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Marketing Is the New Selling

In order to thrive in today’s digitally driven business environment, sales folks need to think and act more like marketers. I suppose to some degree this has always been true, but it is painfully so now that prospects have access to mounds of information, have tools to deflect unwanted sales messages and have the ability to freely publish both flattering and unflattering information about the companies with whom they choose to do business.

So, in order to survive in this new world order salespeople need to take things in their own hands and connect much more deeply with the marketing side of things. I’ve often said that getting marketing and sales on the same page was one of the biggest challenges for departmentalized business, but now it’s become an individual challenge.

In the traditional model marketing owned the message while sales owned the relationship. In the new model there can be little distinction. Marketing must get better at relationship building and sales must get better at message building and delivery.

For the individual salesperson this means the following:

Listening is the new prospecting

While it has become much more difficult to gain access to prospects via phone and email, it’s actually become much easier to understand the individual needs of a prospect due in large part to social media.

Salespeople need to create their own socially driven listening stations via tools such as Trackur and HootSuite. They need to add social profiles in their CRM tools. Then need to create Google Alerts for customers and competitors.

Prospects and customers will voluntarily and publicly scatter sales clues if you listen actively. When you employ a tool like Rapportive you never have to pick up the phone or send an email to a prospect without digesting the last few things they said on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Educating is the new presenting

In days of old salespeople were encouraged to perfect their pitch. They still teach this in many sales training courses. The pitch became little more than they effective manipulation of proven psychological principles and gimmicks.

Today’s salesperson must be ready to teach, publish and demonstrate expertise. Every salesperson should answer questions via blog posts, engage in social media conversations and conduct online and offline seminars.

It is very hard for some to turn the selling off, but the ones that do are reaping the benefits.

Insight is the new information sharing

Our prospects have access to the best information in the world. They have access to all the information we put out, all the information our competitors put out and all the information shared by customers and partners about us and the industry in general.

This collection of information allows them get either very smart about what we are selling or very confused about what we are selling. Today’s salesperson must act as a filter and provide insight about the information.

Today’s salesperson must help the prospect understand the questions they need to consider before providing the answers. Today’s salesperson needs to get very good at helping the prospect aggregate, filter and condense the mass of information.

Storybuilding is the new nurturing

Stories are the greatest relationship builders. Good old Mister Rogers used to say – “It’s hard not to like someone once you know their story.”

Today the job of storytelling is a collaborative one. Salespeople must be able to relate the organization’s core stories to the world of the customer and they must help the customer build a new story that stars them in the leading role in a world where their problems and challenges are a thing of the past.

While this may sound like a nice fairy tale, the fact of the matter is that this is accomplished with proof over promise. Today’s salesperson must actively understand, measure and communicate the real results that clients achieve in every engagement. And they must bring those real-life stories to new customers and prospects.

Relationship building is the new closing

Whenever I hear the word closing all I can think of is Alec Baldwin’s epic speech in the film Glengarry Glen Ross. Well, today’s salesperson must always be building relationships.

Relationship building coupled with education makes traditional closing tactics a thing of the past. But this isn’t simply a call for more schmoozing; this is a call for genuine, mutually beneficial relationship building.

This includes building relationships with referral sources and strategic partners in ways that benefit your best clients as well as your partners. Today’s salesperson must build a relationship platform that allows them to provide introductions to anything that a customer needs to meet their objectives, regardless of how unrelated it may be to the products and services their organization offers.

Today’s salesperson can operate as a one person army, generating their own opportunities, creating their own leads, and taking control of their own direction by effectively applying the tactics of marketing to their proven ability to build relationships.

7 Stages of the Content Hourglass

The need to produce content in marketing has grown so foundational that you can’t really get through a day without hearing about it, reading about it and perhaps stressing out about it.

The Marketing Hourglass by Duct Tape Marketing

Marketers are beginning to think and act more like publishers and are producing, curating and repurposing content like never before. Really smart marketers are snapping up journalists as key members of their marketing teams.

But, if marketing content is to become the essential element that it must become in your business, you need to view its production from a strategic point of view.

You may indeed need more content, but you certainly need content that addresses every one of your base business objectives and you need to view the editorial calendar of sorts in this strategic light.

In other words, you need content for every aspect of the customer life-cycle and you need to stage that content in something I call the Marketing HourglassTM.

The hourglass acknowledges the fact that your job as a marketer is to get someone with a need to know, like and trust you and that you then need to plan to turn that know, like and trust into try, buy, repeat and refer – and that each of these stages must address a prospect’s evolving relationship with your organization.

In other words, you need to plan to walk with someone that comes to know about your business all the way down the path to where they become a fan and volunteer member of your sales team.

One of the best tools in the hourglass arsenal is content.

One of the best ways to employ content in a strategic manner is to match different kinds of content with the stages of the hourglass and customer life cycle.

So, your content hourglass might look something like this:

Know

The key element here is blog content created on a narrowly defined set of keyword phrases and topics. One of the best ways to become known is through organic search. This phase would also include advertising that draws awareness to other, more advanced forms of content such as eBooks and seminars.

In many businesses a referral introduction is the first exposure that someone gains to an organization. This calls for content that is geared towards this type of exposure and specifically acknowledges your referral process.

Like

An eNewsletter can be a tremendous content tool for nurturing during the like and trust building phases as it allows you to demonstrate expertise, knowledge, resources, and experience over time.

A series of blog posts around a specific topic turned into an eBook or email series is another great content play that helps tell your story.

Trust

Once you’ve gained attention you must move towards that all-important next step. We will buy products we simply like, but we’ll rarely commit to organizations unless we trust them.

Your customer generated videos, case studies and stories make great content here. Your SEO efforts (others trusting and linking to your content) and Social Media participation comes into play in the trust phase.

Getting your customers involved in the content creation game is an essential element and one that many are happy to be involved in.

The ability to tell why your organization does what it does in stories that illustrate purpose in action is perhaps the key trust building content piece of the puzzle.

Try

Try is a phase that many people skip, but I think it’s the easiest way to move people to buy, particularly in highly competitive and highly priced situations.

Here the content needs to represent a sample of the end result. This is where eBooks, online and offline seminars and evaluation type processes in the form of content shine.

Many people miss this point but this is an audition and it’s where you need to deliver more than anyone could possibly consider doing for a free or low cost version of what you sell. This is one of the first places where you plant the seed for a referral as well as a sale.

By producing content in the try phase that clearly demonstrates how much better your paid product or service is than most, you can differentiate your business and create evangelists out of those that don’t ever buy.

How to content in the form of videos, workbooks, examples, cheat sheets and checklists – the kind of stuff your competitors are charging real money for – is the stuff that the try phase in built on.

Buy

Content that converts consists of proof. You must be able to show real results, customer stories and clearly cast your buyer into the future receiving the promised results.

Many people miss the idea of content during just after the buy phase because the thinking is that the person has already made a decision and the product or service will speak for itself.

The total customer experience is measured by the end result, not the build up to the sale. In order to deliver a remarkable customer experience you’ve got to continue to educate with content.

Creating content that acts as a new customer kit or orientation to your business or product is the first step.

Most businesses should also consider quick start guides, in-depth user manuals and customer support communities. You can easily build this kind of content with your customers using services such as Get Satisfaction or Zendesk.

Repeat

Don’t wait for your customer to call you when they need something, stay top of mind through content that educates at a higher lever.

Use email and print to start to share how others have gotten more advanced results with your products or services. Create customer events that have a content sharing component.

Create a results review process where you help your client measure the results they are actually getting by working with your firm and use this process to capture content in the form of success stories.

Refer

Start this phase by documenting your referral process. Create tools that make it easy for you to teach your rabid customers and strategic partners how to refer you.

Create eBooks, videos and teaching events and offer them to your strategic partners to cobrand and present to their clients.

Work with a team of best of class providers (the folks that can help your clients get everything they need) and create a team blog. Create and acquire content that makes it easy for you to introduce your partners and gives them plenty of incentive to do likewise.

You don’t have to do all of your content creation from scratch either – there are many ways to effectively use other people’s content as part of the overall picture.

Content creation is the hardest job of a marketer these days but when you plan your content with your hourglass in mind it may well be the highest payoff work your can do.