by Leigh Wallinger.
The way your prospects want to buy has changed significantly over the last 5 years and there is no going back. Prospects now use the Internet to identify, research and evaluate possible suppliers. If your product/service can be purchased online, it is unlikely your prospect will even want direct contact with your staff. Everything will be done electronically.
If prospects do have to interact with suppliers’ staff as part of their buying process, they will use their Internet research activities to generate a shortlist of potential suppliers. Only those companies on this shortlist will be contacted.
You have to get your company on this shortlist
Aim to fully populate your website with the information your prospects will want to find. Help them to assess your credentials/expertise/relevant track record prior to them finalising their shortlist. You should include information that prospects will find of value and of interest during their shortlisting process.
Getting all this information published and ready to load onto your website is a substantial amount of work. You should look at ways to leverage your efforts as much as possible.
The best way to achieve this leverage is to turn your website into a marketing hub. Everything prospects will need to evaluate your company should be loaded onto a well-structured website (so the information can be readily found). Then all your marketing activities must be geared to persuading prospects to visit your website and access this wealth of information.
You are selling your prospects on the benefits of visiting your website, which is pretty straightforward. It is your website that move people who might be classified as having a “passing interest” to people who are “interested” and then to “actively evaluating” your products/services.
Years ago, this process was carried out by teams of sales and marketing staff through seminars, exhibitions and roadshows. Their job was to find people with a passing interest and hand them to salespeople who would move them to “actively evaluating” your products/services.
Now, your website can automate these early stages of the sales cycle. You will engage with prospects only when they have shortlisted your company. In sales management jargon, you engage with part-qualified prospects. When you meet with them, they are ready to engage. You avoid all the stalling and delaying tactics of prospects that have frustrated experienced (older) salespeople for many years.
As a result, sales situations will progress more smoothly and fewer prospects will withdraw from discussions. Your sales pipeline is full of better quality prospects and a larger proportion will eventually convert into clients.
The secret is for your marketing hub to allow those prospects with requirements that your products/services will struggle to meet, to decide you aren’t a suitable supplier. This can only be achieved by giving prospects all the information they need to make an informed decision for themselves.
This is why you must create and maintain a comprehensive website
Once your website (marketing hub) is up and running, all that is left for your marketing to achieve is to drive people to visit the website. This is relatively easy although it does take some time.
Your target audience will respond best if you communicate with them regularly using a variety of different techniques. Don’t simply send an email every month, mix things up. Mix up the frequency of emails. Intersperse regular emails with ad-hoc messages – all designed to help your prospect and encourage them to visit your website.
The best way to tempt prospects to visit your website is to send an email containing part of the information together with a “read-more” link to your website. Those who are interested in your email subject will link through.
Of course, if you are just starting up then you may not have email addresses for anyone in your target audience. In this case, you need to obtain them from anonymous visitors to your website. This is best done by having something that your prospects will find valuable available to download from your website. Whatever it is, request an email address from the person wanting the information and then email the item to that email address. [This last step is important to avoid you being given the wrong email address].
You may speed up the process by purchasing email lists and running a short email marketing campaign asking people to visit your website and sign up for an eZine or to download a large report or for access to a video webcast.
Alternatively you can write articles and have these distributed as part of other people’s eZines, to their list of contacts.
Leigh Wallinger knows the problems that every small business owner encounters when trying to establish and grow a small business. After 30+ years’ experience he now helps small business owners to grow their businesses. Contact him by email (enquiries at salesmadeeasy.co.uk) or via www.salesmadeeasy.co.uk
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