Marketing to Buyers

In February 2007, IMA held its first conference in conjunction with the AMD/ASD tradeshow in Las Vegas.  As part of IMA’s conference, speakers from Amazon, eBay, Google, Marketworks, PayPal, and several other ecommerce companies spoke on a variety of topics.  Here is a recap of the salient points from the Marketing to Buyers seminar given by Paul Lundy of Marketworks

I.          Pillars of Marketing

 1.            Positioning 

Well-positioned businesses communicate distinct, meaningful differences to their desired buyers

            Well-positioned companies have focused positions that draw in a lot of potential buyers, but the actual # of buyers/users is far broader than the company’s positioning

            What is your area of expertise?

            What are you willing to sacrifice?

            What distinguishes you from your competitors?

            What type of consumer do you want the most?

Are your desired customers loyal to a particular brand?  If so, how can you capitalize on that brand loyalty?

Are your desired customers loyal to you as a seller?  If so, why?  If not, how can you increase that loyalty?

What % of your buyers are repeat customers?  How can you increase that %?

Companies That Excel at Positioning

1.            Apple- Fun, innovative technology that works

2.            McDonalds- Fun, reasonably priced fast food for kids

3.            Michelin- Families seeking peace of mind and safety

 2.            Branding 

Collection of emotional and functional attributes that strongly influence a buyer’s decision to purchase.  Perceived by the only legitimate judges (customers).

Consistent branding increases your likelihood of success

Does your business have a clear, distinct image and message?  If not, why not?  If so, can you expand or improve this message?

Buyer Contact Points- Email, feedback, price, store, template, packaging, Me page, customer service, promotions, payment options, website, packing slip, freebies, etc.

Companies That Excel at Branding

1.            Amex- Used by the most prestigious cardholders

2.            Crest- Cavity-concerned parents and their children

3.            FedEx- When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight

4.            Michelin- Safety of your baby is more important than bargain tires

 3.            Targeting 

Who is your desired customer?

What are the buying habits/focus of your target market?  e.g., Are your customers more concerned about customer service, item selection, price, etc.?

How can you expand your market share?

II.        3 Bins of Information Used by Buyers

 1.         User Imagery 

      What types of customers do you associate with your product?

Can your average desired buyer user the product?

How can and does your business stand out from your competitors?

 2.            Context 

            Where do your business and products fit in the marketplace?

            How do competitors and potential buyers think of your business and products?

 3.            Product Information 

            What are the features and benefits of your products?

            Examples of Businesses

1.                  Marlboro (51% Market share)

Core User- Rugged, macho, independent men

Context- Badge of freedom and Great American West

Product- Full-flavored cigarette, flip top red box

Reality- Marlboro’s products are aimed at a small % of cigarette smokers, but its distinctive marketing has helped it capture the bulk of buyers

2.                  Michelin

Core User- Families

Context- Premium tires

Product- Greater peace of mind

3.                  Other Examples

Dove

Grey Poupon

McDonalds

 III.       Tips for Businesses

     

1.            Communicate a distinct benefit to your current and potential buyers

2.         Focus and sacrifice- Do not try to be everything to everyone

3.            Develop expertise and find your niche

4.         Decide whether you are going to be a generalist (e.g., Walmart- No real niche, competes on price) or specialist (e.g., In-N-Out- Only a few different hamburger choices, but their product is superb)

5.         Most businesses compete based on price- find something else to compete on (customer service, product line, outstanding branding, etc.).  Ex. Walmart v. Target- same basic element (low-price), but entirely different customers.

6.            Examine your competitors (those bigger than you, on the same level, those smaller than you, those that succeeded, those that failed, etc.) and non-competitors (those that succeeded, those that failed, etc.)

7.         Find ways to scale your business, but keep your eye on the bigger picture

8.         Find repeatables that complement your business

9.         Good design, positioning, and branding increases your credibility with current and potential buyers.  Look and feel and design is the #1 reason buyers purchase from a particular company/way to increase your credibility.

IV.            Understand Your Buyers

1.         What differentiates repeat buyers from one-time buyers or infrequent buyers?

2.         Why do customers purchase from you instead of your competition (price, products, customer service, freebies, branding, shopping experience, etc.)?

3.         How do you position your business as compared to your competitors?

4.         Do you differentiate your branding by channel/venue (ex. eBay v. Amazon)?  If so, how and why?

V.            Positioning Statement

 1.            Elements of Positioning Statement 

Especially for ___________ (brand lover)

            We are the ________ (frame of reference)

            That ___________ (point of difference)

            Because ________ (support)

 2.            Sample Positioning Statement: Yukon Sports 

            Especially for people who love the outdoors.  We are the online destination for high quality, high performance outdoor gear that enables you to feel more confident and perform at the highest level because we sell only the best brands and highest rated outdoor equipment.

When Is a Neutral a Neg?

When eBay reviews your account – that’s when. At least that’s what was told to sellers recently on an Ebay forum by an eBay employee:

“If more than 5% of a seller’s buyers are dissatisfied, as measured by negative and neutral Feedback left or Item Not Received complaints during a 90 day period, the seller is in violation of the Seller Non-Performance policy.”

It has always been thought that Neutral Feedback was just that – the buyer was neither happy nor unhappy. Now eBay is using Neutral Feedback against sellers. <--more-->

For most sellers, receiving a neutral feedback is almost as bad as receiving a negative feedback. However, many buyers feel that a neutral feedback is akin to leaving no comment – it doesn’t count towards the seller’s positive feedback, and it doesn’t count toward the seller’s negative feedback. Additionally, some buyers use neutral feedback as a means of communication.

In the past sellers have been wary to request mutual withdrawal for neutral feedback as they feel it will look like they received a negative when buyer’s review their “mutually withdrawn” totals. So sellers advised each other to leave neutral feedback alone.

Is that advice no longer relevant?

Just exactly how is eBay determining that a seller falls into the bottom 1%? Is there some kind of rating system for negative feedback, neutral feedback and INR’s? Say you have two sellers, both with 2500 total feedback. One has 50 negs and 25 neutrals, and the other has 25 negs and 50 neutrals. Are they rated equally? Or are more demerits given to the seller with the 50 neg/25 neutral ratio?

And how are INR’s determined now that eBay no longer offers any protection to buyers? Most buyers filing INR are going straight to Paypal since filing an INR with eBay will forward them directly to Paypal anyway. Is Paypal forwarding these records to eBay?

Should sellers now go through the mutual withdrawal system for neutral feedback? From other posts I’ve read on eBay discussion boards, eBay phone reps are encouraging sellers to go through the mutual withdrawal system – leaving me to believe that eBay feels a bad transaction is wiped clean upon a successful withdrawal.

It would be nice if eBay would publish specific standards, so sellers know where they stand. There have been reports of sellers with FB above 99% receiving the dreaded “Poor Seller Performance” emails. These sellers thought they were doing a good job, but eBay didn’t. Ebay – why such secrecy? Why don’t you publish the standards so all eBay sellers can monitor their ratings the same way you do?

Cyn

Spring Cleaning – The eBay Way

There have been a rash of reports from sellers stating they have received a “Poor Seller Performance” notice from Ebay and their accounts have been restricted. This email basically tells them they are in the bottom 1% of sellers. It seems like Ebay is doing some spring cleaning, and about time.

It was about a year ago that I sent an email to Bill Cobb asking why Ebay didn’t use their own feedback system to monitor sellers’ performance. I received a reply giving me a complete history of the feedback system and how to use it properly. Not exactly what I was after. But now it seems that eBay IS actually using their own feedback system to monitor sellers and place restrictions if they see there is a problem.

According to an eBay employee posting on an Ebay forum:

“Sellers receiving this notification have been identified as part of this bottom 1% of sellers as measured by Feedback and Item Not Received complaints over the past 90 days. If more than 5% of a seller’s buyers are dissatisfied, as measured by negative and neutral Feedback left or Item Not Received complaints during a 90 day period, the seller is in violation of the Seller Non-Performance policy. In such case, eBay may take a range of actions intended to incent performance improvement — or, if the situation warrants, may remove the seller from the community.”

This is good – for the most part. However, from the posts I have read, the sellers being restricted are low to medium volume sellers, while sellers with 1000’s of listings a month, and 100’s of negs, continue on their merry way. Any seller with a feedback rating below 98% should be reviewed by eBay and action taken. How many high volume sellers have feedback below 95%? 90% or less? And yet they continue to be allowed to list thousands of auctions a month.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to start with the huge sellers who put up 5000 listings a month, and receive 500 negatives a month? Think about it – get just one of those sellers cleaned up and next month you will have 500 more happy buyers. Compare that to restricting 100 smaller sellers who have on average 4 negatives in a month. Much easier and faster to start with the large volume sellers and work your way down, right?

Good start eBay, but let’s do this on a “level playing field” just as you charge fees on a “level playing field.”

Cyn

When a postcard is not just a postcard

If you have never used Vista Print even if just for their FREE items, you should give them a try.  Not only do they have quality products and fast turnaround, they have a vast array of items that can work for advertising your business.

Let’s “think outside the box”…

* Postcards — create an ad on one/both sides and include your web address.   Use them as inserts in place of a business card.

* Invites — create a note to your customer, introducing a new product line, or an upcoming sale.

* Address stamp — use it for stamping ‘Thank You’ or a coupon code.

* Return labels — create a personalized seal (Thank you for your purchase…Old World Limited) and use instead of tape when wrapping purchases in tissue. 

* Return Labels — put your web addy on and use as stickers on your mailing packages.

Why Join IMA?

Internet Merchants Association (IMA) is a nonprofit trade association for companies that are involved in internet commerce, regardless of business size. As internet sales increase at record breaking speed, the Association was founded to provide our members with a voice in the ever-changing world of ecommerce; to provide education for all levels of ecommerce businesses; and to exchange ideas so all members can benefit from the collective experience of our membership. IMA will advocate on behalf of our members of any important legislation that may come down the pike. We have the ear of numerous Wall Street analysts, numerous media sources and have direct connections to communicate with executives of huge e-commerce companies at the highest levels.

Communicate
Membership includes access to IMA’s private forums – interact with other serious business owners who are willing and eager to exchange business ideas, discuss the latest trends, new legislation and answer your business questions. The forum also puts you in direct contact with representatives from large internet venues, such as Amazon, eBay, Google and more.

Educate
Trying to decide what service programs and platforms would work best for your business model? Not only will you be able to hear from members who have used or are using these services and platforms, you’ll hear from the service providers themselves.

Network
IMA’s annual business conference in Las Vegas features workshops and sessions from the experts in the industry and are designed to further increase your business, ecommerce and sales knowledge. The IMA Conference is in conjunction with the largest variety and general merchandise show in the country, ASD/AMD. The conference dates are 03/03/08 – 03/05/08 and our host hotel is Mandalay Bay. More information for the IMA Conference will be announced as it is released.

Please feel free to ask any question you may have. :)