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2021 trends: Staying relevant in the age of e-commerce

April 13, 2021

In this second column of the 2021 trends series, I want to talk about the acceleration of e-commerce adoption. The pandemic forced many consumers to change their purchasing habits, and e-commerce was the lucky recipient. Techcrunch predicted e-commerce would be up more than 20%, and in the third quarter of 2020 e-commerce increased by over 30% over the second quarter.

There’s no doubt that the forced isolation, stay-at-home orders, and working from home have all accelerated e-commerce growth globally, and most marketers predict this shift is permanent.

On the flip side, we are all urging each other to buy local and support the businesses around us. The question is really: How do we take the best from each buying experience and weave it throughout the other?

As consumers, we all love the 24/7 convenience of online shopping. It’s hard not to delight in being able to do your holiday shopping in your jammies while enjoying a roaring fire at 10 p.m.
But that delight often turns to frustration when you can’t reach anyone to resolve a problem or ask a question.

On the flip side, we love being welcomed into a store or business and enjoy the personal service. But it’s frustrating when we made an effort to get there and what we want is out of stock, or they can’t help us.
On the local front, many businesses have had to reinvent how they deliver their products and services in 2020. Innovations around deliveries, curbside pickups, ramped-up websites with more functionality, and even Zoom delivery of services that had traditionally always been face-to-face. But finding ways to integrate the warmth of the in-person experience with a robust website and active social media channels will be critical for survival in 2021. “We don’t have time or the money” just won’t cut it anymore. Having a digital presence is mission-critical.

It’s time to go beyond the convenience factor for businesses that are already crushing it on the e-commerce side. Creating brand loyalty and a community of happy customers will allow you to develop a connection with your customer base that will encourage repeat purchases and word-of-mouth buzz.
The other area that needs plenty of improvement is the gap between the organization’s brand and the online experience. Convenience loses its allure when you can’t get hold of someone to answer a question or deal with an issue.

Every business needs to be paying close attention to how and where their brand shows up online. Findability goes beyond simple SEO. Getting on referral sites, digital shopping lists, and ramping up your efforts to get reviews are all going to be critical.

But it’s not all about the online aspect of the relationship. Building your brand promise and ensuring it’s delivered at every touchpoint is even more critical when you have never met your customer in person. Your brand has to be much bigger than the channel. Your brand needs to be channel-agnostic.

Another aspect of e-commerce that needs some attention is the whole concept of packaging and presentation. There’s a lot to think about in this arena. We immediately go to protecting the contents from breaking. Given the power of social media, live streaming, and influencers, the unpacking process itself should not be ignored. How do you make the opening of your package an experience unto itself?
How do you bring your brand to life if you don’t get to interact with your consumer in person? How does your brand translate to Zoom, an e-commerce site or an email interaction?

That’s the most important question we need to answer as we acknowledge that the digital revolution is here to stay. It’s filled with opportunities if we’re smart enough to seize them!

 

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.

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2021 trends: Responding to the recession

April 6, 2021

This year, the trends are far less about new channels and much more about the world around us. For the next several weeks, we’re going to examine some of the most influential trends that will shape how we approach marketing in the coming year. There certainly can be no more crucial economic trend than the recession itself.

We’ve seen marketing and media budgets slashed and longer-term strategies like brand building pushed aside so companies could move as much of their marketing spend to performance channels as possible. It’s a little like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. When your company is in panic mode, you focus on short-term survival, and everything else can wait for another day. But how long can we wait?

The uncertainty with which we entered 2021 is already taking its toll on some segments and media channels. But, of course, the pain will not be felt equally. Some markets and categories have sailed through the last year and are posting big gains. Other categories are starving for sales and have suffered incredible losses. How and where we will spend our marketing dollars is equally uneven. Many advertisers have already increased their spending on Facebook and Google. Amazon and TikTok are also winning share of budgets, as marketers prioritize audiences closer to the point of transaction.

Another big winner due to the pandemic and recession combination is online video. With the promise of 5G, consumption will continue to increase. What’s interesting about the video trends is that they are tightly tied to influencer marketing. Not only will brands be creating their own video content, but they will also be spending more money with influencers who have a strong video following.

There are some upsides as we slowly come out of the recession. Media costs have been lowered in most markets, so advertising dollars will stretch a little further. This price reduction coincides with a significant increase in media consumption. You will pay less for even more eyeballs.

We’ve known all along that the brands who remained visible, marketing to both their current customers and potential customers during the crisis, would fare better than those who went dark. This will continue through 2021. Now is not the time for your brand to be timid, especially if your competitors are dialing it back. There is market share to be captured if you’re willing to go after it.

We most likely will not experience a full economic recovery until after the mass distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. Experts suggest an April – early June timeline before everyone in the US who wants a vaccine can obtain one. The uncertainty will dissipate reasonably quickly after that, which means you have a few months left to make the most of the paralysis that some businesses are exhibiting.

But 2021 may provide some brands in a position of strength with an unprecedented opportunity for share of market growth. Many companies are going to be solely focused on retaining their existing customers. But, when people experience a significant life event, their ingrained habits are broken, and they have to establish new habits. With some smart marketing, you could be one of those new habits!

There’s no doubt that a global event like the pandemic and the sweeping recession that came along with it is going to be one of the biggest trends of 2021 and as you’ll see in the subsequent columns, the other trends, in some ways, are the ripple effect of this megatrend.

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.

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Are you a need?

March 30, 2021

We often spend time thinking about how our potential customers view our products or services, but we often focus on the offering instead of the audience considering that offer.

How would your customers classify what it is you do? Are you a luxury? A nice to have, or are you actually a necessity?

As consumers, we all got very clear about what we needed versus what we wanted in 2020. If something you offer was still in high demand this past year, you know your customers consider it an essential purchase. You should be going to market with a very different strategy for products and services that are must-haves, as opposed to being more of a “nice to have” offering.

Granted, there were some needs that were pandemic-specific. Masks, toilet paper and hand sanitizer aren’t always going to be on the top of everyone’s shopping list. But if your organization sold a lot of a specific product or service that wasn’t triggered by the most basic needs of security, safety and health, then you’ve got something that people will continue to categorize as a must-have.

The significant advantage you get when your product or service is considered essential is that you can cut to the chase. You don’t have to convince your prospects that they should buy what you’re offering. They’ve already decided that they need it. Your marketing needs to answer three critical questions that the buyer has on their mind:

  1. How is yours better than your competitors’?
  2. What are the mechanics of buying it? (Do I have to order it direct? Does it require a purchase order? How is it packaged and priced? And so on.)
  3. Is this a one-time purchase? If not, what’s the timing of recurring purchases?

The first question is all about features. In classic marketing, we often talk about not focusing on the features but instead narrowing in on the benefits. But your consumer doesn’t need to be convinced that they need what you sell; they already understand the benefits.

So you need to ignore conventional marketing wisdom and dig into the features. What does it do that the others do not? Help me understand why choosing one of your competitors’ products would be a disappointment or a riskier choice.

The second question is all about the how. In 2020 we all learned how vital it was to be very specific and directive to assist our potential customers in making the actual purchase. Even with a must-have, buyers want to understand their options and look for the most convenient purchase path. COVID-19 forced many businesses to find contactless or friction-free ways to buy. I don’t think consumers will let go of those options once we’re free from the pandemic.

The third question has a lot of elements wrapped up in it. But they are all about the investment required. In some cases it’s about the money, and in the case of services, it’s often about the consumer’s time commitment. It’s also about the quality and durability of what you sell if it’s a product. If you sell something that people will need to keep purchasing, convenience will also be a factor.

Understanding the lens through which your customers and prospects see what you sell can help you hone in on your messaging that will be most helpful to them and shorten the sales cycle. Recognizing that your audience has already decided they need this particular product or service will allow you to cut to the chase and just show them why your particular offering is the right choice for them.

 

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.

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Gaps & holes in marketing teams impact business performance

March 28, 2021

86 Percent of Chief Marketers Report Missed Revenue and Customer Acquisition 

Goals Due to Unfilled Functional Leadership Positions and Lack of Expertise

Over half of marketing leaders surveyed worldwide concede they are struggling to effectively execute multi-channel campaigns on both a global and local level, reveals the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council. 

The new CMO Council study, entitled Scaling the Value of the CMO, uncovers gaps, holes and deficiencies across key functional areas in the office of the CMO. As a result, an overwhelming 86 percent of senior marketers believe lack of leadership depth and capabilities has resulted in missed revenue, growth and customer acquisition opportunities.  

Underscoring the problem, a surprising one third of senior marketers surveyed by the CMO Council in early 2021 admit lack of resources, capabilities and effective leadership in key functional areas “consistently” impair performance of their team; over half concede this is an “intermittent” problem.

A large number of CMOs (43 percent) admit that it is “very difficult, time consuming and always challenging” to find experienced, proficient and knowledgeable functional leaders and direct reports; a further 40 percent acknowledge that it is “moderately difficult.”

“Most senior marketers say they are challenged by the time it takes to properly recruit and onboard senior functional leaders on their team,” notes Donovan Neale-May, executive director of the CMO Council, which is based in Silicon Valley. 

According to Neale-May, more than half of survey respondents say the process takes three to six months and another 15 percent indicate this can take more than six months. “There’s no doubt the office of the CMO could be quickly and effectively fortified with fractional or interim marketing leaders hired on-demand,” he adds.

To this end, the CMO Council is partnering with Chief Outsiders to offer its members on-demand outsourcing of senior marketing talent on a contract or interim basis. The CMO Council has 16,000 members in 10,000 companies across more than 110 countries worldwide. Members collectively control nearly $1 trillion of annual marketing spend. Chief Outsiders manages a large, fractional resource group of CMOs with expertise across industries, functional areas and geographies. (www.chiefoutsiders.com)  

Findings from the latest CMO Council survey, reveal an overwhelming 93 percent of chief marketers say they have had a “very positive, quite good or favorable” experience using interim marketing leaders. Not one reported a “poor” relationship and only five percent stated it was inconsistent. 

While respondents say sourcing permanent employee talent is complex and time-consuming, only about a third of chief marketers have retained experienced contractors or part time staff at the director and above level. Despite leadership gaps and holes, a surprising 41 percent of chief marketers report they have not used contractors, while 25 percent say they are assessing this option or plan to do so in 2021.

Scaling the Value of the CMO research highlighted the five main benefits of using fractional or interim marketing leaders. This included:

  • Fast ramp up and time-to-performance
  • Proven performers and doers
  • Range of competencies and capabilities
  • Domain expertise or knowledge
  • Added value thinking and leadership depth

“Clearly, CMOs are challenged to fill critical leadership roles, particularly when it comes to using digital marketing technology and actionable data to improve go-to-market strategy, customer targeting, conversion, and ongoing engagement,” notes Art Saxby, CEO, co-founder and principal of Chief Outsiders. “It is gratifying to see that over 90 percent of those surveyed said they had realized a very positive or favorable experience using interim marketing leaders in their enterprise.”

Top five areas where chief marketing officers see gaps, holes and deficiencies in their marketing leadership structures:

  • Customer journey, acquisition and conversion
  • Segmentation and personalized messaging at scale
  • Actioning on customer data insight
  • Demand generation and pipeline
  • Campaign execution and measurement

The report is based off of a survey conducted in Q1 2021 of 150 senior marketing executives. A complimentary report is available for download at: https://cmocouncil.org/thought-leadership/reports/scaling-the-value-of-the-cmo

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Get Write On It

March 25, 2021

In last week’s column, I walked you through some preparatory activities you should consider if you want to write a book to use as a three-dimensional business card, business growth enhancer and credibility tool.

This week I want to give you some hacks for actually writing the book. If you didn’t work through the prep work from last week’s column, I strongly suggest you do not embark on these suggestions until you have laid the proper groundwork.

But assuming you have, let’s talk about the work of actually getting the book written.

Decide on your format: In the nonfiction category, there are many options. Your book might be based on your personal journey in your profession or some lessons you learned along the way. You might interview people who have something in common to draw out some takeaways from their stories. You might write a business fable or a how-to book. Understanding the format you’d like your book to follow will make the creation process much more manageable.

You don’t have to write a word: Many authors are better talkers than writers. You could talk your way through each chapter and have your recordings transcribed. Many authors are very comfortable editing their work, and for some reason, that is a much more successful strategy than starting with a blank page. With today’s technology, you could record your thoughts on your phone, upload the audio file to one of the many transcription services, and have a transcription back within a day.

Don’t start from scratch: I’m guessing you already have a fair amount of your book written, even if you don’t realize it. Look through your past presentation decks, keynote speeches, articles, blog posts and even proposals to prospects and clients. It may not be in the format you want, but you may have more of the core elements created than you think.

Bigger isn’t always better: Many business books are shorter than fiction offerings. You’re not trying to create “War and Peace.” Given that you’re writing for a business audience, remember their attention span. Don’t feel like you have to pad the book to get to a certain number of pages. Many popular and successful business books are under 150 pages.

Don’t write it at all: Many classic business books were written by a ghostwriter. It’s not cheating to have someone else capture your thoughts and get them down on paper. Ghostwriters are brilliant interviewers. They can help you build your outline, decide on your book’s structure, and then, typically through a series of conversations, extract the book from your stories, experiences, and teachings. Many authors will have a ghostwriter create the first draft, and then the author edits that draft to make sure it sounds just like them. Skilled ghostwriters can not only capture the information you want to convey in your book, but they can mimic your style and tone perfectly.

Know why you’re making the effort: Most of us are not going to make a living by being an author. Our books are a means to an end. Being very clear about how you’re going to leverage your book once it’s complete will help make many decisions as you write and edit your masterpiece.

Being an author doesn’t have to just be a dream. No matter how busy you are or how insecure you feel about your writing ability, if you want to write a book and can already envision the incredible value it can provide your business, you’ll find a way to make it happen. Hopefully, some of these author hacks will serve you well as you sit down to capture the book that only you can create.

I look forward to reading it!

 

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.

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Don’t start on that book quite yet!

March 16, 2021

Being the author of a business book that ties to your company’s core offerings or philosophies has been a very effective business growth strategy for many business leaders and owners. Beyond that, being a published author is an aspiration shared by many business luminaries.

Maybe even you?

If you’ve always wanted to write a book but have dismissed it because it felt so daunting, I’d like to offer up some strategies that will allow anyone to write a book worthy of being on someone’s nightstand or bookshelf. Let’s start with some essential steps that will set you up for success, long before you type your very first word.

Know your reader: To write a compelling book, you need to understand who you’re talking to with every word. Imagine you are having dinner with three other people, telling them stories that are the key pillars to your book. These three people are entirely engrossed in the conversation because it is so spot-on relevant to them. Who are they? Why is your book’s message so important to them?

If you can, create personas or find stock photos that represent these people. When I wrote “Sell With Authority”, I had three specific clients in mind, and I wrote the book just for them.

Don’t overcomplicate it: Once you know your readers, what is the key takeaway you want to leave with them after they finish your book? Not takeaways – one takeaway.

Most enduring business books have a single core message. Not 12 messages, not a million different points of view. Once you know your core takeaway, the rest of the book is just proof points, examples, or how-to tips that all support that core message.

Draw the blueprint: When someone wants to build a house, they don’t just start digging or nailing boards together. They create a blueprint, so they understand what they’re trying to accomplish. For your book, that blueprint is an outline. The mental exercise of creating the outline allows you to be mindful of the book’s flow.

It’s much easier to have a map before you start the journey of writing the book. It will help you identify gaps that you hadn’t thought about, keep you from taking too many detours once you start writing, and hold that single message top of mind.

Set your writing schedule in stone: Even people who love to write find writing a book a bit intimidating. You’ll find a million distractions to keep you from your keyboard if you don’t protect your writing time. The age-old advice is to write for at least 15 minutes every day. That may work for you. Or your preference may be more like mine: four-hour blocks, twice a week. Some people love to get up at the crack of dawn to write. Others are more inspired late at night.

You also need to understand what kind of environment you need. Can you write at the office during the workday? Do you need absolute isolation and silence? Can you throw in some earbuds and work in a bustling coffee shop?

No matter what time or location suits you best, you need to block the time off on your calendar, reserve the space if needed, and make those calendar entries unmovable.

Get an accountability buddy: Find someone who will hold you to honoring that writing schedule and ask for updates on your progress. A good accountability buddy will ask for proof (“Send me the pages you wrote today or an updated draft”) to keep you on task.

 

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.

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Is your brand resilient?

March 9, 2021

Doing the hard work of figuring out your brand and brand promise is just the beginning of the journey. When we work with a client to develop their brand, we warn them that their real work has begun once they make those initial decisions. Breathing meaning into a brand is a lifelong effort.

If you don’t truly ground your brand in a solid foundation and let it take root, then it becomes a marketing tagline or campaign that fades from the consumer’s consciousness in a nanosecond. On the flip side, when a brand is more than just a catchphrase and actually influences the company’s most significant decisions, it can be one of the greatest differentiators possible.

Because your brand (not your logo) should be evergreen, it’s vital that you make sure your brand is resilient enough to stand the test of time. Here are some traits of a brand that is built to last.

Based on reality: It should go without saying that when you develop your brand, it needs to be truthful. It needs to reflect who the organization is. It’s a promise, and it’s pretty tough to keep an inauthentic promise. Sure, you can fake it for a brief time, but it’s impossible to sustain. Remember that the consumer is jaded and is looking for evidence that it’s just for show. The only way to earn their trust is by living out your brand with 110% consistency. No one is that good of a faker.

Values-based: Every organization has foundational values, whether they’re identified and expressed or not. They often are the same values as the founder, but that doesn’t mean they’re woven through the entire company. A strong brand honors and elevates the values and bases many of the company’s policies and procedures on them.

Built with the customer in mind: A brand understands who they serve and how they add value to that customer. The more enthusiastic and committed the brand is, the more enthusiastic its customers are in return. This mutual loyalty is an incredible financial advantage to a business, and a strong brand helps cultivate that love fest.

Adaptable: If a brand is meant to be evergreen, it means the brand has to be adaptable. Survival requires the ability to shift as culture and realities evolve over time. When you think about any long-lasting brand, they look, behave and serve differently than they did at the moment of their origin. They’ve remained relevant by adapting to the changing times.

As true internally as externally: No strong brand can be two-faced. Remember that a brand promise is kept or violated by the employees of the brand. It’s pretty unrealistic to expect people to perpetuate a lie, which is how it will feel if the brand values aren’t honored internally. If you think your consumers are skeptical, your employees are even more so. Unless they’re fresh out of school, they’ve probably worked for a company that professed to be something to the outside world but showed up very differently to them. You have to earn their trust before they’ll help you earn your consumers’ trust.

A genuine brand that guides your organization, attracts right-fit customers to you, reassures your current clients that you’re the right choice, and allows you to gain market share is a powerful asset. Most of us are not running companies the size of Coca-Cola, but it is worth noting that their brand is valued at $84 billion.

There’s no reason your brand, if it’s built to be resilient, can’t deliver an incredible value to your organization as well. You just need to build and nurture it wisely.

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.

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Does being negative generate positive results?

March 2, 2021

In last week’s column, we looked at why so many of the political ads take an aggressive, negative stance rather than exalting the candidate’s platform, past performance or beliefs. The data shows that the negative ads are effective, so we endure them every year through the election cycle.

But what about using negative ad tactics for nonpolitical advertising? Does it still work? The data is far less conclusive. We expect political candidates to trash-talk their competitors, but it seems like we have a different standard for brands. People are drawn to brands that they can connect with and that share some of their same core values. In general, we hope our marketing builds a bond that makes our consumers proud to buy what we have to sell.

In the ideal world, they feel as though using our product or service says something about them.

For example, when Dawn started promoting that it was the product used to save/clean up animals after an oil spill, it was a game changer for them.

Their campaign Dawn Saves Wildlife achieved the highest ROI of any commercial in the home care industry and scored them an off-the-charts consumer equity index score of 168.

We love brands we can love and connect with, and we love it when our dollars support something we believe in. Despite that, taking a negative approach can be effective if it’s done well. The nuance here is that it can’t be vicious or mean-spirited, like political ads.

Here are some ways you can generate positive reactions to a negative campaign.

Taking on your competitor: If you’re going to go head to head with a competitor and either name them explicitly or make it clear who you’re talking about, you need to tread carefully. Using humor or a lighter tone will soften the audience’s reaction to your attack. We’ve seen this in the mobile phone space.  With quirky characters and catchphrases, they poke at their competitors, but with a light touch.

Take on an issue: Another way to put a positive spin on a negative is to point out a risk or social issue. We see medical commercials and nonprofits paint a grisly picture (like those sad, abused dogs in the SPCA spots) and then give us an opportunity to help right the wrong or avoid the symptom or disease. The power of these negative spots is that we can do something to avoid or fix what is broken.

Show what might happen: There are plenty of spots that use this strategy of showing us the consequences if we fail to take action or if we make the wrong choice. Political ads take this to an extreme, but many brands go down this path as well. The Rid-X spot that shows how a little girl’s garden party birthday was ruined because her dad didn’t use Rid-X is a perfect example of this strategy.

As you consider using one of these negative strategies, be mindful of your brand. It has to be authentic and in alignment with your organization’s values. Not every brand can step into this negative space and pull it off. Beyond your brand, you have to think about your audience as well. Some are going to embrace that negative tone, and others are going to find it off-putting.

Really smart marketing communicates and resonates. It not only tells the audience who we are, but it tells them how we are a good fit for them.

Keeping that in mind as you explore using one of these negative-toned strategies will help you decide which one, if any, is a good choice for creating a connection that will hopefully lead to ongoing sales and brand loyalty.

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.

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If you can’t say something nice…

February 23, 2021

It’s inevitable.

During every election cycle, I shake my head in dismay at the tactics taken by candidates at every level of government in their campaign ads. I hate the shouting, the hyperbole aimed at their opponents, and the ridiculous imagery that goes along with the words. They are everything we as marketers have been taught to avoid because of how offensive it is.

The problem is, they’re effective.

Many studies have been done that demonstrate that negative ads specifically tied to political campaigns are more memorable and have a more substantial impact on viewers.

Interestingly, a negative ad about the candidate you strongly support reinforces your buying decision to vote for that candidate. Our reaction is to be defensive on behalf of our candidate and protect them with our vote. An accidental downside for negative ads is that you can inadvertently activate your opponent’s base to go to the polls and vote.

When the studies say that negative ads are effective, they aren’t necessarily saying they help the candidate directly get more votes. It has been proven that they are more memorable, increase voter turnout, and are stickier.

Several of the studies found that a negative frame is much more persistent or stickier than a positive one. If an ad comes at an issue negatively, but voters are later reminded of the policy’s positive aspects, they’ll still think it’s a bust. And if an ad presents a favorable view about a policy or issue, but later ads focus on its downsides, the voters’ positive perceptions will be swept away, and a negative one will take its place.

Once we think of a glass as half empty, it’s difficult to remember it is also half full. Our brains are hard-wired to seek out and remember negative information.

One of the most interesting aspects of the studies was when they looked at candidate or party ads versus ads placed like political action committees or PACs. Ads directly from the candidates were twice as effective as PAC ads. Whether it’s the “I approved this ad” endorsement or that the PAC ads tend to be even more extreme in their negativity, they are far less effective.

What does this mean for us as marketers? Should we start attacking our competitors in our ads and other marketing materials? Should we re-purpose their negative Yelp or Google reviews as a way of earning someone’s business?

Thankfully, the answer is a resounding no. While negativity plays well in the political arena, it does not perform the same in the marketplace.

Remember what our moms used to tell us when we said something negative about one of the kids at school. “Talking badly about someone says more about you than the person you’re talking about.”

It turns out that our moms were right again!

When we directly attack our competitors, we weaken our position. We come off looking vindictive and petty. The audience may find the feud entertaining, but they will also feel it is mean-spirited. Much like the accidental impact of negative political ads, the attack ads will also reinforce the loyalty and buying decisions of many of the customers who prefer the attacked brand.

But we should be able to help our prospects compare our product and services, shouldn’t we?

Absolutely. We just need to do it from a different angle.

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.

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When sales slow down

February 16, 2021

As our country works to climb out of the recession, sales in many industries have been sluggish at best. Many sales teams are struggling to get calls returned, and even when they get the opportunity to talk with a prospect, they often aren’t getting too far.

The uncertainties of the economy, coupled with the pandemic, are stalling many sales. How can marketing help keep the sales team in the running when the prospects are running cold?

One of the nuances of marketing that often gets overlooked is the “be interesting, not interested” maxim.

Our marketing efforts often make it clear that we are interested in the prospect. We want them to buy something from us. When we show up wearing that intention on our sleeve, it’s easy for them to tune us out, unsubscribe to our emails, or ask us to stop calling.

When sales are flowing more quickly, it’s easy for us to miss the consequences of that mistake. But when everything is stalled, we need to earn the right to keep talking to our prospects. The way we do that is by being interesting. It looks incredibly simple to do, and yet many marketers fail miserably.

Why? Because they are not patient enough. The “be interesting, not be interested” works because the prospect doesn’t feel any pressure. When someone isn’t ready to buy, the only way they’ll tolerate our continuing communication is if we’re interesting to them. The minute they feel like we’re trying to close the sale, they’ll walk away.

To be interesting, you need to:

Be helpful: This is the most effective and easiest way to be interesting. But it’s one that many marketers are leery of because they don’t want to give away their secret sauce. Smart marketers know that when they give away everything they know, it creates a connection that leads to a shorter sales cycle and a bigger sales total.

Going out of your way to create helpful content, be available to answer questions, or point your prospect to a resource they can use are all ways you can earn the right to stay in touch.

Know something the prospect does not: When someone knows something we don’t, we find that intriguing. This is where industry data, research, case studies, how-to blog posts, and insider information prove incredibly useful. If you keep serving up interesting tidbits that give them an edge, they’ll keep listening.

Make an introduction: Odds are many people within your organization have powerful connections and collaborators. Maybe they served on a board with an influential individual, or it’s a client you’ve had for years. But many of your prospects would greatly appreciate being connected with someone in the industry who could help their career or be valuable to their company.

When someone trusts us with one of their contacts, we know they’ve, in essence, called in a favor on our behalf. That creates a sense of gratitude and the need to reciprocate in some way in the recipient of the introduction. That’s a powerful connection that will serve you well as you work to maintain a relationship with the prospect.

The most significant danger to this strategy is our own impatience. With a reluctant prospect, we need to wait until they clearly indicate to us that they’re finally ready to hear about our product or service.

In a time when we can’t offer special pricing or some other incentive to speed up the sale, we just need to keep things interesting!

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.

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