Is The Way We’ve Been Doing Marketing And Sales Broken?


Here’s how the traditional approach to marketing and sales works:

Step One. Get people to your website.

Step Two. Once people are on your website, get them to convert on a form.

Step Three. After they fill out a form, nurture them with emails and phone calls until they buy from you, unsubscribe, or even worse — do absolutely nothing, forever.

Yes, I dramatically oversimplified the process, but stick with me for a minute.

Now that we laid out how traditional marketing and sales work, take a second and think about the way that you buy and behave as a consumer.

If you’re anything like me, when you’re thinking about buying something, I bet the last thing you want to do is fill out a form or talk to a sales rep.

You try to avoid those things at all costs. Because these days, we can find out just about everything we need to know before making a purchase, and many times, we can buy things or get the information we need without ever having to talk to sales at all.

But in our jobs in marketing and sales, we stick to those traditional methods. That’s how we do marketing and sales every single day — because that’s how it’s always been done. That’s how everyone does it.

The reason we keep doing these things even though we try to avoid them when we’re on the other side of the table?

It’s all because of something called the Threshold Model of Collective Behavior.

Why We Keep Doing The Same Things As Everyone Else

Now I know you didn’t come here to read about social theory (which is why I’ll let Stanford sociologist Mark Granovetter explain the science behind it all in this great podcast episode with Malcolm Gladwell) but the basic principle goes a little something like this:

We’re all driven by peer pressure.

And when it comes to peer pressure, each one of us has a threshold.

That threshold — how likely we are to go against the crowd — is driven by the number of people who have to do something before we do it too.

For example, if one person starts taking a new approach to something, they are easy to ignore or just write off as a crazy person.

But what about when 10 people adopt something new? Or 100? Or 1,000? Eventually, we cross a threshold where that first person doesn’t seem all that crazy anymore.

And the reason I’m bringing up the threshold here is because I think it especially applies to the way we act as marketers today.

Think about it: so much of what we do in this industry is driven by best practices, playbooks, and benchmarks.

Now on one hand, I guess that’s a good thing, right? Since there are a ton of best practices and benchmarks, we can spend less time trying to figure things out from scratch and more time creating.

But it also works against us in a big way when it comes to making changes.

In order to switch things up from the way everyone else does them, we need to see everyone else doing it too.

And this is the reason why we’ve been sticking to traditional marketing — because that’s how everyone else does it.

But the way everyone else does it is starting to break…

Why Marketing And Sales Might Be Broken

We spend our days tweaking forms to see if we can get more people to request demos, sending more follow ups to our follow up’s follow up to see if we can get someone on the phone to chat, and changing the images in our ads to see if we can re-target more people who didn’t end up buying.

And we do all of those things even though we hate when people do those things to us.

When you’re buying or browsing, you actively try to avoid all of that stuff.

“Can’t I just see a demo?”
“Why do I have to fill out a form to see this?”
“Don’t you have a free trial or an account you can let me play around with?”

It’s 2016. Information is free now. Marketing and sales don’t get to play gatekeeper anymore.

And our expectations of what marketing and sales get to control in the buying process has changed.

But for most businesses, their end of the buying process hasn’t changed at all.

In the on-demand world that we live in, why should someone have to fill out a form in order to talk to a sales rep? And why should a form be the thing that determines whether someone is ready to buy or not?

On our quest to automate everything in marketing and sales over the last five years, we’ve started to forget about the most important aspect of doing business: people. One to one conversations with people.

But back to the whole threshold thing…

There are already examples of companies that have broken the mold of traditional marketing and sales.

Companies like Slack, Buffer, Trello, MailChimp, Zapier, InVision, Shopify, Quip, and others. They let us buy things the way we want to buy them — on our own time.

Want to try before you buy? Go for it.
Want to buy something without ever talking to sales? Great.
Have a question and need to talk to someone? Yep. You can do that, too.

As Shopify’s chief sales scientist Loren Padelford said about the future of sales: “Our job is to do what our customers want. Customers are in control of the sales process now. We need to customize to the customer process, not to the sales company process.”

Those modern businesses believe helping is the new selling. They believe that customer experience is the new marketing. And they’ve figured out how to have 1:1 conversations at scale.

We think that there are two paths forward for businesses from here:

  1. They can stick to their guns, keep doing what everyone else has been doing, and wait for that threshold level to get higher.
  2. They can follow the lead of those modern businesses and change the way they do marketing and sales to match the way that people actually want to interact with a business today.

Which path will you choose?

This is what we’re focused on at Drift.

Drift is a messaging app for marketing and sales. Click here to learn more about we can help you grow your business.

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