How to Engage your Prospects More Effectively in 2016
In recent months we have looked at some of the best methods for attracting prospects online.
But that’s not even half the battle of digital marketing in 2016.
Once you’ve attracted those prospects you then need to engage them to ensure they stick around. This month we’re going to look at best practices for doing just that, so that you can keep them interested long enough to become customers, and perhaps even advocates.
Defining your prospects
A prospect is by definition someone who is aware of your presence, but is not yet ready or convinced enough to enlist your services or purchase your products. In fact, according to Digital Agent, 96% of first time website visitors are not yet ready to make a purchase (read our blog on Why Timing Matters in B2B Marketing).
It may take some time before they’re ready to make that kind of commitment, particularly if what you’re offering has a relatively high cost or involves a lengthy contract.
You may have gained your digital prospects through organic search, paid advertising, social media or offline sources, but however they arrived, you need to keep them interested so that they don’t drift away and forget about you.
So how do you do that?
Ease up on the salesman act
Before we talk about what can bring prospects closer to you, we should cover what will quickly push them away, and high on that list is aggressive sales pitches.
When prospects first come to you, they’re looking for information which will help them to determine their exact needs and to make a decision. And just as customers in bricks-and-mortar stores are annoyed by pushy sales people as they browse their options, digital prospects are instantly turned off by constant pushing of a product or solution. So avoid:
- Constant reference to product features in content
- Bad-mouthing competitors
- Content which serves only to promote your product or service
Be patient, and give your prospects room to breathe and time to think.
Understand the buyer’s journey
Today, many marketers use the ‘buyer’s journey’ as their basis to engage prospects. This is a 3-stage process is broadly agreed by most digital marketers as:
- Step 1: Awareness – In which the buyer becomes aware that they have a problem which requires a solution.
- Step 2: Consideration – Having acknowledged the problem, the buyer scours the internet for possible solutions. During this phase they are looking for information and are open to possibilities. They are not yet ready to buy.
- Step 3: Decision – The buyer considers their final options, and ultimately decides which product or service they will purchase. (how they arrive at the decision is another topic which we’ll cover in a future article).
It is step 2, the consideration phase, in which businesses should be working hard to engage potential buyers.
Nurture prospects by providing value
During the consideration phase of the buyer’s journey, what your prospects most want to hear is the voice of an expert – someone who understands their problem, is aware of all of the possible solutions and influencing factors, and who can advise them as to the best course of action.
By providing that voice, you can earn the trust of your prospects, who will come to see you as an authoritative expert – and hence your brand, product or service as having something of value to offer.
The way you provide value is by offering prospects useful, helpful, relevant and informative content which will assist them not just with their current purchasing decisions, but also interest them on a more general level. You may present this content in a number of different forms:
- Blog posts – Your blog is the perfect place to create content which is interesting and relevant to your prospects. Such content might include posts like ‘how to x’, ‘The key issues in industry x in 2016’, or ‘A comprehensive guide to purchasing x’.
- Guest blogs/ articles – Posting content externally along the same lines as the above will help to generate additional awareness, and can contribute to you being seen as an authority in your field.
- Whitepapers – For B2B businesses, whitepapers can be a particularly potent tool for engaging with prospects on a deeper level. By serving up an in-depth exploration of a specific topic with up to date statistics and information you can enrich the readers’ understanding, and enhance their opinion of your brand considerably.
- E-books – E-books tend to be a little more lightweight than whitepapers, but should still contain plenty of interesting and useful information that will further portray your brand as one at the forefront of its field.
- Email newsletters – Your mailing list provides you with considerable power to reach directly into your prospects’ inboxes to engage them. Make sure that you have something original, interesting and valuable to say though, or you may find your mailing list shrinks quite quickly.
Segment and personalise your marketing efforts
Not all prospects are the same, particularly if you have a wide range of products covering different budgets. By segmenting your prospects – categorising them according to their characteristics – you can engage with each of them more effectively than if you just conduct blanket marketing.
By using Google Analytics and other online tools, as well as by requesting information when setting up user accounts or mailing list subscriptions, you can build a picture of who your prospects are. You can then use this information to segment based on demographics, what products they have shown an interest in, and other relevant information. Once your marketing audiences are segmented, you can target them more specifically with PPC ads, email marketing campaigns and social media platforms.
Stay true to your brand
Though you may be engaging lots of different types of customers over numerous platforms, your brand and tone of voice should remain consistent throughout. Particularly in the case of well-established brands who are working on an as yet undeveloped digital marketing strategy, it can be jarring if certain online channels deviate from ‘the party line’.
By developing a strong and consistent tone of voice, you can engage prospects in a meaningful way such that in time they may even come to seek you out.
You should also take a holistic approach towards your engagement efforts, and come up with a strategy for posting content across all channels which helps ensure they work together and overlap in the right ways.
In a hyper-digital world, life, and information, moves pretty fast. To be engaging, your brand needs to stay up to date with the issues that are relevant to it, and ahead of the curve wherever possible. Stay on top of what the current pressing issues for customers are, and keep an eye out for emerging trends. Monitor Twitter for user conservations, check your competitors’ websites regularly, and subscribe to the blogs of all the current leaders in your field.
Don’t overdo it
Finally, people are having lots of conversations digitally via a range of different platforms. So many that their time and attention spans are becoming strained, as is their patience. Avoid bombarding people with information, as even if you have good things to say they will soon tire of you.
Don’t be like the knowledgeable yet over-eager person at the cocktail party who loves the sound of their own voice and is oblivious to others’ needs for a variety of stimulating conversations.
If you’d like to have a chat about how you can better engage with your prospects, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with C4B Media.