Buyer’s Journey from Awareness to Purchase
On the continuum of the buyer’s journey from Awareness to Purchase, the roles of Marketing and Sales have a symbiotic relationship- at least in theory. At the beginning of the buyer journey, Marketing plays the primary role in creating Awareness of the vendor’s products and services and then positioning these products and services in the minds of the buyer for their Consideration in the buyer’s list of possible vendors.
As buyers have shifted their journey on-line, Marketing has played a more prominent role in the Preference stage of the buyer decision process. Depending on the type of product or services, and based on the business model of the vendor, at some point in the Preference stage Sales takes over as the chief protagonist. A hand-off is made from Marketing to Sales (aka “Lead”) at the Preference stage and Sales takes the lead (pun intended) on to the Purchase stage and closes the deal.
In a perfect world, the coordination between Marketing and Sales is beautifully orchestrated. Marketing starts the buyer journey and Sales completes it. But, the relationship between Marketing and Sales is seldom peaceful. Despite careful planning and communication, these two groups rarely see eye to eye. Neither group is to blame. They are from two different planets.
Marketing is from Mars and Sales is from Venus. These two worlds play just fine together when there is clear distinction on who has the lead role in the buyer journey. Marketing is responsible for creating Awareness and getting their products and services on the buyer list for Consideration. Sales is clearly responsible for the Purchase phase. The worlds collide in the Preference phase as responsibility for the prospective buyer passes from Marketing to Sales.
These different views and blind spots result in an implied consent between Marketing and Sales – they simply agree to disagree. But, it doesn’t need to be this way. The two worlds could peacefully co-exist if they each had daily visibility of the “invisible visitors” to their website.
Marketing and Sales need VisitorTrack from netFactor. VisitorTrack provides the visibility of anonymous web visitors that otherwise go undetected. These “invisible visitors” are taking a self-directed journey on your web site and the web sites of your competitors. These visitors remain anonymous until they want you to know they are interested. By then, it’s too late for either Marketing or Sales to guide the buyer’s Preference or for Sales to establish the terms of engagement.
Adding regular visibility of these anonymous visitors and gaining insight on their digital journey makes life on Mars and Venus more enjoyable. VisitorTrack can’t guarantee Marketing and Sales will see eye to eye, but it will make them more agreeable.
* Thanks to Dr. John Gray, author of “Men are from Mars. Women are from Venus”, 1992, HarperCollins
Depending on the industry served, a typical B2B small to mid-sized business will get thousands of unique web visitors each month.
Most digital marketers are thrilled if 2%-3% of these unique visitors self-identify interest by completing one of the forms on the website. At this conversion rate, marketing is able to generate several hundred “warm” leads for sales follow up on a monthly basis. To digital marketers, these are “signals” of market demand.
The other 97% of the web visitors
who don’t complete a form are visible to digital marketers as numbers. This monthly web “traffic” is measured by web analytics tools such as Google Analytics (GA). Measuring web traffic is useful for determining the effectiveness of marketing campaigns – events, SEO/PPC, advertisement, direct marketing, etc. Marketing spends a lot of money to generate awareness and drive prospective buyers to their website. Determining the effectiveness of these dollars by measuring the amount of monthly web traffic is critical feedback to marketers. Hence, the rise of “data driven marketing.” For digital marketers, tools like GA help measure the “noise.”
But, the ultimate goal of marketing is to generate revenue. Creating compelling campaigns that get prospective buyers to your website is a means to the end goal of generating revenue. Sales teams don’t find web traffic measures particularly useful when it comes to generating revenue. To support revenue generation, marketers must be able to increase the ratio of web visitor “signals” to the “noise.” In other words, marketers must make more of the 97% monthly web traffic volume actionable by sales.
That’s why we made VisitorTrack
VisitorTrack gives digital marketers the ability to increase the “signal” to “noise” ratio from the thousands of monthly web visitors who are otherwise visible only as numbers. VisitorTrack starts with identifying the “invisible” web visitors who don’t self-declare. Next, we filter out the unidentifiable visitors – those who came to your site via an ISP or some other service provider that masks the visitor company I.P address. Unless you sell to very small businesses and/or home office businesses, this filtering process reduces the noise to a more relevant set of business prospects. Like all good web monitoring tools, VisitorTrack identifies the specific web pages and content viewed by these visitors which provides deeper insights to the interests of these prospective customers. Then, VisitorTrack appends this visitor data with demographic and firmagraphic company information. Once the company data are identified, VisitorTrack further filters the visiting company data based on user-defined criteria – industry, geo-location, company size, pages visited, etc., and delivers this visitor data via automated reports to the designated marketing and sales professionals. Voila! Signals from the noise.
Web visitor data collected via form conversions are collected as signals of market demand. The visitor information is immediately ready to pass to sales as a “warm” lead. For a well performing website, these signals are generated by 2% – 3% of the visitor traffic. The other 97% of visitor traffic is anonymous and is collected as noise. Converting this noise to more actionable data requires sophisticated intelligence and automated filtering technology. That’s why we made VisitorTrack.
Is this a common response you, or a member of your sales team, has when presented with a lead? The answer probably depends on many variables within your organization, but for those of you that chuckled, read on. The definition and importance of a lead means different things to different people and is predicated on a number of company specific factors. If you’re still reading, your organization has most likely invested in some type of lead generation process and the volume of leads flowing to you or your sales team is significant. Previous blog posts on this site have discussed the difference between a lead and a name and how “not all leads are created equal”, so this discussion is focused on the sales process employed in handling leads and overcoming the indifference often exhibited by sales professionals when tasked with following up on leads.
To set the stage, consider some of the generally accepted truths about the business environment today.
Prospects are utilizing the web to guide them through their buying decisions much more frequently than in the past. Additionally, employees in general are tasked to do more in less time due to the assistance of ever advancing technology. Technology has also made it easier to target and message prospects, so they are receiving more and more unsolicited information about solutions to their needs. The logical result is an overtaxed prospect that blocks out communication attempts while researching internally defined problems without outside assistance. Since the primary role of a consultative sales person is to help the prospect define a need, uncover root cause and provide the best solution, it is easy to see how the modern buying cycle and sales cycle are at odds with one another. Based on this, it is logical to assume a lead that has shown an expressed interest will likely have a much higher sales conversion probability than a name generated from a target market list.
Because of the above, the first step in developing a sales process around leads is to rank the perceived interest level of the customer. Obviously, a lead generated by a prospect filling out a web form would demonstrate a high interest level, whereas a name generated from a target list has no known interest level. Unfortunately, we also know that only about 2% of website visitors will fill out a form, in part because they have the ability to conduct their own research to determine what solution they believe will best meet their needs. So as a first step in the process, develop a ranking system of leads based on how the lead was generated. A suggestion would be to rank form fills at the top, followed by visits to target pages to a site, followed by mail campaign opens, all the way down to target market lists.
The next step in the process is to determine how to follow up with the leads in each category of your ranking system.
As part of this step it is critical that each member of the sales team understands how the leads are ranked and why they are ranked in a certain way. Additionally, each sales team member needs to understand the specific process to be utilized for each lead category. It is up to the sales leader to determine the frequency and type of contact for each category, but much more time and effort should be spent on highly ranked leads. Most research on the subject of engagement leans towards six or more attempts over a defined time period utilizing multiple communication channels. This seems reasonable considering the workload of the typical prospect and the information “noise” to which they are subjected. If the sales team understands the ranking system and the reasoning behind the subsequent process, indifference will be reduced and high interest leads will be given the necessary attention.
Once a ranking system and a contact process has been established it is also critical to develop messaging that will resonate with the prospect and hopefully cut through the noise of all the information the prospect is currently receiving. Messaging is probably one of the most challenging aspects of developing a replicable sales process. Again, messaging will be dependent on your particular value proposition and the specific client needs addressed, but, generally, the more specifically you address your target prospect (read personalized here) the more likelihood of success in engagement over time. Suggestions here would be to make the message as customer centric as possible and utilize multiple messages to avoid becoming repetitive over the course of the contact period.
As a final step, it is extremely important to have a tracking mechanism in place to monitor progress and gauge success.
Preferably, this would be handled with a CRM, however it can be as simple as a spreadsheet. Whatever the vehicle, it is critical that the team members and the leader are able to track the activity to make sure the process is followed and results can be measured. The individual sales person needs a vehicle to keep track of what message was delivered to what client at what time. Once measurement provides insight into increased results from higher quality leads, the comment about “another lead” will likely be met with more enthusiasm and less sarcasm.