Archive for the ‘buyer behavior’ Tag

Traditional Sales and Marketing Roles are Blurring

Reposted in full version from www.salesjournal.com blog as guest columnist

I can hear the collective groan from the Sales Journal readership, but social media is blurring the traditional lines. Sales now needs to be concerned with participating in linked-in groups, answering linked questions, participating in community forums, reading blogs, sharing tweets on twitter, sharing photos, Facebook, etc. along with their traditional lead generation activities. Sales organizations now have to worry about broadcast messaging to communicate the product value proposition and greater educations across a wide audience.

Marketing now has to focus on the 1:1 relationship whether out on the social networks or in the corporate community/website. Marketing now gets measured on lead productivity, the value of discussion versus broadcasting, and the effectiveness of their ability to assist the sales pipeline. This is far more intimate and front-line than many marketers have been traditionally involved. Additionally, the marketing organization has to worry about the specific prospect’s motivation and the customer experience.

Social media changes the rules as the relationship dynamics are more fluid because the buyer behavior is changing. The 1:1 conversation can now happen in a public forum or be forwarded (re-tweeted) to a broad audience. Customers are also doing buying research on social networks and blogs.

In the last few years, this research has gone from search engines towards social search where they value the recommendations from participants over the traditional advertising messages from marketing. Also, they buyers are doing their research prior to engagement with vendors. If you are not in their research, you are not on their short list. This means that you have to do education prior to engagement; which is the definition of evangelism.

This is causing a considerable amount of disruption in the market and within companies. You can see the whole emotional spectrum played out; fear, skepticism, frustration, doubt, distain, and even elation. Marketing is being held more accountable for results and Sales is being held to a higher standard for managing communications.

I see this as the natural evolution. Customers don’t want to be “sold”, they want “to buy”. That means they want education earlier in the sales process; which means you need to adjust the way you support their buying process. Hence, the shift in roles between sales and marketing to align more along stages of evangelism versus functional silos. Sales and marketing should be held accountable to the same results if they are working on the same objectives. The roles will be more fluid, but the expertise is still there and can be very synergistic if leveraged correctly.

Three Areas for Thought

On the People front, you need to assess how your sales and marketing organizations are aligned. Are they designed to optimize the business or the customer experience?

On the Process front, you need to rethink your approach to branding and content development to empower Sales to have the 1:Many conversations. Can you create component messages that can be tracked and measured?

On the Technology front, do you have the right tools to support the 1:1 and 1:Many conversations across social media, manage the library of corporate IP & marketing content, and manage the lead conversion from the social environments?

Wanted: Passionate Advocacy in Response to Cynical World

Ever seen a really creative ad that has no connection to the product brand. Chances are that the real reason is that the creative director had no connection to the product that they were selling and decided to showcase their creativity instead of communicating passionate advocacy of the product. Welcome to the marketing equivalent of “the paycheck player.”

We are seeing it show up everwhere in marketing… earnest promotion of products and services intent on connecting with potential buyers replaced with snarky, cynical, disconnected, shock marketing. I am not saying that humor doesn’t have a strong place in marketing; it is critical. But, humor without the central components of marketing is cynical: passion, authenticity, empathy, & connection.

Passion –you need to believe in your product or service. We all struggle with tasks that we need to do, but don’t feel passionate about. Changing diapers was definitely that for me… but, when you string together a series of client or projects that you cannot emotionally connect long enough; you can wake up one morning and no longer be passionate about anything that you do in work. You are a mercenary with no loyalty or connection, but doing it for the money. Hence, the creative director scenario above. The movie Jerry Maquire was about that… “Show me the money” and “We live in a cynical, cynical world”.

I have been “lucky” in my career to have chosen the path sometimes less travelled focusing on being passionate about the product, sometimes to the detriment of security or financial success. But, I can’t see just going through the motions of marketing and then saying “Let’s throw a clown into the ad, people like clowns…” I think this is why people are gravitating to social networking and away from advertising. They are looking for authenticity.

Authenticity– As a father of a young child (with one on the way), I am constantly reminded of the wonder of the world through a child’s eye. I also feel the constant tug for delivering a really great experience, but cognizant of how commercial children’s marketing has gotten. There are some shows that I have seen with him that look like one big product placement. I have begun to appreciate the trade-off between polished production and authentic experience. As an adult, I get tired of the canned ads, fake testimonials, and the clearly manipulative “buying process”.

Empathy – I think sometimes that the science of buyer behavior forgets that the buyers are actual people. I am for automation and buyer behavior modelling, but I reject the win-lose value proposition behind some of the science. I think that there is a difference between optimizing the shopping cart process to make it easier for buyers to check-out versus pop-ups to “convince” them that they really wanted to buy.  My fundamental belief is that if you have done a good job of understanding your target audience, understood their motivations and circumstances, clearly articulated a value proposition that they understand, and developed your offering to meet that buyer’s needs; you will close more business than if you had missed the mark, but follow all of the “buyer behavior” techniques. Connection is the art that I still believe trumps the science.

Connectivity – Part of the rise of the social networking sites is that search engines are logic based and people are emotional based. Search is algorithmic; eventually everything has to get back to 1’s and 0’s. We, as humans, don’t think like that. We are messy, inexact, curious, and irrational at times. “Social search” allows for the emotional side to take over. When you ask a friend for a recommendation on a product, you are weighing that person’s opinion over all of the experts that you can find out on the web. Rational, not really. Authentic, trusted, connected, and passionate; definitely. Search engines can be very efficient, but the force ranking of items does not take into account the different motivations or the intelligence of the individual.

In my opinion Social “Search” fills a hole in search that search engines cannot fill. It works for a basic reason; finding a passionate evangelist who has already done the unbiased research for you is priceless when it comes to buyer support.

Is Your Marketing Like Teaching A Dog to Read? Part 2

In part 1 of this series, I shared a story about a professor who taught his dog to read… obviously, the dog could not read at the end of the semester, but the professor “taught” the dog. Unfortunately, this is very common in marketing, especially in emerging growth companies. The companies have very “pretty” marketing materials; website, collateral, powerpoints, but when you cannot really understand the audience, value proposition, or why they are different.

The litmus test for marketing materials is whether you can use your competitors name in your materials and it would apply. Or you could insert a company name from another industry and it reads just fine. Finally, you could insert any company name and no one understands what you do.

The real challenge is that the organization did not go through a structured exercise to map the value chain: audiences to benefits to functionality to features. Here is a high-level process to do just that:

1. Focus on identifying the market & associated segments

2. Fnd the pain – immediate call to action – for each segment; ie. this is the problem or opportunity you address; your solution = benefits

3. Communicate in the language the market understands – means you need to have a market SME, customer advisory board, or perform lots of prospect interviews to understand their needs in their language.

4. Test your messaging – social media participation, sales calls, speaking events, networking events, advisory boards, analysts, etc. Frequency and time allow you to polish your messaging. I know that I am ready when I can get through the 1st several meetings with a prospect or an investor without them finding holes in my presentation and Q&A. Doesn’t mean your offering won’t have challenges in due diligence, but if you are targeted to the right audience with the right solution, the first two meetings should be about concept, relationship, and “fit”.

5. Model your marketing on the sales process – each stage is idenitfied and marketing’s support required – One of the biggest challenges to getting the marketing materials “right” is identifying the scenarios under which it will be used. If your sales process is to work through partners, then providing a generic sales presentation won’t work. If you are selling into a specific vertical, then understanding the buying process may mean that you have to have 2 different presentations; one executive and one technical for different meetings. Collateral and sales support materials are very expensive to produce (opportunity costs) so focusing on a limited number of high-quality tools versus having a checkmark for materials is critical.

6. Focus on how to speed up the sales process – optimize, accelerate, replicate – momentum, reselling, bridging – One of the biggest challenges in any sales process is the “porpoise effect”. You build momentum and then it subsides, you resell and build momentum, and then it subsides. Most qualified buyer sales that seemingly look qualified with a need, but don’t get beyond the initial sponsor die due to lack of momentum. Either the sponsor could not sell internally or lost focus… The ability to empower your sponsor to be an evangelist will assist you in maintaining momentum. Everything in sales support should be around how do we help the potential customer make a decision faster. You will close more sales this way.

7. Participate in the early sales – look for objections – price, package, credentialling, references, technology, features/functionality, language, benefits, positioning, competitors. My biggest beef with some marketing communications people is that they don’t understand the market, customers, or the products. I want to get in front of the customers and interact with the market. I need to understand the buyer behavior and get feedback to fine tune the messaging.

8. “Save your powder” – the first set of sales to early adopters doesn’t require big marketing; focus on sales support, business development, online marketing, andPR; expensive marcom, tradeshows, events, and brochureware after the message has been tested. Save the marketing dollars till you have proofed the model and are ready to grow big. My approach to marketing budgeting is like “rolling a snowball downhill”. Make a small investment to credential your sales process;  when the market is proofed, build upon the foundation.

9. Build a customer lifecycle early. Know where you are going and how you will get there. Build towards a critical mass of referencable customers. Shrink the product’s functionality & features to slightly beyond what your target market requires. Also, make sure you set customer expectations so that you can exceed them. Make sure the roadmap is clearly articulated and scales with your customer expectations and your identified new market segments.

10. Your first set of references and referrals are the most expensive & the most valuable. Focus the organization on wowing the customer and tie all organizational goals to customer satisfaction.

Making sure your marketing “dog” can actually read is critical to scaling your business. If you have to personally evangelize to every new prospect to get them to understand the concept of your product and the value for them, you will have a very expensive sales process. Even service companies need to package their services to scale effectively.

Part 3 will address the challenges of Mid-Market companies.

Part 4 will address the challenges of Established Brands.