Increase Conversions and Shorten Your Sales Cycle (Part II)

by , Dec 22, 2004, 12:00 AM
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Last week, we discussed the most common sequence of customer interactions new customers encounter as they move from awareness of its offerings through to selection and the path they travel down that can lead your company to improved conversions. So, how do you gain touchpoint path intelligence and turn it into improved conversions? Let's look at an example of a hypothetical technology company that sells software solutions.

To uncover the touchpoint paths, qualitative interviews are held with recently acquired customers. The purpose of the interview is to mine historical data of the sequence of points the customer encounters as they progress through their stages from awareness of the organization and its software, through to selection.

Once the data has been collected, it can be analyzed, including development of probability models. For instance, when a prospect leaves a specific section of the organization's Web site, which point is most likely to be encountered next? When a prospect receives a proposal, which point is most likely to come next? Which point typically precedes the request for a proposal?

This organization offers multiple lines of software solutions. Valuable information includes where, and for what, a new customer is most likely to spend their next dollar with this firm.

Taking it further, path analysis surfaces that 72 percent of the software company's new customers travel one of three primary paths. The path that most new customers take starts with the firm's booth at an industry conference. The second most popular path is initiated with an unsolicited sales call, and the third most popular path starts with a visit to the firm's Web site, which is followed by an inquiry call.

How might this information benefit this organization? In surfacing the three principal methods that generate prospects that select this organization's software, the firm can focus its prospecting efforts on the strategies that are truly succeeding in generating customers.

Additionally, this firm can use the data to optimize its performance. Optimization can take the form of modifying current points to motivate movement to a subsequent point along the path, eliminating redundant or unneeded points, or developing and deploying new points to address identified gaps. Once optimized, the results are customer-friendly and offer a smoother and often quicker path for customers to travel to the important point of selection, thus increasing sales.

For instance, one of the paths uncovers that quite a few prospects visit the Web site after a demo. Is something not being covered during the demonstration that makes prospects turn to the Web site following the demo? Is there is an opportunity to optimize the demonstration, eliminating the need for additional points that slow this organization's sales process? Why are cold calls generating more customers than the Web site? Search engine optimization efforts may need to be improved. Additionally, the Web site can be optimized to better encourage visitors to contact the firm, increasing the number of prospects who travel this path.

Analyzing this data typically uncovers opportunities to shorten the sales cycle. For example, prospects that are introduced to the software firm at the convention aren't given a demo until several weeks later. Perhaps it would make sense to offer demonstrations at the conference in an effort to shorten the sales cycle.

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