In marketing, when we’re dealing with customers who buy inexpensive products where they make their decision quickly (usually what we like to call “low-ticket” purchases), we can sometimes get away with talking at our customers, rather than having conversations with them.
But what happens when you are selling "big-ticket" items - products/services that are more expensive and where the customer decision-making process can take several days, weeks or even months?
You have to be in the conversation and build relationships with your customers!
In B2B marketing, as well as the marketing of big–ticket items to consumers, being involved in a long-term conversation is often the difference between getting and missing a sale. Conversations allow you to learn about the prospect at the same time that the prospect learns about you. Conversations act as a stepping stone to creating a stronger, more trusted relationship between business and consumer.
We often talk about ways to build relationships with all types of prospects in an effort to have them become customers and eventually, hopefully convert them into Best Customers. This can be easier said than done, especially when you offer a product or service that is consumed infrequently or has a long decision cycle.
A few factors stand out that can help marketers build a better framework for long-term marketing. Start by looking through the lens of a customer:
So, how is the marketer to build a relationship with prospects that have long-term research needs and unclear decision points? It sounds like a marketer’s worst nightmare, but can really be their best friend if they attack the challenge correctly.
When dealing with longer term prospects, relationship is the key. Now, I am sure that everyone has heard that statement before. The problem is that no one seems to know how to build relationships, with prospects having more access to more information than ever before. It feels like marketers are just shooting in the dark, hoping to get information to a prospect at the right time, without knowing what information and what time really matters. You see, marketers have been in the business of communicating at prospects for so long that the idea of having a conversation falls way outside of the box.
Here are four principles that can help guide two-way conversation in your communications and marketing plan for longer-term prospects:
At first blush, this approach may appear complex to develop and manage. But depending on the level of personalization and customization that you choose, this approach may be more attainable than you think. You see, every prospect is convinced that his/her needs are “terminally unique,” but in fact the opposite is usually true. After just a little bit, you will find that prospect needs fall into a few categories, and that you can address needs in those categories relatively quickly using information that is already available in your company.
In such diverse industries as insurance, construction, business services and automobiles, this four-step approach has proven consistently to be a Best Practice.
A final advantage of this approach is that it provides you with additional information about the prospect, which can be used to track that prospect through the decision process, and assign ROI and customer acquisition to the series of communications that you use to bring the customer into the fold.
Remember, in order for this approach to succeed, you must be genuinely interested in providing that prospect with the information they need, not the information that you want them to have. By focusing on their needs, you set yourself up as a “trusted advisor,” which is exactly the position you want to be in when a prospect is ready to buy.
Talk less. Listen more. Operate in your prospect’s interest.
Reap the benefits in customers, revenue and market share.