By Whitney Satin
MLC has long extolled the virtues of “commercial teaching”—i.e., providing insight to customers in a way that makes them better appreciate your distinct value. Despite our obvious marketing bent, our past research has perhaps inadvertently implied that the delivery of these insights comes down to a “moment of truth” between sales reps and the customer. We’ve tended to focus on ways that Marketing can support Sales in this interaction, everything from working together to craft a teaching sales pitch to tools that reinforce key teaching points after the rep has performed the heaving lifting.
The rep interaction undoubtedly plays a crucial role in many purchase decisions; in fact our sister program, the Sales Executive Council, has put plenty of time into understanding the specific rep skills and manager characteristics that make this teaching effort most effective.
But we can’t assume that this face-to-face scenario is the only place to deliver commercial teaching. The proliferation and democratization of information puts business insights at our customers’ fingertips and, more critically, moves control over the time and place of delivering those insights from the supplier to the customer.
Suddenly, assuming that the rep is the sole channel for insight exchange seems naïve at best. Yes, blowing the customer’s mind in that conversation leaves a huge impression and scores lots of loyalty brownie points, but we need to consider the range of scenarios during which commercial teaching can be delivered. Web sites, merchandisers, the tradeshow circuit … all fair game as far as commercial teaching outlets go.
As marketers, we can’t control the paths through which customers consume the content that’s out there. But we sure can control the message they consume. Everything should be geared toward delivering insight. If customers under-appreciate the costs associated with truck-driver attrition and we can help contain that cost, as was the case for Volvo trucks, then this should be the message championed across the range of touchpoints in the customer buying process. At a minimum this reinforces the message that our reps deliver, but more critically this ensures that customers “get” our insight without having to commit to a sales call.
Marketers can obviously coordinate teaching messages across the touchpoints it owns, but we’re seeing a few companies starting their teaching efforts in touchpoints that aren’t even owned by the organization. Touchpoints like blogs, peer-to-peer online communities, and other social platforms. The idea here is to seek out those naturally occurring customer watering holes and start planting the seeds of your insight. Sprinkling insight before customers even enter the buying funnel essentially draws highly qualified prospects in … and potentially accelerates the sales cycle.
MLC members: join your marketing peers at one of our executive sessions to learn about Marketing’s role in an insight-led organization. We’ll share best-in-class approaches to) designing portfolios of insight-led content, 2) tapping into and “redirecting” market and customer conversations, and 3) collaborating with Sales to generate customer momentum through the buying process.