To find a solution to a problem, most of us need to engage in a dialogue with a solution provider. As a solution provider, you need to find people with a problem who can use your particular brand of solution and then engage them in a dialogue about why you have something that will meet their needs. Whether you are solution-searching or solution-selling, the nature of the dialogue is essential to the delivery of the right solution.
So why are so many lead-generation efforts so one-sided? As marketers and salespeople today we can leverage all of the “big data” available on our prospects from a mind-numbing array of data providers and sources, covering everything from consumer transactions to detailed business firmagraphics to complex analytical trends. We can analyze this data in a myriad of ways, create powerful predictive models, develop intricate and highly customized and relevant segmentation and strategic messaging paradigms, employ sophisticated lead-scoring routines, deliver lead-based information to the sales force just in time across all possible channels and platforms and deliver just-in-time, pre-arranged or triggered communications across any desired channel, medium and platform with high degrees of relevancy and personalization to our prospects during every step of their “customer journey.” But unless we are engaging in a dialogue, a true two-way communication, about the nature of their needs and challenges and helping them clearly see each potential step required to reach their goal or destination (along their customer journey), we risk losing their attention, interest and loyalty to and mindshare and wallet share around our brands. We risk losing a relationship that can only be developed, maintained and evolved through dialogue.
So what is true dialogue? It’s the fine art of listening, answering and asking questions, receiving and making suggestions in a way that focuses on delivering a solution that not only solves the problem at hand but also adds value. As a customer or prospect, you as a marketer may know a great deal about me, namely, my interests, demographics, psychographics, transactions, affiliations, proclivities derived from social listening and analysis, my search patterns on the Web, my typical method of communication, my financial and credit profile, etc. But you don’t really know about my needs, my challenges, my plans and what’s involved in getting from A to B until you ASK me, until you engage in a dialogue with me, be it electronic or verbal.
Nurturing me as a prospect does not mean sending me multiple emails, texts, feeds, ads or pieces of mail, or making calls that promote the product/service/solution of the month, no matter how personalized the communication. Nurturing me means communicating with me in earnest to ask about my needs and challenges, telling me why your brand might be helpful and giving me a variety of options for engaging in dialogue with you and then continuing a relevant conversation in my medium of choice. Until I have either sought information about you or have had the opportunity to review information about you, I do not want to know how much you know about me. But once I have engaged I expect you to be as fully knowledgeable as possible, because if I think your solution is an option, I want to know you have listened and understand as much about my need(s)/want(s) as possible.
A mentor once told me that a brand is the sum total of a customer’s experience with a company and that the whole of the brand is greater than the sum of its parts. If this is true, then the brand is represented during every customer or prospect interaction. And I would argue that these interactions are either fostering dialogue by focusing on a solution to my problems, by focusing on my need(s) and wants(s) or they are not and are probably focused on promoting your brand’s “flavor of the moment.” By means of our interactions, your brand is either making it clear that your solution is relevant to me or it is not.
To this end, fostering, i.e. nurturing dialogue at every interaction or “touch point” will enhance the relevancy of your brand and solution. If I first engage social networks to inquire about your solution, a meaningful invitation to dialogue will make it more likely that I continue the conversation. If I then engage on your website or then even send a message with an inquiry (email, messaging, SMS, etc.), I will then expect answers to my inquiries and another meaningful invitation to continue the dialogue. If the electronic dialogue has been positive and fulfilling, perhaps I then am ready to indicate that I am seriously considering a purchase. I could call your company or you could call me or we schedule an appointment or I could even show up at your location. If this happens, then you have effectively “nurtured” me to the point that I now enter into a truly verbal dialogue. As long as the verbal dialogue now mirrors and references the previous conversations, and as long as it focuses on the relevancy of the solution for addressing my problem/need/solution, chances are that my likelihood of now becoming a “qualified lead” and purchasing are much higher than they were in the electronic nurturing world. Call me “old-fashioned,” but I believe there is still great power in the art of talking.
Once a purchase takes place, even if no “lead” was involved in the purchase, your brand’s attempt to maintain and enhance the dialogue can be very powerful. If I have purchased, it is now your opportunity to use dialogue to make sure that the solution is working for me and to explore any other problems/need(s)/want(s) that I may have. It is also your opportunity to provide a potential enhancement that may make your solution even more helpful. These opportunities for “generating leads” for onboarding, up-sell and cross-sell can result from a smart dialogue strategy, not to mention the potential benefits of increasing customer satisfaction, loyalty and value.
No matter how hard I try to avoid it, I am often wont to badly paraphrase clichés. So please allow me to do it again to summarize. If you want to “nurture” my relationship with your brand and “lead” me to your brand’s solution, then have a meaningful dialogue with me. In other words, (here it comes): [Don’t walk in front of me because I may not follow and don’t walk behind me because I may not lead…just walk besides me…] I hope you get the point. If not, let’s talk. I look forward to it!
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