The probability of closing a marketing lead is 46% higher for companies that let their marketers change their CRM to use customised stages, and another 28% improvement if those renamed stages are buyer-readiness stages not seller-activity stages

But only 24% of marketers make this change. Why? Do you like your sales process too much? Seriously, it’s not about you. It’s about your buyer. And what are the buyer readiness stages, anyway?

All this, and more, in this week’s show.

In our sales and marketing alignment study published in 2014, we found that 24% of marketers had changed the stage names from the out-of-the-box configuration given by the CRM and marketing automation vendors to buyer readiness stages. These are the stages in the buyer’s journey. IIn a moment I’ll tell you why I’m calling them buyer-readiness stages. We found that those marketers were enjoying closure rates of nearly double those that their counterparts that took the CRM stages straight out of the box were having. Clearly, the importance of this is not lost on your or on me. But, what really are these buyer readiness stages? What message is the buyer ready for at each stage? That’s what we’re going to uncover in this blog. The exact stages in the buyer’s journey, and what message they’re ready for at each stage.

Let’s take a look at the buyer’s journey. The best way to understand the journey is to go backwards and then forwards so let me explain it backwards. We all know that the end of the journey for a first-time buyer is to make a decision. Now, I’m parking for the moment the stages after I’ve made the first decision. That’s a whole life-cycle of management and a valid conversation, but it’s not for today. Today is getting to that first decision. Now, if the decision made is the final stage in that part of the journey at least, before that, they need to know what the options are, and actually they need to prefer yours. Before that, they know what the options are. Before that, they have a clear need that they’re looking for options to meet. And before that there’s a problem that they’re trying to solve that gives rise to that need and before that they know who you are but they’re not yet interested. And before that, they’re just a name.

Let’s cycle that forward and think of that from a marketing and a sales perspective. They’re a name. Then they know who you are, but they’re not really interested. Then they know who you are and they’re interested. Then after they’re interested, they actually accept that the problem that you’re talking about is real and a priority for them. Then at some later point, they know what they need from you or from somebody else. Then they become clear about what your offer is, the product, the price, the services, the proof. All of that is your offer and it’s fully understood. But so might another offer be. Then after that, they prefer your offer over others. Then they can make a decision.

What then should our content messaging strategy, whether that content is delivered by marketing or by sales, what should that content messaging strategy be for each of those stages?

Shortly, we’ll show you how to do this in Funnel Plan. But before that, we’re going to do two things, share with your our conclusions, and invite you to receive other blogs like this. Let’s get to the conclusion first.

If your buyers are just at the “names found” stage, that is, they haven’t really taken any steps in their journey at all with you, what are they ready for? Well, they’re ready to understand that you’re in the mix, that you’re in the fray. They’re ready to understand that you’re a player. You’re one of the companies who can solve that problem. So talk about the problem. Talk about the fact that you have credentials solving a problem. You’re not yet really trying to trouble them around the problem, only that you have insights around the problem that should be listened to. Once they know who you are, but they haven’t yet really shown much interest, what are they ready for? Well, they’re ready for more content that helps them actually develop an interest in that topic. So what are you going to talk about? Why should this problem be solved and what are some of your clever and unique insights into that problem? They’re ready to show their interest by responding to that sort of messaging. Once they’ve accepted that this is worth exploring, we want to get them to the stage of, ‘this is a problem not for the market, but for you’. You have the problem, and it’s probably better that I don’t tell you that. It’s probably better that you work it out yourself.

So the message that the buyer’s ready for would be comparison messages; it would be troubling content that helps the buyer, you – that’s if you’re the buyer – to understand that actually you have this problem, it’s self-awareness type content. So the message is going to revolve around the problem. Again, it’s causes, triggers, consequences and some of the solution elements that you might look for, but it’s all around: “Hey, you know what? This is not a problem, it’s the problem.” That’s what they’re ready for right now. Once they’ve accepted that they’ve got that problem, they’re ready for messages around what they need from you or from others. So help them shape that need, the content that helps them work out that the solution that you look for needs to have these four elements in it. That’s the message that they’re ready for now. Once they’ve accepted that they have a need, now they’re ready for your offer. They’re ready to understand how you would meet that need, and for those four elements that are most important, how do you deliver each of those four elements? If I back up one stage prior to the needs stage, you can see why it’s so important that we shape the need, because now our offer needs to meet that previously shaped need.

Imagine then how silly it is for us as marketers or as salespeople to be talking about product messages before this point. If they’re ready for it now, they certainly weren’t ready for it earlier. We should be talking about the problem and its consequences earlier on. Not until they’ve clearly negotiated and agreed a need, are they ready for messages around your solution. Then they’re ready for messages around why your solution is better and how it more fully meets the need. So testimonials and case studies are clearly going to be important now. Then, finally, once they’ve preferred your solution and they’re ready to make a decision, what message are they ready for next? Messages that help them realize that the pain of the problem is greater than the pain of the solution. There needs to be a good enough delta between the pain of your solution – the dollar cost, the time cost, the risk etc. – such that the difference is attractive enough because there is going to be a risk in buying your solution (or any). There needs to be a big enough payoff for them making that risk decision. So the pain of the problem needs to be higher than the pain of the solution. That’s the message they’re ready for now.

So our messaging at each stage needs to be precise and targeted, and that’s why by the way, one of the tactics that we love to employ is not just automated marketing, but sales that have been enabled by marketing, marketing building content for the sales team to manage that progression as well. As marketers, we don’t create all of the opportunities, we create some of them. But we can provide support materials for the sales force to use at each stage in the journey. So the salesperson knows when it’s the right time to message the next frame, we then have got the right content for them to do so.

If you enjoyed this blog, then likely you’ll enjoy others. If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to receive this blog by visiting align.me.com/blog or by visiting our YouTube channel. If you have a colleague who may be interested, we would be so grateful if you invited them to subscribe. Why don’t you do that now, and when you come back, we’ll show you how we do that in Funnel Plan.

As you know, the Funnel Plan describes the objectives, the strategy, the velocity and the tactics for a go-to-market plan for marketing and sales. Today we’re looking at the buyer’s journey and that plays it’s hand in two really important areas. The velocity is a velocity of buyers, not of sellers. So we have to look at the buyer’s journey in the context of the velocity. The second place it plays out, is in the tactics that were chosen. Down here at the bottom, the selection of tactics end to end that describe how are we going to move a buyer through at the required velocity. Let’s take a look at how we change the buyer’s journey in the Funnel Plan.

So let’s log in to the Funnel Plan now and we’ll select a plan. The blogging video plan, the buyer’s journey plays its hand in those two areas, but here’s where we can control it. It’s this one area called Plan Settings. If we show the buyer’s journey, what that lets us do is to adjust the buyer’s journey. The default stages are on the right here and the stages that we want to change the names to are on the left here, and it’s literally just a case of finding the stage that we want to change, change its name and click “Done”. Mechanically, it couldn’t be any easier. But I want to show you while I’m in Funnel Plan where the other elements, the affected areas, are going to be. So certainly you can change the stages.

Frankly, think about it carefully. These stages are used by thousands of companies around the world and there’s real value in sticking to the stages, but if you really want to change the language, please do. All I’d ask is that when you think about the stages, don’t skip important stages like ‘Gap’ or think that ‘Gap’ and ‘Need’ are the same stage. They’re really important in their differences, and I would encourage you to keep that separation. For all that, if you want to change the wording, please do. Make a change and click “Done”. Now, where does that play out? Well, firstly it’s in the velocity. Although in the simple funnel math we don’t really look at the velocity explicitly, we do look at how many weeks does it take to win a deal once we have a qualified lead. Now, here’s where that plays out in Funnel Plan. Here we have each of the stages and if you like there’s a ‘From’ and a ‘To’ – from ‘Positioned’ to ‘Interested’. So every element of the Funnel math: the lag, the leakage and the meetings are described against the buyer’s journey. How long will it take to get from ‘Positioned’ to ‘Interested’? In this case, we said it will take one week and we’ll lose 10% of those along the way. It won’t use up any meetings.

To get from ‘Interest’ to ‘Gap’, it’ll use up another meeting. We’ll lose another 20% of those that are left and it’ll use up half a meeting. How do you have half a meeting? You have one meeting every second opportunity. And so through the funnel math, we actually look at the time that it takes, the leakage that occurs and the meetings that are consumed to move buyers through each stage in the buyer’s journey. That’s the first area it plays out. The second area is in the tactics themselves. If we take a look at the tactics, the tactics are what we do to the buyer in order to move them from one stage to the next. So we need to know what the stages are. You’ll see that the tactics are always listed for a particular stage. How do we get the buyer to this stage? The tactics to find ‘New Names’ when we’ve completed all of those tactics, we would have a complete set of names. The tactics to position the category when we’ve done all of those things, in this case there’s a good number of them, that’s how we would have got those names to know that we’re in the market when the business is solving that problem.

So when we edit a tactic, we’re going to be asked not just for the name of that tactic, but which stage is it to move the buyers to. Then we can describe other elements of the tactics including its type and whether we want to categorize it or cluster it. We’ll come to that when we get deep into the tactics, but for now, I wanted you to understand that the stage names that we’ve chosen in the way that I showed you before, help us describe the stage that we want to get the buyers to by executing all of our tactics.

Next week on Funnel Vision:
Next week, I’ll show you how to work out how many buyers need to make each of those progressions through the journey. But for now, may your funnel be full and always flowing.

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