I’d like to oversimplify the buying cycle for a moment. A buyer goes through six basic stages:
1. The realization that the seller exists.
2. This sounds interesting/good.
3. Let’s talk. (This does not necessarily require an actual conversation. When I go to Amazon’s website, I am ‘talking’ to Amazon).
4. I could use this.
5. Wow, I need this.
6. Here’s my money.
No sale can take place without a conversation (actively or passively). For any company with an active sales force, virtually no sale (certainly no first sale) can take place without a conversation. Therefore, marketing’s first job should be getting a potential buyer to decide to talk with the selling company. Nothing else matters. Additionally, in most B2B situations, a prospective buyer can’t understand the seller’s offering until a conversation takes place.
Therefore, marketing geared to lead generation would be best used focusing on enabling a prospective buyer to talk with a prospective seller. Despite this, most marketing is focused on the sixth stage – here’s my money. When the message is focused on stage six, and the first five stages haven’t been fully developed, the message has no chance doing anything other than commoditizing a company. That doesn’t mean people won’t buy – people buy commodities every day. It means that the marketing efforts are contributing to driving down margins – not the ideal role of marketing.
What should you do about it? Stop trying to convince me (or anyone else) to buy your offering before you’ve convinced me that we should talk. Tell your prospective buyers how they will benefit by talking with you, and, more importantly how they will be hurting themselves if they fail to talk with you. Do that and you will generate more leads, and you’ll see the extraordinary power of effective marketing.