As a marketing organization, we obviously think that marketing and all that it entails is the greatest thing since sliced bread.  That being said, there are still a lot of non-believers regarding the processes and benefits of integrated marketing.  Think back to our post about CEOs and marketing.  More often than not, business owners really don’t see the value of it, mainly because they are usually born and bred sales people.  What really needs to be understood in this critical time of buyer-power, is the way that marketing can really help to manage the sales process, and that when the two are aligned, it makes for a very powerful combination.

We’ve gone on and on about the recent changes in buyer power and the overall buying paradigm, trying to illustrate the difficulties and dangers for businesses.  If your customers don’t need you as early on in their buying process, what should you be doing to make sure that your sales process matches up with them along every step of the way?  Marketing!

Let’s start with the buying process.  During the buying process, there are four stages that buyers go through:  Awareness >Consideration > Preference > Loyalty.

  • Awareness:  This is the stage at which the customer recognizes their business need and/or problem.
  • Consideration:  Customers research their problem and the potential businesses/solutions that will fix it.
  • Preference:  Why should they buy from you?  Customers are looking for a value add and references once they are aware of a few potential places to buy
  • Loyalty:  Once they are already a customer, they may have other needs and want to still receive attention from you.

Now let’s take a look at the coinciding stages of the sales process, including the challenges facing your sales team:  Target > Suspect > Prospect > Customer.

  • Target:  Sales/marketing does their homework in this stage.  This is where the messaging/offering that is going to be conveyed to the buyers is established.  The wrong prospects may be targeted here and the wrong messaging may be conveyed here; keep it relevant!
  • Suspect:  While customers are researching their problem and potential solutions, this is when the sales process involves reaching out for that first initial touch and building some rapport with the prospective buyer.  This is where sales will want to radiate the knowledge they have gained in the first (target) stage about the offering and messaging.  It’s important here for sales to qualify the suspects in addition to secure enough appointments.
  • Prospect:  The prospect stage is when the potential customer is engaged, and you sales team really has an opportunity to convey the value that your company and your solution have to offer.  This is also the stage where objection handling and consultative questioning is extremely important.  Remember, the buyers are thinking at this time: “Why should I buy from you?
  • Customer:  Once the prospect has purchased and becomes a customer, sales needs to be sure to convey additional offerings and get deeper and wider within the customer’s business model and needs.

So, with all of that being said, what are the marketing tactics that align these two processes?  It goes past the typical email blasts and direct mailers, because there are different tactics that really work for each specific stage.

  • Awareness/Target:  Since this is where the buyer is identifying their problem and the sales team is researching the main offering, the tactics in this stage should really be used to “get in front of your prospects.”  You want to be where they are researching their needs and influence them right from the very beginning.  Important Tactics:  E-Mail, Web Marketing, Print Ads, Direct Mail
  • Consideration/Suspect:  When customers are researching the potential solutions to their problem in this stage, it is important for sales to be providing ways for prospects to learn more about your specific solutions and offerings.  Important Tactics:  Landing Pages, Call Campaign, Videos
  • Preference/Prospect:  Remember, in this stage the prospect is aware of your solution in addition to competing solutions.  Why should they buy from youCertain marketing tactics need to be used in this stage to truly illustrate your company value to prospects.  They may realize that your company solves their problem, but they need to see your value add over other companies.  Important Tactics:  Online Content, Event, Case Study
  • Loyalty/Customer:  Yay!  They bought from you.  Now what?  You can’t just simply abandon your customer base.  What happens when they realize down the road that they need another solution, but don’t realize that you offer it?  You obviously weren’t keeping up with your consistent marketing!  Maintain a relationship with your current customers, and always try to dive deeper and wider into their needs and business models.  Stay top of mind! Important Tactics:  Networking, Newsletter, Blogging, Thought Leadership

As you can see, there is so much more to marketing than what most sales organizations think!  There is a consistent strategy and methodology behind it, and when that is utilized, it can yield excellent results for your prospects and current customer base.  Give it a try, start the alignment!

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