Death of the Salesman

There’s no question that the Willy Lomans of this world have been dying a slow, agonizing death—only instead of losing the fight to travel exhaustion, the opponent is the Internet … And marketing

There’s no question that the Willy Lomans of this world have been dying a slow, agonizing death—only instead of losing the fight to travel exhaustion, the opponent is the Internet.

According to a recent CEB article in the Harvard Business Review, 57 percent of purchase decisions are made before a customer ever talks to a supplier, and Gartner Research predicts that by 2020, customers will manage 85 percent of their relationship with an enterprise without interacting with a human. That shouldn’t surprise anyone since we spend much of our days tapping on keyboards or flicking our fingers across tiny screens.

In Willy’s day, the lead generation process would have consisted of making a phone call, setting up an appointment, hopping a plane to the prospect’s office, and dragging a sample case through the airport. In the 1980’s, that sample case turned into an overhead projector, then a slide projector and a laptop, and finally a mini projector linked to a mobile device or thumb drive. In 2014, salespeople are lucky if they can connect to a prospect on a video conferencing call.

Clearly the days of gathering in a conference room for the sales pitch are long gone. We’ve always known that sales people talk too much and buyers, who’ve never had the patience to listen, now have the tools to avoid them altogether: websites, whitepapers, case studies, videos, LinkedIn groups, webcasts—virtually anything and everything to avoid talking to sales.

As a result, the sales function has now been placed squarely in the hands of the content strategists and creators. And yes, that means that the sales function is now in the hands of marketing.

Now a different problem exists. Most marketing folks don’t know how to help the buyer along their journey because that’s not how they’ve been trained. They have no idea how different types of buyers think, or how they search for information, or make decisions, so they don’t know how to create nor position content in a meaningful and relevant way—and that’s long been the complaint of sales. In their opinion, all marketing does is churn out “fluff” that is irrelevant to a serious buyer.

Now marketers must step up and really understand how to optimize marketing tools in order to help that buyer reach the right brand decision at the end of their journey. That’s really why content has become the marketing buzz word.

And just like we despised the salesman who talked too much, potential buyers despise content that is full of sales-speak. While a product brochure has a purpose, it is not strategic content. Similarly, a webinar in which most of the supporting slides are simply advertising for the product, turns off participants who quickly express their displeasure via online chat tools to the host and by logging out of the event.

Great content should seek to:

  • Be authentic: What you say needs to sound genuine and ring true—no one believes you are the only solution to a problem. On the contrary, the discovery process is all about evaluating your options (the pros and the cons). Avoiding a question because your answer may reveal the flaws of your product or service only shines a spotlight on the issue. Honesty is always the best policy.
  • Be relevant: Share insightful information that leverages your expertise and experience; help the buyer connect the dots. “How to” articles are popular, as are comparison charts—if you’re not going to do it, the prospect will be doing it for themselves anyway, so why not help by pointing out comparison points (that benefit your product) they might not have previously considered?
  • Be timely: To get a leg up in the marketplace, you need to be prepared to add value when the timing is ripe. It’s highly unlikely that your marketplace hasn’t changed in the last 50 years. Help show buyers how your product/service is relevant in today’s marketplace—how it deals with challenges you know they’re facing or are going to face tomorrow.

Smart marketers have a lead nurturing strategy in place—an organized and logical method of sharing relevant content along the buy cycle. And that content is well written and segmented by type of decision maker. The CFO has a different set of evaluation criteria from the CEO and the CTO. Business owners look at purchase decisions through a completely different lens than a corporate manager.

Depending on the industry, business buyers have different problems they’re trying to solve, so generic content has less relevance than content that addresses specific issues in an industry segment. Those in healthcare, for example, perceive a problem from a different perspective than those in transportation.

The new name of the selling game is “Educate the Buyer—but in a helpful and relevant way.” And while Willy Loman may continue to sit at his desk making cold calls or sending out prospecting emails, the reality is nobody has the patience or interest to listen to his sales pitch any more. So marketers need to step up and accept responsibility for lead generation, lead nurturing and, in many instances, closing the sale.

11 Rules For Mobile Marketing Success

If you haven’t heard, a lot of people are talking about mobile. It’s mostly marketers doing the talking, but that’s because the businesses that they’ve helped have their heads down implementing mobile initiatives or at least started educating themselves to better understand how mobile will fit into their marketing mix.

If you haven’t heard, a lot of people are talking about mobile. It’s mostly marketers doing the talking, but that’s because the businesses that they’ve helped have their heads down implementing mobile initiatives or at least started educating themselves to better understand how mobile will fit into their marketing mix.

Now I could go dive into some juicy stats, like how mobile Internet usage will overtake that of desktop by 2014, or that 74 percent of consumers will wait only five seconds for Web pages to load on their mobile devices before abandoning sites. We could even discuss the 46 percent of consumers who are unlikely to return to your mobile site if it didn’t work properly during their last visit, but I’m not going to do that right now. 😉

After interviewing some of the top mobile specialists and brands that strategically use mobile to grow their businesses, I’ve noticed some recurring trends. If you want to use mobile and actually see results that create an impact on your business you can follow these rules:

1. Know your customer. You should create at least three customer personas to identify exactly who your audience is and each communication should be targeted to one of those users. You should aim to give these personas a name, know what their wants and desires are, what their frustrations are, etc. Are they smartphone users or might they have feature phones?

Make sure before crafting your messaging that you know who you’re talking to and how they’d like to keep in touch with you. Is it via email, SMS or possibly a phone call? You need cater to your specific customers or else you’ll be communicating to nobody.

2. Solve a problem. The best use of mobile comes when it solves a problem for someone, whether that be a customer, an employee or even just a problem within your business. Once you’ve identified the problem, ask yourself, “Can mobile solve it?” For example, can mobile possibly eliminate a once time-sucking, paper-pushing task and save time?

If your customers tend not to redeem direct mail coupons, maybe you can deliver offers right to their phone via SMS in order to drive traffic to your establishment during slower hours.

3. Only use mobile if it adds value. Is mobile the best solution? I love mobile, don’t get me wrong. But it’s not always the answer. Too many businesses get caught using mobile for mobile’s sake. Make sure your mobile strategy solves a problem, ultimately adding value to your customer’s life.

4. Don’t chase shiny objects. This is my favorite. Mobile technology is advancing super fast that it’s hard to keep up. It can be overwhelming, I know. People are talking about NFC (Near Field Communication, Augmented Reality, the mobile wallet etc.)

BUT, there is a reason that Coca-Cola allocates 70 percent of its mobile budget toward SMS. Your mobile initiative should be about efficiency NOT shiny objects. Make sure you can differentiate.

Oh, and did you notice that the iPhone 5 doesn’t have an NFC chip? There is a reason Apple chose not to add that feature this time around, but that’s a post for another time. 😉

5. Execute from start through finish: Ideas are great, but it always comes down to execution. Make sure you cover all touchpoints for the mobile component of your program. The most common mistake is driving customers to a non-mobile friendly website.

Your customers may end up on your site from an email, social feed, a QR code, an SMS or a mobile search. Make sure their experience is friendly and helpful, no matter what screen they’re on.

6. Simple is Sexy: Due to the pace of mobile innovation, sometimes things get complicated. Do everything in your power to make your mobile initiative easy to understand and participate in. Make sure you:

  • Use a clear call to action. Most failed campaigns bury the CTA.
  • Limit their options. Focus on your ONE objective then go from there.
  • Don’t make consumers jump through hoops. Does it take five steps to receive the value? Don’t do that. Deliver value immediately.

7. Identify how you’ll measure success. Again, a frequent mistake. You’ll never know if you were successful unless you have a base for success. Is it opt-ins, sales, scans, etc.? You get the point.

There is no way to tell where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been. Establish criteria for success and monitor them during and after your campaign.

8. Deliver value to your customers: They are taking the time to engage with you on the most personal device they own. Make it worth their while.

9. Mobile won’t save your business: Mobile is just a piece of the puzzle. When viewed as a channel on its own, you’ll likely fail. Look at is a part of the whole and you’ll be in a position for success.

10. Look for ways to enhance offline experiences: Mobile places super nicely with other channels. In fact, mobile is one of the most dependent and complementary channels at the same time. Think about how mobile can give legs to your other programs.

Mobile offers an opportunity to take offline, once non-interactive experiences, online with a chance to extend the conversation.

11. Think mobile first: “Mobile first” is a hot topic right now around designing sites that are responsive toward a user’s device and intent. Mobile first goes beyond just your site to all of your points of engagement between you and a customer.

This is unfortunately hard for organizations that are uber-traditional. For those in that boat, I recommend asking yourself when planning any initiative, “What happens if they experience this program from their phone? What does that look like?” Figure it out and accommodate the mobile user.

If you can follow these 11 rules when adding mobile to your strategy you’ll be off to the best possible start and eliminate your odds of being featured on one of the many blogs that cover all the failures in mobile. 😉 You don’t want that to be you now, do you?