility as the ability to sell means that you cannot afford to be without it. But, at the same time, with today's tightening marketing budgets, can you afford it? Without credibility, your sales force spends more time trying to get in the door than actually selling. Without credibility, your messages are ignored or even used against you by the competition. Without credibility, you do not get mentioned by analysts or the trade press and, if they do mention you, they may be negative.

Of course, over time your credibility can build, slowly. Or, you can proactively create it, which still takes time but a lot less of it. No matter how rapidly you build credibility, the reality is that it can be lost even more rapidly. Credibility is vital, is hard to build, and easy to lose.

For information on a seminar presented by The Credibility Forum on ways to efficiently establish your credibility contact www.thecredibilityforum.com.

Gauging Credibility - The Credibility Matrix

So, what is credible and what is not? How can I increase my credibility and still live within my budget. One way to gauge the credibility impact of programs is the credibility matrix. The matrix compares the messenger with the media to determine how credible a program or tool will be.

The messenger is the person who delivers the message. Your own people have the lowest credibility. Your sales rep is the lowest credibility person you have (your weakest credibility link). Non-sales employees are higher on the credibility scale with executives having the most (prospects believe that they can make it happen). Third party messengers have still greater credibility. These include consultants, the press, analysts, and others. The highest credibility messengers you have are your customers. Within both the third party and customer messengers, some are more credible than others for the particular individual receiving the message. Does the individual know the messenger; does the individual trust the messenger? These third party and customer distinctions are both subtle and meaningful.

The media is how your message is transmitted to the audience. Internal sources, from lowest credibility to highest, include verbal (a speech or sales call), casual written items (white papers) and formal items (brochures and web sites.) External media outranks internal media in terms of credibility and includes the press, analysts' reports, etc. Again, some external media is better than others relative to the individual.

Taking the two issues, messenger and media, we have a matrix which helps us understand credibility.

Figure 1. Credibility Matrix

Note that a sales call (verbal media) by a sales rep (lowest credibility messenger) is at the bottom of the credibility ranking but your most frequent interaction with your marketplace. A key marketing challenge is helping those sales reps increase their credibility in everyday situations. For example, what are the really tough sales objections and how able are your sales reps to deal with them?

But, What About The Marketing Budget

Today, most sales and marketing groups are looking at lower budgets, yet they have more to do. Leads are harder to come by and competitive battles are more ferocious, while the resources available for the sales battle are fewer than anytime in the recent past. Reality says that you need different methods to meet your sales objectives. Reality also says there are many people out there to help you, if you can figure out how you can help them meet their objectives while you meet yours. Analysts, editors, consultants are all living in today's world just as much as you are and they have their own needs.

For example, magazine editors always need good stories. Good stories are the stock and trade of their credibility. Understanding the editor's world, measurement system, and job stresses means you can help editors succeed in their world - and meet your objectives. For example, to help that editor and yourself, you need to understand and deal with the one word that most impacts the editor's world, "deadline."

Another example is the industry analysts. The analyst lives in a constant time crunch. If you know any analysts personally, you know that they live with a very packed schedule, with vendors and customers coming at them from every side, and they often have minimal control over their own time. If you can help analysts do a better job, in less time, they will remember you and your messages. But that means understanding their world, what is important to them and how they think. For the analysts, time is money and knowledge is king. You need to save them time and help them gain knowledge.

If you decide to spend money on agencies, how do you know you are getting your money's worth? As marketing professionals, we need to understand how to manage, motivate and measure our agencies.

New technology based tools are being used by buyers to judge you before you get in front of the prospect. Knowing how to leverage these tools can lead to a "no-run-off" evaluation. Ignoring them can lead to missing the cut.

Low Cost/No Cost Marketing

Marketing professionals usually think of marketing programs as budget line items. However there are no cost options.. Other options are highly effective but have a low cost. These are built on understanding who your market really is, how they judge you and your competition, how they see themselves. It has always been true that you need to know your customer, but in times of tight budgets, this knowledge is even more critical. Resources spent on an assumption of who that prospect is may be wasted resources.

About the Author

Olin Thompson is the managing partner of The Credibility Forum (www.thecredibilityforum.com). His firm specializes in helping application software companies effectively use market to deliver sales. He has over 25 years of executive level sales and marketing experience in the application software market.

Olin can be reached at olin@thecredibilityforum.com.

 
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