I remember that when I started my career sales was king. Salespeople made the most money and oftentimes carried the most power within the company. This was not without merit — sales was driving revenue and it was their actions: cold calling, prospecting, face-to-face client meetings that were adding to the most important corporate metric: revenue.
The old sales cycle was fairly straightforward: Build a list, prospect via cold call, set a meeting, build a little rapport, present your services, close the sale. I may be over simplifying it a little, but this was basically it.
The sales process was essentially controlled by the salespeople. I attended 10 or so trainings that covered just that, how to control the sales process.
Today that process is, well, inconceivable!
Today the sales process is controlled by the buyer.
When we buy anything, whether it’s a camera, car, skis, or CRM solution the first thing we do is go to the web and visit our friend Google. Then we ask around the office or perhaps we put the question out to a peer group on LinkedIn “Hey everyone, what’s the best… [fill in the blank]” or “What vendor do you use for customer relationship management?” Then once we get a recommendation we go to the website, poke around, sign up for a whitepaper, enter their funnel, decide to remain opted in to their emails, read reviews, go back out on social media channels for further validation and so on until we have formed a concrete opinion on whether or not this product/service is going to fulfill our needs.
The new reality for consumers is that options are EVERYWHERE and consumers choose what’s best for them. With such an overwhelming amount of information in front of us, consumers must rely on their influencers.
And so, the question for anyone selling anything in today’s marketplace should be asking is HOW DO I SHAPE MY PROSPECTS AND CUSTOMER’S OPINIONS?
How do I influence future buyers as they are snooping all over the internet trying to learn as much about our company without actually talking to our company?
The answer is clear: Earned Media.
Let’s look at some statistics:
In 1994, it took just 7 touch points to convert a prospect into a sale.
In 2014, it will take 23 touch points!
Public Relations aka Earned Media generates impactful touch points and increases word of mouth (WOM).
Pay attention, this is important: Word of Mouth is the highest converter of sale and/or action.
The 23 touch points your prospect may experience include:
- Press Releases
- Multimedia views
- News articles
- Influencer blogs
- Social Sharing
- Owned Media
- Paid Media
However, studies show that without a doubt, the best bang for your buck is Word of Mouth, Consumer Opinions online, and editorial content such as newspapers and online news.
Source: Nielson 2013
For the sake of this discussion let’s look at the effectiveness of user reviews, branded content, and expert (3rd party content aka content produced by journalists/influencers).
Source: Nielsen/inPowered MediaLab study 2013-2014
The three areas of study include the three main stages of influence in the consumer purchase process:
Stage 1: Familiarity with a new product
Stage 2: Affinity toward a brand or product
Stage 3: Purchase consideration of a brand or product
While each type of content showed improvement at increasing familiarity, affinity, and purchase intent this study clearly shows that by far the most effective type of content is Expert Content.
The study goes on to cite the key differentiators that provide strong lift from expert content:
1. Perceived partiality of the source is especially critical in setting expert content and branded content apart. The third-party element is important to consumers as the unbiased perspective is important to consumers. 50% indicated that they wouldn’t trust a product’s branded website and 61% didn’t trust paid advertising.
2. How informative consumers perceive the content and the expert content’s ability to provide a robust amount of information compared to branded and user content, combined with the perspective that it’s unbiased.
So what does all this tell us? You need to get experts aka journalists aka influencers talking about your company — NOW. Whether it’s in print, video, blogs, online news sources your customers want to read about you from other people.
I talked about why 3rd Party validation works in an earlier blog post which can be read HERE. However, the takeaway is simple: No one likes it when people talk about themselves, they really prefer when others talk about them.
So, what are you going to do to put an earned media strategy in place? Do you think it’s necessary? Join the discussion and leave your comments below.
Lastly, please feel free to contact us directly. You can always send us a message via our contact form or email me directly at: mgutman at wildstory dot com
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