Imagine for a moment you are riding in an elevator. Although this might have seemed like any ordinary day, suddenly, the CEO of a big-name company steps in. Your sales and marketing brain tells you that this could be your moment to pitch your organization’s amazing offering. The only problem is that the CEO is getting off in just a few floors. You have maybe 30 seconds to pitch your product or service. So, what do you say?
I have had some great professors and mentors use this exercise to outline what makes a good value proposition. Not one of them could name a person who ran into an executive – in an elevator or otherwise – and convinced them to pull out their corporate card and make a hundred-thousand-to-multi-million-dollar purchase in one 30-second conversation. And even if they had been able to, I can guarantee that person did not go on to make a sales and marketing career out of riding elevators. That this person continued running into transient business leaders and used the exact same lines to advertise their offering. That they continued to use this strategy to provide their business sustainable growth for years to come.
The truth is that it does not matter what you are selling or how good your value proposition is if you do not know where in the buying journey your fellow rider is. They may have never even considered your offering before and are then totally unaware of its associated benefits. Or they could be half-way through a buying journey with only a few critical concerns left. Conversely, they may have nearly completed a buying journey with a competitor but decided not to purchase due to a conflicting priority.
In any of these realistic scenarios, your singular elevator pitch has a good chance of failing. That is why the days of the perfect pitch, the carefully honed value proposition, are over. Today, we need a far more precise and multifaceted approach. An approach that will resonate with the many players involved in a buying journey, synchronized to where they are in that journey – if anywhere at all.
How Buying Has and Is Changing
Buying has become far too complicated for the one-size-fits-all messaging of the past. A major reason for this is that more people are involved and can influence the buying journey and its outcome. There are also more touch points, meaning more places buyers can go for information, on top of the channels where information comes to them.
But perhaps most importantly – and often unrecognized – is that buyers themselves change as they go through their buying journeys. What they value, what they are concerned with, and how they perceive your business and offering make up just a short list of factors that change. This is for two reasons: 1) with no single decision maker, a “buyer” is comprised of multiple players, stakeholders, and agendas that can enter and exit the decision at different times; 2) the buyer becomes more educated about the offering, their own needs, and their potential options. As a result, our messaging must be specific, not only to the key players involved, but the stage of the buying journey these players are currently in.
A deep understanding of your market’s buying journey hand-in-hand with the Seismic platform serves as the foundation for the required precision marketing approach. Once we have the right knowledge and the right tool, it all comes down to planning.
At its core, the goal of precision marketing (and of all sales and marketing) is to cause something to happen that otherwise would not have. Most buyers, especially those seeking complex B2B offerings, will not visit a website, do the necessary research, align every stakeholder, secure the budget, and place an order all on their own. They need multiple, tailored messages throughout to guide them towards a successful purchase. Accordingly, a well-rounded precision marketing strategy considers four key factors when delivering targeted content across the buying journey:
The Players. Who will get involved, when, and how that will impact the following factors. As stated above, who the key players are can, and probably will, change as the journey progresses.
The Touch Points. Where each player is most likely to go when seeking a particular piece of information, as well as the channels they will be impacted by throughout the buying process.
The Value Drivers. What each player wants and needs. Remember, these value drivers can almost be expected to change as the buyer learns more about the offering and their situation.
The Buying Concerns. What each player is concerned with. Like value drivers, the player’s different anxieties often fluctuate depending on the activities and agendas of each step.
The good news is that these four aspects, including how and when they occur, are consistent across a specific market’s buying journey. Therefore, we can create repeatable approaches and messaging around this predictable behavior.
Turning Theory into Practice
When we create our strategies, we now have a matrix of players, touch points, value drivers, and buying concerns – each by the major steps of the buying journey. Precision marketing then is about aligning the right message, in the right way, on the right vehicle, at the right time in the buying journey, to the right player. This gives us a more focused approach across our marketing collateral.
Putting this into practice may seem complicated at first, but with a mapped buying journey and the Seismic platform, aligning these vectors becomes fairly straightforward once you get into the right mindset. There is also incentive to pulling the trigger before planning devolves into paralysis by analysis. Seismic gives its users immediate insight into how effective these strategies are, allowing sales and marketing to course correct quickly.
Buying has changed, but that does not mean our sales and marketing strategies cannot change with it. The complexities of modern buying call for dozens of sales and marketing initiatives aimed throughout the buying journey. This means we must stop thinking about a perfect pitch and specializing perfect pitches for where a prospect is. Again, each must consider not only the player, touch points, value drivers, and buying concerns, but also the timing of the message.
So, if you ever find yourself in an elevator with the CEO of a big-name company, remember that this ride is just one of many touch points. That the sale is the destination, and like with so many things in life, that it is all about how you get there. Rather than start pitching, it is better to first ask them where they came from and where they are going and see how you can support them on their journey.