Let Your Leads Lead the Way to 'Yes'
Having established that your marketing department should own and nurture leads until they are ready to buy, the question becomes: What is the best way for marketing to keep leads engaged in the conversation and moving toward a purchase?
However you communicate with leads, it's critical that you give each one what he or she wants and needs: information and control. Your most powerful persuasive tool in the sales process is the right information given at the right time. Leads need to feel that they are in control of the process. If a lead thinks you are trying to take over the entire sales process, you will lose trust and probably the sale.
A microsite is one of the most powerful new ways to interact with leads in a personal way while leaving them in control of how they get their information.
Giving leads their own little (controlled) world. In business-to-business direct marketing, much of lead management success involves control. If you can control business prospects' behavior, you can persuade them to respond positively more often.
That's why it's important that while you're integrating your direct mail with online response and lead nurturing systems, you maintain control of the process. The online environment offers several non-threatening options for doing this and, more important, for allowing your prospect to lead the way.
Microsites are one of the best ways to "lead while not leading" your prospect. A microsite is a small, robust, fully functional and - most important - self-contained Web site that leads are directed to for more information and response. Microsites are online worlds, each designed as an integral part of its own mailing or e-mail. Every visitor has a unique identifier that makes him or her easy to track and identify.
There are no external links by which the lead might accidentally leave the controlled site. Leads can gather all the information they want, but that information is given only how you want them to see it.
This freedom to explore gives leads the feeling that they are in control of the experience. They get everything they need to make the decision while being directed without fail - if you structure it correctly - to your desired conclusion, a sale.
A microsite puts your lead in an ideal nurturing environment. As leads teach you more through their online behavior, it's your job to tailor your microsite and other communications to match more closely what they want. With the information you obtain from your leads' responses, you also can showcase multiple products and offerings they likely would want. To ensure this can happen, you must ensure your microsite is as interactive and as easy to navigate as possible.
Starting from the first time a prospect sees your site, you can make it easy and fun to stay engaged with your product. By giving prospects a personal but simple Web address, you can speak directly to them from the first screen. You can pre-populate more information about them to make it more personal and easier to respond.
In creating your site, consider carefully what you want prospects to do. You want them to feel in control of the information they're getting, but you also want to ensure that a "yes" response is never more than a click away. Your call to action not only must be persistent - that is, on every page of your site - but prominent as well.
You also can make additional offers throughout your microsite to upsell leads. You may find that sweepstakes entries for responding early or additional discounts on premium products increase response dramatically.
Producing an effective microsite requires walking a thin line between depth of information and simplicity of navigation. Your navigation element - navigation bar at the top of the page or navigation sidebar - should let prospects see and quickly access anything they would want from anywhere on the site.
If my microsite sells network security, and information about the latest virus isn't clearly available by clicking right there in the navigation bar at the top of my screen, my prospect likely will go to another site where that information is readily available.
Another way to make your microsite engaging and fun for prospects is by using interactive devices. Think of the entire microsite as one big interactive device, like stickers, checkboxes and scratch-offs in traditional mail. But your interactive devices can be a lot more powerful and useful.
For a BTB microsite, consider devising a simple ROI calculator for your prospects to run mini-simulations. Show them how cost-effective your product is, or how high their costs are without your product. Business-to-consumer microsites might benefit from a personal questionnaire that gives advice on the product and makes suggestions on what products the prospect may need.
The new paradigm. We all still operate under many of the sales assumptions and marketing methods that have been in use for hundreds of years. But it's really about two things: using the new tools we have to stretch the sales conversation over a longer time; and creating a tighter link between marketing and sales by including marketing in the sales strategies.
When these two things happen, marketing can work their magic by adding new, powerful persuasive tools to the process. Then sales can work their magic by closing more leads - when the lead is ready.