As a young civil servant in London looking for a career change, I went for an interview for a sales job at a publishing house. The sales director passed me his lighter and asked me to sell it to him.
Having no idea about sales, I tried to list out all the great features of the lighter. It was stainless steel with a cool flip top, it never failed to light and rarely needed refuelling.
The Sales Director took pity on me and explained that what he was hoping I was going to do was to ask questions to uncover if he had any need for the lighter. Without any need for a lighter, he was never going to buy it.
Are You Making the Same Mistake?
It strikes me that a lot of marketing is still making the same mistake that I did in that interview – listing features and talking about the product or service that we offer. Since buyer behaviour has changed, our marketing needs to catch up.
Most of the buyer’s decision has been made before they ever speak to sales representative, so our marketing has to work a lot harder. It needs to be doing part of the sales job of uncovering needs.
Back at the interview, the sales Director gave me a whole run down of how our conversation could have gone.
If I had asked if he smoked, he would have said no, if I had asked if he had an open fire at home he would have said no. Basically my only ‘in’ was that he liked camping with his family and liked getting around a camp fire. That was my chance to start selling.
How does this map onto our online marketing? If I want to attract visitors to my marketing website, I need to write blogs about some of the issues that they will be having.
Maybe they are typing searches into Google about “getting more website enquiries”. If I write a blog which is optimised in the search engines for exactly this phrase, I can attract new visitors to that blog, especially if it’s widely shared through my social media network.
In inbound marketing terms, this is the awareness stage of the buyer’s journey. At the awareness stage, the visitor does not want to be sold to (forget the features of the shiny lighter) – they simply want help with their problem.
In my blog, I might talk about ways of increasing traffic to the website, but I might also talk about paid advertising and conversion optimisation.
What I want to do is to offer genuine help with really useful content that helps them understand their problem.
It might also make them aware of issues which they hadn’t considered. For example, they may have plenty of traffic to their website, but didn’t realise that a 1% increase in conversions would double their online enquiries.
There will be dozens of other blog posts that I need to write which are optimised for specific problem phrases. We know our audiences at the moment are in research mode and that they are looking for help. The worst thing we can do at this stage is to start talking about the features and benefits of our products and services. Don’t start telling them about the shiny lighter!
Instead, we put a virtual arm round their shoulders and give them what they need now: help to understand the issues and further sign-posts to show them that we can help them to consider possible approaches to their problem.
A Trusted Source
Our content, wherever it is (web pages, blog posts, infographics or emails) is helping us to become their trusted advisor. An online authority if you will.