A lot has changed in the last five to ten years, including a major transformation of buyers and the buying process. Changes in buyer behaviors and expectations were driven by a combination of new communication technologies (like messaging), a huge influx of information (primarily available online), and an exponential increase in the number of options in terms of products, vendors, and purchasing methods.
As a result of these developments, the balance of power between buyer and seller shifted, landing firmly in the buyer’s court. In response, marketers embraced content marketing. The intent was to create a more customer-centric buying experience with helpful content designed to move buyers through the sales funnel.
Unfortunately, while the idea was a good one, the implementation was often lacking.
In most cases, the content was used as bait to get the buyer to provide contact information. That allowed the sales team to drop the buyer into the standard sales nurturing flow. By offering a generic piece of content – a webinar or an ebook or a definitive guide to such and such – marketing felt like they’d done their job. They had provided a nugget of information that was in some way related to the product.
But as soon as the buyer had downloaded the ebook or registered for the webinar, sales would bombard them with emails and phone calls. It was the same old approach with a piece of content tacked onto the front end.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Content marketing has become more sophisticated in recent years, but it’s still not able to fully address the needs of the modern buyer. Today, instead of doling out a few pieces of gated content, marketers deliver a more comprehensive and even personalized experience. The content is better, the context is more relevant, but we’re still trying to push the buyer down those same old rigid paths.
We’re still trying to force buyers to do things our way, instead of empowering them to do it their way.
We have to remember that buyers are in charge. Until we fully recognize that, we’re missing a huge opportunity to transform the buyer experience in a way that benefits the buyer and the business. To achieve this transformation, we need to focus on creating relevant, timely, and authentic conversations that happen across the spectrum of sales and marketing interactions.
Enter conversational marketing – a holistic, buyer-centric marketing philosophy that aligns your sales and marketing efforts around a curated, content-supported, two-way dialogue with each buyer.
What’s really going on here is that marketing and sales are truly, physically coming together. Until very recently, marketing had more in common with snail mail than it did with normal conversations. You put your message out there and then had to wait a long time for confirmation that it was even received, much less understood. This time delay meant that marketing messaging changed very slowly, if at all. Contrast that with sales at its best. Great sales has always been a conversation, ideally occurring face-to-face. Now – because we can read their behavior and capture their words, we can actually listen to the customer before we “speak”. And then we can “speak” more directly to the expressed needs of the customer. And when you can respond clearly to a customer’s needs, you accelerate everything.
– John Steinert, CMO TechTarget
There are three steps to using conversational marketing to bring your sales and marketing teams together:
- Step 1: Embrace the Philosophy of Conversational Marketing
- Step 2: Understand the Nature and Role of Influential Buyer Conversations
- Step 3: Align Marketing and Sales Through Sales Enablement
Let’s take a closer look.