think tank

While watching television commercials, we’ve all heard the familiar words, “find us in the cereal aisle.” This simple directive makes it so easy for shoppers to find exactly what they are looking for amongst the thousands of products lining grocery store shelves. Advertisers extoll the virtues of the products and tell us exactly where to find them. At the same time, grocers do an excellent job organizing products in a manner that makes shopping a pleasure.

It recently occurred to me that, while consumer products manufacturers, advertisers and grocers do a great job describing and organizing products in a grocery store — commodity products such as bread and milk — the same can’t be said of our industry. With thousands of solutions available to help brands leverage mobile, social media, ad tech and other e-commerce trends, buyers of complex enterprise solutions can easily get lost. And if it’s so simple to walk into a grocery store and quickly find anything, shouldn’t software vendors make it as simple for buyers to find the right enterprise software they need to power billion-dollar businesses?

Cindy Lincks

Cindy Lincks  Courtesy image.

Well, I have some tips for vendors to help make buyers’ searches for their solutions as easy as finding a nutrition bar in the snack aisle. And vendors only have to look as far as their local grocery store.

Imagine a granola company labels themselves as an “organic breakfast alternative.” While they are, in essence, a cereal, they may end up in the organic or specialty food section of the market. Yet when shoppers come searching for cereal in the cereal aisle, they won’t find this product and an opportunity will be missed. Proper categorization of a product makes it much easier to find.

Now let’s imagine that a shopper enters the grocery store and sees a sign for a “cryogenic cheese sphere.” Chances are they will walk right by, as they don’t know exactly what that is and aren’t sure they actually need it. However, if the sign were to read “frozen pizza,” that would be quite a different story. Avoiding jargon and using simple, relevant descriptions make products much more identifiable.

Finally, let’s assume a shopper is looking for bread. Before even venturing down the bread aisle, she sees a display on an end cap featuring delicious, gluten-free, low-calorie bread. She picks up the gluten-free bread and never even makes it down the bread aisle. Standing out from your competitors is key.

So how does this relate to the world of enterprise technology? If software vendors learn some of the lessons that have made grocers successful, they will be ideally positioned to maximize their sales efforts.

Lesson #1: Don’t Assume Buyers Know Where to Find Products

It’s important to remember that software vendors know much more about their products than the brands buying them. Therefore, it’s imperative that vendors make their products easy to find. Products should be associated with a familiar category because brands’ budgets are allocated this way.

Buyers look for categories of software, such as AB testing engines and web site platforms, when their contracts are up for renewal. Vendors need to know when these buyers are in market, come up with a better pitch than their competitors and, importantly, position themselves to be discoverable.

Lesson #2: Avoid Jargon

Using too many industry buzzwords may cause buyers to simply overlook vendors’ products. If buyers can’t explain to their boss what a product does, they won’t be able to secure the budget. As an example, vendors should not describe their product as an “omnichannel, ROI-driving, fully integrated api optimization supplier,” but rather as an improved web site platform with specific features that make it better than its competition. Vendors must speak the language of their buyers.

Lesson #3: Stand Out

Much like products on grocery end caps attract more attention, so too should a vendors’ product. Again, it’s important that vendors not use jargon to get noticed. This can be perceived as confusing or disingenuous. Rather, vendors should improve their odds of acquiring a new customer by doing their homework — learn when buyers will be in market and exactly what they are shopping for. Then, vendors can be more effective in offering the competitive advantages of their solution as compared to the competition. Face-to-face meetings at conferences can help vendors stand out, as can authoring content in relevant industry publications.

While there is an abundance of product and company data available for those looking to buy or sell enterprise solutions, only recently have innovations in the market made the search more efficient. Yet it remains critical that enterprise software vendors looking to acquire new customers follow these simple lessons. It has worked for consumer goods manufacturers in grocery stores and it can work for software vendors. Those who don’t follow these simple lessons may be left at the back of the checkout line.

Cindy Lincks is chief executive officer and founder of Reachify, which she launched in May 2015.

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