Optimizing a website for sales can be complex if you offer software as a service. The sales cycle tends to be longer because prospects may visit your site several times before they contact you or sign up to try your service.
If you use KISSmetrics, you’ve probably came to this conclusion already. Perhaps someone will investigate your product, but right at the moment of signing-up, they leave your site. Or, maybe they’ll sign-up for your free whitepaper and they won’t visit your site again for 6 months.
The main challenge with this process is that it’s easy for people to forget who you are in between those touch-points. The potential customer may just decide to find a way to keep you in their awareness stream without actually contacting you. Maybe they’ll sign up for your newsletter, subscribe to your RSS feed, download your whitepaper, follow your company on twitter, etc.
There are even more things you can do about this though! Here are some ways to keep in touch with your prospects and in turn, increase your conversions and keep your acquisition costs low by not adding extra advertising and marketing expenses.
In this post we will:
- Go over the “how”.
- Show you case studies of how following-up helped two companies.
- Present some tools you can use to make following up easier.
Let’s get started!
Track Potential Prospects
Finding an analytics solution is a great start. To close the loop, you may discover it makes sense to do a little investigative work on your contacts individually so you can stay in touch. These things will work if you don’t get a large number of subscribers or sign-ups daily.
Here are some basic ways you can do that:
- Google Them: Do you have a name or email address that they’ve shared with you? Google your prospect and see how you can further connect in a natural way. Be careful with this so you don’t come off like a creepy stalker though. It may make sense to just input their data somewhere and keep up to date with their happenings for a while first before introducing yourself.
- Input Them into Your CRM: There are a lot of great CRM systems out there. If you’re looking-up a contact you don’t know, a great solution is a social CRM rather than one where you input all the data manually, as in the past. Social CRM’s pull in data from various social media sources so that you can keep up to date with your contacts without checking in on all of their profiles one-by-one.
- Track More Than Contact Information: Track each time you’ve talked to someone, what you discussed, and what their needs are. If you talk to a lot of people on a daily basis, this is essential so you don’t forget who’s who later on.
As you might guess, any of these methods work well if you sell high-end services, if you can afford to spend the time, and you don’t employ a full-time salesperson. If you have a high number of leads, you’ll likely need to look into something more hands-off and automated.
Look at Your Sales Cycle
When was the last time you looked at your whole sales process? There’s a good chance you’re missing out on opportunities to touch base with potential clients.
The trick is knowing how often to contact prospects without being off-putting and knowing when the right moments to do it are. This takes some time to figure out, which is why it’s a good idea look at each step of your current process to identify where it could be improved.
For example, a typical sales cycle could look something like this:
- The prospect signs up to listen to your webinar.
- After the webinar, they decide to try out your 30-day trial.
- After a week or two, you follow-up to see how they are enjoying their trial and if they have questions.
- If they’re still undecided, you follow up again when it looks logical to do so.
- You close the sale and get a new paying customer.
Now, I know this seems fairly straightforward, but I want you to look again at step number 3; following-up. Many people completely skip this step. They assume that people will use the trial and decide to sign-up if they like it, so there’s nothing else to be done.
The problem with this is that many people sign-up for free trials and then never actually try the software. They get busy or distracted and the 30 days runs up.
A good solution here is to contact the potential customer, remind them of the date they signed up and ask them if they’d like to schedule a time to discuss your solution or demo it together. This is a great opportunity to help your prospect see the value in your product.
Now you’re not bugging the prospect, you’re helping them figure out if the solution is right for them. Pretty easy, right?
A secondary benefit to following-up and becoming a trusted advisor is also the likelihood of increasing customer loyalty and thus, the customer lifetime value. How many times have you stayed loyal to a company just because they went out of their way to help you?
If you don’t hear back after following-up two times or so, that probably means they aren’t interested. You don’t have to keep at it forever, but you do have to make sure that the prospect knows you are doing your best to help. Following-up is a good way to do that as long as you appear helpful and respectful of their time.
Here are a few companies that successfully use a follow-up process to get and retain customers.
Visual Website Optimizer
Visual Website Optimizer is a company that provides split/multivariate testing software and stats as a service. As a potential customer of theirs myself, I was impressed with their follow-up service and level of attention. I originally tried their software last year and they re-approached me last month to see if I’d like to see a new demo of their software. How many companies take the time to follow-up a whole year later?
When I asked them about their specific process for getting new sign-ups, CEO Paras Chopra said they have the following process that they’ve implemented using Salesforce and Mailchimp:
- Day 1: signup welcome mail
- Day 3: our sales manager emails every trial user asking if s/he needs help or wants a demo
- Day 23 (7 days before trial gets over): an automated mail telling that trial is about to get over
- Day 37 (7 days after trial gets over): a mail asking for feedback why they didn’t upgrade their plan
As you can see, they have multiple touchpoints with the potential customer, not just one. This has significantly helped their business because people often sign-up for a trial and then get distracted and sometimes they don’t remember that they signed-up at all.
Ignition Deck is a crowdfunding software plugin made for WordPress. It allows you to crowdfund directly from your own site rather than using an outside service.
They offer a product that requires extra attention to follow-up and customer service because crowdfunding is still a new concept and they are one of the first companies offering this service. So, they tend to get a lot of inquiries about the nature of the service and how it works.
They’ve decided to take follow-up a step further than automation and contact each new customer personally to say thank you immediately after they buy. This helps solidify their relationship with their customers and also garners them more referrals in the longer-term.
Nathan Hangen, partner of parent company VirtuousGiant said, “We’ve noticed that our post-purchase follow up has led to a lot of word of mouth referrals. In fact, word of mouth is our 2nd highest referral method (search is #1).”
They are also responsive and quick to answer questions through social media tools like Twitter and Facebook. Their immediacy of response and level of attention they provide is very effective at helping people decide to sign-up.
Need a tool to help close the loop? Here are a few we’ve tried that might make your life easier too.
This is probably the most popular and automated solution if you have larger numbers of leads. It also has social integration features that let you quickly get more information about your prospects.
This is another popular offering from the 37signals team. You can track leads/sales with it and also input basic contact information. One thing that I especially liked about it when we used it is that you can forward emails into it. This is a great way to keep track of where your conversations are and when the last time you followed-up was. It also sends you follow-up reminders, which is handy.
This is a nice social CRM solution. What I especially liked about this solution is all of the different partner integrations that allow you to tie in your services together. So, if you send invoices from Freshbooks, you can hook that in. You can also have it sync with your Mailchimp list and Google Contacts, which helps reduce manual input and email forwarding time.
Nimble is another easy-to-use social CRM tool. If you like the idea of having everything stream into one inbox, this is a good solution for you. It also allows you to assign tasks with reminders for follow-up.
When I first tried Gist, I didn’t like it at all. I thought it provided something akin to information overload. Once I figured out how it worked and got used to it though, I found it to be a nice social CRM tool. My suggestion is just to use it to discover information about contacts, but not get too caught up in the general information stream. And it’s free!
Mailchimp offers a free service up to 2,000 subscribers. It’s a great way to start an email marketing plan because they allow you to set up autoresponders and scheduled emails to your new subscribers.
What have you found that helps you keep in touch and close the deal with your prospects?
About the Author: Naomi Niles is an independent consultant that specializes in user experience and interaction design that delivers better client results through a careful balance of data, goals and innovation. You can find her at NaomiNiles.com.