Preface: I was struck while on vacation a couple of weeks ago how calm the ocean looks when you focus on the horizon. Staring at the beach, the ocean can look pretty rough. There’s a marketing vs. sales analogy there; I’m not sure I fully capture it in this post, but it’s a start. I think.
Perhaps one of the reasons sales professionals are annoyed by marketers has to do with the difference in time horizons. For a sales person to be productive, the time between first handshake and sale had better be pretty quick; there just isn’t time to hold too many prospects’ hands without sacrificing this month’s bogey. For the marketer, nurturing prospects through their consideration process requires commitment, persistence and, often, the patience of Job.
Unfortunately, the relationship between sales and marketing teams is one of constant demand for new prospects to close. The easiest way for a marketer to make the pain go away is to turn over half-nurtured leads.
However, a little patience could go a long way toward priming the pump for long-term sales and marketing success.
Consider the potential of identifying and connecting with potential customers through an effective, integrated marketing communications hierarchy:
Awareness – tactics intended to promote the brand and reinforce recognition when it comes time to generate conversations, engage individuals, nurture potential customers and enhance customer relationships.
Conversation Generation – tactics that cause potential customers to engage with us, moving from passive media (e.g., an ad) to active media (e.g., online, mobile, social, event tactics).
Engagement – active media tactics that allow us to get to know potential customers as individuals, so we can put the right facets of our brand in front of each individual as appropriate; engagement is also where we gain permission to begin nurturing each relationship.
Nurturing – follow-up tactics intended to keep prospects interacting with the brand throughout their consideration process (see “My ‘Learner, Shopper, Buyer’ Stump Speech” below); nurturing tactics must take advantage of data collected during engagement to be truly effective, whether the nurturing is taking place via marketing (e.g., email) or sales (e.g., sales call).
Relationship Enhancement – conversation generation, engagement and nurturing tactics targeted at existing customers; these tactics must be aware of each customer’s history with the brand to be most effective.
Through appropriate insight development and strategic planning, a comprehensive impressions-to-revenue model can be developed and tracked to efficiently follow potential customers throughout their lifetime interactions with the brand.
From a nurturing perspective, the easiest way to get started might be to:
- Perform a simple cluster analysis on your house list based on CTA responses and follow-up with people who didn’t make it through sales qualification with an appropriate email of informational value.
- Create a basic downstream messaging flow for every lead generation tactic. In essence, if you run an ad, make sure the call to action drives people to a special landing page (or sales phone number) that pays off the messaging in the ad. On the landing page, let people self-qualify. For those who are not ready to buy, have follow-up email messages ready that provide them with the right next information based on their stage in the buying cycle.
- Develop a basic lead scoring algorithm that can help you better qualify people who are likely to be responsive to a conversation with sales and only send people who meet the criteria to sales. Everyone else gets the right next nurturing email.
My “Learner, Shopper, Buyer” Stump Speech
Think of conversation generation as the leading edge of an integrated marketing communications system, and design tactics to create “connection” moments that drive inquiries to some kind of interactive experience. The first step in developing a brand friendship is making that connection and moving from a passive relationship to an active one. We recommend that clients create conversation generation tactics that appeal to three distinct types of prospects: Learners, Shoppers and Buyers.
Learners are the folks who are thinking about making a purchase in the near future but are still trying to understand the solution landscape.
In fact, most of the respondents to an information-based offer, like a white paper or an instructional video, are probably learners. Sales qualification punts them – and gripes that marketing’s feeding them bad leads. They’re not bad leads; they’re just not ready to buy yet. However, they were intrigued enough by our offer to raise their hands, and eventually learners become shoppers.
Shoppers are getting ready to make a purchase and are looking for the best solution. Shoppers are the best audiences for case studies or virtual walkthroughs, since they understand the solution landscape and are beginning to get to know the players within their desired solution set.
Next we have Buyers. These are the responders who are ready to buy and are actively comparing the best alternatives. They’re different than shoppers. Shoppers are trying to position you relative to your competition. Buyers want your best foot forward and your best deal revealed.
The thinking goes a lot deeper, but for now remembering to make that connection with your prospects using conversation generation tactics can help you create more valuable brand friendships faster. And once the pump is primed, sales gets a constant stream of prospects that fit nicely within a sales rep’s desired time horizon.