My father used to complain that a friend of his would make his doctor practice veterinary medicine. The doctor would ask him what was wrong and his friend would reply in a non-committal way. Some entrepreneurs, especially in the early market, seem to prefer veterinary marketing: running tests and making changes in their application without actually talking to their prospects.
Don’t Practice Veterinary Marketing: Talk to Prospects
If you offer a trial period for your software here are some ways you can spark a conversation to understand how their evaluation is progressing:
- Ask to schedule a phone call: E-mail asking if you can have a support person or one of the founders who has a support / service mindset call them to see how it’s going.
- Include a phone number / skype number in your e-mails to them.
- Add a chat service like Liveperson or OggChat so that they can chat with you.
- Schedule regular webinars where you could trigger a conversation. Ask your customers to take part, structure it as an interview or lessons learned session not a sales pitch
- Schedule open “office hours where prospects in who are in active evaluation or those who are just the curious about your product can call in to a conference line or skype session and ask questions.
- Ask your customers what specifically triggered their realization of the true benefits of your offer. Write up their answers as a simple narrative and have them review and approve it. Consider posting these stories (case studies) on your web site so that your “yet to be enlightened” prospects may also understand.
Especially in the early market you don’t need to worry about scaling a B2B sales process. You can employ methods that are very time intensive to get a deep understanding of each step in your prospects journey to becoming a customer.
Make changes that target specific symptoms suggested by prospects or needs suggested by customers. Make it a priority to have real conversations with your prospects and appreciate the value of being surprised by what they say.
It’s also worth contacting those who don’t convert who are no longer evaluating (e.g. have not logged in for two weeks, account has lapsed,…) and asking them how they solved the problem that led them to signup for an evaluation of your service. Even if only a few answer you may learn quite about who your real competitors are and why some prospects decide not to complete the evaluation.
Related Blog Posts
- Customer Development Requires a Willingness to be Surprised
- Saras Sarasvathy’s Effectual Reasoning Model for Expert Entrepreneurs in particular the section that begins: Pasteur advised that “Chance only favors the prepared mind” so you have to open yourself up to possibilities and be prepared to be surprised (which is another way of saying you have learned something new).
- Q: Is Veterinary Marketing A Viable Approach To Market Exploration? The short answer is no.
If two weeks in the lab will save you two hours in the library, then five months of Adword selection and landing page A/B tests will save you from five conversations with prospects.