I've always thought that one of the best things about working in marketing was the fact that no two days - or projects - are ever quite the same. Each one brings its own unique challenges and chances to do everything a little better than you did yesterday: always assuming that you're as keen on testing and KPI analysis as I am.
So, broadly speaking, when my alarm clock goes off in the morning, I'm usually keen to find out what the day has in store. Having said that, the results of a recent project have left me with a few questions about how much our industry really has evolved over the years. As I shall now illustrate, with a brief journey back in time…
Once Upon A Time, I Learned What To Do With Daewoo
Back in the mid-90s I was fortunate to work on the Daewoo Cars account. As a new entrant to the UK, they were keen to hit the ground running and therefore launched with no small amount of fanfare and the market-leading offer of three years free servicing to go with the three-year warranty.
Perhaps even more importantly, Daewoo commissioned some research, which revealed the fact that most people hate having to deal with the salespeople in car showrooms. Naturally, we could all have dismissed that revelation as being unhelpfully obvious, but instead we created and installed interactive booths in every Daewoo showroom, which enabled customers to identify the right car and spec for their needs in a totally non-threatening environment.
Empowered and informed, they then felt ready to engage with salespeople, having been given, in the marketing buzz-phrase of the era: 'Permission to Buy.'
Now, while I've never forgotten that early lesson in lead nurturing, I have long regarded it as being a bit of a period piece; a forerunner to the sophistication of today's techniques. However, now I'm not so sure…
Call Punxsutawney Phil, It's Groundhog Day Again
Casting modesty aside for a moment, I can only describe one of our recent projects as a text-book example of how to attract and nurture leads through a combination of targeted DM and emails.
The initial volume of leads exceeded all expectations, and the quality and structure of the content funnel ensured that we were quickly able to score a goodly number of those leads as being sales-qualified; thanks in no small part to the offer, which promised a free business consultation rather than simply a call from Sales.
Unfortunately, that was where things started to go slightly awry; as the very best salespeople - of which our client has many - earn the big bucks by closing sales and getting signatures, not by extending the nurturing process.
And so, it briefly looked as if all of our earlier successes would come to nought, as the Sales team began to report that these leads weren't actually sales-ready and pass them back to Marketing; until the client wisely flexed things to ensure that these particular leads were passed only to the very few salespeople with a truly consultative approach.
Is It Time For Marketing To Do More Of What Daewoo Did?
It goes without saying that the ability to nurture leads effectively now underpins the marketing ethos of every business worth the name. However, while we marketers may have changed, the best salespeople still employ the same time-honoured closing techniques, simply because they work.
And while we all use the phrase 'lead nurturing' these days, and have a host of fancy ways of doing it, the human psyche hasn't changed too much in the last 20 or even 200 years. We are all still put off by the notion of being sold to, and continue to seek the comfort and empowerment of being given 'Permission To Buy'.
The solution, it seems to me, isn't to re-educate and effectively de-claw effective and sought-after salespeople. It is to realise that marketing now has to encroach more than ever on what we once thought of as Sales Territory. Nurturing now needs to take people to the very brink of the decision to buy.
So when my alarm clock goes off tomorrow morning, like Bill Murray's character in Groundhog Day, I for one will be ready to do better by learning from what I did quite a few yesterdays ago.
Article first published here on 31/03/16