Unlocking Marketing’s Secret: How Marketing Can Influence the Buyer Journey

We’ve all seen the Sirius Decisions statistic that “67 percent of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally.” Even more importantly, “online searches are executives’ first course of action” when considering a purchase.

As a marketing executive focused on demonstrating the value of marketing every day, these stats are important. By understanding the buyer journey and mapping sales and marketing content to that journey, we can build a Contact2Contract strategy that touches a buyer at the first point of frustration, and leads him or her through the buying cycle. A sophisticated Contact2Contract strategy leverages the best tools of content marketing and digital marketing. It also delivers the measurable results to make marketing the most valuable tool of your company’s growth engine.

Following is a step-by-step approach to delivering a choreographed Contact2Contract model that accelerates the sales cycle. It builds on the publicly available Sirius Decisions value stream model.

Step 1: Know your buyers. Every complex sales cycle has more than one buyer. The person with the problem (the buyer), the influencer and the decision maker. Building on Park Howell’s “hero” thinking, create personas for each buyer including:

  1. Capture the title, function and typical work track
  2. Identify the ultimate goal
  3. Craft the buyer’s backstory
  4. Know what’s at stake
  5. Determine who could disrupt that goal and why would they do it
  6. Create a picture of victory (and no, it’s not signing your contract)
  7. List the functions and resources the buyer trusts

Step 2: Chart the buying cycle (and your selling cycle). Every buyer has a buying process with hard stops in many places. Know it. Chart it. And identify the speed bumps you need to overcome to avoid the hard stops. Start by asking these questions:

  1. Why is the buyer frustrated?
  2. What questions is the buyer asking?
  3. Why are those questions important now?
  4. What information does the buyer need to hear and why?
  5. What questions will the buyer ask next?
  6. Who does the buyer need to convince?

Step 3: Identify and map content types to each stage of the buyer journey. Help each buyer move more quickly through the phases by delivering the right content at the right time. Content earlier in the buying cycle should give your organization credibility (e.g., white papers and blogs). Later-stage content supports a sales objective (e.g., sales presentations and RFP responses). I like to create separate lists of marketing and sales content at each buyer stage. This  graphic shows content types at each stage.



Step 4: Create and optimize your content. Content creation is not as hard as it looks. Prioritize the content and create it stage by stage. Identify the delivery medium for each piece so you can leverage digital marketing best practices to get the message to the right buyer. Consider these pointers:

  1. Reuse content. Use infographics, quotes and proof points as stand-alone pieces and as support for longer content
  2. Consider the goal of each piece. Use a research report to create fear, uncertainty and doubt; create an assessment to qualify the reader for your solution
  3. Vary your delivery media. An infographic is perfect for a tweet or LinkedIn update; a podcast or white paper might best come from an email or online ad
  4. Leverage third-party content when appropriate; this delivers instant credibility (if the third-party is well known)
  5. Optimize your content for search engines
  6. Make it easy to share your content. The more your content is shared by online thought leaders, the higher your Google ranking. The higher your Google ranking, the more likely buyers will find your content.

Step 5: Launch your content in a choreographed program that leaves the reader wanting more from you. Make your content work for you by choreographing its delivery. Push content via inbound marketing programs. A CRM system makes this process automatic. If you don’t have a CRM system, you can still do this on spreadsheets. Remember to:

  1. Personalize the communications
  2. Put the offer in the first paragraph
  3. Include different ways your buyers can interact with you; e.g., use mini assessments and follow-on reports to create a sense of urgency
  4. Capture relevant contact and buyer information from each exchange
  5. Open the door for the sales person to follow up with an appropriate offer

Step 6: Push ONLY qualified leads to the sales team and stay involved. It’s tempting to push leads to the sales team quickly and then walk away. If you remember nothing else from this post, remember two rules: #1: Only push leads to the sales team that are truly qualified (anything less than qualified and you will only frustrate the buyer and the sales team). #2: Stay involved in the sales process (the content that marketing provides the sales team during the later stages of the buying cycle help ensure a consistent buyer experience and a smooth transition from buyer to satisfied customer). Work with sales to:

  1. Agree on the definition of a marketing qualified lead (MQL) and a lead qualification process
  2. Deliver only those leads that meet the qualification; nurture leads that aren’t qualified
  3. Work side-by-side to provide additional and consistent content to move key buyers to contract. This can vary from developing unique win themes and to customizing proposals and presentations. Again, this can only happen on key deals.

Step 7: Leverage customer successes. The key to a consistent customer experience is to manage messaging throughout the buyer journey and into the implementation and use of the solution. A happy customer will shout your praises from the rooftops (even when they are “not allowed” to). Consider these ideas:

  1. Create a win press release upon contract signature
  2. Capture pre-implementation and post-implementation stats to demonstrate improvements
  3. Create a case study leveraging success stats
  4. Highlight the customer in a best practice series
  5. Encourage the customer to speak about their business results at industry conferences

A Contact2Contract strategy done well will accelerate the sales cycle. A well-conceived program will increase the dependency of sales and marketing and change an often adversarial relationship into one of collaboration and respect. Most importantly, marketing’s ability to demonstrate value will cement its leadership position in the company.

To learn more about the Sirius Decisions value stream model see this webinar.

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Are you thinking about Marketing with a big M?

Marketing means many things to many people. Some people think Marketing is selling. Others think of Marketing as advertising. And, more recently, people equate Marketing to social media. Marketing is actually all of these things…and more.

In B-sch00l, we learned about the 4 Ps of marketing–product, price, placement and promotion. Eduardo Conrado, the Sr. VP and CMO of Motorola Solutions, and the current president of BMA national, has refined marketing for today’s world: Solution, Access, Value and Education. When you think about marketing in these bigger terms, you get some pretty amazing results. Here are my top 10 reasons to think about Marketing with a big “M.”

#10. Avoid multiple implementations of “one.” When products and markets are not clearly defined, people sell anything they can. This results in a series of one-off implementations that are hard to maintain.  Use Marketing to define your solution up front and simplify your product implementations. 

 #9. Prioritize markets. When you sell to every market, you get traction in a precious few.  Marketing can help you prioritize the markets to go after now and in the future.  

#8. Define revenue expectations. Defining revenue expectations is tricky business. And yet, every business expects you to do it, especially if you’re asking for an investment to launch a new solution. Confidence in your numbers takes a knowledge of the market, its willingness (and need) to buy, and the price it’s willing to pay. The best time to set revenue expectations is before you launch.

#7. Build a pricing model. Pricing models are a bit science and a bit art. Marketing can build a solid model that can be modified and adjusted.

#6. Manage the company brand. A brand is much more than a name: It’s an identity. It’s a role. It’s how you approach and work with your customers. Marketing can help you build a brand that will stand the test of time.

#5. Educate and prep the market with content. In today’s B2B market, promotion is about education. Marketing can help you become your market’s trusted advisor—and gain customers for life—when you can help them see the problem they have and the solution you offer.

#4. Create a repeatable sales process. Whether you have a sales team of one, or a large sales organization, you want a sales process that is repeatable and manageable. Use your Marketing team to collaborate with your sales organization to build a sales process, tools and incentives that deliver results.

#3. Integrate the voice of the customer. You are in business to serve your customer. Marketing knows that your starting point is a true understanding of the pain points, market drivers, buyer characteristics, politics, and more.

#2. Build repeatable messaging, positioning and value propositions. When Marketing integrates the voice of the customer, your message, position and value proposition become the words of your customers.

#1. Drive sales by meeting customer requirements. The best way to ensure a revenue stream is to build a solution that fills an empty void, test it with real customers and then make them the spokespeople for your product or service. Nothing convinces a prospect to buy a solution faster than hearing from a respected peer about their successes. Marketing can leverage the product lifecycle to drive sales.

Today is the day to think about Marketing more broadly. Your company and your customers will thank you.

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How will you attract your buyers?

A blog about social media and Santa Claus got me thinking about how to attract a buyer. For this company, which helps companies increase visibility on the web—and is aimed at creative Chief Marketing Officers—it’s a great angle. But it won’t work in all situations. Why? Because you need to appeal to your audience—not just any audience—to get and maintain their interest.

How do you know what will be compelling to your audience? You need to profile them, and then map your messaging to their profile. And remember that your audience probably includes more than one person. So create a profile, or persona, for every single person with whom you need to interact in your sales cycle—from the influencer to the decision maker.

Demographics. Identify the age, sex and education of your audience. You will share different information with the 45-year old woman PhD than you will with the 25-year old male who has a high school diploma.

Pain Points. What do they worry about? List the top 3-7 concerns, then whittle it down to the 3 biggest concerns. Once you have that, identify the cost of that pain. If it’s $100, you’re going to have a tough time selling a $10,000 solution. But boy does that same $10,000 solution look attractive if the cost of that pain is $100,000. Identify the costs that are tangible (to which you can attach actual dollars) and those that are intangible (those that have an emotional cost). If you don’t know, ask your customers, either using a formal survey or in an informal conversation.

Value. What does the person with whom you are trying to communicate value? If it’s time and you are communicating cost savings, your message may fall on deaf ears. The most common value drivers are time, cost savings and efficiency.

Needs. What does your audience need to solve its biggest pain point? Information? Selling tips? Pricing? An advocate or trusted advisor? And don’t forget the timeframe. As you identify need, capture the timeframe in which that need must be met.

Once you have these four categories completed, you can build a Content Marketing Plan—including audience, document type, objectives, source, keywords, call-to-action (C2A) and measurements—plus an Editorial Calendar—document name, author, review process, timeframe and use/distribution.

Only when you have captured these six ideas should you put pen to the proverbial paper and start writing. That writing will be much easier because you know what information you need to communicate, how you should communicate it and when you should communicate it.

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Activate your pipeline

Sometimes all it takes to activate a sales pipeline is to help your sales organization make the case for your company and for your product. Simple right? Not always. To drive measurable sales, you need the right set of tools to engage your prospects and get them to interact with you. When you do that, you’ll see some of the same results I’ve experienced:  Pipeline increases of more than 36%  in two months and tens of millions of dollars of sales impacted (see more in Make the case for sales enablement).

Define your audience.  A successful lead generation campaign gets the right message to the right person at the right time. To do that, you need to know your audience and what’s important to them. Title, gender and area of responsibility are a good start. But to really develop a compelling message, you have to know their pain points and the cost of that pain.

Identify proof points. Every customer wants to know what he or she will get from your solution. Unless you’re talking to your very first customer about a beta test, you should be able to gather real proof points about your solution. Great proof points consider both the tangible dollar benefits and the intangible emotional benefits. Use those proof points to create a message that “hooks” the reader into wanting to know more.

Create a compelling call-to-action. With a hook in place, you now have the ability to get a prospect to interact with you. Create a call-to-action (C2A) that supports the next interaction you want to drive. If you want them to register for a webinar, offer a white paper. If you want the next step to be a conversation with a sales person, invite the reader to answer a few questions in exchange for a report about those answers.

Push your message. The plan you develop to push your message to your prospects depends on your audience. Do they know you? Use email. If they’ve never heard of you, use a newsletter or banner ad pushed to them by a trusted source (e.g., a publication they read).

Drive your audience to respond.  If you have a really compelling call-to-action, use telemarketing or inside sales to follow up. While it may take several calls to get your audience on the phone, once you’ve hooked them with an opening statement, they will answer questions.

Train your sales organization. New sales material requires a review with your sales organization. They need to understand how you created the proof points, to practice using the proof points in conversation and presentations, and to learn how to use any follow up material promised in the C2A in their sales cycle. You need them to look like the expert; help them get there!

Measure and report. Know what you want to measure and report BEFORE you launch the program. Realize that just because you track every detail of the program—like the number of downloads on every piece of content you have—you don’t need to report every number you have. Use the data to create a “results” story. And communicate those results often.

Take the time to do your program right. There is always pressure to just “do something” to generate leads. And if you only want leads, then just doing “something” may be the right answer. If you want to drive measurable sales results, and give your sales people the data they need to drive the sale to closure, then take the time to build a program that will get the prospect to engage and interact with you.

For more information check out this infographic. Make the case for sales enablement

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Product launch: The gateway to measurable sales

In January 2012, an unknown company launched an unheard of product in a category few knew existed. Less than 30 days later, the product had earned press in almost every major media outlet and had tens of thousands of people using it.

While every product (or service) launch will be slightly different, assuming you’ve done the homework to bring the right product at the right price to market, launch fundamentals remain the same:

  • Messaging and content
  • Thought leadership
  • Media and influencer relations
  • Sales activation
  • Measurement

Start with the message. Your launch starts with the message. The key to getting the message right is to test it. Online testing is fast, efficient and incredibly insightful. And it helps you get to consensus much faster.

Build your content. With a message that is both defensible and agreed-upon, build a content marketing plan that puts the message in every content piece you create, from printed collateral and promotional material to online websites, blogs and even videos.

Set the stage with thought leadership. Whether you’re creating a brand new category or just trying to change perception, thought leadership is a critical component of any good launch strategy. Use primary market research supported by publicly available statistics in  content marketing pieces that can range from white papers to website content. Use Twitter, Facebook and other social media channels to promote your content pieces.

Leverage the influencers. Influencers now include print media and analysts, paid and unpaid bloggers, association leaders, online publications, customers and more. When building your PR strategy, consider how to leverage all of your influencers.

Activate the pipeline. Like other marketing tactics, lead generation is not “one size fits all.” It will include a tiered program to communicate to the many people who touch the buying process. Understanding your audience—and their information needs—is critical to lead generation programs that produce high ROI.

Communicate results. A launch is highly visible, and you want to share meaningful results across your organization. What’s meaningful to your executive team may not be important to the sales, development and support organizations. Determine your measurement tactics and reporting tools BEFORE you launch.

Other considerations. Depending on your product, you may need additional leverage. Advertising—through both traditional and social media channels—can be very effective in both short bursts and sustained programs.

Final impressions. Every launch is different, but the fundamentals are the same. As a very good friend of mine once told me: “Plan the Work and Work the Plan.” When you do, you’ll reap the rewards and keep your sanity.

 For more information check out this infographic. Product launch nets 30,000 users in 30 days

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Jump start your sales with thought leadership

When you think about your network of friends and colleagues, do you naturally gravitate to the people with whom you have the most in common? The people who have something interesting to say? The people who listen to you? Of course you do! Can you say the same about your marketing program?

That’s right! A marketing program that drives measurable sales results starts with a conversation. A conversation based on thought leadership. You wouldn’t talk with someone with whom you have nothing in common. Why would a prospect? Thought leadership is the key to jump starting your sales engine and can net tens of millions of dollars in sales.

The Corporate Executive Board reported that 57% of a purchase decision is complete before a customer contacts a supplier. Thought leadership can get you in front of the prospect before it’s too late. But what is it? And how do you do it?

To paraphrase Forbes, a thought leader is the foremost authority in a specific area. A thought leader has an opinion. A thought leader has data. A thought leader uses that information to persuade others. To be a thought leader, you need an opinion that you can share.

Have an opinion supported with data. Key to thought leadership is to have an opinion. But it’s not good enough just to have an opinion, you have to support that opinion with data, preferably data that no one else has. Use market research to get it. That market research could be extensive—asking 100s of people 10 key questions—or simple—conducting a 5-question poll at a meeting. The level of research depends on the believability of the information you are sharing.

Make the data easy to understand.  Data must be interpreted to be understood. Use your data to tell a compelling story. Keep it simple. Break it into chunks. Share the results and their implications. Offer suggestions. And use infographics—pictures that tell a story.

Use your data everywhere. Create a content marketing plan for your data.  Create a market research “report” to share the story. Use pieces of the story in blogs, sales presentations, press releases, podcasts, webinars, videos and even point-of-view papers. Use Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube and other social media channels to highlight your thought leadership. The more you use the data, the more people see it. The more people see it, the more important your thought leadership becomes to them.

Sales conversations start with thought leadership.  IDC reported in its 2012 Customer Engagement Study  that the average IT decision maker downloads 10 content assets (or pieces of information) during the buying process. Wouldn’t you like some of those content pieces to be from you? If you answered yes, then start a thought leadership program now. You’ll be surprised at the sales conversations it starts.

For more information check out this infographic. Thought leadership accelerates sales

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Marketing is an art…right? While there is some truth to that statement, it’s no more true than any of profession is an art (except for art itself). Marketing drives measurable results when it integrates art with science. When it identifies a set of goals, defines strategies, choreographs the tactics, and measures the results.

That’s what sales-driven marketing does. And that’s the topic of this website. Check back often to find out how you can drive true marketing results.

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