We have found in over 35 years of consulting that shortening the customer decision process is by far the single most powerful approach to creating enormous increases in sales, even to dominating markets.
In order to accelerate the customers’ decisions, you have to understand the ever-changing mindsets of your customers, you have to know exactly what will interest them, appeal to them, persuade them, and motivate them. Your sales and market share make quantum leaps when you give customers exactly the information they need, from sources they find credible, in the form and sequence that makes them most receptive, in the most persuasive, compelling manner. In other words, when you fit your marketing communications to the flow of the customers’ decision process, your customers sail right through it, and decide on your product much faster and more often.
That’s what we do. We help you understand the customers’ mindsets, why they make decisions for your product, and why they don’t – and how to intensify and speed up the process in your favor. We are the first and only Decision Acceleration Consultants. We analyze your customers’ decision process, find the major roadblocks and minor little hurdles, and hidden triggers, and work with you and your agencies to develop, test and implement a marketing program which causes customers to sail through the decision process and persuades them to choose your product. We provide the continuity, insight and integration that ensures that your marketing fits the customer decision process. We are the only marketing consultants who organize marketing around the decision process. Because the decision is too important to leave to the customer.
Here’s what we do:
We take all of the elements of the promotional mix and organize them into a consistent whole that fits the mind-sets of your customers. Here’s how:
- We identify the attitudes and beliefs that separate the different market segments that make up your initial customers, later adopters, rejecters, defectors, and enthusiastic advocates. We figure out what separates the customers from the others.
- We use this to develop, test and refine strategy to accelerate favorable decisions for your product for each segment of your marketplace.
- Using the decision processes of the customers as the guide, we work with you to set the strategic goals of advertising/direct mail, PR, salespeople, telemarketing and all of the other media, so that they are integrated into a system that moves the customer favorably and expeditiously through the decision process to select your product.
- We monitor the execution of the above: monitor the development and tuning of the content of ads, brochures, sales aids, seminar programs, sales calls, telemarketing, etc. and other programs, such as sampling programs, premium programs, customer satisfaction programs, and the like, and organize them into a consistent and synergistic whole.
Checklist for marketing effectiveness
Our Decision Acceleration technology is based on our belief that focusing on expediting the customer decision process will maximize the effectiveness of your marketing program. We concentrate on the following areas:
|Methods of identifying the people who would benefit most from the product, or who would use it, specify or prescribe it. (Targeting)|
|A clearly articulated advantage, a significant difference.|
|A optimally defined (positioned) product|
|A Unique Value Proposition|
|A variety of lead generating methods.|
|A “you” orientation: benefits, a WII-FM (a “What’s In It For Me?”)|
|A reason to read the material.|
|Compelling arguments for purchase, use, etc., tailored to each segment.|
|Ways of eliminating the competition from consideration.|
|Clearly explained and sequenced information|
|Something that compels conviction.|
|Something that stimulates a buying impulse, inspires action.|
|A trial, demo, etc.|
|A guarantee, and or other means of risk reduction or reversal.|
|A word of mouth system.|
We only accept clients whose sales we believe we can increase two- to ten-fold.
On an ongoing basis, we:
|interview your executives and top salespeople|
|accompany salespeople on calls|
|attend agency presentations|
|go to trade shows|
|monitor your telemarketing|
|conduct or attend qualitative research|
|analyze your other marketing research|
|tune training sessions and seminars, etc.|
|contribute to your marketing strategy meetings|
|map your customers’ decision process|
The objective is to tune your marketing into a system which brings every marketing element into line with helping the customer make an easier, simpler and faster decision.
We have a conference call or face-to-face meeting at least once a month, during which we review the deliverables, and set continuing goals.
Questions and Answers About Decision Acceleration Consulting
Why do I need a Decision Acceleration Consultant?
Influencing decisions is what marketing is all about. If you are going to influence decisions, you need to understand the decision process of your customers and prospects in detail. When you have a consultant who specializes in charting your customers’ decision processes and applying that knowledge to the content and sequence of your marketing communications, you have the most leveraged opportunity in your entire business.
Isn’t that a bit of an exaggeration?
Judge for yourself: It doesn’t cost more to place an effective ad than an ineffective one, yet we know that some ads can out pull others by a factor of more than tenfold. Likewise, effective brochures, sales presentations, mailings, telemarketing, etc., also don’t cost more (often less), and can be multiples more effective. When a dollar is saved by another consultant’s recommendations, it goes right to the bottom line. But when a marketing consultant gives you something that is more effective, millions of dollars can be put on the bottom line without additional expenditures. Where else is there that kind of leverage in business? (Even R&D needs marketing to tune the product into something that will be enthusiastically accepted by the marketplace.)
So, what are you getting at?
If the decision is the most important thing in marketing, and marketing is the most leveraged function in business, doesn’t it follow that understanding and influencing the decision process is the most leveraged activity? So, you need a consultant who specializes in translating the decision process into marketing communications.
But nobody looks at the decision process as such.
That’s the point. Sure, everyone attempts to construct marketing materials that influence decisions, but we’re saying that it’s the decision process that should drive marketing, not the other way around: Map out the decision process that your customers need to decide on your product, then build a marketing campaign around that. Instead of trying to sell your product, help your customers buy your product.
Isn’t that exactly the opposite of what most marketers do?
Yes. They engage in marketing warfare: they target the customer, and see how many exposures and hits they can score. They barrage and badger, overload and overwhelm, they intrude and invade, pull and push, confuse and complicate. It’s the rare and highly successful company that gets in there with the customer to simplify and facilitate the decision. That’s why Microsoft won and Lotus and IBM lost. That’s why Merck was so successful. Same with Saturn. And the same is true in your industry. The company that simplifies and thereby accelerates the decision process wins.
Why do you stress acceleration so much? Isn’t brand choice more important?
Obviously, you want people to choose your product. But our insight is that decision acceleration is the best way to do it. Here’s why:
Suppose there are five similar products competing in a new category. All things being equal, they will each eventually capture a 20% market share. Say the full decision cycle time for these products is about one year.
Now suppose you are competitor #1, and you find a way to make several of the more time-consuming steps in that decision cycle easier for your prospects, cutting the decision time in half. What happens to the market share for you and the other competitors?
Obviously, your product will achieve its expected one-year market share in six months and, having effectively doubled the market window of opportunity, you will have the time and resources to capture another, similar market share in the remaining six months. This would give your product almost a 40% share at year’s end, with the four other competitors sharing the remainder, at a little more than 15% each.
But even that triumph is not the whole story. It leaves out the powerful effect of word-of-mouth and assumes each prospect makes a solitary decision. When you increase the decision speed for your prospects by 100%, you not only get customers sooner, you turn those customers into zealous advocates for your product before the competitors have a similar opportunity. Why would your user endorsements be any better than those from competitors? First because they are available sooner, but second, and more importantly, your endorsements will be supported by the targeted, persuasive information you selected and provided to shorten the decision cycle in the first place!
With this kind of decision support, the first marketing months can generate such evangelism among early adopters that a 40% market share would be too conservative a goal. A more likely outcome would be a 60% – 80% market share for your product, a 10% share for Product #2, with the others splitting the remainder.
And the best news is that it’s almost always possible to dramatically accelerate the decision process, because companies tend to shovel vast amounts of unsequenced materials at the customer, instead of carefully matching the communications to the decision process.
Where do you come in?
We are the only consultants who specialize translating the customer decision process into effective marketing communications.
How does this differ from what our other agencies and marketing consultants do?
You have all sorts of specialists, consultants and agencies, each of which addresses itself to part of the marketing and decision process. But we are the only agency that devotes itself to integrating the entire marketing process into a system, by organizing the process around the customer decision process.
Isn’t this the job of the product manager, marketing director or other marketing people?
Marketing people are continually telling us that they don’t have time to think. While that is a bit of an exaggeration, it is also all too true. You need someone who can look over the entire promotional mix and help you tune it into the most efficient system possible.
But even if marketing people had time to think, the area of customer decision making is a specialized area. You don’t hesitate to consult with specialists in advertising, direct mail, marketing research, PR, packaging, seminars, training, customer satisfaction, etc. It may be hard to understand our role at first only because there are no other specialists in the decision process.
The customer decision process is an enormously complex area. There is very little written in the field of psychology that is useful. Unfortunately, most of what is written about consumer behavior is arcane, irrelevant or impractical.
How are you qualified to specialize in this area?
Our president, George Silverman, was trained as a psychologist, and has been a marketing consultant for more than 26 years. He has conducted more than 5200 focus groups, almost all concentrating on researching the customer decision process. Throughout that time, he has been mapping the decision process of customers, identifying where people get slowed down, and what marketing communications work, in what circumstances. We know of no one who has more practical knowledge of how to accelerate, facilitate and expedite the decision process.
He can actually walk into almost any marketing situation and with a few simple questions find all sorts of immediate, high-payoff improvements that can immediately be implemented at low cost. It looks quite dazzling, but it’s the expertise that comes from decades of solving marketing problems, analyzing hundreds of marketing programs, and talking with tens of thousands of customers. These immediate improvements can easily pay for our consulting fees many times over. Then, we really go to work and use focus groups and individual interviews to get at the other issues that can turn your marketing into the powerful and compelling communication that it should be.
But our customers and products are unique. How applicable is what you learned to our industry and products?
Your products and customers are unique. But one of our most surprising findings over the years is that the flow of the customer decision process is amazingly similar across extremely different products and industries. The details are different, but the steps are the same. For instance, every product has to have a trial mechanism. These vary widely from product to product (demos, samples, videos, trade shows, etc.), but the basic elements of a trial have to be there, or the decision falls apart at that point.
It turns out that most decisions take place in nine stages, with several steps in each stage. We have mapped it out in detail in a flowchart and computer simulation called the Decision Map. It is this overall framework of the basic customer decision process that allows us to quickly zero in on what your customers need that is either missing, out of sequence, or in the wrong form that is slowing down or derailing your prospects.
What exactly do you do?
Sometimes, there are one or two major (usually hidden) bottlenecks in the decision process which we identify and find ways to break through. Like opening up a dam, this can result in enormous sales flow. For instance, we worked with several pharmaceutical products that physicians were eager to prescribe, but were concerned about certain safety issues. They needed permission to use the drug. They didn’t know it consciously, but they were waiting for experts to tell them that it was OK to prescribe. We constructed a word of mouth campaign using the leading experts to endorse the use of the product which resulted on greater than tenfold sales increases. Other products were held back by an inadequate trial mechanism, others by inadequate lead generation methods.
Sometimes, there are no major bottlenecks. Instead, there are dozens of small obstructions, gaps and potholes on the decision path which need to be cleaned up or filled in. The message may be muddled, the audience ill-defined, the brochure information unclear and out of sequence, key pieces of confirmation missing, the ads addressing the wrong benefits, the product unpositioned, the sales calls unfocussed, the customer follow-up dissipated, the service poor. None of these things may be hurting your product all that much, so none cries out for immediate attention. But the whole communication system taken together may be so bumpy that no one can navigate it with any speed. It that case, we work with you in organizing your communication into a clear, coherent, compelling whole, where every communication reinforces the others.
Who are your customers? What’s your past record?
Most of our past work has been in the context of marketing research and has been on a strictly confidential basis, so we can’t talk about some of our most spectacular recent results. However, we well be happy and proud to discuss some historical results when we meet.