In eCommerce land we tend not to use the term 'leads' in relation to potential new customers, we politely refer to them as 'prospects', the term 'leads' is often used in B2B land and is deemed part of the qualification process to bring on board a new customer.
For some B2B companies the gestation period to bring a 'lead' on board as a new customer can be quite long, it requires a lot of upfront 'biz dev' investment, and is also called 'closing' the deal, and everyone wants to do this in the shortest possible time - as a marketing guy 'closing the deal' always seemed an odd turn of phrase because it sounds like the end of something rather than the start, it just comes across as 'terminal', and its an extremely internalised way of thinking.
Once the deal is 'closed' the new client is then handed over to other people in the organisation such as Account Director, Account Manager, and other members of the team all held with the delivery and ongoing relationship.
Do you know who isn't interested in 'closing the deal' in the shortest possible time? Yes, its the prospect, and they still want to be sure you can deliver what you say you can, they want to know who the people are they will be working with once you've 'closed the deal'.
In eCommerce we often look at the 'buying process' as follows;
- Suspect - just looking
- Prospect - finding out more
- Tryer - first purchase
- Buyer - second purchase
- Customer - 3rd purchase
- Advocate - frequent purchaser
In marketing we spend an awful lot of of budget getting the attention of 'suspects, and prospects', and once we've got their attention we hope our eCommerce website can deliver what the vendor we bought it from said it can do.
Historically a key part of this process would be to focus on SEO, so people could find us when 'searching' and drive the traffic into our website, we would also constantly review the conversion funnel, and pat ourselves on the back that we're only losing 97% of the people who came to our website.
So lets agree that a lot of time, effort, and resource is invested in getting people to the website -fact!
But, does that kind of thinking apply to today's tech savvy, social media aware consumer?
Searching is great assuming you know what your looking for, or can't recall the name of the brand or company you want start a commercial relationship with, and once you've made me do all that heavy lifting I'm still at 'prospect' level, I haven't even hit your so called 'conversion funnel yet.
All of this process can take a few weeks, months and maybe years depending on the industry you are in, example if your selling Luxury Holidays, or Luxury Cruises its highly unlikely that someone is going to go straight to your website and part of with the best part of say £20k after a quick look around are they?.
If you're selling a comodotized low cost, volume reliant product/service and there's lots of competition, just how do you ensure you win the day over your competitor?
Everything we've just described belongs to an outdated analog way of thinking, your new customers are already operating in a 'digitally tech savvy socially connected world' things need to change, its where we were thinking, it should be about where the world is going to today.
As I've said search is great if you know what your looking for, I'm certainly not saying you shouldn't optimise your website as search is still a crucial part of the journey, but if you don't accept that journey has already changed and don't invest the same effort into providing your workforce with the right skill set to support a game changing 'Superpower' driven social media strategy and your competitor does......
Today, because of social media your potential suspects, prospects, and tryer's are already checking you out before they even hit your website, they're not interested in what you say about YOU, and your intrusive ads are just scrolling chewing gum, they're an irritation, there more interested in what other people are saying about you, and as the cliche goes ' you gotta be in the conversation, if you want to influence the conversation'.
From what we can evidence, most businesses in eCommerce and B2B are still just advertising, they're not investing in building communities, engagement, and building relationships, and they certainly don't seem to be listening.
According to recent research from Gartner and Forrester 68% of 'prospects' looking to do business in B2B land have already completed their own due diligence before any direct contact is made with a potential vendor, they are investing over 40+ hours in that process, with between 8-10 internal stakeholders involved, and you think its still down to your little black book?.
In eCommerce land the impact is even greater, so when you move your intrusive 'advertise and promote' thinking into the social media space and wonder why there's no engagement, and the funnel isn't as full as it was, its because your not thinking about how to inform, educate, entertain, and engage those potential customers.
But if your competitor (probably a bright young, yet to hear of start-up) really understands that 'social buying' is fundamentally changing how your 'suspects' and 'prospects' learn about who you are, no amount of SEO, and funnel optimisation will save the day.
Only when you know your most qualified audience will you be able to bring in the right consumers to your site via social media.