As a marketer, I’ve spent many years interacting with sales teams. As a matter of fact, I’ve been a card carrying salesman myself. So I can definitely identify with the challenges facing both marketing and sales teams. On one hand, there is the marketing team. They are a creative group that wants to bring value by developing campaigns that reach buyers (and win awards). And then you have the sales team. They are laser focused on one thing, bringing value by offering solutions (and closing the deal). Sure each group will say they respect their colleagues across the cubicle wall, but do their actions support it? And how does this relationship work in the digital age? How do these teams reach across the aisle to bring value to the customer?
It begins with some self-awareness. Marketing holds the organizational mantle on creativity. They pride themselves on having all the right tools for assessing and understanding the customer need. They focus group test. They A/B test. Then after all the data has been gathered, they develop the most engaging campaigns ever. Sales is no different. They are one of the key pillars for organizational success. They stand in that magical circle called the "Moment of Truth", and close deals. They brush up on their emotional intelligence skills. They develop deep client knowledge and wield it at the perfect time to bring the sale across the line.
This still happens today. Many organizations still rely on traditional marketing and sales teams to reach customers and deliver sales. But are they focused on the right metrics? The customer is more informed than ever before. The tables have been turned. The customer is now in the driver's seat. Marketing and sales need to better understand the customer journey in a digital sense. Investing in new social and digital tools are not bad. But if sales and marketing don't work together, they will never accomplish what they can together. And it begins by adding value.
At the Intersection of Value
Consider the graphic below. It has two lines. The gray line is representative of the customer journey. It has a beginning and a perceived end, which we'll discover is not really an end at all. The black curved line is your business. As we move from left to right, the goal is to maximize the moments where these two lines intersect. Segments of the journey are indicated by brackets. They are Discovery, Research, Moments of Truth, and Customer Engagement. As these buyer touch-points occur, it's our job to create and provide as much value as we can. It is in these moments where buyers form their thoughts about your brand. You must help them meet their need by providing value at every point along the way.
Marketing and sales have a unique opportunity to work together to deliver value at every stage of the customer journey. They first need to align on the major segments of that journey. After this is agreed upon, they must align on the value that is delivered at each one of those stages.
Creating Value at Every Stage
We’ve talked about the marketing/sales funnel and how it’s broken. We are in agreement that this is not where we have been before. So how do we know what value we should create at each buying stage? I'm so glad you asked. Let's look at four typical stages along this customer journey.
- Discovery: The first area we need to tackle is when the buyer learns they have a need. Understanding this stage is a challenge. Start by asking your existing customers about what caused the need. What were they doing when they first discovered they needed your product/service? Where were they? This causal effect will assist you in determining the right content/value approach you should take. It will also help you understand what sites and channels are used when they discover it.
- Research: We all do it. The data doesn't lie. Research shows that we are going online to find answers to all manner and kinds of questions. And your customers are doing it too. This has never been more true even in the car buying experience.
Today, half of all car shoppers with mobile devices use their smartphones while at the dealership. The top action people perform with their phones while on the lot, not surprisingly, is confirming that they are getting a good price on a vehicle. Searches for Kelley Blue Book and competing dealers occur more often when at the dealership. - Think with Google
These answers are the key to developing the value we seek to create. Learn as much as you can about where your customers are coming from. What sites do they visit when researching? Are they visiting your website? What content are they viewing? Is it valuable to the research they are doing?
- Moments of Truth: The buyer has become aware of the need. They've researched all the solutions. They will now enter the zone that we affectionately call the "Moment of Truth". It is in this space where your potential customer will make a decision to buy. Our job is to engage the buyer with the reassurance of their buying decision. Sure we will have an amazing call-to-action. The button will be the perfect color and be in the perfect spot. But where is the value? When buyers make a decision, we must create the most value-filled buying experience possible. Is it easy to buy a product on your site? What does your follow up look like?
- Customer Engagement: Now that the buyer has become a customer, the value changes again. It now becomes a matter of user experience and engagement. When was the last time you used your own product? What questions popped up? Was it easy to find the answers? What if the answers were sent before you had the question? It is important that your customer sees the value in a long-term relationship.
Listen and Verify
But it does not stop at providing value. This does not automatically get you the sale. As any marketer worth their credentials will attest, you must always be listening. Each one of these touch-points should be tracked. It will provide you with the data you need to "listen" and verify that it is the right value being provided at the right stage.
For sales and marketing to be successful, it must retool. But more importantly, they must align their focus on providing value to the customer at every stage of the buying journey.
Marketing automation tools are valuable in helping you learn more about your customer. But the value doesn't stop there. It can be assist you in creating a value-based customer journey that equips the buyer at every stage.