Stop guilding turds

Stop guilding turds

When things are no longer fit for purpose, we change them. Right?
Except when it seems too difficult. Wrong.

This article was originally written a few years ago under the title ‘The Psychology of Buyers’. We are posting it again as, sadly, it still seems to be relevant today as witnessed by the still running debate about sales, marketing, customer experience, purpose etc, etc, blah, blah, blah…

Why do brands make it so hard for buyers (including employees) to buy into or from them?

Buyers buy into things emotionally and they buy things literally. That’s what every brand, whether a Not-for-Profit, Government, Institution, enterprise or business wants them to do and to do so in increasing numbers, investing more time or money, more frequently, across more activities, allegiances, products and services and for a longer period of time.

Brands also want buyers to buy into them so much that they spread the word about the brand to their peers – who will then become emotional, transactional buyers themselves – and so it goes on. Increased loyalty and advocacy from rewarded and emotionally engaged buyers is worth its weight in gold.

This is all vital for business growth and organisational forward motion. It is also vital for sales and marketing operations – responsible for achieving required sales results and for ensuring that they do so with good ROI in spend on these areas. The more loyal the buyers, the less spend on sales, marketing and customer experience and retention.

So why do Sales, Marketing and Brand organisations make it so difficult for buyers to move to and buy into or from them?

We have made what we need to do more complicated than it needs to be.

The science of brand, sales and marketing has become increasingly sophisticated and complex over the last decade. We are drowning in data, analytics, automated operations, theories and principles about how to conduct effective marketing, sales and customer experience programmes, how to create effective brands, how to run more high value organisations. In one sense, this is all great and has led to some exciting new ways of talking about old (and still valid) ways of doing things, as well as many diverse theories about how to best deploy new, technology led opportunities to engage with buyers.

We have too much advice – and not enough ideas about what to do with it

The problem is that in the same way as we are drowning in data, we are also drowning in good advice. Most brand, sales and marketing people are already beleaguered by their organisations without being further hamstrung by the plethora of ways in which they can sell and market more effectively. The more this happens and the more that these professionals try to adopt new and wide ranging practices, the further away they get from the only important thing – how to actually engage meaningfully with buyers in the ways they now want. Let’s face it, how to create demand, meet it and maintain it are the oldest and still most relevant maxims in business and for all organisations.

We’re forgetting that buyers don’t want to be hassled

The irony here is that buyers do not think they want to be engaged with anymore unless it is on their terms. Brands strive hard to do something that buyers don’t want. Organisations talk about customer experience and being customer-centric whilst ignoring the central requirement of customers – to be left alone and to make their own minds up. Buyers state clearly that they will find brands themselves. Paradoxically, the brands that don’t try to sell will sell more.

We need a real, general change of mindset

Now I’m not suggesting that all sales, marketing and brand professionals pack up and find other careers – far from it. What I am suggesting is that the focus of attention now really does need to be on a complete change of mindset that creates a real shift in these operations and addresses fully and completely the needs and wants of buyers.

We need to stop getting in buyers’ way

Let’s face it, buyers actually want to buy. They really do. They want and need to feel worthwhile and valued and to part with their time or money for many and various reasons and they want to affirm their good choices by talking about them – and the brands they buy into – with their peers.

They want to explore, experiment and make their own engagement choices, based on the information they acquire by themselves, in the many ways that they can do this – and only seek advice and information from brands once they have narrowed their focus. What they search for now are reasons to NOT buy into or from their preferred choice, rather than reasons TO buy. They are now predisposed to looking for reasons to change their mind rather than to help them make their mind up in the first place. They need affirmation rather than information.

Buyers all want emotional and value-based reasons to buy

The criticality of buying decisions still varies hugely between different categories of buyer who are each driven by different motivations and emotions – caused by different personal, market and business landscapes, demographics, offers, influences and priorities, but the buying cycle itself remains the same, from awareness to understanding, through belief to adoption and on in to loyalty and advocacy. The really big change is in how buyers themselves choose to move through this cycle and, therefore, how brands must change the way they impact on and influence each stage of decision making.

Because of this the onus is now considerably less on marketing and selling, and considerably more on wider, human awareness building to enable (very human) buyers. We must help them to find brands that resonate with them enough to begin the cycle, before giving them the affirmation to help them through to the next stages.

Because the REAL (value/product/service/benefit) differentiation between propositions and choices has lessened, and because buyers have much more information and opinion that they can acquire, the need now is to build education (informing rather than information), awareness and affirmation routed in much more profound and higher value ideas and ideals. Brands must resonate with buyers in a differentiated way for sure, but do this via real truths that buyers can not only recognize and align with in their human selves but are willing to associate with and be proud to pass on to peers.

Buyers’ state of mind and need for value and emotional triggers is key to the new buying cycle

In combination, the duel ideas that buyers don’t want to be sold or marketed to and that they need high values based and fundamental affirmation of their choices at each stage in their buying cycle, creates the need for profoundly different sales and marketing operations – and the way that brands define and develop their proposition sets.

Organisations (brands) need to take things like brand value, ideals, culture, true purpose – the heart and soul of the organization – more seriously than ever before – and they must truly live by and express their defining credo in ways that are clear, routed in buyers needs and wants and that resonate with buyers own ideals, preferences, credos and personalities. They need to talk about these things as a matter of priority, consistently and in the places that buyers go. They need to create real bond-ship.

Sales and marketing need to jointly enable buyers, not sales

We believe that most Sales and Marketing operations need a profound change of mindset. In fact, the idea of Sales and Marketing as distinct functions has been increasingly challenged over the last few years but no-one seems to have found a better, more relevant alternative model. In reality, in most organisations, marketing is still geared around supporting sales, no matter how much marketing protests that its remit is broader. Sales Enablement is still the driver. It is the barrier too.

A sales team will always view a buyer as someone they sell to. A marketing team will always view a buyer as someone that needs to be driven in to a pipe and a brand team will always battle against an organisation that views awareness building as surplus to requirement. The result is always the same – no desire to understand the true, single picture of the only people outside the organisation and its employees that matter – buyers. No serious attempt to break apart the traditional silos that are no longer fit for purpose.

And because what we call Buyer Enablement is key, we’re all responsible for Brand Conduct and development

Brand Conduct development as it needs to be conducted now – to identify true higher value and inform an organisations meaningful credo and purposeful conduct to define the right ways to profoundly resonate with today’s buyers and to create awareness across diverse markets – is the responsibility of everyone in an organisation, working together, creating demand, meeting it and maintaining it.

But as long as the divides between Brand, Sales and Marketing operations exist, as long as the priorities, remits and attitudes remain separate, and as long as organisation leaders promote this separation rather than compelling meaningful change, there will always be diverse and warring views of buyers – and a resulting lack of ability to deliver against true buyers needs.

To engage with all buyers most effectively, you need consistent Brand Conduct and Buyer Enablement

We have written before about the concept of Buyer Enablement and Brand Conduct. They are our two defining credos and methodologies. We have suggested that instead of distinct Brand, Sales, Marketing and customer experience functions – operating at global and local levels – organisations should create Buyer Enablement Communities instead, designed to include everyone involved in understanding, defining and developing propositions to, and sharing with, buyers. This community would be driven by a common goal – to understand, educate/enrich and resonate with, and deliver choice affirmation to, buyers in the ways that they now require. Simple.

So let’s get a better buyer mindset, stop guilding turds and create new operations and structures that are actually fit for future purpose

We think that brands need to create a fundamental psychological and structural shift in their approach to Sales, Marketing and Brand. The changing psychology of buyers is well understood. The psychology of brands, Brand Conduct and the organisations they serve needs to be explored, debated and changed to deliver meaningful, lasting and valuable Buyer Enablement.

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