Making connections is an important aspect for all businesses, and we often rely on face to face and in person opportunities to achieve this. But in a time like this with COVID-19, when social distancing has become the norm, how do businesses and brands go about making those meaningful and emotional connections that are so vital to building trust and often lead to sales?
Kevin England, CEO of Vonazon marketing agency, reminds you to first get back to basics with the four main senses; touch, vision, hearing, speaking. You want to make sure that you’re always educating, regardless of where your potential client is in your funnel.
Rich: As founder, CEO and president of one of the nation’s leading digital marketing, advertising, and media agencies, our next guest is an impassioned entrepreneur and executive strategist with over three decades of proven experience in growing businesses in all industries across the globe. His skill for innovation is a fine tuned machine.
He focuses on value driven content, helping encourage and enable companies to drive measurable and sustainable growth that takes their business to the next level. I’m excited to dive into creating emotional connections online with Kevin England. Kevin, welcome to the program.
Kevin: Well thank you very much, Rich. I’m thrilled and happy to be here.
Rich: Well I’m very excited to have you here too, because I love the idea of building an emotional connection online. Sometimes the online world does seem so cold. So tell us a little bit about how we can create that emotional connection with our clients, vendors, prospects, what have you.
Kevin: So that’s a great introduction. Absolutely. I’m going to have fun with this and I’m going to take you back to when we create emotional connections with people that just sit right in front of us. And the reason why I want to do that is because it’s not very different than what we do when we’re sitting in front of somebody, we just have to take it and turn it into the digital age.
So the first things that we usually do when we are engaging with somebody who’s right in front of us is a handshake, it’s an introduction, it’s that touch. So this four different senses that we go through which is touch, vision, hearing and speaking.
And the first one is touch, which is usually that introduction, that handshake that we usually have with that person. And that simple handshake or touch has a tendency to reinforce positive feelings about basically what would be stranger. And also it reduces that negative first impression. So that’s that simple introduction.
The next one is that whole vision part. When we’re sitting in front of somebody, we get the benefit of being able to make eye contact and to understand their facial expressions and even their body language. Now over the internet we necessarily can’t do that, but in a face to face conversation, we can. So it allows us to then be able to get someone to almost mimic our initial body language and have that emotional connection.
And then the third sense that we deal with, when we’re dealing with that face to face conversation is, we listen. We ask questions kind of like what you’re doing right now, asking simple questions, and I’m responding to some of those questions. But in doing that, we create that emotional connection with the person in front of me, in front of us or our audience. Which is at another in-person type of communication to create an emotional connection when we’re with somebody.
And then that fourth sense that we use is eventually speaking and talking to somebody after we’ve listened to what they have to say.
Now what I want to do is I want to relate that then to a digital connection. So when we talk about a digital connection, we talk about the same team type of thing with that in-person. That first thing is that touch, but really what is that touch? That touch is that introduction. And so what do we do in today’s world to introduce ourselves through a digital connection? Now, if you think about that, every person that we engage with has some type of social media platform that they work with.
And these social media platforms are a great way to give your audience almost like a lens into who you are, into your business, your experience, your voice, your values. And the cool thing about that is that you can do that and you can provide that information to anybody as they’re engaging from their homes or business. And of course, text, video and different types of content, allow us to be able to do that.
So we can create that introduction through social media, we can create that introduction to an audience through your website. And the great thing about doing it on your website is, it’s not just about what you do, but also why you do it. And it provides that simple introduction.
And of course, another social channel that somebody could use or another channel that someone can use is search. And that search is that simple introduction because that person is looking to you. For information, and it’s a great way to provide an introduction to who you are, what you’re doing, and why you do what you do.
And then when I talk about that next vision, that next step..
Rich: Before we get to vision, I just want to talk about touch for a minutes. So obviously we can’t touch, at least not yet given today’s technology, physically touch people. But what I’m hearing from you is, trying to do the digital equivalent of it on social media means being real and vulnerable, even if you might be showing off your better self. You can certainly be there in search for people within a moment of need. And I’m assuming video can play an important role here too, as it’s probably the most real world-like activity we can do online. Correct?
Kevin: Yes, absolutely. In fact, we talk about the multitude of different channels that you should use when you’re trying to provide that introduction and you’re trying to provide that authentic look and feel into your business and into yourself. So that is a great medium in which to use in order to get that type of engagement.
Rich: Awesome. All right. So that’s touch. And now you were starting to get into vision.
Kevin: So another thing is with vision. We can’t physically see our prospect, their body language or facial expressions and things like that over the internet. But what we can do, we can do research. And we can do this research on who our audience is, what their pain points, their challenges, what issues may be they’re having prior to them engaging with our content, either reaching in to us or us reaching out to them.
So the whole part of vision and is allowing us, and then I guess I’ll label this as defining your buyer personas and understanding your audience. And it’s the same thing that you or I do when we are asked to speak at an event. The first thing we usually ask is, who is my audience? You know, what are some of their challenges and then how am I going to respond to them.
So that whole vision – and I want to coin that as called our ’digital vision’ – so our ‘digital vision’ is to be able to understand our customer, categorize them and basically provide ourselves with the ammunition to speak with them. And so that’s kind of the whole vision part of it, is to build out that persona and categorize that persona.
Rich: So it sounds like touch is all about kind of displaying ourselves to the world. Vision is almost the reverse of that. So we’re really thinking about who we want to make the connection with, be it based on buyer personas or whatever kind of phrasing we might use. But it’s really about making sure that we’re present for that other person who we might be able to help.
Kevin: Right. Absolutely. And so then that falls right into the listening part. It’s the same thing that we do when we have those in person conversations is that we go back to our, our digital vision and our personas. And now what we do is we need to build a trust relationship with that individual. And this is where we start building out that content.
And the reason why we want to build out that trust relationship is that’s the beginning part of creating that emotional connection with your audience. Trust is an important part of creating that emotional connection. So by building out that type of content, you have to ask yourself what type of content is going to resonate with my audience.
And so that question is, well, first of all no one wants to be sold anything. So I would look at it like, don’t give me a digital brochure of your business that tells me the features of what you do. Teach me something. Teach me something that’s going to relate to me, teach me something that’s going to be about my industry or about my business, or teach me something that’s going to make my life better. And that’s going to give me that trustworthy, emotional connection to you and your brand.
And they say that most customers basically, there’s many studies out there that most customers want to engage with content that provides some type of emotional connection and that teaches them something or educates them something along the way.
Now that really isn’t the completion, part of that listening. Because with listening technology has really afforded us the ability to not only know who our customers are and to target our customers, but through artificial intelligence and AI we can now track where they are and when they actually want to engage with our educational content. So AI has really given us the ability to now to fine tune our customer what channels they’re actually on, whether it be social media, whether it be through search, whether it be through some type of email marketing campaign. So AI has really given us the ability to now provide that content and almost like sit quietly on the side until our customer is ready to engage with that content and then serve it up to them. Almost like they’re taking their own journey to access that type of information. And that’s truly listening to our customer at that point.
Rich: I really love, Kevin, that idea of teach me. And it’s interesting to me because earlier this season during COVID I started, I started to see ads for a company called Sunday, which is like a lawn service where they mail you the stuff and you water your own yard with their stuff. And so I’m like, yeah, you know what, that seems like a cost effective way of dealing with my lawn right now. So I did it. Of course, they start sending you out emails and the emails were fantastic. They were like, “Three quick things that you can do to have a better lawn”, outside of their products. And for me, it was a great teaching mode. Oh. So that’s what I should do for my soil. That’s how often I should mow. This is how often I should water. And those quick wins really engaged me. And it sounds like that whole teach me idea.
Kevin: Yeah, it is. And actually that’s a perfect example of basically what they did to target you and to provide you with information that educated you along your journey, so that eventually you got to the point of buying their product. Which is what companies need to do to create that emotional connection with their business, their brand, and even their employees. Which is a super important part of it.
Now, the last part of that whole thing is speaking. And the biggest thing that I learned early on was basically to listen first and then speak after, and not to interrupt. The one problem that all of us have is that in an in person conversation we’re so excited and passionate about what we have to talk about, that we interrupt the person that’s speaking to us and forget that we have to listen first. Well, you might say that in a digital world, you can’t necessarily interrupt somebody, but you actually can.
And the way that you interrupt people during their process is by over spamming them with too much information, creating these crazy popup ads that pop up all over the place, in developing out these impersonal robotic chat bots, or of course calling them incessantly. This is the way that through the digital world that we interrupt people, which is something that we never want to do an in person situation.
What you want to do when you’re finally listening and after you’re speaking with somebody is, you want to provide them with information that educates. You want to provide them with a credibility to yourself and your business. As an expert, you want to highlight some of your shared values. And then of course at that point, you want to make sure that you’re providing that information, that type of content to an audience that actually wants to listen. And if you’re doing that, you will at that point create an amazing emotional connection with your prospects and customers, especially over a period of time.
Rich: What I like about this approach; touch, vision, listen, speaking, is that it also works reflects the normal human interactions of back and forth. So touch, vision, you know, it’s like one direction, next direction, back again. So that pretty much emulates a healthy conversation that two people might have. I’m kind of curious how you came up with all this, with this model that you’re using right now?
Kevin: So that actually goes way back for me. I had this as we all have grown up in life. We’ve had these mentors in our lives. And I had this mentor in my life and he taught me how to deal and work in an in-person conversation. I wanted to be just like him, and so I learned from him how to get people to listen to me like they did with him. And he taught me these four different senses and he kept on saying, “Kevin, just go back to these four senses and that will help you to deliver content or deliver information to people and create that emotional connection.”
And so I just took that and I turned that into more of a digital response and I’ve taught my entire staff to do it. And right now that’s part of what we do on a regular basis to help and support customers, you know, across a multitude of different industries.
Rich: Can you give me an example of how you might do that with an individual client or prospect? Like, just walk me through what that process looks like in the real digital world.
Kevin: Yeah, absolutely. So what we will do and I’ll, and I’ll, I’ll, I’ll develop it. Maybe let’s say an email marketing campaign. So we have a multitude of different customers – large and small businesses – that come to us and want to focus in on a specific type of industry. So they have a list of people within their industry, we spend time to build out the persona of those individuals and find out more about going through our personas, understanding their pain points and challenges before we actually start creating our content in our email marketing campaign.
Then we take them through five different stages at that point. And the five different stages of a marketing strategy is to first, there’s usually a problem or pain point. Then there’s an awareness stage, an interest stage and a consideration stage. And the fifth one is making the decision. So, what we’ll do is we’ll develop out an email marketing campaign that first focuses on awareness, which is kind of introduction. That is your introduction, that awareness campaign. It’s also part of you trying to listen a little bit more about some of the challenges that someone has engaged giving them educational content.
So we’ll develop out an awareness campaign tied to a variety of different pieces of educational content. And then as the person starts to engage with that content and they begin to become aware of who we are as a business, then we move them into the interest campaign. And the interest campaign is more specifically about our products and services. Again, educating the customer, creating an emotional connection with the customer.
And then as they engage with our content about the products and services that we provide that educates to them through their journey, we then move them into the consideration stage. An AI of course allows us to be able to do that. And in the consideration stage is where we start talking about some of the values that we are as an organization, some of our case studies, tying them into a bit more about what we do as a business and how other people have engaged with us.
And that takes someone through that process to eventually to the fifth stage of that process, which is to make a decision to either engage with us or to engage with our customer, or to buy from them. So we go through this process using these methodologies in order to get someone to have that emotional connection to us or our business.
Rich: That sounds pretty well thought out. And I guess my question as you’re talking through this is, is this a marketing automation thing or do you have people who is this like a salesperson? Because when you start talking about that you’ve developed out, say an interest campaign and awareness campaign and you move people over to the interest campaign, is that something that you’re running through some sort of automation platform?
Kevin: It is, absolutely. So a lot of times we’ll look at the different platforms that are available to all of us. All the different platforms that are available to us. And we’ll see if those platforms allow us to create that type of automation. And then in many cases – and maybe this is a new concept – something called ’lead scoring’ allows us to score individuals who come to our website, or engaged with our social, or engaged in a search campaign, and we score them. And as they move, their score moves up, they move from one campaign to next. So it can become very automatic as a process. But yet you have to spend a tremendous amount of time building out that educational content so that you can create that emotional connection with your customer.
Rich: All right. So I want to push you a little bit, Kevin, because we’re were talking about emotional connections. And when I think about emotional emotions, I’m thinking, happiness, sadness, anger, whatever it may be. Right now we’re talking mostly, it sounds like, about people having some need that they go to Google for, or that we get in front of them on social media. How do we know that we’re really engaging their emotions rather than just their logical decision making side, or does that not matter?
Kevin: Well, it does matter. It really comes back to the type of content that you create. So again, through education, people generate an emotional connection to a product or brand. If you’re providing that education and not trying to sell them on something, then they will then respond emotionally to your brand. So that’s what we have found and that’s what has been working for many of our customers.
Rich: Alright. So I know that giving stuff away for free is a typical way that we can engage with people online. How does that fit into everything else we’ve talked about today?
Kevin: Well, that can also, that’s part of maybe your interest campaign. As people get to understand an awareness to who you are, then providing something that you give away for free is a very positive way to get people to engage with your business. And then at that point be able to learn more about you, especially once you get them on the phone and you can actually, or you get them through a zoom session and you can actually have more of a face to face conversation, which then enhances that emotional connection.
I tell my staff every time they get on a call that they need to have their video on because you want to have that emotional connection. And people when they can see each other, will have that. And then today’s digital, we need to do that, so that is part of that process.
Rich: All right. I want to talk a little, you talked about these five phases of the buyer’s journey; problem, awareness, interest, consideration, and then the buying decision. So how do you know when somebody is ready to, or has moved from problem to awareness? What are the triggers as you see it? And I realize that it might be different depending on the campaign, but if you can give us some tips around recognizing somebody is ready to shift or has shifted, that would be great.
Kevin: Yeah. So a lot of times, and you have different people engaging with this. Of course you have somebody from a sales team, it depends on the type of organization that you are. You have somebody from the sales team and somebody from the marketing team, and maybe even someone from your IT team, they’re all working together to create automation around these different stages. And that lead scoring part is really important because the lead score, again, moves people from one place to the next or drops them in from one segmentation to the next segmentation. In other words, from awareness, interest, through consideration.
So what we ended up doing is we ended up sending little lead alerts. So we’ll set in the automation if a person attains this stage or moves to the next stage, send a lead alert off to the marketing person or the sales person. It doesn’t mean that they should reach out and call them immediately. What it does mean is that they potentially should just review that, ok, I know this company, I understand them a little bit. They are definitely a prospect for my business. So at that point, I’m just aware of it. But as they move down their journey and our funnel a little further, there might be a time between let’s say the interest stage and the consideration stage that you might want to reach out and provide a little bit more insight.
Again, we teach the salespeople to focus on education. Call them up, “The information that you just downloaded or received, was that helpful to you? Is there more information that I can provide to you?” So we teach them to not immediately try to sell, but just try to educate, continue to educate. And that’s what’s going to continue that emotional conversation or connection with your audience. Until finally that marketing qualified lead stages when they finally moved from the consideration stage into that decision making stage. And so those are all done by lead alerts that are sent off to a sales or marketing team.
Rich: I want to ask you a couple more questions about those five phases. But before I do, I want to ask you a question about creepiness. Because obviously there’s a lot of questions around privacy right now. Not everybody seems to be aware that they might be in somebody else’s marketing funnel, even though we’re probably in hundreds of marketing funnels and weren’t aware of it.
Is there a way, a technique that you use so that your salespeople can say, “Hey, you know, what did you think about this?” without necessarily letting that person know or gently perhaps letting that person know that, hey, we’ve been monitoring your progress in our sales funnel?
Kevin: Yes. So we try not to be as intrusive as sometimes artificial intelligence or automated processes make you feel when you’re tracking the journey of an individual. So we try to definitely make sure that the salespeople are delicate in that approach. But in most cases in today’s world, we know that when somebody downloads some type of content, when they download that type of content, usually it’s gated, which may they filled out a form to download that content, or it’s not gated and they just engaged with it.
So at that point we just try to make sure that the salesperson understands that you don’t want to be intrusive, that’s why we don’t call early in and on the process. We wait a bit. Wait time the sale, the cycle is usually longer. So wait a variation of time, then reach out and ask only the simple questions of the information that they downloaded. You know, what did they feel about that information?
And by the way, I have more and I’d be happy to send that to you. But don’t sell them on anything initially. Just send them out more information or give them access to a resource center or something that you’ve created that will continue to educate them as they go down their journey.
Rich: Interesting. You know, it’s just thinking about the real world where so often now when we’re ready, other than call somebody, we text them to say, “Can I call you?” And there’s just like all this ever evolving “Ms. Manners” on how we should be engaging with our friends, family, and customers. So I was just curious about where you were with that.
Kevin: Yeah, absolutely.
Rich: And I want to, if you don’t mind, and this just is probably my own needs. I would love some clarification around those five phases. I know I’ve seen sales funnels that start at three. I’ve seen sales funnels with like 17 different steps. I do see that five as being the sweet spot, a lot of them, but sometimes I find it’s a little bit difficult for me at least to understand the difference between these phases. So if I were to ask you, what’s the difference between the problem stage and the awareness stage, how would you define that?
Kevin: Well, the problem stage is the problem that the customer is having. The challenge that they’re having, the pain point that they’re having, they have an issue. And I guess if I could say for an example, if you’re looking at accounting applications. So you have a problem, your accounting application isn’t giving you the information, it’s not giving you the revenue attribution, not giving you what you need. So you’re going to go out and start searching for something else that’s out there. So there’s the problem. It usually is an internal problem with your customer or prospect. And at that point when they start going out and they search for this information, they find information on social media or they find information on somebody’s website.
At that point, once they start engaging with your content, that’s when you either push back out to them or they’re engaging with initial awareness based content. Again, awareness based content on who you are, what you do, and that’s it. Maybe even why you do it, which isn’t a very important part of that whole entire process. I mean, my whole thing, why I do what I do, I want to help businesses. I mean, you have a reason for why you do what you do. So you want to make sure that’s clear in your awareness based type of content that people are initially engaging with. And then you can move from there into the interest stage, as I mentioned about products and services.
Rich: So how do you differentiate between awareness when they’re aware of, and awareness is about your particular company, or they’re aware that there are solutions to their problems?
Kevin: So it’s an awareness about who we are and how we might be solving some of those types of challenges, but we don’t get into the sales aspect of that.
Rich: So your example, and I want you to stick with this example of the accounting firm, but I’m also going to think about my own COVID hobby, which has become woodworking. So I inherited a table saw. It is not making the best cuts possible, so I realized this is a problem. I cannot join pieces of wood. So I’m aware of this. And then I started going online, looking at YouTube videos and all of a sudden I might become aware of a specific brand of table saws that’s excellent for this sort of thing. And I start looking into it. So now I’m in awareness, correct?
Kevin: That’s correct.
Rich: Alright. So at what point does your example, and possibly my example, move into the interest category.
Kevin: It moves into the interest category after, well usually it’s based on how much content you’ve engaged with. So for customers looking for accounting software for their business, they’re going to initially do the same type of thing. They might go off to YouTube and watch a couple videos where ads display, and they click on one of those ads and they go to a landing page. And again, that landing page is just an awareness based landing page. But on that landing page, there’s additional educational content and they download that additional educational content. And then once they do that, then they follow up and they might then go off to the website where that actually came from.
So as they continue to engage with that content over a period of time, that’s when we finally graduate them to the next stage, “You seem to be looking for some type of accounting application that’s going to be beneficial to your business”. Now at that point, we then move you into the next stage, which means that email marketing campaigns. You came to us through search, but now email marketing campaigns might go off to you providing you with information about the products that you were actually looking at and the features and benefits of those products specifically more or less to your business, especially if I understand what industry you’re in. If you’re in the healthcare industry, my emails that go off to you are going to be healthcare related. And we’re going to understand that because based on the URL. Based on your information, I’m able to pull that through my CRM and then push that off to you from there.
Rich: And at this point, your customer, your prospect is in the interest stage, correct?
Kevin: That’s correct.
Rich: I have watched so many videos on your website of how to make better cuts that you’re like, okay, based on the videos he’s watched, he’s a beginner, so there’s interest. But he’s a beginner woodworker, we’re not going to send them the fine woodworking content, we’re going to give them the beginner woodworking content, “Here are the 10 things beginners need to know about table saws” or “The top three jigs for beginners in woodworking”. Something like that.
Kevin: Absolutely. Absolutely. That’s exactly it.
Rich: This is great. I’m enjoying this conversation totally on very different levels of businesses. And then so consideration, let’s talk about when does somebody trip that wire and suddenly they’re in consideration for both of these examples?
Kevin: So, okay. So let’s, let’s take even the woodworking example. If you look at your woodworking example, at that point you’re at the point of now where you’ve already looked at different products. It’s now the point of you’re going to see videos where I’m going to send you videos that are going to show you happy customers utilizing that product. And it’s the same thing on the accounting side. At that point I’m going to provide you with case studies. I’m going to provide you with video case studies. I’m going to provide you with other happy customers that love our products. You already know who we are. You already know what we do and why we do it.
Now in the consideration stage I’m going to provide you with happy customers that have benefited from our products and services. Anyone in your audience can basically do that based on their product and service that they might necessarily provide.
Rich: All right. That makes a lot of sense. And I could see watching videos of different woodworkers, or people who need accounting software, talking about how they had a problem and they took a risk and they tried this product and boy, are there joinery cuts or is their P&L in perfect shape now. So that makes a lot of sense.
Rich: And then let’s graduate them to the buying decisions, so we can kind of finalize this whole process. Walk me through what that looks like.
Kevin: So it really depends. And that’s great, thank you. That really depends on the business that you’re in. If you have a sales team, this is where that marketing qualified lead gets pushed over to your sales team and it’s time for your sales team to focus in on – maybe even reaching out to that customer – either through an email campaign, through LinkedIn, through a social media campaign, or directly calling them on the phone.
In an e-commerce world, it’s basically then at that point, sending out those products to them and getting them to engage with those types of products specifically. It really just depends on the type of business that you’re in. But at that point, it’s time to reach out. It’s time to reach out and provide more information or get them on the phone and really learn about the needs, the challenges that your customer or prospect is actually dealing with.
Rich: Fantastic. Kevin, this has been a lot of fun, and I know that a lot of people have even more questions or want to check you out online. Where can we send people?
Kevin: Okay. Two different places. First you can send them vonazon.com. That’s a V O N A Z O N.com. I have to spell it. And then the other one is just kevin-england.com. And that’s my own personal site.
Rich: And being the President of flyte new media, I have to spell it all the time, too. So I feel your pain. Kevin, this has been a lot of fun. I really appreciate you coming by today and sharing your expertise, and thanks again.
Kevin: Absolutely. Thank you very much. You take care, have a good rest of your day.
Rich Brooks is the President of flyte new media, a web design & digital marketing agency in Portland, Maine, and founder of the Agents of Change. He’s passionate about helping small businesses grow online and has put his 20+ years of experience into the book, The Lead Machine: The Small Business Guide to Digital Marketing.
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