It's that time of year again. No, not the holiday season. It's the time when SMB companies finish their sales year with a bang and start planning their 2015 growth strategies.
In my experience, 2014 has been the first year since the 2008 recession where SMB compnies have started loosening the purse strings and started making investments in the future. I'm optimistic for 2015.
But it's not going to be easy. Sales tactics that were successful in the '90s and early 2000's don't work anymore. The buying process has changed. The average B2B buyer now completes 57% of her sales process before ever contacting a salesperson.
Here are 4 must-do growth strategies for 2015.
Content marketing is no longer optional
DemandGen Report's 2014 B2B Buyer Behavior Survey found that "61% of buyers agreed that the winning vendor provided higher-quality content and 63% said the winning vendor’s content was more conducive to building a business case for the purchase." If you're not doing content marketing, what else do you need to get started?
In your content marketing, make sure you offer the right content for all stages of the buying process:
- eBooks, videos and whitepapers help your buyers as they become aware of problems and opporutunities that they need to address.
- Use comparison guides and webinars to help buyers as they consider different solutions to address problems or opportunities.
- Free trials, consultations and case studies help buyers make their buying decisions.
Rest assured that your buyers are accessing content as they research purchase decisions. If you're not publishing good content, you're missing out on a lot of sales opportunities.
Get your SEO right so that buyers find you
The 2014 B2B Buyer Behavior Survey found that 46% of buyers turned to search engine queries as their first source of information for buying decisions, more than any other source. If buyers aren't finding you when they research purchase options, your chances for selling to them are miniscule.
Some businesses try to fill their sales funnel by cold-calling and blast e-mailing. The research cited above helps explain why those efforts are likely to be futile.
Today's SEO is closely tied to content marketing. Quite simply, the more good content you produce and promote about the problems your business solves, the higher you will appear in search engine rankings. While it's important to get your on-page SEO right and develop inbound links to your content, technical SEO won't fool search engines. Your best bet is to optimize for your buyers, not search engines.
Optimize your customer service experience
So many businesses miss the value of a delighted customer to their sales results. Consider the fact that the 2014 B2B Buyer Behavior Survey found that the opinions of trusted colleagues and friends are the third most frequently accessed sources of information for purchase research. And Bain & Company found that it costs 6-7 times more to get a new customer than to keep an existing one.
Too many businesses spend too much time high-fiving when they get a new customer and not enough time making sure that the customer is delighted with their customer experience. Every effort you make to improve your customer service delivery process will pay dividends in your sales efforts.
One way to encourage referrals is to ask for them. When you're doing a service review with a happy customer, ask them if they know anyone who could benefit from your product or service.
There's no better salesperson than a delighted customer.
Use analytics to optimize your sales process
Marketing automation software provides comprehensive analytics that help measure all aspects of your growth strategies. There's nothing better than marketplace feedback to help optimize your revenue generation. I have a client that tried a plain-text email newsletter as an alternative to an image-rich HTML newsletter. Click rates were 4 times higher for the plain-text email! That's a good example of how iterating your growth tactics based on data improves results.
If you're not using internet marketing software (and you should be), Google Analytics and Google Webmaster offer free analytic packages that help you analyze and iterate your marketing process. CRM data should also be used to identify best practices to disseminate to your sales team to improve results. Winging it just doesn't cut it anymore.
So here's to a fantastic 2015 for eveyone. The key to growth in today's economy is being helpful to your prospects and customers. By creating great content that gets you found when buyers look for your solutions and giving great customer service that encourages referrals, you will create a healthy pipeline. Optimizing your process through marketplace feedback will bring you to the next level. Use these 4 must-do growth strategies to crush your goals in 2015.