Consumers control the buyer's journey. They read online reviews, ask for advice from Facebook friends, check out the merchandise in store, and generally follow a haphazard path to purchase. Some research even reports that two-thirds of the sales process happens before a person communicates with a company.
We asked a few agency professionals what this lack of control means for CMOs, their marketing efforts, and their alignment with sales.
Align the Company Around How Consumers Make Decisions
Because salespeople deal with their prospects at the end of the process and are immersed in details like options and pricing with their customers, they’re often convinced that these facts and figures are what drive the purchase.
CMOs need to help align — not just sales — but the entire organization around how buyers (AKA humans) actually make decisions, no matter if they’re buying on behalf of themselves (as a consumer) or their company (as a business person). They need to all agree that buyers’ motivations often lie below the surface of their consciousness, which means that the organization must craft a brand strategy (and brand experience) that makes it attractive to buy on an emotional, and often sub-conscious, level. Those impulses can overpower features, and even price.
If managed effectively, by the time sales engages with the customer, facts and details can simply be leveraged to help the prospect ‘rationalize’ the purchase. For instance, while he’ll likely never admit it, the car buyer may want the BMW because it helps him demonstrate his level of success. But, when asked why he bought it, he’ll likely point to the features, amenities and level of service.
We live in a people-in-charge world where people get the information and entertainment they want when, where, and how they want it. They can invite brands in or filter them out of their lives.
Many have said this means marketers need to ‘let go’ of their brands, and let people define them. That sentiment is right, but this is no time for marketers to be passive.
Today, marketers need to actively define their brands with brand behaviors. That’s because brands stand out — not because they say something no one else is saying — but because they solve or do something no one else is doing.
For people not actively shopping, let them discover your brand. Stop interrupting what they are interested in and become what they are interested in. We see this today with the increase in higher quality branded content in social media.
For shoppers, give them tools. Let them see what others think and become advocates. Nurturing customer experiences is mandatory, especially as word of mouth is now predominantly happening online. After all, nobody buys the refrigerator with 2/5 stars.
As the line between marketing and sales continues to blur, CMOs are going to be forced to find new ways to support traditional sales functions. It used to be enough to generate curiosity and interest, but with the research, evaluation and even decision phase moving online, the sales team is finding less and less space to do their work. The next generation of CMO will need to tackle this bigger job by finding new ways to get their sales teammates back in the mix.
This coming year, we expect to see social continue in a big way and content marketing emerge as the channel of focus. CMOs who don’t ramp up content marketing efforts risk being pushed out of the consideration set as smaller, more aggressive marketers build trust through education and support in these early stages.
- Sarah Blecher, Partner, Director of User Experience | Digital Pulp
Align Marketing and Sales and Rely on Data
In a connected age customers are driving the buying process from early category exploration straight through to final configuration and ordering. They demand a cohesive brand experience and expect market leaders to have a deeper understanding of their needs at every step. Indeed, two-thirds of the sales process happens before they ever speak to a company. That means marketing and sales need to be seamless -- sharing data insights and profiles throughout the process. They need alignment on digital strategy and need to understand the customer journey and planning delivery in all channels. Long-range planning starts with sales and marketing at the table with equal voices. New approaches from social listening to a coordinated user experience from discovery to closing is required. The single biggest impact is the broadening of the marketing sales team and the inclusion of the CIO and data team to inform insights and decisions.
If it’s true that two-thirds of the sales process happens before a customer talks to a company, then the question becomes: Who’s doing all that selling?
As we all know, it’s friends and pinners, ‘the crowd,’ and anyone with access to a keyboard that can string 140 characters together. That’s who.
The real question is what does this newly minted sales force use as its sales tools?
Well, it’s engaging content. Not just filler or the daily pitter-patter of tips and Groupons, rather the very real and engaging content that demonstrates what your brand is all about. And maybe more importantly, gives your sales force a tool that lets them say a little something about themselves.
With Lucy activewear, we created an interactive light exhibit we called The Lucy LightForest. It was a cool experience on the banks of the Charles River in downtown Boston that thousands of women shared with their friends once they experienced it. They tweeted about it, pinned it, and 'liked' it.
And you know what? They were selling all along the way.