Just about every business in existence depends on a steady flow of new customers into their sales funnel. Of course, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic early this year disrupted a lot of the marketing channels that companies typically use to generate leads and convert prospects. Nevertheless, there are still many open avenues to keep the stream of potential buyers steadily flowing through the sales funnel, despite the current unfavorable circumstances.
The following information will discuss just a few ways to maintain your leads and sales opportunities during this time of crisis. Before we take a deep dive into this subject, though, let’s briefly review why the sales funnel is so important.
The Importance of the Sales Funnel
The sales funnel is a methodology that explains how a prospect becomes aware of a product or service, grows interested in it, and eventually makes the decision to purchase it. The sales funnel is important because it streamlines and standardizes the sales/marketing process in an understandable way.
In most models of the sales funnel, there are three distinct phases involved:
- Awareness. In this stage, the prospect first becomes aware of the product. Perhaps the prospect discovers a problem or need that he previously had not considered, or learns about a solution to a particular pain point.
- Evaluation (or Interest). At this point, the prospect is interested in the product, but performs his own research to determine the best course of action to take. (“Shopping around” for the lowest price among competing businesses is an example of this stage.)
- Decision. The consumer commits to a purchase decision, and buys the product from the company.
It’s important to note that no matter how you segment the sales funnel, it’s important that your model, along with its associated terminology, is clearly defined throughout your organization. For example, you need your sales and marketing departments to know when a prospect is a “marketing-qualified lead” (MQL), and when the lead needs to be handed over to the sales team as a “sales-qualified lead” (SQL).
Now, let’s discuss some ways to generate leads and create sales opportunities during COVID-19, based on those three main funnel stages.
There are several avenues through which you can raise brand awareness among your target consumers. These include the following techniques:
- Develop COVID-19-specific content. If your product’s normal usage has been disrupted by the pandemic, look for ways that your consumers can use it under the present circumstances — and then develop content that aligns with your adjusted messaging. For example, if your company launched an app that delivered grocery-store coupons to its users, see if you can pivot towards content that emphasizes curbside pickup or “to-go” shopping options.
- Expand your marketing reach by exploring new channels. Continue to focus on digital avenues for your marketing strategy, but also consider supplementing those tactics with other channels. For instance, would your company gain more leads from investing in SMS marketing? What about direct mail campaigns? Or, if your budget allows for it, what about OTT (over the top) advertisements, such as pre-roll ads on YouTube or commercials on Hulu?
- Redefine your USP as needed. A brand’s unique selling proposition (USP) is what separates it from all competitors. If COVID-19 has disrupted the viability of your current USP, then develop a new one. For example, a Cloud-based SaaS company that specializes in bookkeeping software could pivot its messaging to the remote capabilities inherent in the product.
Generating More Leads
When it comes to the “evaluation stage” of the funnel, you also have several options to increase your lead generation numbers:
- Host webinars or other virtual events. An increasing number of consumers have become intimately familiar with video-conferencing platforms like Zoom, as well as other technology designed specifically for virtual meetings and events. Look for ways to leverage this trend, such as hosting a free webinar on a topic relevant to your product or industry. Have attendees fill out a contact form in order to obtain access.
- Invest in comparison charts, product demos, and other “evaluation-stage” content. Double down on content that compares your product to similar offerings from competing brands. Create “how-to” videos, tutorials, and product demos to arouse interest in your audience.
- Determine whether you should gate or un-gate your lead magnets. There is no right answer to the question of gated vs. un-gated content. In some scenarios, gated content can result in a much higher conversion rate (45% in one case). On the other hand, there may be compelling reason to leave your content completely un-gated, and thus earn your consumers’ goodwill.
Closing the Deal
Finally, you want to do all you can to “close the sale” in the final stage of the funnel. Here are a few options to investigate:
- Offer a free, limited-time trial of your product/service. Many brands have found unprecedented success by allowing prospects a “sneak peek” of the benefits their product can yield. Your free trial offer may last anywhere from three days to a month or longer. The point is, you want to give your consumers a taste of what they’ll enjoy once they become paying customers.
- Provide special promotions for new customers. There are countless examples throughout the business world of special promotions for first-time customers. For instance, if your company operates on a subscription basis, offer a discounted subscription rate to new customers for the first three months of their plan.
- Implement a referral program. Referral marketing, when executed properly, is perhaps the most cost-effective and impactful form of advertising in existence. (It’s no wonder that 60% of marketers say that referral programs generate a lot of leads.) See if you can incorporate a referral request process into your interactions with current customers. Sometimes a simple reminder email is all that is needed to generate a valuable lead. Of course, you may also want to incentivize your referral program by means of cash back or other rewards to participating customers.
The suggestions discussed above only form a sample of the many ways to keep your “sales engine” well-lubricated. If you want to investigate other ways to keep your sales funnel full during COVID-19 (and beyond), then reach out to our team at Ascent today.