By Sara Melefsky, digital marketing director, WayPoint Marketing Communications
Regardless of what type of business, a website should bring in and convert prospective customers and attract new employees. In a world where nearly everything is going digital, a website is more critical than ever. It acts as the hub for all marketing and communications efforts, so it needs to succinctly and effectively tell audiences why they want to work with and for the company. However, before adding troves of content to the website, a business needs to analyze the various steps of its sales funnel and recruiting processes.
What are the stages of a sales funnel?
In a typical sales funnel, prospective customers enter the funnel by learning about products or services and then slowly move through the qualification and nurturing phases before making a purchase.
- Awareness: This first step of the funnel is initiated
when someone learns about a business through advertisements, social media, visiting a booth, online search results or word of mouth.
- Engagement: This is considered to be the true start of the funnel. Awareness is nothing more than someone acknowledging that a business exists. Engagement is that same person interacting and showing signs of interest.In this phase, a business begins to see the value of a prospect and the prospect begins to see value in the business. The goal is to have these interested prospects exit this stage by submitting a contact form, following a social media account, subscribing to a newsletter or contacting the business.
During this phase, consider how to categorize prospects who engage. Will a business note how they first engaged (e.g., tradeshow, website, social media or newsletter)? Will a business categorize them with others based on similar interests? A business also should consider the best way to return the interaction. Do sales representatives personally reach out, visit their facilities or call them? Do marketing managers enter contact information into a newsletter campaign or customer relationship manager (CRM)? Does the marketing team target digital advertisements to the companies or industries?
Once the initial engagement begins, the prospect sees potential for a partnership. The contact hopefully will interact more frequently, at which time the contact can be moved further into the funnel, as either a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) or a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL).
- MQL: A Marketing Qualified Lead is a contact who repeatedly is engaged, shows interest and has been reviewed by the marketing team. This may be a contact who repeatedly opens and engages with a newsletter, submits a contact form or engages on social media. An MQL often is watched more closely as the level of purchasing interest increases.
- SQL: A Sales Qualified Lead is a contact who was an MQL and shows growing interest in the business. SQLs are reviewed by the sales team and identified to be true, potential customers – meaning the business’ capabilities align with their needs. In this stage, the sales team will provide quotes and negotiate. If an SQL becomes uninterested, it makes the most sense to hand it back to the marketing team for more nurturing with content. This allows the marketing team to further analyze interest so the sales team can focus its time on more valuable prospects.
- Closed: After a customer accepts a proposal or quote, the lead moves into the “Closed” phase.
How can a website impact the sales funnel?
A website should be structured and filled with content that delivers value to all visitors – regardless of where they fall within the sales funnel. Gone are the days when a business could control the buyer’s journey and push a prospect through the steps of the sales process. Prospects think differently now and control their buyer journey. A business can, however, supply content so that wherever or however prospects move through the funnel, information they want and need is provided. This will keep them engaged and coming back to the site until they decide to make a purchase.
- Awareness: When someone first discovers a business, it’s important to present information about the product and services, business overview, mission and value statements and leadership summaries. Display this information so it is easy to find and understand. Website visitors in this phase haven’t engaged yet, so they won’t hesitate to quickly leave the site if they can’t find or understand what a company does.
- Engagement: Once prospects see value in a business, they will begin to engage with the content. This is a great phase of the funnel to introduce a content strategy full of thought-leadership material that is relevant and intriguing – informational-type resources, such as how-to guides, videos, audio/podcast files and answers to frequently asked questions. It’s important to show a company has the answers and expertise, but not push its solution. Successful thought leadership provides a safe place to find answers, not push a product or service. Remember, a trusting relationship still is being built with the prospective customer.
- MQL: Once prospects engage with a business, it can implement more technical marketing techniques so they keep coming back. Depending on their behavior on the site and the resources they accessed, a business can launch a retargeting campaign to keep the business in front of them. A business can send them specific, personalized emails with links to more content that is similar to what they previously viewed. The purpose of content in this phase is to capture data and keep visitors engaged.
- SQL: By this point, a prospect is interested, so it’s up to the sales team to take it from here with quoting, negotiating and closing the deal. The marketing team supports sales efforts, perhaps with an online resource center of case studies, client testimonials or technical sheets for the sales team to reference.
- Closed: The prospect now is a customer. But that doesn’t mean the website’s job is done. It can house a portal where customers access the onboarding documents, project-specific files and communications. Also, the prospect’s business logo can be added to a “Customer” section of the website and maybe a testimonial can be provided about working with the business. This would showcase the breadth of experience to a new round of prospects.
How Can a Website Improve Recruiting?
Beyond supporting the sales processes, a website also should support recruiting activities. Potential employees look at a company’s website for information prior to applying for an open position. They want to know the history of the company, leadership team, company culture and values, employee benefits, testimonials and more. Applicants even may look for pictures that showcase the facilities and staff. If possible, don’t use stock photos. Use pictures of staff, team gatherings and production facilities to give a true representation of the company and help fulfill the applicants’ need to trust the business. They want to begin building a relationship with the company – even before the business knows they want a career. A website can accomplish all these goals with a “Career” or “About Us” page.
Additionally, applicants should be able to access job opportunities at the facility and apply via the website. The application process should be streamlined and not require significant steps or complicated forms. Once applicants realize they can trust the business, they research open jobs and, hopefully, begin applying.
A website has the potential to be a powerhouse for attracting new customers and employees. It’s the place that houses all strategic activities through a diverse library of resources. It should track visitor behavior and data, store and report contact or subscription forms, attract new employees, repeatedly engage prospects until they become customers and, perhaps, house a customer portal.
When a company fills its website with content that covers the sales and recruiting processes and structures it so information easily is accessible, the company will begin to see the value. There is a reason many manufacturers are investing in strategic, well-rounded websites – they realize that without them, they won’t remain competitive and can’t capture the attention of modern-day customers.
Sara Melefsky is the digital marketing director at WayPoint Marketing Communications, a marketing agency that partners with small- to medium-sized businesses to help them reach their goals through strategic marketing and communications programs. Melefsky boasts a background with over 20 years of B2B digital and traditional marketing experience. Her diverse skill set includes campaign strategy, project management and execution, graphic design, print and digital marketing, community relations and advertising. A firm believer that a solid marketing approach is the cornerstone of any successful business, Melefsky emphasizes the importance of constant evaluation and tweaking to adapt to the ever-changing industry environment.
More information: www.waypointmc.com
Reprinted with permission from The American Mold Builder.