It is a buyers’ market today. The advent of integrated marketing concepts, increasing transparency, and higher customer outreach have changed the traditional sales funnel to a more marketing dependent sales funnel.
Today’s marketers support sales staff in an unprecedented way which is not just limited to the top of the marketing funnel i.e. creating brand awareness and generating leads. Their roles extend to the bottom of sales and marketing funnel which focuses more on nurturing prospects and customers to aid in sales conversion.
Failing to retain the convincing elements of a business discussion towards the bottom of the funnel may lead to the loss of potential lead, i.e. new business. Any inconsistency in the message flow or insufficient proof of concepts may turn into total marketing failure at this crucial stage.
Following are a few ways marketers can ensure that the bottom of their funnel marketing strategies works well. (You may also find these off-beat strategies for sales conversion quite helpful.)
1. Customize Presentations for Specific Solutions
One size does not fit all. Every customer wants to know what is special for him or her in a given presentation, no matter how comprehensive, content-rich and appealing your slide decks are. You need to be very particular about what you want to achieve from this presentation and how your customer would respond to each of your solution points.
Do the slides answer to the specific queries and win the doubts one of by one? Have they been prepared based on some early customer feedbacks and general concerns? Visuals, graphs, and charts based on real or experimental data in a PPT give easy and convincing explanations to customers, therefore, are more business-centric. Here is an article explaining the art and science of giving an effective presentation.
2. Provide Free Trials for Hands-On Customer Experience
You won’t like something unless you taste it in good faith. The same goes with the influencers or buyers. Be prepared to offer some off-the-shelf or configured solutions at no cost. Free trials have the power to convert conversation into customer.
Let the decision makers get hands-on experience about what they are going to achieve from you and how you are going to deliver them. The free consultation should explicitly describe the value propositions in detail and may include broad level analysis of customer’s problem areas. Free trial or temporary product/ service installation at customer instance may extend to a month or two and should involve all the key persons involved in technical validation and procurement process.
Here are some research findings from ‘Marketing Experiments’ on how free trials work in business conversion that you may find useful.
3. Offer Live Demonstrations for Increased Customer Interactions
Take your prospects through your products or services at execution level and make them feel comfortable with the evaluation environment through audio-visual mediums. Try to exemplify some real-life case studies or business instances that made other customers win their business. The demonstration should cover all possible solution points and beyond.
The idea is to satisfy customers' present and future requirements as well as to help them save on incremental cost. Give your customers enough room to share their previous vendor experiences, overall expectations, short term and long term goals and technical limitations. Make sure that each demo session comes out with a list of ‘Already Have’ and ‘To Do ‘ things so that prospects are aligned with your solution and involved in the buying cycle right from the beginning.
One session may not be enough, so try to schedule at least three to four sessions depending on everyone’s availability. Forbes lists out 8 of the best product demos ever and why they’re so effective.
4. Follow Up With a Detailed Q&A Session Via Web Conference
One-to-one interactions through web conferencing, webinar, or physical meetings help reduce the number of ambiguities that are obvious to any business discussion at the bottom of the funnel. More the number of questions you encounter from prospects, higher the chance you can convert them into favorable outcomes.
Do some ground-up activities about the company and the discussions between parties so far before you take on the questions. Keep the recording session on so that any unanswered question can be covered later for further analysis and feedbacks can be shared internally. Using online whiteboards, screen sharing options and other collaborative features of a web conferencing tool is also helpful as they make web sessions interactive and productive. Make sure that all the key members from the prospect company actively participate in the Q&A session and get all their queries resolved by the proposed time frame.
5. Collect and Display Customer Testimonials and Reviews
Have a set of customer references ready to share with your prospects in case they need proof of performance. The reviews should be substantial and data-centric and must qualify the confidence test in a true measure. Most of the times prospects ask for user references from similar functional domains, so be selective while sharing the names and contacts.
6. Create Evaluation and Comparison Sheets for Technical Analysis
Any buying decision taken by the top management of a company gets approved once it passes through the user acceptance test. Therefore, as a marketing consultant, you must ensure that all the technical feasibilities have been properly analyzed in comparison to competitors' offerings and any enhancements if required are addressed. The comparison sheet can be of a checklist type that details out all the user level needs that can or cannot be met. A well-prepared evaluation sheet makes decision making transparent, faster and effective for the prospects. If you want to specialize in preparing product comparison chart, this article can be of good help.
7. Encourage Social Media Engagement Through Blogs and Personalized Threads
Any new business relationship stands on the trust factor that grows over a period of time. People tend to be more convinced when you make them know you through indirect references – both online and offline. It is a good idea that you continuously update your prospects and keep them engaged throughout the conversion stages.
Keep in touch with the key influencers through LinkedIn threads or Twitter posts during sales and technical discussions. Share relevant presentations, video links, diagrams, or other web references through social channels that establish your value propositions and their benefits in an indirect manner. Sharing informative case studies and blog posts early in the buying cycle can also help key influencers understand the solution points better and faster.
For more insights, you may read this post ‘How to Master The Social Media Engagement Funnel’ from Aseem Badshah, CEO and Founder at Socedo.
8. Send Newsletters and Customized Emails For Relationship Management
Sending emails and newsletters are common follow-up practices in any business closure. However, you must learn the art of saying ‘Hi’, ‘Hello’ during your regular email communications and get the stone rolling. Behavioral emails containing personal wishes along with specific business notes are preferable. The email message may relay what good you want to do for the recipient at an individual and team level and how they benefit from your actions.
Try to avoid flattering language and marketing jargons in your email communications as they read artificial and less effective. Be clear, concise, confident and value driven in your message and leave a respectful impression that lasts for long even if you don’t win the business. Maintaining a good relationship not only helps in repeat business but also wins you a lost business.
9. Extend Coupons and Discount Offers
Offers and discounts are a great way to convince even the tough buyer while closing a business deal. Whether you provide discounts on volume purchase, repeat business or offer some complimentary services for a certain period, it sure is going to delight your customer. Make sure that you do not compromise on your product quality or cut heavy on your profit margin to win a deal. Instead, focus on the number and type of value additions that you can do for your client without affecting the total sales value.
10. Offer Clear Pricing Guidelines and Customized Estimates
Pricing is the most critical stage where most of the business deals make or break. If you help customers in working out a suitable and cost-effective plan that saves them on dollars, they will trust you and your business ideology. Sit with the key decision makers and influencers and understand how they want you to optimize their total expenditure.
Do they need to curtail the number of products they have estimated to buy, or there are alternate ways to save on unit cost? Is there any seasonal offering that can be bundled with the regular package, or any premium product that can be used by multiple users at a time, reducing the overall cost?
Putting such additional effort keeps you in the good book of a customer. It builds a trustworthy and healthy relationship between buyers and sellers which is crucial for any business deal to close. A good marketer should know every component of a pricing estimate that he or she can tweak and present with confidence. Presenting a well-planned and customized estimate during a negotiation meeting shows that you care for your customer’s money and the business.
In this age of fierce competition, taking a prospect to the bottom of the funnel is time consuming, effort intensive and expensive. That is why today’s successful product and service marketing companies focus more on strengthening the bottom of the funnel marketing strategies than in traditional sales pitches.
In fact, every company has its own way of handling prospects and customers. It is important that they re-verify the existing prospect conversion system, understand the pitfalls from the past failures and create an organized evaluation environment for higher conversion ratio.
If there are any new marketing thoughts that you have applied to your case, please share them in the comment section.