Choose Your Own Adventure - The Future of Marketing
Stories have fascinated us for thousands of years. They have made up our folklore, our mythologies, as well as the religious stories that have inscribed certain moral codes. They are without a doubt a part of our society, our history and how we communicate. Great marketers and salespeople will tell you that in order to engage your audience you need to tell a great story. Today, stories continue to captivate us and we still respond to them on an emotional level. But while the stories may not change, the method used to tell them definitely has.
Many companies build out their marketing plans on very linear and specific to each marketing channel. Most of the time they have barely even taken into account that each of their buyers are different. When you work from the eyes of the prospect, you can have outstanding effects. But in order to do this you need to do a few things:
- Develop a buyer persona for each of your prospects
- Determine how and where they want to interact with your company
- Discover what actions trigger them to buy
While many great companies have discovered this and are doing great work, there now is another step to add step in this process: the ability for your prospect to choose their own adventure.
While consumers have been doing this for years, marketing has not recognized the need to follow. Think about it. When you go to buy something, do you think in terms of channels (email, direct mail, social media, etc...)? Or rather, do you use whatever mediums that are easy for you to use and feel natural? Do you do all your interactions with a company, product or service, through just email? Alternatively, do you do a mixture? Do you pick and choose depending on what you are looking for? Maybe you first find a product or service through Google, went to a company's website and filled a form requesting more information. From there you received some emails and a phone call for a salesperson. Maybe you also went to some social media sites, like Facebook, to see what your friends where saying about their products or services. Maybe, depending on your how "social-savvy" you are, you even tweeted, about it. All of this is why companies need to go through this process, including this final step.
Now I must say that the fourth step is new to most companies. I am sure that many are saying that they would love to try it, but it is not possible. This probably was in part because the technology was not fully there in the past. But more and more I am seeing how great companies are doing this. One way we have been able to do it with our clients is by developing behaviour-based marketing. Instead of saying that on Tuesday we are sending out this email blast or that we are going run this promotion on our website these days, we look approach things a little differently.
We work in a world of "if......then" statements. If our prospect does this, then we will do that. In this case the client or prospect dictates (i.e. chooses their own adventure) what happens and we work within their buying process. Each of our "then" statements/responses works first to educate the prospect but then to move them forward in their buying process. We have found this to be extremely effective in shortening buying cycles as well as great for positioning our clients to see? us as the ideal solution for their prospects. We do not think of this in terms of channels either. Channels are a tool, not a process. The client dictates the process; channels are the means with which to interact with them.
One of the great tools that I have found that allows us to do this, as well as monitor prospects' behaviours, is Net-Results. Now, like many marketing automation programs, Net-Results allows you to lead nurture, manage and score. But Net-Results does it in a little different way. Instead of saying that when someone gets and email, send them a follow up etc., Net-Results program operates in the world of "if...... then". In addition, it does so, not just in one channel, but combines multiple channels.
So, let's say someone gets an email from you, but does not click through. Do you know the next step that prospect is making? Most of the time no. However, maybe 3 days later they come directly to your site as they have resumed their buying process and remember your company from that email. Since Net-Results monitors multiple channels, they know this. Moreover, since they are a behaviour-based solution, you can write rules ("if....then" statements) that will guide the interaction with that prospect. So instead of treating them like a new prospect, you can adjust where that prospect is in their buying process and continue the interaction with them where you left off. Your prospects don't get confused or receive the same messages multiple times and you don't lose engagement. In a channel-based plan, each channel would have handle this lead/prospect in their own way and competed against each other.
Furthermore, what happens when a staled prospect jumps back in their buying process for whatever reason? Most systems do not recognize this and nurture a prospect along a new path, creating discord between where they are at, and where you assume they are. However, with a behaviour-based solution you can adjust and follow the prospect in their own process, creating a deeper level of engagement.
In trying to further develop a solution that follows the consumers buying process from suspect to prospect to client, I am always looking for tools that allow us to help our clients follow and engage their prospect in their buying process. Allowing your prospects to choose their own adventure can greatly increase conversion rates, improve efficiency and shorten sales cycles. What tools have you found that helped you do this?