It happens all the time. A prospect visits a company’s website and happily consumes some of its content. But then the prospect leaves without having connected with the site’s publisher, such as by subscribing to an email list or becoming a fan of the company on social media. For the company, this is a tremendous lost opportunity.
And the hard truth is that this is the norm, not the exception. From piecing together numerous studies I’ve read, I estimate that only about 3% of visitors to a website are in the “ready to buy immediately” stage of the purchase process. A much higher fraction of site visitors are ultimately interested in purchasing, but they may not make the purchase for weeks, months or even years.
Why, then, do most companies focus only on the 3% that may convert immediately? Imagine if, for the many visitors who are interested in purchasing but not right away, we were able to capture their contact information or have them follow your brand on social media. What if we could forge a dialogue with them, or at the very least communicate with them to help them along in the buying process? Could we as a company expect to capture another reasonable percentage as clients? Absolutely! In fact, the 2010 study below showed that fans/followers are much more likely to purchase and even recommend your brand:
So how do you capture as many of these leads as possible? Based on my work with market-leading companies, here’s what they do to encourage prospects to subscribe or become a fan or follower.
In my next column, I’ll explain what these market leaders do do after they’ve collected this information. That will be the third column in my series about a four-step approach to winning over today’s digitally driven buyer. This time out, I’ll focus solely on what these businesses do to try to gather or earn email addresses, or to entice prospects to follow their brands on social. While there are various ways to gather this information, the most successful companies in this realm don’t cut corners. They recognize that gathering this information, and feeding it, requires a great deal of time and effort.
3 Effective Ways to Rope in Prospects
1. THE SIMPLE TECHNIQUE: The easiest technique is two-fold: placing your brand’s social icons on each page of your website and asking site visitors to follow them via a call to action. The smartest companies know that gathering email addresses and contact information is often superior to attracting followers on social media, so they therefore ask visitors to subscribe to email lists via a form. Again, make sure these forms are on every page of your site and accompanied by a call to action.
Owing to its simplicity, this technique is the least effective way to capture the desired information because you don’t offer any real incentive for people to subscribe. Accordingly, the most advanced companies use this tactic the least of the three described here.
2. THE INTERMEDIATE METHOD: This tactic involves offering an exchange of information, which makes it somewhat more appealing for prospects. Market leaders offer a piece of content so valuable that prospects are willing either to follow the company on social media or provide their email address, giving the company the contact information it seeks. In its simplest form, a company will create just one or two pieces of premium content—such as an ebook, white paper or checklist—and offer them on each page of its site. The company accompanies this premium content with a call to action, such as “Download now!” This leads to a landing page containing a form detailing the fields of information the prospect must provide in order to get the good stuff.
This technique is much more effective than the simple technique for collecting contact information, because prospects see high value in return for their information.
3. THE ADVANCED SOLUTION: This is similar to, but a step beyond, the intermediate method. The difference is that you create multiple pieces of premium content for each product or service your company offers, then display only the relevant premium content offers on each related web page. Again, you include a call to action and a landing page with forms that prospects must complete for the information exchange.
Clearly, this requires more investment and effort than the other two techniques. But because this exchange is specific to the page that the prospect is on, this is by far the most effective means of gathering contact information.
Which Information You Need to Capture
Market leaders are seeking the ability to establish a relationship with someone who may become a client in the future. By connecting with prospects via email or social, these companies keep their brand top of mind and can help establish the prospect’s buying parameters. These firms are also looking to reach out and start a conversation with these prospects.
Think about it. If everything else were equal, wouldn’t you be more inclined to buy from a company with which you’ve had a great conversation?
Here’s what your company needs to know in order to capitalize on this knowledge:
- The prospect’s name: This permits you to personalize your communications to them—and, after all, most people’s favourite word is their own name.
- How they prefer that you communicate with them: Is it through email, Facebook, Twitter or some other channel? It’s all about them, so your odds of landing a new client are greater if you speak with them through the channel they prefer.
- Their contact information on their preferred channel of communication: You don’t want to have an “oops!” moment when you go through your data and realize that a prospect prefers that you communicate with them through Twitter but all you have is their email address.
- How well they fit your target: You’d rather not spend your limited time and energy working leads that don’t fit your ideal client profile. The information you’ll need in order to gauge whether a prospect fits this profile differs from business to business. If you’re targeting consumers, you’ll likely want to know things such as the prospect’s household income, sex, age, age of any children, education and job type. And if you’re a B2B firm, chances are you’ll be seeking data such as the number of employees in the company, its revenue, the sector and the prospect’s role in the company.
Leveraging Captured Data to Get Close to Prospects
Once the market leaders have the contact information for their prospects, they have a distinct advantage over their competitors. They can begin to forge real relationships with those prospects, help them define their buying parameters and even involve themselves in the purchase process. In the end, this technique results in these market-leading companies earning a lot more business than they would otherwise. Even a fairly small fraction of the 97% will far exceed the initial 3% that most companies focus on.
Of course, getting the prospect’s email address and/or enticing them to follow you via social is just one of the four stages in the new inbound marketing process. In my next column, I’ll discuss in more detail how you can use this newfound knowledge to nurture relationships and facilitate sales.
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