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Aligning collateral and micro-conversions with the buying cycle
Columnist Amy Bishop believes it's time to rethink the age-old strategy of a singular conversion point. Learn how to leverage your content to guide consumers through the purchase funnel while obtaining marketing insights that will help you drive sales.
I am a big proponent of having multiple conversion options, especially in situations where you are selling a high-ticket item or a product that has a long sales cycle, but also for lower-cost items.
Historically, and even largely still, the “best practice” has always been to focus on one main conversion point so as not to distract consumers from the primary conversion.
While this ideology makes sense in theory, it can also be costly. Consumers are becoming more savvy in the way that they shop, and advertisers have tools and targeting options that didn’t exist when this “best practice” was originally established.
Part of this change in consumer activity can be attributed to cross-device usage. There are some actions that are simply less practical to complete on a phone; on the flip side, mobile devices also enable consumers to move forward with research on the go in ways that weren’t previously possible.
According to a 2015 Google/Ipsos Study, 90 percent of smartphone users have used their phones to make progress toward a long goal or multi-step process while out and about. Sixty-two percent of smartphone users are more likely to take action right away toward solving an unexpected problem or task because they have a smartphone. It’s not that these mobile search behaviors are new — but with mobile searches surpassing desktop in 2015, these habits have an impact.
Part of the change in consumer activity is simply due to a shift in the way consumers interact with brands, the content they consume and the sources they rely on to make decisions. Research and purchase decisions can now occur online, offline or some combination of both.
Consumers can utilize multiple digital platforms (social, review sites, websites, apps and so on) to make purchase decision. And the types and volume of content consumed prior to making a decision are varied. (Nielsen recently studied the roles and types of content that influenced the purchase journey. They found that third-party content is most influential, but branded content and user reviews still play a role, too.)
The complexities of the decision-making process warrant a post of their own, and this summary of a Rockbridge study on consumer shopping patterns begins to compile some of that information.
At the end of the day, the point is this: The consumer journey has evolved, and so must we. No longer can we bank solely on pushing consumers to the purchase or lead generation call to action without providing any other alternatives and expect that we are generating as much sales volume as we could and should be. So then the question becomes: What types of content do we provide, and how do we make sure we’re providing the correct options at the right time?
When and how to prioritize conversion types
As you begin to incorporate more content into your buyer journey, you’re likely to find that conversions will increase. No surprise, higher funnel micro-conversions are easier to secure than a lead or a purchase.
You may find yourself trying to weight conversion types to determine which is more valuable: 10 gated white paper downloads or one demo request? If you’re able to track the conversion to sale from each of these, you can begin to value them and determine what the tipping point is.
Moreover, though, I would argue that the context makes all of the difference. Providing the right content at the right time is ultimately going to result in the best return, as opposed to making a polarized decision about collateral.
High-funnel searches & content
Usually your higher-funnel searchers are still doing their research. You can identify them by their queries: generally non-brand, often head terms and probably not very specific.
They may already have an idea as to where they plan to make their purchase, but more than likely, they’re more focused on the product or service at this point, and the decision as to where to buy will be secondary.
As they perform their product (or service) research, one of the best ways to interact with these consumers is by providing helpful, informative resources. It gives you an extra boost of credibility and ideally helps to move them a little lower in the funnel as they begin to get more serious about their decision.
Of course, those aren’t the only benefits. The great thing about digital marketing is that we can create a give-and-take relationship. For all of the content that you provide, you can start to glean insights from the consumer — you may even begin to start capturing some of their contact information, such as their email address.
As you start to obtain data, you can build and leverage audiences geared toward guiding prospects throughout the funnel and, ultimately, have a better understanding of the content that they might be interested in seeing based upon their historical engagement.
Lower-funnel searches & content
On the other hand, when you receive those long-tail, specific searches, it’s time to take advantage! Don’t share content that is higher-funnel than the prospect — you miss out on low-hanging fruit.
Your content should still be helpful, but it needs to align with their needs. If they’re close to making a decision, offer them a free demo, or even a virtual demo. If this is a product or service that can be purchased elsewhere, you’ll want to start providing more information about your value, in addition to helpful product and service information.
Structuring content this way allows you to remain helpful, while driving sales as quickly as possible, when the prospect has indicated that they are ready.
Structuring content and collateral
As I mentioned in the first section, sometimes it might feel like you are trying to find a balance between the value of one sale versus 15 or 20 micro-conversions. But the goal is to structure your content and collateral in a way that aligns with the path so that it naturally coincides with the consumer’s interest — as opposed to prioritizing one over the other regardless of the consumer context. I like to do this by creating audiences.
Create audiences based upon the collateral that the consumer has already downloaded or viewed, and use those audiences to exclude them from being served those same CTAs.
You can also use those audiences in a forward-motion strategy, to help deliver content that is lower and lower in the funnel, to help them make a purchase decision.
Doing this, in tandem with delivering the right content based upon their search queries, will allow you to provide the best experience possible, while loading up on data and driving consumers to the sale.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.