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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue ScientistTue, Mar 14, 2017 16 min read

Inbound Marketing Or Demand Generation? Why It Might Not Be Either

What If The Answer To Lead Generation And Revenue Acceleration Was 'The Experience'?

Inbound Marketing Is ALL About The ExperienceWhat if everything you thought you knew about marketing was wrong? What if it’s not about the fancy labels we created for the different approaches to marketing? Inbound marketing, demand generation, account-based marketing, email marketing, content marketing, search marketing — what if it’s not about one or the other? What if you flipped it on its head and looked at marketing from the perspective of your prospects and your clients?

What if we asked a different question? Instead of asking, what does it take to cut through the clutter and get someone’s attention?,” what if we asked, what do we have to do to create an experience that gets potential customers talking about how badly they want to work with your business? Wouldn’t that be more sustainable, more differentiating and more valuable to your business? Of course it would.

Here are some proven techniques to use marketing to create an experience, instead of using marketing to deploy tactics.

Live It Yourself

It might seem obvious, but I rarely see CEOs taking us up on this suggestion to live your own marketing, sales and service experiences. In a wonderful article from Forbes, Blake Morgan quotes a favorite TV show of mine, Billions.” Bobby Axelrod, a self-made Wall Street hedge fund billionaire who invests in a company called “Yumtime” (maker of one of his favorite childhood treats — think Twinkies), tells one of his colleagues, “Whenever you can, put the company in your mouth.”

He’s recommending that you should touch, taste, smell and live the experience of your company from the perspective of your customers. It’s brilliant advice. Immediately, they realize the Yumtime cake isn’t what they remember and start working with company executives to find out why. If you start paying attention, you’ll notice examples like this everywhere.

I had Chinese food for dinner last night. After the dinner was over, my wife wanted to take home the leftovers. We told the waiter, and instead of taking the food back to the kitchen, boxing it up and bringing it out to us, he brought us a box and a bag. Now we had to box it up. Not a good experience.

Secret Shopping Helps Uncover The Real ExperienceYou want to start living your own company’s experience. Start by doing a search. Use branded keywords and then keywords that your prospects would use. What comes up? Any reviews? You’re going to see what people are saying about your business. You’re going to see who is out-optimizing you on Google. You may be surprised to learn your business might be invisible to searchers.

Once you find your company links, click on them. Are they going to pages that tell a compelling story? Are they going to old pages? Are they going to pages that look amazing? Do you even have offers on those pages to help someone who is actively searching for information? Are they the right pages, for the right people, at the right time in their buying journey? If the answer is no to any of these questions, you don’t have the optimal experience.

Once they get on your site, are they strategically managed through the site? Are there offers for people at all stages of the funnel? Are there educational materials that help prospects feel safe? Can they quickly get to know, like and trust your company? The website is the first real and significant experience most prospects are going to have with your company. If they can’t tell what you do in 10 seconds, if there’s no emotional story and if they don’t know what makes you better than all of your competition, the site experience is preventing you from driving revenue.

Once visitors turn into leads, now you have to live the lead nurturing process. How many emails are you sending? What do those emails say? How much value is being delivered? How do you feel when you get the emails? Do you feel annoyed or excited? Feeling is a big part of sales and marketing. If we can get you to feel safe, we can get you to buy. Consider the length of the nurturing, the tone of the emails and the stories you tell.

Once someone converts again from lead to sales opportunity, what does the sales process feel like? Is it pushy or advisory? Is it filled with valuable content or is it an attempt to sell? Is it collaborative or does it feel like a lecture? Unpack the sales process in as much detail as possible. Look at your paperwork, agreements or contracts. Are they filled with legal jargon? Are they lengthy? How do they make you feel? Paperwork that makes you feel anxious is usually a bad sign.

Once someone signs, then what? How does the onboarding proceed? What is the communication associated with bringing on new clients? Does it happen in-person, over the phone or via email? How are expectations set? Who sets the expectations? You worked so hard to get that new customer. Are you working as hard to help them feel good about their decision? Keep going. What about delivery? What about ongoing check-ins? What about ways to continue to understand the changing nature of their business so you can keep providing them with amazing service experiences? It’s tough, but it’s the key to long-term customer retention and lots of referrals!

It might be a little tricky to set yourself up to experience the entire life cycle from click to close and then into the actual delivery, but its worthwhile to identify those areas that with even a little attention have the potential to dramatically improve the human experience for your customers.

Ask People For Their Feedback

As I said, experiencing it yourself has several complexities, but there are other ways to get this critical feedback. Try asking people. Start with a handful of active prospects. Get them on the phone and ask them what they like about their current experiences. The good news here is that these people are right in the middle of the experience, so their feedback is going to be fresh and recent.

Ask current customers. You want to consider a customer advocacy program as part of your marketing anyway, so this is a great place to start.

You obviously did a lot right to get them in the first place, so asking them to share their experiences will uncover those details. But perhaps improving some elements of the experience could have helped them to sign sooner or purchase more. Since they might not remember every aspect of the entire experience, spend a little time getting your questions to reflect all parts of their buyer journey, from how they found you to nurturing and into the sales process.

Then, wrap it up with an insightful set of questions about their experiences as a customer. Since those are going to be more current, it should be easier for them to share these with you.

Finally, don’t forget about those prospects who didn’t pick you. It can be very challenging to get feedback from prospects who went in a different direction. We always ask and rarely get the insight we’re looking for, but when you do it can be very helpful. It’s worth the effort. Even if you only get information 20% of the time, that information might be the most important out of all these sources.

Map The Prospect Buyer Journey In Honest Detail

Once you start collecting this feedback, our recommendation is to create a buyer journey map. This is a physical representation of every touch point for a typical prospect, both those that are with your company and those that might be outside of your control. By mapping these out, you’ll quickly see where the holes and weak spots exist in the experience.

If you discover your prospective customers are finding key pieces of information outside your area of influence, you need to supplement your content library with educational information that pulls them back in and keeps them with you.

If gaps in your experience allow prospective customers to languish for a period of time, you need to consider adding another touch point to stay connected with them while they work through their purchasing process.

By mapping every single touch point all the way through and into the customer experience, you’ll identify areas where you can upgrade your communication, service or personal interactions with the goal to make almost all those touch points little wows. You don’t have to create big wows all the time; sometimes a series of little wows is enough to get people talking.

Marry The Metrics

Once the mapping is complete, you’ll want to add metrics into each of the stages, focusing especially in the marketing and sales part of the experience but potentially in the customer experience too. How often are people asking for additional help? How often are they buying more from you? How often are they answering the net promoter question with a nine or 10? The map is great for a visual representation of the experience, but the metrics give you a benchmark for where you are today, goals for where you want to be tomorrow and then real-time tracking on your progress.

Create A Continuous Improvement Process

This won’t be a one-and-done exercise. Creating remarkable and buzzworthy experiences like we’re talking about here takes time and continuous improvement. Don’t go into this thinking that you’re going to re-do this in an afternoon. Some of the challenges are going to be operational. Its going to take thinking, money and a commitment from your team.

The best you should hope for is that you get your team thinking about this all of the time. This becomes something they work on every day. They’re constantly looking for ways to improve the experience for people while they’re interacting with your marketing, when they start interacting with your sales team and when they become customers or clients.  

Let’s not kid each other. This is very hard to do. You’re talking about revamping everything you do from a sales, marketing and operations perspective. But that’s why when you get this implemented, your business is going to stand out from every other business in your industry. You’ll have the best marketing and sales process on the planet. Your customers will be your biggest marketing channel. There’s going to be a waiting list to do business with your company.

I want to remind you that this is going to require a major paradigm shift. You can’t continue to provide mediocre products or services and simply improve sales and marketing. This has to be a holistic approach to your entire business and you’re probably going to need help. If you knew how to do this, I’m going to assume you’d already be doing it. Consider bringing in a team to help you create this experiential upgrade that starts when a potential prospect first learns about your company and ends when a current customer can’t tell enough people about how your company helped them.

I’m a marketer, so I can’t help but want to label this. Maybe it should be called humanizing. We want to humanize the entire experience to produce a feeling of wanting to purchase, purchasing, purchasing again and sharing that experience with other potential purchasers. What I do know is that investing time, energy and money in creating an experience will produce a much more substantial return than any money invested in pure marketing tactics.

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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist

Mike is the CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist at Square 2. He is passionate about helping people turn their ordinary businesses into businesses people talk about. For more than 25 years, Mike has been working hand-in-hand with CEOs and marketing and sales executives to help them create strategic revenue growth plans, compelling marketing strategies and remarkable sales processes that shorten the sales cycle and increase close rates.