The digital sales funnel

getSmartI guess the easiest way to understand the issue is to realise that the B2B sales cycle, starting with raising awareness of the product or service right through to finally making a sale, can typically take up to 18 months, or in some usually capital intensive instances, many years.

What this means is that the focus for B2B sales should always be to build a relationship with prospects over time by ascertaining a series of ‘touch points’ that will, if handled properly, ultimately lead to a sale.

To veterans in the B2B sales game this will probably evoke a response such as “We’ve always have done that … that’s nothing new!” which is partially true.

And I agree. In the past, regular games of golf and joint attendances at sponsored trade shows or corporate events were the ‘touch points’ and which, for many decades, were probably sufficient.

However, like a lot of things in marketing, I’ve observed over many years the underlying principles always remain the same. It’s just how you perform them that actually changes.

In recent times, what I call the digital sales funnel, has been adopted by Google to better explain to their advertisers how their AdWords deliver sales.

Most business people realise that the majority of buyers (B2C and B2B) research their purchases online before deciding how to proceed on or offline. This means that even if you are not actually making sales at a particular touch point you are in fact still likely to be moving the prospect along your sales funnel … to, hopefully, an ultimate sale.

And remember, if the prospect is not aware of your offering, you will never secure a sale. Like Lotto you have to have a ticket to win.

One way to find touch points using Google Analytics is to ascertain where the AdWord user clicked from prior to clicking on your AdWord (that’s called upstream) and where they went after your click, which is known as downstream.

With this type of knowledge it is possible to decide where your extra adverts should appear … i.e. in addition to the Google first page. It could be on a news website or some trade related portal or vertical.

Many people think that most online buyers make their purchase by clicking on AdWords on the first page of Google’s SERP.

Certainly a lot probably do but the important issue is to understand that this is only a single touch point, although admittedly it’s an important one … but not usually sufficient on its own to turn a B2B prospect into a definite sale.

I suspect the digital sales funnel approach has moved much of the focus of experienced AdWord users towards landing page optimization i.e. once you have the prospect on your website (the last touch point) how do you convert them into a definite sale.

For starters it’s usually best to develop separate HTML pages on your website with detailed product information – and always point your AdWords to the specific URL, not the front page of your website.

And add a clear call to action. Buy now and get 10% off etc.

Another proven method of increasing touch points is to capture the prospect’s email address and start to send them regular e-newsletters. Note: it’s a lot easier to harvest an Opt-in email address than to make a sale online. And that’s for both B2B and B2C.

Having a 1300 number at the top of your website exponentially increases your conversion rate and the chance of eventually turning a prospect into a sale.

Don’t forget for B2B marketing your ultimate goal is usually to generate a lead … not make an actual sale.

AC-Thumnail
EDITOR – Andrew M Connery: A pioneer in social media and active online since early 2001 heads up the Editorial team. Andrew is currently undertaking doctoral research at the School of Computer Science and Software Engineering at the University of Wollongong. A B2B marketing practitioner by profession his specialty area is local search and until July 2011 he was a Senior Trainer for the Federal Government’s Small Business Online program.

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