Perhaps you have a great product or service that has proven benefits for those fortunate enough to purchase from your company. However, you are not getting the marketplace traction or revenue growth you need, and competitors are grabbing what should be your market share.
The tendency in such a scenario is to demand a better product from the development team, hire more salespeople or put pressure on the existing ones to make their quota. Perhaps you roll out a new marketing campaign, drop your prices or come up with a brilliant creative theme. While none of these actions are necessarily bad, I’d like you to first answer a fundamental question: Are you making it too difficult for prospects to buy from you? Even worse, are you negatively impacting future revenue growth?
Before you answer, make sure you’re asking the right people (customers and prospects) and not those who have created the sales and buying process. What appears seamless to the product engineer or MBA may not be so easy to the potential buyer. Please test the entire purchase process before imposing it on would-be customers.
If you are not found, you are not selected. The reason the most visible company wins is not necessarily because it’s better but because it is discovered. Sometimes, it really is that simple. Do your content marketing and SEO homework to make sure you are highly visible in your chosen marketplace.
Barrier 2: Poor Branding
An effective branding strategy is the first pillar of revenue growth. Your brand must communicate exactly what you do and how it benefits the potential purchaser. And you only have a few seconds to accomplish this. Poor branding causes confusion, and confusion is a huge barrier to the buyer’s journey.
B2B and B2C buyers share one common behavior pattern: They like to conduct online research before engaging with a salesperson. Your job as a barrier-removing marketer is to provide whatever the prospect needs to keep them moving along the purchase path.
In the early stage of the buyer journey, you need to offer educational content, which, according to research, makes consumers 131% more likely to buy. At later stages, provide whatever information is required to validate the decision and complete the transaction (i.e., pricing, terms, warranty, product usage, etc.). All information should be presented in a consumable format without unnecessary burden, like forms to fill out. The last thing you want is for a potential buyer to have to either call your company to find an answer that should have been available online or, worse, search online and stumble upon your competitor.
Barrier 4: Too Much Information
One of the best pieces of sales advice is to not sell past the close. Or, to put it less politely, once you have made the sale, shut up! Keep the point of the promotion on driving toward a purchase decision and do not throw so much information at the prospect that he or she gets too distracted to purchase.
Barrier 5: Too Many Options
Just as with information, sellers believe that more options are better. However, more options can lead to indecision both before the sale (which option should I choose?) and after the sale (did I make the right choice?). This choice overload is illustrated in this Kissmetrics article, which reveals consumer behavior around samples of exotic jams. For the research, the number of samples varied between either six or 24 flavors presented. The study showed that by quadrupling the number of jam flavors available for sample, sales dropped by over 50%.
Our experience on the B2B side has shown that when offering a cloud-based software solution, the ideal number of purchase options is three. Every additional choice will decrease sales. Incidentally, when we offer three choices, over half of purchasers choose the mid-priced option.
Barrier 6: Complexity
Do not over-engineer the process. Annette Franz, of CX-Journey, is quoted as saying, “There’s a maxim that states: A confused customer buys nothing. Unfortunately, companies confuse customers in many ways. To identify those points of confusion — and then to redesign a simpler experience — use journey mapping in conjunction with value stream mapping.”
Franz is correct: Simplicity is almost always better. We have all experienced becoming so frustrated by a process that requires unnecessary information or confusing forms that we stop our purchase midpoint. This is frustrating for the buyer and costly for the seller.
Simplicity Is Key
The common theme running through all the barriers is the need for simplicity. The simplicity mantra applies after the purchase as well as before. Have you ever purchased a product and then became so frustrated with attempting to install or use the item (e.g., electronics, software, furniture, kids’ toys, etc.) that you finally gave up and returned it for a refund? In the software industry, they used to refer to this as “shelfware” — software that was purchased but never installed. Whatever you’re selling, you want customers to not just buy but happily use your products and urge their friends and colleagues to do the same.
In the quest for simplicity, it helps to have a well-defined lead-to-revenue process because you want to measure potential revenue growth leakage points. Leakage refers to the number (or percentage) of prospects that leave the sales pipeline at each stage. For example, a leakage point can occur when a prospect clicks through to a landing page form but leaves before filling it out. Correcting even small leakage point flaws can often have a big impact on results.
I will leave you with some words you do not want potential buyers to say about your purchase process: painful, complicated, frustrating, slow, confusing. Rather, to achieve solid revenue growth, you want them to describe the process with terms like clear, easy, fun, logical, cool, painless.
Note: this article first appeared at Forbes.com January 31, 2018.