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Don't Miss the Opportunity of Your Prospects' Online Research

Because it is off the radar, many businesses let others teach their segment how and what to buy. Expand your influence to their off-radar learning and increase your leads.


#contentmarketing, #contentwriting, #marketing, #marketlistening, #marketresearch, #strategicthoughtleadership, #thoughtleadership

People research online before major purchases.

Online research before major purchaseAccording to GE Capital's second annual Major Purchase Shopper Study, conducted by marketing research company Rothstein Tauber, 81% research online before making big purchases.

This study looms even larger and brighter when you realize it includes off-line purchases.

Imagine hanging out at a bustling car dealership while you wait on the recall service on your SUV. Against the backdrop of clanging tools in the service area, over the afternoon, you see five people walk in the shining, adjacent sales rooms and buy a car. According to that study, four of them came in already well-informed: they had honed their decision process online ahead contacting the dealer.

Where was the influence that really made those sales?

Was it the in-person presentation, or were the buying decisions largely made "off the radar" of this dealership?

Speaking of radar...

It's not just their pre-purchase research. It's their pre-contact research.

Radar SweepNow imagine we are air traffic controllers, huddling over glowing screens tracking incoming aircraft. The "beeps" of the radar hits echo off the large windows as we turn knobs to adjust the displays.

Our aim is to get people safety to our airport.

For the purpose of this thought experiment, let's pretend radio is down. All we can go by are the glowing dots illuminated by the rhythmic sweeping of radar scans.

Our airport isn't suitable for every flying vehicle, so, based on craft type, we determine who can land here and who we have to send elsewhere. We recognize helicopters by their speed and altitude. Unfortunately, they are unsuitable for our airport, so we have to send them along.

Before they were on our screens, they had chosen the wrong vehicles to land here.

It didn't have to be that way - they could have boarded the perfect craft for our port - but we weren't even aware of the decision because it happened off the radar.

Upon learning this, we might wonder how to get some instructions outside our radar scan area. We need to catch them early enough to guide their actions before they make the wrong decisions.

So it is with our thought-leadership based content marketing,

Discovering what's off the radar.

  • On the radar, (post-contact), prospects pull for the benefits they assume will come from a purchase.
  • Outside the radar, (pre-contact), they pull for the learning that will guide their decisions about how to get those benefits
  • Since their decisions are at least largely formed off-radar, we have to aim for maximum positive impact - from their point of view - with our internet media.
Thought Leadership StudioWhat are they learning from?

It generally isn't from ads. It's from what they consider helpful content.

According to a study by MGD Advertising, 70 percent of internet users want to learn about products through content versus traditional advertisements.

So what does this mean for our sales and marketing efforts?

  1. First, realize you may have never known about prospects who went elsewhere because their web research guided them to a different offer. They never got on your radar.
  2. So, extend your Insight-based market research to (1) include understanding what's really important to your prospects: their higher values, (2) learning how they currently understand your product or service category: their relevant mental models. You can do that in a privacy-respectful way because it's more about insight than information.
  3. Develop a Thought Leadership Position that empowers them to better fulfill their values by embracing a new way of thinking (mental model) that highlights the unique advantages of your offer.
  4. Develop persuasive talking points that support this Thought Leadership Position.
  5. Package this model appropriately in media like white papers, websites, blogs, videos, podcasts, and other online media.
  6. Use the right promotion strategies to share this model with the right audience often enough so they respond. This can include both "owned media" (your website, blog, etc) and outreach to "earned media" (others' media through press releases, influencer deals, etc.).
  7. As market thinking evolves, rinse and repeat. It's an iterative process.
A good place to start learning this process is the infographic of the LEO Model of Strategic Thought Leadership: Listen-Envision-Output.


Written by Chris McNeil, Strategic Thought Leadership NLP Coach and Consultant, Founder of Thaut, host of Thought Leadership Studio podcast, and Creator of the Thaut Process of Strategic Thought Leadership.

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