woman on a bridge in the snow
Your customer wants a resolution her problem or her desire fulfilled with the minimum of hassle, time and expense. PHOTO: Wendy Hero

As marketers and sellers we have a fantasy: We dream our buyers read all of our site copy or listen intently to our pitches and then decide to buy.

This is BS, of course. In the digital age, the customer is in total control of the buying process, so our fantasies don’t apply.

By the time your customer comes to your site or your salesperson, she is in the middle of an ongoing conversation.

Multichannel Customer Conversations

She is having a conversation with herself (“If I buy this, I will still have to do X, and I’m not sure I’m willing to do that,”); a conversation with other customers (“Oh! One reviewer said this hotel has a strong mold smell!”); a conversation with Google (“OK, so I didn’t find it with these three words, I’ll add a fourth word, and yes, this is what I did mean to type,”); and a conversation with your competitors (“Wow. This one looks good. And they answered that question no one else had answered.”).

She has a single-minded agenda of a happy ending. She wants a resolution her problem or her desire fulfilled with the minimum of hassle, time and expense. She wants to complete this task and move on with her life.

She doesn’t want to come to your site and get confused. She doesn’t want your salesperson to try to take her through his pre-scripted sales process.

She doesn’t want to be bored, slowed down and insulted with voicemail hell. She wants you to help her get to that happy ending, ASAP.

Principles Guide the Way

Why is there such a big gap between what the customer wants and how we market and sell to her?

Because all of us are spending too much time chasing the latest tactic and ignoring the basic principles market leaders are already following.

The market leaders understand customers are now completely in control, thanks to their 24/7 use of Google and mobile, and constant conversations with other customers. This is the new Digital Revolution. This is what has really changed in the last few years.

These leaders have also used certain principles to get involved in the customer’s conversation in a way that leads to revenue.

One of the operating principles for the Digital Revolution is that to succeed now you need to meet your customer’s expectations, Google’s expectations and your own revenue expectations. Make sure you incorporate all three in your marketing efforts to optimize your results.

Meeting Customer Expectations

You have to meet the customers' expectations or you don’t sell anything. So your content better be in line with what they are looking for — the problem they’re trying to solve with your product or service.

Your content should answer their questions, whether they are in the “discovery” phase (trying to figure out what the solution might be) or the “decision” phase (where they’ve narrowed the decision down to a particular approach and it’s time to compare offerings within that approach).

Don’t ignore the first phase; if you do that right, you’ll get into their conversation way before your competitors.

And resist just trying to sell. Help without selling.

Recognize you can’t meet customer expectations by guessing. What you and your company managers assume about customers is always different from what customers were thinking. Always.

Your current customers will be glad to tell you why they bought and what they were thinking as they bought (which they will never, ever tell your salesperson while they’re being sold to). Armed with this truth, everything you do will be more effective.

Meeting Google’s Expectations

You have to meet Google’s expectations because Google is the gateway to your customer. Google has to want to show your content.

Google is your friend. Google is doing everything it can to help marketers understand what customers are searching for, which content they find most helpful, where they come from, how they flow through your site and how to feature you when it’s obvious that your product or service is exactly what the customer is looking for.

Google’s expectations aren’t a mystery, but they are numerous — Google uses something like 200 criteria to decide who deserves to be ranked most highly.

Fortunately, there is help here, thanks to SEO-guidance tools like Yoast (which helps you optimize content in WordPress) and basic principles such as determining the key phrases that should always be associated with your company so Google gets a strong clue about what you sell and what makes you special.

A lot of companies are failing to focus on Google’s expectations. They generate content for humans, but they don’t also keep in mind the principles they must follow so that Google looks favorably on their content. They are generating reams of useful content that no one will ever find.

Meeting Revenue Expectations

And of course you have to meet your revenue expectations. Otherwise, what’s the point?

That means you keep testing, measuring, and improving. Fail fast, because every failure means you’ve learned something about how to make pages, posts, ads, social, and campaigns that much more relevant to your customers.

And of course, you pay attention to conversion. Once customers come to your site, it needs to be easy for them to take the next step, whatever that is.

One guy I know gets 1 million visits to his site every month thanks to his great content, but he’s not selling anything. You can’t afford to be that guy.

Another company was paying a pay-per-click (PPC) company for clickthroughs. But the ads were not clear about what was being sold, which meant that people came to their site and bounced right out.

The bounce rate was above 70 percent, which made Google think the site didn’t have much to offer, which made Google rank them lower, which meant they had to run more PPC ads, which brought them more “wrong” traffic, which raised their bounce rate … and on it went. You don’t want to be that company, either.

The good news is the customer is not the only one with access to an amazing amount of information. Marketers now can use incredible tools such as SpyFu, Moz, Alexa, Google Trends and Google Analytics to see exactly what customers and competitors are doing.

You don’t have to market by guessing anymore. If you combine internet-based fact-finding with customer interviews, you will know the conversations your customers are having. You will know where you fit into those conversations and how you can help.

Fact-based marketing and getting in sync with the customer’s reality is the most satisfying thing you can master. The best part? It’s even better than our marketing and selling fantasies.