Last week I was scrolling through LinkedIn and caught this post by Charlie Cole, Chief Digital Officer, VP at TUMI.
As marketers we are always under the pressure to build a pipeline, a funnel and get leads, convert, etc. However, if we take the premise that we need to build Trust as a foundation, first engagement doesn’t mean open the floodgates on them!
So here is what often happens, and I think Charlie is spot on. You get a person to give you some Personal Identifiable Information (PII) and it is like you hit paydirt! Clearly they want to hear from us. They gave us their information. So let’s subscribe them to EVERYTHING. I’m sure it has happened to you. It happens to me all the time. I want a report from a vendor, I fill out a form and then I’m hounded for MONTHS. I go to a trade show, I get scanned at a few booths. I get HOUNDED for weeks or months.
It’s wrong and we can do better.
Every Relationship Takes Time
If you are married, think back to how the beginning of your relationship started. I’ll wait a minute. Got it? Good. Did you pop the question on the first date? Did you start asking for their financial background, credit history, and medical records? No. Chances are you started with some big, broad questions to get to know them. Personality questions, life goals, politics (or not…if you want to get to date #2). Information that is going to start to paint a picture about them, their life, interests, and compatibility. As you talk, text, video chat, and go out on dates more, you build more information about that person. You get secrets, regrets, stories about their childhood. You meet their friends and get a different perspective from them. A trust is built. Each time you get a little more information. That is how we need to re-approach marketing.
It takes time and we need to build content, interactions, engagements that build a profile of a person. What are their interests? What are they reading? What did they “like” from our posts on social media? Did they follow us? Did they see us at a trade show? Join a webinar? Just like dating, you aren’t going to meet the parents on the first date. So spend time to get to know them. Gather a little bit of information at a time. Start with an email address. Get a company name and a title. See if they follow you on social media. These are low barrier tactics to building a profile. Do some customer research. How big is their company? Who are the decision makers? Are they? Or are they an influencer? This will take time. Weeks, months, maybe even a year.
Know Your Customer and Their Journey
A relationship takes time and it is a journey. I won’t say it is impossible, and that nobody buys services on a whim, but in reality, the buying cycle is a journey that can take months or years. More often than not, I want to be left alone in my research of an issue, problem, or new piece of software I am looking to evaluate before I get a demo or interact with someone. My biggest pet peeve is when I do the first engagement and I get inbound calls and emails CONSTANTLY like Charlie. Trust me, you aren’t going to get far if you take this approach. You might get lucky, but I bet ore often than not you are striking out. I get what many called marketing fatigue. In fact, it is showing that we are trying too hard.
So be smart. Know when to back off. Know when to engage. Have patience. If you are providing the right information when the person wants it, they will ask for a phone call. They will ask for the demo. They need to go through their journey. That isn’t to say be completely hands off. You still need to know what they need to make an informed decision, that includes your products and services. Know their journey, and when to step in when needed.
Provide Value Along the Way
Value. Let me repeat. Value. That is what we need to do as organizations and marketers. If we can’t deliver value to our prospects and customers in time of need, we are just greedy and hungry for a sale to meet a quota. To this day, I still get daily offers from an airline I flew twice to Canada last year. Daily. I should unsubscribe, but I know I’m going to get that call that says I need to go back to our Toronto office and I’ll be back buying a ticket. Might as well get it for 30% off. But, it doesn’t make it right. In fact, my tolerance is probably higher than most (byproduct of being a marketer…always checking out what people are doing).
If you know that a relationship takes time and you know that there is a journey to be taken, be ready to provide the value along the way. Have the journey mapped out as best you can. Create content, test content, find what works and iterate all the time. Know when it is right to pick up the phone and when it is time to back off. As soon as you seem too aggressive, they will go to your competitor. Then you are stuck with an annoyed cold lead that won’t convert.
So What Can We Do?
So what do we need to do to change all of this? A few suggestions. Not all are achievable, but worth a discussion.
- Change the KPIs we are measured on. I’m going to say it, we should be focusing on quality, not quantity. I understand we need to try to move leads through a process. And we have quotas to meet every quarter and every year. However, remember, the customer is in control, not us. We can only be there when they need us and give them the best content and value we can as they make up their mind.
- Focus on the parts of the buying journey that are most influential. We really need to get in the heads of our customers and those who influence the buying process. That means we need to know exactly what we are offering and how it benefits our customers. We need to spend time in the field with our customers. When we are learning about our prospects, we need to understand that different points of the process are important to different people. Be ready to be individual.
- Get sophisticated, but not pushy. There is a lot of technology at our fingertips to engage with prospects. Be smart about using these tools to track, evaluate, and engage. If you need 13 touch points during a sales process, make sure they are the best 13 touch points, not just 13 touch points in a timeframe that you think they need to have them. Let them tell you.
Let’s get back to basics. We have so many tools and pressures to meet expectations. Don’t take every first engagement and turn on the firehose. Don’t SPAM your prospects because you think they want to know hear everything from you. Be smart. Know what works. Measure along the way. Know the journey, and if you don’t, figure it out, quick.
If you rush a relationship, you may end up in a divorce pretty quickly, or no relationship at all. Better to have a long lasting customer who is your advocate than one who will have a bad experience and share that with the world.