Who’s Got the Power?


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One of the Internet’s strengths is its ability to help consumers find the right needle in a haystack… ~Jared Sandberg

If you think you have the power – over your brand, your marketing and sales cycle or your buyers – think again.

Thanks to the digital age, today’s buyers can research, select and purchase their products without getting you involved in the decision. You won’t even know they were buying. Everything shifted. Your choices: shift too—or get left in the past.

Yesterday’s News

Traditional sales and marketing moved prospects and buyers in a progression through a funnel that we presumably controlled, also known as the all-hallowed pipeline. We used marketing techniques including demand generation, PR, advertising and more to pull our prospects into that funnel – and then we pushed them along by sharing information about our products, problems solved and a few how to’s along the way.

Since we were the keepers of the information – it worked, kind of. Those pesky competitors and their information did get in the way – but we focused tons of resources on competitive analysis to know exactly what they were claiming -and then created rebuttals to their claims. No one really knew the truth – but we surely did spin those stories.

The fact was – we controlled the information, so we could somewhat control the way our prospects moved through the buying cycle.

For example, when I started out in business, selling mainframes against IBM, one of the first things I was taught was how to “seed” an RFP within a client. Since I held the information about my products, I could shape the RFP or purchasing requirements by doling out pieces of information to define the problem, set the criteria and even point to the alternatives to my offering. Marketing supported my sales efforts with lots of glossy materials, customer stories, press placements and more that shared the stories of my products. Analysts confirmed we were the best and I used those recommendations wherever they would stick.

It worked – at leat until IBM flew in the big guns and turned the tide. Why did I even have a chance? Because buyers didn’t have access to the information they needed. They had to come to me or my marketing department to get any information. Once they reached out to my company – they were in the funnel and we were driving them along with our information-driven sales and marketing pipeline process. We didn’t always get the sale, but we did control the information flow.

Welcome to the Empowered Buyer

If you think that funnel works today – you’re fooling yourself. The very idea that we can push a prospect through a funnel makes me laugh out loud. How can you push, pull or manipulate someone who really doesn’t need you anymore?

Today, the buyer decides when and if they will connect with you. Read that again. It’s the biggest shift in sales and marketing since we moved from the paper to the digital world. So why do we keep doing things the way we’ve always done them? Welcome to human nature, and gravity.

A recent IDG Connect study of B2B buyers proved the shift. In that study buyers demonstrated their independence when it comes to the buying cycle.

  • 23% of their time is spent with peers and colleagues
  • 56% of their time is spent reviewing web sites – including vendors, industry leadership, social media communities and more.
  • 21% of their time is spent in direct conversations with vendors sales teams – after they determine which vendors they will evaluate.

Talk about a shift! 79% of the buying cycle is now completed without a vendor directly involved.

If you’re still thinking in terms of your 20th century funnel or pipeline – I’d strongly suggest you shift into the 21st century reality.

Your Buyer is in Control

I cannot understand why marketing and sales folks continue to think and act as if they had the power. It boggles my mind when I hear folks claim they can control their brand. In fact, I think that belief is possibly the biggest and most dangerous gravity think in sales and marketing – ever. Yes, you can put information and marketing prose out into the world.

Yes, you can say and do all the right things wrt marketing and promotions. But unless you deliver the value buyers expect – in everything from truth in marketing and sales to your product delivering promised value to effective customer support and more – you will not positively influence your brand. That’s the new market reality. Even if you do all of the above for one customer – unless you live and breathe it for all your customers – you can end up with negative brand image in the market. That’s the power of your buyers.

Our world shifted. Buyers no longer need us to gather information, insights and real world experience or opinions. They can do that on their own – and we won’t even know they did it.

There is good news. With the right conversations and information flow, product value focus and followup, you can and will attract prospects to invite you to the party. You can create strong buyer pull through your successes, become one of their trusted advisors and be successful in managing your brand.

But what about that funnel? I think we have to shift our sales and marketing efforts, big time. Some examples?

  • Think Internet Dating. That’s right – you read it right. Forget the push push push. Marketing today is about getting your sales rep invited to the meeting, making sure you are one of the chosen products and vendors to be evaluated. It’s all about getting that meeting. Sounds a little like internet dating, now doesn’t it? So here’s a tip. No one wants a date with someone who is obviously self-centered. Would you??? Why would your buyer want a meeting with you if you’re acting like the be all and end all of your market? Think about it….
  • Connect don’t Campaign. 68% of buyers state they rely on vendor websites as the main source of information for their buying research. That means your site has to connect with them by sharing information that’s relevant to them. Yet nearly 80% of B2B marketers say that their web sites are less than compelling and do not contain the information buyers want and need. I’d say that’s a pretty big disconnect. So how about focusing on bridging that gap instead of pumping that pipeline?
  • Act as a Trusted Advisor. If you want your buyers to pay attention to you – learn to listen to what your buyers need, and then share your expertise freely to help educate yout audiences to make the best decisions. Use marketing conversations to share your expertise freely, regardless of where your buyer is in their process. You never know who they may talk to that needs your offering – and that expertise you shared could get you a date you never expected. Educate them, help them, do it graciously with no expectations. Then watch as your buyers chat up your brand and your business – because you helped them to be successful, not because your marketed your wares to them.

The Bottom Line

Savvy companies share information in conversations that engages buyers because the info is important tothem. Velocity businesses make sure their information touches each buyer in a unique way, dynamically responding based on the specific buyers’ requirements and situation.

The power has shifted. Either you shift the way you approach prospects, or your competitors who do shift will win your buyers’ conversations, their engagement, their trust – and ultimately, their purchasing dollars.


Download my 1800CEORead ChangeThis ebook- Marketing to the Digitally Empowered Buyer for tips and tricks on shifting to address the needs of today’s buyer.

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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