Inbound Marketing Levels the Playing Field

I walk onto the Chevrolet car lot humming “The Heartbeat of America is Today’s Chevrolet” (It’s 1992.)  The salesman asks me what I want. I say an SUV. An hour later I’m driving off in a new white Chevy Blazer with the Cheyenne package including ABS, power everything, all leather interior, tinted windows, and “undercoating”, whatever that is. I paid $100 over MSRP.

Ever take a white SUV camping? Not pretty.

Last week I walked into the Honda dealership and told the salesperson I want a Honda Pilot with the EX package. “I want this black one right here. No undercoating and your best price.” She gives me the $100 over MSRP spiel. I hold up my iPhone, point to the screen and say, “I can get it cheaper down the street.“

I paid the lowest price in the tri-state area for my black Pilot...with no undercoating.    

Besides 15 years of experience and a few gray hairs, the difference between the two is information. In the first example, the sales guy has the info. I’m at his mercy to know options, availability, and price. Caveat Emptor - Buyer Beware.

In the latter, I have a smartphone connected to the internet and Google and Kelly’s Blue Book. I have the information. They buyer is at my mercy. If she wants to move that metal, she better play on my terms. Daniel Pink in his new book, To Sell is Human, calls this Caveat Venditor - Seller Beware. [sidebar: saw Pink at Inbound 2015 - he’s good stuff - read this book].

The Internet, social media, big data, and mobile phones have shifted the balance of power from the seller to the buyer. It applies across the board - consumers, industrial purchasers, non-profit donors.

This may seem like a disadvantage. Maybe for the unscrupulous salesman wanting to make a quick flip. For the good salespeople out there, this is your advantage over your competition.

You know sales is about relationships. You know knowledge is power. You know to win and keep customers is to give them great value/service to earn their loyalty. That means repeat business, referrals, and awesome testimonials.

Like the sales flip, inbound marketing is a similar flip. Traditional marketing is the seller Don Draper down on Fifth Avenue plastering billboards and magazines with images of a smiling doctor smoking a cigarette under the tagline “4 out of 5 doctors prefer Camels”. How do you ask a TV if the claim is true?

Inbound is the buyer using Google, Bing, LinkedIn, and Facebook to sift through white papers, advice from colleagues, blog articles, and product reviews. They have the information. They will figure out who the industry leader is, what company provides great products and service, and any positive or negative experiences from past clients.

The job of your marketer is to turn your industry knowledge and client goodwill into digital assets for the potential buyers to find. The marketers have access to the same information sources so they can target your buyer with a precision that mass marketing never could attain.

Inbound marketing collects data that informs the sales team. Sales now have the tools to analyze leads, categorize them by need, and prioritize the best leads to focus their energy. They have the information to find and educate leads and make those cold calls warm and effective.

Are your buyers finding you online? Are your sales teams focused on ideal customers? Is your marketing team starting with sales?

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