Internet Marketing: CRM, Marketing Tactics and IT Alignment

Internet marketing and sales strategyInternet marketing continues to evolve, becoming both more viable and more complex. Customer relationship management software (CRM) has become a must due to the complexity. It plays an important role at all stages of the sales funnel. With a solid CRM system in place, your Internet sales and marketing teams can more effectively manage contacts whether they’re in the engage, convert, or nurture stage. Where the sales funnel was once the realm of the sales and marketing team, today’s Internet marketing strategies require a robust CRM solution – and IT involvement.

To add to the complexity of CRM and the Internet sales funnel in general, social media has emerged as a major channel for customer service, tech support, sales, and marketing alike. Integrating social media into your Internet marketing CRM program allows everyone to see the larger picture. For example, is a contact complaining about your service? Is she raving about your products? Has a contact expressed a need that your company can fill? By tapping into these channels, your sales, marketing, customer service, and tech support teams can respond appropriately.

Opinions vary on the best approach to CRM with some Internet marketing experts favoring a single, shared database for both marketing and sales and others preferring separate databases to ensure that leads are managed properly according to where they are in the Internet sales funnel. Other experts advocate using marketing automation software to first clean up the sales funnel data before importing it into CRM software.

Can a single CRM solution handle everything your Internet sales and marketing teams need? The answer varies from company to company. In most cases, sales and marketing need to work with the same data and contacts; however, they tend to interact with that data differently.

Integrated CRM solutions that include marketing automation and email marketing software may be the optimal choice by allowing sales and marketing to access shared data without duplication or conflicts. For example, with an integrated Internet marketing CRM platform, when an email subscriber unsubscribes from an email marketing campaign the contact will be removed from the mailing list and relevant information appended to the contact’s record.

No matter which option makes the most sense for your Internet marketing strategy, one thing is clear: you need IT support. With multiple databases, automation software, and lead sources (such as cold calling, opt-in lists, special events, and social media channels), managing the sales funnel requires software and systems that perform to their fullest potential.

While many Internet marketing platforms are offered as “software as a service” and imply that minimal IT intervention will be required, aligning marketing with IT is essential. While installation, updates, and support tasks may be minimal with cloud-based Internet sales solutions, IT should be involved in selecting the solution to make sure it is compatible with existing systems along with the company’s security and privacy policies. If your CRM solution includes social media information from contacts based in European Union countries, stricter privacy regulations may apply.

By including IT in the Internet sales and CRM conversation, you’ll benefit from a broader perspective that extends beyond the sales funnel and better aligns with the organization’s objectives. In addition, IT professionals tend to have more experience in purchasing software. Thus, they may be better equipped to evaluate the terms and conditions and negotiate the contract.

No matter which CRM solution you use to nurture prospects through the sales funnel, stronger Internet sales require alignment between your Internet marketing, sales, and IT teams.

Website Optimization’s Effect on Offline Marketing Strategies

Website optimization or SEO drives slae sleads to your WebsiteThe importance of website optimization can’t be stressed enough. After all, the website is the heart of eCommerce and it’s where online conversion takes place. In recent years, website optimization has become more sophisticated. Not only is website optimization important online, it can extend offline as well.

According to Marketing Sherpa’s 2012 Website Optimization Benchmark Report, the most important website optimization goals include the following:

  • To increase overall conversion (83%)
  • To learn about consumer behaviors and motivations (64%)
  • To discover the most important wordings and phrases (62%)
  • To determine the most effective page elements (62%)
  • To find leaks in the sales funnel (58%)
  • To build brand awareness (53%)

Over 80 percent of the survey’s respondents agreed that increasing overall conversion was “very important” while 64 percent felt the same about learning about consumer behaviors and motivations. A good website optimization campaign can drive traffic, improve conversions, and provide you with detailed insights about your customers and their behaviors.

All of this learning from website optimization is largely being shared. The report revealed that 70 percent of the surveyed marketers use the lessons they’ve learned from their website optimization efforts to adjust their offline marketing campaigns and other forms of messaging.

With website optimization, marketers have a unique platform that they can use to test messages and responses. As marketers learn more about what works and what doesn’t work through the optimization process, they have the opportunity to use that knowledge in offline marketing.

Based on the Marketing Sherpa’s report, the majority of marketers do so. But what about the other 30 percent? What’s holding them back? It turns out that where a marketer is in the optimization process has an influence on whether or not those online findings will be extended to the offline world. The report revealed that those in the more advanced stages are 57 percent more likely to do so.

No matter where you are in the website optimization process, you may be able to apply what you’ve learned to other areas. For example, if you’ve split tested a landing page and found that your target audience responded favorably to a specific call to action, wouldn’t it make sense to use a similar approach in a print newsletter or some other offline campaign?

Likewise, your analytical tools may reveal interesting trends and insights into your audience. In fact, you may come to learn that your products and services appeal to a completely different demographic than you initially envisioned. What will you do with that information? While tweaking your website and online marketing campaigns to leverage those findings is the obvious choice, have you considered how you might use this information offline?

What if the team that handles inbound marketing isn’t involved in offline marketing? This could be a mistake. This doesn’t mean having your Web marketing team take over offline marketing, but it does suggest that sharing information could be beneficial to your broader marketing strategy.

Website optimization is a complex, constantly evolving process. As you fine-tune your website, test pages, analyze results, and learn more about how your customers and prospects interact with it, it’s smart to get the most mileage out of your efforts as possible. The next time you learn something new about your customers through the website optimization process, consider walking across the hall and sharing your insights with your offline colleagues.

The Convert Phase of the Video-to-Lead Funnel: A Detailed Look

Continuing our discussion about the three phases of the video-to-lead funnel, let’s explore the second phase: convert. As you know, prospects move through the video-to-lead funnel from the top at the “engage” phase, move down through the “convert” phase, and finally enter the “nurture” phase.

Once you’ve engaged your prospects with videos that help solve your prospects’ problems, present tips and best practices, expand upon an event, or otherwise engage your prospects and build trust, the next step is to convert them from casual visitors with a passing interest into legitimate leads with a genuine interest in your offer.

The convert phase provides you with the perfect opportunity to showcase your company, product, or service as well as prove that you can deliver upon your promise. Videos well suited for this phase of the video-to-lead funnel fall into the following three general categories: overviews, demonstrations, and testimonials.

Video Overviews

Video overviews are short Web videos that show case your company, product, or service. Remember, your prospects have already been engaged by viewing earlier videos. At this point, you may have solved a problem, shared interesting ideas, or interviewed a key leader; in short, you’ve earned a degree of trust with your visitors. They’re now much more open to learning more about you and your offerings. A video overview showcasing your company, such as a company tour, or your products and services typically increase prospects’ time on a website by four times over baseline. Not only that, your customer is now much more informed when entering the sales cycle.

Video Demonstrations

Engaged prospects may actively seek additional information as they begin forming their buying decisions. For example, if you’ve discussed a problem in a Web video and mentioned that your product was designed as a solution to this problem, an engaged prospect may look for a demonstration video to see the product in action. Demonstration videos educate and inform prospects about the product or service, reinforce benefits, and serve as proof of concept. Sure, you can say that your widget sets up in less than 10 seconds, but the real proof is in actually seeing the widget being set up – in less than 10 seconds as promised. Web video can do that. These video demos also position you as an expert who understands the challenges and problems prospects face, and they show that you have the best solution.

Video Testimonials

Video testimonials are particularly powerful. Again, you say how wonderful your product is all day long but your word isn’t nearly as trustworthy as that of a prospect’s peers. Video testimonials show proof that your product or service has served others extremely well. For example, which of the following is more credible: “Our widget will save you $1000 per year in utility bills” or “This widget paid for itself in the first month and saved me over $1000 last year on my electric bills”? Video testimonials serve as an accelerated, and effective, form of word-of-mouth advertising.

The video-to-lead funnel’s convert phase is an important phase where you can build upon the trust you’ve already earned with your prospects.

Converting Site Visitors to Customers with Web Video

You’ve spent countless hours and large sums of money developing pay per click campaigns, press releases, and other strategies to attract visitors to your website. Now what? Shouldn’t the sales start rushing in? They should, but if your site lacks compelling content, calls to action, and a reason to buy, they won’t. Many strategies exist to convert prospects into customers. One such strategy involves using Web videos.

When a prospect visits your site, he may or may not intend to make a purchase. With a solid website strategy in place, you can gently guide the visitor through the decision making process. Web video can play an important role. Let’s take a look at the site visitor’s perspective before exploring how Web videos can enhance the process.

Most visitors arrive after entering a phrase into a search engine. For example, a visitor might enter the phrase “low cost widgets” and land on a page of your site that has been optimized for the same term. Alternately, your pay per click ad for low cost widgets may show up, prompting the user to visit your website. Does he find anything on that page that convinces him that your company is the best source of low cost widgets? What makes your widgets better than other widgets in the same price range? What makes your company the company of choice? Why should the visitor act now?

If the visitor’s attention is not captured quickly, if there’s nothing on your page that distinguishes your products from your competitors’ products, or if there’s no reason to act, the visitor will move on to the next site listed in the search engine results. Don’t let this happen. Instead, help your visitors by providing well written information and professionally produced Web videos.

First, consider where site visitors will land when your targeted keywords have found a prospect. This page is called a landing page. Because it is the first page that the visitor lands on, don’t assume that he has read your Home or About Us pages. This landing page is your first, and possibly only, chance to make a good impression. Since the landing page is related to a specific keyword phrase, in this case “low cost widgets,” the content needs to be relevant to that topic. In this example, you’ll be competing on price, but that doesn’t mean you need to focus only on that aspect. Yes, highlight that your widgets are affordable, but add value whenever possible. Think about what makes your widgets better than comparably priced widgets. The warranty? The quality? The free technical support and training? Make sure to discuss value in the text.

Now, let’s add Web video to the mix. A short video showing how easy your widgets are to assemble could be a terrific selling point. If your competitor’s widgets have complicated instructions and take three hours to assemble and yours snap together in three easy steps in under five minutes, use Web video to illustrate the difference. You could also use video tutorials, video testimonials, or even a video spokesperson.

In fact, video spokespeople are a terrific strategy. These video overlays can direct visitors to pages with additional information, provide details, demonstrate products, and put your visitors at ease. Suddenly, your website promoting low cost widgets isn’t one of many; it’s unique and professional.

The prospect is impressed. Will he click the “buy now” button or will he click the “back” button to continue his search? Don’t leave it to chance – include a call to action. Ask the customer to do something such as:

  • “Take advantage of our special discount and save $X by buying today”
  • “Add this product to your wish list”
  • “Sign up for our free newsletter”

Ideally, after reading your content and viewing your Web video, the prospect will be ready to buy. If not, adding the product to a wish list or signing up for a newsletter makes it more likely that you’ll get a second chance. Use Web video as a key component of your site’s conversion strategy.

Enhance the Internet Sales Conversion Process with a Virtual Spokesperson

Have you encountered a virtual spokesperson on a website yet? If you have, then you know that virtual spokespeople add a new, dynamic element to static Web pages. A video overlay of a real person walking onto the screen and speaking directly to site visitors helps personalize websites. However, there’s more involved than a friendly face; a virtual spokesperson can translate into increased conversions.

No matter what your website’s goals may be, using a virtual spokes model strategically can ensure that those goals are met. For example, do you have a landing page on your site designed to collect opt-in email addresses? While “click here” links and peel away banners entice users to click their way to the landing page, a virtual spokesperson can gently guide the visitor to the desired page. As the virtual spokesperson directs attention to the pages that you’d like the user to visit, she can also explain the benefits of doing so as well as thank the user for taking the desired action after the fact.

One of the most profound effects that virtual spokespeople have on site visitors is that of credibility. Because the spokes model looks, sounds, and acts like someone the visitor relates to, trust is built. Who do consumers buy from? People that they trust. Well written website content, a professional website design, and a real, albeit virtual, spokesperson work together to build trust.

This doesn’t mean that you should simply dress an actor in a lab coat and tell him his name is Dr. Smith. It means that you need to select a spokesperson who can build trust with your audience. Wardrobe choice is important, but it’s not the only priority. For example, if your site sells healthy living books, a number of spokes model characters could be effective such as a motherly type, yoga instructor, or athlete. Consider who your audience is and what type of role models resonate the best with site visitors. From there, select a virtual spokesperson with the qualities that your audience respects.

So, you have a professional website with a credible virtual spokesperson welcoming and guiding your site’s visitors. While you’ve been able to direct visitors to specific areas of the site and build trust along the way, nothing happens until the visitor takes action. If you’ve been involved in traditional sales, you know that the simple act of asking for the sale is one of the most powerful tools in your sales toolbox. Phrases such as “Would you like to place an order?” and “Can I schedule overnight delivery or standard delivery for you?” prompt users to make a decision. A virtual spokesperson can improve the sales conversion rate of your website simply by asking visitors for the sale.

Though some companies will suggest that incorporating a virtual spokesperson into your website is easy and inexpensive, the process is more complicated than cutting and pasting a few lines of code into an HTML editor. Among the many steps are: selecting the right actor or actress for your site, writing a script (or several scripts if the virtual spokesperson will be used extensively), choosing the wardrobe, shooting and editing the video, and overlaying the final composition over your site. Look for a video production company with an understanding of the nuances of Internet marketing as well as high production values.

Virtual spokespeople enhance the sales conversion process by building trust, guiding visitors, and asking for the sale. What have your virtual spokesperson experiences been like so far? Have you made a purchase decision based on a virtual spokesperson’s recommendation? Has your site seen improved conversions since adding a virtual spokes model? We’d love to hear from consumers as well as website owners.