When it comes to products or services with a longer sales cycle, creating a marketing strategy to last through the entire buyer journey can be a delicate and challenging process. It takes dedicated precision in order to design a marketing and sales approach that will be effective for products that require thoughtful inquiry prior to purchase. Today, most consumers will conduct research online during their evaluation stage before buying something. For this reason, one of the roles of digital marketers is to understand the digital sales funnel and how to effectively guide consumers through their online journey.
The primary goals for longer sales cycle strategies are to cut down the time length of the sales cycle and push a larger audience through the funnel, with the result of greater total sales or enrollments. For those of us involved in industries like Higher Ed or B2B services, these elements are central to success. With technological innovations and A.I., there are many innovative and efficient ways to engage potential customers online, and sometimes even ways to shorten the sales cycle. Here are some of the most important things to keep in mind for your long-term sales cycle digital approach:
It’s important to recognize that with digital marketing innovations comes a whole new approach to the sales funnel. In fact, many would argue that the traditional sales funnel is oversimplified when it comes to online marketing. Due to the complex, vast amount of information available on the internet, consumers can enter into the sales cycle at varying stages. The funnel can be less linear and more circular. For example, a consumer that has ongoing online exposure to a brand for years may simply require some kind of “trigger” in order to enter the sales funnel. In this case, the consumer will already have experience seeing glimpses of the brand and just requires some sort of promotion or persuasive message in order to enter into the sales cycle .
It is also important to keep in mind that the sales cycle can look very different depending upon the type of offering. Different products and services will elicit different levels of evaluation from potential customers, creating a different journey for every unique brand. One product may take months of research and deliberation, while another might be purchased after seeing one email promotion. As a marketer, it’s essential to understand what your brand’s particular sales cycle looks like.
Go through your own evaluation stage
In designing digital campaigns for long term sales cycles, one crucial step is evaluating consumer data. Stay consistent in routinely analyzing data on customer behavior and their path prior to purchasing. The only way to effectively move consumers through a lengthy sales funnel is to utilize real-time data about how they are choosing to interact with the brand while going through their evaluation stage. It’s important to understand what are triggers for evaluation, what kinds of content they are accessing while evaluating, and what specific promotional offers are most effective.
Match content with the sales cycle
With the knowledge that consumers are avid online researchers, it’s crucial to have continued educational content throughout all of the sales cycle. However, it is also important to tailor-make content for specific stages of the cycle and for specific situations that might occur during a buyer journey. Using data analytics about consumer behavior, marketers can see the user path of customers and use these observations to provide the most relevant content at each stage of the consumer’s sale cycle. Understanding that consumers will have different responses to content at different stages is key to success.
For example, it may be necessary to provide blog posts about industry news for the brand awareness stage, but then later consumers may want to see more in-depth case studies during their evaluation. Providing a variety of educational tools and resources can lead to a more favorable opinion in the eyes of the consumer, as well as transform your brand into a trusted guide rather than a pushy salesperson. Consumers want to be fully educated, so providing the resources they may want at every stage of the funnel can be a game-changer during their decision stage.
Personalize wherever possible
Consumers like to be seen and heard (as they should be!). During longer decision-making processes it is extremely important for marketers to provide the nurturing and support that each consumer requires in order to feel comfortable about their purchase. As digital marketers we’ve most likely heard the term lead nurturing more than a few times. Lead nurturing is especially important for products that go through a longer sales cycle. Because gaining conversions can be a little bit more challenging in the longer sales cycle, providing nurturing at the beginning of the process is a great way to expedite the whole cycle, in addition to bringing in more customers.
One of the best forms of consumer nurturing is personalization. As Artificial Intelligence becomes the driving force behind content creation, personalizing advertisements, promotions, and even educational content becomes even easier. Personalization in digital marketing tactics can look like anything from a name-labeled email promotion to a paid advertisement that specifically mentions an interest of the person viewing it. A.I. technology can give us numerous tidbits about consumer interests, and it’s easier than ever to have more well-rounded knowledge about each individual in order to provide nurturing through their buyer journey. Ever Googled a vacation destination and then started seeing FaceBook ads for flight deals to that location? This is just one example of how personalization and A.I. can rapidly and effectively pull someone into a sales cycle or jumpstart the evaluation phase.
As an overview, there are a few key concepts to keep in mind when designing your long-term sales cycle digital approach. Firstly, always keep in mind the idea of shortening the cycle if possible, and increasing conversions. Next, create content that addresses the consumer needs at each stage of the cycle. Creating a full-funnelled strategy with relevant messaging throughout the entire buying process is the best way to increase the overall performance of your brand.
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