Your target audience doesn’t need your help in the sales process anymore. They don’t want to talk to you. They want to talk to their friends and colleagues about you. They don’t want to be sold. They’ve already done the research.
So what’s left to do? To figure that out, we need to consider what has really changed in the buying process. Consider this:
The Evolution of the Sale
It used to be if a business owner needed to get equipment financing, he’d conduct some preliminary research, then raise his hand for assistance about 1/3 of the way into the process. He’d call a vendor, such as his financial institution, for more information, and that bank would gain the competitive edge by shaping his criteria for how he selected his financing product.
By working with the business owner so early in the sales funnel, the bank could influence his priorities, leveraging the relationship to edge out other providers, even if they offered similar products at lower rates.
That’s not the case today. That business owner wouldn’t reach out to their bank or any other financial company until nearly 2/3 of the way into the buying process according to this research from Google and CEB. He’d collect data from articles, consumer reports, and opinions from family and friends. He would know exactly what he needed and which companies met his baseline criteria. Only then would he contact those providers, and his choice would be based on price.
Consumers today are more independent than they were a few decades ago. They mine forums, consumer reports, social media, and industry publications to develop informed opinions, rather than relying on vendors to help them through purchase decisions. They’re less interested in service bundles, which are tough to compare price-wise, and are more likely to make straightforward decisions based on cost alone.
This new landscape applies to all industries, but it presents challenges for financial companies in particular. Financial companies are forced to unbundle services and struggle to get in front of customers early enough to be competitive on anything but price.
In this era of the empowered customer, brands must be proactive. In their book “The Challenger Sale,” authors Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson suggest that targeted, unique insights are the way to stand out in an increasingly crowded and consumer-directed marketplace. Instead of barraging consumers with bland statistics or launching widespread and broadly targeted marketing campaigns, companies should meet people where they are at each stage of the sales process and offer insights tailored to their circumstances.
Make Contact Early and Often
If you want to avoid the race to the bottom on pricing, you must reach customers long before they are ⅔ the way through the process. Address their needs and concerns early on with exclusive insights, content, and offers that earn their interest and trust. Customers will pay for premium services if you convince them you’re worth it. You want to give them the criteria to use in their purchase decisions, criteria that highlights your unique advantages over the competition.
Take a long-term approach to developing relationships with your target audience. Your audience isn’t stupid, they know if you only see them as a sale. Providing valuable information throughout the sales journey, even if it doesn’t directly relate to your product, increases the chance they’ll choose your brand.
Influence Prospects Throughout the Buying Process
Effective sales strategies combine a keen understanding of your customers along with tactical execution. That’s what we do at CSTMR. We look at who prospects are and where they’re gathering information, then turn that data and insights into highly effective, multi-faceted marketing campaignsthat drive engagement and ultimately new customers.
Think beyond ad copy when trying to reach your audience. By publishing content with influential outlets, developing an authoritative on-site blog, using sophisticated keyword strategy, and launching creative PR campaigns, you speak to customers in ways that resonate with them.
Let’s look at how you can get inside their heads and deliver the information they seek. Be in the same places to which your customers for gathering information. Then you can access them and leverage that credibility to stand out from your competitors without competing on price.
5 Questions for The New Purchase Path
Since customers won’t come looking for you until late in the game, you need to go find them. These questions will help you get in front of your customers so you can start delivering value and building your influence.
- Where and how are my customers gathering information? Identify which channels your audience favors for researching new products or services. Depending on the demographic, they may rely on traditional news outlets and consumer reports or crowdsourced information on social media.
- Who are their influencers? You need to know who holds authority with your target consumers. Look for opportunities to partner with those people on promotions, ask them to publish guest posts on your site, invite them to be a guest on your company’s podcast, or even just make reference to their work. If customers associate your brand with the influencers they trust, they’re more likely to seek you out.
- What data do they need to make a decision? Find the key communication points that help customers reach a purchase decision and position your company as the best option for them. Some people prioritize long-term financial benefit, while others value more immediate savings. Some put more weight behind speed while others choose reliability. Whatever it is, once you know their priorities, you can present your case.
- What combination of tactics makes the biggest impact? Break your audience down into different segments to figure out which marketing channels work best for each. Don’t just look at demographics. Two customers who are the same age and live in the same city might have completely different personalities or financial circumstances and therefore, respond to radically different messaging.Group customers by values, interests, how they benefit from your offer, and which types of messaging resonate with them. Then target landing pages, email campaigns, social media strategies, and other tactics at these segments.
- How do my different customer segments purchase? Again, go deeper than demographics. Analyze purchase patterns and build your campaigns accordingly. Someone who frequently interacts on your app probably won’t respond as well to an offer on your website. A customer who has come to your office for an in-person consult will likely require a more personal approach.
When customers aren’t engaged with you, they’re researching other options and being courted by your competitors. They want solutions that enhance their lives or businesses, or at least the ones that don’t drain their savings. Talk to them on their turf and let them see how you can meet their day-to-day needs. Follow these simple steps and you will improve engagement and ultimately, generate higher quality customers.