How to use 99 Questions to solve your “marketing” problem
Senior executives always have unique perspectives about what they think drives successful sales in their business. Perhaps it would surprise you to know that despite the fact their businesses are in totally different industries, with different business models, and different types of sales people, executives usually tell me the same thing:
“I don’t really understand what my sales team is doing to find more business”.
The words aren’t always articulated in exactly that way, but I have come to understand they are talking about attracting and acquiring new customers. In a word, they are concerned about prospecting.
Internet Buyer Behavior
We can all agree that today’s Internet-driven buying process has created new behaviors where buyers assess potential solutions by doing Internet searches, viewing websites, reading social media reviews and comments, and finding analyst evaluations. Buyers no longer allow themselves to be subjected to sales prospecting tactics like cold calling and direct marketing. It’s just more difficult for sales people to attract new customers because they are typically required to use prospecting tactics that buyers find objectionable.
Ironically, the same senior executives who complain about how sales team prospecting doesn’t result in more new customers also don’t believe they need “marketing” to solve this problem. If only the sales team would just cold call more; or we send out more direct mail; or we get more business cards at trade shows; or we just get more leads from our vendor partners – then we would get more customers.
Unfortunately, this mindset doesn’t align with what buyers want, so sales teams that execute in this fashion are rarely successful. If buyers depend on searches, social media, websites, and analysts to decide what they are buying, it seems that whatever messages a firm delivers via media channels at least in part determines whether buyers will be interested in their firm OR NOT.
Some senior executives I work with have a perception that marketing doesn’t attract new customers. A 2012 survey of CEO’s by The Fournaise Marketing Group confirmed that 78% of (the surveyed) CEO’s think Marketers too often lose sight of what their real job is: to generate more customer demand for their products/services in a business-quantifiable and business-measurable way.
Given executive perception, what should firms do to boost their prospecting efforts? I believe the answer is to aggressively create and deliver information content about the value a firm’s products and/or services deliver to a customer. Yes, some of this is “marketing” – I’m not advocating against marketing, nor am I saying that firms don’t need online digital marketing capabilities (most of which are already “sunk” costs, such as a website).
However, since financial investment in marketing tactics is likely out of the question, sales leaders and their marketing counterpart(s) should consider how to use current and historical customer interactions as an innovative means to extract the value out of communications between the firm and customers about the business and its products. First, you should assess how and what you communicate with prospects and customers both online and in sales calls. Second, you must listen to what customers ask you (or ask about you) when they use Internet search, social media, analysts, or other media as “filters” to understand what’s available for them to buy.
Firms should also take away from their assessment of customer interaction the specific “answers” to the questions customers are asking – it’s building this content that drives the conversation a business has with the marketplace, and it can be used both to create marketing media channels (website, social messaging, blogs, etc.), and in customer sales calls.
A single consistent messaging strategy used by both Marketing and Sales based on value identified by the very communications that the firm and sales people already have with customers may not seem all that overwhelming or sophisticated; however, as I have previously pointed out (See my post, “I am Captain of the Obvious”), a less complex, low-cost approach may actually produce much more tangible results. Many of the questions customers ask are in fact obvious, but they are often poorly answered. Worse yet, Marketing and Sales may answer the question differently, creating a massive credibility gap that potentially leads new customers away from a business relationship.
Introducing the 99 Questions Methodology
On Wednesday, May 15 at CMSExpo, I introduced the 99 Questions Methodology, a new approach that allows firms to design a messaging strategy based on a process that evolved from my book, “99 Questions to Achieve Your Sales Goals.” After the book was published, I realized that businesses could use the 99 Questions process as a way to easily build a messaging strategy by examining how they communicated with prospects and customers. The 99 Questions Methodology is a simple way to assess how prospects and customers are guided to buy based on the content a firm produces and provides through its marketing and sales communications.
If you or your C-level executives feel that marketing does not generate new customers because you don’t believe marketing tactics work, I urge you to consider this approach – it comes directly out of your existing interactions with prospects and customers. Also, it requires your sales and marketing personnel to work together to define the questions customers ask that identify the value in your products and/or services. What could be better than a strategy that uses your existing people and resources without investing one dime in “marketing” while finding new customers?
I have published my CMSExpo presentation about the 99 Questions Methodology on the MBA4Sales.com website, where you can learn more about this amazing process. I believe a well-executed 99 Questions strategy will help you understand how to leverage today’s Internet-based buyer behavior to produce opportunities and create new customers.