More and more businesses are turning to inbound marketing to match the way they sell with the way B2B buyers buy. Some of the tried and true tactics don't work so well anymore. For example, voicemail and caller ID has drastically reduced conversion rates for B2B cold calling. Other proven tactics like referrals are still great ways to sell, but it's hard to develop a predictable, sustainable sales process based on referral sales.
Research from HubSpot, the Corporate Executive Board and many others have documented how the majority of B2B buyers start their buying process by accessing content from potential vendors' websites. They start with search engine queries to find vendors that they think may be able to meet their needs and evaluate their websites when coming up with possible vendor choices. Even if executives have relationships with vendors or are referred by trusted colleagues, corporate governance and the consequences of making a poor purchase decision are making the modern sales process longer and more complex.
So now that's it been established that your website is a fundamental element of a modern sales process, just how can you convert website visitors to customers? The answer lies in optimizing 4 key elements of your sales conversion process.
Targeted, personalized content fills the top of your sales funnel
According to DemandGen Report's 2016 Content Preferences Survey Report, "47% of B2B buyers viewed three to five pieces of content before engaging with a sales rep." If that doesn't convince you that content marketing is crucial to filling the top of your sales pipeline, I don't know what will. And content is a great equalizer - even small businesses can show their expertise with good content. Personalized content that shows you understand the buyer's unique problems and challenges is what will help you start real conversations with qualified buyers.
While it's important to create content that fills the top of your sales funnel, you need to create content for all stages of the buying process. The DemandGen Content Report found that "73% of respondents viewed a case study during their research." Case studies are content typically associated towards the later stages of the buying process.
But at a basic level, you can't sell if you don't have any prospects and content draws potential buyers into your inbound marketing process.
The lead generation process helps move buyers through their buying process
Once you have attracted potential buyers to your website with content that educates them and demonstrates your expertise in the process, the next step is to have qualified buyers raise their hands by becoming leads. At the most basic level, the lead generation process offers a valuable premium content offer in exchange for contact and demographic information
The inbound lead generation process
A call-to-action (CTA) is the first step in your conversion process
A call-to-action can take many forms - it can be a social media post, it can be a banner on your website or it could be text linked to a landing page. The purpose of a CTA is to quickly convince a website visitor to go to your landing page or form. Here are some characteristics of good CTAs:
- The CTA should quickly (in less than ten words) convey the value of your content offer. Simply put, you need to show a potential lead why they should take the next step by clicking through to a landing page or completing a form.
- The CTA should use action verbs that clearly communicate the next step. Action verbs are words like download, get, register or learn. You should experiment with your CTA copy, but sometimes it's good to create a sense of urgency by using words like now or today.
- A CTA should stand out visually. User experience concepts like contrast, choice theory and whitespace all play a role in effective CTAs.
So to summarize, a CTA is the first step in getting a potential buyer to download an eBook, register for a webinar or access one of your case studies. Use the principles outlined above and analyze results to see what works best for you. Try different approaches - quite often, simple CTAs are the best performers.
Here's one of our CTAs for a free inbound marketing consultation.
Landing pages seal the lead generation deal
A landing page is a specialized web page that exists solely for the purpose of completing the lead generation deal. To see an example of a landing page, click on the CTA above. Landing pages typically have 4 main elements:
- A headline that gives a high-level overview of what the lead will get when she fills out the form. The headline should quickly and simply communicate the value of what you offer. The immediate goal of the headline is to convince the visitor to move to the body of the landing page and learn exactly what is on offer.
- A body of text that goes into more detail on the benefits of accessing the premium content offer. The landing page body should quickly convey why the visitor should complete the form and give bullet points that list the benefits. Trust elements like customer logos or testimonials are always good to include on your landing pages.
- An image and/or video that either supports or replaces the body of the landing page. Visual content is very effective and some of the best landing pages take advantage of video to "sell" the offer.
- A lead generation form that collects information in exchange for access to the premium content offer. The less information you require, on your form, the more leads you will generate. But for more complex B2B sales processes, many businesses use lead generation forms to learn more about their leads. This information can be used to qualify leads and segment them for more effective lead nurturing (see below.)
Landing pages should be consistent both visually and verbally with the associated CTA. A website visitor should sense a logical progression when they move from the CTA to the landing page. Be consistent with images, colors, and copy when building your landing pages.
Lead nurturing helps start conversations
Lead nurturing recognizes the fact that most first-time website visitors aren't ready to buy and delivers the right content at the right time as buyers move through their buying processes. Most lead nurturing starts when a visitor completes a lead generation form, sending a sequence of emails based on information submitted on the form and actions taken by the lead. The idea is to "warm" a lead up with content and to help transfer an online relationship to a real human-to-human conversation in a sales context.
Here are some things to consider when developing your lead nurturing sequences:
- Personalize your lead nurturing sequences. Base your email strategies on information gathered on your forms. For example, you would communicate differently with a C-level executive from a technology company than you would with an accountant from a health care company. That information can all be collected on your forms.
- Take into account what the lead does on your website in your lead nurturing. Most marketing automation software like HubSpot can tell you what website pages your lead views, what emails they open and which links they click. Your lead nurturing sequences can take this information into account and deliver content appropriate to the action. For example, if one of your leads views your pricing page, it's likely that they are in the end stages of a buying process - you might want to share a free consultation offer when a qualified lead visits a pricing page.
- Use analytics to optimize your lead nurturing. Lead nurturing is not a "set it and forget it" proposition. Use data from your marketing automation software to do more of what's working and less of what isn't.
- Take into account feedback from your sales people. While data is important, so is human feedback based on real interactions. Ask you sales people what they think about the quality of leads that are being passed to them.
If you're doing a good job with lead nurturing, your sales team will spend more time helping people solve problems and less time with unqualified leads that aren't in a sales process.
For most B2B businesses, their website is the foundation of their sales process. Understand how different elements of your website fit into different parts of the buying process and optimize it accordingly. Schedule a free consultation with us to learn how.