To win over customers, you’re going to have to engage them in conversation on their terms. That’s why you should read our conversational marketing guide!
When over 41% of your buying process involves prospective buyers snacking online, your business needs to know how to make conversation. It might just be your greatest competitive advantage.
To succeed, you can’t leave it to chance that customers will show up at your door. You will need to plan, populate, orchestrate, automate, watch and tweak your conversations; not just once, but time and again.
This conversational marketing guide offers instruction on how to engage with existing and prospective customers in conversation—profitably.
Business conversation is about..
winning customers by mastering the art of creating profitable conversations with people that matter to your business repeatedly, at scale.
In business, social media marketing is about mastering conversational marketing and understanding what your customers want to talk about. Why? Because, suppliers have an exceptional understanding of their own subject and any content related to it. What they lack is the contextual understanding of who their audience is, what their prospective buying audience is trying to do, what they care about, how they frame their challenge—and where they go to look for a solution.
Defining conversational marketing
We define conversational marketing as an interchange of opinions and ideas between an individual with a job to be done and a company or professional able to offer a product or service that will help them to get the job done better.
Like any conversation between two or more individuals or entities, your sales conversation must be themed around a topic of interest to both parties, predicated on the ability of both parties to listen and respond in a personalized way at appropriate times.
Its purpose is to create new customer relationships, one profitable conversation at a time, at scale. This conversational marketing guide will help you implement conversational marketing for your business.
Learn about Conversational Marketing
To reach your business goals you need to know your customers and their demands intimately. Your prospective buying audience won’t knock on your door wearing a badge that says—‘I want to buy what you’re selling.’ Marketers have to somehow categorize the people that will ultimately become buyers; or have influence over the buying decision they care about in order to focus their campaign efforts towards the most attractive groups.
A Buying Persona is a useful theoretical marketing concept used to develop an appreciation of your audience. It’s a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers. It’s used to help marketers visualize the different types of people in their audience(s) appreciating that people want different things.
THE EVENTS THAT MAKE A CUSTOMER
Consider this: In the last 8 hours, someone somewhere has just experienced an event in their life that’s caused them to identify a situation they want to resolve… and this has led to a plan to buy something. You need to understand what the life events that are ‘making customers’ for your business are. What events create a compelling undesirable emotion that an individual can no longer live with?
You know the value your business brings to its customers – but are you sure? One of the most common mistakes businesses make is to presume what customers value about them is constant, and the same as how they see it themselves. It’s rarely the case.
One exercise used to help companies understand their customers is for an external consultant to take business and sales leaders along to their own customers and interview them. An independent consultant can ask ‘silly questions’ that business executives of a company are expected to know such as – “Why did you buy from this company?” or “How would describe what this company does?”
DEFINING MARKETS WITH ‘JOBS-TO-BE-DONE’
An important tool for marketers is to formalize the ‘job’ an individual wants to do, and to understand what prompted them into action. A useful way of defining the value your products or services can bring to customers is to think in terms of – “What job did the person want to do and what were they looking to ‘hire’ to get the job done better?” Check out Jobs-To-Be-Done method by Clayton Christensen.
Another way to scope your customer value is to ask yourself and your team the simple question: ‘What SUPER-POWER do you give your customers?’ Then, you can get this validated by interviewing customers (without leading the witness!)
CREATING JOB STATEMENTS
Here’s a useful way of formalizing what customer value your prospective buyers are searching for – and therefore what your ‘tool’ or solution can bring them. Use it as part of your customer interview process to capture their feedback in a structured way. It’s called a job statement and it’s written down in the form of:
I want to hire a [product/service]..
…so I can [gain reward/remove pain].
I always recommend that technology companies replace User Stories with Job Stories because they are so much more specific. Listing out job statements will help your business to understand how to develop relevant content to articulate your offer and capabilities. It will also help you to categorize prospective buyers into communities of buyers that share a common job interest.
Following the logic of this ‘Job-To-Be-Done’ approach, it makes sense that your competitors aren’t solely those companies offering the same type of product or service as the one you’re offering, but ANY SUPPLIER that helps to get ‘the job’ done.
For example, new competitors to office laser printers might include email, marketing service providers and other options that solve the same problem of communicating data in a different way. Some—or all—of these might be perceived by the prospective buyer as relevant ‘alternative’ buying options.
Any solution that ‘does the job better’ and takes money away from your business in doing so, is competition.
If you want to attract new customers, you need to be in the right place at the right time. When people search for products and services, they don’t do it indefinitely – such activities are time-bound. So, next on our list is the subject of places. Central to any inbound marketing agenda is an appreciation of the places people go to find answers to their questions, and the sort of media they’re likely to use.
The conversation you want to have can be carried in different forms of media and sometimes, the depth of content and subject-matter can dictate a certain format. Snapchat, TikTok and animated gifs for example can be useful soundbite styled messaging—good for viral marketing—but if you need to explain a concept, perhaps a video is better – and, if it demands several minutes of explanation, podcasts might appeal more.
All businesses these days need to map out the places where they expect to engage with customers in conversation and build this into a plan of communications activities for each place. Content components might include webinars and events, videos, social media, their Search Engine Optimization (SEO) agenda and other such elements that contribute to their business generation and promotional efforts.
Conversations matter because they nurture and coach prospective buyers through every point in the buying process. Designing a ‘conversational path’ for your business isn’t terribly difficult but it does help to become familiar with the key steps.
Conversational Paths are the central building block of B2B Conversational Marketing. As the term suggests, a Conversational Path is the subject-matter oriented thread that links the different stages of the discovery and buying process; leading to the eventual sale of an offering – and beyond. Your Conversational Path is important because it contextualizes how prospective buyers navigate a sea of content to find your business and its offering.
DESIGNING A CONVERSATION PATH
A Conversational Path flows across the different stages of the discovery and buying process; leading up to the eventual sale of an offering – and beyond. It’s important because it contextualizes how prospective buyers navigate a sea of content to find your business and its offering. It’s arguably the most compelling competitive differentiator your business has, but has yet to harness.
Steps to building your conversational path include:
1. Storybook—Answer the most important questions that curate the story of your business into something that everyone in your team can explain.
2. Lens—An exercise in testing your value proposition, to remove distortions in your understanding of your business offer.
3. Path—This is the point that your team works through the stages from events to offerings; formalizing its conversational path.
4. Map—Next, you will build out a summary visualization of your attraction and engagement articles; determine your best Call to Action (CTA) options.
5. Planner—And finally, you will produce a marketing plan that includes advertising and proposition, SEO, social, PR, research, sales method and product innovation.
For more detail on this process (and workshop notes), either contact us or read our e-book!
Content is King. You will need to produce content that draws a focus on the key phrases your prospects and customers are searching for in order for them to find you. It’s sometimes helpful to focus on no more than three key-phrases that you expect customers to be googling. Normally, the main key-words of the search are captured on web-pages (one page dedicated to each subject supplemented by guides, videos and blogs that tell the story you want to convey), always adding to your search optimization score!
There comes a point when you’ll want all of that effort that goes into creating and publishing content to turn into fruitful opportunities to engage with your audience – and that’s where your epic content article comes in. It’s the premium content that presents your stem subject-matter-expertise to an adoring crowd of people who are desperate to listen to what you have to say and will hover on every word to ensure they haven’t missed anything – or at least, that’s what you’d hope will happen. Check online and you’ll find there’s a tremendous amount of FREE content available to people online these days THEY DON’T NEED TO REGISTER FOR. t’s a known fact in business marketing that the biggest challenge is to get browsers to become web surfers to become buyers. How will you encourage your audience to commit to an action? There are a relatively small number of potential epic mediums available to you, so you’ll need to decide which one is best for you. Let’s explore some of them now.
Examples of epic content might include:
eBook or Guide – Like this guide itself, you could produce a large content story that guides your audience through a topic they’d like to understand better.
Webinars – You might elect to produce a series of webinars that explain how your product or service brings value as the best solution to get a job done better, or provide insight into the subject at the heart of what you do.
Video Training Courses – You could create a string of video courses to create an ‘Academy’ for your audience, helping them to learn how to ‘get the job done better’ and maybe even showing them how to use your product or service to accomplish to task!
Podcasts – Depending on the nature of the content, you could produce a series of podcasts that dig into the detail of your subject.
Becoming an authority for your subject using blog articles and hero content
The content of blog articles, webinars, e-books and videos (etc.) should focus on the long-tail search terms, the very detailed long-hand description of what you offer that pinpoints the place in the market where you compete, where your offer is the strongest.
DESIGNING CONTENT AROUND SEARCH TERMS – CREATING CONTENT POTENTIAL CUSTOMERS CAN FIND
In terms of a basic logic tree for your website structure then, you should be looking at a three-tier model:
1. Offering Solution Page – The page you use to promote ‘why you’ for your offer. This page is all about you and your offer. You can afford to be positive in your language exposing why you are the best solution for your customer.
2. ‘Guide to…’ Authority Page – This is the page you use to explain the subject-matter content so you can be an authority on the topic. That means your blog articles, videos, social posts etc. should be categorized into your subject themes and the category in question should be used to filter the relevant articles on your authority page. It’s good to produce a one page guide for your subject because it can attract search engine interest (search engines like google can only index online content!).
3. Articles and eBooks – The pages you create to supplement your authority page. One of the best options is to write an ebook on your subject and author an associated landing page optimized for the search terms found in the ebook. This should then link to your authority page.
Your value proposition to customers has to be clear, and really get to the heart of what makes you special. This needs to be reflected in the conversational paths you create.
DESIGNING YOUR PROPOSITION
The author of one of the most famous business books ever – Geoffrey Moore – came up with this useful approach to distilling value propositions into a lift statement. It goes like this:
For [target audience]
Who [description of undesirable situation]
Our product is [new product category]
That [what the product does, the outcome it brings]
Unlike [alternative solutions]
Our product [how it solves the need better than the alternatives]
DESIGNING YOUR CUSTOMER BEHAVIOR
Successful innovations design their customers. When you see innovation as a mechanism to build and enhance customer competencies and capabilities, you make customers more valuable to YOU.
As author Michael Schrage of MIT Sloan’s School Centre for Digital Business puts it – Making customers better, makes better customers
What happens when the focus of a business becomes to evolve the behavior of someone to do something? If it results in a behavior that causes a group of buyers to depend on your product, service or offer to facilitate their human capital, then you have built in a dependency.
When Henry Ford created a motor car for the masses, he wanted to give them a way of getting around: it was about the mass production of the human capital capability of driving. And when Google created ALEXA, they wanted you to trust your mobile phone for the advice it gives: leading you to rely ever more on its content.
These innovations TRAIN YOU as a buyer to behave differently.
What human capital enrichment are you able to offer? What is the customer behavior YOUR BUSINESS is designing? Understanding the behavior you want your customers to display becomes a powerful marketing weapon. All you need to do then is to train them on how and why they should embrace the behavior you’ve in mind for them!
The outcome of any conversational marketing program should be a predictable sales pipeline and efficient sales and marketing processes that focus sales effort on the most profitable customer conversations. That means, you will need to think about delighting and expanding existing accounts, not merely focusing on the creation of new customers – knowing that it costs five times more to win a new customer account than sell a new product to an existing customer!
THE CONVERSATIONAL MARKETING GUIDE
The Authoritive Book on the subject of Business-to-Business Conversational Marketing
Written by Ian Tomlin, CEO of Newton Day – Available on Apple iBooks and Amazon Kindle
Interested in B2B Technology Marketing? This eBook on B2B Conversational Marketing aims to help you discover smarter ways of attracting, keeping, and growing customers by making every sales conversation profitable.
This special edition includes WORKSHOP TOOLS that helps you design a personalized internal Conversational Path
Get started on your journey to profitable conversations
Download our free Workshop Primer to develop your own conversational paths along with your team.
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