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Old Habits Die Hard: Don't Be Afraid to Kick the Bucket

Old habits die hard. If you’ve been in marketing for any length of time, you’ve likely heard the term “buckets.” Marketers love it, but I hate it. Most marketers want to bucketize things by placing them in nice, neat little bins. What they don’t realize is that the world doesn’t work like that and, more importantly, buyers don’t buy like that. You don’t wake up one day and say – “wow, I’m a prospect now – I felt like a suspect yesterday, but today is different! I’m an engaged lead!” It’s a process. What’s even worse is that marketers want to define specific actions you

take so you can be pushed into a “bucket.” This goes against everything I preach. Interest is fluid, and the path to purchase can be a schizophrenic one, paved with budget constraints, sudden urgency, whimsy, and trust barriers. If you think you are going to force an individual, a member of the thank you economy, a buyer who has grown up with micro-marketing stimulation since birth to follow your buying path – you are, frankly, insane. Let’s dive in a little deeper here and see just how deep that rabbit hole goes.

I speak to a lot of marketers and, nine times out of ten, the conversation starts with a request for “best practices.” People want to know what works – that is, until it goes against their bucket approach. I’m a purveyor of lead score. I believe that you can use lead score to get to the root of the buying path and that, like buyer interest, it can become a fluid representation of a moment in time. In un-romanticized speak, if we score every movement, we should be able to set a threshold and push leads to sales. Based on how well those leads perform – we can move the threshold or change the weights. It’s dynamic and it works.

I’ve been using the same methodology for six years and have made it “the LeadMD way”. I guess you can say it’s our best practice. You can also say that it is often met with resistance. Our methodology does not support buckets. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are milestones along the way and I do believe strongly in the Sirius model. However, when it comes to the notion of placing leads into a bucket based on a set of pre-defined movements (i.e. buyer fills out a specific form), and then requiring that buyer to perform another specific set of actions to move to the next bucket – I call B.S.

When I say that lead score is fluid, I mean it. It moves up and down, it varies by buying role, it’s influenced by demographics, and it climaxes with behavior. I built LeadMD’s scoring methodology three years ago and I haven’t touched it since. I built it using naming conventions so I don’t have to. Early stage content, mid stage, late stage, video, and social – everything has a naming convention. So when I roll out a new video, I simply name the resource a certain way and then the score reacts when a buyer clicks it. On second thought, I think I have touched it a few times – when we switched to Vimeo, when Google Plus came online, and when we started aggregating marketing articles in our industry buzz section. In comparison to some clients I engage with who evaluate score every week and have to make changes because things break when they roll out a new whitepaper, I’m virtually hands off.

Let’s face it, the bucket is evil and it must be punished. It represents a bygone way of thinking –that we know better than the buyer, and thinking we can force the buyer to follow our prescribed path. The web killed this. Even the terms “suspect’ and “prospect” make me cringe because those were the words I was taught as a marketing intern in 1997. It’s 2012, and these days we need to speak of engagement, interest, and nurture. It’s time to lay those old terms to rest.

So how do we do this – how do we kick the bucket, if you will? We shift our mindset. We move away from “campaign” based thinking and into conversations. Through marketing automation, we have the ability to go micro. Smaller, one-on-one conversations – and many of them. We bait our hooks with acquisition programs to acquire new names and, once we have them, we start to nurture them. Our scoring programs measure their engagement in those conversations. If we’ve written our marketing logic correctly, we measure engagement and if the messages we’re serving aren’t working, we switch gears. This takes a lot of planning and development – but it works.

As you are evaluating a marketing automation purchase or perhaps re-evaluating the solution you have – take a moment to pause and determine if you have a fluid, conversation-based plan in place. If not, start there. The worst thing you can do is fit last year’s ass in this year’s jeans. An ex-girlfriend of mine used to say that and I think it’s more than relevant here. Old processes and thinking have no room innew technology. We must listen to our buyers and let them out of the bucket before they not only escape that confine, but also hop into another bucket – your competitor’s customer list.

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