A new year brings many changes, including new marketing tactics, trends and technology.
It can be painful or just a disappointment, but it happens to everyone: failure. In business, one area of failure is a sale that looked promising, but didn’t close. Yet when asked what is the leading reason sales fail to close in a company, many owners and sales staff are hard pressed to come up with solid answers. They may speculate that it had something to do with price, the competition, not having exactly what the customer wanted, etc. But what about the sales opportunities that passed you by that you’re not even aware of?
A major reason sales won’t happen is the fact that so many prospective customers are doing heavy research online far before the point of contact with a sales person or support staff. In fact, many customers know the answers to their questions before they ever reach out to you. If prospective customers are coming to the wrong conclusions or getting outdated information on your business, it can create a negative perception that either turns them away completely, or becomes an obstacle to overcome when they do speak to someone in your company. Reasons that online customer research on your company may lead to failure to contact include:
The last item is often ignored, and many B2B websites, printed collateral, ads, email campaigns, newsletters, etc. can look alike and leave customers confused as to which company is best suited to meet their needs. This is why it is critical to have content that sets your company apart and explains why you are the better choice. Companies that do will obtain more sales opportunities.
Honestly assess your online presence and make sure you’ve addressed all of the areas that can lead to negative perceptions – and correct them. Do the same to your website. Does it provide ease of use and the content prospects need to convince them you deserve to make the short list? If not, it may be time for a new site or a redesign. Be pro-active in email marketing your products and services to your customers with direct links to the corresponding landing page on your site.
In keeping with the spirit of the above, it should be the goal of every business marketer to know and meet the needs of each customer. Marketing is much more personal, and shotgun approaches do little to move a prospect further along in their buying journey. Many marketers are developing individual buyer “personas”, which helps them communicate more specifically to each group. Depending on a customer’s position in their company, they are usually motivated by three factors, not necessarily in this order:
Sales and marketing staff that understand these needs and know how to speak to each of them are far more likely to increase sales than those who are still putting up online brochures. For example: You have a prospect and understand that their decision making process is extremely conservative due to strict industry regulations. You can then tailor your solution to meet these criteria, as well as highlight how you have met them in the past. This applies to web pages, blogs, unique landing pages, social media, and email marketing.
It’s also critical to know how much each prospective customer is motivated by the emotional side (how can you ease their stressors?), the rational side (can you come in under budget and on time?), or a combination of the two – the latter of which is the most common – and appeal to it.
When we step outside of our corporate “bubble” and honestly evaluate how our solutions meet the true needs of customers, we can create more compelling narratives. (For a “how to”, read our series on how to develop a Value Proposition.)
How do you find out your customers’ true needs? Ask them, of course. Whether you task your sales team to start the conversations, conduct surveys, hold focus groups, or any other form of information gathering: make this year, the year you educate yourself about your customers.
Once you understand your customers’ needs, incentives and motivators, you can develop content about real customer experiences that becomes much more tangible and powerful than simply describing how your products or services “work”. Rather than spouting features and benefits, you should be able to tell stories describing the outcomes that your solutions deliver and how customers will experience those outcomes. Reduce the stories to the lowest common denominators, and you have a customer-centric value proposition. Will the use of your innovative technologies result in equipment that lasts longer, with less maintenance and downtime? If so, part of the value you deliver is increased uptime and reliability: not the technology itself.
This year, focus not on your solution but why it matters to your customers. That’s your company’s real value, and truth be told, all your customers really care about.
If you set out to meet these marketing goals in the coming year, you’ll be laying a solid foundation for increased sales opportunities and growth:
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