No matter what type of industry you’re in or what type of products or services you sell, before they buy, your customers will go through what’s called a sales process or buyer’s journey. If you’re familiar with this process, you’ve probably heard of the AIDA Model, an acronym which stands for Awareness, Interest, Desire, and Action.
Awareness - the customer is aware of the existence of a product or service
Interest – actively expressing an interest in a product group
Desire – aspiring to a particular brand or product
Action – taking the next step towards purchasing the chosen product
In an age where your potential customers use search engines and social media to find and research just about every purchase decision they make, it’s extremely valuable to understand this journey as it applies to your ideal customers, and be able to reproduce and automate a process that guides them through that journey online using content creation and marketing automation.
Here at 98toGo before we sign any agreements with new clients or any money exchanges hands, we want to get a firm grasp on the company’s sales cycle. We want to know what types of problems their ideal customers are having that trigger them to search for information online, what questions they’re asking to find that information, and the answers to those questions. We then want to know how our prospective clients solve these problems, the common questions that come up during sales conversations, and finally any push backs they run into.
Armed with this information, we’re now ready to build a brand new sales engine that mimics and automates the buyer’s journey online and gently guides them to the point of sale. Wanna know how we do it?? Ok, ok you win I’ll give you the tools and instructions you need to build your very own automated online sales engine, in exchange all I ask is that if you enjoy the content, leave us a comment and share the post. DEAL? Ok, let’s get started.
Once we’ve wrapped our heads around a potential client’s sales process, our team develops a 3 month content marketing plan. Each month of this cost-free marketing plan is a separate campaign meaning each month’s content will focus on a different topic with 8 blog posts that all promote a TOFU offer around that same topic. The goal of differentiating each month’s content theme is to uncover which topic is most appealing to the target audience and generates the most leads. This will help us focus future content around topics that yield the best results.
So let’s walk through the buyer’s journey so far. The first thing that happens is AWARENESS that the person in question has a problem which triggers them to start searching online for a solution. Typically, when someone searches for these solutions they do so in the form of a question. If we’ve done our job right and our potential clients know their customers, we should have a blog post that corresponds to these very specific questions and have given such a valuable answer that our buyer can easily find the article in Google and clicks through client’s site.
Once they click on the link, they find short blog article about their questions, and at this point, we’re at the beginning stage of thought leadership. We really haven’t established ourselves as an expert yet. But we have answered their question without being salesy. What we want to do next is present them with an offer in the form of Call to Action button at the bottom of the blog article.
So somebody reads the article on this small problem they had, now we say “let us solve your big problem. Let us offer you a bigger piece of content that’s going to help you tackle the broader issue you’re having.” Enter the TOFU offer, the gateway to your sales engine. Here’s the piece of content that’s going to answer ALL of the buyer’s questions and make their lives easier and they can get it by simply sharing their contact information with us. If they proceed they have just become a lead and have just entered your sales engine. WOOHOO!
Now let’s get into your sales process and explain how we’re going to use your knowledge of the real world sales process, so that we can take these new leads from being a simple information seeker to sales qualified lead.
Before we get into that, I want discuss what I think is the most important piece of the automated sales process and that is the ability to identify people who actually show INTEREST content in your brand. That’s our definition of a marketing qualified lead, not just someone who has shown interest in information, but have shown interest in your company’s solutions. I want to introduce the concept of a Middle of the Funnel (MOFU) offer aka Brand Filter Offer. This is basically the same concept as a TOFU offer, a landing page with a piece valuable content behind it but instead of it being a simple information piece, it’s all about your brand and its solutions.
So with the TOFU offer we’re not selling, we’re simply providing information and establishing trust through thought leadership, but it’s very important that at the end of this document we introduce your positioning, your solution to this problem they’re having and we do this using another Call to Action button that promotes the MOFU offer. If someone downloads this piece of content they are now interacting with your brand and we can identify them as someone who isn’t just simply seeking information but are actually interested in your company’s solution to their problem. Otherwise known as a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL).
The important thing to point out about the concept of a brand filter (MOFU offer) is that we want every lead that comes into the funnel to be exposed to that filter, so that we get only the warmest leads continuing down the funnel. To do this we use a technique we call the triple shot. We give each lead 3 opportunities to see the call to action for this brand filter offer.
Opportunity 1: Thank You Page of the TOFU Offer - when someone fills out that form to get the whitepaper they’re taken to a thank you page where we’re going to present them with the brand filter offer with something like “By the way we’ve developed a simple solution to help you solve this problem if you’d more information here’s the link.”
Opportunity 2: Follow up email with the link to TOFU Offer – we send a follow up email when someone downloads any offer so they’ll have it for their records, a fantastic opportunity to stick in a link to the brand filter offer.
Opportunity 3 and most important one – within the TOFU Offer itself - once they’ve gone through the document, and absorbed all the information this is the perfect opportunity to present them with a chance to see how your company can solve their problem so we’ll have a call to action at the end of the whitepaper.As you can see it’s all a very natural flow to the whole thing so you don’t come off as pitching or trying to hard sale them.
In the real world only a portion of the people who download your TOFU offer are going to go right ahead and download the brand filter offer also, so what do we do with the other people, do we just forget about them? No, there could be all kinds of reasons they get stuck and don’t download the brand filter offer right away. This is the purpose of marketing automation, it’s for the people who get stuck.
We already know that they’re interested in helpful information, and this is where knowing the common questions that pop up during the sales process becomes so important. If a lead hasn’t taken the next step of downloading the brand filter offer, a common sales questions might be what’s holding them back. Marketing automation allows you to drip out a series of emails aimed at answering each of these questions to help ease their mind and make them more likely to take a look at what your brand does. I would typically start with a 3 email series to answer the most common sales questions and then build out more as your sales team encounters more questions.
The most efficient way to answer these questions with an email series is using content you’ve already written or will write in the form of a blog post. By doing this, you’re not overstepping your boundaries, you’re simply offering them more helpful content, and at the same time you’re able to stay on top of their mind while also getting them back to the online real estate that’s designed to sale them.
With this email series, DO present the MOFU offer in the email, DON’T make it the focal point. It’s much better to gently add it in the P.S. to just let them know it’s there.
Ok so at this point your leads have taken the next step and downloaded your company overview making them a Marketing Qualified Lead. Now we want to repeat the process of exposing them to the important next step, so this is where we introduce Bottom of the Funnel (BOFU) offers. We repeat the triple shot technique like before. And like before, only a small percentage of people are going to go for the BOFU right away.
Your buyers are now stuck as Marketing Qualified Leads, so how do we get them to download the BOFU offer and become a Sales Qualified Lead? Leads stuck in this area are generally the buyers who have pushbacks to your sales process. So how do we get them unstuck? You guessed it, we create another 3 part email series to answer their pushbacks.
It’s very important that we continue using content to guide their purchase path, so we need to provide more helpful content, but this time it should be brand centric. We’ve found that a great way to address these pushbacks is through case studies and testimonials about companies who had similar pushbacks but found success using your company’s solution. Each email in the series would talk about a particular pushback, introduce a case study focusing on that pushback and how your company overcame these obstacles, and then link out to the case study. And don’t forget to add the P.S. introducing the BOFU offer again.
If you’ve answered enough of their pushbacks and satisfied their informational needs, they should be ready to take the next step and download the BOFU offer showing DESIRE, and turning them into a sales qualified lead. Now it’s up to your sales team to get these red hot leads to take ACTION. Is your sales team up to the task?
So there you have it, I’ve just given you the tools and strategies to guide your buyers from the point of AWARENESS that they had a problem, to showing INTEREST in how your company can solve that problem, to developing a DESIRE to work with you, and finally get them to take ACTION and buy from your company. But the cornerstone to all of this and to executing a successful marketing plan is knowing your buyers inside and out. Do you know your buyers and how they research online? If not, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to work OR just hire us;)
Oh yeah don’t forget our deal…
Image courtesy of www.bootstrapperscorner.com