“The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.” – Peter Drucker

“Marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department.” – David Packard

I’m going to rattle a few cages today because in an ideal world, I agree with business-management expert Peter Drucker.  But only when the marketing campaign is designed with the customer’s needs made foremost.

At the same time, given the content on the typical website, David Packard is absolutely correct. Marketing’s role in the sales process —particularly its ability to help prospects quickly qualify OUT — is critical.  But marketing needs to work hand-in-hand with sales to ensure this happens.

So much is written about companies becoming customer-centric and today’s buyer’s journey giving customers more control over the purchasing process that I worry we’re eating too much of our own dog food.  As a result, the customer, while receiving a lot of lip service, isn’t any better off today.

We may tell ourselves that buyers want a marketing-driven, self-service journey. But it’s not because like Dave Chappelle they want to left alone.  It’s almost always out of desperation.

So what should marketing be doing?

Curb Marketing’s Overreach

If you’re a business owner or CEO, you may be looking to marketing to make up for a shortfall in professional sales…but asking why your customer satisfaction statistics are still too low.  If you’re a prospective buyer, you may have bought into the notion that content is king…and yet wondering why your eyes glaze over as you download and read article after blog after white paper after fact sheet.

Here’s the thing.  Just as the consultative sale needs to be revived, marketing as pre-sales must ease the buyer’s journey.  This requires content that helps prospects:

  • Understand your product and pricing.
  • Determine if there’s a good fit between your product and their need.
  • Make the decision to qualify OUT early when product and need don’t match.

When marketing and sales work together to serve customers and prospects the sales process automatically becomes more consultative therefore more helpful.  Here are four recommendations that will improve the buyer’s journey:

1. Information Must be Useful
Marketing needs to remember its over-riding objective: to give buyers information that makes self-service worth the effort.  The content needs to be clearly written and succinct.  We don’t need to throw the kitchen sink at prospects and leave it to them to sort it all out: what you do, why you do what you do, how it helps, what it costs etc.

2. Take the Opt Out Challenge
There is no advantage in trying to make the tough sale, it wastes the time of both prospects and sales reps.  Marketing can focus on the critical topics that will enable buyers to quickly determine if their needs will be met and how much they have to spend.  I encourage you to look for new, better ways to keep your prospective buyers’ feet firmly planted in reality. For example, explain your pricing on your website; this will discourage anyone who hasn’t bought into your capabilities or matched a minimum set of criteria to opt OUT and find something that better fits their needs.

A happy client begins with a clear understanding of what you do and what you don’t do.

3. Keep Form Fills to a Minimum
Are you inured to the web contact form? Do you consider it the price of getting more information? Marketers call this tit for tat an ethical bribe…show us your information and we’ll show you ours.  This concerns me – most buyers don’t even understand how much they are giving away and how effectively their steps can be tracked with today’s sophisticated marketing tools.  Website visitors should be able to learn everything they can about your company and product BEFORE entering the sales funnel.

4. Turn MQLs into Sales-Ready Leads
You hear a lot these days about the importance of qualifying and nurturing leads. Professor James B. Oldroyd’s work on lead response management as early as 2007 measured just how quickly web-generated leads go cold. It’s pretty darn fast.

But nurturing needs to be reserved for serious prospects. Every Tom, Dick and Mary who comes to your website to conduct a little early reconnaissance shouldn’t be inundated with follow-up emails, webinar invitations and telemarketing calls. It’s this kind of activity that makes prospects prefer the self-service model. By encouraging buyers to qualify out, you’ll focus your nurturing on prospects that appreciate your follow up.

I’ll leave you with this thought. When marketing takes steps to educate prospects and only collects contact information when someone is serious about buying, salespeople don’t have to resort to the hard sell, making the buyer-rep interaction naturally more consultative and professional.

This article was originally published on HG Data’s Blog