As far as heated debates go, 2016 was a hotbed. There was something for everyone: Brexit, the American election, civil war in Syria, terrorist attacks, immigration, refugees, the economy, global warming. The list of topics we all disagreed on was as endless as it was depressing.
Although these topics would have put the old adage of no politics, religion and money (or is it sex?) discussions at the dinner table to the test, nowhere did the arguments fester more gangrenous-ly than on social media. The deluge of posts regarding each topic on platforms like Facebook pitted friends against each other, often leading to the kind of personal, cynical, sarcastic attacks far beyond anything we would dare to say in person.
After several intense exchanges about refugees and migration on Facebook, I decided enough was enough. My blood pressure was hitting dizzying heights dealing with what I saw as small-minded, xenophobic, racist slurs from the people in my network. My friends. I concluded the easiest solution to avoid permanent fall outs was to remove myself from the conversations by unfriending (or muting from my feed) anyone with significantly opposing points of view.
The Creation of the Social Bubble
The result was delightful and immediate. No more polemic posts to get worked up about. Blood pressure back to normal. I had rediscovered my inner peace. However, the consequence of my actions was I had now surrounded myself with beliefs and attitudes that aligned to mine, increasingly unaware of the strength and subsequent impact of the opinions of the others, particularly on the outcome of Brexit and the American election. I had created a Social Bubble.
The danger of living in a social bubble is that you become unaware of how others think. The result is not just ignorance but also the arrested development and lack of diversity of your thoughts.
This is just as true in work-life. The opinions of those who disagree with you or advocate different processes are important to question your own approach. Limiting yourself to influencers who think similarly to you stifles your ability to innovate. Basing your strategy on a single school of thought, however well respected, limits your options. In the end, we all end up believing and doing the same, whether it is right or wrong.
For what it’s worth, I have decided to un-mute those who with opposing points of view. I want to know how the other side thinks, not to agree (or argue) with them but to question my own thoughts and ideals.
Aristotle once said “it is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”
You have your list, but you are talking to the wrong companies.
The first lesson marketers harp on about account-based marketing (ABM) is the need to build the ‘right’ list. Yet, this is why most ABM campaigns are destined to fail before they’ve even started. This is mainly down to the way people build their lists. The theory tells you, as the CMO, to bring together your marketing and sales teams and identify those accounts that need to be targeted, be that because they meet a set of predefined criteria or attributes (revenue, market segment, size, etc.) or because they are the proverbial ‘good fit’ with your brand. The problem is that none of the above actually indicates that they are interested in your solutions. In reality, you need to be much more specific in your list build. You need to research and identify a niche of accounts that are suffering a particular challenge that your solutions address.
Example: A company selling hybrid cloud solutions could target all organisations of about $1bn revenue, in the manufacturing and banking sector in the UK — there are about 159. Seems sensible, but how many of those companies already have a modern infrastructure in place? How many currently consume enough cloud services to warrant a move to hybrid?
Instead: The company could identify businesses in the above-mentioned sectors that also have ageing legacy servers and/or are currently consuming a large amount of cloud services. A list a little harder to develop, and much smaller but with a much greater propensity to buy a hybrid cloud solution.
Identify a niche of accounts who are truly are in need of your product or service. Start small, test and scale.
You are telling the wrong story.
Everyone likes to talk about themselves. It is comfortable and easy. Here is a universally known truth that is still ignored by 99% of marketers: no one wants to hear about you and your solutions, however relevant or interesting you might be. To be successful at ABM, or any marketing for that matter, you need to frame your story around your audience’s preconceived ideas and existing conversations, and make your solution part of that story. Your story needs be contextual, relevant and, most important of all, believable.
Example: said company selling Hybrid Cloud solutions could wax lyrical about the fact that the solution pays for itself, is easy to implement and will show a return on investment as soon as the migration has happened. All great arguments by the way.
Instead: The company could tap into the ongoing conversation that most enterprise leadership are struggling with: digital transformation — how it helps achieve efficiencies and secure flexible working, as well as improve collaboration. Once it has a voice in this conversation, the company can slowly weave in the importance of hybrid cloud as a secure, yet flexible on/off premise balancing act. If the story is told authentically, the audience will come to the conclusion that it is in fact an integral part of transforming their business.
Identify and tap into the conversations that your target audience is having with an authentic, contextual and relevant story.
You have a great story, but are telling it in the wrong places.
Most marketing campaigns, including ABM campaigns, rely (too) heavily on email. The intrinsic value of email as a marketing channel is irrelevant for the purpose of this article. The fact is that a well-oiled, automated email marketing campaign can be an essential part of a successful ABM campaign. But the essence of ABM is to surround the decision makers at each account with the story they want (they need) to hear. This means you need a deep understanding of your target audience and where they hang out to have these conversations. Depending on their profiles, this might mean the story needs to be told at 1-on-1 events, on social media, by direct mail or by the sales people themselves. Most likely it will be a combination of all the above.
Example: The hybrid cloud company has all the email addresses of their target audience at the selected account. The easy option would be to set up a flawless email marketing campaign targeting their accounts with the perfect story and adding some targeted paid media air cover.
Instead: The company need to research their audience and find out how the key stakeholders are influenced. In the case of Digital Transformation, the conversation is typically held at C-suite so email might not be the best (and should certainly not be the only) mechanism. Considering C-suite are inundated by email and typically only inspired by peers, the company would be better off to identify speaking opportunities at events, organise round tables, partner with 3rd parties who already engage with the audience. Also, retargeting advertising should be combined into the mix to recapture those who have engaged with the company in a specific way. Last but not least, the company might consider sending out high-impact, personalised direct mailings to those contacts who have repeatedly shown an interest in their solution.
Despite the fact that it has been around for a while, Account-based Marketing is a bit of a hot topic at the moment, and rightfully so. According to ITSMA, “ABM delivers the highest return on investment in B2B marketing.” But just because it is popular doesn’t make it easy or inherently successful. To get it right takes research, great storytelling and a holistic approach to marketing.
You might also be interested in the 7 Essentials to Account-Based Marketing (click here or on the image below).
QR Codes are making a comeback. There, I said it. Yes, there will be some laughs. Yes, there will be many doubters. But I stand by my convictions. And with good reason.
Back in 2013 the conversation about whether QR Codes were dead had reached its climax. The resounding answer was ‘Yes’; in the US only about 21% of people had ever scanned a QR Code; in the UK they were being placed on underground station advertising (where there was no internet connection – pretty important for QR Code marketing); and so on. The result: people turned their backs on the once popular QR Code.
This sentiment continues today. In fact, it has become an easy bandwagon to jump on. However, the world has changed since 2013. For one, there is wifi in most underground stations. But more importantly, marketers are finally seeing ‘digital’ as part of marketing rather than an alternative. The re-introduction of direct and dimensional mail into marketing campaigns is making a strong comeback as marketers realise mail and offline media are necessary supplements to the cluttered inbox or busy social channels.
The QR code enables a simple link to be made between print and online. Crossing this divide is essential for a comprehensive, seamless and multichannel user experience.
Nowhere is this seamless, multichannel experience more important than in B2B account-based marketing, where surrounding a variety of stakeholders within an organisation with relevant and meaningful content, across multiple channels, is essential to inspire and influence their buying decisions.
There are of course alternatives, such as iBeacons, NFC and others, but none of these work for print or are as simple and practical to implement as the QR code, which takes a few seconds to generate (free – best site here) and is scanned in even less time. Granted you need a QR code scanner (although these come standard on most recent iPhones and Android mobiles).
So next time you plan your next multichannel campaign, which will hopefully include some direct/dimensional mail and/or print media activity, consider the QR code. It had a bad run and deserves a second chance.
In the meantime, if you want to book BNJ for a free B2B Marketing Best Practice Review, why not scan the barcode below and pick your slot.
My mother taught me a lesson very early on in life, one I have never forgotten and always (tried to) live by: ‘if you don’t enjoy what you are doing, stop doing it and find something else. You will never be successful in a job you don’t enjoy’. Wiser words have never been spoken (ok, not often!).
Of course the main reason we go to work every day is because we need to pay the bills, and if you don’t go to work (at least mentally if not physically) you might quickly find yourself superfluous to requirements. Like most people, I work to earn a living. But, following Mrs Boogaard Senior’s logic, I also need to enjoy what I do to make my day worthwhile. So what is it that makes work enjoyable to me?
Simple: the buzz I get from the littleexhilarating moments. Not the big, ego-filled, public victory laps. The mental ‘punch your fist in the air’ moments that come in all shapes and sizes and at any time of the day.
Last week I did that overexcited ‘you da man!‘ scream in my head when I managed to set up a new website on my own after hours of fighting with the technology. The week before, I had crazy butterflies in my stomach when a Request For Proposal came in from a client I have wanted to work with for the last 6 months. No doubt those butterflies will be bouncing around like Tigger on acid when we actually win the pitch!
But, honestly, most of the time I can get genuinely excited about the little things; a new prospect accepting a meeting request; an email reply that I hadn’t expected; a meeting that went better than planned; getting positive feedback from a client.
Finding and learning to enjoy those little exhilarating moments makes it easy to get up every morning, ready for the work day. A word of caution though: once you start enjoying these moments they are addictive. Some days there are no psychological touchdowns to celebrate and that should be OK too.
Request For Proposals (RFPs) are the lifeblood of marketing agencies and yet last week I declined one of the most exciting RFPs that I have come across in the past 12 months….and I still feel sick to my stomach. It was for an industry-leading brand, working on a highly visible global B2B campaign with a big budget and a fantastic team. But sometimes you need to know when to say ‘no’.
It is easy to get carried away with the excitement of receiving an RFP, particularly when it comes from a new potential customer, and even more so when it reads like the one we turned down. But getting carried away on formulating an adequate reply can cost the agency a lot of wasted time and money; winning an unsuitable RFP can end disastrously.
Here are the six criteria I use to determine how we reply to an RFP:
1. Client Fit
The most important question is whether the potential client is a good fit. Do they add value to your portfolio? Do you feel you have something unique and valuable to offer them? Do you have a positive experience in their sector? Although it is tempting to go for every attractive RFP, if the answer to any of the previous questions is ‘no’ you have to consider whether your time and effort isn’t better spent attracting or working on a ‘sweet spot’ client.
2. Project fit
Does the particular project match your highest best? Does it play to the strengths of your agency? Are you able to fulfil the requirements of the project? Any answers apart from a solid ‘yes’ means you need to politely decline. If only part of the RFP is a perfect match, you might consider partnering with another entity – it might mean sacrificing part of the profit but it will be worth the peace of mind. Alternatively, you should ask whether you could respond to only part of the request, providing convincing reasoning why you are still worth considering.
3. Resource availability
The client might be the perfect fit and the project playing to your absolute highest best, but if you don’t have the available resources (or the ability to resource up), the chances are that the perfect project will end up a massive disappointment. Lack of resources to deliver will generally end up in rushed jobs with mediocre results and/or late delivery. Worse, it might prevent you from servicing your other clients, creating a negative knock-on effect.
Last minute resourcing typically sees your profit margins being eaten away by expensive freelancers and contractors. Make sure you consider the resource requirements carefully and factor these costs into your proposal with a good margin of error to avoid disappointing yourself and ultimately the client.
Some say ‘the best things in life are free’…but unfortunately that doesn’t apply in business. Delivering quality costs money but, in turn, should always provide the client with a good return on investment. That is the essential win-win criteria for an effective client-supplier relationship. When you have reached this point in your considerations, you need to know what the budgets are and if you don’t know, you need to ask.
If you don’t at least get a budget range, I would seriously question the sanity of investing time in the RFP. Having a budget isn’t an opportunity to fleece the client by pricing it right to the limit, but should instead mean that you design the best possible solution within the boundaries set by the client.
5. Win potential
The most subjective factor in your decision is the probability of winning. Your chance of winning is unfortunately not just based on a good fit in terms if client or project, or even the quality of your response. Very often other factors come into play, including whether other agencies responding are better positioned than you to deliver the goods, or whether the incumbent agency has an unbreakable bond with the client.
My advice is to always ask how many agencies are included in the RFP (the more agencies, the less inclined I am to reply). Research the RFP owners and see whom they are connected to on LinkedIn or who they are communicating with on social media (this can often uncover a strong bond with other agencies). Search the Internet for potential agencies the company may have worked with (often awards are a good indicator). None of these factors necessarily imply you decline, but at least you go in with your eyes wide open. As I said, this is very subjective so go with your gut. If you don’t feel confident you have a good chance of winning, maybe now is the time to back away.
6. Future potential
Lastly, although the longevity of the relationship and the guarantee of further work are not necessarily essential, I always consider the future potential of the account. If you are going to invest money in an RFP you should do so under the assumption that you are going to win and therefore willing to commit your valuable resources. If you are willing to commit your resources and, assuming your resources like everything else on earth are limited, you do so at an opportunity cost – the value of the other projects you will have to forego to deliver this one. Therefore it is always worth considering clients that offer a high lifetime value, over those that represent a one-off gain as the acquisition costs are often the same.
Back to my RFP…Sadly, the one I turned down was a perfect fit in terms of client and project. It would no doubt have had a decent budget and certainly had a huge potential for the future. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the resources available to deliver our highest best and submitting a proposal would have put at risk all the potential benefits. In the interest of the potential client and for the chance to work with them in the future, we had to withdraw.
Don’t get me wrong, all the above doesn’t make that decision any less painful…but it does make it easier.
Demand generation and marketing automation is nothing new. Yet, many B2B marketers can safely argue that established practice doesn’t imply proficiency, let alone a higher degree of marketing performance. In fact, according to Forrester half of B2B marketers surveyed don’t have well-defined processes in place to govern their marketing automation efforts. The result? A demand generation approach that behaves more like an automated drip system delivering generic emails and a high volume of barely qualified leads. To turn this around, I believe the path to performance and proficiency starts with a refresh around buyer fundamentals.
Top Five Buyer Fundamentals
#1: Buyers move around a lot Most demand generation strategies major on adding leads to the top of the funnel, with less attention given to nurturing buyers midstream, or dare I say, mid-funnel. This assumes that your buyer travels a highly linear path from one buyer journey phase to the next. In reality buyers move around and oscillate a lot. Often they plateau along their journey as their priorities or budgets change. Marketers need to be mindful of this fluidity and develop strategies that acknowledge and support their movement and moments of pause along their journey.
#2: Buyers are different According to Marketo, 31% of B2B marketers don’t have personas in place and out of those who do only 27% said their personas were aligned to their messaging (2015 Demand Gen Report Benchmark Study). A deep understanding of your buyer is essential for an effective demand generation strategy. It determines who needs to be engaged (identifying the real decision-makers and influencers), when they need to be engaged (at what stage of the purchase journey), how they can be reached (the most effective channel to reach them,) and what type of content they need (the right message and format).
#3: Buyers prefer messages that matter to them Most companies in the UK think of marketing automation as the distribution of 3rd party content by email. This might deliver the quantity, but the whole purpose of demand generation and marketing automation is to take the effort out of early-stage selling, with high quality leads. This can most effectively be achieved through bespoke content, tailored to and addressing the specific concerns of each key stakeholder at the relevant point in their buyer journey. Depending on the buyer personas, this more often than not will include a combination of formats and channels, with online advertising, email newsletters, blog posts and articles influencing the early stages of the sales funnel, and testimonials, analysts’ reports and demos reserved for the latter stages.
#4: Buyers leave bread crumbs. Our job is to track and record them According to Trip Kucera it takes up to 8 to 10 marketing touches to close a deal (2014 B2B Content2Conversion Conference), which means that last touch attribution may tell a misleading story. Using platforms like Marketo, will provide transparency on the value of each piece of content and the efficacy of the channel in which it is distributed.
#5: Not all buyers will buy. Score and segment your most valuable leads Underpinning marketing automation is lead qualification or scoring. This tells us how close someone is to becoming a sales qualified lead. All the above investment in developing buyer profiles and content strategies will be to no avail if the scoring isn’t effective. Two fundamental pieces of this part of the puzzle are the initial data, which should be clean, and the scoring, which needs to be constantly monitored and refined. More specific details about this here.
‘Omni-channel’ is not just an overused new buzzword but a necessity born out of the multiple choice of sales channels available to the consumer today, whether that be website, app, phone, catalogue or store. The fact that consumers criss-cross some or all these channels in one purchase journey implies that retailers need to ensure they present a consistent and complementary experience across all these channels. As opposed to multichannel, which is a ‘many-to-many’ approach, effective omni-channel means creating ‘one-to-one’ purchase experiences, personalising the sales channels to the profile and support need of each potential customer.
Recently I read a great article posted by Daniel Newman titled ‘Will Omni Channel Marketing Revolutionize The Buyer’s Journey?‘, in which he describes a true omni-channel experience he had when buying his daughter’s football boots. Recently, needing to equip our new London office, I had to make various purchases from different vendors, criss-crossing different channels along the research and purchase journey. Not all my experiences were that positive.
Here are two examples of purchase journeys I made, engaging with three of the largest brands in their respective markets and some simple suggestions that would have improved the experience and the probability of conversion:
Mobiles and broadband purchase (vendor: major mobile phone network)
Like many of us researching a purchase, I used my mobile (and commute) to discover the best plans & phone combination. When I got to the office I switched to my laptop to complete the order. During the checkout I realised that this mobile network provider might also be able to fulfil our broadband requirements. After looking at the broadband options on the website, I initiated the online chat functionality to get sales support, only to be told that they could only help me with mobile sales and not broadband, and that I should visit a high street store or call for help with that.
Suggestion: ensure your sales support staff are multi-skilled, there are no sales silos and/or that engagements can be seamlessly transferred between the various sales support teams. And don’t offer help if you cant provide any. Customer experience is too important and customer expectations are too high to be able to afford turning away business.
Laptops purchase (vendors: two of the largest online computer brands)
Buying three laptops for 3 very different people with different requirements was never going to be simple. I must have gone through a dozen simulated purchase journeys on both manufacturers’ websites, struggling with the plethora of configurations and choices. Surprisingly, even though my shopping basket was well in excess of £4,000, not once did either of them interact with me or offer any help, even though I was clearly struggling. Neither company followed up any of my visits with a friendly email reminder that they had the right computer for me and offering to help me complete the checkout process. Nor did they recognise my return visits and clear distress with a ‘Hi, how may we help you?’ Or ‘would you like to talk to an expert?’.
Suggestion: clearly you don’t want to offer 1:1 sales support when someone is buying a mouse mat, but online retailers need to differentiate their sales support approach according to the value profile of the customer. Personalised sales support can increase conversion three- or fourfold, so when someone is in distress and has the right value profile, offering chat (lower value) or a call-back service (high value) can dramatically increase revenue. If the customer abandons their purchase journey in the last steps of the checkout process, you know there is a purchase interest. Sending a friendly email offering to help complete the purchase journey is not intrusive, but simply good customer service. Lastly, how many times does a visitor need to return for an organisation to offer sales support? Well, the answer depends on the value profile and the probability of conversion and too few companies are focusing on this, trying to get away with an ‘one size fits all’ approach.
Conclusion: personalising sales channels to the profile and needs of the individual consumer increases revenue, not only through the soft benefit of improved customer experience (which increases loyalty, etc.) but through the hard fact that engaging with a customer in need dramatically increases conversion and reduces abandonment. Equally, offering support at the wrong time will increase cost-to-serve and reduce the customer experience. So one-size fits all sales support doesn’t work. Organisations need to personalise their sales channels to each customer in order to yield the true benefits of omni-channel sales.
Even if you are not an avid football (soccer) fan you might have heard of the term ‘total football‘. If not, it is a revolutionary tactical theory of football in which any outfield player (i.e. not including the goalkeeper!) can take over the role of any other player in the team. So if a player moves out of position he is immediately replaced by another from his team. This strategy (and mindset) made Ajax one of the most successful teams of the 1970’s and still drives Barcelona’s (and many other clubs’) success today.
Before Total Football, teams typically hoofed the ball up the pitch into the opposition’s box in the hope their star striker could get a foot to it and slot it into the back of the net. The other 10 players on the pitch are there for defence and to feed the ball.
This traditional football strategy reflects how many companies manage their sales efforts today. As described in the HBR article ‘Dismantling the Sales Machine‘, most companies rely on process driven sales strategies, typified by activity metrics and tried and tested set sales pitches, designed to help their sales team members replicate the approach of their star performers.
The reality is that in today’s competitive and fast moving environment, with longer sales cycles, smarter competition and almost total transparency provided by the internet, this brute force sales tactic is no longer efficient or even relevant. To compete it is necessary to adopt a flexible strategy that allows us to be agile and adjust quickly to market forces. I have taken some key strategies and tactics that make Total Football so effective and compared them to what I believe should be best practice in sales. Whether you enjoy football or not, I hope you find the lessons learned useful!
Each player is vital to overall success
The first and most important lesson we need to learn from Total Football is that the whole team needs to work as one unit. If there is one player who doesn’t understand the concept it will leave gaping holes that can easily be taken advantage of.
Likewise, companies need to get their teams to understand that everyone in the organisation is a salesperson. From the receptionist, who is the first voice people hear to the accounts department following up late payments, everyone is influencing the next sale. A great sales team can be let down by poor implementation and overselling can lead to poor delivery. Therefore everyone needs to understand why you sell what you sell, who the key accounts are and what the overall sales strategy is. Everyone should also share in the success (and rewards) of sales. This is the only way you will get everyone involved and excited about the next big deal.
Fluid and interchangeable team structure Essential to the successful implementation of Total Football is the flexibility of the individual members to play different roles and fluidity of the team to adapt to their opponents.
As a company it is all too tempting to stick to a winning formula, wheeling out the same team for the important pitches under the premise that ‘if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it’. This is how organisations become victims of their own success as it prevents the team from developing. The star players become over-confident and too comfortable, loosing touch with their changing audience and market; new members of the team pick up old vices and are unable to breathe the necessary fresh air into the existing processes to avoid them going stale. To avoid this, companies need to create sales teams made up of sales as well as operational/delivery staff, where individuals are interchangeable and the team structure is fluid, constantly adapting itself to the requirements of each client meeting, pitch and presentation.
Share the ball (collaboration) Although Total Football teams have their star players (Ajax, biggest exponents of Total Football, had Cruijff!) but no player can be bigger than the team itself. The attackers have to work just as hard to defend as the defence is required to support the attackers. Most importantly they have to work together as a team, rather than play as individuals.
In sales organisations it is very tempting to focus most of the attention on the star performer. As the star performer, it is equally tempting to get carried away with your own success (and frustrated by the lack of success of others). To gain long-lasting success, organisations need to encourage their team to work together and pool their resources. Common goals and performance rewards help unite the team but often it requires a change in mindset. Companies need to create an ‘inclusive’ environment, where star players train, accompany and are responsible for the new salespeople. No one goes it alone. It is good to maintain a healthy level of competitiveness (as it is the fuel that drives good salespeople) but by having a team and mentoring mentality the momentum will be positive and long-lasting.
Understand your opponent A team that plays a flexible positioning system needs to understand their opponents, how they play as a team and who they need to cover at all costs. The team adapts their tactics (and players) to each opponent.
In the past, customers looked to the salesperson for guidance and advise. However, thanks to the proliferation of information on the internet, today’s buyer is often very well, if not too well, informed. This means that salespeople need to be much more prepared, become adaptive and creative in their sales. They need to gain an understanding of their customer’s needs and challenge them intelligently on their preconceived ideas. Very often it requires the resourcefulness to identify and approach different stakeholders in the same organisation to get to the real decision maker. Today’s successful salespeople need to do the research; understand the requirements (and interests) of the person they are meeting and adapt their pitch accordingly; provide insights and bring knowledge to the meeting; and offer unexpected solutions. This is essential part of what is called Insight Selling (here is a great article on Insight Selling).
Practice makes perfect One of the more recent exponents of Total Football is former Arsenal superstar Dennis Bergkamp. He was once told by Johan Cruijf that if you have to run to catch up with the ball you have started running too late. Subsequently Dennis trained incessantly to developed a sixth sense of where the ball would would end up and ensure he was there.
We don’t train enough in sales. Most salespeople, if they were lucky, were given a little bit of training and mentoring but most have largely been left to their own devices. It is generally seen as a waste of time because most salespeople think they are already perfect. How many times have you practised your cold calls on your colleagues? How many times have your role-played sales presentations? How often do you brainstorm with colleagues in how you could improve? Even more concerning, how much time did you allow for running through that vital sales pitch? I am pretty confident that most people would answer: not enough. Practice makes perfect!…And it allows you to build that invaluable sixth sense.
In Total Football it is essential that the manager has a holistic view and in-depth understanding of every player’s ability and performance at all times.
Sadly in sales it is typical that salespeople are managed at a distance and from behind a desk through scorecards, activity metrics and monthly reviews or, if you are lucky, weekly sales meetings. When it is noticed that targets will be missed it is generally too late to do anything about it. Individuals are managed by extremes, through praise (when they win a deal) and criticism (when they have missed a target).
In my opinion, Total Sales requires total involvement. A sales manager (or director) needs to be aware of exactly what is going on within his or her team at all times. This requires constant dialogue, providing encouragement, advise and support based on their hands-on experience. It is a great way (if not the only way) to command respect, anticipate and reverse setbacks and missed targets, as well as get direct feedback on the effectiveness of the sales approach. In my last football analogy of this post, it doesn’t mean a successful sales manager needs to actually play in every game but they always need to be on the sidelines rather than in the directors box.
The reality is that you will never convert 100% of the visitors to your site. Not even close. The majority of your website visitors are either just browsing with no intention to buy, not attracted by what you have to offer, or researching their purchase options. Or even more likely, arrived at your site by mistake.
But this hasn’t stopped the search for the Holy Grail of ecommerce: how to increase conversion.
There are those who argue it is about the look and feel, whilst just as many disagree vehemently and argue that if people want to buy a bad design wont stop them. There are those who claim successful ecommerce is about personalisation and surfacing products that fit the buyer’s profile, whilst others argue that personalisation (based on past purchases) is flawed as it assumes buyers never want to buy something totally ‘different’. Some say it is about the purchase journey and user experience, and so on…
Clearly they are all right to some extent and a balance of all these aspects is ideal. A nice design makes your (e-)shop a more attractive place to visit; personalisation helps people make easier choices but it is also essential to show them something new and different; simplifying and streamlining the purchase process is essential for shoppers to complete the purchase journey; and making your shop seamlessly available across all devices big and small is a necessity if you want to compete.
BUT…the frustrating reality is that, having done all that, you will still struggle to increase conversion beyond the 2-3%.
To capture the other 98% you will have to focus on the customer!
“Isn’t that what we have just been doing?“, I hear you ask. No, you have been focusing on the ecommerce platform look, feel and functionality.
Here are a few suggestions on how to focus on the customer and really increase conversion:
Omni-channel approach with customer at the centre
To increase conversion, first you have to stop forcing customers online, expecting and in some cases even obligating them to self-serve into a purchase. Many of us are happy to buy online without help, but many more of us need help (according to recent research over 70% of website visitors need some sort of help during their purchase process) and some of us will never convert online at all. So if you want to increase conversion and differentiate yourself, you will need to align and synchronise all your sales channels to create one shopping experience (across ecommerce platform, shops, call centre, etc.), allowing the customer to decide which channel suits them best and service them seamlessly from one channel to the other.
Understand the customer Or as Malcolm Duckett put it in his article about conversion optimisation: relationship first, purchase second. He suggests “we need to react to the visitor each time they arrive while bearing in mind the history we have with them, rather than doggedly sticking to some pre-defined purchase process”. I couldn’t agree more. Real conversion increase will come once we understand the customer, and react to them, their behaviour and preference in real-time. Every day is different. Today I am happy to self-serve online, tomorrow I might need to speak to someone about my purchase options. Using real time intelligence to gain a deeper understanding of your customer ‘state of mind’, and tailor the purchase journey accordingly (both in terms of channel and product) will make a world of difference in conversion, customer experience and loyalty.
I am of the firm opinion that people will always prefer human interaction over robotic support. I also believe that this is why the high street will remain (even though it will look rather different), as physical shops provide human interaction as part of the shopping experience. Therefore, providing human interaction and support online is a great way to increase conversion and up-/cross-sell. Research shows that people are 25% more likely to convert after live chat, and 40% more likely to convert over the phone. Average order values on the phone are around 20% higher than online purchases. This is only natural. If you are in a store and the sales assistant provides you with the right assistance, suggesting complementary products (without being pushy!) you are more likely to buy.
…But get your timing right
In a previous post on this blog (Hi, can I help you?) I explain how important it is to provide support for your customers, but also how easy it is to get your timing wrong. No one enjoys being badgered by a sales assistant, and this is true online as well as offline. There is nothing more annoying to get a chat offer when you want to self-help, or to be asked to fill in a survey before you have even started considering to shop. However, when you do need help it is equally annoying if you have to search for it. Knowing who, when and how to offer help is the difference between increasing conversion and customer satisfaction and loosing the customer altogether.
If you would like more information on increasing conversion, how to include real time intelligence on your site and how to decide when you should (or should not) interact with your potential customers, feel free to get in touch and I can provide you with more information and try to steer you in the right direction.
Now…go and capture the other 98%!
To read Malcolm Duckett’s article on Conversion optimisation: is it really about the colour of the buy button? click here.