How do you use the web to gain face to face clients?
It’s a question I get asked a lot, and it is a growing part of the world of marketing online.
Think about your own buying behaviour. Would you buy a car now without at least researching online? Or even a TV?
The web is empowering us to make more considered purchases.
More and more transactions are happening online, but also a great deal of the research and selection is happening online even if the actual purchase still requires a sales person.
Usually you would turn to your friends and colleagues first, and if no referrals were forthcoming, then you would look to Google.
We look for a “trusted advisor”, and if we don’t have a go-to person, then we hit the web, especially when the stakes are high.
How would you find a Financial Planner like Pareto Lawrence ? They wanted to know how they could improve their website to get more people to attend a free discovery meeting at their offices. Here is my advice …
How Sales are Made
Sales Cycle and Buying Decision Process
When a prospect is in the market, they go through several phases.
- First they become aware of options, or the one solution that might work for them. Traditional advertising is still pretty effective at letting people know that a product is out there, even if a lot of the time we only remember the funny ads and not always what they were pitching. Brand awareness can make the difference between going with one product over another, and it can be there difference between selecting one particular service provider over another. “I have heard of these guys” has a surprising impact on sales. You want to boost your visibility both in terms of word of mouth referrals and also online. Guest posting is an effective way to get in front of people who might refer you, and will boost your organic search traffic.
- Next is a developing interest . This is the “tell me more” stage. If you have been to a networking event and someone has said in response to what you do “Oh, that’s nice” then you have not developed interest! It’s the “What’s In It For Me?” stage. In your tagline, in your about, and in your content, you need to constantly be aware that your audience will be asking “So What?” , and you need to provide real, specific benefits.
- Before the actual transaction there is the decision . This could be to go or not go, or it could be to select from a short list of potential candidates. This is where your unique benefits and advantages have a profound effect. Your positioning against your competitors, and the return on using your services versus doing nothing. Many companies do well by providing reports and white papers that clearly differentiate from their competitors by telling their prospects how to select the right company for them, how to compare the choices, and where their differences make the difference.
- Finally we have action , and it is about telling people what their next step is, why they should take that step, and how it works. Right now the main call to action for the discovery meeting is kind of tucked away in the about page and could be easy to miss.
This is the traditional sales cycle and it works for everything from direct mail to sharing white papers, and of course your website.
With Content Marketing , though, we can add some extra juice into here to make it a fair amount more successful. This is the part where I think Pareto Lawrence will make most of their gains.
Content, Engagement and the Sales Process
The Permission Factor
What we need to add is a “permission” component. That is, once you have attracted a prospect, you need to get permission from them to allow you to communicate in future.
Look at the Pareto Lawrence home page . We are missing a permission element – we are missing something that will bring the visitor back over and over.
When we look at the blog we see an email box, but it is not providing a compelling argument to take the action.
What makes a compelling email form call to action?
Your prospect has the following questions:
- What do I get now?
- What will I get in future?
- What should I do?
As you can see, on my site I put my email form right on the home page, big and bold, and again in multiple places on the site. I use an actual form rather than a button. This means I capture people who are ready, when they are ready.
It’s not about just collecting leads and pitching offers at this point.
- Your content attracts the prospects, through referrals, search and promotion.
- The email form gains permission to communicate.
- An email follow-up sequence provides valuable tips, advice and other content, while building trust and making an argument for your services.
Part of building up the argument for your service will be about interacting with your audience via email, but also by running free, public webinars and Q&A. These would allow you to demonstrate expertise in a low-risk way, but also allow a sense of who you are to come across. Ask people for feedback, and invite questions. Show that you are real human beings who are easy to work with and have specific, beneficial expertise to share.
From Engagement to Action
Once you have built up trust and good will, THEN you can make the offer. But how you make that offer is important.
It’s not about what you want people to do. Make it about what they will get.
Don’t say “attend a free discovery meeting at our offices”, but suggest “if you have further questions or would like to hear more about how we could save you money or help you grow your business …”.
Do you see how one version is about coming to meet you and the other is about what they are interested in? A specific cause and effect?
Remember coming over to your offices is a hassle. You have to take time out from work, there is travel involved, and they might be afraid of coming over to get the hard-sell. The more you can build trust, reduce the perceived risk, make it easy and show the value of taking this time and effort out, the more people who will turn up.
You might have to show the offer multiple times, so an option would be to put a banner right in every email and in the blog sidebar.
Show Your Work for Proof, Trust and Relevance
One of the things Pareto Lawrence is doing well right now is showing off their collection of case studies . These case studies and testimonials are a real asset. Refer to your case studies in your content, don’t expect people to just wander and find them. Be proud of who you work with and the results you get for them.
This very article is an example of “showing your work” – I am both sharing advice, and showing what I do for clients. How can you make what you do visible to your readers?
One thing Pareto Lawrence could do better at however is showing the real company behind the website.
Generic Stock Images Versus Real People
Don’t use generic stock photography when actual people would do. This goes for your literature about your company, but also in case studies. Logos and pictures representing the actual companies you work with and your own colleagues are far more real and therefore far more convincing. Think of it this way, if you wanted to fake it, which would be easier?
Remember you want people to come and visit you!
To be fair, there is a video on the about page that shows the more human side, but you do have to find it, and there is a picture of Ray Best in the sidebar without explaining who he is or why we would want to get to know him
If you struggle to get comments, and some topics people really are wary about commenting in public, then you might consider removing the comments entirely. Empty comment areas provide negative social proof – it’s the blog equivalent of the Empty Restaurant Syndrome . It could be the best food ever in that empty restaurant, but you will not go in because you wonder why nobody else is eating there …
Sharing Your Expert Resources
Finally, one of the best ways to get people to take action is to get fantastic referrals. The two main ways to get these referrals are:
- Network visibility, sharing your expertise directly
- Resources, or packaged expertise
If you can create guides and advice that gets passed around , then more people are going to hear about you and know the kind of work you do. (Hence, I give away free ebooks). Make it easy for people to find and share, give each resource its own landing page and actions (social sharing and email sign up forms in particular!). I know Pareto Lawrence have material to use but it seems to be locked behind a member area – set it free, or at least some of it! The more you give, the more you get.
If you can do some public speaking, show up at networking events, and get interviewed then you are going to increase your visibility in a profound way.
Combine the two and you get a compounding effect. Be super-helpful then tell folks where to get more.
Growing an advice-based business is about becoming the trusted advisor for your market. It’s about not just being visible, but being visible in a positive and beneficial way for your audience. You have to show up and be more useful than anyone else.
People will not just know what it is what you do for people or why you are better than their other choices, you need to show it and prove it. However, it’s not about saying “We are experts, we are awesome”. Create content that is relevant to your market’s needs, that solves problems, and gives them some ideas they can’t get anywhere else, and results that they can use right away.
Please take a look at the Pareto Lawrence site and tell me what you think, if you have any feedback for them, or if there is anything I missed in the comments?