I had always thought that every person had their own leadership style — some are micromanagers, for example, while others are passionate about consensus building and coaching.
But I recently attended a workshop on the Situational Leadership model, and that notion of a single leadership style was turned on its head. What I learned is that leadership is situational, and the best leaders modify their style to suit the situation and capabilities of their team members. It occurred to me that marketers would strongly benefit from applying a similar model to their efforts by modifying delivery style (and content) in order to engage customers based on their individual development level on a particular topic in relation to a business goal.
The Hersey-Blanchard Situational Leadership Theory was created by Dr. Paul Hersey, a professor and author of “The Situational Leader,” and Ken Blanchard, author of the best-selling “One-Minute Manager” and other books. The theory recommends that instead of using just one style, leaders should adjust their leadership styles based on the maturity of the people they’re leading and the details of the task at hand.
By applying this theory, leaders should be able to place more or less emphasis on the task, and more or less emphasis on building relationships with people, depending on what’s needed to get the job done successfully.
Can this concept also apply to the marketer/buyer relationship? All too often I find that marketers are “stuck” in a certain style — perhaps they engage only in Twitter, or writing website copy, or devising SEO strategies. My theory is that those one-trick ponies will soon be extinct and those marketers who can demonstrate the ability to be responsive to customers and engage them on an individualized basis in any channel or device at any stage of the buyer’s journey will be in demand.
The many hats of marketing
Wearing multiple hats is not a new concept to most marketers; most of us transition frequently from communicator to project manager to subject matter expert. It is far more challenging, however, to become a true “situational marketer” who is able to seamlessly transition from one marketing style to another in order to offer a personalized and contextual message to customers at each stage of a buyer’s journey. And yet research indicates that personalized marketing is exactly what consumers want to experience from brands today.
Telling. This style represents classic outbound or “push” marketing, including your product marketing, advertising, etc. These marketing tactics are most successful when brand awareness is the goal, or perhaps when an individual prospect is serving as an internal champion for your products or services.
Selling. In later stages of the customer journey, this style becomes critical for marketers to support the sales team with product demos, analyst and influencer context, and commercial insights that enable prospects to grasp the value of the purchase to their individual and organizational goals.
Participating. Thanks to the massive popularity of social media communities, participating in dialogue with customers is now easily accessible to every marketer, at least virtually. This style is critical throughout the buyer’s journey as customers today reach out to their networks for insights, reviews, and education at various stages of their awareness and discovery process.
Empowering. Customers today prefer to be entertained, inspired, and educated by marketing. Hence the empowerment style engenders the development of content that enables them to “drive” through interactive content and responsive surveys, audience specific messaging, and powerful storytelling.
Diagnosing buyer development level
In Ken Blanchard’s Situational Leadership Model, leaders are advised to set goals for each team member and then evaluate their development levels. Development levels are determined by the levels present of two primary factors: competence and commitment. For the purposes of the Marketer/Buyer analogy, we’ll modify Blanchard’s model to evaluate the buyer’s level of knowledge and commitment relative to their business goal.
D1: Low level of knowledge of topic; high commitment to the business goal
D2: Mid-range knowledge of topic; low commitment to the business goal
D3: Significant knowledge of topic; low commitment to the business goal
D4: Significant knowledge of topic; high commitment to the business goal
Matching marketing style to buyer development level
As with the Situational Leadership Model, the process of matching style to development level is critical for success. Instead of hiding behind a (virtual) wall, marketers would be required to engage deeply with customers and prospects and leverage technology providing customer analytics and insights in order to evaluate and respond accordingly to their current development level. And much like the members of your team, customers will also have different development levels depending on the topic and their business goal.
For example, a buyer with a need for deeper business insights and forecasting abilities may be highly knowledgeable and highly committed to the evaluation and purchase of analytics software and but completely unaware of the possibilities that predictive analytics would offer his or her organization. As marketers, it is our job to gain an understanding of both situations and respond to this buyer in a contextual manner. In this example, a “selling” style might be best suited for their immediate need of analytics software, but shifting to an “empowered” style might inspire the buyer to consider predictive analytics software as well.
In the idealistic world of situational marketing success, marketers and buyers would become partners in the journey toward a business goal and travel together through the stages of awareness, interest, desire, and action. Is it too good to be true?
This article was syndicated from Business 2 Community: Is Your Marketing Style Compatible With Your Customers?
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