FirstMark Capital yesterday hosted an Online Marketing Summit for our portfolio companies and friends in the community. The goal was to bring together the latest thinking across a variety of functions (SEO, SEM, Email, Community, Social, Automation, and others) and to improve the overall fluency of our companies regardless of their field. If I were to summarize everything I learned at the event, it was to “Stop Selling, Start Giving”.
The Internet has democratized customers’ abilities to learn about new products, instantly provide feedback, and share their experiences with others. The traditional model where sales controlled the product message to buyers, carefully built relationships, and used those relationships to close deals has been permanently broken. One way marketing strategies can now be easily sidestepped by a user that self-selects how to use products and research decisions on his or her own. As a result, marketing’s role has changed to find buyers when they are ready to make a decision based on their OWN actions. Steven Woods from Eloqua calls it “Digital Body Language”. By reading the Digital Body Language, sales can step in at an appropriate and desired moment to facilitate the close of a deal at the right moment of intent.
What does it mean to “Stop Selling, Start Giving”? By that, you should try to begin the dialogue with a customer with a value proposition and an insight that addresses a problem they have. If they don’t have a problem, they don’t need your solution. If they do, actively help them understand the PROBLEM better, not your PRODUCT better. One tactic could be a whitepaper, another could be giving away your product for free initially, another could be hosting a community forum where experts comment on industry issues. In addition, by actively participating in the customer pain and facilitating their dialogue, you gain a precious opportunity to subtly influence and learn from the dialogue. Transparency exists whether you want it or not – embrace it!
By the act of giving, you’ll begin to engage a prospective customer in a series of activities. Each of those activities can be measured online and used to decode where a customer is in their buying process. Are they just exploring the web site? What sections? Have they downloaded a couple of specific whitepapers? Now moved to using the product? Asked for some help? These data points can be mapped to a buying cycle where you can appropriately insert yourself to a sales activity. Done well, you can tie all of these data into one continguous funnel that starts with first contact at the top and closes with a sale. But it all starts by giving, not selling!