One of the biggest mistakes we see small businesses making every day is trying to go straight from a first contact directly to a sale. While a straight line may seem like the shortest path to a sale, the reality is that small businesses lose tons of business by trying to skip some important steps in between.
Whether you’re meeting someone in person for the first time, or you have a potential buyer who has arrived at your website for the first time, it’s critical to give that person a step between becoming aware of your business and actually buying a product or service from you. This is inbound marketing – one of the basic marketing concepts for businesses.
What I’m describing here is the sales funnel, which doesn’t apply to all businesses (for example a lemonade stand that wants to go straight from awareness to a sale), but it does apply to almost any business that has some form of a sales process.The element of a sales funnel that I want to focus on in this article is the concept of allowing your potential customers to browse a little. That browsing can be assisted by you, but you don’t want to go straight to the customer who just walked through the literal or figurative door and immediately ask them how much of your product they want to buy. You need to give them some time and potentially even let them try a little of your product before most of them will be ready to make a decision. If you rush them, someone who could have become a customer may end up leaving because they weren’t ready to make a decision.There are countless ways to define a sales funnel, but for the purposes of this article I want to break it down into 3 steps: Awareness, Nurturing, and a Sale. By following the concepts laid out in the text below, you should be able to convert more casual shoppers into buyers.
Awareness People can become aware of your business many different ways. They may find your website online, they may meet you in person at an event, or they may see an ad that you placed in a newspaper. The first time someone becomes aware of your business, they are evaluating you in many different ways. They are trying to figure what you do, whether they need what you offer, the quality of your product or service, the value, and many other factors that will influence their decision to purchase from you.
For many businesses, the first time someone becomes aware of you, they will not be ready to buy. They may need some more time. Instead of only asking someone if they want to buy your product or not, offer them something free in exchange for their contact information. By offering something of value in return for a potential buyer’s contact information, you have created a middle step that starts to create your sales funnel. By getting their contact information you will be able to take the next step (nurturing); and whatever you offered to them free should give them a chance to get to know you better while they consider a purchase.
Now that you have the contact information of someone who might be interested in buying a product or service from you, you can gently market to them (nurture) while they consider the purchase. For every business, the tactics of nurturing will be different. The tactics can range from a monthly newsletter to a sales call to answer any question the buyer might have. It might take weeks or months to nurture a potential buyer, or it might take hours or days. Regardless of the tactics, the concept remains the same; nurture a potential buyer by providing information or assistance that moves them closer to a sale. The nurturing doesn’t have to be obnoxious or pushy; in many cases just a gentle push can be the difference between someone who forgot about your business because they were busy and someone who completes a transaction.
The third step is somewhat self-explanatory. After a courting period during which a potential buyer has been able to browse as much as they like, they will be ready to make a purchase decision. By creating the middle step of nurturing, you should be able to ultimately complete more sales than if you try to skip the middle step. The key to enabling this middle step is to create an offer that gives you a chance to get the contact information of your casual shopper. This technique works both for both online and offline prospects.
Now that you’re ready to create a middle step in your sales process, take a look at some of our previous blog posts that explain how to create a landing page (for capturing online leads), or use a tracked phone number for either online or offline lead capture. Before you know it you will have a sales funnel for your small business!
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