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Marketing Automation can facilitate the entire buying decision path

Submitted by on Thursday, 23 January 2014

In order to sell more when using marketing automation technology, we need to enter the buyer’s decision path far earlier. But because marketing automation uses the sales model as its core thinking, and concentrates on solution placement rather than helping buyers navigate their behind-the-scenes decision path (necessary before they purchase) it’s hard to know when/how/why buyers will close, regardless of the numbers of names we gather.

Let’s think about this for a moment. The buying path itself is far more complex than we can understand: we have no capability of actually being there when prospects have meetings or political in-fighting. With sales, ‘solution choice’ is the focus, and buyers are left on their own to navigate through the internal politics and human biases they address before they can get agreement to buy.

CLOSING LESS THAN 1% OF WARM LEADS

As part of my prep work when developing sales training for a few new clients recently, I tracked the success of their marketing automation initiatives. These numbers coincided with other numbers I’ve procured, regardless of industry:

  • Out of 100 names determined to be prospects (out of a total of 10,000 contacts), 3 will agree to an appointment.
  • One quarter will cancel, leaving 2.25.
  • Of these, 75 percent will express interest and possibly get as far as pricing.
  • Of these that express interest, 38 percent will close, or .59 percent.

Based on these numbers, you have to wonder if there is something missing in our process. And, there’s no telling how many of the thousands of originating leads might have been good prospects.

Why is it OK to waste such a high percent of a seller’s time, making 10-15 calls to each lead, over months and months, to get an appointment that has such a small chance to close? Or is this the new norm? With the existing strategy, we’re left to question how can we identify…

  • The number of real prospects within the thousands who came to our sites and weren’t called for an appointment?
  • Those that got as far as pricing might have closed if sold to differently?
  • Whether they would have purchased from the original 100 if they were not first approached to take an appointment?
  • Who would buy if they weren’t first called for (and turned off by) a request for an appointment?

WE CAN HELP MANAGE THE BEHIND-THE-SCENES CHANGE ISSUES

Supporters of marketing automation, to date, have maintained the thinking that has driven sales: bring people to a site, follow their online activity, assume they are leads because they exhibit a certain amount of interest, nurture them to make sure they receive the right data, score them according to some unique criteria, and then try to close.

Let’s go back to the main problem: as a solution placement activity, sales merely addresses the final 10 percent of the buying decision path, and has little input as to how buyers manage change and buy-in. But buyers will take no action until their Buying Decision Team and those who will touch the solution buys-in to making a change.

Using current practices, there are five fundamental questions that remain unanswered…

  • From all names gathered, who will be a real buyer?
  • What is the interest level and role of the person who filled out the contact sheet?
  • What stage of the buying journey are they on and what data is relevant to that stage?
  • How is the received material being used and who is it being shared with (i.e. competing vendors? In-house teams)?
  • Is the entire Buying Decision Team on board? Are all who touch the solution in agreement?

Whatever selling model you’re using, unless the entire series of unique behind-the-scenes issues are not managed, the buyer cannot buy. And current marketing automation technology does not even address this area.

HOW CAN MARKETING AUTOMATION HELP BUYERS NAVIGATE THEIR BUYING PATH?

Far too often, sales addresses a need as if it were an isolated event, but buyers don’t buy in isolation from their people, policies, rules, politics, or market forces. Marketing automation is uniquely positioned to actually help buyers manage the entire route down their buying decision path. While the path to purchase often starts with one person and an idea, it includes managing politics as well as people and their diverse relationships.

With marketing automation it is quite possible to:

  • Lead visitors through their entire buy-path, starting with an idea;
  • Know exactly what stage of the buying decision journey buyers are on;
  • Identify the appropriate material to send for that stage in the buy path (even make it possible for the site visitor to choose the exact data they want).

Marketing automation is a very powerful concept that is being underutilized, causing us to miss the opportunity to lead a lot more buyers through their non-solution-related, off-line decision issues. They must manage the buy-in and change issues anyway – with us or without us.

Instead of us wasting resources following folks too early in their buy-cycle, or sending the wrong data for the point they are in their decision making, we can better target our efforts to facilitate the entire decision journey, know who’s ready, help others get ready, and nurture them all at an earlier stage.

Let’s add some thinking around navigating and facilitating the entire buying decision path, from idea through to purchasing decision. By thinking of the buying decision path differently than the solution sale, we can close more, and serve more people.

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Sharon Drew Morgen is currently using Buying Facilitation® to develop content to use with technology at each stage of the decision path. Contact Sharon Drew to discuss needs and capability.

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