Regardless of your sales model, your website should be a key asset when it comes to enabling sales. It is commonly reported that prospects these days take themselves through 60% or more of the sales journey on their own (see related article titled “Prospects Take Themselves Through 60% of the Sales Journey“). And this is for moderately complex offerings that require interaction with a sales person at some point. E-commerce offerings obviously allow prospects to go completely through the sales and fulfillment cycle on their own. But in either case, your website plays a critical role in optimizing sales.
Sales reps are fairly expensive resources on average and field sales reps are very expensive. If your website doesn’t give prospects the information they need to determine if your offering is likely a fit for their needs, they will either bail out and search elsewhere, or if you’re lucky they will proactively reach out to you with questions. But that requires involvement from your expensive sales resources.
Instead, make sure your website has the appropriate content, navigation and functionality to get these same prospects all the information they need for their education and investigation, so they can naturally engage you in the next step of the process. This might mean requesting contact from a sales person, but depending on your business model it could also mean clicking to download a free trial or completing a purchase via e-commerce.
Market research suggests that prospects will commonly exploit a half-dozen or more different types of content from a given vendor while making their technology purchase decision. Here are some ideas about the type of content and associated website functionality to better enable sales. This is just a partial list to get you started.
- Videos – An overview video should be short. 45-90 seconds is ideal and 2-3 minutes is pushing the limits of impatient buyers. Topic-specific or function-specific videos can be a little longer (3-5 min), depending on how deep the topic and insightful/engaging the video can be.
- Customer Quotes – Drop them onto various website pages. Use the customer’s job title and/or company name when permitted. Where you don’t have permission, just leave it as an anonymous quote. For example, “Director of Marketing for a Fortune 500 Corporation”.
- Case Studies – Which of your customers are perfect examples of the intended use and promised benefits of your solution? Write their story in 3-5 pages. Start with the problem they were having or the opportunity they were hoping to unlock, followed by the reasons they selected your offering and the benefits they received. Where you don’t have permission to use their company name, make it generic/anonymous (ie – “A top 3 US computer equipment manufacturer …”).
- Screen Shots – Don’t force prospects to download your free trial just to get a sense for the general look-and-feel of your user interface or the menus/navigation. Instead, have a page on your site where you include some key screen shots. Be selective enough to show what you consider to be the key functionality and proof points of your benefits claims. Add narrative near each screen shot explaining what the prospect is looking at.
- Features and Benefits – The Solutions page of your site should have a list of features and benefits. And make sure to explain the benefits using the “So What” rule explained in this article. The trick in this case will be keeping the narrative short and easy to scan. But the concept is the same.
- Web Chat – Adding an interactive chat feature to your website will help keep your sales costs low while also helping your website visitors get the unique information they need.
- Free Trial – An important part of the evaluation process for many types of offerings. And remember that since the prospects are downloading and using your free trial as the last phase in their decision cycle, the process of actually downloading and registering must be a positive experience too. (see related article title “Optimize Free Trial Conversions via Nurturing“)
Make sure to combine this with easy and logical website navigation. In other words, don’t just throw a bunch of content and assets on a page and hope the prospect will see what they want. Instead, follow industry best practices for what’s called “nurturing”. A prospect in the Consideration phase typically needs high-level messaging and positioning information first.
Once you’ve successfully caught their attention, they will want to dive a level deeper, perhaps wanting to learn about the features and see some screen shots. Eventually, they need pricing information, want to play with the product, etc. All of this leads to the prospect eventually making a decision.
With this said, consider all the types of content you should make available (using the list above as a starting point) and put the items into buckets for early, middle and late stage consideration for an offering like yours. In other words, think about your typical prospect’s consideration journey.
Your website should be designed to facilitate the buyer’s consideration flow. For example, on a page that includes a key piece of early-stage consideration content, the call-to-action on that page would encourage them to click to engage a key piece of mid-stage consideration content. Your web designer or marketing agency can help you with the design choices to follow this best practice.
After you put this sales-supportive content on your website, track and trend their use. Which assets are used the most? Can you spiff them up a little more to make them even better? Which sales-supportive website pages are visited the most? Can you make them even better?
When your company grows enough to afford a marketing automation platform and CRM tool, you’ll be able to track every page and asset viewed/used by prospects and that information will be used to show you the most common paths of content consumption and eventual “hand raising” or e-commerce purchasing. These systems can even score the prospect’s likelihood to buy based on their content engagement behavior. But that’s a topic for a different article.