An interesting post by Chris Koch introduces a phase to precede the four traditional buying process stages of business-to-business marketing and sales …
Awareness > Interest > Preference > Commitment
Chris uses the “epiphany stage” to describe the activity that comes before the interest phase, and the revised buying process looks like this:
Epiphany > Awareness > Interest > Preference > Commitment
As Director of Research and Thought Leadership at ITSMA (IT Services Marketing Association—the trade group for marketing execs at companies providing technology-related services and solutions), Chris and his colleagues found that marketers were not paying attention to people in this phase because they weren’t yet sales leads:
“This is the stage that occurs long before any discussion of products, services, or RFPs—indeed, it occurs before customers have even begun to think about a purchase. However, there is something important that happens at this stage: It is the point at which customers come to the realization of an important business need.”
He notes a task of the marketer in the epiphany phase is to engage people and generate demand by conveying thought leadership through the use of social media:
“These people are prospects, not leads. The way we turn prospects into leads is to gain their trust. We gain their trust by reaching out to them with smart, engaging, educational content.”
Chris and his team recommend three steps to successfully connect with those in the epiphany stage, and the most important for me is the suggestion to refocus thought leadership toward “revealing future trends and articulating the business challenges and opportunities that will likely result from those trends.”
We all agree on the importance of meaningful content for demand generation, and it’s good to see Chris shining a light on what should drive that content: thought leadership around trends, business challenges and opportunities for prospects to improve their business outcomes.
I would be remiss if I didn’t add another perspective on the epiphany phase. We are strong advocates for using social media both in our client programs and our own marketing initiatives, and we continually see positive results in generating demand.
But we also have a lengthy and successful track record of deploying outbound sales lead generation programs to proactively reach out to, identify and engage with sales prospects in the epiphany stage. This timely market canvassing not only identifies opportunities that are business need and business project “seedlings”—proactive contact programs go a long way toward building relationships for our clients and establishing roles for them early-on as trusted advisors.
By Dan McDade