The One Missing Link In Your Go-To-Market Strategy

In Internet time, five years is a lifetime.

So much has happened since I first released MERGE in 2011.

In chapter seven, Marketing Communications Promoting Your Firm’s Value, I discussed a go-to-market strategy for building your brand.

Nowadays, buyers hold near-exclusive power because of the Internet. Research cites that 74 percent of buyers conduct more than half of their research online before ever talking to a sales rep.

This observation roughly correlates to the Corporate Executive Board’s findings that, in effect, buyers complete 60 percent of the purchase cycle before contacting a salesperson. And finally research data states that 73 percent of salespeople who use social selling in their sales process outperform peers and exceed quota 23 percent more often.

Now I know that’s a lot of statistical information to take in all at once. But it shows the profound shift in buyer behavior─in the last 1,825 days!

So, we must think differently.

How we apply sales strategy and tactics in the complex sale must change, too.

While I agree with the research above, I also believe the contradictory research by Sales Benchmark Index that indicates that nearly 60 percent of all qualified sales pipeline opportunities end up in no decision.

What’s Going on in the Buying Process?

If buyers are 60 percent done with the buying process before they talk to a salesperson, yet 60 percent of the time they make no decision, what’s going on in the buying process?

Are buyers forming the right vision for a solution?
When buyers search the web, are they properly educated?
So why can’t that 60 percent, when it comes down to the final decision, pull the trigger?

I believe the majority of buyers in your pipeline are still trying to decide if they are willing to make a change─not whether they want you or your competitor.

I also venture to say; you lose more opportunities to the status quo than you do to competitors.

That’s why in our go-to-market strategy, we must stand out as a thought leader and educate our prospects in the first 60 percent of their buying journey so we can help shape their vision and avoid the 60 percent who can’t make a decision.

As Peter Drucker said well:

“There is no doubt that if marketing were done perfectly,
selling, in the actual sense of the word, would be unnecessary.”

Things Change: Adapt or Fade Away

In reviewing my go-to-market strategy, what worked in the past isn’t as effective today.

Just two years ago, I enjoyed a high-open rate on email campaigns. However, everyone is emailing information today, and we’re all suffering from the onslaught of overcommunication.

Buyers experience a lot of emails as spam, not unlike those mountains of direct mail pieces that once flooded our physical mailboxes.

The average open rate used to measure at 20 to 30 percent. Lately, people report much lower open rates. And, then there’s the click-through rate, which is barely single digit.

Don’t misunderstand me, though. Email open rates are declining, but email is not dead.

Those who do a good job of staying in tune with what their audience needs and wants, and deliver a lot of email value, still earn attractive open rates.

I’ve talked to many colleagues about webinar attendance rates; they’re reporting a similar decline. You send out multiple email invites to your following for a relevant webinar; fewer people now show up.

In times past, 50 percent of webinar RSVPs would show up live on the call. Now, we see between 30 and 40 percent attendance.

At the end of our marketing chain of activities, what we most want is qualified leads.          That’s what matters.

One thing that hasn’t changed: To sell a complex product or service, you need to cultivate educated buyers who become better equipped to understand your differentiation.

Educate and Embed Your Core Marketing Message

Everything in an education-based marketing strategy organizes around your core marketing message within your educational content.

Importantly, this core marketing message must be delivered or embedded in high-order oral, written and visual materials such as:

  • Advertising

  • Articles

  • Blogposts

  • Case studies

  • Ebooks

  • Email

  • Newsletters
  • Online videos

  • Podcasts

  • Research reports

  • Seminars

  • Trade Shows

  • Webinars

  • White papers

Add to this, free checklists, guides, infographics, product spec sheets, sales kits, presentations, tip sheets─ all valuable elements to reinforce your go-to-market, educational-based strategy.

Let’s Get Social

Whatever you do, don’t limit your marketing options. Social selling is a high-performance marketing channel. And I’ll prove it to you a bit further down in the text. First, a helpful statement from Hubspot:

“Social selling describes the tactics salespeople use to stay relevant in their industries, connect with more prospects, and expand their thought leadership.

Unfortunately, not enough sales professionals use social selling — effectively or at all. Which begs the question: If the hype is so strong and the results are so spectacular, why aren’t sales teams adopting social media?”

In reality, many of us don’t know how to sell on social media. I’m learning new information about it daily so I can improve my skills. It takes real work.

Hubspot tells us that a new survey from PeopleLinx reveals that a “scant 31% of reps incorporate social media into their sales process.”

Here’s a great post from Heinz Marketing about ten top social selling tools that can help you get started and improve your sales activities. Get your feet wet.

Even as a neophyte, I secure great leads from LinkedIn. I urge you to explore LinkedIn, Facebook ( yes, it is for business), and Twitter (no, tweeting will not embarrass you) at a minimum.

Okay, I digress. Back to your core marketing message and the power of content to sell.

The six drivers in the chart above will help you produce the content and messages needed to educate buyers on their buying journey, especially in the first 60 percent of their journey.

But let’s break this information down into more digestible bites.

Content for Awareness-Consideration-Decision Stages

What works particularly well in the AWARENESS stage, when you’re concentrating on your buyers’ pain points, are free whitepapers, ebooks, videos in combination.

What works well at the CONSIDERATION stage, when buyers do side-by-side vendor comparisons, and you can help shape their vision of a solution with your value proposition, are free webinars, case studies, samples, product spec sheets, catalogs.

What works well at the DECISION stage, when you can proudly be brand-specific and talk up specifics of your offering, are customer testimonials, free trials, demos, consultations, estimates or quotes.

The key─ inform and educate, not sell. Your prospect needs to self-identify and self-discover you as a thought leader and your solution as an industry-leading preference.

But let’s not kid ourselves.

All the marketing, content, or social selling in the world doesn’t matter if it doesn’t produce qualified leads.

Leads with Best Deal Rate Close Fast

Data automation firm Implisit (just acquired by Salesforce) analyzed aggregated lead data from hundreds of companies to see what works and what doesn’t in marketing.

Results will surprise.

Some marketing channels are better at creating opportunities, but those opportunities are less likely to close.

In other channels, it’s harder to create opportunities, but these opportunities are more likely to close. Interesting paradox. Take a moment to study in the chart below from Implisit.

Overall, Implisit’s analysis shows on average 13 percent of leads convert to opportunities and the average time for conversion is 84 days.

Conversion rate from opportunity to deal is even lower─only 6 percent of opportunities convert to deals, but it takes only 18 days on average to convert.

The most important metric, leads to deal, shows one clear winner. A solid 3.6 percent of employee and customer referrals convert to deals, higher than any other channel, followed by company website and social selling.

Among the worst performing channels are lead lists, events and email campaigns with less than 0.1 percent lead to deal conversion rate.

Key fact: Employee/customer referrals, company websites and social selling also exhibit the fastest progression from lead to deal.

On average, it takes only 40 days to convert a lead coming from social to a deal. Website leads take around 75 days, and referrals take 97 days to convert.

Lead lists, email campaigns trade shows, and webinars have the lowest conversion rate and the highest lead-time.

Then, How Do We Create a Go-To-Market Strategy?

Even in the early 20th century, advertising and marketing pioneer, John Wanamaker, knew he had a serious challenge. His quote can be restated and applied to all marketing efforts today.

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted;
the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

To know which half, we need to know our buyers and their behavior as intimately as we know our selling style. Then we can stand on firmer ground to rethink how we use all of the tools we’ve discussed so far.

Enter the Buyer Persona─The Missing Link

Begin your process of crafting a go-to-market strategy with a buyer persona─the missing link to the sale because it tells you how the prospect is likely to buy.

You may think you know, but unless you do an independent buyer persona that includes prospect interviews, discussions with clients you won and lost, you can’t truly know how to craft your go-to-market strategy, your messaging, or your content.

I share how to do this in earlier posts on buyer personas, and I hope you’ll revisit because . . .

Sirius Decisions’ research cites that 60 percent of companies ADMIT they do not understand their buyers. And I might boldly say the rest is in denial.

From digital market leaders, Hubspot, we get this buyer persona definition:

“Buyer’s personas are fictional, generalized representations of your ideal customers. They help you understand your customers (and prospective customers) better, and make it easier for you to tailor content to the specific needs, behaviors, and concerns of different groups.

The strongest buyer personas are based on market research, as well as on insights you gather from your actual customer base (through surveys, interviews, etc.) Depending on your business, you could have as few as one or two personas, or as many as 10 or 20.”

A buyer persona, when done right, tells you what prospects think and do as they weigh their options to solve a problem.

More than a simple profile, actionable buyer personas reveal insights about buyers’ decisions─the specific attitudes, concerns, and criteria that drive prospects to choose you, your competitor or remain status quo.

With a smartly done buyer persona, you gain the knowledge to align your marketing decisions─from positioning and messaging through content marketing and sales enablement─with your buyer’s expectations.

Buyer personas can answer:

  • What causes certain buyers to invest in solutions like yours, and what is different about buyers who are satisfied with the status quo?

  • What operational or personal results does your buyer expect to achieve by purchasing this solution?

  • What concerns cause your buyer to believe that your solution or company is not their best option?

  • Which aspects of the competing products, services, solutions or company does your buyer perceive as most critical, and what are their expectations for each?

I don’t claim this effort is easy. You must do a great deal of critical research while being wholly motivated to get at the living nucleus of the sales opportunity.

Once buyer personas become natural to your sales mindset, you will see your must-win sales close smoother and tighter than the driver’s door on a 2017 Mercedes-Maybach S600.

Listen. A-h-h. I can hear it now.

See you on the upside,


For more information, go to
Or call William L. MacDonald in San Diego at PleinAire Strategies LLC at 760.340.4277 or 213.598.4700

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