In a previous post, we talked about the sales funnel and how your inbound marketing strategy is crucial to moving customers forward. We identified three main parts of the funnel: Awareness, Consideration, and Purchase.
If you remember, Awareness is when the prospect realizes there’s a problem and discovers potential solutions are out there. Consideration is when those solutions are collected, lined up, and compared. And Purchase is the ultimate goal: A commitment.
Of course, the sales funnel can be much more complicated!
The three-step sales funnel is a good way to think about your relationship to the customer, but it is only a model. Depending on the industry, product, and nature of the buyer, the sales process might have a dozen steps or more.
With a complex offering, closing a sale might look like this:
- An unqualified prospect accesses your website for the first time;
- You send an initial communication, usually an email message;
- You have a “discovery session” with the client to learn more;
- You develop a custom solution based on the client’s needs;
- You present the solution, either online or at the client’s site;
- The customer evaluates the solution for a period of time;
- You enter into negotiation on the specific details;
- You get a verbal commitment from the customer;
- You get a written order from the customer;
- You finally deliver the product and get paid.
Wow! When you really think about it, the sales cycle can be long, complicated, and exhausting. To succeed, B2B sellers have to be prepared to make a long-term effort – and experts agree that B2B sales cycles are getting longer, with more people involved in each decision
With that in mind, you need strategies in place to keep customers moving.
Customers Can Get Lost – You Need to Guide Them on the Path
No matter whether your focus is B2B or B2C, all potential customers run into the same problems during the sales process. While you can’t control these issues, you can take action to make sure they have a minimal impact on your time-to-sale.
Three basic hazards are as follows:
Leads Get Distracted
No matter what a lead’s background is, he or she may have dozens of other things going on at any one time. Even if your Web presence, and marketing collateral are spot on, leads can simply forget that they need to deal with this specific problem.
Leads Get Lost
In digital marketing, it’s universally acknowledged that if you want to be sure someone takes the next step, you have to be sure to tell them explicitly what that step is. No matter how clear it is to you, leads can overlook the “obvious” unless a call-to-action is looking them square in the face.
Leads Lose Interest
Losing interest is different from plain old distraction – it means something, usually an alternative offer, got the lead’s attention. It’s not impossible to rekindle interest, but it does require you to take proactive steps and be persistent.
No matter how long a customer has been in your sales funnel or how long it’s been since you heard from them, these three factors are the major roadblocks that can arise at any time. To make matters a little more complicated, you won’t know exactly what’s going on.
Luckily, in a certain sense, you don’t need to know.
With the right approaches, you can get many leads back – no matter what the problem is.
Spark Interest in Your Leads with Time-Tested Inbound Marketing Techniques
A prospect becomes a lead by getting on your radar somehow. In today’s Web-driven world, this usually means opting in to your subscriber list. By trading an email address for something that you have to offer, the fresh lead makes a positive affirmation showing interest in what you do.
That means leads aren’t strangers, and despite what some naysayers might think, you aren’t imposing on them. Their permission to receive email from you gives you a window into their world. It’s also the primary means of moving things forward – from lead to satisfied buyer.
So, what kind of messages do you need to send to get them moving forward?
First and foremost, make sure you are providing regular value. This can come in the form of a weekly newsletter focused on their needs, blog posts, videos, social media, or anything else. By receiving content from you regularly, they will come to know and trust you.
This is essential: It provides the context that makes other approaches really work.
Still, it’s important to realize that general, informative content won’t usually push a lead to take action, especially if they’ve been putting things off for days or weeks. To reach that point, you need emails that will land with an impact.
Get your message across and catapult leads through your sales funnel with these tactics:
If people think they have the rest of their lives to make a decision, that may well be how long they take to do it. While urgency might not move a complex product across the finish line, it can get people to the next step. Provide an incentive to “act now” – whether that means a better price, more features, or whatever fits your business – and ensure leads know what they stand to gain.
Use Social Proof
Somewhere in the middle of the Consideration phase, leads go from “I wonder which of these solutions is right?” to “I wonder which of these solutions is right for me?” For B2B and B2C alike, the solution here is to use social proof that validates your success in a specific situation.
While a social proof claim in a B2C market might be as simple as “Thousands have used our solution,” B2B tends to be a bit more complicated. B2B buyers tend to know their market well and want to see evidence that companies like theirs (or those they aspire to be) are benefiting.
With that in mind, remember Marshall McLuhan’s adage: “The medium is the message.”
When you are talking to customers with relatively simple needs, ordinary testimonials, reviews, or even plain statements might be enough. For sophisticated, high-budget buyers, aim for things like whitepapers, case studies, and other thought leadership content that sparks real buy-in.
Make a Personal Connection
Let’s face it: Buyers realize that a lot of the messaging they get during the sales funnel will be automated. It’s easy to tune these out or, at best, scan emails quickly for information that’s really relevant. When that becomes habitual, your brand loses out.
People are more likely to take action when they feel like another live human being is talking directly to them – but it has to be done right. Use an industry-appropriate, yet conversational tone and avoid gotcha subject lines like “We need to talk.”
The Sale isn’t Just the Beginning – But it’s the Midpoint
Turning a lead into a customer is a tremendous step forward that transforms the relationship. But that’s not the end! Let the principles of inbound marketing guide you as you continue to build rapport and provide meaningful offers and guidance. That’s the key to delighting customers – and maximizing their lifetime value.