The lead journey: from awareness to after-sales care
The journey from lead to customer. It’s a central concern for marketing and sales teams in businesses of all shapes and sizes, all over the world. Customer journey mapping is key.
The digital era and advances in CRM software and applications have made managing the lead journey, nurturing individuals or organisations and converting them from potential to active buyers and beyond, more sophisticated and more dynamic than ever before.
In a 2014 benchmarking survey by DemandGen, they found that 71% of B2B respondents state that they leverage lead nurturing in their demand generation initiatives, while 19% plan to implement it within the next year. This is very positive news.
In today’s blog, we take a look at one representation of a traditional lead journey, examining those points and the action you need to take at each stage, in order to maximise your demand generation efforts and convert your leads. Whilst the specifics of lead journeys of course vary between sectors, business sizes and across B2B and consumer-facing organisations, these are some common stages – ones you might even recognise from your own CRM system or sales/marketing automation platform.
Awareness of product/service
At this stage, you are moving your prospect into an awareness of your organisation, its products and services.
Content marketing tactics through thought leadership articles (newsletters, whitepapers, blogs, social media posts etc) will start to position you as a credible player in your marketplace. This approach needs to integrate with your more traditional demand generation methods such as telemarketing nurturing.
The main barrier to buying is simply that they’re not ready to buy yet – they don’t have a specific need. Whilst the prospect is not “sales ready” or aware that they have any pressing need for your services; this is the golden opportunity to educate, build your presence and start to shape the conversation.
In today’s digital age, the sales cycle is starting to flex; with many consumers (both B2B and B2C) consuming content online anonymously and forming their opinions anonymously before the next lead stage.
The drop-off risk is that you lose contact before they actually are ready to purchase. But how to strike the balance between retaining contact and creating customer contact fatigue?
Establishing a need for product/service
Here, you know that your contact is ready to buy your product or service. Perhaps they’ve asked for more information, perhaps you know their previous service has expired, perhaps you simply know they have a problem that you can fix. Either way, now the product/service-specific engagement begins in earnest, and where marketing handover to sales as a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL). Drop-offs here and in the shortlisting process can relate to the specifics of your offering not being perceived as the best compared to someone else’s; a competitor getting in first – or more aggressively – as well as the most obvious one – pricing or rather, value for money.
The buying decision has been made and the purchase is going through. Drop-off points here vary enormously according to the business in question. In a large B2B context, the buying process itself takes months and is affected by all the issues outlined in the previous stage. In a consumer-facing organisation, drop-offs here might include abandoned online shopping baskets, people leaving the queue in a physical store or returning the item a few days later because they’ve ostensibly changed their mind.
This stage, crucial to customer retention, includes ongoing technical support where relevant, as well as the activity of the customer service or customer care department. Drop-offs here can result from legitimate product problems that cannot be resolved…but also poor or even non-existent customer service.
How to reduce the drop offs, converting leads into customers and retaining them
So, having identified these drop-off points and some of the common reasons, what exactly can be done?
Even this standardised presentation of a lead journey is complex and multi-faceted, with countless different permutations for different industries and organisation types.
Yet at every stage in this lead journey, there are three key characteristics that separate the companies that allow multiple unnecessary drop-offs from those that don’t:
- Regular engagement / customer journey mapping. What is the position of each individual lead/customer at this point? What are they thinking? What are their concerns? Who else are they talking to? Reducing drop-offs depends on being aware as soon as there’s a problem – or a potential purchase – and responding lightning-fast. Listening and monitoring is as important here as outbound messaging.
- Multi-faceted but centrally managed marketing and sales efforts. Commercial success in the digital world involves multiple channels of communication, from face to face to email marketing to events and telemarketing, social media and social listening to advertising and PR. But reducing drop-offs also requires a controlled, unified and consistent overview of all this activity, so the right course of action can be selected at the right time and all teams can be kept in the loop of customer contact.
- Detailed analytics. With sophisticated data on lead performance, smart managers can make predictions as to future behaviour and adjust their demand generation strategy in real-time. They can catch potential customers at the moment they’re ready to buy, and fix customer contact problems before they occur. Tighter integration across marketing and sales teams, processes and platforms will drive improved engagement.
These three characteristics are about making sales, marketing and customer relationship management smarter, more streamlined and proactive as well as reactive.
But we know that technology alone is not the answer to maximising each lead and the investment made, each business needs to put the right process and resource in qualifying, nurturing and engaging with your prospects.
Prodware is an expert in applications like Microsoft Dynamics Marketing and Microsoft Dynamics CRM to achieve these aims. If you’d like to reduce drop-offs from your lead>customer journey, contact us today.