Why Marketing Trumps Sales In Today’s Digital Age
The outbound sales philosophy and practices of the past – of salespeople pounding the pavement and hitting the phones to bring in the sales – is all but history for most industries today. They introduced their company’s product to prospects, educated them about their company’s products and services, and worked to convert them to clients over time. It’s not that salespeople are no longer an important piece of the customer buying process, but they’re just responsible for the final 30% of that process now. Marketing is driving the other 70%, and it is critical for companies to understand this paradigm shift and to put more of an emphasis on marketing than sales in this respect.
If your company management had to choose between hiring someone in marketing or hiring someone in sales, what do you think your company would do? The large majority of management teams today would go for the sales person, hands down. Though, this flies in the face of the facts in today’s digital age. For example, research shows that 80% of B2B companies find your company before you even know they’re looking, and buyers are now 70% through the buyer journey before they’ll even actually engage with an organization. Marketers need to create strategic online content that brings prospects through the buyer lifecycle so that they’re ready to buy. As a result, your company’s marketing needs to be very robust to grow and prosper, is in fact more important than sales departments today.
Years ago, there were only a few ways companies could get information to their prospective buyers outside of their traditional sales force, but it’s marketers today who are educating prospects about their company’s products and services, and that bring them through the first – and most critical – 70% of the buying process. To accomplish this, marketers must create rich content to engage customers through each phase of the buyer lifecycle, in an effort to bring them in to engage with their organization when the customer is ready to buy. Content marketing is the key element that marketers are leveraging for this process.
In an article by Marcus Sheridan, he discusses the power of “Assignment Selling”, and argues that marketing departments are more valuable – “way” more valuable in fact – than sales departments today. He defines “Assignment Selling” as: the process of using educational content to push a prospect down, or out, of the sales funnel as quickly as possible. He was a salesman selling pools for his company, River Pools, in the past, where he would work 60 hours a week going on over 200 in-home sales appointments a year. His company’s closing rate was about 25%, with an industry average sales closing rate of just 15%. Then, in 2009 he discovered inbound marketing through Hubspot and revolutionized his company’s marketing and sales approach.
His company has now put a strong emphasis on content marketing by creating videos and e-books that answer virtually every question a prospective customer might ask. They in fact ask potential customers to watch a video and read a 30 page e-book before agreeing to send a sales person out to see them. What he found was that if a prospect read 30 or more pages of his website e-book before they went on a sales appointment, they would buy 80% of the time. That is a startling number. While the industry’s closing rate is 15%, River Pools is now the highest in the country at an astounding 80%! In 2009, when River Pools was floundering and on the brink of ruin, “hiring another sales person” wasn’t the answer to success. Instead, embracing the way consumers shop today is what led to their discovery of content marketing and assignment selling.
Companies in every industry around the world, both B2B to B2C, must now focus on earning the trust of the customer before that customer makes any contact with their organization. To do this, they need highly competent and robust marketing departments creating the messaging and content to bring their customers through the buying process, more importantly than they need a larger sales staff. The kind of content marketers are using to make this happen are things like blogs, videos, infographics, white papers and other content specifically targeted to each phase of the buyer lifecycle. They also need to craft integrated marketing strategies leveraging an array of traditional and new marketing channels to reach and engage their customers. Effective marketing means your prospects will know where to find you online and will have learned enough about your products and services to be close to a decision to buy before they even make first contact. They won’t be waiting for a salesperson to knock on their door first.
This post was originally published on John Moran’s personal blog, johnmoranblog.