For a number of reasons, we love the Web.
One reason, relevant to this chapter, is that it tends to put Marketing directly in touch with buyers. Think about it: In most organizations, Marketing owns the web site. Every day, dozens—or hundreds, or thousands—of visitors show up on the organization's electronic doorstep. Some are only window-shopping, of course. But in many cases, they are trying to buy.
True, they may have gotten there as a result of a salesperson making an in-person sales call or a demand creation campaign. But now they're at the doorstep, and ready to be influenced, if the web site is up to the challenge. As a result, the Web is giving organizations—and specifically marketing groups within those organizations—the opportunity to develop a rich and nuanced understanding of what customers want to accomplish. In addition to information dissemination or even order fulfillment, web sites can be designed to help Marketing learn: "How do you use our products?" "What were you able to accomplish?" "How would you like to use our products in the future?"
This understanding can profoundly influence subsequent messaging (and ultimately, perhaps, research and development, product development, and engineering). When Marketing relates directly to buyers by means of a web site, they begin to understand the necessity for facilitating the buying process with meaningful electronic dialogs. You don't handle an objection on a web site; instead, you make it easy for buyers to get good answers to and work through their questions. You don't close a sale on the web site; instead, you make it easy for buyers to take action to satisfy their own needs. When the Web visitor hits "enter" and buys, it may be because Marketing was able to facilitate the buying process. In other words, in the electronic manifestation, Marketing has acted exactly like an effective, customer-focused salesperson.
The Web is not the answer to everything, of course. In most enterprise selling situations, for example, salespeople are necessary. But think how much more effective Marketing can be, in providing tools and collateral to support enterprise selling, when they have had sustained, iterative contact with the customer base through the Web. They are far better prepared to develop Sales-Primed Communications to support all the many conversations that add up to an effective customer-focused sales process.