Social Media – Are You In Touch?
At which point in the buying funnel do you start interacting with prospective clients?
To survive in today’s hard economic times it becomes increasingly important to start influencing perspective customers before your competition as they enter into the “buying funnel”.
Awareness – The first stage of the funnel. At this first stage the customer becomes aware of a product or service that you provide. Historically the launching of new products and/or services has been through more traditional forms of media advertising such as news papers and television.
The high costs of this form of advertising locked out many smaller companies which allowed the larger corporations to monopolize the marketplace with their products and/or services.
But now the power of the Internet and social media has changed the playing field.
A good example is the Blentec success story. A few days after Marketing Director George Wright started his new job at Blentec, a faceless company that manufactured consumer grade blenders, he took a tour of the factory and walked into a back testing room. Here he found Tom Dickson, the CEO of the company, ramming a 2×4 into the blender to test new ball bearings. Tom was told that this extreme blending was a common occurrence at Blentec, however George Wright saw a new marketing opportunity.
The “Will it Blend” video series was launched on social media video sites and they became a viral phenomenon, garnering over 100 million views in total!
Interest – The second stage of the buying funnel. Customers may become interested in a product or service after they become aware of it, again the Blentec story is a prime example.
As the more and more people began watching the video and reading other people comments posted on social media websites such as Digg, blogs and forums, they begin thinking, “I watched it blend a 2×4 and all these other people say it can blend anything else, it must be dependable” so they became interested in the product and other products the company manufactured, sales skyrocketed!
Consult – After a prospective customer gains interest in a product and/or service they tend to confirm their desires with other people who may have used it before. I recognized this early on when I owned my network of Radar Detector websites. In 2004 I launched a message forum for radar detector enthusiasts at www.RadarDetector.net.
Believe it or not, there are actually radar detector hobbyists that get together to test and discuss the latest technologies. My forum served as their online meeting place and I established strong relationships with them. When a new member joined the forum and asked where the best place was to buy a radar detector they referred them to my website. In a few short months I was able to build a base of “Raving Fans” for my products and services through this medium.
Research – It is at this point that prospective customers start leaving the Social Media landscape and start entering into the search engine landscape.
Online users are now beginning to become more web savvy, realizing that anyone can buy ad space in the sponsored listings and the rank is dependent on how much the merchant wants to spend.
However studies have also shown that the customer feels that the search engine ranking for the organic (free listings) are based upon some sort of endorsement of being a quality website.
Therefore online users normally begin their search in the free organic areas of their results.
Using another example from my experience running RadarBusters, I ranked number one in Google, Yahoo and MSN for the term radar detector in both the organic and PPC arena for over five years.
I’ve often been asked why I would run a PPC campaign when I had the number one free listing, here is my answer. When I number one in both arenas my average daily click rate was 500 clicks, balanced as 70% organic and 30% PPC with a higher percentage of conversions coming from the organic campaign. However when I turned off the PPC campaign my total click through rate plummeted by 60% and conversions fell off by 30%.
It was a common practice of mine to interview customers on the phone as to why they made the decision to buy from my website(s). When was turning on and off my AdWords campaign. When I asked specific questions to clients that have been researching their purchase for a long period of time and noticed my AdWords campaign being inactive, they felt that even though I was number one in the free listings that I didn’t feel confident my products and/or services by also paying for advertising!
Prospective customers start with general terms about a product or service and then start narrowing down their search using long tail keywords and more specific buying terms.
Even though I was ranked number one the general term for radar detectors it was not my best converting keyword. Specific model numbers or band names were.
Shop – As perspective customers begin bouncing around the various websites for the products and services they are looking for, many online merchants feel that the personal touch isn’t needed; this is so far from the truth!
Interaction with my prospective customer my network of radar detector websites was my strong point and I used this to its full potential to kill my competition!
On every product page I had a video with me explaining the features of that product, both the pros and cons.
Also on every product page I allowed previous customers to post their own reviews of that particular product or my services. Yes, there were times that I screwed up and the customer posted their nasty message. Did I kill it, NO! I used this to my advantage to make good with the customer and give him free shipping, a discount, a refund and posted my actions under the customers. Often the customer was turned into a happy customer and they posted their appreciation for my actions.
This interaction with my clients on my website(s) created a bond. And if there is only one thing you need to learn and understand about marketing “It’s always easier to sell to an existing customer then it is to a new customer”
Buy – Ok, the customer is ready to buy and they are on your website, will they follow through?
During consultations with several clients I was shocked to see exit rates as high as 90% (and with one client 100%) from their shopping carts. After reviewing their process in taking orders, reviewing their website(s) and testing the process I’ve ranked the most common reasons for shopping cart abandonment.
1. Something isn’t working! – In the case of the client with the 100% exit rate this was clearly evident in my testing, the client’s database was corrupt and when it came time to confirm order to add the data to the SQL database the back end failed. The client never thought of making an order for themselves to test the process to the end.
2. “This site may not be secure, do you wish to continue” – Google’s own AdWords signup process is a prime example of this warning message, it has been broken for years and never fixed! Normally this is an easy fix and indicates that you perhaps have an image or script that is not being addressed properly in the code. But lots of customers see this flag and say to themselves, “can I trust this site with my personal data?” And then leave.
3. Lack of a privacy statement – What are you going to do with the customer’s data once you have it. Many customers are concerned about this and want to know.
4. Lack of Trust – What factors do you have on your website to build trust? With my RadarBusters website this was easy. On the front page of the website I had MY photo, on other pages I had photos of when I was a police officer, on product reviews I used badges, I had the Hacker Safe logo, the Chamber of Commerce logo, VeriSign’s logo
5. What is your return policy? – Address this issue, customers want to know. I offered 100% satisfaction guarantee refunds, while my competitors charged a 20% restocking fee. Sure I got back damaged products and people who just wanted a detector while they were on vacation, but I made up these losses in volume.
Reconsider – Ok, they just received your product or service now comes the fun part. Will they like it enough to tell a few friends or will they hate it, ship it back in the next UPS truck and tell the entire neighborhood (and the Internet) about your crappy service and/or product?
I made it a practice to always follow-up with a telephone call or an email to survey the customer and to recommend other products.
At my three day Advanced SEO Workshop, I go into much more detail on how you can take advantage of the the power of social media, creating videos and podcasts to dominate your competition, SEO training schedule and registration here.
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