In this continuing series of posts, we’ve explored the online buying process from a sales & marketing perspective. In previous posts we’ve reviewed the various phases of the buying process including initial discovery through creating curiosity and awareness as well as how to get in front of those individuals already engaged in specific research and search activities.
In part IV; we’ll talk about the third phase of the buying process – consideration & comparison. This is the phase where your potential customer has completed most of their informational searches and research and is in the process of comparing various options.
Buy-Cycle Phase 3. Consideration & Comparison
At this stage, your potential customers have completed most of their informational searches and research and are now considering specific options, including your company. This is the prime opportunity for your company to differentiate themselves from the perceived comparable alternatives also under consideration. The customer is likely considering specific information from each alternative supplier related to specifications, cost, brands, and how the products or services make them feel in general. The reality is; most individuals online are trying to narrow and compare similar features first before they look for what makes one product different (better or worse) than the other. Websites that make this “comparison” easier like industrial directories, specialized search engines and online buyers guide play an increasing role for potential customers at this stage. Publishers of these resources recognize that end-users are looking for easier ways to compare suppliers and offerings side-by-side. Since a potential customer is starting to compare finer details and information; the information you subsequently make available via your website or information published on these resources becomes increasingly important. It’s also important at this stage for you to build trust that you should be the vendor they ultimately select. Hopefully as the potential customer first discovered you, you’ve captured the prospects’ contact information (or an email address at a minimum). Now it’s time to put it to use as part of a nurture campaign; which is essentially the continuation of the education process by providing value to your prospective clients, typically via email. Your goal is to keep the lines of communications open and one of the most effective ways to continue communicating with your prospects is with an email follow-up campaign. There are several “best demonstrated practice” resources available online for setting up a lead nurturing program; but they all have in common a desire to continue to reinforce that you know how to provide value to your customers and should be the vendor they ultimate decide to purchase from. Once they are considering and comparing you as a potential vendor; you want to make sure the information you are providing give them the specific detail that helps them fill in the gaps. You can do that by providing access to the technical information that may not have been relevant until now. You are basically seizing the opportunity to politely nudge and nurture them towards ultimately becoming a customer of yours. For example; as they go deeper into website; provide plenty of ancillary links to even more detail about not only your product line or solutions, but value-add services and client case studies.
Marketing Tactic Considerations:
Participation in directory products and programs that make it easier for end-users to compare similar suppliers should be a no-brainer if you are interested in reaching potential customers at this phase. Continued visibility in the search engines should also continue to be considered as well contextually-placed banner ads; provided these ads are placed alongside or with keyword or category search results to give your company a little extra visibility and differentiation among similar or related alternatives. As stated above; if you’ve been fortunate enough to gain earlier stage leads with contact information; using direct email nurture campaigns will increase your chances of ultimately securing a customer as well.