Marketing for Sales
I was recently having a conversation with a friend who owns real estate agencies in Texas. He was frustrated with the performance of the nearly 30 agents who worked for him. His frustration was very specific: across the board, they were not following a customer communication process that was leading to conversions.
Conversely, his wife is one of the top selling agents in the area. He has watched while, even in a down real estate market, she has continued to out-perform nearly every one of her competitors. She follows a very specific (albeit relatively informal) process, designed specifically to build the necessary relationships in order to successfully close sales.
I was thinking about this example when reading Scott Olsen’s recent article on VentureBeat, “Need sales leads? Think like an editor.” Scott breaks everything down in clear and specific terms that are refreshingly focused: the purpose of your content is sales.
In the world of web strategy and content development, I often see an endless stream of white noise on this topic. People will get sidetracked with search engine optimization, social media, online marketing, email campaigns, multi-media formatting debates, customer engagement strategies, analytics, driving traffic, etc. Every single week I see these debates rage, and I am constantly finding myself puzzled at the focus.
All of your content, across all of your communications channels, are a means to an end — yet all too often, I find people forgetting that fact, and framing these discussions as if they are an end in and of themselves. They aren’t. Why do you care about your customer engagement strategy? Why do you care about your email marketing campaign? Why do you care about your social media presence? To drive sales. Period.
I recently heard a sales training specialist illuminate a valuable point: Marketers market to organizations. Salespeople sell to people within organizations. Sales is about relationships, even more than marketing is. Good marketing can and should lay the groundwork for potential sales, but by the time it becomes a sales process, it must shift to a more personal process.
My friend’s wife outsells other real estate agents in her market because she understands this. Even though she and her husband are both major tech geeks, she understands that her customers are not — and even if/when they are, that’s not the most effective way for her to build a relationship with them that is going to build the level of trust needed for her to be successful.
In her case, it is literally a matter of using the phone and in-person meetings versus relying on email. She is a great — and low-tech — example of Scott’s point: becoming a trusted source depends on delivering relevent content to your prospects in a format that is in-line with their needs, not simply what is most convenient for you.
In my web-based world, this is often an easy trap to fall into without even realizing you’ve done it. Scott outlines some great solutions for maximizing online content to help meet these needs, but what about the offline world?
Phone: This one is still a biggie for most people. Pick up the phone and call. However, as someone who can’t stand the telephone and who tries to avoid answering it at all costs, I always give major bonus points to a salesperson who asks me what my prefered method of communication is.
USPS: Good old fashioned mail still has its place, especially if you send something personalized. I recently met a real estate agent at a networking event, and two days later I had a hand-written “great to meet you!” letter in my business mailbox.
Local Business Groups: In the end, there is nothing like face-to-face when it comes to building trust. No matter how well we ultimately virtualize our world, enhance our technology or distribute our business models, human beings rely on far too much subtle, contextual information when we interact with people. Unless or until we have a solution that can convey body language, tone of voice and even things like smell, face-to-face will still be the most effective way to engender trust and build a relationship with someone.
Scott’s point is a great one: we should always remember that one size does not fit all, especially when what we are really trying to do is to build the trust necessary to close a sale. Don’t make assumptions about what channel works best for what purposes. Dig in and find out — and if you aren’t sure, then ask. More than anything, though, make sure that you keep in mind that “content”=”communication” and that whether you are focused on your SEO or your weekly YouTube video, that content is a means to an end, and the “end” that will ultimately matter is a successful sale.
Scott’s analogy, to “think like an editor” is an interesting one (and nicely non-threatening). In the end, though, his point ultimately amounts to “think like a good salesperson.”
Alora Chistiakoff is an entrepreneur, blogger, strategist and project manager who has been developing online business and technology for startups for more than a decade. She co-owns The Indigo Heron Group, Inc., a web strategy firm in Austin, Texas