The topic of influence continues to be a focus of marketing this year, as it was last year. People are flinging content at prospective customers as fast as possible, but one of the most important aspects of influence continues to be largely ignored: counter-influences.
Here's a simple example. Imagine for a moment that you're a real estate agent. A new person enters your database and you begin a standard routine of content marketing with them. You provide value, you reach out, you do all of the right things that every content marketing guidebook says you should be doing, but the prospect shows no sign of moving forward in the process. On a whim, you reach out by phone after half a year of having this prospect in your database and you say, "Hey Bob, I had a question for you. I know you love the newsletter we send out, and you attend the talks we give, but you've never shown any interest in our services. May I ask why?"
Only then does Bob reveal that he had just bought a house not three months before entering your database, and he was idly shopping around to see if his purchase had been a sound one. Given that the average residential sales cycle of homes is between 7 and 12 years, Bob has a very long time to spend in your database before he's ready to even consider buying. You can nurture the relationship until then, but that's an awful lot of content to ship to him while you wait.
Influence - your influence with your prospects - can be counteracted by any number of conditions, from timing in the sales cycle to your company's reputation impeding your efforts (or vice versa). For example, I recently received a visit from a door to door salesman who would make a Congressman look ethical in his attempts to do a hard sell as fast as possible. His company's brand was destroyed that day as I'll never even contemplate buying from them because of his behavior. Though that company might have a wonderful content marketing system and might do all the right things when it comes to engagement, the bad experience with their sales critter severely damaged their brand beyond any ability for them to recoup revenue from me.
How do you detect these hidden counter-influences? Believe it or not, the solution is one of the most simple choices available: the simple comments box.
A simple comments box allows people to enter free-form text explaining what it is they're interested in or not interested in. Asking people what they need is the only guaranteed way to determine what factors are causing a buying decision (or blocking it) and giving you indicators about what you should do to improve your buying process. It does require a human being to read through them and see what prospective customers are saying, however, which means it's not something you can simply automate and forget about. The time invested in listening to customers, however, will pay dividends as you learn what's on their minds, which in turn gives you more influence with them.
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