How do the best companies identify, qualify, measure and build a digital relationship with prospects before they're willing to talk to a salesperson?
Today a Hidden Sales Cycle has developed whereby prospects spend 50-90% of their buying journey researching online on their own before reaching out to a sales person. Keeping in mind that 63% of companies that are surpassing their competitors use integrated marketing automation, we've identified and streamlined five basic core methods that you'll want to apply to your strategy in order to best nurture leads and prospects before they’re willing to talk to a salesperson.
1. Correctly Identify Your Target Customer And Customer Journey
Who is your ideal customer? What is their profile? In other words, what characteristics do they have that less profitable customers don’t have? Typically the basic level of a B2C purchase cycle journey starts with Awareness leading to Consideration and ends with a Purchase. Your purchase cycle should be simple enough to tie key triggers to content so that you can clearly track campaign and marketing performance.
2. Create Relevant Content for Each Purchase Cycle Phase for Each of Your Segments
With sales-driven organizations, this typically requires an extra measure of patience and discipline of messaging because of the desire to tell your story. Remember, instead of having an hour long discussion with a customer or prospect whereby a salesperson can assess, adapt, and guide them, your marketing platform must do this for you to better ready prospects for your sales team.
Therefore, for content aimed at those who are just becoming aware of your brand, stick to value. Add more educational content without any pitch attached. For those in the Consideration stage, this is when you make sure you display a clear value prop, differentiation, and easily-shared brand essence. Those ready to make a purchase decision often need to have comparison data and a quick outlet to a salesperson or purchasing interface and content in a campaign triggering a purchase would have the closest messaging to a sales pitch with a clear call-to-action for purchasing.
You'll most likely need to produce new content unless you can pull bits from brochures and whitepapers. However, this new content normally has a decent shelf life with a little periodic tweaking.
3. Use Triggers to Document & Engage
As you plan out your content, channel/medium, and schedule along the purchase cycle, you'll want to tie in interactive elements that send back data that may help you qualify a prospect or gradually identify their interest. This could take the form of an offer such as a download, attendance to an event or webinar, or a helpful case study.
Businesses that use marketing automation to nurture prospects experience a 451% increase in qualified leads. In turn, nurtured leads make 47% larger purchases than non-nurtured leads.
4. Track & Analyze Multi-channel Data
Creating touchpoints, whereby you can track prospect interaction, is crucial. As an example, eHouse offers a proprietary platform for connecting our clients' cross-system data so that they can identify strengths and weaknesses of current campaigns, as well as report on progress/success of their marketing strategy. In addition, with this data tracked against their purchase cycle stages, our clients are able to automate marketing in a much more targeted, impactful manner. In other words, we can provide customers with additional relevant content via email as they demonstrate where they’re at in their purchase cycle on your site based on their site content consumption.
Examples of touchpoints include emails, phone calls, salesperson contact, attendance at events, websites, etc. The best companies set up tracking across these channels to gain insights on how their whole system is performing.
5. Develop a Lead Scoring Model
Finally, in more advanced settings, companies generate alignment through algorithmic lead scoring to identify the level of quality and the sales readiness of each lead. This can be built into a core CRM system, for instance. These companies also develop a process between sales and marketing for handing off leads identifying the appropriate communication roles.
Lead scoring assists in low and high-volume sales scenarios, but often is employed when a company begins to scale its marketing and nurturing operation and begins to feed their salespeople only the best, most qualified leads.
The figures mentioned in the beginning about the Hidden Sales are across the industry; we haven't seen very many that are exempt from this recent phenomenon. Because of this, we encourage you to develop a smart, inbound marketing approach that includes investing in better understanding and reaching your target customer within his/her purchase cycle in a more automated manner.