Thursday, November 15, 2012

Can Gay Marriage Help Your Brand? (part 2)

In my last post, I shared with you some learning I took from the recent state electoral victories for proponents of gay marriage and recreational marijuana.  To wit, each of these victories represent merely one point in organizations’ overall agendas.  Moreover, these simple yes or no questions around concrete topics allow supporters to grasp something easily defined understood.

For organizations dedicated to social change, these kinds of concrete topics serve as waypoints towards a larger goal.  However, today I plan to discuss how marketers at commercial enterprises can use this kind of thinking to help build their brands and increase sales.

In short, this kind of concrete thinking helps organizations who sell products with a longer buying cycle, especially business-to-business (b2b) products and big-ticket business-to-consumer (b2c) products such as cars.

Like social organizations, long-cycle product marketers have to think in time scales longer than the typical “buy now!” time frame of what UK marketers call FMCG: fast-moving consumer goods.  On the long end, marketers selling big contracts to governments sometimes plan on sales cycles of two years or more.  On the shorter end, auto manufacturers often assume a three-month sales cycle for the purchase of a new motor vehicle.  

Also like social organizations, these marketers recognize that their prospects will take multiple steps before making the purchase.  Typically, these steps will include recognizing a need for a new product, creating a master list of potential vendors, winnowing down the list and defining the exact specification and pricing.

I think you can see where I’m going with this.

Marketers should map out their sales cycles and look for concrete action points to associate with each step.  By encouraging prospects to take these concrete steps, the marketer can both identify them and also qualify them as to their places in the sales process.

For instance, let’s imagine that a b2b software vendor has a new product to sell.  It could create a white paper on the category as a whole and assume that anyone who orders the white paper falls into the “do I need this?” stage of the sales cycle or possibly a subsequent page.  It’s a simple yes or no question: did the prospect order the white paper?  Yet it helps establish and qualify a prospect.

After the initial “are you in or out?” question come questions that determine advancement through the cycle, such as “have you included us on your list?” (e.g. by offering a demo), “have you kept us on the list?” (e.g. by offering a comparison to competitors) and so on.

By creating a path of simple yes/no decisions, long-cycle marketers can steer consumers towards a large purchase in increments.  At the same time, the use of waypoints gives marketers a warning system to help them understand where prospects fall out of the cycle.

While the comparison between furthering the cause of gay rights and selling b2b software may seem strained at best, if it works, I say “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

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