One: a day in a marketer’s life
In marketing circles today, one of the big ongoing discussions is about getting to understand your customer’s real, personal and present needs. Out are the days of the “persistent rep”, out are the days of mass and even of “mildly personalized” emails, on their way out are the days of feature/buzzword-based selling. In is the concept of “solutions versus products”, in is the “sale without getting a rep involved”, in is the “deep profiling” of customers, the challenge of providing fresh, relevant and actionable content online, and concepts such as “online sales experience”, “user progression” and “maximising marketing effectiveness”.
Two: culture contrasts
In the early days when western companies were starting to do business with their (middle) eastern counterparts, we all delighted in hearing about the contrasts in our cultures; how, unlike a typical western 1-hour business meeting where you spend 5 minutes breaking the ice, 45 minutes selling and 10 minutes wrapping up, in a typical eastern business meetings you spend 50 minutes on breaking the ice, talking family, politics and life outlook and only the last 10 on the actual sale. We were told that it was “personal relations” over “technical solutions”; invest in these relations and the sale would follow almost naturally. And we were also told that as you go further east, it’s all about bargaining and low prices.
Three: east meets west
Well, aren’t things converging real fast?! Aren’t we all now talking about customers increasingly becoming cost-sensitive – even when it comes to high value products such as reagents, scientific instruments and even therapies? Aren’t we all talking about innovative, technology-enhanced approaches to attain the time-honored status of a personal relationship? For what is “deep profiling of customers” if not an attempt by companies to create personal relations with their customers. Twitter, LinkedIn and all our modern social media do it. Google does it too. It creates “personal relations” with each and every web page though its complex, multi-dimensional profiles, the sole purpose being to serve us with relevant results; and it seems to work pretty well.
Indirect selling is about all this; about selling without selling. You seek to understand your customer, to follow their progression, to really help with their task at hand – often maybe without a direct sale in mind – and to offer your product/solution only when and where it makes absolute sense to do so. Offering content is one way to serve your customers but this is a very time- and information-intensive activity for e-marketers and online experience managers alike (see for example this article). Tools and other resources that support indirect selling can accomplish this equally well, if not better, and so don’t be surprised if you see discussions around these increase significantly.