For sales-driven organizations, 2017 marked the year that the baton was finally – and permanently – passed to the consumer.
This was the year, it was declared, that all of the growing technology megatrends finally gave the consuming public the upper hand in the relationship with marketers. This means that, despite all of the efforts and resources we’ve invested into outbound sales and marketing efforts, heretofore, we’re simply going to find ourselves several paces behind an educated and savvy buying public.
In fact, according to a survey by CEB, a division of Gartner, the modern buyers journey is now 57 percent complete before they encounter our products or services -- thanks to self-driven online research. Of course, this shouldn’t surprise you. Think about the last thing you bought. Didn’t you Google it first? Did you pay attention to research results on Page 2? Probably not.
Just like you, your customer can and will research the heck out of you and your competitors. This digital transition to online research is having a profound effect on the roles and responsibilities between sales and marketing. For sales reps, this means leads are being introduced at a much later stage in the buying process than in the past – in effect redrawing the traditional sales funnel to look more tornado-like in construct. This is creating intense pressure for today’s CEO to accelerate the digital transformation of their marketing messages to catch the attention of the modern buyer.
That has enhanced the importance of the role of the marketer, who now must join the buyer’s journey sooner, remain in the funnel longer – and harbor a much deeper understanding of buying trends.
Let’s take a look at the new funnel, and gain a greater understanding about how the winds have shifted:
As you can see, today’s marketing team still has primary responsibility for creating awareness and interest among the company’s target customers, as in the past. However, marketers now must also do much of the heavy lifting in helping customers consider the product’s attributes, incite their intent to purchase the product, help them evaluate how the product meets their need(s), and compare all potential alternatives, including from competitors.
If these new roles seem familiar, you’re correct: A generation ago, this was the role of a good sales representative – to present well-qualified and well-informed customers with salient information. But with today’s consumer collecting myriad product data on their own, they will have completed these stages long before the sales person comes calling.
Here’s how you can get a jump-start on modernizing your message right now:
- Update Your Website: As with any digital revolution, your first shot needs to be fired with a modern, up-to-date website – positioned as a definitive repository of the company’s products, capabilities, services, and key information. Not only should marketing be given primary responsibility for ownership of the function and content of the site, but it should actively be working to use techniques to get prospective customers to the website. Once there, the site should be cultivating and capturing prospects’ interest and answering their most pressing concerns and questions. At a high level, the website should:
- Explain who you are
- Explain what you do
- Illustrate how your products and services solve problems
- Provide easy navigation – one to two clicks to find the most pertinent information
- The Right People for the Job: The next step in the transformation may involve a reshuffling of the personnel in your sales and marketing departments to ensure you have adequate resources devoted to marketing and digital demand generation. Many of the companies that I consult with have marketing departments that are minimal at best. They might have a junior assistant reporting to the VP of Sales whose immediate focus and responsibility is on closing business. Many CEOs know that their website needs updating, but are overwhelmed by the prospect.
- Be Engaging: Talk TO your website visitors, not AT them. Be an expert, but be human. One way of being human is to avoid jargon. Instead of saying “leverage,” say “use.” Instead of saying “optimize,” say “improve.” Use words that you would use in a normal conversation when possible. And, if you haven’t done so already, start blogging. There are many reasons to blog that I’ll cover in a separate tip sheet. But here are three benefits for you to consider:
- A blog post, when written strategically, is a great way to generate leads. Every blog should include a call-to-action that guides web visitors to an offer, such as free eBooks, webinars or consultations. In order to receive the offer, your web visitor must fill out a form. You have “captured” a lead. That’s marketing jargon, in case you wondered.
- Every time you write a blog post, it's one more indexed page on your website -- which means it's one more opportunity for you to show up in search engines, and to drive traffic to your website through organic search.
- Blogging transforms you into a recognized expert, especially if your blog answers common questions that prospects and customers have.As an expert, your audience will grow, not only on your website, but on social channels.
Now that you have an idea of what you need to do to get started modernizing your message and creating a marketing plan that supports the buyer’s journey, you’ll be better equipped for the new sales funnel.