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WebMD And The 57%

by David Brock on August 8th, 2016

As happens from time to time, I had been feeling a little off for a few weeks.  There were some persistent physical symptoms that bothered me.  Initially, I thought they would go away, but they didn’t, a few worsened.

I started to get concerned, but for a variety of reasons chose not to go to the Doctor.  I started to do my web research to learn more about my ailments.  WebMD, the Mayo Clinic site, Dr. Oz, and a number of other sites helped me research.  After a while, I had narrowed my research to a few diseases, deciding it was now time to see the doctor.

I know you can see where I’m going, but indulge me.

The doctor entered the examination room asking me what’s wrong.  I told him I’d done my research, I’d narrowed things down to a few diseases:  Malaria, Gastroenteritis, or Typhoid Fever.  I suggested I be checked into the hospital and immediately start a series of antibiotics and other drugs.

I’ll stop here, you probably can guess the doctor’s response.

Our customers do much the same thing–Yes, you know the infamous 57-90% (depending on whose research you believe).  Our customers prefer to do their research on-line, whether it’s to avoid dealing with sales people or because it’s simply more convenient.

Increasingly, too many organizations think this is a good thing.  Marketers revel in the opportunity to create ever so much more content, to engage influencers talking about our products and services, run webinars and other programs to help our customer self diagnose.

As with diagnosing our own health, our customers often run into similar challenges.  They recognize some symptoms seeking solutions for this symptoms, they self diagnose, determining their problem and narrowing the solutions they will consider based on their research on their equivalent of  “WebMd.”

Just as it’s often dangerous to self diagnose our own ailments, self diagnoses don’t necessarily serve our customers well.  They don’t really know what they should be looking for, how do interpret their own needs, translating those into solutions, or even the questions they should be asking.

It’s even worse for us to accept, at face value, our customers’s self diagnoses.  Just as a doctor would be irresponsible if he didn’t probe, analyze, or perform his own examination; we are irresponsible if we don’t probe, analyze, and challenge our customers’s perspectives.

After all, our customers are not experts in these problems, they are just recognizing the “symptoms” of their problem, they probably haven’t encountered the problem before (otherwise they wouldn’t have the problem), they do what they can but are naturally limited and may make mistakes.

We are the experts on these problems, we encounter them every day with all the customers we work with, we know what to look for, how to diagnose the real issues and to develop recommendations specific to that customer.

Yes our customers are doing their own research.  We do need to educate them.  But we are being irresponsible to them and our own companies unless we engage them as early as possible to help them really understand the issues and solutions.

Customers want help, but they want it from people that are knowledgeable and can help.  If we haven’t developed our expertise in understanding our customer’s businesses, if we can’t analyze and examine them, if we don’t know how to characterize the problem and present a solution, we are practicing “quackery.”

Our content is a good start for our customers, but just as WebMD says, “see your doctor,” it’s our obligation to our customers to engage knowledgeable sales people as soon as possible.

Oh, my disease……

Thankfully, the doctor had a different view.  A mild cold and some level of exhaustion/dehydration from a busy travel schedule had him telling me, “Take some aspirin and fluids, get some rest.”


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