Right from the moment a campaign is planned, it’s about identifying a target and forcing (manipulating) your customers down a funnel so you can extract their money at the end of it.
Yeech! If you did that in normal life, you’d be arrested.
Imagine if you were at a social occasion and you decided you wanted to dance with someone. After identifying the target, you’d spy on them for a bit to learn their behaviour and then grab them and force them in the direction you want them to go in.
If she doesn’t slap you, her brothers will hustle you into the car park to sort you out.
Maybe you're more cunning, laying out treats along a path to entice your “prospect” down a narrower and narrower path until there’s no escape and you can “close” the sale.
Like a troll or creepy old gnome: “C’mon kiddies, just one more step, that's right pick up the sweetie and come on down the path (funnel) so I can get all your gold and eat you.”
Seriously, this is how most marketing operates and technology is only making it worse. Most marketing talk these days is about identifying the buyer journey and improving the customer experience.
If you’re identifying the customer’s journey, then you are embarking on a strategy to ambush your customer.
Take LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator. It is fundamentally a tool to let you spy on and stalk your prospective customers.
Facebook’s ad targeting is even worse. Ross Simmonds tells the story of how he used personalised ad targeting to make his roommate paranoid with ads that were only targeted at his unique experiences.
Most Customers Think Marketing is Creepy
A recent survey found that three out of every four customers found personalised marketing creepy.
While customers may not stop doing business with you straightaway, eventually they will. Just like in Hollywood, when enough people are fed up with you being a nasty creep, your career is over.
The whole language and culture around marketing is deeply problematic. Such as customer funnels, you mean like a meat grinder?
Or “squeeze pages” where the so-called marketing experts advise to remove all escape routes, leave only one option for the prospect, and move them down the page to the buy button.
Marketers and sales people want to “herd” prospects down an ever-narrowing path until they can extract their money.
So the customers are like sheep or cattle with a sheep dog or stockman with a whip and prod driving them down a race to the abattoir.
The obvious problem with this is that customers are not sheep and are deeply resent being seen and used as just sales fodder.
The second and perhaps even bigger problem with this approach is it’s not how people and the world operate these days.
The Customer is in Control, or Did You Forget That?
As David Meerman Scott proclaimed over 10 years ago in The New Rules of Marketing, the customer is in control.
Marketers, salespeople and any business that don’t realise this are being left further and further behind.
Talking about funnels and customer journeys is still old school thinking, focussing on how to control the buying process, how to always be closing.
Whose interest does this serve: The marketers or the customers?
As Scott and many others have continually pointed out: You don’t control the buying process, the customer does.
Want more evidence? This recent report from Harvard Business Review shows that
Nearly 90% of all B2B sales purchases are started without the involvement of a salesperson.
Outbound B2B sales are becoming less and less effective.
Connecting with a prospect now takes 18 or more phone calls,
call-back rates are below 1%,
Only 24% of outbound sales emails are ever opened.
84% of B2B buyers are now starting the purchasing process with a referral,
Peer recommendations are influencing more than 90% of all B2B buying decisions.
In case that isn’t clear, 90% of the buying process is out of your control, so please stop trying to control it.
Salespeople are Obsolete Technology
Forrester reports that B2B sales people will be obsolete in two years.
Companies that force buyers to engage with salespeople are ensuring their own demise.
To many established and old school businesses, this is a totally alien way of thinking. They are so embedded in the past that they can’t see the change that is happening all around them.
Even so called modern companies are sucked into to operating like this such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Google. For all their advancements in technology, they make the bulk of their money selling advertising - something that’s centuries old and universally loathed.
They are all missing the point and the change that has happened.
It’s all about relationships and being connected.
Those relationships are not an assett or resource for companies to exploit.
Modern technology has enabled us to create and nurture relationships on a global scale like never before.
AThe foundation of any successful relationship is authenticity and trust. This is something many businesses and marketers still don’t get. You can’t just pay lip service to it just to make money.
Learn to Dance, Not Stalk
Marketers would be better off learning to dance with their partners instead of stalking them and trying to corral them.
It’s a partnership. When your partner makes a move, you respond and so forth until the dance is complete. Neither of you know how the dance will flow or how it will end, but if it’s done even moderately well you will both enjoy the moment.
Such free flowing creation is probably beyond most marketing teams for many reasons.
Firstly the venue is set up like a cattle yard and not a dance floor;
Secondly teams are rewarded for how many cattle they get thru the end gate not how many successful dances they had;
Thirdly most marketers are trained as cattle dogs and not dancers,
Fourthly the support networks and infrastructure are all about stock processing and not dance creation.
I could go on, but hopefully you get the analogy.
Many modern successful companies understand they are in a partnership with their customers and structure their marketing accordingly. They are pointing the way forward.
The rest need to take off their work boots, put on their dancing shoes and practising a few new steps.