This is the third article looking at buyer trends that will influence marketing and sales in the near and foreseeable future. The two previous articles looked at the future of experience creation and the rise of BIG insight. This article looks at how buyers are seeking fulfillment in their efforts to achieve goals and what this means to the future of demand generation. (Image by Kenny Madden © All rights reserved)
Buyer Trend: On A Quest to Be Demand Fulfilled
The conventional as well as social buyers of today can be said to be on a quest to have their demands fulfilled. Demand being, for the purpose of this article, the catchall phrase to represent a buyer’s desire to have their goals realized, challenges met, problems solved, and concerns alleviated. What the convergence of the Internet and the Social Age has proffered is the ability for buyers to chart the quest for meeting their demands with much more control, participation, and engagement than in any time in history.
The significant buyer trend of the past decade has become the blinding obvious – we know that buyers are self-directing 70% to 80% of their own buying process. This trend is profoundly changing the landscape of business in macro as well as micro level ways. It is the under layers of this trend that is having the most affect on marketing and sales in terms of the thinking towards demand generation. I have emphasized thinking in this series of articles due to how trends require us to reshape our thinking. When you change the way you think about things, the things you think about change.
One of the things we need to change our thinking on – and what is meant by the under layers – is what happens when buyers find you? If our thinking is still in the context of push and generation, then there will be little difference in whether buyers found you or you found them. Their thought processes are becoming more complex and intelligent engagement is what they seek to help them get their demands fulfilled. What do buyers find – when they find you? Do they find themselves akin to being in the middle of Times Square with flashing billboards, bright lights, and the consistent horns of taxi cabs? Are they bombarded by insistent push messaging – loaded with the conventional features and benefits dogma they’ve come to loathe?
Being in the business of buyer personas for over a decade now, I’ve seen organizations still have this thinking despite having personas right in front of them. The fatal flaw being buyer personas were developed as profiles with push messaging and demand generation thinking as opposed to how to fulfill the goals of buyers. Buyers today are developing a sixth sense and becoming fairly astute at knowing the difference in how an organization is thinking. The under laying aspect of this trend is this: what buyers are seeking today is to have their own demands fulfilled - not to have your demands for generation met.
What Must CEO’s, CMO’s, and CSO’s do?
The C-Suite today can begin to look at what really is going on in its’ interactions with existing customers and prospective buyers. Questioning whether the incessant need to hit short-term quarterly results is blinding them to the need to shift their thinking. In essence, finding that the drum keeps beating loudly on urging the troops to push harder and harder. Evaluations can be performed to look at interactions and determine whether they are being used as an opening to push message or are they being made into an available opportunity for buyers to have their demands fulfilled.
CMO’s can begin to look at how to develop fulfillment models based on the demands of their existing customers and prospective buyers. Fulfillment modeling will thus become an important new competency. By fulfillment, I do not mean the mere availability of information and content as in the early days of direct marketing – where collateral was king then. I do mean that CMO's will have to lead efforts to develop an appreciable deep understanding of the demand fulfillment goals and scenarios that drive purchase decisions.
When buyers are in the 70% window of self-directed activity or in the 30% window of direct engagement, CMO’s and CSO’s can ensure that buyers are able to connect in ways that allows them to continue their quests to have demands fulfilled. As opposed to push messaging, buyers find tools and logic available to them that help them in their pursuit. What CMO’s and CSO’s have to be on guard for, especially in light of the growing role of content strategy and content marketing, is if their content is more of the same – push messaging – or is it truly serving the purpose of demand fulfillment.
Perhaps I am playing on words and semantics. I think not. My many conversations while engaged in qualitative investigative efforts is telling me that the future will require a shift in thinking on exactly what takes place when buyers find you. How organizations think on whether they are performing demand fulfillment or demand generation will be reflected in how buyers find organizations to be when they do find them. Changing thinking and getting results from that change is one of the hardest undertakings an organization can go through.
The businesses of the future who think demand fulfillment first will find a new world of opportunities opening up to them. It opens the road to creative and innovative ways to engage buyers in helping them to have their demands fulfilled. Developing fulfillment models that no longer force buyers into the tired framework of push and generation – a framework that still exists and cannot be disguised with the label of content marketing or the technologies of social business.