Conversation is the New Campaign


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If you engage people on a vital, important level, they will respond. ~ Edward Bond

Our buyers no longer need us to get the information they need to make purchasing decisions. Today’s buyers can research, compare and select products without our ever even knowing they were looking. In fact – buyers spend over 79% of their purchasing cycle without ever engaging us… only if we make the cut during their research do they invite us into their process. That’s a huge shift that puts buyers in control – and it means that we need to shift our thinking about how we engage with our audiences. That’s why I believe that conversations are the new campaigns.

Given the dramatic shift in the buying process – I think that the concept of “campaigns” is one of the biggest status quo processes in all of marketing today. Yet everywhere I look – I see those push campaigns, especially in my Inbox.

We’re in the age of engagement – empowered by social media and web 2.0 to actively engage with our buyers in 1:1 conversations. That is the Holy Grail many marketers have searched for – and we’re so ignoring the opportunity!

Yes, some campaigns are focused on engagement. I know that. But the process most of us use is still based on yesterdays news – back when we were the keepers of the information. That is gravity at its finest.

It’s Time to Shift!

First – let’s look at the gravity behind campaigns.

This is the process we’ve used since the beginning of marketing. It’s a very push oriented approach that assumes what we want to say about ourselves and our offerings is relevant to our buyers. That’s always been a big assumption, based on some pretty iffy inputs. It’s an especially dangerous assumption today.

  • For years we would listen to our top customers (who often don’t represent our best opportunities going forward), our top partners and industry luminaries as our only market input. To adapt to the new world – we threw in the opinions of the masses from SoMe, based on our somewhat random engagement methods. Here’s a question – how do you even know those SoMe masses are potential buyers, at all??? Who says that the opinion of the masses has anything to do with your best strategy for succeses?
  • Then we sit among ourselves and create our strategy, messages and content. Based on what We think. A little reminder here – Value is in the eye of the beholder, and the only beholder that matters is the one with the bucks, your buyer. I don’t think that’s you.
  • And then – we blast it out to the world. In CAMPAIGNS…. which by our own design are usually all about us, pushing our content and chest thumping messages out through all those marketing channels. Using SoMe and the potential power of a conversational medium as yet another channel for our push messages. Just because it’s only 140 characters, that doesn’t mean it’s conversational or relevant!
  • Three touches and a sales call is NOT the way to engage buyers in today’s world!

The problems with this approach are so many I can’t write them all here. So let’s focus on the top four.

  • Value is in the eye of the beholder. Unless you’re listening to the real Keepers of the Truth about your value – meaning real prospects and buyers – you’re probably heading in the wrong direction. Listening to the opinions of the masses out on SoMe is a dangerous game. Just as our messages must be relevant to our audiences – so must we be sure and listen to the feedback and inputs about our value from relevant sources. Social media masses are not relevant – unless you happen to be selling toilet paper or other horizontal and broadly generic products.
  • No one cares what we say anymore. We vendors blew our credibility when we overpromised and under delivered. Today’s digitally empowered buyers just don’t care what we think or say anymore, until we pass the research tests and they invite us to the party. I believe that is why buyers spend 79% of the buying cycle NOT chatting with us or our sales reps…we lost the role as trusted advisor and have to regain it. Campaigns will not put us into the Trusted role.
  • Today’s buyers are searching for solutions and making decisions in realtime. How can some campaign, blog or other content that you designed even 2 months ago (or even 2 weeks ago) be relevant to your buyers current needs?
  • We have less than 10 seconds to capture our buyers attentions on our websites and social media outlets. If you’re promoting and campaigning instead of conversing with them about what they need and want to know – they’ll be gone before you ever knew they were there.

So why do we hang onto campaigns?

Because it’s the way we’ve always done it!

Welcome to Gravity!

Today’s market offers such a huge opportunity to those who are ready to shift – to stay in sync with their buyers. It’s not that hard to make the shift – we just have to be ready to think differently and step out of our campaign status quo.

Here are some ideas on the opportunity that’s all around us – there for the taking.

Imagine yourself engaging your buyers and prospects in relevant, highly informative conversations. That’s the key to creating trusted relationships in today’s markets. Note – I said relevant. That means conversing about what’s important to them – not you. It’s ALL about Them! Learn to listen to what your buyers need, and then share your expertise and stories to help educate them to make the best decision – not your product messaging, features and cool stuff. Sharing your expertise and helping to educate the market with stories about other customers and their succcess is the best way to become a trusted advisor. Pushing you and your product will only send them packing.

A few opportunity tips:

  • Immediacy is the kissin’ cousin of relevance. Forget the canned content and 3 or 6 month campaign and blog schedules. You’re irrelevant before you ever hit the street. Instead of creating, outlining, editing and struggling with that 25 page whitepaper to answer a customers question – shoot a 2 minute video that can be posted tomorrow. Instead of crafting that campaign to respond to a competitive flurry – get out and chat with your buyers about their thoughts and opinions, share your experience and knowledge and help them to decide based on facts, not promotions.
  • Conversations with the right new folks are your source of information. Yes, you can still chat with those favorite customers, but remember, they’ve already drunk the gravity koolaid with you. If you want to know the reality of your market, right now, go have a conversation with your new customers in new markets – the bluebirds that aren’t in your target profiles. They most likely represent your next market opportunity – and the chance for you to listen to their experiences to guide others like them on their buying journey. Listen to a wider range of qualified buyer types, ask questions and learn!
  • Communities are powerful marketing. I believe that communities are the most underused and potentially powerful marketing force we have today. Nothing is more compelling than a group of customers sharing their results, breakthroughs, tips ‘n tricks with each other and your world of prospects! Today”s buyers want to see and hear evidence of your results with buyers who look like them. What could be more powerful than a community? “But someone might say something bad,” say those stuck in gravity. “Let them!” is my response. It’s even more powerful when your customers rally to respond to that negative comment. If you want to see a killer example of a community that kicksbutt – check out Caterpillar and their customer community. Bet you thought big machine operators don’t do social. Wrong…
  • “But we can’t change. Our people can’t engage in conversations – they might say something wrong. We can’t possible be interactive with customers – it takes too much time and resource.” Thats gravity talking! Train your marketing team or a social media team to converse with customers and prospects. Share your expertise with your people and then let them shine on your buying community! Enable them to respond in realtime to your audiences’ questions. Staying relevant in realtime is the key to compelling buyers today – and you can’t do that in a world of campaigns. Empower your people and watch your conversations drive more qualified opportunities than any campaign, ever. If you want to see some great empowerment ideas – check out Gatorade or Dell and their social media centers.

The Bottom Line

Everything shifted. Either we shift with our buyers, or we will be left behind, wondering why the way we’ve always done it just isn’t working anymore.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Rebel Brown
Rebel Brown consistently challenges the status quo to deliver optimum solutions and high velocity growth for her clients. She combines the strategic expertise and tactical savvy of a global Corporate Strategy, Launch and Turnaround Expert, along with the leadership and motivational skills needed to get the job done.


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