But can I trust you?

May 24, 2017

trustI can’t guess how many times I’ve written about trust over the past ten years.  I’ve talked about the importance of the know • like • trust model, I’ve discussed the connection between trust and a brand’s equity and I’ve explored the role of trust in shortening the sales cycle.

Suffice it to say, trust is a cornerstone of marketing success.

But it occurred to me that when I’ve written about trust, it’s been one-sided.  I’ve focused on the trust we need from our prospects and customers in order to make them feel safe enough to make that first purchase or repeat buy.

I’ve been ignoring the whole other side of the equation. Trust has to be a two-way street or else it doesn’t work.  When you don’t feel trusted – it’s very difficult to trust. Just like in our personal relationships, it’s difficult to let down your guard enough to develop trust when you’re feeling like a criminal, based on how you’re being treated.

Think that’s a little extreme?  Think about some of the signage you see in retail locations.  “You break it, you buy it” or “video surveillance cameras in use.”

Without meaning to, in a million little ways, many businesses communicate that they don’t really trust their customers.

And if you think we have work to do in that arena – it’s nothing compared to how many organizations treat their employees. It’s pretty tough for them to trust you, trust your brand and create a trusting environment for your customers.

If you want to cultivate trust among your prospects and customers – you have to start by demonstrating trust in your own team and those same prospects and customers.

Let’s look at a couple ideas for each.  First, the customers:

Your customer service promise: Call it a pledge, a promise or a policy. Whatever you call it – make sure it’s written in simple English, errs on the assumption that 99% of your customers are honest and good people, and cuts your customers a great deal of slack.

Make it very public – post it on your website, in your store and in your contractual agreements. Celebrate the fact that you believe in your customers and in servicing them with respect and affection.

Arm your employees with both authority and resources: Every time a customer complains or has a bad experience and you make them wait for a manager to resolve it, it feels like you don’t trust them or their story.   You also teach them that you don’t have enough confidence in your team to give them the ability to resolve the issue. But when your employees can immediately respond and fix the problem, the customer feels heard and that your organization believed them and their concern.

And now, for showing your employees that you trust them:

Treat them like grown-ups: Flip through your employee manual.  Are the rules for adults or does it assume that your team will act like teenagers trying to sneak out after curfew?  Too many employee rules are made for the few, not the majority. Create rules that make it clear to your employees that you hold them both capable and accountable.

Ask for help: Nothing says “I believe in you and your abilities” more than asking someone for their help. Involve your employees in key decisions involving customer-facing policies, pricing or R&D options.  You can’t just give this tactic lip service.  You actually need to listen.  The upside of that – you’re going to learn more than you think.

Remember that the know • like • trust model is a two-way street.  What are you doing to pave the way to trust for your customers and employees?

 

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What does your welcome mat say?

April 19, 2017

WelcomeWhat does your welcome mat say?  Several summers ago, I spent some time in Europe with my daughter celebrating her college graduation and even though I was on vacation, I couldn’t help but see things through a marketing lens.

One of the places we visited was Madrid, Spain and neither of us spoke very much Spanish. I was eavesdropping as we did our tourist thing and I would say about 50% of the people in Madrid are from the United States or Canada and spoke English. It was interesting to me to see how different businesses react to the challenge/opportunity of a non-Spanish speaking guest.

Just a note – we try very hard to show our respect for the countries we visit and always learn many of the more common phrases. We address everyone in Spanish in terms of greetings, directions, saying please and thank you, etc. We certainly don’t expect them to Americanize their country, but we are hardly fluent and are very self conscious of that fact.

My point isn’t about communicating in Europe but instead, how some of the business owners have recognized an opportunity to attract more foreign guests by making it clear that they’ll be welcomed and accommodated. And even more to the point – It got me thinking about how we can adopt that same attitude, even if we don’t face a language barrier with some of our potential customers.

Some establishments make it clear by displaying English versions of their menus, by having a large sign that says, ”we speak English” or by hoisting a British flag near their entrance. This was true in the more tourist crowded parts of the city as well as some of the very local pubs, where we were the only non-locals in the joint.

All of this got me wondering – how do we put out welcome mats (or not) for our potential customers?

Identify your outliers: First think about who, beyond your usual customer, might need your services/products. Is there a group of people who are “lingering” outside your door and just need to be invited in? Might they actually be even more grateful for your product or service, if they felt welcome? Imagine what that kind of word of mouth among their peers might be worth to you.

Move the barriers: Could it be there’s a communication barrier of some kind in the way? It may not be a language issue but are you using jargon that tells the novices they’re not welcome? And remember, sometimes it’s what you don’t say that gets in the way. What might make a potential customer pause and re-think “walking through your door?”

Add more welcome mats: Let’s assume you either have a literal front door to your business or your website is your virtual one. How welcoming are they? Do they reassure that fringe audience that you not only can help them but you really want to? Do you have a way for them to see themselves as your customer? That could be anything from a FAQ section that answers their specific questions, testimonials that come from folks just like them or a marketing tool that explains how you onboard new clients so they can visualize becoming one of your best customers.

You know that you want them as a customer. But they may not be as tuned in as you think. If they’re nervous about doing business with you or spending big money or switching from an old vendor – they may need a little positive reinforcement. Or it may be that they feel like an outsider or that they wouldn’t belong.

It’s your job to make sure they know just how much you’d like to help them and make it easy for them to walk in the door.

 

 

 

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Transparency leads to trust

March 29, 2017

TransparencyI really don’t like surprises. Granted, I’m anti-surprise to the extreme. I used to drive my mom crazy by ferreting out where she hid the Christmas gifts and then “guessing” what I was opening on Christmas morning. I suspect most people aren’t quite that determined to avoid surprises, but the reality is, especially when it comes to business – we don’t like them.  Your customers want transparency, not surprises.

There’s an excellent book out there by Patrick Lencioni called Getting Naked, A Business Fable About Shedding The Three Fears That Sabotage Client Loyalty. The core message of the book is that the more transparent we can be with our customers the more they learn to trust us over time.

Businesses are often plagued with customers who have doubts, uncertainties and unexpressed concerns. Those emotions breed mistrust and worry, which leads to a lot of questioning, push back and micro managing from your clients.

I’d like to suggest that there’s a different way, as does the book Getting Naked. I think many businesses operate under the misguided notion that clients shouldn’t see you sweat, know if there’s a potential problem or will throw a fit if you explain your pricing to them.

I think that’s a recipe for disaster. Here are some areas (I call it the three Ps of Transparency) where transparency can lead to trust, better customer relationships and increased sales.

Pricing: This is probably one of the biggest areas that needs more transparency. I believe many businesses are uncomfortable talking about their pricing because they’re either not sure how to justify the cost, know they’re not the cheapest game in town or hate the negotiations that come after the initial price is outlined.

We can’t let our money insecurities trickle down to our clients. If you are uncomfortable with your price point, maybe you need to think about how to add more value to what you deliver so you actually believe the client is getting a bargain. If you can’t hold your head up high when you talk about your pricing, then the problem is in what you deliver, not with your customer.

Process: If you’d like your customers to stop calling and asking for updates, proactively give them not only an outline of the entire delivery process but frequent updates. When they know exactly where everything is at, they will stop asking.

The other factor related to process is that for some reason business people believe that they can’t admit they don’t know something. So they fake it. Unfortunately, most of us aren’t that good at faking it and the client gets this vague sense of unease, which leads to more micromanaging on their part.

Saying “I don’t know” is a perfectly acceptable response as long as it’s followed with an explanation of how you’re going to get the information. We have to get over the idea that our clients expect us to be perfect and all knowing.

Problems: This is the biggie. No matter how buttoned up you are, sometimes there are issues that cause delays, errors and other undesirable results. This is the worry that keeps your client awake at night. And the companion worry for them is that it’s going to be a surprise.

The minute you get an inkling that there might be a problem – tell your customer. Give them as much advance warning as possible and carefully outline the possible solutions or workarounds. If it’s your fault – tell them. Don’t mince words or make excuses. Own up to it, clearly and directly apologize and then tell them how you’re going to fix it.

If you want your customers to trust you and to grow to rely on you – remember that they know you’re human, they know mistakes happen and all they want from you is your honesty. Weave transparency into every interaction and watch the trust grow.

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Your visuals need your attention!

March 8, 2017

Visuals

No matter what kind of marketing we’re producing, it seems like we give most of our time and attention to the words. We agonize over the messaging and each and every syllable. And rightly so – they’re all very important. But for some reason, we don’t give our visuals anywhere near as much attention. That’s a huge mistake and it’s keeping your marketing from being as effective as possible.

Remember, we are visual creatures. Sixty-five percent of human beings are visual learners and even if we’re not wired that way, all of us process images 60,000 times faster than we can process auditory or written messages.

Ninety percent of what is communicated to our brain is visual. And much of the information is visually communicated in ways we aren’t even aware of at the time. We take in so much more than we realize and much of it is emotionally based. We react both intellectually and emotionally to everything we see.

Why does all of this matter? Emotions are at the core of every buying decision and long before the cash register rings – emotions allow us to form the know • like • trust chain that leads to that first purchase.

When we talk about marketing visuals, the possibilities are vast. I want you to think about everything from:

The simple aspects of your visuals like the size and shape of your marketing materials: Think about how much more we notice a square brochure versus the traditional tri-fold that fits into a #10 envelope. We’re drawn to die cuts, round business cards and websites that leverage shapes to get our attention.

Color selection: Too many companies disrespect their own color palette because someone in the marketing department is bored. Beyond protecting your brand visually by not messing with your corporate colors, remember that color is a great way to show emphasis, guide someone through a marketing piece or create eye rests on digital pieces.

Illustration versus photographs: Is what you’re trying to communicate a concrete thing or is it conceptual? What kind of a mood are you creating? Which option would be more surprising and arresting? A visual isn’t just a placeholder. It needs to add to the understanding of your message or it’s a waste of space. If you feel like your visual is trite – it is.

Stock photography versus shooting your own: This is a tough one for people because of the perceived cost variance. But don’t dismiss shooting original photography. The ability to control the mood, feature real locations, people and situations and the authenticity can be worth the expense. One budget helping option is to shoot your most vital visuals and augment them with well-chosen stock.

What kind of chart/graph would best communicate your information: When you are trying to communicate a complicated concept, charts and graphs can often be helpful. Sadly, most people cram so much into each visual that they render them useless. With charts and graphs, remember that less is more. Be mindful of the relationship between each fact you’re including. That should suggest the type of chart or graph that would best illustrate the connection.

If you’re creating an infographic, what is the storyline? Infographics are the hot “new” visual tool but most companies miss the mark. An infographic should do more than spew out stats or data. The real power of an infographic is that it can actually tell a story. Identify the arc of your story and let the visuals and facts move the viewer through the arc.

Your visuals should not be an afterthought. In fact, they often communicate on more levels than the words you so carefully craft. Give your visuals the time and respect they deserve and your marketing will be the better for it.

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Rudolph – a marketing expert?

December 21, 2016

RudolphLike many of you, I’ve been juggling my work life with getting ready for the quickly approaching holidays. I can’t help myself – I see marketing everywhere I look, even classic Christmas stories! Have you ever really considered the marketing messages that are woven into the classic Christmas story about that scamp Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer?

Marketing lesson #1: You can’t hide the truth.

Rudolph didn’t embrace the fact that he was different from all the other reindeer. He tried to pass himself off as something he wasn’t just because he wanted to have a cute little black nose and the chance to play some reindeer games. That didn’t go too well for him. He got called out in public for faking it and that made people question his integrity.

If social media has taught us anything, it’s that you can fool people for a little while, but if you can’t walk the talk…don’t even try it. Be true to who or what you are and you’ll attract the perfect customers.

Marketing lesson #2: Never make assumptions. Just ask.

One of the main reasons Rudolph ran off was because he assumed Clarice wouldn’t love him once that fact that he had “a nose so bright” became common knowledge. Think of the grief he could have saved everyone if he had just checked in with her.

The speed of marketing has accelerated so much over the past few years but the one thing you shouldn’t rush past is actually talking to your customers and prospects. Check your assumptions before you go off in some crazy direction, based on a false belief.

Marketing lesson #3: Your worst enemy can turn into your greatest ally.

Sure…the Abominable Snow Monster tried to eat his girlfriend but Rudolph came to see him as a buddy — even letting him put the star atop the Christmas tree. All it took was someone like Hermey the Elf taking the time to listen to the Bumble so he could acknowledge his pain and voila, he turned the grumbling beast into a helpful and happy pal.

When someone criticizes your company, product or services’ shortcomings, it’s human nature to get defensive and assume the worst. Instead — listen. If you really work towards understanding their perspective — you can not only save the relationship but you can turn that negative word of mouth risk into a brand advocate.

Marketing lesson #4: Create raving fans and a community by giving first.

Rudolph didn’t have to promise the Misfit Toys anything. At that moment, they couldn’t help him. But with a generous heart, he promised them he’d try to find them good homes with children who would love them.

When you do something without regard for “repayment” of any kind, you create value. When you create value, people keep coming back. When they do that, you begin to build a relationship and a sense of loyalty and no one has even tried to buy or sell yet. Which makes the selling a whole lot easier, when the time comes.

Marketing lesson #5: When you find what makes you unique, it can be your ticket to new heights.

When Rudolph began to see his nose as an asset and recognized it was what set him apart from all the other reindeer, he suddenly got asked by Santa to take a leadership position. From then on, it was his calling card. People told others about his nose and pretty soon, he was known from coast to coast. That’s what branding is all about!

Companies like Apple rise to the top because they celebrate what makes them different. They recognize that having a niche means you can create brand loyalty as opposed to being lost in a sea of sameness.

Maybe the real lesson here is if you look hard enough, there’s a marketing lesson in everything!

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Personal equals professional – we are one

November 9, 2016

personal equals professionalOne of the downsides of our digitally driven lives is that the dotted line is no more. What I mean by that is that you used to be able to artificially draw a dotted line in between your personal life and your professional life and to a great extent, you could control whether something would cross from one side to the other.   Not anymore.  Personal equals professional.

That dotted line was probably never as real or protective as we thought it was, but in today’s world, it no longer exists.

I just read a friend’s Facebook status and he said something to the effect of “I don’t like to blend my personal Facebook account with business, but we’re hosting a workshop that I am really proud of — so I’d like to invite all of you.”

This guy owns the company that is putting on the workshop. So in theory, his personal Facebook friends all know what he does for a living and some of them are probably even clients. But most of them are probably not fans of his official company page on Facebook. If he’d only announced it there, most of his Facebook connections would have missed it entirely.

And no one is going to unfriend him for mentioning his work alter ego on a site that some might deem for personal use only.

The truth is – there is no “personal use only” anymore. I actually think that’s better – don’t you want to know who you’re doing business with? Don’t you actually work better with someone when you know that they love rescue dogs, take an annual trip to the Tetons and hate the Yankees?

By the way, talking about your work/business is different from constantly hawking one’s wares. You shouldn’t be doing that at all – but especially not where people expect you to be social.

But the time of hiding your personal side from your professional side and visa versa is over. You aren’t two separate people and what you do outside of work and what you believe actually influences the work you do.

In fact, your personal brand – what you are all about, stand for, believe in, etc. is part of your professional brand. Personal equals professional.  And just like a company’s brand should inform and influence consumers – so should your personal one.

Regardless of which side of the Chick-fil-A fence you landed on, when the CEO, Dan Kathy, came out and talked about his personal beliefs and where he invests his company’s charitable dollars, I’m betting you suddenly had an opinion about that business. Even if you’d never eaten there before.

Did they lose customers over the controversy? Absolutely. But did they gain brand zealots who now go out of their way to support Chick-fil-A and spend even more money there? Absolutely.

The goal of branding is to locate your sweet spot customers. Those who are best aligned with you. Who you are – as a company, an employee of a company, and as a person can all help in that endeavor.

I’m not suggesting you can’t or shouldn’t have a private life that is actually private. But if you don’t want your prospective customers knowing your stance on a political issue, a family situation you’re facing or take offense at your secret love of all things Hello Kitty – then never, ever post about it online. Anywhere.

But stop artificially separating the two halves of you. It was probably never a good idea but in today’s world, it’s not only impossible but it feels very inauthentic. People want to do business with people they know, like and trust and that isn’t just about 50% of you.

Whether you are a geek freak, a Greek freak or a chic freak – let your flag fly and let it draw like-minded people to you and your business.

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Honestly – it’s about honesty.

September 28, 2016

HonestyI can remember being in one of my undergrad advertising classes and the professor told us about a recent study that measured the trustworthiness or honesty of various professions. Keep in mind, this was 30+ years ago but I can still see the slides he used to show us the results. The least trusted professional was the car salesman, he revealed. Following the car salesman were members of Congress and then he paused for effect and with a click, there was the slide that besmirched the career we’d all chosen — advertising professionals.

Ouch.

Out of curiosity, I googled the topic today and guess what — in Gallup’s 2012 poll, the bottom three were the same. (Apparently, nurses have topped the list ever since the profession was included in the annual poll, except for 2001 when firefighters got the nod right after 9/11.)

Sadly, what those three professions have in common is that people believe that they’re not always truthful. No one wants to be taken advantage of or fooled and that’s the stereotype these professions have to fight against. The upside is that people can behave themselves out of these stereotypes. We all know honest car dealers, politicians and as marketers – we can change the perception of our profession too.

Whether you work inside a company and are responsible for its marketing, or work at an agency, or own your own business – there is hope. You can actually be the one they trust and look to for honesty.

As marketing messages got more and more prevalent, the average ad/marketing effort seemed to get louder. Everything was hyperbole and bigger, better or bolder. No wonder it created fatigue and mistrust. It’s not possible for everything to be perfect for everyone.

But your marketing can break through all of that and be something different. It can be honest and still be effective. In fact, follow these best practices and you’ll be amazed at how effective.

Use real language: When you’re writing copy – be it a tweet or for a 5-minute video, be mindful of the words you choose. Make sure you sound like the people you’re talking to. Make sure there aren’t any communication barriers that get in between you and your audience. Remember that consumers are hypersensitive to boasting and spin, so be very frugal with words that exaggerate, hype or promise too much.

Don’t try to be a round hole for someone’s square peg: You can’t possibly be the right solution for everyone, so admit that. Help your prospective customer find the best fit – even if it’s not you. While they may not put money in your pocket – I promise you, someone they know will because they’ll have heard about how you put the prospect’s best interests ahead of your own.

Don’t sugar coat the truth: This isn’t easy but it’s vital. Everyone can tell someone what they want to hear. Very few will tell them what they need to hear. As a marketing professional, you can differentiate yourself by kindly but firmly speaking the truth. By doing that, you can actually begin to look for a solution. If they can’t count on us to tell them the truth, what can they count on us for?

Help, don’t sell: Create helpful marketing that educates and elevates your audience. Don’t shout at them — teach them. People are intelligent – they’ll figure out for themselves if they should do business with you. Let them see who you are, what you know and how you can help them.

Want to break the stereotype and be a marketer characterized by honesty? Don’t exaggerate, talk like a regular human being, don’t chase everyone with a dollar in their pocket, tell the truth and be helpful.

That doesn’t sound so tough, does it?

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Sales Funnel – When are they going to buy?

August 4, 2016

sales funnelFor the last few weeks, we’ve been exploring how you can use your website to move prospects into and through your sales funnel. In this week’s post, we’ll examine what needs to happen once someone has been in your sales funnel for a while and is continuing to show interest.

Having the right timing matters. You don’t get to this part of the funnel after the first couple interactions. If I see one consistent mistake, it’s that people shift into these sorts of strategies way too early. It’s like meeting someone in a bar and proposing the same night. Odds are you aren’t going to get too many yeses.

I totally get it from a business’ point of view and have often felt that frustration myself. You’ve shared your expertise. You’ve answered their questions. Surely they should be ready to buy by now. They obviously like what you do enough to keep coming back. So why aren’t they buying?

In my thirty years of being in business, I’ve rarely met a buyer who is as anxious to make the sale as the seller. Sure, there are those customers who come to us in crisis, and we scramble to put out their fire but they’re not the norm. So what do we do? We hang in there, and we keep being helpful and we work to stay top of mind until they’re ready to move forward.

The other factor to remember is that while we are the ones who build the sales funnel, it’s the prospect that moves through it and they control the pace and direction. So while one prospect may linger in the getting to know you (remember our know • like • trust = sales model) or growing to like you section for years, another may whip through both of those and be willing to trust you enough for a trial purchase in a matter of a couple visits.

For your website to truly be an effective sales funnel, you need to offer different levels of engagement, so the prospects can move themselves through at their own speed. As we talked about in the last couple posts, that means free content (text and video if possible) and content that you’ll give them for an email trade. But what kinds of things should you have available for those who are ready to consider a purchase?

Believe it or not – one that many companies miss is having contact information on the site. Don’t make me look for your phone number or email address. If you have the capacity, live chat is great. But make sure I can contact you and give me more than one method. If you have a brick and mortar presence, be sure you list your street addresses as well, with a link to one of the mapping sites.

You can also offer the ability to schedule a call, demo or take an assessment that will require you contact them (usually by email) with the results.

Remember that most buyers want to be pretty sure they’re going to buy before they speak to a salesperson or company representative. When they do reach out, they may have some final questions but they’re very close to making a buying decision. Which means you need to be ready to respond quickly once they do trigger that next level of readiness. Test your site and all your internal systems to verify that nothing is going to get in the way of you finally connecting with this potential buyer.

Today’s consumers want to be able to shop us on the web. How well that works for you is completely in your control. Is your site ready?

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Sales Funnel – You like me; you really like me!

July 27, 2016

sales funnellOver the past couple weeks, we’ve explored how your website should be thought of as a selling tool and with some planning and vision – you can use it to move a prospect through the know • like • trust = sales funnel and earn their business.

Last week we dug into the top of the sales funnel and identified some ways you can capture the attention of your drive by web visitors with the hope that they get to know you a little and find you helpful.

This week, I thought we’d talk about that middle section of the funnel that corresponds with the like element of our equation. To move someone from the start of the process into this section requires a mix of bravery and generosity on your part.

Keep in mind that most prospects are pretty skittish. Whether it’s in a retail store or online, they’re used to being chased around by over-eager salespeople that pester the poor potential buyer until they flee. That’s one of the reasons many people do a significant amount of their shopping online. The anonymity allows them to browse without pressure.

That’s why you want to load up your website with lots of content that has no barrier to consumption like blog posts, testimonials, and FAQs. Those elements will generate traffic to your site. The strategies we talked about last week – where there is an exchange of information (their email address for some downloadable tool or content) begins to thin the herd. The tire kickers will avoid the opt-in level, preferring to stick with your free content. And that’s fine. Until they move to the next level, they’re not ready to buy. Once they trade you their email address for some content, they’ve indicated that they are open to hearing from you.

I find it hard to believe I have to actually say this but I’ve seen time and time again that I do. There is absolutely no reason to collect email addresses if you aren’t going to actually send them something.

And that something cannot be a sales pitch. I’ve seen so many businesses stumble here. They didn’t give you their email address so you could hard sell them or immediately try to get an appointment or schedule a sales call. They gave it to you so you would keep sending them information that’s valuable to them.

That is your litmus test. Each and every time, before you hit send, ask yourself “is this going to be valuable to my audience?” Time for a re-write if your honest answer is no.

Assuming you keep producing helpful content and you actually send it out consistently – the prospects will let you stay in their in box. Week (or month or quarter) after week, you’re there. You’re teaching, helping and they are getting a little smarter and a little more comfortable with you each time they hear from you.

You should also use those regular emails (or however you decide to connect with them) to drive them back to new content/offerings on the website. Maybe you produced a demo video series or you’re hosting an educational event that you’d like them to register for.

While we are focusing on your website, it certainly shouldn’t be the only tool in your toolbox. Your sales funnel should be armed with both digital and traditional tactics. They work together hand in glove, each strengthening the other.

The days of your website just being an online brochure are long gone. Be sure your web presence is the sales workhorse it should be by building a sales funnel around the know • like • trust = sales equation.

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First stage of the funnel – Know

July 20, 2016

Know Last week we explored how your website should be thought of as a selling tool and with some planning and vision – you can use it to move a prospect through the know • like • trust = sales funnel and earn their business.

This week, I’d like to dig in a little deeper and look at the first stage of the funnel – know and what you can do to catch the interest of your web visitors and encourage them to get to know you a little.

At the top of the funnel we have people who’ve never heard of you and may have no idea they need or want what you sell. They might discover you by clicking on a link in a blog post or after reading about you in the newspaper. They might have a problem and be Googling to find a solution and your site is listed in their search results. They may see a Facebook ad or type in your URL off your business card that they picked up at a trade show. But at this point, you’re a stranger. They don’t know, like or trust you. And we know we have to earn their trust before we can earn their money.

At that moment, your website has to be helpful or relevant enough in some way that they spend a little time on it so they begin to get a sense of you and how you might matter to them.

This is a do or die moment. If the visitor pokes around the site and then leaves, they might never return and you’ll never know who they were or if you could have served them. That’s how it works on most websites. If I asked you to show me a list of people who were on your website in the last six months, could you do it?

One of the appealing aspects of using the web to pre-shop is the anonymity of it. To get someone to introduce themselves to you — you have to either give them a compelling reason to keep coming back or better yet, you have to create the opportunity for an information exchange. You have to offer them something that is valuable enough that they’ll give you their email address in return. While it sounds simple – think of how many websites you visit and how few capture your contact information.

What does that look like? You want to offer something that’s a low barrier to entry. It doesn’t feel too intrusive. It could be any of these:

  • Sign up for our Enewsletter or regular tips
  • Get a copy of a how-to report, whitepaper or cheat sheet
  • Take an online course via email
  • Get access to unique content behind a firewall
  • Join a discussion group/closed forum
  • Be notified when new content/information is available
  • Download an eBook or watch a short video series
  • Sign up for a webinar or phone conference

Once you’ve made that initial connection and you have a way to stay in touch – you can continue to be helpful which will keep the conversation going. At that point, one of two things is going to happen. As they get to know you/your company – they’re either going to decide they like you or they don’t. Both are great outcomes.

If they like you, they’ll stay in the conversation and get to know you even better. If they don’t like you, they’ll go away. Now you don’t have to waste any energy on someone who was going to be a bad fit.  That’s when you know the first stage of the funnel – know is working.

Next week, we’ll explore how to move an identified prospect into the like part of the equation.

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