Sunday, May 13, 2012

Back to the Future?

Second in a series...

In our last entry,  we asked "are buyers liars?"

Buyers know what they want, and the key to more productive selling is gaining an understanding of the how, why and when of the purchase decision.

But getting that information, now there's the rub.

In some very meaningful ways, the selling today is much more difficult than in years past: while technology has made it easier to identify and communicate with prospects, it has also erected new barriers to making meaningful connections.

For example, there are fewer live gatekeepers (who has a secretary anymore?), but it is arguably harder to break through the electronic ones -- voicemail, email, online social networks.  And manipulation sure doesn't work in either case.

So, while there are new barriers to reaching customers, even when surmounted, the "trust hurdle" is much higher.

The business textbooks say that it takes between 7-12 "touches" or impressions to "convert" a prospect into a customer.  For small businesses, I think it's moved much higher.  The sheer number of marketing messages consumers are subjected to each day is escalating, as the social media tsunami continues to build.

Many businesses I meet with are struggling to make social/digital marketing work for them.  "Where's the return on this, they ask?"  They are struggling to break through the clutter and generate an effective, measurable return on sales and marketing time, techniques and technologies.

Part of the problem is a mixing of paradigms.  We have moved well past the broadcast model of sales and marketing. The key is to view new technologies as tools, not a strategic shortcuts, in building commercial relationships.  Bottom line: it's time to get up-close-and-personal again.

The first steps are straightforward and follow the traditional pillars of sales and marketing:
  • Know:  Focus on a smaller list of prospects to build your business.  Learn what motivates them and what and how and when they buy.  Eliminate unqualified prospects.  Then use digital marketing as a tool create a real dialogue with a core group of real buyers.
  • Like:   Start by putting the customer first (what's in it for them?) and tailoring your messages to their needs.  Continually solicit input and feedback. Social connections break down (or don't form at all) when there's a basic lack of give-and-take.
  • Trust:  Do the above and you can build a community of customers who are true fans and who will spread the word.

In today's business ecosystem, it's a case of back to the future: using communications and marketing technologies to build live, personal connections with a tightly-focused list of highly-qualified potential customers. You don't need 1.21 gigawatts of power to energize your conversations, just some old-fashioned face-time.

To be continued...

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