As a funnel or a sieve analogy suggest, there are several identifiable stages in product marketing wherein a buyer and/or seller chooses to stay involved or to leave.
The items below give a general feel for considerations Leads-Magic takes into account at each stage of the funnel. We like our partners to understand what is involved so they can help us more rapidly determine a recipe that generates leads for their particular business.
Each situation is different (e.g., different products, competitors, markets, timing, tools, etc). So, like putting together a new recipe, intelligent experimentation is needed to determine what are the right proportions of the right components at the right times in order to get a tasty result. Efficiently doing this takes experience, talent, time … and, yes, often a little magic.
The subtleties of modern marketing are often challenging for a business focused on the juggling it takes just to get a good product out the door. This is where Leads-Magic can make a big difference by providing the front-line marketing expertise most small businesses either can’t find or can’t afford to pay for up front.
The job at this stage is to find and get the attention of good suspects, i.e., people with the qualifications to potentially become good prospects.
This is typically an inefficient activity since one is dealing with partial unknowns, like who exactly is a good prospect and when are they ready, willing, and able to buy. Luckily modern Internet tools and good guerrilla marketing, properly deployed, can often do this job for much less money than classic tools such as advertising and direct mail.
Repetition is usually important. Most prospects need to see an opportunity several times to actually “see it” and before they get comfortable enough to take action. Adequate branding makes repetition more effective by helping prospects get comfortable with a product on at least the subconscious level.
In practice marketing momentum usually builds slowly and requires that several on-line and off-line components to come together harmoniously. For example, even if the content and search engine optimization (SEO) is perfect a small new website often takes time to get highly ranked by search engines. Therefore, other effective on-line (e.g. social media, linking) and off-line (e.g., signs, advertising, PR) means must be found to get enough attention to get prospects even looking at the website.
Over time a properly done website should start attracting more and more good prospects on its own. Even so, continuing off-line and on-line efforts will keep paying off in increased profits.
At this Attention Stage the focus is on attracting prospective prospects, also known as suspects.
One good thing about SEO is that the looker (prospective prospect) has at least a little interest in the subject. After all, the looker typed related words into a search box and then responded to the site’s description (assuming the site was ranked high enough in the SERP, search engine result page, for him or her to even see it).
Even then, lookers usually just glance momentarily at a web page before they move on. What a looker sees in just the first second must be interesting enough to keep them around. Good off-line material that brings lookers on-line is also a tool that can which helps keep lookers on a site long enough to actually see what it says.
Since any confusion at all will cause lookers to immediately drop off, extreme clarity is vital at this stage. Each landing page must be simple to a fault. Making a site too fancy (many designers & techies love making fancy sites because that is what they are trained to do rather than marketing) is a frequent problem we have seen kill businesses. Designing a clear “obvious” site is a talent, like good writing, that is not all that common.
Building plenty of relevant, useful and interesting website content is also needed. Such content both further involves serious prospects and helps long-tail search engine rankings. Initially, we will usually start a new site with just a few good pages in order to begin to age it with the search engines. Then, we systematically flesh the site out over time as more good ideas can be properly developed. It’s a natural incremental process the search engines like and that takes into account the realities of time resources.
At the Interest Stage you start filtering out prospects from the suspects. At least who is left are somewhat interested.
Helping a prospect quickly decide if a particular opportunity may or may not fit is important at this stage where all but the more serious suspects are naturally filtered out. When using Internet tools this rough filtering reaction happens quickly (probably under 60 seconds) whether the seller wants the prospect to stick around or not.
Usually a good site should initially focus on a very few basic emotional appeals or benefits. Sometimes useful filtering can be accomplished by indicating a price range or key features though this approach potentially risks losing real prospects who have set arbitrary constraints.
Rough filtering can help a seller too. Like prospects most sellers do not want to waste time interacting with opportunities that don’t fit, at least not during business hours. Both prospect and seller, very likely, would prefer making progress toward personal goals rather than jawboning with strangers.
By the end of the Rough Fit Stage most inappropriate suspects have been filtered out leaving only prospects. However keep in mind that, since stages is a somewhat arbitrary concept, in practice moving from “all suspects” to “prospects only” to “leads only” usually involves more than one stage.
Providing enough content depth so that prospects can thoroughly understand a product builds desire. Pictures, videos, stories, and testimonials are especially good for emphasizing the basic emotional appeal of your product.
At this stage emotional appeal and benefits are far more important than price and specifications. If the prospect does not truly “desire” the benefit then price and specifications (which can help build trust) are irrelevant. If the prospect does have a strong desire the product provides then price and specification barriers can often be worked out later.
Giving plenty of excellent free information builds both desire and comfort level. The Internet is a very cost efficient tool to accomplish this purpose; however, keep in mind that giving away free information is not the only goal. You also want prospects to be inclined to eventually buy from you rather than to move on to competitors after your information has taken them one stage closer to a purchase. Make it easy for prospects to stick around.
The Desire Stage is roughly where a prospect starts becoming a lead.
Every buyer wants to make, at the least, a good fair deal. Intelligent sellers looking for repeat business and referrals do too!
Obvious clarity, honesty, and depth in your communications help build the trust needed for a good prospect to take action. An intelligent prospect will likely check out the competitors so you need to give prospects both emotional and rational reasons to trust your business. They will be looking at the quality and number of details you present to determine before trust that your business can competently meet their need.
Providing enough credible content that answers most questions and keeps the prospect around long enough to feel comfortable is very helpful. Solid graphic design also adds to your company’s credibility. Graphics don’t have to be fancy but should fit the product category and support the company image. All this helps, consciously and subconsciously, to build emotional trust.
Make it intuitively obvious why your business is likely to be better than its competitors. If you can accomplish this then the Trust Stage is where a prospect becomes a presold lead, also known as a prospective customer.
Depending on the business, making a positive personal connection is important to solidify the preselling which on-line and off-line media have hopefully accomplished. This can be a critical point of failure. People want to buy from nice competent people who they like. For many customers this is even more important than price, and is most certainly the case when price and product are otherwise comparable.
Therefore be extra careful to make a good first impression and then continue making further interactions just as good. Pay attention to your person-to-person contacts or your leads just won’t like your company and will often move on to competitors who are nicer.
Basically, selling continues the process of preselling which brought the good lead to your business. When you have plenty of good presold leads for a good product the fun of selling begins. Most nice, well-trained sales people truly enjoy interacting with prospective customers when there is an excellent product fit.
The Connect Stage is where a presold, warmed up lead is converted into a prospective customer. This is where personal selling begins. Don’t forget to pay attention to this stage or you will lose many a good lead.
Depending on the product, personal selling is still needed even when you have a good lead. Many products are complex enough that more than just order taking is required.
In such situations, a low-key, consultative style is usually the best approach for all involved. That is the best way to find out and answer all the questions and to customize a perfect fit.
The First Sale Stage is where a prospective customer becomes a real customer. Don’t hard sell, that scares good leads away, but work to make it very easy to buy.
Due to the high costs of creating a new customer, most of a business’s profit usually will not come from first sales. The best profits comes from repeat sales or referral sales where excellent leads magically arrive near the end of the funnel almost completely “sold.”
Therefore it pays well to do what it takes to make a happy customer out of each new customer that your leads funnel generates. Do it at a profit, otherwise you are not selling the right product at the right price, but be certain to do it if you want a healthy growing business.
Success! Getting to the Repeat Sale Stage means that both “you and your customer have made it.” And, a happy customer is a profitable customer in more ways than one.
A Fish Story One of Leads-Magic founders wrote an entire book on this subject for beginning entrepreneurs. The book uses learning to how be a good bass fisherman (i.e., how to catch big bass) as an analogy for learning how to market and sell a product (i.e., how to make profitable sales).