Marketing is not delivering what sales has always known: It’s not just what you sell but what else you bring to the relationship.
Let’s be honest. Today, this degree of relevance comes from the age-old profession made famous by the likes of James Bond; it’s the ‘homework’ you’ve done on your customer (with or without the nifty suit and perfect martini).
One of my first jobs out of college was selling fashion to London department stores. Their buyers were always glad to see me arrive. Sadly not because of my own impeccable dress sense, but because along with the rail full of clothes I wheeled into their office I brought them information they didn’t have.
The company I worked for went to fashion trade shows across Europe, developed their own lines based on what they saw coming down the catwalk, then offered them to the stores. So I wasn’t just trying to sell something to these buyers. I was giving them a valuable insight into developing trends.
Tell me something I don’t know…
Years later, still with the same dress sense but no longer selling fashion, I can see that marketing has to some extent lost or forgotten what sales has always known: that clients and customers are not just looking for what you’re selling. They’re also looking for what you can tell them that they don’t already know; for what you’re offering that they don’t already have; and for what it will do to address their need or resolve their issue.
This can all be summed up in just three words: resonance, relevance, value.
It’s what we all need to be thinking about and providing now, even when our marketing is more sophisticated than pushing a rail-full of clothes down Oxford Street.
Our target audience is more sophisticated too, because one trend none of us saw coming down the catwalk was the growth of “consumer power” thanks to the internet.
Customers now feel they know it all. Or if they don’t know it already, can find it out with a few seconds of Googling. So they won’t accept being told outright that we, the marketers, know what they need. Instead we have to earn our credibility before they will even listen to us, and gain their respect before they’ll consider believing what we tell them.
It’s more about effort than time.
Does this all sound like it’s going to take too long and be too much hard work? Are you wondering why you can’t forget all about the idea of a long-term relationship and simply go back to the old days of “wham, bam, thank you customer”?
The problem is that there aren’t so many of those customers around these days, and they’re a dying breed. Carry on marketing in the same way to the same people, and soon enough you won’t have a market.
The good news is that although it sounds like time and effort, it’s actually more about effort than time. And some of that effort can now be outsourced to technology platforms that make it much faster and easier to research your audience, tap into their conversations, identify the trends they’re following and understand the challenges they’re facing.
Insights make the heart grow fonder.
If those stages sound familiar, it’s because they are. They’re simply recreating a good old-fashioned sales relationship, but for a new era. The difference is that now it’s not done face-to-face to one person at a time, but remotely too – depending on the size of your target audience and your budget – a handful, dozens, or hundreds of people.
Marketers which want to gild the lily will bandy around the term “Account-Based Marketing” to describe what is really just effective salesmanship. It’s about creating a mutually-valued conversation where the marketer understands their customers’ challenges, provides a valuable and highly relevant insight that they didn’t know, and then shows them how the product or service on offer will resolve their issue and make their life better.
I learned a long time ago that what you bring to the conversation is what makes the difference between pushing a full clothes rail into a buyer’s office, and pushing an empty one out.