We know that customers are moving increasingly to a digital buying journey, supported by sales. We all leverage the web and digital buying as much as possible–largely because of the convenience, often because we can get deeper insight and learning through our digital searches, rather than seeing a sales person.

The customer’s digital buying journey is critical to all of us in sales and marketing.

First, the customer is indicating their potential interest through their search and digital engagement. Even if they aren’t yet ready to buy, just the fact they are searching gives us a huge opportunity to engage, educate, build relationships.

If we do things right, the customer wants us to jump on board, becoming part of their buying journey. They consume our content, we track their digital engagement, we try to intercept them with the most appropriate digital and non digital resources. We try to predict where they will show up, hoping to intercept them at the right place, at the right time, with the appropriate content and conversations.

We pay a lot of attention to increasing our visibility to customers embarking on this journey. SEO becomes important. We need to hit the top of search pages when the customer types in those magic search words. Social channels become important, we try to show up, socially, where the customers show up. We want to both teach and influence, but we also want to convert that digital engagement to sales engagement.

We continue to refine our content and engagement channels hoping to dominate as much of the customer time as possible in this digital buying journey, ideally maximizing the number of customers that find us and want to engage us.

We can do very powerful things (as well as inflict a lot of crap) on customers that have decided to look at things differently and have begun to search.

But what about those customers that aren’t looking? They aren’t going to Google and typing the magic words into the search. Our emails are spammed because they don’t know they should care.

The largest part of the buying potential isn’t with those customers who have self identified and are at some stage of learning, changing, buying. The largest opportunity are with those people who don’t know they should be looking. They don’t know there may be a better or different way to do things. They may not even recognize they have a problem and must change. Or they may just be too busy with the day to day, they don’t take the time to look into the future or consider thinking differently.

But if they aren’t looking and don’t know they should be, how to we find them, reach out to them, incite them to change, perhaps even to start a buying journey. We can’t wait for them to find us, because they aren’t looking.

We have to reach them proactively, we have to find some way of engaging them, attracting their attention, getting them to learn something new. We have to find some way to begin to incite them to begin that digital buying journey.

We’re well practiced in the things that don’t work in inciting this change. We inflict millions of emails, texts, social media messages, phone calls on unsuspecting people, “I’d like to talk to you about buying my stuff…….!” We know, when we think about it, how dull and ineffective it is. If they don’t know they might have a need, they won’t respond. Yet we continue to inflict millions of “buy my stuff” messages on people who aren’t buying.

I get inundated with messages from people trying to get me to buy something. Most of them are just plain bad. However, a small number may be relevant to me–except I don’t know it yet. I don’t yet recognize I might change.

We don’t incite customers to change, to begin a buying journey by talking about what we sell and do. Instead, we have to focus on what the customer does–or more importantly, what they should be doing.

What changes are their customers going through which could impact them positively or negatively? What is happening in their markets that they should be concerned about? What should they be thinking about, and why should they be thinking about them?

Sometimes, it’s not us that should be delivering that message, because they aren’t looking to people like us for these changes. It may be an industry leader that’s talking differently and doing different things. It may be a respected expert talking about issues they are seeing. It may be their peers at some sort of event, sharing ideas and concerns.

You might be thinking, “We do this already, we get references, we get testimonials, we sponsor speakers and influencers to talk about us and how great we are…..”

But we are asking them to talk about the wrong thing!

Instead of talking about us, they need to be talking about the industry, the markets, risks they see, things that are changing, things they are doing and things they are concerned with. They may talk about their strategies, their points of view, actions they are taking to respond to change.

We don’t incite people to buy our products. We incite them to look at things differently. We incite them to think about change. We incite them to ask themselves, “What if…., I wonder about…., Why…. Am I missing something, What should I be worried about….What should I be thinking about….? We incite them to learn,

Until we incite customers to begin asking themselves those questions, they will never search. Until they begin asking those questions, they won’t know they should follow up to learn more. Until they begin the process of re-thinking, nothing we do is relevant or interesting to them.

The digital buying journey never happens, search doesn’t begin, customers don’t commit to change until they have first been incited to re-think things.

What are you doing to inspire that? How are you helping them, while they might not yet know it, to begin searching–ultimately to want to find and engage you?