In our new digital world, the field of marketing automation attempts to manage the buying experience starting from the ‘beginning’ of the buying process. But indeed, relative to the full set of issues buyers must consider, marketing automation enters in no earlier than 70% of the way into the decision making.
Indeed, they are omitting the human side of the buying decision journey: As a content-driven model, the marketing automation/lead gen/telesales/sales model merely focuses on the final activities of the buying decision – the actual solution/vendor choices. But a lot happens before prospects need content data and the digital experience does not touch this space.
ENTERING FROM CONTENT TOUCH POINTS OFFERS POOR DATA FOR LEAD QUALIFICATION
If we continue to focus merely on content and ignore decision facilitation issues buyers handle first, we will continue to
- not know where the buyer is in the human side of the journey (you know, those private meetings and personal decisions buyers manage outside of your purview);
- not know the weighting that the buyer has on the Buying Decision Team – or indeed even IF the full Buying Decision Team has been chosen;
- not have any influence on when or why or if or how a buyer will choose to make a purchase rather than continuing to maintain their status quo;
- continue to pass on unqualified leads and ignore potential sales.
We carry a strong belief that ‘content is king’. But content is merely support documentation for the idiosyncratic and unique decision issues buyers must handle before they can consider making a purchase. They have made the bulk of their decision before we get involved. And we are not there with them to exert any influence.
WHAT IS THE VERY BEGINNING OF A BUYING DECISION?
Think about a simple decision — and, btw, no decisions are ‘simple’ in that their execution depends on managing the change that anything new brings – to consider buying a new sound system.
You may or may not first do some perusing on the net to look at solution possibilities. But until you get appropriate buy-in from your spouse or family, and thereby make your idea any sort of possibility, you can take no action if the solution involves anyone other than you (and even then you must figure out your own criteria for change.
The consideration of a sound system purchase starts with getting buy-in:
How does your spouse think the current sound system is working? Would s/he be willing to consider adding to or changing the current one? How would she know that s/he’d get something commensurately better than what you have now to make it worth the expenditure of time/money? Do you have kids whose decisions would weigh in here? Is there a space issue? Are you the only family member that doesn’t have an iPod, and maybe you should not spend thousands of dollars on a new sound system when you merely need an iPod?
Obviously, until or unless these personal issues are addressed, having content about a specific sound system is useless. And, here is where it gets tricky: until all of the Buying Decision Team members are on board and weigh in with their personal needs and criteria, you will not even know the full set of criteria to choose a solution.
THE BUYING DECISION STAGES
Here are the stages buyers go through (largely without you) before they can even consider a purchase. These stages are laid out thoroughly in my latest book Dirty Little Secrets.
1. Understand the full range of decision issues that must be addressed internally.
This is a lot harder than it sounds. And, buyers don’t even know who all of the Buying Decision Team members need to be until farther along the decision cycle. At the beginning of their discovery, they have no idea what the full range of issues are, but they cannot move forward until they do. The fallout is huge otherwise.
2. Figure out how to resolve the problem with known resources.
If there is any possibility that the buyer can resolve the issue without making a purchase, they will do so. And they must check out all possibilities.
3. Manage all of the change among the people, policies, relationships (etc) that will touch a new solution.
Again, harder than it looks. It’s like herding cats.
And, once this is all done, THEN the buyer knows when, and how, and if, it’s time to find a solution or need content. This is where the digital marketing, sales, and social marketing are coming in. And it’s ‘way’ late in the cycle.
While outside ideas are unwelcome until the first portion has been completed, it’s very possible to influence and lead buyers through their journey by facilitating the change management process and as you know, this is what my Buying Facilitation™ process accomplishes.
Think about whether you want to sell or have someone buy. They are two different activities. And now, the world of digital marketing and sales enablement are only managing the sales-related end of the buyer’s buying process. Let’s expand, and enter earlier.