crowdSPRING is a B2B venture tapping into the ever-fragmented SMB market. This presents us with some specific challenges, including how to better convert the curious first time visitor to the site into a customer and how to continuously deliver value to existing customers to build long-lasting relationships. We use a “micro-conversion” approach that we believe is a powerful strategy for attracting and retaining customers.
Our typical customer is the small and mid-size business owner or manager and these folks present two key challenges: first, they are notoriously difficult to find, and second, they are smart, curious and self reliant and can not be “sold” in the traditional “coffee’s for closers” model (imagine the effort it would take to call each and every dry cleaner or plumbing company in the Chicago yellow pages). Our goal is to make it easy for them to find us and to compare us with their other options to determine for themselves that ours is the best solution for their problem.
Here are five tactics that we deploy and that you can use to assist your own potential customers; each of these provides contextual information that they may find useful. These have proven to be helpful for many of our customers as they make that decision on whether or not to spend their precious budget on our offerings:
1. Build awareness. Help them find you by developing content to drive SEO value and word or mouth (take a look at Ross’s post from last year for more detail on this). Your blog and newsletters can go provide value in several ways: good content is often linked to by others with shared interests; newsletters (if high quality) are often shared and forwarded; and brand visibility is increased through both of these.
2. Assist with research. They found you and now they’re here and trying to figure out what it is you can do for them. It’s your turn to help them understand who you are and how you can provide a solution to their problem. You have the opportunity to help them learn and discriminate, so show them what you can do for them – serve up product information, solution examples, and educative materials such as guides and how-to’s. You are in control of the information, so provide it!
3. Educate and nurture the user. Help them consider and compare their options. Build their knowledge by providing product or service demos, case studies on other businesses that have used your product or service, and side-by-side comparisons to other options in the market. Provide them with customer testimonials that will give comfort and confidence in your service. Give examples of larger companies that have been successful with your offering – plant this thought: if it was good enough for the big boys, it must be good enough for me.
4. Make the purchase easy. Reduce barriers in the process by losing unnecessary steps and forms. Simplify, simplify, simplify. Ask for the minimal information you’ll require from them. Make the process fun and keep it slowing. Remember that fewer steps mean fewer opportunities for abandoning the process.
5. Develop and maintain relationships. Make them a part of your community, get them involved with other users. Ongoing communication and education are critical: provide them content that they find compelling, whether via a blog, a newsletter, or an email, continue to deliver value in the form of information. AND give them the best customer support possible, whether it is self-service in the form of an online help center, or rapid-response to their issues and questions in the form of a phone call or email.
Your potential customers are smart and self serving; they have taken the time to find you, now deliver them the information they seek. Start off on the path to a sustainable relationship with the customer and continue to provide value beyond your product or service. This will be a significant differentiation for your company and, in the long run, provide you with a distinct competitive advantage.
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