Last week I attended a press launch with loads of journalists. At one of the stands I asked about a particular piece of technology, sold only off the company’s website, and whether it would go through a mainstream sales channel eventually. No, said the guy in charge of marketing; we want to focus on explaining the story to the customer so we’ll be keeping this to direct sales only.
Fair enough. Except, chatting on the same stand to someone also involved in marketing, I checked “and this will be going direct-only” – and he said no, they’d be looking to sell through the established channels as soon as possible, they’d be crazy not to.
Ahem. My headline could so easily have been “New manufacturer in disarray over sales policy”, “Row breaks out over sales channel at manufacturer X” – and although I could have substantiated it from my notes, I doubt very much that an argument had actually broken out. Thing is, they needed to have a conversation before going out in public.
Things you need to ask yourself
I’ve seen this more than once. I once attended the launch of a watch, and the manufacturer had just gone over to having everything manufactured in Switzerland. I asked the sales director why and he said Swiss watches were precision-made, they were beautiful, they were exciting. I asked the managing director why. He said the market research said people would pay more for a Swiss-made watch but frankly if it had his name on it a Chinese-made watch would be as good. In fact every product from his business would be excellent but if the customer wanted to spend more money that was fine… Who would you believe?
I have no doubt both men perceived their answer as honest and correct, and to be fair the one doesn’t directly contradict the other in that instance (although the sales director’s response was distinctly salesy). But since they were moving their manufacturing, had they only had the conversation that said “What if a journalist asks why we’ve done this?” and stuck to a single reason, they’d have had a better story to tell the papers.
It can be a very good idea to ensure that you have a consistent message before making it public. These companies clearly hadn’t. I generally advise media training delegates to prepare three documents; a FAQ based on client feedback. a list of questions a journalist is likely to ask on behalf of the reader and a third list of questions they’re hoping the journalist won’t ask. Then establish the company line on all of them and stick to it.
Can I help you with your media engagements? Click here for information on my media training course.