Contact forms? So what’s the problem?
I am dating myself here (and outing my inner nerd), but does anyone remember that Star Trek Episode: The Trouble with Tribbles?
At first, Captain Kirk and his crew loved these fuzzy little creatures. Everyone wanted one. But, as they began to re-produce by the 1000’s the Tribbles became a big problem. Nobody was sure what to do with all of them!
Enter marketing automation. The savior of all things digital marketing. The adoption of marketing automation tools over past years has been vigorous to say the least. The institution created an entire industry around building content to “feed the machine”. The goal being to produce the ever coveted conversion (read: contact form completion). These forms represent rapidly expanding galaxy of leads being created for B2B sales teams.
Contact Form Submitted . . . Guess what? It may be too late!
Do you find that the deal is mostly sealed by the time the prospect completes the most coveted form of all (the form asking for a conversation with a sales person)? Does it feel like the only thing left to negotiate is the price?
If you are reading this post, you probably agree that the B2B landscape has been changing. The transformation is largely due to a prolific amount of content on the web. Content designed to help the prospect maneuver their way along the buyer journey. Infographics, ebooks, whitepapers, videos, webinars, revenue calculators . . . . scores of content that helps the buyer form an opinion, set purchase criteria, make a “short-list” of vendors to consider and be pretty sure of the offering they like best (often with up to 70% certainty). Much of the previously mentioned checklist is well under way before a prospect completes a form requesting a conversation with a sales person.
Sales teams that wait for contact forms to be completed may be putting themselves in danger of being too far behind in the buyer journey.
The result: Lost traction with the prospective buyer. The sales person is forced into reactive mode, responding to RFQ’s with pre-defined requirements that are often more suited to the competition’s offering than their own. The opportunity for influence has gone out the window, and the scramble is on to find a way to preserve what little margin remains in the deal.
Successful sales organizations (and the marketers that support them) know that getting ahead of the buyer journey is key to a sales person’s success. By coupling a deeper understanding of their prospect’s digital body language and the ability to identify who is anonymously visiting their website can be very powerful. This is especially true if you consider that often less than 5% of website visitors fill out a contact form. Gaining intelligence on these engaged prospects (most of whom are invisible to you. . .your CRM. . .and your automation tool), early in the buyer journey, could be just the thing you need to differentiate yourself from the competition.
If you are relying on contact form conversions as the ONLY source for identifying interested buyers, you could end up being late to the party.
Beam me up Scotty, time to go close some deals.
Align your B2B Sales Strategy with the B2B Buyer Journey
Since the days of the cavemen, humans have been reading body language to understand the intentions of others. In the sales process, reading body language and buying signals has long been used to shorten the sales cycle. With the dawn of the digital age much of the buying cycle is now conducted online. This evolution has drastically impacted the sales cycle for B2B companies.
- Research shows that as many as 65% of business buyers use the web to start their research for a solution.*
- Due to the proliferation of content and product information that is on the web, prospects are often 57% through the buying process before they connect with a sales person.**
- Fear of email blasts and hounding phone calls have caused savvy business buyers to show more reluctance to fill out contact forms than ever before. In some cases, only 1 – 2% of B2B web visitors fill out a form announcing their interest.
5 TIPS TO READ YOUR B2B PROSPECT’S ONLINE BODY LANGUAGE
1. Identify Web Pages That Support the Buying Decision
The first step is to identify the pages on your website that support the traditional buying process. Your explainer video, about us page, value proposition pages, and testimonials all support buying decisions and were once part of the traditional selling process. Identifying these high value pages that relate to your sales process will help you focus in on the most important digital buying signals. The opportunity to identify and connect with the visitors to these pages before they engage with a competitor is key to your success!
2. Understand Page Visit Behavior
When a visitor moves through your site and looks at pages that are designed to move them through the buyer journey, take notice of their behavior! Visits to these pages indicate that a prospective client has engaged in the buying process and is researching the offerings of your company (and probably your competitors offerings as well). For example, a pricing page visit can be a strong indicator that a prospect is starting to seriously think about buying. You will find that many prospects land on your website and go immediately to your pricing section. These prospects might be interested, but they’re likely still in their initial information gathering stage. On the other hand, a prospect who signed up for a demo or actively tried your product, and then visits your pricing page is probably getting ready to make a decision.
3. Where They Click Tells A Story
Once you have identified your high value web pages, the next step is to understand the story they tell. As a prospect visitor moves through your website, where they click can reveal the nature and level of their interest. Say a visitor enters your site from an email campaign and then proceeds to view two or three key product information pages, then views the client testimonials page, and finally the “request a demo page”; spending several minutes on each of these pages. This behavior indicates a strong interest in your offering. Because buyers are becoming more self-educated, you can map their online interactions to your sales process and start checking off elements they have seen. This process will allow you to reach out to the most sales ready prospects!
4. Find Out If They Leave Before They Hit “Submit”
Imagine the value if you could identify prospects that have enough interest to visit your “request for quote”, “free trial”, or “contact us” page but for some reason never complete and submit the form. Did they get distracted? Change their mind? Or did they decide to reach out to a competitor and complete their form first? By tracking and identifying the companies visiting contact form pages, you can get a “heads-up” on the best opportunities among your website visitors.
5. When The Crowd Converges
If one of your objectives is to win with larger target companies, this is for you! Return visits or multiple clicks from an email campaign indicate that there may be interest from many stakeholders in the prospect company. It is likely the more stakeholders, the larger the company. Lots of people visiting, lots of people clicking means it is very likely an internal discussion has been brewing around your solution or product offering. Reaching out to these prospect companies early in the discussion gives you a jump on your competition.
*2014 B2B Buyer Behavior Survey, Demand Gen Report
**B2B Marketing and Sales practices Insight: CEB Marketing Council and Google