When I do strategic planning workshops with my clients, we get into a lot of discussions about buying stages. Anyone who’s followed me for a while or read my books knows that I always start very early in the process with the stage of Status Quo.
My definition of status quo is the buyer’s current situation. Understanding of status quo comes from doing the work (usually buyer persona development) that enables you to answer questions such as:
- How are they doing what your product enables today?
- What workarounds may be in place that could be escalating pain—or masking it?
- Why should they care about what you’re talking about?
- What might they not know that could arouse their curiosity?
- What would they need to learn to become motivated to consider change?
In a recent conversation, a client voiced concern that we were starting too early in the process. Comments such as, “this is a mature market, they know they need to change,” came up as I probed deeper.
My response was, “If that’s true, then why aren’t they actively pursuing change? What’s stopping them?”
There’s a big difference between knowing change is available and making the decision that change is needed, as well as taking action to do something about it. This human behavior is what marketing must address first and foremost.
Regardless of what you think your prospects and customers already know, they still have a status quo. If you can’t motivate them to move from that position, you can’t sell them anything. Period. End of discussion.
Heck, I “know” a lot of stuff, but I don’t necessarily act on it. Even if I “know” it will be good for me.
But addressing status quo goes much deeper than determining their current position. It means you have to figure out why they aren’t changing and what might make them reconsider their stance that status quo is just fine.
When looking for an approach to dislodge status quo, try applying some of these questions:
- What trigger event would cause them to pursue change?
- Who else would need to be involved for change to happen?
- In what ways might other people, processes or issues be affected by the change?
- Is the way they’ve been offered the idea of change not aligned with their perspective?
- What business objective might they miss achieving if they don’t change?
- What future opportunity might they miss if they don’t start changing now?
- Is there a cultural “elephant” in the room?
- What move by a competitor might get them out of the gate?
- Is an industry development moving their market right while they’re still going left?
- Is a regulatory or compliance change coming that they will need help addressing?
- Are they losing market share even while growing revenues?
- Are they meeting their KPIs, but still leaving revenue on the table they don’t see?
- Will a looming merger threaten their market position?
- Is there a new market opportunity that they’re missing due to their status quo?
- Who is an obstacle? (In B2B, there’s nearly always a consensus that must be reached)
- What is an obstacle blocking change (process, legacy equipment, TCO, culture etc.)
Answering these questions will help marketers gain depth in perspective that will help them to create and position marketing content that catches buyers’ attention and arouses curiosity about the true costs of maintaining the status quo. Just make sure you’re creating a business-relevant dialogue, not a treatise about why they can’t live without your whiz-bang product.
The goal in this stage is not to get them to choose a product; it’s to get them to choose to pursue change with your help. Big difference. HUGE!
None of the information required for B2B buyers or prospects to choose to change is about your product or solution. It’s about them, their internal systems, their colleagues, their culture, their unknowns…their status quo.
What will it take for you to reach potential buyers and spark them to question their adherence to status quo? It’s imperative that you back up this far in your marketing efforts to improve content marketing effectiveness.
What other questions would you add to the list?