It’s baseball season again, and that’s always an exciting time here in New England, where the Red Sox rule and hope springs eternal (well, more or less).
While watching the first few games of the season and seeing all the familiar players again, one player, in particular, has caught my eye: Pablo Sandoval, the Kung Fu Panda. After missing all 2016 with injuries and a well-documented battle controlling his weight, Sandoval’s back. Word all spring was that he’s in great shape and ready to play ball again.
But here’s the thing … he’s still fat. Like not just sort of doughy for a pro athlete, he’s plain old fat. Maybe he’s not as out of shape as he looked last year, but as you can tell I was surprised to see how big he is after hearing all the positive news on his offseason. Anyway, he’s always been overweight. And he’s always been a pretty good baseball player. Not great, but certainly above average, and he’s had some big moments in his career.
For those who don’t know, Sandoval built his career with the San Francisco Giants – winning a couple of World Series rings with the team and earning a reputation as a clutch player. He also got his nickname, Kung Fu Panda, because his unique combo of girth, dexterity and overall pleasant disposition reminded people of the animated movie character. He was popular and successful. He had a good gig.
Then, in 2015, he signed with Boston for big money and was thrown into the expectations that come with being a highly paid player on an east coast team with a rabid fan base. He was miserable, he gained weight, he got hurt and missed essentially a full season. Now after many fans wrote him off, he’s back and getting good reviews. He is in (better) shape. He’s engaged. He’s playing well.
This brings me to my point and how it relates to sales and marketing. Sandoval has always been the same guy, but the expectations put on him have fluctuated wildly. If the fans are his customers, he’s had really happy customers, then really disappointed customers, now he seems to have appropriately content customers.
It’s an understandable misconception that marketing is all about making things appear better than they are. That’s simply not true if you want to build a sustainable business. If you’re a product marketer, particularly in markets like software and services, you need to think about generating sales that will result in repeat business. And there are a few key elements to doing this.
First, give your reps training, positioning, and materials about your products that emphasize real use cases. It’s a rep’s job to close a deal, so they’ll always paint as rosy a picture as possible about the potential of your product. Your job is to give real insights into what the product will really do, without taking the air out of the rep’s balloon. The reality is if your product is good, then you can tell an honest story. When done right, your reps will be thrilled they don’t have to sell the sizzle because they’ll be able to show exactly how high quality the steak is.
Second, the onboarding process is your chance to connect with your product’s real users. Once the deal is signed, the person who signed is much less important than those who will actually use the product or service. The more buttoned up you can be on product orientation, training, ongoing support communication and sharing best practices, the better your chance of getting renewals and/or more business from happy users.
None of these are earth-shattering observations, of course. It’s merely a reminder from a chubby third baseman that perception is always reality – and it doesn’t matter how good or bad your product is if your clients’ expectations aren’t appropriate. And it’s on us marketers to guide that perception.