A solid sales and marketing strategy should include these three major things; increasing account penetration with existing clients, having a reliable referral engine, and acquiring the attention of new prospects who enter your smoothly paved path that leads to a sale.
You can find article after article talking about increasing your share of wallet, but very few are focused on acquiring the attention of new prospects and how to shorten and smooth out their path. Getting their attention can be easy; keeping it is pretty tricky.
An ideal prospect is found
You’ve run into someone who appears to be an ideal prospect and have a great introductory conversation. So you give the prospect your card and promise to follow up next week. Now, if the prospect is genuinely interested, one of the first things they will do is go online to check out you and your company to see if everything feels solid and maybe learn some things.
Your website, LinkedIn profile, and whatever they can find on Google in an ideal world boosts your credibility. Your website highlights what your company does best and gives it a real personality that the prospect can see working with soon. They dig deeper and find more things to get excited about. You and your company are active on LinkedIn providing even more opportunities for the prospect to get to know you. They are looking forward to your call; your firm could be the one that will solve some of the big problems their firm is dealing with. Yay!
Amazing on the inside, not so amazing on the outside
That all sounds great, but what if that isn’t the kind of website and online presence your company has developed? What if, like so many, your company’s website is full of corporate blah blah blah BS that doesn’t say much of anything? It doesn’t support your sales message. It's a bit outdated. It doesn’t look credible anymore. Nothing is consistent and makes your job extremely difficult. All the rapport you build up in person is drained immediately when the prospects research the firm.
And the infuriating part is that your company is damned good at what they do and has an amazing reputation with customers. But getting and retaining the attention of prospects is an uphill battle. Why?
If a prospect can’t see or feel your firm was built to solve their type of problems, they move on, they don’t return phone calls, they go cold.
Trust trip hazards
Everyone's BS meter is very finely tuned. When there is a mismatch between the perception of experience, expertise, or quality and what we see and hear when researching your firm – you lose credibility. You feel risky, and we keep looking.
If your rapport with the prospect is strong or the lead came from a valued and respected source, you might be able to overcome a trust trip hazard or two.
But why even risk it? Why work so hard only to be undermined by the company website or social media presence (or lack thereof)?
If you or your firm feels like a risky choice, you won't get invited to the table. Period. I'm sorry to put it so bluntly, but it's something I see with new clients all the time, who pump so much time and energy into sales and marketing while blatantly ignoring the website misalignment staring them in the face that undermines their efforts.
Your website is your digital headquarters; if it doesn't look good, if it doesn’t sound right, if it is hard to navigate, etc., people will just walk on by and not take the time to find how good you really are.
But don't worry, because I'm going to teach you how to figure out where the trip hazards are in your sales cycle and how to remove them. Just keep reading!
Step 0: Become aware & take responsibility
Researching has never been so easy. Many firms make a huge mistake assuming that the sales team's relationship-building skills are all they need to rake in the new business.
It's the responsibility of the firm's leadership to create and maintain a clear, consistent, and credible brand foundation online and off. It is also the firm's responsibility to clean up trip hazards they have left lying around for unsuspecting prospects to stumble over.
It should not be the sales team's responsibility to build your brand foundation and awareness strategy. The executive team should create that foundation. The sales team shouldn't be writing collateral…they should be focusing on relationships and selling products/services. They should have all the tools they need to bring back new, repeat, and referral business.
Step 1: Assess EVERYTHING
It's time for a big a** audit – a visual and verbal assessment of your current brand presentation. Get your smart talkin' sales team together and get the lowdown on their entire sales processes and the marketing materials they use. You need a birds-eye view of what your team is saying, sending, and presenting. You need to know what your potential customers see, hear, and discover about your business from your website and around the Internet.
Next, get your best strategic and creative minds together to take a long, hard look at your website, sales materials, and social media, then ask yourself these questions:
- Overall message: Between all available sources, what does the company do for whom, and why should they care? Is the perception of who you are and what you do current and accurate? Is it consistent? Is it clear? Does it feel credible?
- Website: Does your website reflect who your company is TODAY – not one year ago, five years ago, or even ten. Is the look and feel of the website modern and reflective of who your company is now? Is the site easy to navigate? Is the content compelling and helpful, or is it a bunch of words that don't really say anything?
- Sales materials: Does your team have the tools they need? Are they creating their own materials? If your sales materials refer to the website for more information, does the website actually deliver that information?
- Visual brand: Are there any visual identity discrepancies between the font, logos, color palettes, or imagery that is being seen by prospects?
- Think like a potential client. Your firm was built to solve their type of problem. Is that apparent? Would they be able to see and feel that by what is available about you online?
Step 2: Identify contradictions
It's a good idea to get feedback from your sales or marketing team on this one (especially if they're pissed that your website is undermining their credibility). Don’t forget to include HR. The website should be a fantastic recruiting tool as well. Following your big a** assessment, take notes of what you've learned. Are there obvious issues with the way your website looks and feels compared to how your sales team/HR describes the company and its products/services?
Think about the prospect's journey from many angles. Do they hear about you from a colleague? What do they do next? Do they run into you at a coffee shop and have a quick conversation that is intriguing? What do they do next? Do they find you searching Google? What questions would they be asking Google? Does your site answer that question? Did they get a cold call or cold email? What happens next?
We are trying to build a smooth path to a sale. What distractions, roadblocks, potholes, and/or detours can we find and eliminate.
If your firm is truly the right choice for the prospect, what do they need to see and hear to believe that and continue on the path? What can we do to build credibility and eliminate the risks for them?
Trip hazards can be found anywhere…
- The sales materials are in alignment with the sales message, but the website is a complete mismatch.
- The website is not easy to navigate and is full of dead links.
- You have a blog, but nothing has been posted for years.
- The Google ad copy is on point and compelling, but the landing page is a snooze fest.
- The phone number on your website goes to voicemail hell.
- Hot leads from a tradeshow never get contacted.
- Your website is me me me and not focused at all on the client’s needs.
- Your website is full of industry jargon and blah blah blah BS.
Do you see what I'm getting at here? I could go on with a list of possible trip hazards, but hopefully, you get the gist. You don’t have to be perfect, but gain awareness of the issue and take responsibility to clean up what you can.
Step 3: Turn your site into a sales machine
If your message is confusing, you’re losing business.
If your website sucks, you’re losing business.
It’s that simple.
Your website is your most important piece of sales collateral; whether your clients are 25 or 95, everyone is checking you out online before they make a deal – looks matter. If you don’t look the part, they bounce. If they stay on your site, it then needs to have meaningful content that is easy to navigate.
Trust me, though you might have a great personality, know how valuable your company is, and trust your sales team to do a good job, none of this is helpful if you don’t first look the part online. So if you think your prospects aren't judging your website by its cover, think again.
To increase your chances of getting noticed, invited to the table, and ultimately hired, you need to get your website in complete alignment with your brand and sales materials.
A great byproduct of aligning your site with your company and its sales message is customers can show up ready for conversion. They may even have made up their mind before calling you. That has happened to me with potential clients many times. Before we even know about the project, the prospect is getting to know us online, and they like what they see. It is a great day when a prospect says, “I hear you are an expert in …”. Branding can help you start a sales conversation in a completely different place. No longer do you have to justify your space in a meeting. They invite you in.
Now that you've figured out why prospects are getting lost or abandoning your sales process and how your website and online presence could be tripping them up (thanks to your hard work in step 2), it's time to start building a better, more cohesive website design for your brand.
Here’s how you do it:
- Enlist the help of a branding boss (like me!) to help you get a super clear picture of who and what your brand is all about. What messages you want to get across and to create the visual identity that will make your brand more cohesive across different channels.
- Once you've nailed down your brand guidelines with (hopefully my) help, get to work on designing a website that does your company justice and looks as good as it feels to read and navigate.
- Build sales collateral into your web design strategy by creating specific landing pages for particular services and base your collateral on your new website design.
- Make what you sell easy to understand and easy to buy. Package up the solutions you provide. This isn’t just for products. Most of my clients sell services.
- Have a process and point person for creating new sales material to ensure it aligns with the brand messaging, blends seamlessly with your website, and achieves your business goals.
- Perform spot checks on your website, content, and sales material frequently, making sure they tick all your branding boxes.
This is your structure for success
Sales and marketing are where you spend a lot of time and money. The problems found here are usually symptoms of issues and weakness in the layers below. Trying a new marketing tactic is not going to help.
Your website is often the only thing a prospect sees before deciding to contact you or not. It also plays a critical role in supporting your sales and marketing efforts.
Your brand is the foundation that supports everything you do, from sales to recruiting and retention. This is where you engineer the return on your investment in the sales and marketing layer. The importance of this foundation structure is often overlooked.
- Build it strong.
- Build it sustainably.
- Make it clear & compelling.
- Don't set it and forget it ever again.
<rant>Your website is not for you. In most cases, it’s not for your existing customers. It is for prospects who don't know you yet. They find you via search, referral or they run into one of your sales messages somewhere. They come to your site to check you out, see if things feel solid, hopefully, get to know you a bit, and decide if they want to reach out to you or not. The answers you need to find are; What do they need to see, hear and feel to know you are the right choice?
Your website is a piece of the Internet that you OWN. You can do whatever you want with it. It can look like you want, say what you want, and function as you want.
Are you harnessing this power, or are you pissing it away?
Need some help following these steps?
Here at Branding & Beyond, we'll help you define your brand personality and build a solid foundation that will make sales easier and marketing more effective. We don't fabricate brands. We find what already exists within your company and craft it into a verbal and visual identity that we can apply to everything internally and externally, like website design, social media marketing, ads, and more.
When you work with us, we guide you through the brand alignment process with a mix of done-with-you and done-for-you services. This isn't our first rodeo. Don't believe me? Check out our work – it truly speaks for itself. Or, if you'd like me to give you the 411 on branding and beyond and how we can help you cut through the noise and connect with your target customers, please book a call and pick my brain!
Here are a few companies that have been through our realignment process:
Tracy O’Shaughnessy Founder / Lead Brand Strategist of Branding & Beyond
Tracy and her team help firms in and around the B2B building trades look and sound credible online and off.
She has been in the industry since the early '90s and is tired of seeing fantastic firms struggle, blend in, and get bypassed by prospects who judge them solely on the outdated information found online.
Branding & Beyond's mission is to solve real business problems and build the brand foundation clients need to get noticed and hired.
You can find Tracy on Linkedin and here on this blog.