There are three primary objectives of a marketing campaign:
- Find qualified prospects (potential buyers).
- Create desire within these prospects to purchase your product or service.
- Remove all barriers to the purchase process.
Many B2B and B2C companies do a good job at the first two objectives. They know where to find prospects, or better yet, they help prospects find them, which is the essence of effective inbound (pull) marketing. They also know how to write clever promotional copy and create compelling offers. But no matter how well you do at the first two tasks, unless you remove every barrier to the purchase process, you will not achieve your potential.
Barriers to purchase fall into four primary categories: time, process, people and risk.
Time – Assume that your prospects are busy, have short attention spans, and that you will get only one shot at their business. If your business is web-based, what is the time it takes someone to go through the education and purchase process? If your business if phone-based, how long does it take you to get back to the prospect? I have related on other posts how I have given business to one company over another simply on the basis of the speed at which the winning company responded to my query. Whether you sell online, by phone or in person, your bottom line will benefit from shortening the time it takes your prospects to go through the entire transaction cycle.
Process – I once worked as a marketing manager in the business process management (BPM) space, even earning a BPM practitioner certificate from AIIM. One of most important lessons I learned was that typically, the more non-critical steps you can remove from a workflow process, the faster and more efficient the operation becomes. The lesson is to study and experience the buying steps and then minimize the total amount of time and effort required. Also eliminate barriers like broken forms or pages that either won’t load or fail to render properly on mobile devices.
People – How many times have you wanted to buy something, but needed some clarification before making the final decision? Perhaps something on the website wasn’t clear or you needed to verify that the product was compatible with something you already own. When you send an online query, or ask to speak to someone, the company can lose your business in four ways:
- You get no response.
- You get a response, but it takes so long that you no longer care (or have bought elsewhere).
- You get a response, but it doesn’t answer your question (e.g. it’s canned or off-target).
- You get a response, but the company’s rep turns you off because he or she is rude, unprofessional or otherwise seem like they could care less whether you purchase.
Risk – Buyers go through a mental checklist that goes something like the following:
- Will this product or service fill my needs or solve my problem?
- Is this my best option of all those available?
- What are the risks of making this decision?
Avoiding risk is a key factor in the purchase decision, and anything you can do to mitigate risk will be rewarded with more and faster sales. Don’t make the prospect search for the terms that will make him or her feel comfortable – make them clear and easy to find. Your competitors are probably doing this, so don’t lose profitable sales due to your failure to address the risk issue.
You might want to get some outside opinions when you set out to remove purchase obstacles. Just as a software developer thinks his/her computer program is intuitive and easy-to-use (despite user claims to the contrary), so, too, does the marketing and sales team often think they have created a seamless buying process. In the final analysis, the only opinions that really count are of those of your potential customers.