Audience Engagement – Why Sales and Marketing Have Changed Forever

Sales and marketing. Marketing and sales. So close, and yet, so different. The unique, sometimes contradictory principles of these two business disciplines are well documented.

There are countless treatises on this eternal conflict, many right here within in these pages. People with very big brains spend an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out how to bridge the gap between these two critical, but often conflicting business disciplines.

But are the pundits simply perpetuating a legendary feud, a culture of conflict that really isn’t relevant anymore? I mean, without this topic, what else would they write about? Are they like the dentist who doesn’t really want cavities to go away, at least not all of them?

I for one believe we can start burying the S&M hatchet once and for all. Because today, effective sales and marketing really aren’t so different. “Effective” is the key word, of course. But in the current business environment, the chasm that has always existed between those who create the brand and those who push the product seems to be closing.

In fact, the fundamental qualities of good marketing and good sales were never all that out of alignment. The most immediate goals of those practicing their respective crafts were, and that probably led to all the misunderstanding. But in the end, very similar principles applied. And whatever real differences there may have been are rapidly fading away, simply because both sides of the debate are now reporting to a new boss, one that has never been so powerful, so critical, so fickle and so unforgiving – their target audience.

THE AUDIENCE CALLS ALL THE SHOTS

In the past, we sales and marketing experts held most of the cards. Marketers pushed information to audiences through a relatively small number of communication channels – traditional broadcast, print, outdoor, direct mail, PR. Sales professionals were pitching prospects who had few, if any available options. Of course there was always competition lurking in the shadows; but they were relatively scarce when compared with today’s competitive landscape, where access to messages, promises, deals and promotions is virtually unlimited.

People just aren’t so easily persuaded anymore. The world is totally transparent to anyone who cares to look inside, and as a result, audiences of all kinds demand greater accountability from the companies they do business with.

Today there are endless options, and endless methods of accessing them. The reality is, we can no longer tell our targets anything they don’t want to hear. Because someone else is right there waiting for the chance to provide exactly what they’re looking for.

LET’S GET ENGAGED!

So what’s the answer? How can marketers and sales professionals alike get their respective audiences to say “yes”?

By engaging them.

“Engagement” is undoubtedly the word du jour of the marketing world. And while the term may not be used as frequently in weekly sales meetings, engagement has always been the goal of any good salesperson.

Just what is engagement? While there still seems to be no definitive definition, as a starting point, engagement is about building meaningful relationships with audiences (or prospects), on their terms. Engagement is all about involvement, entertainment, relevance, relationships, customer focus, listening much more than we speak, then speaking in our audience’s language rather than our own.

All of this might seem self-evident. But it’s easier said than done in today’s world of continuously shifting tastes, interests and communication/entertainment options. Both sales and marketing professionals have a lot to think about if they’re going to effectively engage their targets. And each can learn a trick or two from the other.

THREE ENGAGEMENT SKILLS MARKETING CAN LEARN FROM SALES

Nimbleness. Great salespeople have always been able to turn on a dime. They know that the prospect leads the dance, and if they are to succeed, they must be in concert with their partner, sensitive to their subtlest move and quick to turn and spin and dip whenever they’re ready. Many marketers still want to lead. They know about this engagement thing, but at the end of the day, still think they know better than the audience what the audience really wants. Learn from your sales colleagues. Give the audience what they’re asking for, even if it changes day-to-day. They decide, you provide.

Immediacy. There are no more long-term propositions, at least not in the way there once were. Everything is “now,” this moment. In fact, now is already old news. Super sales pros have always been ready to move when the time was right – before a competitor beat them to the punch. Marketers have traditionally been more deliberate in their efforts — research, develop, research again, refine, research. Take that tack today and you’ll soon be a footnote in the business history books. Think Wang Word Processors. “You snooze, you lose” is true more than ever.

Over-Service. The really great salespeople are never too proud. They’re always ready to bend over backwards for a valued customer – and hopefully enjoy a fleeting moment of customer loyalty. The successful sales pro is there whenever needed – nights, weekends, early mornings, holidays. Because that’s what customers demand. Marketers have always had it a little easier. Set the campaign in motion and watch as the audience eats it up. No more. Today, the most successful marketers are engaging audiences whenever and wherever that audience demands – in the street, on three screens, in their neighborhoods, on vacation. Don’t expect them to come to you anymore; they won’t. Go where they are and give them everything you’ve got!

THREE ENGAGEMENT SKILLS SALES CAN LEARN FROM MARKETING

Research. Marketers have always put a lot of stock in getting to know their audience, spending millions to understand just who they are, how they think and most important, what they’ll buy. Today, effective sales requires an equally inquisitive approach. Learn everything you can about your prospects – married or single; golf or tennis; Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts; where they were born and where they went to school. And of course, what matters to them in their career and their life. The more you know about your audience, the better you will be able to speak their language, and the more engaging your sales efforts will be.

Thinking Big. Master marketers have always focused on the “big idea,” the overriding brand benefits their audience values. They don’t sell a neat product, they promise a solution. Likewise, “solution selling” is all the rage these days, and for good reason. It works. Look for ways to provide big picture solutions to clients, ideally ones that encourage a long-term relationship. Don’t make their life better today. Give them the hope that it will be better tomorrow, for the next year, the next decade. Not with this sale, but with an understanding of their needs and an ongoing commitment to providing answers. That’s real engagement.

Strategy First. The most effective marketing programs have always been based on a carefully designed strategy, essentially ensuring that the right message is being delivered to the right audience in the right way, in order to achieve a desired objective. Sales has traditionally involved a bit more hip-shooting. And while “nimbleness” is listed above as an important sales skill marketers can benefit from, a strategic approach is equally beneficial for sales professionals in today’s chaotic selling environment. Before ever making the first call or sending the first email, develop specific, measurable goals, work to identify your ideal prospects, determine what’s important to them and craft your proposal appropriately. Determine just how they can be most effectively engaged and only then execute your strategy flawlessly. Plan your sale, sell your plan.

It all used to be easier, I think. People could be led to a desired outcome, even manipulated when necessary. Today it’s the smart salespeople and marketers who know, they’re the ones being led, and are willing to follow along. Ask what the audience wants and how they want it, and then give it to them. Whether it’s a brand or a product, a message or a service contract. Make sure it’s all part of an immersive experience that meets and exceeds all their expectations.

Only by being fast, flexible and completely responsive to the needs and desires of our audiences will engagement happen – and relationships thrive.

Are Your Sales and Marketing Strategies Working For You?

Have you been missing your sales target for more than a year? Are your competitors taking away most of your potential customers? Or are you perhaps simply looking for a bigger market base to sustain your business? One of the most innovative electronic sales and marketing solutions for all types of businesses could be your answer: e-commerce.

E-commerce is a one-stop online solution where businessmen like you can sell products, check inventories, promote products and services and communicate with other companies to manage your supply chain.

  • Benefits of e-commerce

In 2012, a medium-sized media company based in Ohio reported almost double income growth from the previous year when they improved their 20 online stores. It claimed that e-commerce was now their fastest-growing business.

E-commerce provides more benefits than just accepting orders. It has all the capabilities to offer a full back office support to companies and a comprehensive shopping experience to customers. The key areas of e-commerce are customer service, operations, technical systems, online merchandising and marketing. The media company exploited all these in their websites, and because of which they were able to build and accommodate more services.

E-commerce customer support provides online assistance and tutorials anytime a customer needs them. Because of the inherently fast-paced nature of e-commerce, customers are able to have their issues addressed much quicker than traditional methods.

Shopping cart is one of the most important applications in an e-commerce site. It is what customers use to view catalogs and make their purchases. It is also what connects them to the back operations and technical systems of the website. Not a few companies compete for customers by how their shopping carts look and perform. To get the best of both worlds, many of them go for custom module development and template installation.

Successful e-commerce sites make use of other features such as online content and blogs that contain tips and stories related to their line of business. This makes them more than just a shopping site, but a destination site as well.

Additionally, innovative marketing applications such as autoresponders, ad trafficking and affiliate programs help to draw traffic to a website. Businesses that are content on just selling merchandise and using minimal marketing features may find it hard to maintain and expand their clientele.

  • E-commerce gains in 2012

E-commerce has been helping many businesses find new success by making sales and marketing activities cheaper and more efficient. As more and more customers move away from physical stores to retail websites, companies are introduced to new opportunities for growth. In 2012 e-commerce sales in North America grew by 13.9% to $364.66 billion, compared to 2011′s $301.69 billion. This was according to eMarketer.com, one of the world’s leading provider of information related to trends in e-commerce and digital marketing. Furthermore they expect growth to top $409.05 billion by the end of 2013.

ComScore, another leading e-commerce analytics firm, estimated 2013′s first quarter retail sales in the US to be at $50.2 billion. Evidently there is great potential for growth for any company in e-commerce. This is supported by the fact that more people are shifting to doing business online not only in the US, but also across the Pacific.

If you are looking for ways to amplify the results of your sales and marketing strategies, try e-commerce, one of the hottest and most effective sales and marketing solutions for any business to date.

3 Keys To Efficient Sales And Marketing

“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.”

–Michael Jordon

Every business exists because it generates money. Financial performance is a relatively straight forward thing to calculate and is a result of operating performance. Operating performance, among other things, is a derivative of human performance. And one of the keys of human performance is the ability to work together efficiently.

However, there are two key business functions that have historically not worked well together: sales and marketing. If marketing and sales cannot work together, than the company’s strategy will be inconsistent and execution will be flawed.

One of the potential reasons that sales and marketing do not work well together is that management can sometimes blur the line between the two functions. Sales and marketing are very closely related, but they are different.

In many situations, sales is frequently reactive. Marketing is usually proactive. Sales reacts to the individual customer. Marketing takes the 30,000-foot view. Marketing’s role is to match the company’s capabilities with the customer wants. How often have you heard about (or experienced) a sales person who promises things to the customer that the company can’t deliver?

Producing special offerings for special customers can be done, but at what cost? Should you impose a minimum order? What other limitations should be placed on this “offering” to limit your risk? Yet, do you risk removing the value for customer by placing these limitations on this special request? Running a business based only on the wants of the customers will kill your company. In that environment, you are looking only at short-term goals. This manner of thinking will provide you with little or no substantive gain towards accomplishing the bigger company goals.

Still, you don’t want to ignore your customers either. Therefore, integrating your sales and marketing efforts is critical to your company’s success and will lead to efficiencies that pay for themselves. In today’s business landscape, sales and marketing must pull together at every level from the central concepts of the strategy to the minute details of execution.

We have taken a careful, methodical approach to researching how companies can better integrate their sales and marketing efforts. Through this process, we have discovered several methods, some more successful than others, each promising to increase motivation, efficiencies, and ultimately to enhance the bottom line. Based on our research, we believe–if an organization really wants to affect change– the following three steps are critical to successful integration:

1. Objectively assess how well sales and marketing are integrated currently. You cannot possibly know where to go if you don’t know where you are. It is important that this is done as objectively as possible, understanding that it is sometimes difficult to see the forest through the trees. If you ask the right questions and answer them as honestly as possible, you will learn a lot about the health of your organization.

2. Discover how consistently your message is being communicated. This is one of the first areas that begins to drive marketing and sales apart. The sales team is trying to close the deal anyway possible, message and rules be damned; marketing is working on crafting a specific package, regardless of the present environment. Ensuring that sales and marketing are together and “on message” should be a key area of focus if you want to integrate your teams.

3. Assess the selling process. One of the most important aspects of the selling process–and an area that is frequently neglected–is setting quantitative goals. Without the proper goals, neither sales nor marketing will be able to work towards a common objective. It will all be left to the interpretation of the individual, and that will never lead to improved teamwork. Other areas, such as pipeline management, are key to helping both sales and marketing work together.

These three areas are critical to improving your revenue. The trick, of course, is knowing the right questions to ask and then to objectively use this information to improve your situation. The benefits to this approach is that you will be making improvements to EXISTING resources. By capitalizing on your company’s intrinsic value, you can reduce costs AND increase revenue, affecting the bottom line much more quickly than extending product lines or chasing after proliferating market opportunities.