The core of FutureNow’s service offering is helping clients persuade their visitors to move from one stage in their buying process to the next, to ultimately convert more visitors into customers. One common question we get from B2B marketers is how to design marketing efforts that “graduate” their prospects from one stage of their buying process to the next.
If you’re familiar with FutureNow’s process or are a frequent grok reader, you’ll already know that our process involves not only designing effective marketing efforts for each stage of the buying process, but also involves identifying what the conversion points are for each stage of the buying process. However, for those who are not familiar, let’s review:
Early stage visitors are qualified as someone who has only begun their shopping process and may not know exactly what they want, nor are they convinced that they want to purchase from you. At this stage it’s important to answer visitors’ questions and not push them towards anything that says “Buy Now!” Offering these visitors comparison among your own products is also helpful so they can narrow down what they’re shopping for. An example of a search term an early stage visitor may use is: “car insurance.”
Middle stage visitors are qualified as someone who has decided upon the product they’re searching for, but are not convinced yet that you can provide them with what they need. They may be shopping to find the best price or the best company to fill their needs. An example of a search term a middle stage visitor may use is: “comprehensive and collision auto insurance.”
Late stage visitors are qualified as someone who have decided upon the product they’re searching for and know who they want to purchase this product from. These visitors are yours to lose. Even though they’ve already decided upon purchasing from you, there are still barriers that may make these visitors lose confidence, such as a confusing checkout process, expired product assurances, and slow loading speeds. An example of a search term a late stage visitor may use is: “Progressive comprehensive and collision auto insurance”
Okay, now that we’re all on the same page, let’s get into the meat of this subject. At each of these stages, you have the opportunity to convert these visitors to move to the next stage of their buying process. This doesn’t mean that they necessarily became a sale or a lead. This simply means that you’ve identified the point of interaction at which a visitor has demonstrated to you that they have been persuaded to go from the early stage in their buying process to the middle stage. This micro-conversion point may be the action of “landing on a page” or “signing up for a newsletter.” Identifying micro-conversion points for each of these stages of the buying process is key because they tell us the paths we’re trying to guide visitors through. The two most important parts of graduating prospects from one stage of the buying process to the next are:
1. Getting qualified traffic
2. Getting visitors to complete the lead generation or customer information form
So, how do you improve these two key parts? Let’s start with getting qualified traffic. This may require an over-haul of your keywords. First, write down every one of your marking efforts (PPC, radio ads, print ads etc.) Now it’s time to start digging. Eliminate any efforts that cost you more than you’re making in return. Look at who else you’re competing with for the same traffic and evaluate if/why, they’re getting a larger portion of the market that you are. Are your keywords too specific? Too general? Does your scent trail leave visitors at a dead end? Look through your analytics data, are you using content targeting that is bringing in the wrong type of visitor? If you’re getting 30,000 visitors a month, but none of them are qualified, you might as well be getting zero.
Lead generation forms are my personal nemesis, mostly because I feel I’ve been betrayed by them before. We all have had the experience where, as visitors, we fill out a customer information form, only to begin receiving random emails from a source you’ve never heard of, or asked a legitimate question about the service only to have it go unanswered. To put it simply: lead generation forms have a bad reputation. However, they’re a major win in terms of a micro-conversion so they need to be optimized to their utmost potential. Here are a few tips I regularly use when optimizing customer information forms:
1. Assurances: Let your visitor know that you wont sell their information to email/phone solicitation lists. For extra points, you can give them the option on how they’d prefer to be contacted.
2. Let them know how long until they’ll be hearing from you. Having a 24-48 hr window for response is typical. (And, not just some automated response that says “Thanks, we got your inquiry, we’ll be in contact with you soon!”)
3. List your phone number near or within your customer information form. Many people (myself included) have been so put off by the use of lead generation forms that they no longer want to involve themselves with them. Having a note nearby that says “Want to talk to someone now? Call us as 123-456-7890″ this way you won’t lose a visitor simply because they fear the form.
4. Let them know what they’re getting. Is this a form for more information? To answer questions? Or, by filling out this form have they begun the purchasing process? Have a title to your customer information form that tell the visitor why they should fill it out, and what they’ll achieve by doing so.