When’s the last time you set out to streamline your sales process? Like, really broke down your customers’ journey every step of the way? Every business, no matter what you sell, will have a unique buyers’ journey. Whether that journey is good or bad is entirely up to you as a marketer or business owner.
Let’s talk about one very actionable strategy that you can use to streamline your sales process, reduce your cost per sale, and increase your conversion rate. It all centers on the idea of content marketing. You might have heard the term before and thought, “Eh, blogs are difficult to maintain and nobody will read my blog.” That’s simply not true if you’re writing the right content and using the best strategy.
Let’s say you have a landscaping business for example. Here are the steps you should take using content marketing to significantly improve your business efficiency.
1. LIST YOUR REAL FAQs
If you’re a landscaper, chances are good that every time you connect with a prospective customer you schedule a consultation where you visit the location, scout the landscape, answer a bunch of questions and then come up with a quote that you hope the prospect will accept. Chances are also good that this routine is very similar every time. You, the landscaper, are looking for the same things every time to accurately price the job; the prospect is asking you the same questions you always hear.
Step one in this content marketing strategy is to document the information you are constantly discussing with your prospects. Make a thorough list. You now have an initial list of topics you should be writing about and featuring on your website.
Here’s where a lot of businesses miss the opportunity and fail.
Most marketers will steer away from truly answering the questions customers really want answered. The classic example of this is the answer to, “how much does it cost?” Service businesses, like landscapers, are notorious for making you call and schedule a consultation before you get a price. That’s for a couple reasons. One, pricing differs for every job of course, so it’s difficult to say exactly what it will cost. And two, business owners are paralyzed by the fear of a competitor seeing their prices and undercutting them.
Let’s stick with the price question as an example. We know this is a question customers have 100% of the time. Because we know that, we also know that potential customers will be searching online for that information. If none of your competitors are willing to write about prices (which is often the case) and you are, that’s a HUGE advantage your website has just gained. It will significantly improve the chances of your business showing up in Google above all your competition.
The second advantage of providing answers to the questions customers REALLY have is that you have just accelerated your sales cycle. With the pricing example, maybe you write an assessment how-to article that teaches your prospects how to accurately price their own landscaping services. Maybe you create a useful checklist that your audience can use to discover what services they actually need. Maybe you give them that checklist in exchange for their email address so you can market to them later.
Then, when a prospect does eventually call, the conversation is not about “let me ask you, Mr. Prospect, a bunch of questions to see how we might help.” The conversation has graduated to “You probably already have an idea of what you need, what questions do you have for us?” Half the sales process is already done!
If you need help making sure you’re answering all the questions that should be in your articles, there are a few things you do for inspiration:
- Install Google analytics on you site if haven’t already. Go to the Sources section and look at the keywords that people are using to find your website. This will tell you not only what your website is already ranking for, but what topics are low hanging fruit and you could take advantage of by better focusing some of your website content.
- Head over to Amazon.com and find books related to your industry. Once you find them, use Amazon’s Look Inside feature to examine the table if contents of the most relevant books. There’s sure to be at least a few chapters in there that will inspire an article or two out of you.
- Research the FAQ pages of websites in your industry and your competitors. Typically, the answer to each question could be a full article on your site.
2. EXECUTING THE CONTENT MARKETING STRATEGY
Here’s another part of the strategy that businesses, particularly small ones, mess up. They execute poorly. In order to make sure this strategy works, it has to be polished.
Here’s the best way to do it as a small business owner.
Make that list of common questions and frequent explanations you go through with potential customers. Take that list and have a friend or a coworker ask you all the questions while recording your answers. I recommend using a computer so you have the digital recording handy for the next step.
Once you have recorded all your answers, go online and source a good freelance copywriter to transcribe and wordsmith your answers into articles. This is a critical step! Entrepreneurs are the best at messing up this step because they think they can do everything themselves and typically operate with a bootstrapping mentality.
Seriously, pay for an experienced copywriter. There are two reasons for this. One, they are better at writing than you. You wouldn’t think twice about hiring an electrician to wire your house. Think of a copywriter the same way for your business. Two, they will be able to tweak your answers with an unbiased perspective that will likely better match the mindset of your customers. You are too close to the business. You probably don’t think like your customers anymore.
The other awesome part of this strategy is that you will get high quality written content while not losing the voice of your business. A skilled copywriter will easily be able to pick up your tone and style and translate that into words on a page. The other nice option you have is to give the copywriter some direction to write the copy in a tone that you want your business to have. Maybe your style and tone of your recorded answers are not playful or friendly because you’re personally not, but you’d like your business to be. A good copywriter can easily make that happen, but you have to ask them to do it.
You can hire a good freelance copywriter in as quick as a few minutes by going through websites like elance and odesk. I recommend odesk because the interface is a little more straightforward. Either site has good instructions of how to successfully post a job.
Once you have these articles written, it’s time to post to your website.
- Don’t get cute with your article titles. Title the articles exactly how you think a potential customer would search them in Google.
- Make sure to use images in all your articles. Images increase click through rates and break up content to make it a better reading experience. Choose images that don’t just look nice, but are relevant to the article. You can get affordable images from sites like istockphoto.com that will make a big impact on your content quality.
- Break up your content into short, easy to read paragraphs. Use subheads and bullet points whenever possible. People like to skim and no one is looking to read a novel. Using this tactic will keep people on your site longer.
3. USING CONTENT TO ACCELERATE YOUR SALES PROCESS
Now it’s time to put this content to work. Have you ever sent an email to a prospect after meeting with them the first that said something like this?
Thank you for taking the time to discuss your challenges. We look forward to helping you blah blah blah. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.
That email sucks. It’s a break up letter. There’s no value and no urgent reason for the prospect to continue the conversation with you.
Here’s what you do instead using that awesome content you created,
Thanks for your time today. I know you had some concerns about X, Y and Z when we spoke. Here are few resources that I think you’d be interested in:
- Article that addresses X
- Article that addresses Y
- Article that addresses Z
I’ll follow up with you in the next day or so to see what questions you have.
Now three things are happening:
One, you’ve added value to the conversation. John will appreciate that you’ve given him information that is super relevant to what he was thinking and will be subconsciously indebted to you, thus increasing your chances of closing a sale.
Two, you’ve pointed John to your website where all your other awesome articles live. John will undoubtedly peruse your site and continue to walk right down your sales pipeline. The more content he consumes from your site, the more your business becomes an authority in his mind and the more likely he is going to purchase your product or service. You have just established yourself as THE expert, at least to John.
Three, you’ve proactively given yourself a good reason to have another conversation. You’ve taken the offensive by saying that you will call them. You have now taken control of driving the sales process, which is exactly what you want. Because after all, once a prospect has started the buying process there is something like an 80% chance they WILL buy that product or service, but it’s your job to influence them to buy YOUR product or service.
4. USING THE CONTENT TO GENERATE BUSINESS LEADS
Phase two of this content strategy is to package up all your articles into a nice ebook. Again, don’t skimp out on the execution here. You can hire really affordable designers on odesk.com and elance.com to take all your articles and turn them into a beautiful ebook that will answer any questions a potential customer might have. Have your designer deliver the ebook in a format that you are able to edit yourself. I recommend PowerPoint. This way, if anything in your business ever changes, like pricing, you won’t need to hire a designer to edit the ebook.
Place a lead capture system on your website that offers people the ebook for free.
Get the FREE Ultimate Guide to Selecting and Working With a Professional Landscaper
If you use WordPress for your site (and if you’re not, you’re crazy), pick up a premium plugin called Pippity. Pippity allows you to create popup sign up forms for your site. Now, I know what you’re thinking, popups are lame. But not how you’re going to use it here.
When you promote your ultimate resource guide ebook on your website, you should not have the email sign up form sitting right there. Like this (sorry Pat Flynn, but you know it’s true):
Instead, place an image of the resource guide with a call to action like the one above and a button that says either “GET IT NOW” or “FREE INSTANT ACCESS” or “LEARN MORE.” Here’s a good example:
Following these instructions from Pippity, you can make those images cause a sign up form popup to, well, pop up when clicked.
This is the way to go because when you have a sign up form just sitting on your site your visitors can immediately see what it is and subconsciously choose to ignore it. This is called banner blindness and you probably have it every time you visit a website with ads.
With the popup technique, you’re taking advantage of two very powerful psychology principles.
The first is curiosity. People are inherently curious and will click your resource guide just to know what the deal is.
But here’s where the second psychology principle kicks in. Once they click, the popup will come up and ask them to enter their email address. The person is forced to make a decision. Should they enter their email address or close the popup? Both options are pretty easy, but with one they get something. Interesting.
The reason this works is because unlike a form that simply sits on your website, this popup will put people in a situation where they have to consciously make a decision. In other words, it forces them to take action. That’s mind trick one. The thinking behind mind trick number two goes like this, “Well, I clicked the button; I caused the popup to display; I must be interested; Might as well enter my email address.” You’re causing people to enter into what’s called a yes ladder. All that means is that if you get people saying, “Yes” to a bunch of initial questions, they are much more likely to say yes to your next question.
Moral of the story? All this popup stuff simply means that you could enjoy sign up form conversion rates that are often 30% higher or more than a form just sitting on your website.
5. RINSE AND REPEAT
Once you have a nice content library built up that proactively answers most of your potential customers’ questions, you’ll start to notice that the questions you get will begin to change. Repeat the process to keep answering these questions and you will continue to remove the pressure from the beginning of your sales process. In other words, your prospects will arrive at your doorstep ready to make a purchase.
BONUS IDEAS FOR YOUR CONTENT MARKETING
Write an article about the “Best in .” 99% of local businesses don’t write this article because honestly it’s awkward to write and post on your own website. I get it, but that’s a mistake. By not writing this article you’re choosing to ignore what your customers are thinking. For example, if you’re looking for a landscaper and you live in Baltimore, what are you likely to search for? You guessed it, “Best landscaper in Baltimore.” If your website is the only one that has that question answered, guess what; your website is showing up when that hot lead types it into Google. This is such a good strategy because I can nearly guarantee that if you are a local business, your competition does not have that content on their site, thus you have an enormous opportunity to gain a competitive edge.
Write about competing products versus your own. People close to purchasing something will often look to compare different options of the same product. This often means they are searching ” from versus from .” Don’t be afraid to write that article! It’s your chance to steer the prospect’s purchasing decision. Samsung dropped the ball on this when they ran a fantastic TV spot that blatantly showcased their new smartphone favorably against Apple’s iPhone. Again, the TV spot was brilliant, but what it did was evoke a ton a curiosity from people wanting to know how the Samsung Galaxy SIII really compares to the iPhone 5. The mess up occurred when you searched what most people search, “Samsung Galaxy SIII versus iPhone 5.” Samsung was no where to be found in the search results! Not only that, but there was no mention of the iPhone anywhere on their site. No comparison. Nothing. They would have driven no less than millions of visitors to their site. Epic fail. Net-net, don’t be afraid to write articles that compare your product to your competitors.
Use the same format as above that compares two of your competitors against each other. This is a sneaky one. If people are searching to compare two of your competitors there is a chance they would like your product too. So why not get them on your site by answering their question about your two competitors? Maybe they didn’t even know about company. Well, now they do and now you’ve just put yourself in the running as a suitable option.