Nothing is worse than a missed opportunity. Unfortunately, these are all too common in digital marketing. Most companies struggle not with attracting visitors and generating leads, but with qualifying and closing leads. And it’s critical to get this right, because closing leads is the stage of inbound marketing that has the biggest impact on your bottom line.
Leads within the sales funnel typically follow one of two paths: they’re transformed into customers, or these potential clients eventually lose interest and move on. Sadly, the latter happens far more often. Often, the failure to convert leads into customers has less to do with the company having tight purse strings than with it improperly nurturing its leads.
So, how exactly do you close the leads you’ve already worked so hard to capture? This requires leveraging the data you’ve already acquired to nurture these leads to the conclusion that they want to do business with you. This can be done effectively by following these three key steps:
Leverage the knowledge you’ve captured
Closing, which is the third step in the four-step approach to winning over today’s digitally driven buyer, is the stage in which you use all the knowledge you’ve attained about prospects through the first two phases: Attract and Convert.
If you’ve managed these two phases effectively, you’ll have a wealth of information to work with by the time you come to the Close stage of the inbound marketing process. By this point, you know who has visited your website, which visitors have enjoyed your content, what their particular interests are and, ideally, where they are in the buying process. To circle back to my previous column about capturing prospects, by the Close stage of inbound marketing you should have gathered the following information:
- The prospect’s name
- How they prefer to be communicated with
- The contact information for their preferred medium of communication
- How well they fit your target market
Working with this data will allow you to better determine which leads are the most viable as customers, as well as how and where you can reach and interact with them.
Use this data to score leads
In my first post in this series, I wrote about how important it is to identify and completely eliminate the poor leads from your sales efforts. There are many reasons for this. What they add up to is that poor prospects mean wasted resources, dissatisfied clients and overall poor business relationships. In the Close phase of inbound marketing, it is crucial that you focus your efforts only on prospects who show promise and fit your target market.
Since you have collected a wealth of data on your prospects during the Capture stage, you now have a solid basis from which to make judgments about who exactly qualifies as a good lead. Once you’ve identified the best prospective clients, you can begin to better nurture them with tailored content and correspondence that will help move them along in the buying process.
Cater your content
The third, and perhaps most important, step in the Close phase is to tailor your content and communications with the leads who you’ve identified as good prospective clients. The goal is to help good prospects understand their options and alternatives so that they can establish their needs and frame their buying parameters, eventually positioning your company or service as the solution that best suits them. This involves providing them with useful, helpful content that answers their questions at every stage of the buying process, from problem recognition through research through evaluation of alternative options.
By the Close phase, you have all the information you’ll need to do this. You know where prospects are in the buying cycle based on which pages they’ve visited on your website, which kinds of content they’ve downloaded and which types of conversions they’ve made on your site. This allows you to establish a dialogue and connect with them on a highly targeted and personalized level, providing them with content that is relevant to their particular position in the sales funnel. This ensures that your business:
- Establishes credibility with prospects
- Stays on their minds
- Increases engagement with qualified leads
- Engages leads on the right platform, with the right message, at the right time
Methods for closing leads
Market leaders with high lead-to-customer conversion rates are successful because they develop real relationships with their prospects. They use the knowledge they’ve captured in order to nurture these relationships and better facilitate sales. They do this by sending a flow of relevant, remarkable content to prospects via the following methods:
- Email: A highly targeted series of emails that focuses on providing prospects with content that is useful and relevant to them can help build trust and move them further along in the buying process;
- Social Media: At every stage of the inbound process, social media is a great way to engage with prospects, and it’s no different in the Close stage. Social media allows you to further your relationships with prospects, flow them useful, helpful content and increase the probability of them doing business with you.
- Workflows: These are a series of automated actions that are triggered based on the actions or behaviours of a prospect. Effective workflows should nurture leads by corresponding with their needs as they travel through the sales funnel, whether they are researching, establishing buying criteria or evaluating vendors.
While closing qualified leads to turn them into paying customers may seem like the end of the inbound marketing process, it is actually only the third of four steps. It is crucial that the client you have acquired also has a positive experience when doing business with your company. Stories of poor service travel quickly and could deter others from choosing to work with you. On the flip side, satisfied clients can become ambassadors of your brand, serving to further increase traffic, leads and sales. In my final column in this series, I’ll write in more detail how you can continue to engage with and delight your clients, even after they’ve written you a cheque.
Read the previous two columns in this series about how to win over today’s digitally driven buyer:
Jeff Quipp is an expert on integrated or inbound marketing. He is the founder and CEO of Search Engine People Inc., a Pickering, Ont.-based digital marketing firm that has been on the PROFIT 500 ranking of Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies for the past five years.
More columns by Jeff Quipp