Most websites are set up for prospects near the end of the sales cycle. They're focused on driving prospects to "contact" the company in some way (demo, trial, consultation, etc.). But, not everyone that comes to your site is ready to jump actively into the sales process. They just want more information about their problem and possible solutions. They want to self-educate so that when they do end up talking to a salesperson, they can feel more confident about what is going on.
If you're not providing content that's aligned with all the stages prospects go through to make a purchasing decision, you're limiting your opportunities and opening the door for your competitors to snatch up good potential customers.
Read more to see an example of how to align your website content with each stage of the sales cycle.
A business owner, let's call her Sally, has been perusing the Internet as she normally does every day, but lately she has come across some really nice, modern websites. She recognizes that when she's on these websites, she has a good, satisfying experience. She also notices when she has a frustrating online experience. We've all been there - can you remember the last time you yelled at a website because you couldn't find what you were looking for or it wasn't functioning as you expected?
Early Sales Cycle
A website project isn't on Sally's agenda right now but based on these experiences she is starting to see weaknesses in her own company website. She begins to pay closer attention to websites and what she likes and doesn't like about them.
You know how if you're looking at buying a certain car, you suddenly see them all over town? Or when you are pregnant, and suddenly you see tons of pregnant people everywhere you go? (The ladies will relate to this!) Sally is at this stage: she has a heightened awareness about websites.
This is where early sales cycle content comes into play. When Sally sees articles about website-related topics on social media or in her email box, she notices them now and will be much more likely to click on them.
Some examples of content that might pique Sally's interest at this early stage are:
- Common Website Mistake Most Companies Make
- Website Evaluation Checklist for Business Owners
- Sales Flatlining? Your Website Could Be to Blame
People are traveling in and out of the early stage constantly. It may take time for the problem to get to the "breaking point," where it moves to the top of the priority list. That's why it's so important to first, create content that can capture the interest of prospects in this stage, and second, consistently promote it. Just because it's not important to someone today, doesn't mean it won't be tomorrow. (FYI - I'm not saying to bombard people with the same information day-in-day-out. It needs to be done strategically.)
As Sally starts reading more and more information about her problem, she's becoming more educated, and the problem is becoming harder and harder to ignore. She is now ready to enter into the middle stage.
Middle Sales Cycle
At this stage, Sally's problem has reached the "breaking point" and she's ready to tackle it. It's moved to the top of the priority list. Now she's looking for information that can help more clearly define the problem and what her options are.
Some examples of content that might pique Sally's interest in the middle stage are:
- The Essential Step-by-Step Guide to Internet Marketing
- Prevent a Website Redesign Disaster
- 3 Options for Creating a Cohesive Marketing System
As Sally continues to be intrigued by articles and information related to her budding problem, she starts noticing key players in the industry. These are the brands that are putting out the information she's reading. She begins to visit some of their web pages to find out more about them and if they could be a potential vendor for her.
Sally's goal is to get a baseline understanding of what's available before she jumps into a conversation with a salesperson. She wants to make sure she knows enough so that she can ask the right questions and have the right expectations. During this process, Sally creates a short list of companies to explore further. The companies that caught her attention with relevant content and a positive website experience will be on the list.
Now that Sally has at least a preliminary understanding of her problem, types of solutions available, and a list of potential vendors, she is ready to move forward to the next stage in her decision-making process.
Late Sales Cycle
At this stage, Sally is actively comparing solutions and getting ready to make a decision about what to do. She's finally ready to talk to a salesperson!
Some examples of content that Sally is looking for now are:
- Specific product information
- Product, vendor, and price comparisons
- Case studies and testimonials
Companies that can provide the type of information that Sally needs as she travels through each stage of the sales cycle will have a huge competitive advantage. There is one caveat though: the information needs to be presented in an organized and professional manner on the website. A bad website will turn prospects away no matter how great your content is.