Market visits are what will make you successful at your job, so you have to physically (or virtually) get out of the office. “Nothing important happens in the office” (NIHITO) is core to the concepts taught at Pragmatic Institute. It means you’re not going to learn anything important about the problems in the market while sitting at your desk.
So, why talk about the mechanics of setting up meetings? The simple answer is the act of setting up meetings with buyers and users is time-consuming and difficult.
I work with clients all the time who keep reporting that the actual process of setting meetings with their buyers or their users can be an impediment to achieving a specific quantity of meetings they want to have in a given quarter.
But, if you don’t get meetings, the NIHITO principle is limited in its impact. I’m going to share strategies to identify your audience and effectively set up meetings.
Choosing Your Audience
Interview candidates are broadly categorized into three groups:
- Customers – this group can be subdivided into your customers and your competitors’ customers.
- Evaluators – people who are actively in the sales process, and who are considering not only your solution but the alternatives as well.
- Potential Customers – people who may have the need, may have even identified the need, but they’re not actively in the sales process, yet.
5 Common Mistakes in a Win/Loss Analysis
A market visit can help you conduct research on your buyers, users or competitors. However, most frequently, market visits are used to conduct a win/loss analysis. There are a few ways to ensure you’re getting the most out of your market visit, and it starts with not making these common mistakes.
- Simply interviewing a sales rep as a win/loss analysis: Only getting one perspective from an internal employee and not getting the perspective of the buyers themselves is a common failure.
- Skewing interviews toward wins, not losses: Getting interviews is hard. Getting interviews with people that just bought your technology is much, much easier (and less intimidating). But what you’ll find is that actually, it’s not so hard to get those meetings as long as you follow some kind of basic concepts and rules.
- Lack of systematic process to set meetings and conduct interviews after deals close: Without a process, you’re going to struggle to actually reach your target amount of meetings.
- Putting meeting-setting logistics in the hands of the busiest team members: Product managers and product marketers deal with sales, marketing, client services, and the development team. They are frequently overtasked and understaffed, and yet meeting-setting logistics falls on their plate.
- Outreach Happens Too Late: The closer you are to decision points on your deals, as well as interactions in the market with prospects, the more likely it is you’ll have a successful engagement.
Meeting Lengths, Incentives and Outreach
This is where a lot of people get hung up. We think, ‘I know I don’t like bothering people because I don’t like to be bothered.” And so many people are reluctant to be persistent and systematic. As a result, they aren’t as successful as they could be.
What I’m going to do is show you the results we’ve collected over the past year at Compete2Win as we reached out to thousands of contacts in order to set meetings on behalf of our clients.
We’ve broken these out into six different categories of meeting attendees. We’ve also highlighted the meeting length and whether or not incentives were included.
Getting an hour-long meeting is not too hard with happy customers or customers who’ve won within the three months. Most of the time, they are more than happy to spend time with you — no incentives are required.
You can also get hour-long meetings with unhappy customers fairly successfully. They’re willing because they have invested in you. They want you to get better. There may be incentives that are required, but typically it’s not something you have to do.
As you start to approach the bottom three categories, your meeting lengths will decrease and incentives become important.
For a loss, if it’s within three months, the more likely you are to be able to get an hour-long meeting. Incentives may be something that you use and something that’s discretionary. The key point here is around the timeliness of reaching out to them.
For trade show visitors and cold contacts, you want to schedule shorter meetings and you’ll almost always want to use some kind of incentive to get them to interact with you.
Meeting success rates vary with the highest coming from wins within the last three months. Cold contacts have the lowest meeting success rate at about 3%.
This means that whatever your target meeting goal maybe, you’ll need to reach out to substantially more people to ask for that meeting.
What was the average number of outreach per the total amounts of contacts? As an example, if we were given a hundred potential contacts this was how many times we reached out across that target base per category.
So even with wins, we reached out about 4.5 times. As you move into more difficult categories, you can expect more contact outreach requirements. This means you need to identify automated email opportunities and a system for making phone calls.
How often could you expect to be successful on the first outreach? The answer is 29%.
71% were set after multiple outreaches. What does this mean for you?
To be successful you must be persistent.
For larger research projects, you should absolutely have a resource that’s in charge of meeting settings. Taking this on yourself can be a formula for disaster, especially if you don’t have the time to be systematic and persistent.
7 Step Meeting Setting Process
Our process utilizes a combination of email outreach and phone outreach that takes about two weeks to complete.
One of the key elements here is the intro email. You want to initially reach out to the person who owns the relationship. For the contact you’re reaching out to in win-loss analysis, that’s most frequently your sales representative.
After that, the process owner drives the engagement and the market visit.
Market visits ought to be systematic. You must have a process in place to make sure that you’re closing for a meeting within three months after the deal closes and preferably much sooner. The half-life is short, especially with losses. If you’re trying to reach out for losses after three months, your success rate is going to be exceptionally low.
How to Increase Your Success Rate with Incentives
Certainly, with market research projects where you need a large number of target respondents, incentives can be great. Any time that the relationship isn’t as strong, incentives are essential for improving your response rate with that audience.
You can use incentives as a second phase for outreach if your initial response rate isn’t what you targeted. When time is of the essence, you can use this as a tool to bring faster meeting scheduling.
So what should the incentives be?
It comes back to your audience. When you’re thinking about C-level executives, they’re not financially swayed as easily, and their time is extraordinarily valuable. One strategy is to share the results of your research with them. You could also offer charitable contributions in their name.
For the directors and VP levels, the best incentive is also research results and output. Anytime that you can help inform them, it’s the most valuable thing you can offer. You could also offer a charitable contribution in their name or a gift card greater than $25.
For individual contributors, gift cards work better than research results and outputs.
In those cases with gift cards $25 or more, what we typically recommend is Amazon because it’s easy. If it’s less than $25, then a gift card to Starbucks can be good because it correlates with a cup of coffee or specialty drink.
Some people can’t take incentives, especially financial incentives, such as the government workers. In those cases, offer your research results or make charitable contributions.
Market Visit Meeting Best Practices
I want to provide you with some ideas and insights into how to get these meetings scheduled.
Best Practice #1: When you are conducting outreach on losses, make it clear you aren’t making a sales call. You want the individual to know that you’re not in sales, but instead, you are a product owner. Diffuse any concerns they have about you trying to come in after their decision to change their mind. Make it
Best Practice #2: In your email copy, don’t use graphics. It shouldn’t look like marketing materials.
Best Practice #3: Get an introduction from a person in your company who has the best relationship with the contact. It can be a short, clear email describing the purpose of the meeting and the incentives you may be using.
Best Practice #4: You always should include a meeting link. Never make a prospect call you. They won’t do it.
Best Practice #5: Let them utilize calendar scheduling software so they can find a time that works best for them.
Best practice #6: Use your meetings to get meetings. This is something that I recommend all the time to our clients. It’s important because it saves you time and effort. At the conclusion of any meeting, ask if there’s somebody else you ought to talk to. Finish by asking the interviewee to make the email introduction if possible.
Best Practice #7: Get sales and marketing buy-in. Why is this important? Sometimes it is overlooked that they own your primary lead sources, your evaluators, your customers and your potentials. Many times your sales team can be protective of those contacts. They may be concerned that you’re doing this simply as an evaluation of their performance. You need to make it clear what you’re going to be delivering to them that can help them.
Scott Olson is a professional in marketing and product strategy with 25+ years of experience leading technology companies. Scott is a founding partner in Compete2Win, a competitive market research and win/loss analysis services company.