TheRichest had the pleasure of speaking with CEO and marketing expert, Martyn R. Lewis, who claims to have figured out the formula to retail giant Amazon's immense success. Martyn has heaps of experience in the business and marketing world, having held many president, vice president, and CEO positions with companies such as Drake International and Digital Equipment of Canada. Having worked extensively in sales management in three countries has helped Martyn gain a well-rounded understanding of what works and more importantly, what doesn't work for sales. He has consulted in 33 countries and impacted over 85,000 salespeople with his arsenal of sales and marketing knowledge, meaning that Martyn is most definitely an expert in the field. His recently published book, How Customers Buy & Why They Don't provide Amazon's secret formula to success for large and small and businesses alike and already has five-star reviews.
Please enjoy our exclusive interview!
TheRichest (TR): Martyn, as a CEO and marketing expert, you have discovered that Amazon, above all other companies, has gotten the ultimate recipe for success down. Can you explain this and how you came to this conclusion?
Martyn R. Lewis (MRL): Overall, our research and observations have been that you’ve really got to understand how customers buy. For years, companies have looked at why somebody should buy what they offer whether it’s products or services. We’ve become very good at understanding why somebody should buy something that we’re offering them. What we’re not good at understanding is how they’re going to buy and why they may not. That’s the key to everything. So many companies have got great offerings and they know that their market would benefit from buying them but they don’t really understand how they would buy them or why they wouldn’t. In the case of Amazon - and I’m not sure they are the absolute best but clearly, they are a great case study to look at - what Amazon has done is really understood how customers want to buy and they stay just ahead of that curve. It didn’t happen overnight. It would be easy to think that Amazon was an overnight sensation. It was not. They started, obviously, as an online bookstore and in those days, people didn’t want to buy everything online because there were trust issues with buying online and people weren’t all online, but what we’ve seen is that Amazon has led the way and has made it very, very easy for people to buy. Did we ever want to go to stores? Well, we could argue that maybe we did want to go to brick-and-mortar stores but in most cases, we didn’t. We just wanted to acquire goods and services and Amazon has made it so simple and so easy for us to do that. And they continue to do that. As the market has moved more and more to using technology, as the internet has become an everyday tool, as people have trusted online business transactions more, Amazon has been there, always making it simple and easy for us to buy. I’ll use one word and say fit. What Amazon is offering fits with how consumers want to buy today and that’s why we’ve seen them so successful.
TR: Your brand new book entitled “How Customers Buy…And Why They Don’t: Mapping and Managing the Buying Journey DNA” which explains all of your research and findings in detail, was recently published on August 15th. Can you tell us who the book was written for?
MRL: What a great question. In some ways, the book is my life’s work. If you look at the dedication, it says that the book is dedicated to anybody, anywhere that is relying upon somebody, somewhere to buy something that they invented, created, manufactured, market, finance or sell. It’s for anyone who is dependent upon a customer buying something of theirs. That’s a lot of people. I think that generally speaking, people do not understand how customers buy. They understand why they should buy but they don’t understand how customers buy.
TR: We’ve heard that you agree that 2018 is “The Year of Alexa.” Do you believe that Amazon will become the most powerful company - dominating even big contenders such as Apple, Google, etc? Are there some companies who might be able to give Amazon a run for its money?
MRL: I think that we’re going to see Amazon continue to be one of the absolute giants for the foreseeable future. That doesn’t mean forever. One of the things that really intrigues me is that there are very few companies who have been able to maintain their dominance. The interesting thing is it’s not usually someone who comes along and directly competes with them. In my opinion, it’s not going to be an Amazon lookalike that’s going to come along and take the Amazon market. What we’re going to see is shifts and other companies, like Amazon started as just a bookseller online, we’re going to see other companies start somewhere - who knows where? - and take niches away from Amazon.
TR: Can you tell us about your background and how it has helped shape your mindset to understand Amazon’s business model?
MRL: My background is in sales, marketing and business. I’ve gone to three countries. I started in the U.K., moved to Canada and have spent the last 22 years in California. I started in frontline sales, self-management, then in marketing, then vice president of sales, then vice president of marketing. Then I ended up as a CEO with several hundred salespeople working for me. For the last 22 years, I’ve had my own company and we consult with companies throughout the world on how they can better sell and market.
TR: We hear that your book uses Amazon as a model to help all kinds of businesses, both small and large. Can you give us an example of how Amazon can serve as a helpful business model for a small or home-based business?
MRL: I think the most important thing to understand is that Amazon was not an overnight sensation. Amazon started as on online bookseller so I think we can learn an awful lot about that because they started somewhere and then they morphed and morphed and morphed and grew and grew and grew, just one step ahead of the market. Back then, the market wasn’t there. The market wasn’t buying online and didn’t trust online transactions. The market wasn’t using the internet like the market does now. It was interesting that they started as a bookseller because they offered the ability to buy books online and then from that, they grew. One of the things that we talk about in the book is how you fit in the marketplace. What are people ready to do? What are people looking for? What are they buying and the most important thing in the book is how do people buy? So what Amazon did is stay one step ahead of the buyer and very much synchronized into how buyers buy. If you take Alexa, for instance, voice technology has been around for years. It’s not new. But the use of that technology, it’s really matured in the marketplace now. Why is Alexa going to be such a big thing this holiday season? Because that’s where the market is now. Technology is trusted. People have seen it. People have used it. It’s no longer the 5 percent of technology visionaries buying Alexa, it’s now entering the mainstream. So what we’ve seen is that the market has moved and Amazon has stayed with the market and I would argue just one step ahead. It all comes down to really understand how the customer is buying.
TR: You’ve brought up an interesting point in saying that technology is trusted. While most people do trust technology, there are still many people out there who believe that Alexa and similar devices are not safe and are spying on people in their homes. What are your thoughts on the distrust of Alexa?
MRL: That is, once again, a great example of market fit. The second part of my book title is “How Customers Buy and Why They Don’t.” And that is a great example of why they don’t. This is a huge lesson for companies of all sizes. So you could market all the benefits of Alexa, for example, and yes, if somebody believes that Alexa is listening to you, they’re not going to buy it no matter what the price, no matter how great the features are. And they could believe all of that, they could believe that Alexa could be great for them but why they’re not buying it is that they believe that device is listening to them and could harm them in some way. Until that is mitigated, until that’s addressed, they’re not going to buy. Alexa’s a great example. We can spread that to all sorts of things to understand why somebody doesn’t want to buy. It’s often a real surprise to my clients when they find out that their market understand what they’re offering and believes there is value, so your perspective market believes there is value in what they’re selling but they’re not buying it. You’ve got to understand what the reason is that they’re not buying it and you’ve got to take it away or mitigate it. Like Alexa, until those believe that Alexa is not listening on them and will not harm them, they won’t buy it even if they think it’s a great device for helping them live their lives.
TR: Your book mentions “value drivers.” Can you explain what these are and why they are important for business owners to understand them?
MRL: Absolutely. Value drivers is the opposite to what we were just talking about. So what we were talking about is what we call the buying concern, the reasons people don’t buy it such as because people believe Alexa is listening to them and that could be harmful. The value drivers are what the consumer customer wants from a particular acquisition. From Alexa, maybe people just want an easier life. They want to ability to just say “set a timer for 5 minutes” or “put on some music.” That could be the value driver. Value drivers are what somebody really wants from a particular purchase. What do they hope to get, what to they hope to gain? It could be financial, ease of doing business, simplicity, it could be fashion. It could be being seen with the latest technology, having the latest iPhone. Most aren’t looking for the features of the iPhone, it’s the status, the prestige of having the latest iPhone. That again is so important for a company to understand. You could be marketing the latest features of the iPhone, using that metaphor, but that’s not what people are really buying. They’re buying something else. They’re buying the brand, fashion, prestige, whatever it is. So it’s really important to understand what people are buying and what you can offer.
TR: We understand that you explain, in your book, the importance of businesses making a connection with their clients/customers. Is this the same across the board from small to large businesses?
MRL: One hundred percent. It starts with, of course, understanding your customers like never before. The starting point of that is blowing away a myth that’s been there forever. The myth is that customers will buy logically and economically, rationally. If you show a customer that they’ll benefit from buying your product or services, they’ll buy. But customers do not buy logically, economically or rationally. They don’t. So you’ve got to understand how customers buy and why they don’t. So the first connection point is really understanding your market with a laser focus, really understanding who is your customer and then how are they going to buy. What are their value drivers and their buying concerns? Really understand that and then monitor it. Once your business is successful, it’s important to stay connected to those customers so you can see the patterns evolving. Are they buying differently? Are they buying for different reasons? Are their concerns changing? It starts with understanding the customer and it continues with staying connected and watching how customers buy.
TR: Where do you see Amazon in terms of growth in the next 5 - 10 years?
MRL: I can’t see how Amazon isn’t going to continue to be a dominant player in the industry and the cross industries. I really don’t. I think it’s setting the pace now for so many things that we see in business. We’re already seeing some very interesting things. We’re seeing Amazon move into the physical world with brick and mortar which I think is fascinating. But note that they’re bringing attributes of their online world into the brick and mortar world. So, when you go into an Amazon store, it shows you the various reviews and how things are rated. That’s really interesting because that wasn’t part of brick and mortar shopping before. We’re also seeing that stores are understanding that if all they are offering are shelf space that many customers are now going to prefer to do that online. So many stores now are offering more of an experience. One could argue that Starbucks did that with coffee many, many years ago. I’m old enough to remember before Starbucks, you’d just walk into a deli and buy coffee. Starbucks changed that experience. They changed the coffee-buying-drinking experience for the market. I’m seeing that now with bricks and mortar stores offering an experience that customers can not get online. So I think that’s fascinating and we’ll see a polarization between the simplicity, the ease of buying online and the experience that only can be gained in the physical sense. It’s going to be interesting. If I could predict that one, I wouldn’t be writing books. *laughs* What I can do is say that no business that I know of has been able to remain dominant for a long period of time and those that have, have continued to morph and change so it will be fascinating to watch.
We’ve got to switch the thinking from why someone should buy what I’m offering to how are they going to buy and why would they not. We call it “outside-in” so instead of focusing on me and my product and pushing that into the marketplace and convincing everybody how great it is, start with the customer. Start outside. Look at how they’re buying and bring that in. We call that the “outside-in approach.”
TR: Thanks so much for your time, Martyn! We really appreciate it.
MRL: My pleasure. Bye for now.
Readers, if you have a sales position, small or home-based business, you'll do yourself a favor by picking up Martyn's book, How Customers Buy & Why They Don't. What do you think of Martyn's analysis of Amazon's winning recipe for success? Let us know in the comments! Happy selling!