[Tech Marketing Feature]It’s taking longer to close sales than it did this time last year, or even earlier this year. Many companies are making decisions more slowly. There’s a good chance your company is among the slower movers. When possible, companies are purchasing more incrementally, putting a toe in the water to purchase only what they believe they need. Buyers are decidedly risk averse. We know the economy is to blame, but it’s time to be proactive. What do we do about it?
The good news is that opportunities still exist. But while it’s taking longer to move prospects through the funnel, marketers need to put programs in place to impact these lengthening sales cycles—today. Here’s how:
- Continue your direct marketing programs. Now more than ever, you need to communicate consistently with your buyers and prospective buyers. Resist the knee-jerk tendency to cut this aspect of your marketing budget. Your clients need to keep hearing from you. They need to know that you’re solving problems for companies like there’s. They need to be able to trust you with their money and time. And they need to know that you’re a source of stability, not risk. Well executed ongoing direct marketing programs can help you accomplish this. If you make the mistake of going silent, your buyers will go to a competitor that’s still making noise.
- Maintain and boost credibility. Help prospects and existing clients feel good about purchasing from your organization with a credibility, or public relations program. Credibility can appear in various manifestations from bylined articles and blogs to coverage in trade and news press. Awards for financial excellence or leadership can also be important. Make sure you leverage this credibility and your prospects and customers are aware of it. Ask yourself what mediums your organization and key players should be featured in to impact your buying base. Then map out a strategy to do it. Tie your credibility programs in with your direct marketing program for maximum synergy.
This is no small undertaking. If you are serious—and smart—about public relations, it can yield very big returns. PR takes time, strategy and talent. Expect PR budgets to be cut. This is a good thing for those of us who continue to diligently make an impact with credibility programs.
- Lead with cost savings. There is no better time to lead with ROI and cost savings than when spending tightens among your buyers. If this benefit applies to your offerings, are you leading with it? If not, buyers will pick competing products or services with marketing messages that clearly offer a tangible return on investment. Of course, this won’t apply to all products and services, but to the extent you can save money and time, make that message clear.
- Let your clients talk for you. Another way to overcome your audience’s potential fears of risk is to leverage your client base and let them do the talking for you. Peers can communicate your value proposition much more effectively and meaningfully than you can. Use testimonials from your biggest fans and make sure they are featured prominently in your marketing materials and mediums. Video testimonials are even better. There are many clever ways of making these testimonials work, from having them on your home page or blog, to linking from YouTube.
- Don’t be a loser. Everywhere I go I talk with executives who have had to lay off employees, talented professionals who’ve gotten the axe, and sales and marketing experts who are feeling the pinch. But generally, there are two responses. There’s pity and foreboding in one corner. Then there’s optimism, will and drive in the other. As a marketer for your business, keep those stark contrasts in mind and always remember that people want to surround themselves with winners, trust winners and give their business to winners. In all of your marketing activities, create programs worthy of a winning company, and harness the attitude of a winner.
- Get with the strategy. What do you want to communicate about your company, products, etc? Is it your ubiquitous market penetration, dominance in an industry, product innovation, new line of business? If you’re going to be true to your goal of moving prospects through the pipeline, you need to be strategic in what you’re telling your audiences and why. Make all the programs you’re putting in place hit hard on that theme, and do it consistently, creatively and in a way they will remember.
Keep this strategy in mind and lead with messages that matter, consistently, and in meaningful ways. And watch those slow movers pick up the pace and decide to give you their business. Just remember to track the programs you put in place and the status of that pipeline so you’ll be able to demonstrate that those cycles shortened because of your marketing insight.
One more note from today’s Washington Technology newsletter. The same slowing trend is occurring with mergers and acquisitions. Read more here: http://www.washingtontechnology.com/print/23_16/33816-1.html.