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“In the Age of the Seller, salespeople were the original internet”

Jim Blasingame

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“Delivering relevance is increasingly becoming an essential part of doing business.”

Nicholas Johnson, Financial Times

Decoding Modern Marketing

2. LEAD IDENTIFICATION

At the start of the process, your prospects may see a number of ads or pieces of content before they do something. What brands traditionally want prospects to do is raise their hands, identify themselves and say “I’m a prospect, here I am, come and sell me.” Before the internet came along raising your hand was about all consumers could do if they wanted to learn more, even with the knowledge that by identifying themselves they were inviting the often unwelcome attention of a sales person. But that was then, when salespeople were about the only way to find out more. Today consumers expect they can do all the research they need online without having to deal with a sales person until they are ready. Strangely, however, many companies and industries don’t get this. They have always required consumers to talk to their sales people from the beginning of the process, and they have had difficulty letting go of this idea. This, despite the reality that in most situations consumers today want to be left alone until they decide they are ready to connect. In cars sales, for example, consumers aren’t waiting for dealers, they are already jumping on new types of sellers, like Carvana.com, that let you buy a car without ever talking to a salesperson.

In financial services, in which my agency has worked for years, the sales model is built around the financial advisor. Since early in the last century financial advisors have been the sales force for their industry. That’s because industry wisdom has always held that consumers are incapable of understanding financial offerings without the guidance of a friendly expert. Except when they are not, which is increasingly the case. A study from Ispos and Linkedin showed that only 5% of millennials intend to rely on a financial advisor and 91% said they intend to use their social networks for advice. Despite that many traditional financial services companies cling to the old ways. This is even in the face of challenges from numerous new financial firms, such as Wealthfront and Betterment, focused on empowering people with knowledge, insights and control; just what people are looking for.

COMPANIES STILL MAKE ACCESS TO KNOWLEDGE DIFFICULT FOR CONSUMERS IN THE BELIEF THAT IT WILL FORCE THEM TO TALK TO THEIR SALES PEOPLE.

What it actually does is force prospects to find other companies that will not make them jump through hoops.

Removing barriers and making customer experiences easy doesn’t mean that brands have to be less persuasive. Instead the focus should be on how personally relevant the lead nurturing experience can be.

THE MORE INDIVIDUALLY RELEVANT A VALUE PROPOSITION IS, THE MORE COMPELLING IT WILL BE.

This is shaped by a combination of data, consumer insights and user experience design. Data can come from digital interactions, which can tell you what website a lead comes from, where they’re located, or even what company they work for. If they are already customers you might also know their purchase history, what content they have seen or shared on your sites, and what ratings & reviews they may have given you.

All of this is grist for the data mill, which when combined with your understanding of your prospect’s buying behavior, allow you to plan, in advance, the most effective, step-by-step presentation of your value proposition for each of your target personas. The idea is to take the Consumer Journey Mapping, Personas, Content Strategy and Messaging Frameworks you developed in your strategic planning [chapter 1] and use that knowledge to design content and messaging for each step of the journey that each target persona takes. Then, using data to identify a prospect, you can have exactly the right, personally relevant, content for that persona, ready to deliver to them at the right moment. This is the holy grail of cultivation AND sales; saying the right thing at the right time to the right person. It’s the digital equivalent of a great sales person working through a consultative pitch. It’s how you turn prospects into new customers, new customers into loyal customers and loyal customers into brand ambassadors. It’s also how marketing can now amplify and empower sales without the need for more sales reps.