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What is SEQ?

Learn about the world of VisionSphere and the innovative approach that enables it to maximize the potential of your business.


Selling is choosing. That’s how we define VisionSphere and the SEQ philosophy. VisionSphere is not just a digital tool but an innovative approach to maximize the potential of your business and achieve your goals effectively.

What we will tell you in this article

  • The Basics of the Market
  • Origin and definition of marketing
  • Why it’s important to understand and anticipate customers’ needs
  • The role of innovation in meeting needs
  • The impact of search engines and digital marketing
  • What is SEQ and how to use it in digital marketing

Methodological premise

Imagine a balmy summer evening in Ancient Greece.
These words begin with what is considered by many fans of the sitcom “The Big Bang Theory” to be one of the most iconic scenes from the 12 seasons that define the series starring Leonard Hofstadter, Sheldon Cooper, and Penny. It is Sheldon himself, at the request of Penny, who wants to know more about her future husband Leonard’s work at Caltech, who uses these words as an introduction to what he interprets as a lectio magistralis within his very own Gorilla Project, the mission of which is to explain, “What is Physics?” to Penny [1].
But why attack this article with the goal of an imaginary nature?
Because it’s a good example of how one really understands an abstract idea, you must start at ground-level. From the foundation of a concept while also embracing its history—as a frame would define the work as part of it. You must start from the most basic level for complete understanding.
For this reason, this article stems from the description of a basic need of every economic entity; selling. And selling requires having, finding and/or creating a market. The Market is the most critical condition of selling success. So, let us start on this adventure of ours based on this definition.
This will only be a very brief introduction, though this overview serves to lay the foundation for the reasoning carried out to follow. Let’s begin with the definition of a “market.”
Prototype of the top, symbol and logo that identifies VisionSphere.
VisionSphere’s logo prototype

Let's start from the base: the Market

The discussion that will follow in this article does not involve detailed insights into the topic of the Market, which is already widely present in economic literature, but simply aims to expound on basic precepts and building blocks.
According to the authors of Wikipedia [2], with a [now] widely-accepted definition, a “market” is nothing more than the following:
“The Market originally was only the physical place where public buying/selling of agricultural or manufacturing products between different bidders took place, on set dates at regular intervals. As trade has expanded to increasing global macroeconomic levels, the meaning of Market has also taken on a broader understanding to encompass the most varied commodity categories as follows: financial market, labor market, and real estate market, to be carried out in non-topographically defined places to include virtual and non-public. The term “market” in economics has two current meanings. The first denotes the “place” (also figuratively) where economic-commercial exchanges of raw materials, goods, services, money, financial instruments, and so on are carried out. The second refers to the institutional mechanism by means by which a trade is performed.”
If we accept this definition, then we might derive our first assumption is valid: the market is the sine qua non of selling. A market is thus defined by a supply, an economic entity (that wants to sell something), and a demand (an economic entity that wants to buy something). So far, it all seems simple. However, the reality is much more complicated.
In fact, it’s not always clear where and who is the economic subject wanting to buy. Let’s say we don’t know the economic subject who wants to sell something. But we do know the “who” and “where.”
Before we dive into this issue (which we’ll address later by rereading the definition of marketing to follow), we’ve already touched on this thanks to a quick story that has changed faces many times but exactly personifies a concept otherwise very complicated to define as follows:
A shoe manufacturing company wants to expand into an unknown market in a remote part of the world, so the company sends two scouts to explore that Market. After a week, one of the two returns disappointed: “I don’t see any possibility here; they all walk around barefoot.” However, the second scout’s email arrives a few days later, and it reads, “Urgent! Send a bunch of shoes. Everyone here is barefoot!”
What’s the lesson from this story? What did scout one not understand?
The answer: it was about need.
In fact, scout two waited a few days and took time to observe and gather data that would allow him/her to determine if a need was present. From hands-on observation and data mining comes the possibility of understanding whether there is a need—thus understanding whether there is a [potential] market.
As previously mentioned, before the telling of the story, one of the fundamental issues with regard to sales is the definition of the Market: whether a market exists or not, where said-market is, and by whom it is composed (demographic). These questions should be answered by marketing.

What is marketing?

The term “market,” in English, is the root word of “marketing.” A peculiar term, which can be used as a noun but by having ing as its suffix, could also be used as a verb. This is not a common but an interesting fact. For, as previously stated, in order to sell, a market needs to exist, and a market is characterized by a need. So, marketing is the action related to the need. Before introducing this concept, let’s take a step backward as a refresher.
As with the concept of the “market,” we won’t dive into every single potential definition of the concept. Rather, we’ll go with the essence of the word itself, to its most primitive historical structure, and build on that and how the word’s meaning has changed to become known in modern times as “marketing,” from which arises its etymology.

Birth of the term "Marketing"

As with the market concept, we will not explore all the potential definitions of the concept, but we will try to go to the essence of the word itself, to its basic origins, and how we structure a modern definition that stems from the term’s history with what we now understand marketing to mean Which arises from its etymology.

Definition of the term "Marketing"

There are currently many definitions for “marketing” and its role within companies’ literature. But in sticking to the more formal definition, the online version of the Cambridge Dictionary defines the word marketing as the business activity that involves finding out what customers want, using that information to design products and services, and selling them effectively [4]. So, if we take this definition literally, we can assume the definition of marketing is necessary to determine what a [potential] customer wants/needs. Precisely understanding a customer’s need [as previously defined] for the word “market.” Marketing becomes a verb when it’s applied to an active search for a need from its root of “market.” Marketing, as previously stated, should answer the questions of whether a market exists and, if a market does, where and by whom composes said-market. Most importantly, based on what has been defined thus far—what is the need that defines this Market?

Understanding what customers want

If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they’d have said: “A faster horse,” a clever quote attributed to the late Henry Ford. It’s said to have been among some thoughts that inspired another innovator—Steve Jobs, who offered a reinterpretation of that same quote at the time of the design of the first Macintosh. How could I [Jobs] ever ask people what a computer with a graphical interface should look like if they have no idea what a computer with a graphical interface is? No one has ever seen one before [5]. What both of these phrases have in common are two innovators’ search for new solutions to fulfill needs: Ford, for people’s need for improved mobility, and Jobs’ for the general public’s need for simplicity to access computer technology from anywhere.
These two famous business cases, Ford for the early part of the past century and Apple for our present and much of our recent past are but two examples of how two divergent companies were able to understand and, in some ways, anticipate a market need. Their lowest common denominator is innovation. Innovation is interpreted in two different areas. But, the key takeaway of their business has been to define and understand a need. In fact, this article is not strictly about innovation but gives an example of innovation as a tool [used] across different business models. This example makes clear how business success is always linked to the satisfaction of needs—overt, dormant, or unconscious, but nevertheless manifesting as a need.
Using innovation instrumentally (staying with this example but maintaining focus on the objective of this article), we’ll take from innovation and apply that precept on how a need defines a market.

Business Case: innovation as a cross-cutting concept for defining a need

According to a post on the McKinsey & Company website in 2022—innovation, in business terms, is the ability to conceive, develop, deliver, and scale new products, services, processes, and business models for customers [6]. In other words, precisely responding with new solutions to present needs. If we reflect, for even a moment, we’ll understand how even for the five very big business success stories of modern times, in digital terms, innovation has been the key to meeting market needs. How Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Google, and Meta meet, in their core business, this definition. Apple has created products for accessing information in a short time from anywhere in space. Microsoft has responded to people’s needs by streamlining customers’ work processes. Amazon has responded to the need to free up time devoted to shopping while still having access to so many possibilities. Google has responded to the need for quick access to almost all possible knowledge. And finally, Meta has responded to the need for instant connection between people.
In thinking about the similarities of the businesses, one can easily see the common thread that unites these businesses: time savings and choice. Indeed, 21st-century modernity has brought with it so many conveniences, but it has demanded from all of us a greater share of our time and a new ability to choose from so many options unimaginable only 30 years ago. Innovation reads as a simplistic description. However, the basic idea of innovation, as in the cases of Ford and Jobs, responds precisely to the need for new solutions to present needs; in this case, scarcity of time and difficulty of choice.

Need: the key to the Market

To navigate the vastness of choices, with the resource of limited time, it’s necessary to identify a constant that can help simplify the variables of increasingly complex navigation, especially in business. That constant is the certainty there is a need behind every action. Identifying a need is perhaps the most valuable part of marketing. There are many ways to try to define a need, but one only need to look at Martin Lindstrom [7] who suggests to look into small data. In fact, big data, by its very nature, tells the story of the past. It is in small data where one finds the seeds of what might grow in the future. Small data can define whether a market will exist. Small data is the surfacing of a need from potential customers, their interests—to search for something that is not yet on the Market. For something, someone, or some company that is not yet known to them. Small data is, therefore, small or large actions. They are actions that a potential customer puts in place when it comes to defining or discovering a need. A need is a state of nature. Before proceeding with the research, let’s review a brief passage on the definition of state, focused on business terms as per the topic of this article.

The state of need

From Miller Heiman’s theories of Strategic Selling [8], it can be derived that for every action, with regard to business action(s), there’s a state of “being”: a state of need and a state of non-need. The state of non-need maintains the status quo, while the state of need generates action. The state of need, on the other hand, is “actionpoietic” because it concerns the categories of doing, moving, or acting and is characterized by two different deliberations: the need to avoid something, typical of a problem to be solved, and the need to improve something, typical of the growth approach.

The need to improve or avoid

In terms of need-materialization, then both the improvement and problem-solving phases are ideal times in which to offer a proposal to the prospective customer since, in both cases, the company is change-oriented. What changes, however, between the two previously exposed states are the deep motivations for options and, therefore, the relative timing of the response. To increase the possibility of conversion, it becomes crucial to understand whether buyers are looking for improvement with a slower timeline or if they are looking for a solution to a problem where the timeline is tighter. On the other hand, buyers in the neutral stage, i.e., without a need, should be avoided. Given the status and motivation for change, they are unlikely to want to close a deal, and the negotiation will not produce conversion, becoming laborious. As you can see, we’ve touched on the purchasing system or interlocutors, but not of interlocutor in the singular: this happens because multiple figures with different roles within the process are involved in the procurement choice process. Sometimes, these figures may be represented by the same person, but this does not change the theoretical and operational approach to the system. Typically, the system is precisely composed of multiple stakeholders, in a group of people called the “purchasing system” [9], who may be engaged with a different customer journey [10].

The asymmetric pyramid: the role of Intent Marketing

According to the pillars of strategic selling, even the right interlocutor belonging to a target company’s buying system might find the right product for its business useless simply because the timing wasn’t ideal for the offer. In fact, the identified buying system clashes with the variable willingness to make changes to the status quo. With this in mind, it’s critically important to understand the customer’s disposition, whether disguised or overt. The buyer may, in fact, be in a state of neutrality, improvement, or problem-solving. Buyer and seller are, in fact, characters in an asymmetric pyramid, in which the buyer, by definition, is ahead of the seller in that he already knows, or has at least a perception of—his needs. Thus, an information gap is present between the parties to the buyer’s advantage. A gap that’s called Intent Marketing [11] seeks to bridge.

Intent marketing to anticipate needs

“Intent marketing” is a discipline that deals with understanding the intention of customers to adopt, purchase, or consume that particular service or product by identifying the need that the potential customer may have expressed explicitly or implicitly. The goal of intent marketing is to understand, through different data sources, the potential customer’s intention to consume a product or service predicted by behavioral data or captured explicitly. Intent Marketing itself is the protagonist of what BCG, in its 2022 article titled: The $2T Opportunity to Boost Sales and Lower Costs with RevTech [12], called the RevTech revolution: Revenue Technology. RevTech is the concept of using technology with the goal of maximizing the sales outcome, thus using the most advanced technological tools to optimize sales funnels, more specifically—marketing activity, especially by automating the top of the funnel.
BCG, with its analysis, has thus laid out the path. However, the given funds of intent marketing are the Website, CRM, data on previous consumption of the same or similar products, and some traceable offline activities. These details can tell a lot, already taken individually—and even more when analyzed in combination, but still, even that is not enough.
These data are clues, not facts.
A clue is a clue—two clues are a coincidence, but three clues reveal proof, says a phrase attributed to Agatha Christie [13]. But whether it is the British writer’s idea or not—this article is about business: it is still true that business is not fiction.
At the root of Intent Marketing, there’s a void. Attempting intent marketing is difficult, namely to understand the search intention of a potential customer, to effectively market efficiently, using circumstantial data, but not facts.
Where can we find facts?

Where to find concrete facts?

Facts are actions, and actions can concretely define a need. In the many disciplines that proliferate digital marketing activities, certainly, the activity that comes closest to honing in on details is the definition of a need(s) by search intent [14]. Mostly used in SEO [15], search intent refers precisely to that discipline of digital marketing that aims to understand the search intention, hence the divining of every need behind each search on a search engine. It’s about the need that prompted that person [customer] or company to perform that search. That’s a generality. But ultimately, it’s about the past. As previously mentioned, the past produces “big” data, which is certainly useful for plotting an idea but not useful for predicting the future. The work of Nassim Nicholas Taleb [16] is precisely written to demonstrate this. The future needs the evidence that lurks in small data. For this reason, search intent, which can help in defining a need, is still not enough.
However, if everything that has been written so far seems to make sense, we’ve finally realized the answer lies in search engines.

Search engines and marketing: search marketing

As we’ve reviewed several times already, the world of marketing, in digital terms, is divided into many areas. One of them, in particular, deals with search engine marketing (SEM) [17]. Since the birth of search engines and, over time, with continuous improvements and optimizations, this branch of marketing has sub-segmented into SEO (search engine optimization) and SEA (search engine advertising) [18]. And it’s in this hub we’ll discover facts.
Direct interactions by users of a Web site, in SEO terms: like direct interactions with users’ online advertisements in search engines. In SEA terms: are concrete actions by users—the potential customers, who define a need in a tangible terms.
In SEO terms, searching online for a Website on a search engine, visiting and interacting with a Website, and viewing/ staying on pages on that Website for short or long lengths of time are concrete actions.
As in SEA terms, to search online for anything on a search engine is to manifest an interest in something: it is an action that defines a need.
For this reason, we think it’s time to introduce a new discipline in digital marketing. We will now present a new add-on way of approaching search engine marketing: search engine qualification (SEQ).

What SEQ comes from: the Cluetrain Manifesto

The phenomenological path, from which the assumption that there can be this new way of approaching search engine marketing (referenced as SEQ) stems from the thinking from the dawn of the globalized and interconnected world of the Web in 1999 by Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, Doc Searls, and David Weinberger; immortalized in the Cluetrain Manifesto [19].
The Cluetrain Manifesto is a set of 95 theses created to help all companies operating in a global and interconnected market and capable of showcasing revolutionized markets by technological possibilities in a new light. Thanks to the Web, and to the Internet in particular, according to the authors in 1999, companies have the possibility of communicating with their customers in a one-on-one mode. A mode of personifying conversation between people instead of in a one-on-many mode, a mode typical of 20th-century mass market communication. According to the authors, this possibility radically changed marketing before that time.
In particular, the first 6-theses of the Cluetrain Manifesto focus on the assumption that the marketplace is historically a place where people could gather and talk to each other, in which they’d discuss products, their characteristics, prices, and vet the sellers—while having a place to talk and continue a conversation. The authors note the same characteristics for the Internet: a virtual and real marketplace simultaneously. Markets have always existed, with particular limitations due to space and time. The Internet has [now] broken down these barriers. Technological innovation has broken down these barriers. Before the Internet, in the one-on-many mass market communication era of the 20th century, it simply would not have been possible. In detail, as laid out in the first thesis of the Cluetrain Manifesto, thanks to the Internet, “…markets are [now] conversations.”
Given the [new] understanding that markets are “conversations,” we believe it’s possible for conversation to help qualify as an “interest.” Especially because the key to any conversation is: the question.
It’s now common knowledge in business that the best-performing salespeople are those who ask a high number of questions during the initial phase of the sales negotiation. In fact, a capable salesperson chooses to ask many more questions than an average salesperson. He/she understands the value of listening, along with the insights gained and communicative details mined from the target audience they gather during their initial conversations [20].

The basis of SEQ: the demand or query in search engines.

Sales transactions have always been and always will be the “people” ground. A terrain in which people talk to one another and ask questions. If we take this presumption as fact, we can also assume in the Internet age, a one-on-one conversation sees people participating in a conversation even when they ask questions of a search engine. When asking questions to a search engine, they start and continue a conversation consisting of questions and answers with said search engine. A conversation is indeed useful to know, and a key tool of knowledge is questions. These questions in digital and quantifiable terms in search engines are called queries. These queries are thus a request that a person or company brings to a market. However, these queries posed to the search engine do not actually have an answer given by a search engine but an answer given by a company. The search engine is only concerned with organizing responses in a SERP (search engine results page) [21] to content prepared by companies to answer a specific question(s). The process can be single or iterative, but in either case, it is an asynchronous conversation. They behave as participants in an auction, responding to the auctioneer who asked the questions. Following this logic, we can say companies are the actors in this one-on-one conversation. Whether this conversation is initiated by a private user or if this conversation was initiated by a user part of a company.
In any case, the company that knows these queries will have a competitive advantage.
This query can be formed by a when, where, what, who, and (indirectly) a why: the 5Ws [22] of English-coded journalism. In fact, the 5W rule (initials of Who, What, Where, When, Why) is considered the main rule of Anglo-Saxon journalistic style derived from I Loci argumentorum [23] of philosophers and rhetoricians of antiquity and elaborated from the Eight Elements of St. Thomas Aquinas.

How to use SEQ: the B2C, B2B2C (and derivatives) and B2B

As mentioned before, sales transactions have and will always be the people’s ground. A terrain in which people talk to one another and ask questions. If we take this as fact, we can assume in the age of the Internet, a one-on-one conversation sees people participating in a conversation even when they ask questions of a search engine. When asking questions to a search engine, they are starting and continuing a conversation consisting of questions and answers with a search engine. A conversation is indeed useful to know, and a key tool of knowledge is questions. These questions in digital quantifiable terms within search engines are called queries. These queries are a request that a person or company brings to a market. However, these queries posed to the search engine do not actually have an answer given by a search engine but an answer given by a company. In fact, the search engine is only concerned with organizing responses in a SERP (search engine results page) [21] to content prepared by companies to answer a specific question. The process can be single or iterative, but in either case, it is an asynchronous conversation. They behave like participants in an auction, responding to the auctioneer who asks questions. Following this logic, we can say that companies are the actors in this one-on-one conversation. Whether this conversation is initiated by a private user or if this conversation was initiated by a user who is part of a company.

The SEQ for B2C

Understanding the end-consumer

For B2C, SEQ can be useful at the country, area, city, or even individual area level (e.g., a subway stop) for a company to understand current trends: Searches in real-time or a short timeframe rooted in the present. This information is basic for a B2B company because, by analyzing the information data stream, it can make data-driven choices in terms of product, logistics, or advertising investments. In terms of products, the company could develop a new offer in real time. For example, it discovered that, although its catalog consisted mostly of blue products, its potential target audience was looking for the same products but in red. It could then change production ASAP to deliver a need in real time. In terms of logistics, SEQ can also give clear advantages. Keeping the example of blue/red products, a company could put different areas under survey, such as warehouses scattered around the territory. Using SEQ techniques, this company could come to know which demographics are more interested in the blue product or the red product because it would know their needs in real-time and their potential purchase intentions. Knowing this information, the company [in question] would enable merchandise more efficiently, with obvious time and transportation cost-savings. At the same time, it could endeavor to place its products in stores more effectively in terms of trade marketing, from placement to promos, through counter space, to stock breakage management. Ultimately, the same company that compared various demographics to determine whether consumers are more likely to buy blue or red product(s) could also reap important benefits in terms of advertising optimization. Knowing what its potential customers most search for in a given area, for example — the red product, this company could then optimize its strategies and, on a budgeted balance, corroborate these intentions by shifting the budget to the red product or attempt a relaunch for its blue product in that area. These are just three quick examples of what SEQ enables. In B2C—we are sure there are other strategies that our clients are already using to improve their business performance.

The SEQ for B2B2C

Optimizing the supply chain

SEQ can also be very useful for B2B2C. In fact, as defined through the examples above, knowing the purchasing intentions of end-consumers (C) can make the producer (the first B) oriented to produce in real-time—move merchandise or develop advertising campaigns so that its intermediary (the second B) is in the best possible condition to deliver the sale. Or, the SEQ can be used in a manufacturer’s search for an intermediary. Who, perhaps, is searching online for a particular product or service to resell, either in terms of B2BC or possibly of B2B2B, in the customer is another company, up to all the possible devices derivable from this intermediation logic. As in the previous case, the only obvious limitation is not the examples given here but the imagination of companies in applying SEQ in their business models.

The SEQ for B2B

More effectiveness and efficiency in the business process

Finally, let’s analyze the case for which SEQ was created: B2B. If we define the 4 phases of the B2B funnel (prospecting, qualifying, getting the info, and closing) for which the top tier is composed of prospecting, i.e., a company is interested in collaborating with another company. Qualify, i.e., whether this second company is interested in what the first company is or does. We can say that by finding the interest of the second company, we can thus qualify it. As expounded on earlier—a good salesperson, especially in B2B, in the first part of the conversation [with a customer], focuses on the right questions for his/her potential customer because, in this way, he/she will determine if there is a need and therefore, as repeated often in this article, if there is a market. And, if there is such a need, it must have a precise offer in order to satisfy it. The same basic logic is applied by the SEQ. Indeed, if you recall, in the section on RevTech, we talked about optimizing sales funnels, especially by automating the top of the funnel. This enables SEQ. Automating the prospecting and qualifying part of the SEQ improves the performance of the funnel by working directly with highly qualified targets. This allows you to choose your prospects in a data-driven way to make the sales process both effective and efficient. Thanks to the Internet, conversations for question and answer then qualify through a search engine as a company’s interest in another company. SEQ is a conversation because a person defining a company, under observation, asks an engine a question, and the engine responds with possibilities that are asynchronous responses from other people representing other companies to define an interest. For example, a company that produces a product that then resells to other companies. That company might have—100, 500, 1000, or 10000 potential customers worldwide (this is prospecting). By analyzing, in detail, their online behavior and search intentions, it will be possible to qualify/define which companies are interested in buying, companies that have shown an interest in that product or concepts related to it (services, defects, evolutions) and/or in the producing company (and this is the qualify). In so doing, a need is established, hence—a market. The company using SEQ has an obvious advantage because it can focus its efforts and resources solely on promising targets with improved effectiveness because of increased sales and improved efficiency provided by decreased costs in marketing and sales, just as suggested by BCG in its article The $2T Opportunity to Boost Sales and Lower Costs with RevTech.

In conclusion: how to field a SEQ strategy

To define a market, a “need” must be defined, and the role of marketing is to define the need. According to the first thesis of the Cluetrain manifesto, markets are conversations. The need will, therefore, be within said-conversations. If this is a fact, we then believe the possibility of those conversations assist to qualify an interest. That fact, through a conversation, can be discovered. A conversation can help a company understand the needs of its potential customer base. To restate: understanding potential customers who are interested in starting a partnership. To qualify possibilities: this can be achieved primarily through the key to any conversation: the question. Questions are actions, and every action tells something. An action tells a need: the need to avoid something—typical of a problem to be solved, and the need to improve something—typical of the mentation to advance. If this holds true, actions are created for each need.
VisionSphere, SEQ software created by Vehnta in the vein of RevTech Marketing, intertwines these actions and the questions, which are real behaviors of people or companies that are potential customers of its clients. This generates data-driven decisions to improve sales effectiveness and to promote marketing and sales processes more cost and time-efficient.
To learn more about how VisionSphere works, click VISIONSPHERE WEBSITE PAGE [27].


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