Marketing that urges respondents to 'buy now' is a little like asking someone to marry you on your first date. At any time, only 3 per cent of the market is looking for what you're selling, so the chances of your date randomly being 'The One' is pretty slim.
So why does it seem like we're still in the era where merchants yell out what they're selling and jump straight into the sales pitch? Where does marketing fit into the bigger end of the larger market formula, courting prospective customers until they're ready for a more serious relationship?
For your marketing to reach its full potential, you need to go beyond the 3 per cent actively looking for what you're selling. The tip of the buyer journey pyramid (pictured) is not only competitive, but those customers are also likely to choose someone they already know. And to develop a relationship like that, you need to start earlier in the process, further down the pyramid.
Mistake #1: Wrong first impression
Around 60 per cent of your customers are strangers. The 'Stranger' is just browsing, and possibly not even aware they have a problem you can resolve. They might find your company through related marketing material, online ad campaigns, social media, and Google searches, and start to recognise your name.
They know little to nothing about you, so it's unlikely there'll be a first date unless you can find something that interests them. If you introduce yourself by saying 'I'm the best' or 'marry me', then you're likely going to turn them off immediately.
Solution: Turn strangers into friends
A more effective way to introduce yourself would be with an exchange: Find out what the potential customer is interested in and in return serve with something you think might fit the bill. This 'something' doesn't have to be one of your products - in fact, it's better if it isn't to avoid launching into an unwanted sales pitch. Try offering something small and easy for them to progress with such as a quiz, a free guide or a competition.
Match the temperature of the prospect's interest. If they're cool at first, play it cool yourself to put them at ease. You might want to introduce them to friends who can vouch for you, such as media coverage you've gained through PR which can leverage a power similar to word-of-mouth, or testimonials online. You get to know them, they get to know you and you'll want to see each other again.
Mistake #2: Ignoring their curiosity
The 'Curious' are the 20 per cent of clients who have recognised they have a problem they need to resolve and have realised you might be able to help them. This audience knows your brand and are willing to click links of interest, so your marketing should ensure you stay top of mind.
Without understanding the source of their curiosity, however, it is easy to lose them. Before you start thinking about a sales funnel, creating offers, or setting up Google Ads, Facebook Ads, SEO, or any other system, you need to do this one thing, as nothing matters if you can't nail this: You must know your customer intimately. And that goes far beyond rudimentary data such as their gender, age, and perhaps even their location.
Solution: Find out what they want to know
The better you understand their problem, the better you can find the marketing triggers for your product. What are the hair-on-fire questions that they'll appreciate you answering? Collate popular questions from forums (for example, Quora, Reddit and Whirlpool), and find out what they're asking on Google. One tool to help you discover these questions is AnswerThePublic.com. This tool gives you invaluable insight into what your customers are thinking, the kind of questions they're asking, and the hot-button issues they're struggling with.
What are the most common questions your front line staff are asked? Encourage them to share with you what they want to know. And once you know their questions and issues, you can provide the solution. Develop content such as FAQs, webinars, blog posts, videos and ebooks addressing their collective queries to show how responsive you are to their needs.
Mistake #3: You sell yourself rather than the relationship
A 'Gatherer', who represents 17 per cent of the market, has moved up the pyramid and is now actively looking for someone who can help them solve their problem. However, if you hit them too hard with a sales pitch now, they'll feel like you're only there for their money. It's time the relationship matured.
Solution: Nurture the relationship
It is vital to keep nurturing the relationship by building value. They have made some level of commitment by demonstrating their interest and raising their hand. So now you need to make the next move, and the next one and the next one, to woo them in. For example, sending emails containing interesting content or helpful advice, webinars, videos - anything that is a value-building asset.
The icing on the cake to this is making an irresistible offer, such as a guarantee, which infers a relationship that will continue into the future. You can also try a freemium model, such as giving them a free 30-day trial of your product, offering a consultation, or inviting them to an event that will demonstrate your brand's values - a little like meeting the parents.
Convert the buyers
Once a prospect is at the buying stage (3 per cent), you want them to convert to a customer. They understand your brand and what you offer, trust you to deliver the product or service you promise and are invested in their relationship with your company.
It's time for a proposal. The ring is an offer and an invitation, for example if you are a service based business you could offer additional value and an incentive for them to sign on the dotted line.
Make sure your marketing corresponds to their level of maturity in the buying journey. For example, when you reach the top of the pyramid, your landing page needs to take them straight to products and all your communications, from eDMs to Facebooks ads, must give them a call to action to buy.
The art of marketing goes beyond simplistic promotion of products to make a sale. It has evolved to encompass the relationship between brand and customer that starts well before the sale takes place. Truly understanding what stage a prospective customer is at in their buying lifecycle can mean the difference between marketing success and sales failure.