You won’t break the Internet: Get sales and support involved in your web strategy
It was a dark and stormy night afternoon—the type not even the most highly caffeinated drinks could keep you completely awake.
At the time, I was working for a multinational behemoth of a company in the telecom industry. We were looking to deploy a better SEM/SEO and content marketing strategy to drive qualified leads (read: major wireless companies) into our sales funnel. On that dreary-why-the-hell-I-am-not-in-Tahiti-day, my team and I were becoming increasingly glossy eyed and irritated at pitch after pitch of web agencies that were semi-clawing their way to win over our account. I say semi-clawing because:
a) Most of them practiced self-love, rather than explaining the true value they could bring to the table.
b) They all glossed over buzzwords to describe their services (content marketing! SEO! Deep analytics! Social media! We even got how one agency could build us a solid “Facebook and Pinterest strategy.” For a telecom giant. That wanted lead generate from major wireless carriers. Really?
c) Did I mentioned they practiced self-love?
We had one more agency to go. We were itching to go home and figuring that this last agency better pull out all the stops before we stopped it mid-pitch, said sayonara and gleefully made our way to cocktail hour.
But this agency was different.
The kicker? Apart from actually striking the perfect balance between pitching expertise, explaining their strategy for our company and asking us questions (gasp!), the agency went out on a limb and suggested the unthinkable.
Now, brace yourself.
They wanted to talk to our sales reps.
Let me repeat. They wanted to talk to our sales reps. Oh, and our customer support staff, too.
For our entire SEM/SEO and content marketing strategy, they wanted to talk to the very people we in marketing had to hold belt back with everything we could think of to not have them meddle in our marketing strategies.
Despite us respecting sales and customer service reps, the marketing team was fed up of hearing, time and again, from the peanut gallery, the latest and greatest ideas from cocky sales reps and whiny customer support people on what we were doing wrong. What did they know about marketing—let alone online marketing? Some reps were still confused about the new iPhones for God’s sake. We scoffed and shuddered about letting the evil minions in to destroy everything we worked so hard to build.
Had the agency gone stark-raving mad?
No. It was, in fact, a stroke of genius.
You see, the agency pitched such a basic concept that we in marketing—in our plush offices—forgot.
Enough with the marketing tantrum.
The voice of customer, a term more often used for market research and the product development process, is, as the term suggests, exactly that:
- What a customer thinks he/she wants
- What a customer probably actually needs
And this dear friends, cannot be acquired just with snazzy surveys and a bazillion pages of market research (accompanied by the required duster should you ever need to read that last baby twice…if ever). It cannot be solely acquired by your web site’s Google Analytics reports or the multitude of tools you can use to track how visitors use your website. While all these tactics provide invaluable quantitative data, they do diddly squat for equally important qualitative data—actually getting into the heads of your customers.
That is where the sales and support teams come in.
Let’s face it, these guys and gals listen to, talk to, sell to customers. Every. Single. Damn. Day. They hear the needs (warranted or otherwise). They deal with the complaints. They convince, console and commiserate with everything that the customer experiences with a company or brand. This is uber-valuable information, low-hanging fruit if you will, to:
- Develop more accurate buyer personas
- Generate more compelling keywords (the long and the short of them!) for your SEO and PPC campaigns
- Align your content marketing to what your customers want to know about—rather than what the marketing mafia says customers want to read about
Now don’t get me wrong. Voice of customer is not necessarily new for companies and brands that use social media and online surveys to get/collect feedback, write content, offer first-line customer service, or calm down one very pi****-off client. Heck, if you are that much of a forward-thinking company/brand, you may even have tried to use voice of customer for your upper funnel keywords for both paid search and your SEO.
But how many of you know of a web agency or company that wants to talk to the very people—the front line soldiers—that actually have direct access to the voice of customer? I am not saying that involving sales and support teams will solve all of your inbound marketing woes. Most certainly a process has to be put into place so that involving them does not become an episode of “Sales and Support Gone Wild.” And you need not deploy a full-scale Voice of Customer Program.
Sometimes, all it takes is a few productive and structured meetings with support and sales to get the job done.
How did my little story end? When all was said and done, once we implemented the suggestions we got from sales and customer service, once we analyzed how prospects travelled down the lead funnel and nurturing tracks, we could not qualify that the improvements in themselves triggered the sale. But we were convinced they did indeed help make sales, thanks to their usefulness and relevance for potential customers.
Remember, we’re not in Game of Thrones. Rather than equate sales and support teams to pariahs that must stay the hell away from online marketing initiatives, engage them. They could hold a key to boosting your or your clients’ performance levels—and ultimately, sales.