Category: Lead Generation

What is Epiphany Marketing? (Part 2)

By Julie Schwartz, ITSMA, jschwartz@itsma.com

Epiphany2In 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.

Epiphany Marketing_1

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?

 

What is Epiphany Marketing? (Part 1)

By Julie Schwartz, ITSMA, jschwartz@itsma.com

Epiphany marketing? That’s a new one! I can hear you now… Just what we need, more marketing jargon. But this one is important. The phrase “epiphany marketing” reminds us that generating leads is not the end-all/be-all of What epiphanymarketing. Marketing also has to generate demand. Epiphany marketing is demand generation. So why not just call it demand generation? Why introduce another term? Because too often demand generation and lead generation are used synonymously and the significance of generating demand is lost. Let me explain.

Mindshare Before Marketing Share

As you well know, building eminence and amplifying a firm’s reputation through thought leadership content is the basis for B2B professional services marketing and is rapidly becoming the foundation for all B2B marketing.

You have to build mindshare before you can build market share. The idea is to show the target audience how smart you are and make them aware of your capabilities. Build relationships with them. Show them you know their business, as well as the names of all their children. And when they have a need for your services, they will call you first. This used to work, but not anymore.

Today, there is very little business walking in the door. You can’t sit back and wait for clients to call when they need you. “Build it and they will come” no longer works. Today you have to do more.  Today, you have to create demand. You have to use your thought leadership to spark epiphanies.

Spark Epiphanies with Thought Leadership

What exactly do we mean by epiphany? 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.

For example, it can arise when a grocery chain is purchasing another chain in a neighboring country and realizes that its corporate human resources practices are in violation of the regulations in this new country. Or it can be when a business unit leader sees how the application of a new technology can solve a previously unidentified business problem.

It is a golden moment for a services firm to be there to offer advice and support.

Most buying process models begin with the Awareness or Search Stage, when a buyer has a known problem or opportunity, clarifies objectives, and seeks out possible alternatives.
However, we recognize a phase prior to Awareness, before there is any discussion of
products, services or RFPs.
It is the “pre-purchase” stage—the stage during which the potential client comes to the realization of an important business need.
We call this stage the Epiphany Stage.

I am guessing that the Epiphany Stage may be part of the buying process that you haven’t thought too much about. And if that is the case, you are not alone.

EpipahnyStage_sm

With Epiphany Marketing, We Are Talking About Demand Generation, not Lead Generation

In ITSMA’s research we found that none of the companies we interviewed formally recognized an epiphany-like stage in the buying process. Interestingly though, nearly all the companies intuitively recognized the existence of the Epiphany Stage and created programs to market to clients in this stage.

The Epiphany Stage occurs long before any discussion of products, services, or RFPs. It occurs before clients have even begun to think about a purchase. As one person I interviewed said, “before the pursuit is even a twinkle in the potential buyer’s eye.”

During the Epiphany Stage, the potential client is constantly scanning the horizon, looking for new ideas and learning. They are conducting research, talking to people, looking at thought leadership and examples to help them clarify their next move.

It is at this stage that marketers and sales professionals (yes, sales people have to do epiphany marketing too!) need to get involved. When you are working with clients during the Epiphany Stage, what you are actually doing is demand generation, not lead generation.

Use Epiphany Marketing to Create Deeper, More Enduring Relationships

It is important to remember that potential buyers in the Epiphany Stage are not yet leads. They are not looking to be sold to. They are not even looking to buy. They are looking for ideas. They don’t yet see their problems and opportunities.

You have a great opportunity during this stage to create deeper more enduring relationships with clients—relationships that will eventually lead to new business. Epiphany marketing communicates that:

  • You are smart
  • You have a broad perspective
  • You have worked with many different clients across multiple industries and geographies, including clients just like them
  • You can see where they may need help

You understand your clients and potential clients so well that you are coming to them with ideas before they know they need them. You can see the proverbial glass wall long before your clients ever see it. They don’t see it until they hit it. And when they hit it at high speed, it can get ugly. By keeping them from hitting that glass wall, you have the opportunity to earn the status of trusted advisor.

That is the power of epiphany marketing (and sales).