By Julie Schwartz, ITSMA, firstname.lastname@example.org
In my previous post, I defined the Epiphany Stage of the buying process and epiphany marketing. In this post I dig deeper into the strategies and tactics marketers can use to spark epiphanies.
Epiphany is the point at which a potential client comes to the realization that they have an important business need—it can be either a problem, or an opportunity. Some call this the pain point. It is the “Aha!” moment. Through epiphany marketing, marketing and sales professionals help potential clients uncover their needs and explore the possibilities, before they even know they have a problem to solve. In the Epiphany Stage of the buying process, the potential client is not in purchase mode and consequently is not yet a lead. Therefore, epiphany marketing is demand creation, not lead generation.
Why do we care about marketing and selling during the Epiphany Stage? Because those that get in front of the potential buyer at this stage have the opportunity to develop deeper more enduring, trusted advisor relationships. And they have access to and win more business.
Create Epiphanies by Aligning Marketing, Sales, and the Client’s Buying Process
What can marketers do to create epiphanies? The most important thing to do is to align your sales/business development and marketing processes with the client’s buying process.
During the Epiphany Stage your client is constantly doing research and exploring possibilities. Your client is on the lookout for new ideas to improve the business. Your job is to help your clients find those ideas and connect the dots for them.
There are four things that marketing should be doing during the epiphany stage:
- Build eminence. Create idea- and trend-based thought leadership
- Illuminate. Help clients discover and respond to the most important business issues they face
- Collaborate. You don’t have to have all the answers. Take clients out of the day-to-day to collaborate and spark new ideas
- Enable thought leadership selling. Arm market-facing professionals with thought-provoking content
Clients are not usually aware of what is possible. They need someone to help them paint the picture. Here are some tried and true epiphany marketing methods:
- Think Tanks. Education works better than a sales pitch. A niche approach allows you to establish clear leadership in your chosen area of expertise. Being the first-to-market and the smartest have huge advantages over having the largest marketing budget.
- Client Councils. Epiphanies come from taking existing knowledge from different sources, combining it, and applying it in new ways. Taking clients out of the day-to-day grind sparks new ideas, and peer collaboration increases the probability of producing differentiated, relevant thought leadership. Furthermore, having clients contribute to the firm’s strategy keeps them actively engaged and loyal.
- Benchmarking and Best Practice Assessments. Until they benchmark their performance, companies may not be aware that they have a problem. Assessments, whether tool- or consulting-based are a great way to spark epiphanies.
- Workshops. Engaging a team of experts to meet with the client for a half-day workshop is an ideal way to understand their business objectives and challenges and explore opportunities to drive value. Case studies and brainstorming accelerate epiphanies. Creating environments free of account executives fosters free thinking and creativity.
- Thought Leadership Selling. Sales sometimes needs a relevant “reason to call.” It doesn’t take a multimillion dollar budget to develop content that opens doors and builds relationships to spark epiphanies. Great ideas, some research, and a close partnership between marketing and sales will yield results. The biggest hurdle? Helping sales become comfortable discussing ideas rather than products and offerings. They need extensive training and role playing. Marketing’s role is to enable sales with tools, knowledge and skills that provide a smooth transition from strategic thought leadership to practical help.
With epiphany marketing, the goal is to illuminate and educate, not to sell. Therefore thought leadership is very important. And while you want to be the smartest in your category, don’t forget—neither you nor your clients separately have all the answers. Reach out and create a thought leadership network. Harness the power of the team to collaborate with clients and help them discover and respond to the most important business issues they face. Cast a wide net. Epiphanies are going to come from the application of existing ideas in completely new and different ways.
Helping clients realize that they have a business need, way before they have officially begun a pursuit gives you a tremendous advantage. So arm your sales team with content that helps them show clients the art of the possible. With epiphany marketing, you have the opportunity to create a deeper relationship with clients, and influence the direction of the project before competitors have even entered the process. However, success in the Epiphany Stage is more than winning individual deals. It is establishing your company as a market leader and trusted advisor that is always “one step ahead.”
What epiphany marketing techniques do you use?