The businesses, worldwide, are dealing with the impact of the crisis - an overnight shift in the concept of ‘business as usual’. The likelihood of near-future recovery scenarios is being speculated and the debate over the shape of the recovery curve – J-curve, U-curve or L-curve, continues.
As work-from-home and social-distancing have become the new normal, there has been asudden shift in the beliefs and behaviour of the consumers. The buying process of the consumer has also seen a significant shift this year - online spending for products andservices have seen a massive spike.
For businesses, this means there is a need for new transformational plans. The case forchange is stronger than ever before.
Pushing the RESET Button
Today’s businesses are operating in the Age of Customer. The product-oriented plans face a severe challenge of meeting the new demands of the marketplace. The pandemic has tested every aspect of the strategic plan formulation, and it needs a complete re-thinking. Things have changed, and solving these issues will require a new lens. Businesses will have to rejig the whole process of planning and come up with new strategies and action plans focused on the buyer’s problems and opportunities. There needs to be a complete shift in the approach of the businesses from product-centric to the customer-centric planning process.
The need to re-assess and re-orient
Businesses need to adopt an ever-evolving approach to planning and strategy formulation. They need to plan strategically, developing inclusive strategies that keep every department informed about the new goals and targets and allocate the required finance and people in the most effective way possible. The inanimate aspects of these processes will have to be abandoned entirely, and new timelines must be set, based on customer behaviour, prevailing trends and market competition.
The fixed-cycle planning process is outdated and needs immediate reform for the companies to be able to stay on the front foot. One of the several drawbacks being the lack of adaptability and responsiveness. While the humans, which these plans intend to guide, are active and reactive; the plans themselves are static. The static nature of the annual plans is one of the biggest reasons why periodic deadlines don’t get met, and the leaders make mistakes. The fixed-cycle planning process fails to take into account the complexity of the issues.
Scenario-based strategic planning based on trigger points and the subsequent actions will allow these businesses to face the devastating shifts in the geopolitical scenario, technology-induced customer behaviour change, market competition and industry convergence.
Role of sales and marketing
Sales and marketing groups play a significant role in helping the business achieve its revenue targets. Operating at the forefront, the marketing group builds brand awareness in the marketplace - warming up the cold audience; the sales group interacts and builds relationships with this pool of warm audience, eventually turning them into closed deals.
With significant changes in the marketplace, in the past few months, due to the global lockdown, the world has seen a massive shift in consumer beliefs and behaviour patterns. The reliance on technology has more than doubled, and market competition significantly changed. Old competition is no longer relevant as the buyers have become open to experimentation - trying new brands for their need for products and services.
The marketing leaders have to continually adapt to sudden changes like these and modify their content and medium of communication to be relevant and useful. The sales group rely on the marketing group to create relevant and suitable content that helps them break the ice with the new prospective customers, handle possible objections and address the buyers’ pain points.
This constant need to adapt to the ever-evolving marketplace calls for several steps on the part of these two groups - which is a costly affair. Hence, it is no surprise that sales and marketing account for a significant portion of the annual budget of the business.
Why they butt heads
Sales and Marketing hold a completely different perspective of the same world. Though not impossible, their collaborations are seldom successful.
Marketing team chases down one group of the audience while the Sales department focuses on another. They are seemingly misaligned on the identification of the target audience resulting in wasted time, effort and missed opportunities. This misalignment is further exacerbated with the discrepancies during the lead handoff from marketing to sales- the misalignment in the buyers’ persona and measurement methods.
Sales and Marketing refer to different sets of data to track their interactions with prospective customers. Sales groups use CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems, while the marketing groups use DMP (Data Management Platforms) and automation systems. Marketing success is measured in terms of CPL (cost per lead) while the sales success is measured in terms of closed deals.
The primary goal of marketing is to generate more leads and nurture them into becoming likely buyers. The marketing groups try to cast a wider net by launching large-scale campaigns to capture more leads and likely conversions to reduce the CPL (cost per lead). Meanwhile, the focus of sales is on developing relationships with the prospective leads to be able to bag more closed deals.
The Sales teams often ignore the marketing-generated leads due to a lack of confidence in the methods of information collection. As per them, the low CPL is meaningless if the low-cost leads do not convert into closed deals and revenue. This lack of confidence renders 80% of the marketing efforts as wasted.
Sales and Marketing see the audience very differently, as well. Marketing sees the audience based on broad groups, while the Sales sees the audience based on accounts and geography. Marketing teams assess the audience based on the concept of funnels, while the sales teams do so on the concept of pipelines.
The need to collaborate
The collective focus of the businesses needs to shift from the product to the customer, which can be achieved by a shift in the dynamics of sales and marketing efforts. The independent operations of the sales and marketing departments won’t cut it anymore. They need to be brought in to the process of the strategic planning in the form of a cohesive collaboration instead of an ineffective parallel model of functioning to ensure smooth lead handoff and create the room for a tone of valuable opportunities.
Bringing them together to agree on the same buyer’s persona will ensure everyone understands how and why the target audience behaves and makes a purchase decision. This understanding will align the language used by both sides while interacting with prospective customers.
Together, they can save time and energy by identifying the key issues first, followed by prioritizing the issues and assigning managers to explore each of those issues. The marketing group can discuss with the sales group about the critical pain points of the target customers to map out the complete buyer’s journey. Once the buyer’s persona and buyer’s journey have been mapped out, they can begin engaging with the customers and build momentum, allowing the business to stay relevant in the minds of the target users. With the marketing team generating leads and nurturing them, the sales team can build relationships with the nurtured leads and close deals with them.
Carried out as on-going activity with regular updates on the target buyer’s experience and feedback will ensure that the product or service offerings are relevant to the customers’ needs and demands.
Based on the few closed deals from the initial sample audience, sales and marketing teams can use algorithms for look-alike audience and identify more such audience pools. Repeating the process a few times will allow them to assess the horizon and expand their territories by engaging with the new buyer circles in a sophisticated way.
The collaboration and inclusion of the sales-marketing duo in the review and planning will challenge long-held assumptions and help explore fundamental questions about the market dynamics. Such strategic plans will reflect real human behaviour and ensure valid execution paths for the unique challenges in the post-COVID business environment. This essential for the business to stay relevant to the evolving beliefs and demands of the customer.
Coping up and influencing the behavioural shift
The companies need to be agile and flexible in their approach of planning and management. They need to adopt an ever-evolving planning process by including sales and marketing groups into it. Their collaborative involvement in every step of the way will allow for smooth customer acquisition, lead nurturing, closed deals and seamless purchase experience for the consumer.
The businesses need to reinforce positive beliefs of the customers about the new scenario. Those that identified the new trends accurately with a clear understanding of the change in consumer beliefs, peak moments of the purchase journey and adapted product offerings for wholesome customer experience- will be best positioned to thrive in the world of new normal.