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System Evaluation Series, Part 2: 'Something Needs To Change'

Understanding the buying process is the first step in building meaningful marketing content to educate and support our prospects. In this series, we are following a real manufacturing company through a business management system evaluation, guided by the director of operations, "Dave." 

Consumers of Information Feel the Pain
In Part 1, Dave shared his plans to meet with the evaluation team to kick off the project. Dave reports that the educational start to the evaluation process was very well-received and got people talking.

To Dave's surprise, the most animated people in the kickoff meeting were the consumers of the system information as opposed to the heavy users, like the controller. "The people who weren't big users of the system were the most vocal about the challenges. They are more consumers of the system -- they need to know if a particular part is in stock or where a machine is in the manufacturing process," Dave said. "And they were most in agreement of the challenges with the current system." 

Dave observed that the people who work with the system every day -- the accounting staff who use the system day in and day out -- have become immune to the problems. They are simply used to the way they have to operate. On the other hand, the consumers of the information outside of accounting are frustrated and feel strongly that "something needs to change."

Workarounds: The Symptoms of Pain
As a next step, each member of the evaluation team met with their department leaders, which included the manufacturing, parts and service, engineering, and accounting teams, to identify and list their points of pain.

Leading the manufacturing team discussion, Dave asked members to focus on their workarounds. "Every workaround is a sign of something that isn't working. Every spreadsheet that you have to keep, every notebook that you have that tells you how to access information or how to do things -- those are signs that something is not right," noted Dave.

After the workaround exercise, he showed his team other systems as examples of what could be to spark discussion. "People that are in it don't realize what they are in. When you are trying to elicit a discussion about what you would like, they need to have something to compare it to," Dave said. "A lot of the people on staff have never had any exposure to other systems so they don't know that there are better ways."

Lessons Learned
How have you defined your target audience? IT managers and CFOs have historically been the focus of marketing campaigns and messaging. Are there others in the organization who are feeling the pain more acutely who may be more interested in your solution?

In terms of content, there are two groups to consider at this stage of the process. You can connect with those frustrated department managers looking for answers and you can help the evaluation team document their pains. Ideas to get you started include:

  • Content on your Web site that addresses common workarounds (think keywords) for the industries you serve.
  • Blogs about the real-world workarounds that your consultants come across in the field.
  • Screencasts demonstrating common solutions to workarounds for your target industries.
  • An "Evaluation Team Workaround Worksheet" for your sales team to send to prospects.

Next Up: System Review
Last week, the partner supporting the current system, Syspro, performed a paid system review. While Dave is skeptical, he believes that due diligence dictates investigating the current system's potential to meet their needs. We'll find out how they did in the next installment.

How do you help your prospects navigate the evaluation process?  Add a comment below or send me a note and let's share the knowledge.

More from This Series:

Posted by Barb Levisay on April 26, 2012