My roots are in the process methodologies of Lean, Six Sigma, Theory of Constraints and a little Systems Thinking. I have built a fair share of auto-responders, workflows and 21-day programs. In fact, my first workflows were on a manufacturing floor long before that terminology became part of the inbound marketing lingo.
I have found most inbound marketing systems manipulate the customer even more than the traditional outbound marketers. They may even tell you that social engagement is a lead generator. Inbound marketing processes will have you construct conversation to make more targeted connections so that you can persuade, sell and tell more effectively and efficiently. If you have read most inbound marketing experts suggestions, they will be drilling you on littering your responses and webpages with call to actions.
At face value, it seems like a perfect match for a Lean Application. Get rid of the waste and create flow. Give the customer only the information that they need. Make our methods of persuasion, selling and telling, more effective and efficient. Lean Marketers and Inbound Marketing Companies are perfect for each other. They break issues and problems into parts and through these distinctions identify the path they need to manipulate the customer through their marketing funnel (workflow). They attempt to justify and defend their position to gain agreement on one meaning, my product or service. This is the essence of effective selling and marketing.
If this strategy works, why are we trying to be disruptive, innovate and create better customer experiences? Why are we struggling with demand? The fact is that we limit our selling and marketing by basing our conversation on one outcome and one perspective. It is Goods (Product) Dominant Logic thinking. I find when people talk about inbound marketing, it is only during the first step and maybe, the second step to gain permission from a juicy call to action (CTA) that there is anything inbound about it.
In a blog post, If Value is Co-created in Use, Our Decisions Need to be Co-created, I discussed how are decisions need to be co-created. In it I say,
The latest inbound marketing programs that are “social” in nature fail to deliver. They are simply built from our old thinking of a marketing funnel, responders, and workflows. We guide and manipulate the customer down some arbitrary path to arrive at the correct (our) decision.
What is the alternative? The alternative may be that we move our sales and marketing conversation from a viewpoint of discussion and debate to one of dialogue. We move from a convergent to a divergent conversation. In the book, Dialogue, the authors make this comparison
Discussion: Breaking issues/problems into parts
Dialogue: Seeing the whole among the parts
Discussion: Seeing distinctions between the parts
Dialogue: Seeing the connections between the parts
Discussion: Justifying/defending assumptions
Dialogue: Inquiring into assumptions
Discussion: Persuading, Selling, Telling
Dialogue: Learning through inquiry and disclosure
Discussion: Gaining agreement on one meaning
Dialogue: Creating shared meaning among the many
The argument to this line of thinking is do I sell anything as a result of all this big picture thinking. I would ask for you to consider the Challenger Sales Model discussed in this post, Lean Salespeople are Challengers, not Problem Solvers. I also discuss it in the CAP-Do: Connecting Demand to the Lean Supply Chain where I view the journey of sales and marketing from a perspective of being systemic, emergent, and participatory.
If we are in the business of creating demand, we cannot rely on the sales and marketing conversations of the past. There is nothing wrong with narrowing the conversation to one point, converging on one product and selling it. It is just limiting. When we are in the business of creating a customer, we need to welcome other perspectives, opinions and answers. We need not force our customer down a path to our solution but rather build to a shared meaning that our solution can be part of.
The authors of Dialogue state,
If a group or a team dialogues about such a problem or an issue first, by the time a solution must be selected, chances are the process will go more quickly. The choice may almost “choose itself.”
Consider the amount of time that you and those you work with spend between the two. Are you constantly trying to rush to a decision and closure about whatever is “up” in your work situation, or do you take more time and explore what is the nature itself of what is “up”? If you reverse the proportions towards the latter, even though it may seem counterintuitive to you just now, you may find things go a bit more easily in the long run.
The world of sales is on the edge of a collaborative way of selling. We no longer can just sell to a customer; we have to understand our customers’ business and our customers’ customer’s business. This can be done from a perspective of being systemic, emergent, and participatory or The Cap-Do process.