The era of the sales process beginning with a lead is over. The number of B2B buyers who are ready to buy as soon as they engage with our marketing is small—and social media will make it even smaller.
We have to come to terms with the fact that there is a stage of the buying process that comes before the buyers we are pursuing are ready to become leads.
We call it the epiphany stage.
This is the stage that occurs long before any discussion of products, services, or RFPs—indeed, it occurs before customers have even begun to think about a purchase.
However, there is something important that happens at this stage: It is the point at which customers come to the realization of an important business need.
This is where social media comes in. As social media expands our opportunity to reach people who have never heard of us or our services, we need to be prepared to engage them during the epiphany stage. We are trying to generate demand during this stage, not create leads, because these people aren’t ready to become leads. We have to generate demand before we can generate a lead.
The best way to do this is with thought leadership. We need a content engine capable of gaining the attention and respect of people who have never heard of us before. These people are not leads—they are not ready to be contacted by anyone. But they may be open to building a relationship that could someday lead to a sale.
These people are prospects, not leads. The way we turn prospects into leads is to gain their trust. We gain their trust by reaching out to them with smart, engaging, educational content. The trust leads to a more personal relationship and hopefully, a purchase. As I said in my last post, social media simply makes starkly plain what we’ve known for some time but haven’t had to face yet: We don’t have a lot of content capable of generating trust and relationships. We need to create that content.
But getting to that realization requires that we first acknowledge that there is a whole world that comes before a lead and before the interest phase of the buying process. We need to see that we are ignoring many people who aren’t leads. If we ignore them, they may never know that they need something that we have to offer.
What do you think?
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