Did you know that it takes between six and eight touches to convert a sales prospect into a customer? Each touch requires a different set of marketing communications tools, with different degrees of effectiveness. For example, the top five tools for business-to-business (B2B) lead generation are inside sales, executive events, telemarketing, trade shows, and email. At the same time, 83 percent of B2B marketers use content marketing for lead generation. Even driving traffic to your website is no guarantee of increased sales; 97 percent of website visitors are not ready to buy. With all the various channels and strategies, which marketing communications tools are most effective?
Three Steps to Capturing New Customers
There has been a lot written about marketing communications and marketing communications tools. You can make your marketing program as simple or as complex as you wish, but there are three basic steps needed to capture new customers: 1) lead generation, 2) lead nurturing, and 3) lead conversion. Each step requires different marketing communications tools:
1. Lead generation – The first step is to attract new sales prospects using lead generation. The most common form of lead generation is outbound marketing, where you proactively send out sales messages to attract qualified buyers. The most common marketing communications tools for outbound marketing include:
- Email marketing – Sending targeted email messages to a list of qualified prospects is designed to get them to request more information or to engage in a sales call.
- Direct mail – Much like email campaigns, direct mail uses the U.S. Postal Service to deliver flyers or mailed promotional pieces to prospects.
- Display ads – Whether in print or online, display ads present sales messages to potential customers through targeted media outlets, such as trade journals or special interest magazines, or websites. They usually include a call to action such as a phone number to call or website to visit for more information.
- PPC ads – Pay-per-click (PPC) ads are a more sophisticated form of online advertising, giving web viewers the opportunity to click through for more information. These are more cost-effective than other types of ads, because you only pay for the number of clicks.
- Cold calling – If you have a well-defined target market, cold calling is a great way to attract new business. Granted, cold calling can be frustrating and takes skill and patience, but with the proliferation of robocalls, using a personal approach to contact prospects can really pay off.
Inbound marketing is another form of lead generation and requires different marketing communications tools. Rather than broadcasting a sales message, inbound marketing uses content to attract leads with valuable information, prompting readers to proactively seek out more information. One of the advantages of inbound marketing is it is easier to track visitors so you can refine messaging to improve results. Common inbound marketing communications tools include:
- Website – Your website is your internet billboard and should educate visitors and entice them to seek out more information. Most websites have a registration form or some means for visitors to leave contact information to learn more.
- Blogs – Blogging is a great inbound lead generation tool. Blogs allow you to talk about your area of expertise and share insights that build trust with visitors and make them want to learn more about your company and its services or products.
- SEO and content – Posting content in locations other than your website will build awareness, and using the right keywords and search engine optimization (SEO) will make it easier for people to find you. If you attract prospects through SEO, chances are they are ready to buy.
- Social media – Using forums such as Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and LinkedIn provides another means to attract like-minded readers. If your posts are targeted and interesting, qualified prospects will seek out your profile and website looking for more information.
2. Lead nurturing – Once you have captured the interest of a sales prospect, you need to keep them interested until they are ready to buy. As we noted above, it can take six touches or more to make a sale. Lead nurturing helps the prospect to make a buying decision. Some marketing communications tools to consider for lead nurturing include:
- Newsletters – Regular communications to refresh brand messaging and remind prospects of your value proposition will nurture prospects until they are ready to buy. Regular newsletters help keep your brand top of mind.
- Lead scoring – Ranking prospects by their value as a potential sale is lead scoring, and it is used by 68 percent of successful marketers. You can rank prospects by level of interest, job title, buying authority, company size, level of market influence, and other criteria, then use different tactics based on their lead value.
- Personalized emails – Once you capture a lead, you want to guide them through a decision-making process. Using personalized email, you can trigger a response that will alert you that a prospect is ready to buy. Email systems such as Constant Contact, Vertical Response, and AWeber are useful for managing email campaigns.
- CRM – To help guide qualified contacts from prospects to sales, many organizations use customer relationship management (CRM) software, such as ACT!, AWeber, BatchBlue, and InfusionSoft to track prospects and touchpoints.
3. Lead conversion – Once you have convinced the prospect to become a customer, you want to make the final step of lead conversion as frictionless as possible. Using phone support to close sales is your best tool. When a prospect is ready to buy you want to be able to take the order.
Most companies tend to rely on online order forms and other tools, asking customers to prove their interest by volunteering to place an order. The statistics show that while it may be less expensive taking orders online, the conversion rates are lower. The average abandonment rate for online shopping carts is 69.23 percent. Telephone order fulfillment is substantially higher. In fact, telephone calls average conversion rates between 30 and 50 percent, and click-through conversions only average 1 to 2 percent. When prospects pick up the phone they are ready to buy, which is why you need someone available to take the order.
To help get that phone ringing, sales and marketing need to collaborate to devise the best strategy to generate phone calls.
Special offers, discounts, and other call incentives can help drive telephone traffic to increase closing rates.
Don’t Forget Customer Communication
Many small businesses hesitate to provide phone support for sales because they believe it requires a full-time call center to handle fulfillment. You can handle your own sales support calls with little or no additional overhead. Spoke, for example, converts your employees’ smartphones into a virtual business phone system. With Spoke, incoming calls are seamlessly routed to employees’ smartphones, including call prioritization, so you never miss a sales or service call.
There are many marketing communications tools available to power your company’s sales. The trick is identifying those tools that are most effective for your target customer. No matter what tools you choose, you can be sure that the telephone needs to be part of the mix.