It all starts about 20 years ago when I was at a conference with my new boss. As we walked in, I remembered her thrusting 50 brand new cards at me with my name on them. Unfortunately, they were followed by the phrase "you need to get rid of all of these by the end of the night". Suddenly, my 50 business cards represented 50 awkward conversations that were about to happen and I was terrified. Needless to say, the rest of the night wasn't great for me and I spent most of it huddled with my coworkers who were just as introverted as I was.
I may have given away about 3 cards total (after putting the rest in the trash when no one was looking). However, out of the corner of my eye I couldn't help but notice Jack. Jack is the name I've given this guy over time and he was amazing. He was the whole package: suit, teeth, tie, and like a gazelle as he leapt from table to table never stopping to dish out cards and shake hands. In total, he must have given away at least 100 cards and I was in awe. Jack was generating so much business!
20 years later it's easier to recognize Jack for what he was. It seems a silly way to get leads but I still see signs of Jack now and then. Especially online.
We generally don't like being talked to by people like Jack. Jack is essentially the physical embodiment of spam and his conversion rates are most likely similar (2-3%).
As humans, we have developed natural defences to spam. Banner blindness is an actual thing. We simply don't see ads once we get used to knowing where they show up. That's why Google moved their ads from the right into the organic results.
If you haven't seen this diagram below, it's a customer path to purchase. There are many out there - this one has our 'ZGM spin' on it but they are all essentially the same. Basically, it's saying that we go through different stages on the path to conversion. Sometimes it can take seconds and sometimes years depending on many things but it's complicated like we are.
The notion that we can jump directly to the end from a tiny ad or post or lofty at best.
So if we're not asking people to buy, how do we sell?
We are selling all the time. With our loved ones, friends, family, co-workers... whether it's selling your boss on that promotion or selling your kids on wearing that big sweater because it's cold outside, this is how we interact. We sell without thinking and when it comes from our friends and family it doesn't feel like we are being sold.
Hank sells insurance. He is the kind of guy that will come boost your car when it won't start in the winter. He'll watch your kids when you have to drive your wife to the hospital. He's always around talking your ear off about insurance and doing his best to relate it to things he knows you are interested in. He knows your anniversary before you do and always sends a card. In short, Hank is just an all around good guy. You like Hank. He stands up for what he believes in. He's honest. And he's never asked you to buy insurance.
The thing is, is that when you do come to buy insurance Hank will be at the top of the list because he does naturally what all good brands strive to do to sell properly.
Always be there: Brands need to be top of mind because we know when we are going to buy. Speaks to having a consistent content plan.
Get personal: No one likes the "Dear Recipient" letter. We all need to be talked to like an individual.
Stay relevant: Tailer your content. Learn from what you are finding out about your leads.
Be knowledgeable: Show off your expertise. Speaks to content again. Be a thought leader.
Be generous: Hank did us so many favours we want to give back. Be the brand that makes people feel indebted to you by giving out content offers, deals, swag, etc.
Become Purposed Based: Stand for something. People can get behind that and will respect you for that. When it comes to comparing apples to apples that's how you can set yourself apart.
So if Hank is the gold standard, how can we be more like Hank?
Stop expecting your tiny ads and posts to do all the heavy lifting.
Look at the difference between these two ads. What is the big difference between them? Which one would you click on?
Most of us would choose the second one wouldn't we? The first one is asking you to buy right now before you've had a chance to even look at the product. The second one is giving something away in order to build trust assuming at some point they will introduce themselves. Both are selling but one feels more like the door-to-door salesperson than the other.
A lot of conversion marketing falls into the common sense column. When in doubt, trust your gut. "Would I click on this?" is the best 10-second test you can do. Be brutally honest with yourself.
Whatever you do, don't send people to your website.
Your website has no idea who you are. How can it? It is essentially that first awkward conversation we all dread where you try to ask as many questions as possible to find out anything that you might have in common. Your poor website essentially has to throw everything but the kitchen sink at uses in the hopes that something will resonate.
Enter the landing page.
Landing pages exist for one purpose only. To convert. They exist as one-offs and are usually made for each ad depending on how different the messages are. Because of this, you know exactly what the first touch point was for the user and you can get much more personalized and relevant with your content than you can with a website.
Stop selling and start talking.
So then what? What happens when people hit your landing page?
The ad or post drives to the landing page. The landing page asks for a conversation. Essentially, we need to get people into a system where we can talk, learn and begin to gain trust and all that good stuff. The ad and the landing page are just a vehicle to us there.
So other than face to face, what are the ways we can have a conversation?
Phone. Phone conversations are ideal. It's still a very human conversations (albeit disembodied). Still a good way to get tone and emotion across in a very natural way.
Chat is great. A fantastic way cut to the heart of the matter. People have questions and we don't always know what they are going to be. These can be a double-edged sword however as a vacant chat can be equally damaging. Also this is difficult to scale as it requires someone on the other end.
ChatBots are a good way to scale but you run the risk of, well, looking like a bot. Still, this is absolutely a way to have a conversation online.
SMS/RCS. RCS vs SMS. Rich Communications Services (RCS) is the prototocol that will replace SMS. The protocol got off to a very slow start but now is in the process hopefully of being adopted by the new phones which will allow us to text rich media, do transactions, send tickets, etc. Text is another great way to have conversations albeit somewhat obtrusive.
Email remains and is currently one of the most effective ways to nurture leads.
Active email accounts are expected to hit 5.6 billion by 2019
99% of consumers use email at least once a day.
Everyone has an active email account.
* Stats via Hubspot https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/email-marketing-stats
Email automation is essentially a way to chain a sequence of emails together that send automatically based on whatever criteria you determine. It allows us to gradually learn what people are opening or not opening and change the responses to become more and more targeted and relevant.
Tying it all together
In the example below you can see a very simple version of ads, landing pages and emails working together. Ads/posts are doing whatever they need to do to get a clickthrough, bringing the user to a landing page where it asks for a dialogue in exchange for an offer. Once you have an email address, they fall into the email automation funnel until a sale or follow-up is required.
Now that we have a view on what to do with leads. How do we turn likes and visits into SALES?
Likes and Follows
Likes and follows aren’t leads. We know this by simply asking the question: of all the people you follow online, how many of their posts do you actually read? Be honest now... The goal of any like or follow is to turn them into a conversation. Essentially, what do you need to give in order to get someone to connect with you?
One great way to sift through your visitors for potential leads is by asking your followers to engage in something. Try running a contest or giving away something in exchange for an email. Once they are in the database, you know what to do….
Visits to the Site
What to do with the unwashed masses that come and go to the site? Even though they are looking at product, perhaps introduce a secondary call to action for an email signup OR bring in chat. The notion that you have covered every question users have with your content is probably not true. Chat is a great way to accelerate the nurture side of things.
It’s important to know it isn’t one-size-fits-all. It depends on the size, company, service, product etc. you don’t have to lead nurture and close on a pair of socks. It’s still important to create a genuine experience and engage through conversation.
There are a lot of tools at our disposal. Too many in fact. So how do you choose the right one?
For the strategies described above, many tools do this. From the simple bootstrap software like Mailchimp to enterprise solutions like Hubspot it’s important to find the right tool for you and the way you want to grow. Spending a few moments with a consultant here is money well spent or going to a trusted friend to ask what they are using.
My favorites are the two listed above. Low-fi and hi-fi.
- Take the pressure off your ads and posts.
- Use landing pages not your website.
- Ask for conversations not sales.
It’s only through conversations that we become friends. It’s only by talking we fall in love. Conversations are what separate us and it’s a natural part of selling.
Take a step back from how you are currently selling and ask yourself “Am I Jack or am I Hank?” Are you just passing out business cards or creating a dialogue? We know how to do the right thing - we do it all the time without thinking.
Just find your inner Hank and you’ll be fine.