Public Relations (PR) has come a long way since its inception. From the early days of press agentry and publicity stunts to the modern era of digital communication and social media, PR has evolved to adapt to the ever-changing landscape of media and technology. Today, we are witnessing the rise of PR 4.0, a new era of public relations that is driven by digital technology, data analytics, and the power of storytelling. In this blog, we will explore the key elements of PR 4.0 and how it is shaping the future of public relations.

The Four Pillars of PR 4.0

1. Digital Communication

The rise of the internet and social media has transformed the way we communicate, and PR is no exception. PR 4.0 is characterized by the use of digital channels to reach and engage with target audiences. This includes social media platforms, blogs, podcasts, and online news outlets. Digital communication allows PR professionals to reach a wider audience, engage in real-time conversations, and measure the impact of their campaigns more effectively.

2. Data-Driven Strategies

PR 4.0 is all about leveraging data to make informed decisions and create targeted campaigns. With the vast amount of data available through digital channels, PR professionals can now analyze audience behavior, preferences, and trends to create more effective and personalized communication strategies. Data analytics also allows PR professionals to measure the success of their campaigns and make adjustments in real-time, ensuring that their efforts are always aligned with their objectives.

3. Storytelling

In the age of information overload, storytelling has become a powerful tool for PR professionals to cut through the noise and connect with their audiences. PR 4.0 emphasizes the importance of crafting compelling narratives that resonate with the target audience and evoke emotions. By telling authentic and engaging stories, PR professionals can build trust, create brand loyalty, and drive positive change.

4. Integration with Marketing and Advertising

PR 4.0 recognizes the need for a more integrated approach to communication. As the lines between PR, marketing, and advertising continue to blur, PR professionals must collaborate with their counterparts in other disciplines to create cohesive and consistent brand messages. This integrated approach ensures that all communication efforts work together to achieve the desired results and maximize the return on investment.

The Future of PR 4.0

As we continue to navigate the digital age, PR 4.0 will continue to evolve and adapt to new technologies and trends. Some key developments to watch out for include:

1. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Automation

AI and automation will play an increasingly important role in PR, from automating routine tasks to providing data-driven insights and recommendations.

2. Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR)

As VR and AR technologies become more mainstream, PR professionals will need to explore new ways to create immersive and interactive experiences for their audiences.

3. Influencer Marketing

The rise of social media influencers has created new opportunities for PR professionals to collaborate with these influential individuals to amplify their messages and reach new audiences.

4. Crisis Management in the Digital Age

With the rapid spread of information online, PR professionals must be prepared to manage crises in real-time and navigate the challenges of the digital landscape.


PR 4.0 marks a new era of public relations that is driven by digital technology, data analytics, and the power of storytelling. As we continue to embrace these changes, PR professionals must adapt and evolve to stay ahead of the curve and ensure their communication efforts remain relevant and effective in the digital age.

Building a strong brand and fostering customer loyalty through a brand advocacy program is an effective way to position your company for long-term success. The primary goal of a brand advocacy program is to turn your satisfied customers into enthusiastic brand advocates who actively promote your products or services. The following steps will help guide you through the process of getting started with a brand advocacy program and convince you of its benefits.

1. Define Your Goals and Objectives:

Before launching a brand advocacy program, it is crucial to establish clear goals and objectives. Ask yourself what you aim to achieve through the program. Are you looking to increase brand awareness, drive sales, or improve customer retention? Defining your goals will help you shape your program and measure its success accurately.

2. Identify and Understand Your Target Advocates:

Identifying the right advocates is key to a successful program. Look for customers who have a genuine affinity for your brand and are already promoting it organically. Analyze customer data, such as purchase history, engagement level, and social media presence, to identify potential advocates. Once you have a list of potential advocates, understand their motivations, preferences, and expectations. This knowledge will help you tailor your program to their needs and provide meaningful incentives.

3. Develop a Clear Value Proposition:

To attract and retain brand advocates, you must communicate a compelling value proposition. Clearly outline the benefits and incentives they will receive by participating in the program. These can include exclusive access to new products or services, discounts, early access to sales, personalized experiences, or recognition within your community. Make sure the value proposition aligns with your target advocates’ interests and desires.

4. Build a Strong Community:

A brand advocacy program thrives on building a strong community where advocates can connect, share experiences, and support one another. Create an online platform, such as a dedicated social media group or forum, where advocates can interact with each other and your brand. Encourage active participation by facilitating discussions, hosting Q&A sessions, and sharing relevant content. This community-building approach fosters a sense of belonging and strengthens the bond between advocates and your brand.

5. Provide Tools and Resources:

Equip your brand advocates with the necessary tools and resources to effectively promote your brand. This can include shareable content, such as product guides, infographics, or branded templates. Offer training or educational resources to enhance their knowledge about your products or services. The more empowered your advocates feel, the more confidently they can represent your brand.

6. Recognize and Reward Advocates:

Recognition and rewards play a vital role in nurturing brand advocates’ loyalty and commitment. Acknowledge their efforts and publicly appreciate their contributions within your brand advocacy community. Feature their testimonials on your website or social media platforms. Implement a tiered rewards system that offers increasing benefits based on advocacy level or achievements. Remember, the recognition and rewards should be meaningful and personalized to create a sense of exclusivity and appreciation.

7. Monitor and Measure Success:

Continuously monitor the performance and impact of your brand advocacy program. Use relevant metrics such as engagement levels, referral rates, social media reach, and customer feedback to measure the effectiveness of your program. Analyze the data to identify areas of improvement and make necessary adjustments to optimize results.


Implementing a brand advocacy program can be a game-changer for your business, enabling you to tap into the power of loyal customers who become influential advocates. By following these steps, you can create a structured and engaging program that not only strengthens your brand but also cultivates a passionate community of brand advocates. Remember, building strong customer relationships is an ongoing process, so regularly assess and refine your program to ensure its continued success.

One common term used to describe marketing buzz is volume, which quantifies the number of interchanges related to a product or topic in a given time period. Basic ROI measurement of marketing buzz includes higher numbers of visits, views, mentions, followers and subscribers.

The next level of ROI measurement of marketing buzz—such as shares, replies, clicks, re-tweets, comments and wall posts— provide a better indication of the participants’ engagement levels because they require action in response to an initial communication.  There is also an increased level of direct public relations engagement with third party influencers, including media, industry analysts and other thought leaders.

How do you know if your company has marketing buzz?

  • The company is officially recognized by industry analysts or other third party influencers.
  • Companies with marketing buzz outperform in press release distribution results.
    • The average number of views for a “start-up’ company (3-5 years old) is around 1,000 – 1500 media views. When your Company reaches 5,000 views and above, something is driving the “buzz” factor.
    • In a similar vein, a high click through rate of a company’s press release, media impressions and multimedia views are good ways to measure marketing “buzz.” (Your distribution company can give you performance metrics and ROI measurement).
  • Company buzz increases attention from even those that play “hard to get.”
    • You’ll have a higher rate of response from reputable publications as well as an increased interaction level with industry players overall.
    • Even in a time when “earned” company stories are rare, a company with “buzz” finds its way into the pages of high-end media outlets and has more pick-up in totality with the total number of outlets engaged.
    • Industry analysts and other 3rd party thought leaders will be knocking on your door for a request for introduction.
  • Web hits and social media
    • While it may be hard to establish a baseline on ”marketing buzz” with social media activities, it is possible to measure results against other companies of similar size with social media tools.
    • Social media darlings measure their buzz by numbers of followers and LinkedIn interaction which will be superior in follows and interactions when compared to other companies of like size in their space.

While there are many factors that remain elusive when measuring a company’s marketing buzz, industry leaders and veteran marketers are able to track the elements that make up this intangible sensation.  They now are utilizing ROI measurement of marketing activities to prove what they already know. Their company has marketing “buzz.”

Email marketing is one of the most effective marketing techniques around, but it does have some unique caveats. It can be really effective in increasing awareness, sales, and engagement, but it can actually repel people if it is done the wrong way. It takes a certain amount of finesse to find the right people and send them the right content at the right time. Here are some tips about how to create a B2B email marketing campaign that really works.

Focus on creating valuable content

The most effective thing you can do for your email list is focus on creating valuable content. The content in your emails needs to provide your subscribers with information or resources that are not only relevant, but useful. For example, an article in your email newsletter could provide information about how to use a particular product or list other similar resources or recommendations that may be useful to your customers. While it is alright to have some promotional messages in your email campaign, being too promotional will definitely turn off subscribers.

It is vital to continue to test out content and techniques on a regular basis. So you can send certain email messages to certain marketing segments and leave the rest the same as the control for the experiment. If you want to figure out what is going to be the most effective content, leave the control group the same and then create variations and test with the remaining group. Use the metrics in your email marketing program to see if there are changes in the number of subscribers or the amount of opens and clickthroughs. The next step is to use this information to set measurable goals to increase engagement in your upcoming email campaign messages. It is also very easy to simply ask your subscribers for feedback about what they would like to see in the future.

Pay attention to peak usage times

The success of an email marketing campaign can be dependent upon when it is sent. The truth is that people tend to be more receptive during certain days of the week and times of the day. It may not be the same for everybody, but it is something that you can learn through testing. As a general rule of thumb, it seems that Friday has the lowest rate of opens while Tuesday has a significantly higher open rate. Obviously, emailing people on a major holiday will probably not work so well because people are not checking their emails on those days.

Find the right frequency

Sometimes email campaigns are not as successful as they should or could be because of the frequency. Some campaigns send emails too often and alienate their subscribers, while some do not send enough emails and cause their subscribers to forget about them. There is no correct answer in terms of frequency, because it depends on your audience and how often they want to hear from you. A good place to start is sending once a month, and then work from there to see if people are interested in hearing more from you.

Place an emphasis on landing pages

Landing pages are just as important as the actual email messages themselves. The main goal in terms of sending emails is to get your prospects to take action in some way, shape, or form. Perhaps you want them to sign up for a free trial, attend a webinar, or become a follower of your social media account. In any case, you need to make sure that the landing page is functional, attractive, and enticing. Above all else, it should fulfill its function of capturing their information, and have visual appeal as well as persuasive writing.

Email marketing requires a certain amount of testing and development to create a successful campaign. It will be a product of some trial and error, but as long as you keep track of results, what tends to be more effective will become apparent. Take some time to really get to know your audience and use the metrics to guide you along the way.

Marketing copy that grabs your attention is either effortlessly cool or unbearably cringe-inducing. Hubspot recently profiled a few companies who are getting it right and also distills the learnings from each great copywriting example into some actionable tips.

We’d like to share some of our own thoughts on how to consistently write great marketing copy that hits all your goals: to grab and hold your target audience’s attention amidst all the other social noise, get them interacting with you on social channels, and keep them coming back for more. Ultimately, we hope this relationship-building is also leading toward more lead generation, more sales, and more brand awareness of your products/services, but first things first.

While it’s true that other forms of media are successfully grabbing the lion’s share of consumer attention (Vine, SnapChat, Pinterest, Instagram), the written word will never lose its impact. Especially when it comes to translating your brand vision, voice, and mission. What’s a picture of a Nike shoe without the tagline “Just do it”? It’s fantastic to show all of this through great video campaigns and the perfect graphic image, but we think the combination of showing AND telling is where the lasting power of brand messaging lies.

As the Hubspot blog puts it, The continuity of a brand, despite the advent of new media, hangs on the tenor of a singular voice.

The B2C Marketing Voice: Selling a Brand Vision

Some of the most successful brands out there (Red Bull, Levi’s, Xbox, Nike) know exactly who their audiences are and how their interests align with the brand’s vision. They’re not going to waste their time coming up with universal copy that appeals to everyone and offends no one. They know exactly who they’re selling to and why.

Hubspot uses Red Bull as a good example of this: their social campaigns, or a stand-alone Instagram post, probably won’t make sense to the average person. Your Midwestern grandma has no clue what a “#HippieJump” is, much less how a hashtag works, so their picture of a snowboarder grabbing massive air with this tagline won’t mean much: “Son, rise. #HippieJump for @arthur_longo #snowboard.”

But to their audience, it’s cool, it’s clever, and it’s inspiring. The Red Bull customer is into extreme sports, video games, and anything edgy so they can cater to these people directly and not worry about who they might be alienating.

Companies who don’t know their audience opt for the safe (read: no one gets fired) option and over explain so everyone gets it.

You want to be in a position where you don’t have to explain what your brand is about and what you represent – it’s evident in every product, every ad campaign, every image, every social post, and most importantly, every nuanced and highly-targeted piece of copy. People who connect with it are “in the know” and like that feeling of belonging to a larger community. You know there’s a community of Red Bull drinkers even if they aren’t instantly identifiable, just like there’s a huge and highly active and vocal community of Xbox gamers.

The B2B Marketing Voice: Press Release on Steroids

Almost every B2B company I’ve worked with as a social media consultant also had a full-time Content Marketer and a full-time publicist on staff. When you’re selling a product or service to other companies, you can’t fake it if you don’t have a good brand story. If you’re selling CRM software to companies in all different types of industries, for example, and they all have the common goal of managing their customer databases – they’re going to need a compelling reason to subscribe to or buy your software instead of the many other options out there.

This is why every piece of copy about your business has to be aligned and consistent: your Web copy, your product descriptions, your social media channels, your infographics, your press articles. It’s a lot to manage, and it amounts to every business also being its own publisher.

HubSpot uses Intel as an example of a non-sexy company that nonetheless has created a compelling and exciting story. They make semiconductor chips – if you’re not a tech nerd, why should you care, right? People do care, because they’ve created a brand message and copy that inspire. Their slogan is: “Look Inside.” This is a clear call to action that expresses Intel’s brand promise of innovation. It also doesn’t exclude anyone.

Intel also pushes this message out across all their ad campaigns and Web copy. They’ve created IQ, which is a series of well-developed case studies and press releases that are presented like a virtual magazine. It’s updated daily, so content is always fresh. It also always highlights some aspect of Intel’s offerings: their computer chip is basic but mighty. It’s the heart or brain of a computer and that computer is involved in every type of technological innovation out there.

Intel’s IQ tirelessly looks for and presents stories that point back to how Intel is relevant. You can’t get better press than stories you create yourself and push out in the right way.

Your message is your brand

Whether you’re B2C or B2B, and no matter who your audience is, your marketing copy should be as true, unique, and inspiring as your brand. Written copy is the heart of your branding, and what you combine it with to get audience attention (video, ad campaigns, social) is the conduit for that heart blood. Your social media strategy is only as effective as your brand messaging – the most successful companies have both closely integrated and working together to grab (and keep) the love and loyalty of your target audience.

I usually don’t have time to read or watch much that is forwarded to me, even if it comes by way of a highly esteemed colleague. So when I saw the e-mail with a link to an 18 minute video clip, I thought “you’ve got to be kidding” and moved on.  But somehow I ended up watching the clip and was thrilled that I did. It’s one of those rare pieces that truly inspired me – it’s something that reminds all of us marketing professionals exactly why some companies succeed and others don’t.

The premise is this. Just about every person or organization needs to motivate others to act for some reason or another. Some want to motivate a purchase decision. Others are looking for support or a vote. Others try to motivate the people around them to work harder or smarter or just follow the rules. While most use fear, money or other external forces to get people to do what they want, great leaders are able to inspire people to act. Those who are able to inspire give people a sense of purpose or belonging that has little to do with any external incentive. Those who truly lead are able to create a following of people who act not because they were swayed, but because they were inspired. For those who are inspired, the motivation to act is deeply personal.

Sinek uses the example of the Wright Brothers. Their passion to fly was so intense that it inspired the enthusiasm and commitment of a dedicated group in their hometown of Dayton, Ohio. Unlike their competition, there was no funding for their venture. No government grants. No high-level connections. Not a single person on the team had an advanced degree or even a college education. But the team banded together in a humble bicycle shop and made their
vision real. On December 17, 1903, a small group witnessed a man take flight for the first time in history. Well-funded, highly educated competitors motivated by monetary gain never got their plane off the ground. And the reason why? Only the Wright brothers started with Why.

Ultimately, people don’t buy what you do – they buy why you do it. Companies that build their messaging platforms around “why” they are doing something (instead of what they are doing or how they are doing it) will be more successful in gaining the loyalty of employers, investors and customers. Those who are able to define their purpose will inspire and create a following of people who act for the good of the whole not because they have to, but because they want to.

So, thanks to my very esteemed colleague and to Simon Sinek for this very enlightening piece. If you have an extra few minutes (an even if you don’t), I encourage you to watch – you’ll be glad you did.

Robert Richardson is director of the Computer Security Institute, The CSI Filter virtual conference takes place on April 8 at

A security event not long ago pointed to a different direction for conference events. This was Shmoocon, a hacker conference that was well, a hacker conference. It’s casual, there’s guys with ponytails…it’s not a thing anyone shows up for in a suit. It costs dramatically less to attend (a factor of ten, more or less) than a conference you might wear a suit to, it has few frills, the audience throws things at the speakers, and people get hugely excited about the talk where the guy shows how to put a video camera into a remote-control model airplane (and I don’t blame them – building a predator drone on the supercheap is interesting grist). It’s the kind of event that’s willing to take some chances with format and function.

I didn’t attend Shmoocon, however. I’ve never been there. But I have a reasonable sense of how it was this year because it was streamed over the net. Other conferences, even fairly stuffy ones, have streamed things like keynotes, of course. But this was streamed across three tracks of breakout sessions simultaneously. Don’t like what’s on channel 1? Try one of the others.

Production wise, it was a bit of a mess. But most of the time a determined viewer (I’m guessing but I think there were about 300) could follow any given session reasonably well. I think the operation was hampered by the lousy, lower-than-paid-for internet connectivity that one often gets at hotels.

Hard to watch, but it’s the right idea.

So here’s my question: does this mean that someday soon all Shmoocons will be something produced entirely on video, with everyone watching from home?

Yes. Before long it will be possible to attend most technical conferences without attending. You’ll have to pay a few bucks, but it will be worth it even though you probably won’t watch all that much of it and you’ll only watch some of it with any real attention. It will be worth it to conference organizers because they’ll reach a broader audience and all that incremental streaming viewer revenue is going to add up to more money than the conference itself generated. I suspect that over the next five years, most people who currently attend a couple of national conferences a year will find themselves only attending one every other year or so. Our culture is destined to be one that travels a lot less than it does now, across the board. The only question is the timeframe.

Well, and also no. The thing that was absolutely clear from watching Shmoocon online is that the biggest part of what made it desirable to watch was the energy that was apparent in the room, even over the cameras. With apologies to the Shmoocon folks, I don’t mean to say that it was extraordinary energy. Indeed, one or two of the sessions were verging on lame (which happens at every conference at least some of the time). It was, in short, just your typical conference meeting energy. Some like-minded people had come together in the same set of rooms and they were making something happen.

But the fact that they were there, that some smart speakers who don’t normally sit in the same room and talk to each other were doing just that – this is what made the event worth watching as it was being streamed. That’s the frame for the event and it’s vital. It’s a piece that will still need to happen even when we move to a format that is primarily designed for video consumption. Think of it as the live studio audience for the future streaming conference.

This will change conferences. It’s hard to say how, in advance, but from a marketing point of view, anyone who’s going to have a message radiated out from a streaming conference will absolutely have to be in the room, have to bring experts who are worth putting into the conversational mix, and need to rethink the balance they strike between trying to make a splash on an exhibition floor and sponsorships that create wider message and branding. Getting pre-roll in the video stream may be the best bang for your buck.

Within my group, we’re crafting events this year that experiment with the increasing usability of video. We’ve got an all video-based conference, Filter, coming up in April. In late May we’re doing an event that won’t be streamed (at least that’s not the current plan), but that will nevertheless have a design that’s far more focused on delivering key content from a highly focused main stage. I think of it, a bit, as a broadcast studio set. It’s vital to the event producer to have absolutely the best audience in the world. It’s vital to the marketing professional to have their client be part of that smaller, vital audience.

One of the most widely quoted statistics in the business world is the failure rate of new companies. While some quote statistics as high as 80 or 90 percent, others believe that 60 or 70 percent is more reasonable. But while it’s clear that nobody knows the exact figure, what’s more important is the reason why so many businesses fail. For the overwhelming majority of new businesses, it’s due to the decided lack of a cohesive marketing strategy.

Though all sectors suffer from this problem to some extent, it seems to be most prominent amongst high technology companies. Despite the efforts of brilliant engineers, who develop amazing technological innovations, most of these companies fail to make any sustainable impact, and fade into obscurity before they’re even known to have existed. That’s because no matter how phenomenal the technology, even the finest ideas don’t sell themselves. Success takes more than just a great idea and the technical wherewithal to build it – it requires a partnership between engineering and marketing.

Most engineering-driven companies develop their product, then look for a market in which to sell it – the diametric opposite of what should happen. Instead, the best chance for success comes from looking at the market first, then building the product that best serves those needs. This is what marketers refer to as being “customer-focused”. In fact, being truly customer-focused goes beyond merely developing a product that serves the customer’s needs. An entire marketing strategy must be developed, with the target customer at its core.

A comprehensive marketing strategy is comprised of four overarching components: product, price, promotion, and place. Each of these four components must be developed with the target customer in mind, and each must work together, to produce one cohesive strategy. Of course, just as with the engineering of the product, developing a winning marketing strategy is much easier said than done. That’s where a professional, experienced marketing team comes in. Just as code, boards, and chips should never be developed by marketers, marketing should never be conducted by engineers.

The 4Ps of Marketing

The 4Ps of Marketing

Despite the fact that marketing seems “easy” relative to engineering projects, it’s entirely too simple to burn through the budget with ineffective marketing campaigns that are unlikely to yield any tangible results. A winning marketing strategy requires a multi-dimensional view of the customer’s needs, wants, and buying behaviors, as well as the ability to translate that information into a sound strategy.

Though developing and implementing a marketing strategy may seem trivial, or a waste of time and money, it can make the difference between success and failure!



Most of us occasionally suffer from “following the herd” mentality, but effective positioning requires companies to deviate from the norm and establish their own unique position. When formulating a positioning statement, the statement should (1) clearly articulate the company’s understanding of market needs, and (2) present a defendable value proposition that is meaningful to target audiences. At Attain, we find that this second requirements is particularly challenging for young companies.

In a recent client engagement, we did a competitive positioning audit and found that 6 in 7 of the companies in the space claimed a market leading position — and yet our client was hesitant to drop “leader” from their positioning for fear that potential customers would not consider them as a viable market player.

This line of reasoning is prevalent in the technology industry. If ‘Company A’, the true market leader as defined by market share, claims it is the leading provider of widgets, the new market entrant ‘Company B’ claims it is the leading provider of next-generation widgets, and so on until you have the whole sector claiming they are “the leading provider of [insert adjective] widgets”.

How is it possible to create a defendable value proposition by following the herd? The answer is, it isn’t. It doesn’t matter what a company believes or wishes to be true. Positioning is about how companies are perceived in the minds of their target audiences. And I have yet to meet a prospect who cares to split hairs over the semantics of a company’s messaging.

Dare to put the differentiation back into positioning by answering the prospective customer’s question, “Why do people choose your company?” (Hint: it isn’t because you are 1 of 6 “market leaders”) To find the real answer to this question, try talking to customers, prospective customers and competitor customers (if possible).

A defendable and meaningful positioning platform requires that you understand the factors that motivate the buying decision within your space. So ask customers what factors they considered when making their decision (i.e., quality of offering, breadth of offering, depth of offering, pricing, innovation, value, credibility, market expertise, etc.) and then divide those attributes into the following hierarchy:

  • Compelling Attributes: What attributes actually compell them to buy from you instead of the competition?
  • Differentiating Attributes: What attributes begin to differentiate your company from the competition? You may share these attributes with some, but not all of your competitors.
  • Necessary Attributes: What attributes establish you as a viable vendor but do not, however, differentiate you from your competition.

Target Audience Motivators

Target Audience Motivators

When you understand the attributes that compel someone to buy your product/service instead of the competitions’, you can begin to define a position that is both differentiated and defendable.

Aaron Hampton is the Regional IS Manager for Northern Tool + Equipment and co-founder of enDevelopment LLC, the makers of CommonCents personal finance software.

My time is like yours – valuable. And what I’m going to share is valuable to you as a marketing or sales professional. Why? Because if I’m not the one pulling the trigger on the buy decision, then I’m almost certainly advising the one that is. So here’s a view from the trenches looking out.

My phone rings several times a day with calls from sales reps or account managers asking for me to give them my time and focus to see how they can help me. Granted, it’s their job to get their foot in the door and to make the sale. Depending on what’s going on that day, I may give them a few minutes to make their pitch if their product or service is related to any of the multiplicity of things taking place between the present and the short-term horizon.

At some point in the conversation, I usually ask them to provide me with a link to their site or to a published report that gives me an apples-to-apples comparison of their product to their competitors or substitute products. It’s amazing how many show up empty handed. At best, they offer a trial version, a Web-ex demo, or whitepaper/case study of what their product did for some other customer. These can all be useful tools to help make the sale but their competition offers the same approach. Do they realize how much time I would have to invest if I were to take them and their competition up on their offers? Before I invest the time and effort to drill to deep into their product/service, they have to make the cut list. So the question of the moment is, “How do they make the cut?”

The simple answer – be the one who gives me what I’m looking for up front. So what am I looking for? Here’s what I am most interested in:

  1. Feature comparison
  2. Performance comparison (under a load)
  3. Price comparison

If you can provide these things to me, ideally from an unbiased source, then you’ve got my attention. Why? Because it shows me you know your products strengths and weaknesses and you know how you measure up. Some may say, “Well, isn’t that your job to figure out?” My answer, “Well, yes – and you can rest assured we’ll do our homework. But what do you have to hide? Is your product/service inferior in some way to your competition? If not, then why not show us how you measure up? – and be bold enough to publish it online.”

If every potential vendor came to me empty handed, where does that leave me? In essence, I have two choices – seek the information elsewhere, or do the comparisons myself. Of course, before I make final decision to go a particular direction, I’m always going to do my own homework in my own environment and thoroughly test a product or service. As the saying goes, “Trust but verify.”

Before I dive into doing the comparisons myself, I’m going to filter down the list of options by tapping into one of three resources:

  1. Other colleagues already using a product/service in a similar environment
  2. Comparisons published in industry-specific publications or research reports
  3. Consultants with expertise in the area of need

Let me elaborate.

Other colleagues
Other colleagues are my first choice because I know them and because they are likely using the product/service (and usually have also evaluated others) in a production environment. Other factors, their perspectives are usually unbiased (they have nothing to gain by my choice) and this resource is certainly less expensive than the other two alternatives.

Published reports
Believe it or not, when we scan through the standard technology publications, WE DO pause briefly at the product comparison charts and might even stop to read the article. If it is a worthy comparison, I might even bookmark it or cut it out and drop into the project folder for down the road. At a minimum though, at least I’ve got a feel for how someone else views the product/service.

On this item, let me add that research reports are approached with a bit of skepticism because they are almost always sponsored by a specific “interested party.” So from the start, we know it’s likely biased and very likely has been cherry picked to emphasize the sponsor’s strengths. Rightly so, because what organization would pay any research group to publish a report if their product/service wasn’t top dog in the run-off.?” So, instead of a sponsored report, I’d much rather have an independent analysis, even if I have to pay for it.

Finally, there are the consultants. The most trusted are the ones I’ve already worked with, who know our needs, and, very likely, have already implemented a similar solution somewhere else. If it’s a high dollar investment, I’ll rely heavily on their advice since I can usually hold them accountable. Now if the advice is coming from a consultant I haven’t worked with before, it will carry less weight but it really depends on their expertise and reputation in the industry. Hopefully, we get what we pay for.

So if you want me to consider buying your product or service, do both of us a favor and inform me of how you measure up. Come with your features, performance, and price comparison in hand and then we’ll have a productive conversation. Also, be mindful of the wake you leave behind. Your reputation will follow you. And when it reaches us, hopefully, it will crown you, not cast a shadow. If you pay attention to these things, you’ll very likely make the cut list and find your product or service in our test environment.