Understanding your prospect buying cycle is a fundamental part of creating and delivering successful small business marketing.
Without focus your marketing is at best a branding exercise and at worst a complete waste of your resources.Your overall strategy must be designed to take the prospect through each step of the cycle as efficiently as possible.
Consider a fairly standard buying cycle.
- Research and education
- Comparison and validation
- Use and usability.
Your prospect will follow a version of this through your marketing and into sales, whether you are aware of it or not.
It is crucial to know these steps and actively manage them to convert as many prospects as possible.
Here’s what you need to do.
This step is all about creating attractive content considered relevant and useful by your target audience, available in the places where your audience can be found.
All you are looking to do is create a link between you and the subject area, to establish your authority on the topic and build your profile.
This is not the time for selling.
Solve problems, offer insights, share your view and generally try to own the space.
- Use target personas
- Establish credibility.
- Own the Space.
- Solve problems.
- Don’t sell, yet.
Research and Education
In the olden days, say 15 years ago, a prospect would have called the sales rep in who would have arrived clutching brochures and samples galore. Now the internet does all of that and much more.
A prospect has all of the information they need at their fingertips; on your company and after a quick Google, all of your competitors too.
Who will they choose to trust?
Customer reviews are the obvious choice, but beyond that it becomes a judgement call. If you own the space you are far more likely to make the short list of suppliers, also if your branding is consistent and professional. Availability of information and ease of consumption also plays a large part in the process.
So whether it’s through passive availability of information or a proactive dissemination of the required materials it is imperative you out-perform the competition in making it easy for the prospect.
- Make the information easy to find
- Make it easy to understand and digest
- It must be professionally designed
- Branding must be consistent
- Win the hearts and minds of your prospects
Awareness and Research phases should be managed, almost exclusively, by your marketing automation.
Comparison and validation
For small business marketing campaigns this is the tipping point between marketing and sales, and where the sales process will start.
A prospect that is actively comparing you with competition and evaluating your offering should be considered a sales prospect. But that doesn’t mean you need to be selling to them.
Here your marketing should be offering case studies, product information, checklists and the like, all as part of the marketing process, but each of those marketing pieces now highlighting your Primary Sales Objective.
Your PSO will depend on your sales model but typically it is a demo, conference call, trial or initial meeting. It marks the point where the prospect moves from marketing into sales control.
- Materials are made available that support the sales process.
- Case studies, testimonials, comparison lists and product information.
- Make the information simple to consume and easy to understand.
- Include Calls to Action directed toward the PSO.
Are you clear what will happen once your prospect says yes? Is your prospect clear what happens?
Once the sales process Is underway you need to make it clear and simple what happens, what the process will be, how it is managed, timings, expectations and delivery. Pre-prepared materials that convey this simply should be made accessible at the appropriate time. All other supporting information must be present too. Marketing automation can carry much of the burden of work for you here.
- Have a clear on-boarding process.
- Ensure you client knows what that is.
- Set clear expectations for process, timings and outcomes.
- Provide all other supporting information in easy to consume formats.
Use and usability
This element is largely dependent on your product or service. If it is simple, then a simple post-sale follow up is all that’s need.
If you have plenty of features and functions for your new client to discover it make sense to tell them through email, webinar, download or any other media.
We’ve got a user manual! I hear you shout. Agreed but people just don’t read them, or if they do only absorb what they need in the first instance.
- If your product has popular features, tell them.
- If your product requires updating, tell them.
- If you have training packages, tell them.
- If there are client success stories, tell them.
All of this helps retain clients, reduces the cost of retention and will improve your referral rate.
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