Are You Completing the Sales Cycle?

With all the attention surrounding social media these days, online marketers may be assuming that Twitter, Facebook and the like are doing a complete job of relationship marketing for them. The reality is, however, that it’s easy to be lulled into complacency by social media and think that’s all you need to worry about.

Yes, it’s true, social media provides a convenient and immediate way to interact with prospects and customers, and it can become the core of a communications strategy. But not everyone engages with a company via social media. Using social media to the exclusion of anything else may put a marketer in danger of overlooking the basics of relationship marketing.

Even if you are a big believer in social media, you need to have an underlying lead cultivation strategy in place. You must have a process to take a sales lead that you receive through any channel from one logical step to another. You want to qualify that lead along the way so it eventually gets classified as a cool, warm or hot prospect.

A lead cultivation strategy relies on ongoing periodic contact. Ideally, contact should be “intelligent” and recognize the specific needs of the individual at a given point in time. This could be accomplished via social media, but it could also be through a combination of email, text messages, direct mail, or even phone calls, if appropriate. Assuming every prospect responds to a single universally-applied form of communication could be too limiting.

In e-commerce, it is even more important to cultivate a sale. Responding to an online inquiry is your first opportunity to demonstrate that you care about a prospect and want their business. You should handle an online inquiry in such way as to make sure a prospective customer wants to make a purchase with you and not a competitor.

When it comes to the transaction itself, the bane of an online marketer’s existence is cart abandonment. This is the point at which an online seller is most vulnerable, and industry statistics are not encouraging. Research conducted by Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that 90 percent of e-commerce leads turn cold within just one hour. SeeWhy, a cart recovery specialist, says cart abandonment accounts for a loss of over $1 million daily for a company that sells $200 million of goods online each year.

Too many online sellers are missing out on an opportunity to convert a prospect who is on the verge of buying. A recent study conducted by digital marketing firm Silverpop found that 83 percent of online sellers wait five hours or more before sending the first cart recovery email. Over two-thirds of survey respondents send just one cart recovery email. Yet almost half of the survey respondents said their cart recovery emails resulted in a conversion rate of 11 percent or higher – nearly four times the conversion rate of their broadcast emails.

There are other times during the online sales cycle when contact is appropriate – acknowledging the purchase, asking for a positive product review, requesting a referral to a customer’s friends, suggesting a gift purchase, encouraging completion of a satisfaction survey, and so on. These types of contacts can reinforce a customer’s relationship with you and lead to increased revenue.

The bottom line: Social media is a wonderful way to keep in touch. But it should enhance, not replace, a comprehensive cultivation strategy. To be successful, online marketers need to complete the cycle.

About Barry Silverstein

Barry Silverstein is a freelance writer/marketing consultant. In addition to writing for ReveNews, he is a contributing writer to Brandchannel.com, the world’s leading online branding forum. He is the author of three marketing books, The Breakaway Brand (co-author, McGraw-Hill, 2005), Business-to-Business Internet Marketing (Maximum Press, 2003) and Internet Marketing for Technology Companies (Maximum Press, 2003). Barry ran his own Internet and direct marketing agency for twenty years. You can find Barry on Twitter @bdsilv.

3 Responses to Are You Completing the Sales Cycle?

  1. […] Are You Completing the Sales Cycle? (revenews.com) […]

  2. Zaki Usman says:

    Very good piece on how to get more out of a good thing. As a business you’ve invested to get your lead/potential through the door and dropping the ball at the 11th hour is pretty bad practice. I’ve written something about the tools that can be used in the sales cycle to facilate the sale. Have a read thru here http://shoutex.com/blog/sales-cycle-marketing/

  3. I agree, I think social media is an extension of the sales cycle, making it slightly longer with more touches needed, http://webatonic.com