Moving Customers Down the Funnel: Can it Really be Automated?

This post originally appeared on Relevance.

The sales funnel is about as old as time, in one way or another. Yet, despite its seemingly immortal existence, most companies struggle to identify, predict and perfect their approach to moving customers from lead to close. How can something so crucial to a business’ success still be so mystifying?

Sales cycles can range in length from seconds—think a pack of gum or your favorite tabloid at the notorious grocery store “impulse buy” checkout kiosk—to years, like cars, houses and spouses.

Spouses? You may ask yourself. Yes. Spouses. I use this unexpected example because too often, marketers lose sight of what they are supposed to do: make people fall in love with your product or service. Ask any sales guy or gal in the company and his or her complaint about the marketing team is almost always the same: Marketers don’t deliver quantifiable benefit. While salespeople are busting their collective humps to get people to bite on an offering (often driven by the cutthroat phenomenon of commissions), marketers enjoy the cushy life of higher base salaries and Facebooking all day.

What’s a marketer to do? Job security aside, it’s essential that every marketer understand that, though their title may not reflect it, they are still very much a part of the sales team. As the public-facing voice of the company, it’s marketing’s job to grow enthusiastic, loyal customers – whether you find them commenting on your blog, tweeting at you or liking your Instagrams.

HOW TO CONNECT (AND CONVERT)

The most important time to connect with your audience is during the buyer journey stage of contemplation. That’s the time between when a prospect shows up and when they turn into a customer. Obviously, then, you want to minimize your customer’s contemplation phase to optimize your close rate. If you’re a pack of gum, clear messaging like “sugarfree” or “fights cavities” might be all you need. However, if you’re a higher dollar item, potential buyers will almost always spend time doing research, which inevitably brings them to your website.

Here’s the bottleneck in conversions (usually): The main reason your website has a high bounce rate is almost always because customers were lead to your website and didn’t find what they were looking for. This is a problem for anyone, but even moreover if you are actually offering something of value. If you don’t believe this about your company, then keep doing what you’re doing, because you obviously don’t have the emotional buy-in to truly convince a third party of your value.

Any number of errors could be to blame for low conversions. Is your SEO out of whack? You may think not, but often organic traffic-crushing errors lurk below the surface of your website, unbeknownst to your marketing team. Other issues could lie in poor user experience, complicated steps to checkout, or general lack of appeal.

These problems are nothing new, and yet most businesses struggle to keep their website maintenance, messaging and sales cycles moving rhythmically, simultaneously and in synchronization.

If your products and services are top-notch, your site might need a facelift. Common contributors to a negative user experience could simply be poor SEO, an outdated site design or an overly complicated checkout process.

AUTOMATE TO INNOVATE

So, instead of making potential customers fall in love with their offering, most marketers are spread so thin trying to troubleshoot web errors, research influencers to pitch, craft content in a timely manner and keep the appearance of a managed social presence. Ultimately, marketing professionals spend more time doing administrative tasks than using their creativity to produce stellar concepts.

It’s shocking that, until very recently, integrated software solutions did not exist to remove the wrinkles in ushering customers through the sales funnel. Onboarding, licensing costs and the need for multiple products from various providers prevents marketers from bringing their campaigns into the cyber age. The result is stagnation in the same, semi-functional sales cycle, which has worked well enough to not get anyone fired yet.

Enter the new way to automate leads, nurture and loyalty. Now you can identify your customers online just by paying attention to what they’re saying in forums, on social or via search. Forget re-targeting; think pre-targeting. Determine exactly who is going to come knocking on your door before they’ve done it for the first time, and then target them with the content you know causes them to convert.

By paying attention to audience behavior, you can shape their buyer journey by targeting them with individualized, tailored content every step of the way. The customer feels like you are engaging directly with them, not blasting out mass messaging that’s too broad to resonate with any one kind of customer.

For more information about customization, download this whitepaper, “Intro to 1:1 Marketing.”

So instead if investing your time and dollars in administrative work, consider a platform that automates your opportunities for growth. Stop spending your time researching influencers and take the guesswork out of who and where your online customers are. The need for lead generation and closing sales is as old as business itself. There’s no reason we should still be struggling to get customers to your door.

Quin Woodward-Pu

VP-Marketing Audienti. Former Director of PR Brightline Interactive. Former Editor Vocus. Social media guru.

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