Archive for the 'Internet & Social Media Marketing' Category

Tweaking the Steps Along Your Marketing Sales Path

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ecommerce pathDo you sell products and services via the Internet?

Do you get the results you want?

If you don’t get the results you want, it’s helpful to re-visit each step of your “marketing sales path” to see where tweaks can be made.

Do a little marketing detective work

For instance, let’s say your sales path starts with an email broadcast, which directs the reader to your website. Here are the different statistics you will want to analyze to see what’s working and what’s not.

  1. Open Rate: Open rates, on average, hover around 20-25%, and in some industries, open rates go as low as 15%. (See Mail Chimp’s Open Rate by Industry table. Here’s HubSpot’s version of the Open Rate by Industry.)  About half of all email users will open their email with the graphics turned on, which sends a “beacon” back to the email server to indicate “This person opened an email.” If they don’t have their graphics turned on when reading emails, then they won’t show up in your Open Rate. So, if your statistics show an open rate of 10%, that means that it’s closer to 20%.
  2. Check Click-through Rates: Just because someone opens an email doesn’t mean they read it. One way to calculate whether people are actually reading your emails is click-through rate (CTR). CTR is the percent of people who clicked on a link in your email which took them to your website. You can get this statistic either from your email company or from your website statistics. You’re either calculating CTR (number of people who clicked compared to total emails sent) or CTOR (number of people who clicked compared to total emails opened.) There are a lot of opinions, pro and con, for whether you should put links in your emails or simply put the full text in your emails. Read more about that here in my blog post “Include Full Articles or Only Links?”.
  3. Check Your Website Statistics: Once they click through from the email to the page where you are making your offer, how long are they staying there? This number helps to guide you as to whether they’re actually reading the web page text or not. If your web page is too long, poorly written, or doesn’t clearly explain what you’re offering, people may be turned off. Or perhaps the text isn’t formatted in a way that’s conducive to reading. If they’re not staying long enough on the page to read it, it’s time to re-write the page. HINT: to determine how long it really takes to read the entire page, read it out loud to yourself. That will slow you down so that you read every single word as if it were the first time you’d seen the page.
  4. Bounce Rate: If they read the website text, does it answer all their questions? If not, they may click away from your website and never return. Check your bounce rate. Bounce rate is expressed as a percentage of the people who visit one page of your site, then leave immediately without looking at other pages on your site. Google says the average bounce rate is between 40-60%. If your bounce rate for your page is less than 40%, you’re doing great! If it’s over 60%, you need to tweak that page.
  5. Call To Action. What are you asking people to do once they read your page? A strong call to action matters.  Let’s say you’re selling a class. Should the call to action be “buy now?” Maybe it would be better as “register now” or “click here to register.”
  6. Sales Rate: Did they buy? Which payment option did they use?

Which traffic sources give you the best results?

Every step along the sales path is an opportunity to tweak your technique. Your e-commerce path might start with web traffic from a search engine (so good SEO is important) or it might start with online referrals from other sites. Perhaps you’re using sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to send traffic back to your site. Check each of these “sources” in your website statistics to see which ones yield the most traffic.

To do that, first go to the Landing Pages section of Google Analytics. You’ll find it under the Behavior section of the menu. (Behavior>Site Content>Landing Pages)

landing pages

Then use a very cool feature of Google Analytics, the “Secondary Dimension,” which allows you to select a page you want to focus on and drill down to each source of traffic and how much each source sent traffic to individual landing pages.

To do this:

  1. In the Landing pages table, click on the URL of the page you want to study. This will bring up statistics only for that page and help you drill down to get specifics for that page.
  2. Above the “Page” column, you’ll see a button that says “Secondary Dimension.” Click on that, and a drop-down menu will appear of all the different statistics you can get about that page.
  3. Select “Acquisition” then “Source.” This will show you all the sources of traffic to this specific page. Check the Time on Page and Bounce Rate for each source, to see which one yields the best results.

source

NOTE: When source says “(direct)” that means that people came directly to this page without going through an additional website. These are the people who click-through from emails or type your URL into their browser.

If people are reading their email in a browser-based email system, like Gmail or Yahoo Mail, the source might say Google or Yahoo.

Once you find the right combination of the steps above that brings the best results, you then repeat that over and over again.

By the way,  I recommend you use Google Analytics, if you are not already using it. It’s free and it gives you a ton of good information about how your marketing campaigns are doing.

Do You Find These “How-To” Types of Posts Helpful?

Let me know if you find this helpful and if you’d like to see more of these step-by-step “how-to” types of posts!

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Category: Internet & Social Media Marketing, Marketing
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Should You Put Your Prices on Your Website? Pros and Cons

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The decision to put your prices on your site is a strategic one for your business. In some ways, it can make you feel vulnerable.

Ask yourself: What does my prospective client want and need when they visit my website?

Studies have shown the consumers want to see prices of products and services. Even a price range is sufficient. But many business owners have reasons why they prefer to not include pricing.

How can you decide which way to go?

Here are some pros and cons to consider:

Nine Reasons to Put Your Fees and Prices on Your Site

  1. Trust. Many customers will not do business with a company that is not forthcoming about pricing and fees. They simply won’t waste their time talking with a sales representative, only to find out that the price is too high (or too low, which may feel cheap or low quality to them).
  2. Price Range. Customers want to know what they’re going to pay for your service or product, or at least have a ballpark figure.
  3. Unaffordability Beliefs. Some customers believe, perhaps incorrectly, that if the price is not shown, then it “must be too high.” They reason that if they aren’t shown the price, they probably can’t afford it.
  4. Efficiency. People who can’t afford your services or products will not request a prospect sales conversation. Hear me out: do you want to spend time convincing people on the phone that they can afford you, when they really think they can’t, or don’t see the value you are offering? It’s hard to have sales calls with people who have unrealistic expectations because they don’t know the fees. Trying to convince them is a hard-sell tactic that I choose to avoid.
  5. Branding. Pricing is a strategic marketing decision and helps to set your brand apart from others. Are you the low-cost leader? Are you the expert who people pay more for because you’re worth it? Your fees tell the prospective customer where you place yourself among the others in the industry and which target market you want to serve. There is no right or wrong pricing brand strategy. The key is that you’ve developed it consciously through your marketing plan.
  6. Discounting. For products and classes, there’s typically no negotiation in pricing: either they purchase it or they don’t. You can always create a separate page with special pricing for existing customers or special groups, or offer coupon codes that give discounts, if you want a tiered pricing approach to products and classes. Or indicate that you have installment payment plans, if that helps your customer with a buying decision on a high-ticket item. If you offer special pricing for nonprofits, put your regular fees on your website, and add a sentence that indicates nonprofit pricing is available.
  7. Budgeting. If people feel like they can’t afford you, but want to work with you, they now have a price-point from which they can start savings towards working with you. I have had a number of clients who tell me that they saved for three months in order to work with me.
  8. Honoring. Your customers are busy and time-constrained. They need information at the moment when they have time to do their research. Don’t make them jump through hoops or waste their precious time. Try to be helpful in getting them all the information they need, not just in your pricing, but in the valuable benefits you offer.
  9. Information Gathering. People who are looking for a price range so they can get some budgeting ideas may be a perfect client for you. One of the important stages your customers’ sales timeline is the Information Gathering phase when they are researching possible solutions. Get to know your prospective customer’s process for making buying decisions and plan your marketing accordingly. This is especially true when marketing to women: they do a lot of research before they buy.

Ten Reasons Not to Put Your Fees and Prices on Your Site

  1. Customized Services or Product. Sometimes you can’t list your prices, because each customer gets a customized quote based on what they need from you, like a home builder or a website designer. But you can offer packages on your website, with a note that says, “Fees start at…” for each package. Or show them examples of your work and indicate what each of those project fees were.
  2. Competition. You’re afraid your competition will find out how much you charge. I have bad news for you: your competition already knows what you charge. It’s easy for them to have a friend pose as a prospective customer and get your entire price list. Or your customers tell others what they paid. You are going to have a tough time keeping your pricing private, especially in the internet age.
  3. Value and Selling Strategy. You feel that they need to talk with you first, so that you can show them how valuable your service is, before quoting them a price. That is the job of your website and your other marketing techniques. If your website is written well or your webinar is designed properly, it will easily show someone whether you can solve their problem — and that the price they’ll pay is worth it. Then, when a prospective customer finally does contact you, they’ve already been pre-sold by your marketing and you don’t have to struggle to convince them of anything. I figure if a sales rep needs to speak with me, it’s because they think the product or service “needs explaining,” or that they need to “handle my objections.” Neither is a good excuse to waste my time on something that doesn’t need explaining or should have been explained thoroughly on the website or webinar. Need help with your copywriting? Read my blog post on 6 Copywriting Steps for Non-Copywriters.
  4. Rapport. Your service is based on your personality and your rapport with your customers. Therefore, they need to speak with you in order to get the connection and see if it’s a good fit. I agree with this 100%. But if it’s a perfect fit, and they can’t afford you, how does that benefit either of you? Why not put some videos on your website or offer some free webinar or workshops, so they get a chance to experience you before the prospect call is scheduled.
  5. Price Fixing. You (or your industry) is concerned about price-fixing. By definition, price-fixing is a conscious agreement among businesses to keep the price of something unnaturally high or low, instead of letting free-market forces determine what each customer pays. Putting your own prices on your own website is not a conscious agreement with other businesses, it’s not a conspiracy, and therefore is not price-fixing. If you’re really concerned that you’ll be accused of price-fixing, consult your business attorney.
  6. Mimics. You are concerned that competitors who are less qualified than you will increase their prices to mimic yours but offer poor service. Let them. You cannot be responsible for what your competitor does. If they charge too much and offer a shoddy product or service, they’ll be out of business soon enough anyway.
  7. Uniqueness. You feel that your service or product is not unique, but is exactly the same as what your competitor offers. This is called a commodity. But a commodity implies that what the customer is purchasing is the exact same thing, regardless of the vendor (like milk, flour, or gasoline). By being clear on what makes you unique, different, or better than your competitor, you avoid being seen as a commodity. This is called your Unique Selling Proposition. If you don’t have one, get one.
  8. Ongoing Marketing. You’re concerned that you’ll lose a way to connect with a prospect if they see your prices but don’t reach out to you. This is where having an free offer on your website can help you gather a list of people who may be interested in your product or service. Think: email newsletter, webinar, or whitepaper. However, you need to handle these people differently than you would a bona fide prospect because most people who sign up for free things are in the Information Gathering stage of the sales cycle. Prospective customers are in the Decision Making phase of the buying cycle.  Establish your sales and marketing strategy and funnel, and reach out to people based on where they are along the sales path. Here are the buying cycle stages.
  9. Price Shopping and Tire Kickers. If they’re shopping on price alone, they’re probably not your ideal client unless you are Wal-Mart. People who shop only based on price will leave you when they find someone cheaper. So, if you put your prices on your website, you get them to exit before they waste your time. If a prospective customer is truly only shopping on price, then it wouldn’t matter if you tell them the price on your website, or on a sales call.
  10. Not Knowing Your Worth. It’s true. Many small business owners feel uncomfortable setting their prices because they don’t truly know their value. Here are some tips in setting your service fees.

What To Do?

Whether you put your prices on your site or not is a personal business decision. It depends on your business and marketing strategy. Just make sure you make your decision based on what’s helpful to your customer and right for your marketing plan, not based on your fears about what “might” happen.

If you don’t put your prices on your site, it may be helpful to explain to people why you didn’t include them, and explain what the next step is in the process. Prospective customers will want to understand why they need to speak with you first.

People often ask me, “Don’t you think you’ll lose prospective clients that way?” My answer is: I get 10 phone calls a week from people who want small business coaching/consulting from me. I’m not losing ideal client prospects by putting my fees on my website. But when my consulting business is full, and I’m referring prospective clients to my trusted colleagues, having my prices on my site implies that my colleagues will honor those prices (which they won’t). So during those times, I take the prices off my site so that my colleagues can set their own prices.

So…should you put your pricing on your website or not?

The best thing you can do it test it. Put your prices on your site for two-to-four weeks, and compare the results. If you get more inquiries, more sales, easier conversions, then you know your audience found it helpful.

You’ll never know if something works or not until you try it.

Do you put your prices on your site? Why or why not? When visiting other sites, do you want to find pricing there?

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Category: Internet & Social Media Marketing, Marketing
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3 Headline Formulas For Non-Copywriters

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This article is for the rest of us – people who are NOT professional copywriters, but need good copy and good headlines for our websites and email newsletters.

Let’s focus in this article on writing good headlines. Or, in the case of email newsletters, good subject lines.

The purpose of a headline or subject line is to grab the reader’s attention and motivate them to want to read further. If you can’t get them past the headline, the rest of your copy is wasted, no matter how elegantly it’s written.

Most of the examples are funny, but you’ll get the point. When you’re done, check out my companion blog post, 6 Copywriting Steps for Non-Copywriters.

I’ll share 3 headline writing tips today:

  1. Use numbers
  2. Tell a secret
  3. Use emotion

Use Numbers

Formula:

  • _____ (number) _____ (adjective) Ways To _____ (thing they want to do or to have or to become)
  • _____ (time) to Learn/Get _____ (topic)

Examples:

  • 10 Easy Ways to Wash Your Dog
  • 5 Exciting Ways to Make Spinach That Children Will Eat
  • 20 Minutes to Learn Chess Like a Pro
  • Get a Complete Personality Makeover in 10 Minutes or Less

Tell a Secret

Everyone wants to the learn the insider secrets of people who have been successful.

Formula:

  • My Secret Formula to _____ (thing they want to do or have or become)
  • Insider’s Guide to _____
  • Easy Success Secrets to Create _____

Examples:

  • I’m Drawing Back The Curtain and Revealing My Secret Formula to Buying Pencil Holders
  • 10 Secrets Steps to Finding Online Grammar Mistakes

Use Emotion

People are only motivated by two things: to go towards pleasure and to get away from pain. But pleasure and pain can be subtle. For instance, I find it a pleasure to learn something new, to increase my mastery of a subject. So if I see a headline that promises to teach me something, I will always continue reading.

Another thing that motivates people is scarcity. If you TRULY have a limited number of items available (don’t lie to people about this, folks, they can see right through a scam), then telling them how many are left can get them to read the rest of your web page or email newsletter. Also, if there is a time limit, that motivates, too.

Think about what emotion your customer wants to feel. Confident? Energetic? Free? Safe? Take a moment and put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Then you can write a headline that speaks to their emotional needs. (Look at the photo above…who would respond to a Stop sign like that?)

Formula:

  • _____ (number) Keys to_____ (topic or outcome)
  • Learn _____ (topic)
  • How to _____ (outcome)
  • Only _____ (number) of _____ (item) Available
  • You Have Done _____ , Now Try _____
  • Do You Have _____ (name of problem)?
  • _____ (name of problem) Got You Down?
  • Do You Want _____ (name of desired item or outcome)?
  • Never Be _____ Again!

To increase the motivation level, use phrases like hurry, last chance, and only.

Examples:

  • 3 Keys to Better Peanut Butter Sushi
  • Learn to Buy Fresher Bread
  • Only 5 Seats Available for Seat Sitting 101 Seminar
  • Last Chance! Special 1 Percent Off Coupon Expires Wednesday
  • Do You Want a Better Goldfish?
  • Find Your Keys. Find Your Children. How to Solve Your Clutter Problems.

(Okay, some of these are silly. Just making sure you’re paying attention!)

Plain and Simple

Don’t forget the basic, informational headline. You don’t always have to get jazzy with your headline or subject line; sometimes just saying what the article is about is motivating enough. What if you were to see these simple headlines or subject lines?

  • 50 Percent Off All Classes
  • How To Type Faster
  • The Recording Is Available Now

TAKE ACTION NOW: Now take these headline tips and write three possible headlines or subject lines for your next article or email newsletter. Play with them until they feel right. Then try them out and watch the results!

Want more information on copywriting? Let me know in the comments area of this post and I’ll create more copywriting blog posts in the future! I could write about this stuff all day. 🙂

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Category: Internet & Social Media Marketing, Marketing
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12 Must-Have Items to Put in Your Welcome Email

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Think of a new subscriber to your email list as a guest in your home.

How will you make them feel welcomed and appreciated?

Your first email to them, your “Welcome” email, can begin that relationship, and turn a one-way conversation into a two-way conversation between your business and your customer. Make it count.

Your customers are accustomed to building personal relationships with a business via email. They reject companies and service providers where they don’t feel they’re being honored, heard or respected.

Send the first email out automatically, within a few minutes after a person subscribes and opts-in to your email list. It can be one email, or a series of emails, triggered by a person joining your list.

What a Welcome email will do for you and your business

A well-crafted Welcome email – whether it’s confirming a person’s subscription, offering immediate access to your free content, or a receipt for a purchase – can build trust and a rapport with your audience. It sets the tone of future communication, starts a conversation, helps reinforce your brand and message, and acknowledges how important your audience is to you.

Consider it your calling card; it’s your one opportunity to knock their socks off with meaningful content that solves their problems or answers their questions. You want them to open future emails from you.

Be warm, professional, helpful – and human.

Some tips on what you should put in your first email

  1. Welcome them to your community. Remind them how they got on your list – did they sign up for a free offer, did they make a purchase from your online store, or did they hear you speak or teach somewhere?
  2. Thank them. Acknowledge that you’re grateful they chose your content, or for their purchase.
  3. Talk to them about what they’ve signed up for. What kind of content can they expect? If they bought something from you, let them know how to access that item or when they can expect to get it. If they signed up for an event, remind them of the date and time. Help them figure out how to get started quickly.
  4. Let the content match the relationship. If your Welcome email is to a new customer, craft it as a thank-you for their purchase. If your Welcome email is to a new subscriber who is not a customer yet, focus the email on what resources you have for them (especially free resources/content, to help build the relationship).
  5. Assure them that you understand what their challenges and dreams are. They signed up to your list, but they still want to know that you understand their situation and that you can provide solutions. Provide content that outlines some common problems or questions they have, along with tips and techniques to move forward.
  6. Give them more than they expected. Offer links to important and helpful content on your website, or links to audio files, documents or webinar and video content.
  7. Tell them how often they can expect your emails. You should be sending email newsletters at least once a month, but once a week is better. Whatever you choose, be consistent.
  8. Provide them with links to your social media accounts as another way to connect.
  9. Answer frequently asked questions. Are there questions that pop up all the time which a list of FAQs could answer quickly?
  10. Continue the conversation. If you promised something in return for their signing up, make sure they got it. Follow up with a survey asking them what they think about your product or service. Remember: Even if it’s free, they’re still a customer. They’re consuming your content.
  11. Ask them to take action. To keep email subscribers engaged, ask them to take action: click a link, complete a survey, respond to a question, share a comment, sign up for a video tutorial.
  12. Tell them how to unsubscribe. It’s important that you give clear instructions on how to get off your list. Most automated emails have a link at the bottom to unsubscribe, but assure them in the Welcome email that they can exit anytime they want.

One email… or two?

There’s a lot of information you could include in your Welcome email. But you don’t want to overwhelm your new prospect or customer with too much information in one email. When you’re crafting your Welcome email, take a step back and ask yourself: Am I overloading them?

If yes, consider just putting the welcome, thank-you, and what you can expect topics in the first email, and use a second email for additional information.

Sometimes the shortest, simplest emails get the best response.

Doubling down with a double opt-in

Sometimes asking people to confirm their email address – known as a “double opt-in” – will be your first electronic correspondence with a customer. By asking people to double opt-in, you’re ensuring a quality list of real email addresses.

The double opt-in is meant to get people to click on a link to confirm their email address. Some people don’t do this right away – or they don’t do this at all – so you might have to send a reminder. You can also check the list of people who signed up but didn’t confirm their subscription to check for obvious misspellings in their email addresses.

If you are finding that people don’t click the confirmation link, the first question to ask is: Are they receiving the email in the first place?

Check your bounced email list to make sure they are receiving and opening the confirmation email. If necessary, send a reminder.

I’d love to hear from you

Are you sending out Welcome emails? Do you add anything to them aside from the 10 items listed above? Do you send them automatically or manually? Share your story, comments and questions in the Comments area below. 🙂

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Category: Internet & Social Media Marketing, Marketing

How Customers Make Buying Choices

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I LOVE reading about the psychology of marketing!

Have you read The Art of Choosing by Sheena Iyengar? She’s a social psychologist and a professor of business at Columbia University. She studies how people make decisions, which all small business owners can apply immediately when you market your services and products.

It’s an especially helpful book when trying to understand how customers make choices.

Iyengar conducted a series of studies about the psychological factors in decision-making. The best part about the results of the studies is that you can use the information in your marketing and sales efforts right away.

Here are top seven highlights from the book which will help you immediately:

  1. Customers like to feel they are unique and not “just like everyone else.” This, of course, isn’t true: as human beings, we’re more alike in our buying behavior than we realize. However, customers want to appear as if they each, individually, make unique buying decisions different from their peers. For instance, if two people would normally choose the same meal at a restaurant, studies show that when one person gives her order, the second person will change her order so that she doesn’t appear to be a copycat. If everyone at the Apple store is buying a white iPhone, all of a sudden people will begin to buy black iPhones. But when customers choose this way, they are less satisfied with their choice. This is more apparent at in-person events than in situations like online shopping (where you can’t see the other person and can’t be judged by the other person). Takeaway: In face-to-face contact with your customers and colleagues, how they perceive their individual identity matters. Don’t tell them they’re “just like every one of my customers.”
  2. Customers do take copywriting puffery seriously, even though logically they shouldn’t. They’ll buy bottled water that they know, intellectually, comes from municipal tap water that’s been created via reverse osmosis. They buy into claims that the water is especially refreshing (all water is refreshing) or that it’s bottled at the source (in this case, the “source” is municipal water) or that it’s “expertly designed water” (does it need any further design than the original H2O formula we’ve been using for so long?? Apparently, yes.). That’s why Dasani’s website focuses not on the water, but on the bottle the water comes in: 30% plant material, 100% recyclable. Takeaway: Even though the customer intellectually knows not to fall for marketing copy, they still do. They want the experience that buying and using the product will bring. You, as the marketer, get to define that experience for them through your copywriting and your branding efforts.
  3. We take into our psyche the words we read and hear from marketing copy. Researchers asked people to construct a sentence using five words they were given. When researchers gave them five words that related to the elderly (old, gray, wrinkle, Florida, bingo), the participants took 15% longer to walk to the elevator when they exited the survey room. Our autonomic nervous system connects pre-existing knowledge with what we’re seeing and hearing right now. Takeaway: Think about how you want your audience to feel and act after they interact with you, your blog, your marketing, and even your social media comments in Facebook and Twitter, and use words that will conjure up that feeling in their minds. If your brand is about “passion,” don’t use words like “slow” or “creepy” when connecting casually with your audience…or they’ll connect it with you and your biz.
  4. Even a small amount of choice brings a sense of well-being to customers. Several studies showed that when participants were given a choice versus being told what to do, those who were given a choice (even the smallest, simplest of choices, like which night to watch a movie), made people feel better about the situation. Takeaway: In your marketing, where can you give them choices instead of only one option?
  5. Customers get overwhelmed by too much information. In 1956, George Miller conducted his famous study that concluded that people can process only seven pieces of information (plus or minus two). We are limited in our capacity to process information. When you give people too much to think about, they shut down. We simply can’t keep track of multiple objects or facts. Takeaway: When listing the benefits or features of your site, limit the bullet-point list to 5-7 items. If you have more than seven, create a second list with a new title, like, “Here’s even more reasons to buy our service!”
  6. When you give customers too many options, they are (at first) attracted to the most options they can see. But when it comes to buying, people purchase less when they have too many options to choose from. When given a choice of 24 jams flavors, only 3% of the people purchased jam. But when given only three choices of jam flavors, 30% purchase jam. Takeaway: Be careful of how many choices you give customers. At first, they may be attracted to your full array of offerings, but when it comes to buying, having too many options may hurt sales.
  7. If you have to give them options, help them to choose from among the options. Help them to figure out the best way of sorting, comparing and eliminating options. Takeaway: Create a chart about which program they should purchase (from among several), or an article about the pros and cons of different products that will help them and increase customer loyalty. Organize their choices for them.

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Category: Internet & Social Media Marketing, Marketing

Nurturing the Not-Ready Customer Through the Buying Cycle

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Wouldn’t you love it if you could close every sale with a new customer in 30 minutes or less?

But that rarely happens. A sales cycle can last up to six months, depending on how much research the potential customer has done before he or she comes to you.

Before customers are ready to sign on the dotted line, they first must go through a well-researched route to purchasing products and services, called the Buying Cycle. You need to nurture these potential clients and help them along this route to ultimately choosing the solution you’re offering them.

Studies show that 79% of website visitors aren’t ready to buy. They’re somewhere else within the buying cycle. They may not be aware of the scope of their problem, and may simply be in the early stages of researching a possible solution.

Even if they’re not ready to buy, it doesn’t mean there isn’t an opportunity for you as a business owner. If you continue to educate them and nurture those leads – wherever they are in the buying cycle – you’ll be at the top of their minds when they’re ready to buy.

The Buying Cycle

The typical buying cycle goes from having an awareness that there is a problem, to evaluating the possible solutions, choosing one solution, and then implementing it. It ends with a long-term, meaningful relationship with a customer.

Here’s a detailed explanation of the buying cycle — what actually is happening in your prospective customer’s world:

  1. Acknowledge there’s a problem they need to solve. Something is broken – either a physical product, like their washing machine, or a process in their business – and they need to fix it.
  2. Make a decision to fix this problem. They have to decide if they want to tackle this problem now or wait.
  3. Determine exactly what results they want. What’s their end goal? What outcome or results do they want after purchasing and implementing a solution?
  4. Gather basic information. They’re searching for companies that can help them, and often doing this research online. Perhaps they’re asking friends or other business owners who’ve had similar problems about their chosen solution.
  5. Identify possible solutions or vendors that will give the result or results that they want.
  6. Compare those solutions or vendors.
  7. Select a vendor/product.
  8. Negotiate the deal.
  9. Make a purchase decision. This can mean either signing a contract or making a direct purchase.
  10. Implement the solution. Your relationship doesn’t end with the purchase. Now you have to help them use your product or service wisely to get full results.
  11. Forge an ongoing relationship. This allows for repeat business from the same customer and ensures ongoing customer satisfaction and word-of-mouth referrals.

Recognizing where your customer is in this buying cycle is key.

When a customer first makes contact with you, have a set of questions ready which determine where he or she is.

  • “Tell me about your situation?”
  • “Have you looked at other solutions?”

Their answers to these questions can show you whether they’re still early in the buying cycle, or if they’re close to making a decision.

Pick Marketing Techniques Based on Buying Cycle

Choose different marketing techniques for each phase of the buying cycle.

For instance:

  • A well-designed website can help customers early on in the buying cycle by allowing them to gather information.
  • A free whitepaper outlining possible solutions and comparing them helps mid-way through the buying cycle.
  • An email campaign helps prospective customers through the pre-purchase process, and later forges an ongoing, repeat-buying relationship near the end of the buying cycle.

Supplying content for each stage tells your customer, “We’re ready when you are.”

If they’re early in the buying cycle, back off and let them explore, but be available to answer questions. If they want to discuss possibly buying from you, be available for a phone or in-person meeting, and have marketing material ready to help them make a choice from among your offerings.

By being aware of the different stages in the buying process, and thinking about what questions your customer are asking at each stage of the cycle, you can provide a prospective customer with the appropriate marketing technique at the right time.

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Category: Internet & Social Media Marketing, Marketing

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