Marketing is traditionally defined as everything that leads up to the sale.
Our job, as marketers, is to create packaging, identity, positioning, ads, collateral and a whole host of materials designed to create a desire in the customer to buy the product. From there, the client takes over to close the deal.
Sure, there are things we do to help close the deal: point of purchase displays, direct mail, sales sheets. And we often create follow-up campaigns to wrap up after the sale.
But I’m wondering if there might be more we can do. Speaking as a former business manager, there is typically a glaring disconnect between the marketing message and the customer service experience. While the marketing message tends to change with each iteration of a campaign, customer service programs tend to stay static for several years.
I’m not saying customer service is bad, per se. But what if…(uh-oh, here he goes!)
The purpose of good marketing is to build momentum. To grab the consumer’s attention, convert that attention to interest, that interest into desire and that desire into action. That action is usually to visit the store or website.
How difficult would it be to provide front-line sales associates with a concept-driven sales message that capitalizes on that momentum? Rather than treat every sale as “winning a new customer,” can we help the sales force channel the action we generate directly into a sale?
I’m not talking about scripting here (no, I believe wholeheartedly that scripting is pure evil). But we can help extend the campaign right through the close of the sale, can’t we? My thoughts on how to do this:
1. Create a lexicon-a specific vocabulary-that will help sales associates keep in sync with the campaign.
2. Make sure the sales associates understand what benefits the campaign is focusing on (and how to sell those to the customer), and how it is bringing customers into the store.
3. Clue the associates into what benefits are most important to which demographics.
4. Make them feel like (a) they are an integral part of the campaign and that (b) the campaign was designed to make their job a little easier.
5. If you really want to get buy-in, talk to them early in the concepting or planning stage and solicit their input about customers. Then be sure to let them know that their input was invaluable to the creation of the campaign.
Imagine how much easier it would be for your sales staff if they could pick up the conversation where the marketing materials leave off, and talk to the customer as if they had been discussing the subject since the prospect first got interested in the product or service. Imagine your customer’s reaction if he walks in and your staff is able to anticipate his questions and elaborate on the promises made in your marketing.
The whole process would go more smoothly, because the customer is no longer worried that the promises were just smoke and mirrors, and the sales associate isn’t being blindsided with questions they are unprepared to answer.
That’s what happens when marketing is a pervasive force throughout the sales cycle, and not just a bid to get people through the door.