The Marketing Strategist:

Take Advantage of the Epiphany Stage

February 9, 2009

We’ve just completed a new report entitled The Epiphany Stage: The Missing Link in the Buying Process. We were driven to write the report because we see marketers engaging prospects and customers too late in the buying cycle. Marketers are missing opportunities in the epiphany stage, which occurs long before any discussion of products, services, or RFPs—indeed, it occurs before customers have even begun to think about a purchase. The epiphany stage is the point at which customers come to the realization of an important business need. For example, it could be the moment when the executive team realizes that it needs to enter a new market or develop a new product. Or it could be the moment when the business unit leader sees how the innovative application of a newer technology can solve a previously unidentified business problem. It’s a golden moment for a provider to be there to offer valuable advice and support. Helping customers realize that they have a business need confers a tremendous advantage. You have the opportunity to create a deeper, more enduring relationship with prospects and customers and to influence the direction of the project before competitors have even entered the process—perhaps securing a role as the preferred provider. But it isn’t easy. We have identified three steps to become a master of the epiphany stage: 1. Refocus your thought leadership strategy. In the epiphany stage, thought leadership should be focused on revealing future trends and articulating the business challenges and opportunities that will likely result from those trends. Thus, marketing owns the epiphany stage. It’s up to marketing to create a research network that generates the trends and business challenges that customers and prospects are looking for at this stage. 2. Align the sales and marketing processes with the customer’s buying process. There is typically a big gap in time between the point at which a prospect recognizes a business need and the time when sales typically engages them (in the interest stage). Marketers need to help sales better understand prospects’ internal buying processes so that sales moves from simply reacting to RFPs to helping prospects discover and respond to the most important business issues they face. 3. Change sales’ emphasis from transactional to consultative selling. The goal for salespeople in the epiphany stage shifts from making the sale to building trust. Customers invest their trust in the relationship when they see that a provider is willing and able to provide knowledge and experience that rivals and exceeds their own—in other words, to put the needs of the customer first. That trust increases when the provider does not allow knowledge and experience to be bounded by its own four walls. ITSMA program clients can read the full report here.

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