Marketing and selling in the era of infinite input feels like howling into a gale. The average urban dweller is subject to 4,000 ads a day, 1 every 14 seconds. The only sane defense is to tune it all out, to turn it into wallpaper for your world.
Earlier in this series on Information Overload we looked at our broken paradigms of information management, a new personal productivity paradigm, and 10 ways to build instructional products for today’s learners. Today we look at what this means for those of us in the persuasive professions. The suggestions here are not just for education publishers – they are what I consider best practices for all marketers.
The fundamental problem is that the signal to noise ratio has gotten completely out of whack. I have an email account that I’ve been using for several years. Spammers have gotten their grubby little mitts on it and I now get over 3,000 spam emails a week at this address. I have great filtering – less than 100 make through so that isn’t the problem. The issue is that I no longer bother looking for false positives – I just delete it all and hope/pray that if it is important the person will find another way to reach me.
So what is a legitimate marketeer to do? Here are some suggestions for how to rethink your marketing and sales mix so that you can stop shouting and start conversing with your customers. Fundamentally it is about what I call Socratic Marketing.
I’m assuming you have read at least the first installment in the series, what is below will make more sense if you have.
Marketing & Sales Concepts For The Conversation Economy
1 – Be remarkable – You should have a winning promise and make sure that everyone in your company understands their role in making it real. Do something worthy of sharing with other people and customers will find you. Seth Godin writes consistently and persuasively on this topic. This is the bedrock of the new approach.
2 – Stop shouting. You can’t have a conversation when you are screaming. Beyond the obvious (opt-in lists) you need to look at every communication and ask whether it is relevant, important, and actionable for the target audience. Make sure you hit all three. With the time you save from implementing the ideas in Part 2 listen more. With social media, blogs, and wikis It is so much easier to do today that you have no excuse.
3- Respect people’s time. Less is more. Here is a great example.
4 – Be there when the customer is ready. Post information on your web site that maps to different stages of the sales cycle. Initially have general comparison charts that help prospects form a mental map of the market. As they get closer to buying have the detailed specs on hand. After they have purchased send at least one message with tips on how to get the most out of the product.
5 – Relax Grasshopper – This new information economy is not kind to control freaks. The goal is to help your passionate users find ways of communicating with their peers – what they have to say is going carry a lot more water than anything you say. That said, if you open up communications with customers you lose control of some of the content and some bad stuff is going to crop up. This is really an opportunity to engage in conversation. Would you rather they complained behind your back where you can’t respond? In the end the benefits of openness far outweigh the negatives.
6 – Make it personal – In a sea of corporate dreck people respond to the genuine and personal. Boeing’s Chief Marketing Officer has a blog, Randy’s Journal. This forces a more honest interchange – he is speaking from his own perspective. It allows him to talk about issues that he has expertise on (e.g. the fabled 7 extra inches of cabin width on the Airbus translates into a pencil width for each seat). People expect you to have a perspective but they also respect the expertise you bring to their information gathering.
7 – Stir up some channel conflict. In an era when all the rules are changing and no one knows for sure what is going to work you had better get comfortable with channel conflict – you have to try a lot of new things to find what breaks through. Put a few products in on-line teacher communities like We Are Teachers [client], allow customers to build custom bundles on your website, or publish something just for the on-line world.
8 – Don’t hide information with the hope that you are going to “force” the start of a sales conversation. You will just frustrate customers who are used to instantly finding what they need. In fact – go the opposite direction and constantly fine tune your site to increase your pageviews and make sure that the navigation is as intuitive as possible for the largest number of users. Don’t manage your website as a job protection scheme for your sales reps – you don’t do them any favors by pissing prospects off early in the process. If it is a complicated sale the customer will want to talk to a Rep.
9 – Worry more about communicating with your customers than about your competitors. Don’t kid yourselves that the competition won’t get access to information if you hide it – after all you get your hands on all the competitor’s info – don’t you? In a world where information flows so easily it will find its way out whether you want it to or not. The only person you will really inconvenience is a prospect.
10 – Its the Web Baby – Optimize. Take a hard look at your web site and the various search strategies customers use to find you. Are you at the top of the search results every time? Do your writers know how to load up searchable text in your titles, tags, and the first paragraph on each page? Is your copy tight, punchy, and hyperlinked where needed? When a customer gets to a product page is there more there than a part number and a price? Measure your results on everything and move resources towards what is most effective, even if it seems counterintuitive.
We hope these ideas help you get started on the road to building a robust conversation with your customers. To find the budget I suggest you downgrade trade shows and invest the savings in on-line presence. Most organizations continue to invest far too much in trade shows out of inertia. Think of the new stuff as building a 24/7/365 trade show booth if that makes you feel better.
If you have tried some of these ideas or have additional tips to pass along comment away!Information Overload Series
Part 1 – It’s all in your head – really
Part 2 – A cure for “a poverty of attention”
Part 3 – 10 Ways to Build Instructional Products For 21st Century Skills
Part 4 – 10 Ideas to For Marketing & Selling In An Age of Infinite Input