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February 23, 2017

Cindy Penchina, President

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Here’s the problem with prospects: apathy.

There’s no clearer indicator of this than industry standards on open rates; an email open rate of a mere twenty percent is considered decently performing. That’s not even people who actually read your work, by the way; it’s just the ones who actually took a half second to click on your subject line.

That means that if you want to really drive sales, you need to keep your leads interested after the initial contact, whether that was asking for a consultation or merely signing up for a newsletter. And it’s a big leap from “signing up for a newsletter” to “signing a contract and handing over money,” and the gulf in between them needs to be bridged.

Building the Bridge

In traditional 1:1 sales meetings, the key to building this bridge is to agree to the next meeting before you shake hands and send each other on their way. It keeps the commitment rolling, and makes future engagement much more likely, because committing to a meeting takes investment. But in online marketing, the situation is more complicated; people fill out forms all the time, and often, filling out a form is merely the condition for getting the thing they really wanted – which wasn’t to hear from you.

So the trick is to know what that is, and to be ready to provide even more of it. It’s the equivalent of planning the next meeting; by getting in front of their needs, you make that next engagement so much more likely.

Provide a Steady Stream of Relevant Information

The trick here is to keep relevant; if you’re sending your prospects material that doesn’t hit their actual buying process, you’re not going to get their attention. And figuring out what it is that they want to know is as easy as paying attention to what their actions have been telling you.

Let’s use a real-world example.

You run a pest control company, and a prospect has signed up for your mailing list via a “get more information” form on your homepage. That information by itself doesn’t tell you a lot, beyond that they have a general interest in what you do. The easy thing to do would be to periodically send them information that doesn’t really mean anything to them. Or you could see what else they looked at on your site.

Despite not reaching out to hire you, you can see that they’ve been doing some digging. They’ve visited the page about termite removal three times, and their first touch point was a blog post about home termite treatments. That could mean a few things, ranging from “they’re doing a report on termites for school” to “they have a massive infestation,” but it gives you a clear idea for a next step: reaching out, not about hiring you, but with some more information about dealing with termites in broad terms.

These openings are extremely valuable, because they let you engage with their real fears and desires, enticing them to keep up the “conversation” by continuing to click your links, download your content, and reply to your emails, as well as to give you a lot more information in the process.

Know Their Next Step Before They Do

Think of your end goal – the sale – as a single point to which many roads may eventually lead. Your prospects are telling you which road they’re on with every interaction, so you need to respond by giving them information that acknowledges and respects their real needs.

You can automate much if not all of this lead nurturing process – building automatic sluices for your customers to slide down is a pretty basic part of modern digital marketing – but whether it’s all being done with a marketing CMS or you’re actively on the phone with the customers, you need to be prepared for their next step before they are. That means thinking ahead.

Let’s get back to our real-world example.

Ok. Your prospect with the termite problem? You sent him a content piece about stopgap home treatments. So the question is what he’s thinking about next: a more permanent solution. Now, he’s not ready yet to make a phone call, but he’s definitely wondering how to get rid of these damn bugs once and for all. And how do you know this?

Because you’ve been paying attention to what he’s doing the entire time. Providing a steady stream of termite treatment advice, just once a week or so, and seeing how he engages will help you discover where he is in his buying process. The more actions he takes that indicate progression, the more confident you can be that he’s getting close to making a buying decision – and that you’re still in the running.

That means you have the opportunity to get in front of his needs and questions. He just wants to get rid of these bugs! So now’s the time to reach out with information regarding permanent pest control removal, with a special focus on what you do and why it’s the best. Had you done this three weeks ago, when he was still hoping he could take care of this on his own, it would have fallen on deaf ears. But you paid attention, and made sure your content was relevant to your actual, real-life customer.

The Future

This process doesn’t stop, and has to be repeated for every lead you’re trying to hook. But you can make it a lot easier by keeping track of your early sales experiences and noting what content and what information your prospects and leads needed – and what actually worked. Over time, you’ll build up this content into a deep library you can turn to on an as-needed basis, letting you personally deliver best-fit content to prospects wherever they are in the process.

That means you’re always relevant – and prepared to answer their questions before they know they have them.