Buying is changing profoundly. This impacts everything we do to try to engage our customers, creating value through their buying and usage journey. To effectively engage our prospects and customer, we have to rethink all our strategies and approaches in working with them.
Somehow, our engagement strategies are less and less effective. Marketing (and sales) inundate customers and prospects with endless emails, texts, phone calls. The majority of these go into “spam buckets.” Customers increasingly choose to minimize sales involvement in their buying process, seeking digital and other sources to support their buying journeys. Social channels are increasingly cluttered and ineffective.
With all the channels becoming less effective than they have been in the past, our responses seem to be to do more—which, inevitably, exacerbates the issue.
Everything that used to work, no longer seems to work–at least as effectively as it used to. Yet we persist doing the same things (upgraded with a veneer of technology.)
Part of our problem in figuring out how to respond to these changes is that we continue to start from our current/historical models of marketing, selling, customer service/experience. We always think in terms of “marketing has always done these things…. sales has always done these…..”
What if we rethink how we engage customers? What if we weren’t bound by the way we have always done things and designed the engagement process from a “blank sheet of paper?” What if we leveraged our customers in understanding how they want to work and buy, designing our engagement processes?
Traditionally, we have always thought of marketing driving the creating awareness and demand gen process. We look to marketing to create/drive leads. Marketing continues to optimize SEO and traditional/technology enables channels.
But if a customer or prospect isn’t thinking of making a change, if they don’t know they might/should change, they don’t leverage search. All our outreaches to provoke them to consider change falls on deaf ears. What if we had a group of people trying to engage customers and prospects provoking change, inciting people to think differently? They might be speakers influencers, or even current customers. We might have a specialized group of people who reach out to customers proactively. But instead of trying to qualify and opportunity, their only job is to incite people to search. Today, we talk a lot about inciting people to change, but perhaps we need to, first, incite them to search.
Once we incite people to search, how do we engage and teach them, leveraging digital first, supported with selective human interventions (today, we do the reverse, sales led, digitally supported)? Traditional content at our websites and downloaded white papers might not be the most productive way to engage people. We might look at the digital channels that tend to engage people most effectively and deeply, modeling and adapting them to get people to think about their business differently (after they have been incited to search).
We’d see on-line gaming, streaming/interactive content, content oriented to shallow learning–but which captures attention. We might start modeling our engagement strategies around those concepts.
We might discover there are times when these prospects and customers might need deep, specialized interventions that our interactive content might not address. The customer might want to reach out to talk to someone about that issue, then revert to their digital journey. Or, we can prescriptively reach out and intervene based on what we’ve learned from their journey. But these might be point interventions by specialists, not people that manage the engagement process.
We might learn about where customers struggle the most with their buying journey, where specialized help and support is needed to help them succeed. We might put resources in place, strictly to help them successfully manage that process.
We might learn that we have to develop new alliances/partners to help the customer address their total problem. Today, we tend to leverage partners as channels to sell our products. But customer problems go much further than our products. Perhaps we can discover ways that we might work with other suppliers, together helping the customer with their problem, not just with buying our product.
In looking at this, we will, inevitably, see that most of our tools and processes are based on old models of customer engagement, and we have to reinvent them. We may find we need completely different sets of skills and talent to help the customer solve their problems. While our goals remain the same–generating profitable revenue through customers buying our solutions, the process, structures, and people through which we do this may change profoundly. The progress metrics, may be profoundly different.
Perhaps we limit our ability to think of new ways of engaging our customers and getting them to buy by using the old models of marketing, sales, customer service. Perhaps it would be useful to reinvent the process without using those terms and structures.
When we look at other functions in the organization, many have changed profoundly. At one point in my career, I worked with engineers and manufacturing organizations. While these organizations are still responsible for developing and manufacturing products, the methods, tools, skills, organizational structures bear little resemblance to 30 years ago. Yet, we still use the same models, structures, processes, methods, people–perhaps technology enhanced, that we did when I first started selling.
What if we started with a blank sheet of paper, whiteboard, screen and re imagined everything? What if we did it, ignoring traditional structure like marketing, sales, customer service? This would free us up to completely reinvent our customer engagement processes. We might see new Once we did that, we can map our own journey of getting from where we are to where we need to be.