There’s no question that today’s buyers are empowered. With the rise of the internet, you can look up anything you could possibly need, read the reviews, and decide which of your options is best for you, all without talking to a single person or asking for advice. We live in an era where buyers no longer want to be told what they need and wish instead to make those decisions for themselves. While this is great for buyers, it has made the job a bit more difficult for those who are trying to sell their product and shorten the sales cycle.
That’s where inbound marketing comes in. Especially for those industries with longer sales cycles, like B2B manufacturers, inbound marketing is one of the best methods to not only target those empowered buyers, but to actually shorten the sales cycle. And when you shorten the sales cycle, you can make more sales, to more clients, in less time. So how does inbound marketing shorten the sales cycle, and how can you ensure your inbound marketing strategy is working for you? Check it out:
Qualify potential leads, and disregard unqualified leads
Time is money, right? You’d never waste your time on a lead that told you face-to-face they’re never going to buy. Why should you waste time with unqualified online leads? When you use inbound marketing, you don’t have to.
Marketing automation tools and targeted content ensure that you know exactly who’s ready to buy, and who’s never going to. Automated marketing tools can rank and score site visitors for you, showing you who’s downloading the most content, and where that content indicates they may be in the sales cycle. When you know a lead is actively seeking out your content, it’s a safe bet to send one of your sales reps after them. When your sales reps are only pursuing qualified leads, you’re going to shorten the sales cycle exponentially.
Online quoting saves time
People searching for your product want to know what it’s going to cost them. And when people start asking for prices, you know they’re getting close to making a purchase. By including an option for potential clients to request a quote immediately, you’re answering their questions faster than your competition. When people can see a “Request a Quote” button, and they’re thinking about buying, they’re more likely to convert. This tells your sales reps that lead is close to making a decision, and it shows the lead that you’re willing to give them upfront, honest pricing. Online quoting is an easy way to save your sales reps time, shorten the sales cycle, and show your most qualified potential leads that you’re an honest, high-quality contender that can provide the product they’re looking for, when they need it.
Targeted content shortens the sales cycle
The number one hindrance to the length of your sales cycle is customers who can’t make a decision. And most often, they can’t make a decision because they haven’t answered all of their questions yet. They don’t know what product is best for them, they don’t know how much it will cost, and they’re not sure how long it will take. By answering these questions through inbound marketing content, in the form of a blog or newsletter, you’re automatically shortening that sales cycle. When people can immediately access the answers to their questions online, through a trusted company with authority in the industry, they’re more likely to buy faster, and through that company that they already trust and believe in.
If you’ve started the inbound marketing process already, you probably have some content that addresses common customer questions like: “how to troubleshoot a machine” or “how to decide how many units you really need.” This great content will help you pull leads through your sales cycle, but most of it addresses clients at just one specific stage–clients at the decision stage. Those who know they need your product, but just aren’t sure they need it from you yet. Here’s three other points of the cycle your content should address, if you’re looking to shorten that sales cycle :
Pre-sales appointment content: draws in qualified leads earlier in the sales cycle.
- We already talked about online quoting, which draws in qualified leads at the end of the sales cycle, but what about those leads that are considering buying, but aren’t sure what they need? One of the best ways to draw in qualified clients is to get them at the very beginning of the sales cycle, or the awareness stage. A lot of companies neglect those people who haven’t even met with a sales rep yet, but these are often the leads with the most questions.
- By creating content that answers those frequently asked questions that many clients have before they even consider taking a meeting, you’re more likely to be at the forefront of their mind when they do decide to set up a sales meeting. This shortens your sales cycle because if you’re offering up that pre-sales content people want, they’re more likely to come to you, versus you having your sales reps out cold-calling potential clients. Your employees are free to handle things that make you more money, like talking to qualified leads who call you, instead of the other way around.
Content that resolves questions after initial consultation locks in clients.
- Content that addresses questions potential buyers have after their initial sales meeting is another area of content that’s often neglected. Most companies define these customers as being in the consideration stage. It could be that they took several sales meetings with different companies, or they’re not sure how to decide if a quote is fair, or they forgot to ask something in the meeting, but they do have questions.
- The more content you have out there that addresses those questions, the more likely you are to 1) keep the qualified buyers you’ve already met with, and 2) draw in other qualified buyers who’ve had a sales meeting, but were disappointed by other companies.
Content directed to existing customers promotes repeat business.
- Finally, you should create content that addresses the needs of customers who have already purchased your product. A major part of the inbound marketing process is drawing in and nurturing clients who love your company and your product, and want to continue buying from you. Think about this: you have a lead you know needs your product, and is guaranteed guaranteed to buy that product again. Why would you let them go after you make the sale? Well, you wouldn’t. Because the next time they need the product, they’re already going to know what they need and exactly how much of it they need. This makes for a quick and easy short-cycle sale. But to sell to them again, you have to make sure they still like you.
- So creating content that answers questions that your existing clients have, like: “how to maintain your machine,” “how to know when to call the manufacturer,” or “what to know about your product’s warranty” ensures that you’re still providing top-notch service, and keeps your company at the forefront of your clients’ mind. Then, they’re sure to buy from you the next time.
Inbound gets your site in front of decision makers
The simple truth of inbound marketing is that it gets your website in front of decision makers. When you create content targeted towards your ideal qualified lead, content that answers questions your clients have and provides real value to the people visiting your site, you’ll build up your site’s authority and get in front of those decision makers you’re looking for. And when you’re using targeted social media campaigns, you’ll do even better at this. When done properly, sites like Linkedin and Facebook will advertise your website or your product to those specific demographics you’re looking for. Linkedin is especially good at this, since you can target your ads based on occupation title. Do you always talk to lab managers to make a sale? Then make sure your social media campaigns are targeting lab managers.
Refine and repeat
The best way to make inbound marketing work for you is to take a critical look at your sales cycle. Where are leads dropping off? What stage of the cycle takes the longest? Are there spots where clients are zipping through the cycle? By looking closely at your sales cycle, you’ll see what areas you’re doing great in, and where you could improve. Once you identify those problem areas, you can develop content and advertising campaigns to address those sections of the sales cycle. Then take those tactics, and apply them to another weaker area of your sales cycle. By constantly refining your inbound marketing strategy, you’ll be honing your website, your content, and your sales reps to create the shortest sales cycle possible.