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076 - How to convert customers

How to get people to take that final step and become a customer. Every company has a marketing funnel, and in this episode David goes right to the bottom of it: the place where people already know about your business, are on your mailing list, seem interested, but still haven’t bought your product. So where’s the blockage? 

The truth is, the people who are right at the end of your funnel are probably a lot closer to becoming customers than you think. If you can identify who they are and what final steps they need to take, then reaching out with the right offer at the right time may be all that is needed to nudge them over the line.

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Episode transcript:

Hello and welcome to episode seventy-six of The Vegan Business Tribe Podcast with myself David Pannell, co-founder of Vegan Business Tribe.  And if you have a vegan business, or are thinking of starting one, then Vegan Business Tribe is here to support and inspire you not just to build a vegan business, but to build a SUCCESSFUL vegan business.
 
So what’s been going on at Vegan Business Tribe this week?  Well, we’ve just about finished our new recording room – in fact, I’m actually recording this in our new studio!  Now I’m using the word ‘studio’ quite grandiosely there for what we’ve built, but this will now give us a permanent space to record both audio and video without having to set up each time or take over our workspaces.  We just need to finish off installing the lighting this week and then – if there’s a demand – we could start recording a video version of this podcast too.  And it’s quite cosy in here actually, I’ve now got a proper desk, we’ve installed what I can only describe as foliage on the back wall behind me and we’ve got some cool coloured LED lights so we’re probably going to start using it for our social videos and seminars first, but if you WOULD like to see a video version of this podcast too then drop me an email, or if you’re a member send me a message in our Vegan Business Tribe Community Hub because I’m really interested in learning if that’s something people would like to see.
 
And as always I’ll give a shout out to our members over on veganbusinesstribe.com, because you are the people who enable us to keep putting out this podcast every week and doing all the amazing work we get to do to champion the vegan business scene across the world.  And in return, our members get access to the Vegan Business Academy, that I keep thinking we should re-name as our Veg-cademy or something (again if you have a better name let me know!) but in there you get access to our full marketing course, our ever-extending library of masterclasses by vegan experts to help you grow your business, lots of interviews with successful vegan business owners, a whole resource around crowdfunding and a whole lot more.  We’re really going to be putting a lot of focus into building up even more member-only content in the academy this year.  But as well as all that, members also get full access to our events and our community.  We know how isolating it can be running a vegan business, especially if it’s a business of just one, so we have so many online events you can join to meet other vegan business owners and get support – from our business clinics through to Lisa’s make It Happen workshops and not forgetting our Community Hub where you can ask questions and get in touch with myself and Lisa.
 
So if you feel that you need a bit more support to make your vegan business a success, or if you just want to support that work that we do with Vegan Business Tribe to skill-up the vegan sector, then once we’ve finished today do go check out the website at Veganbusinesstribe.com and click on the big join button on the homepage to find out more.
 
Now, what we’re talking about today is something that I’m very passionate about, because if you’re a long term listener you will know that my background is largely in marketing, in fact for many years I had an ambassador role with The Chartered Institute of Marketing, and one of the things that separate out true marketers is that they are actually focused on the sale.  A lot of people who do marketing don’t want to take accountability for the result of that marketing activity – and I get that.  A great marketing campaign might not work because the product is wrong, or because the company’s salespeople aren’t very good at following up so a lot of time we ‘silo’ ourselves.  And by that I mean we define our responsibilities, we say – well, I’m doing the marketing bit, I’m making sure the emails go out on time, I’ve built up the mailing list, I’ve had the new website built, I’m doing the social media posts, so you can’t blame me that the sales aren’t coming in!  And this is the default stance of some people in marketing, they are very good at doing the ‘marketing bit’, but in terms of turning that marketing activity into enquiries and new customers, well, that’s sales’ job.
 
And if you go back twenty years, then that’s how most companies were set up: the marketing department was all about giving the sales team the tools to make the sale.  Marketing would produce the brochures, the salesperson made the sale.  Marketing would get the pens printed, sales would hand them out at trade shows.  Marketing lined them up, sales knocked them down.  And that’s the environment I started out in, sales and marketing were two separate departments that attracted completely different personalities to work in them, and to be honest, the two departments rarely got on!  Marketing would blame a lack of new customers on the sales department not following up; sales would blame marketing for generating rubbish leads.
 
But the reality is – especially these days – there isn’t the clear line between sales and marketing that there used to be.  As someone marketing a company today, you can’t just work on ‘your bit’, the bit you are comfortable with and leave the rest to either someone else or blind chance.  As a marketeer (and you might not think of yourself as one yet, but I’m slowly making you into a marketeer without you realising it!) but as a marketeer, you need to take responsibility for the whole sale process – from someone first finding out about your company to them giving you their money.  Even if someone else in your business is taking the actual sale, you need to make sure you have a process for leading people over that final line.
 
This whole process is known as a marketing funnel, and if you want to know more about how to create your own marketing funnel then go right back and listen to episode 27 of this podcast where I go into a lot of detail of what a marketing funnel is and how it works.  And I mean a lot of detail, it’s like a double-length episode!  But just as a quick recap, every company has a marketing funnel (even if you don’t know it’s there) and there are three main parts to it.  Right at the top of the funnel, so the wide end if you think of an actual funnel, right at the top are all the people who are AWARE of your company.  Some of these will go on to become customers, but no-one goes from just being aware of your company to becoming a customer in one leap.  For example, few people will go from seeing a Facebook ad for your company to then signing up as a customer straight away. It just doesn’t really happen.  They need to go through a phase of becoming familiar with your company and product and building up some trust with you first, which is why the second part of your marketing funnel is all the people who are doing just that in the EVALUATION stage.  These are the people who know your company, are potentially on the journey to becoming a customer, but something needs to happen first.  They have the need but they haven’t been convinced yet that your product is the solution to their problem.  Or they just don’t know you well enough yet, or they might be still considering all the options including your competitors.
 
It’s only once people have been through these two AWARENESS and EVALUATION phases that they can then get to the final third stage of your marketing funnel, which is to make a PURCHASE, to become a customer.  But the thing is, people don’t tend to just go through these three stages of their customer journey on their own, they need leading.  This is why you need to have a strategy to first make people aware of your company, and once you know that someone is aware, you need to have a strategy to help that person to start evaluating you.  And once they have started to form an opinion on your company, product or service, you need a separate strategy to then prompt them to become a customer or make a purchase.
 
And if you want more help on this, then I mentioned our Academy, or Veg-cademy, section on the Vegan Business Tribe website, and in our marketing course, we cover marketing funnels in a lot of detail.  We’ve even got templates of example strategies you might use to move people through each stage of your marketing funnel.  And it’s not as difficult or time-intensive as you think, because a lot of these things can be automated or set-up once and left to run.  So if you’re wanting to really sit down and map out your marketing funnel to find out where your customers are getting stuck, I would recommend putting some time aside to go through that section of the marketing course especially.
 
But today we’re focusing on that very last stage: converting people to become a customer when they are already in your funnel because, unfortunately, it rarely happens on its own!  How many times have you seen a company, have a real need for a product or service, but never actually end up buying it?  I guarantee that you do this all the time.  So how do you take those people who already know about your company, are already on your mailing list and following you on social media – how do we get those people to take the final step and become a paying customer?
 
Well, I’m going to assume that you are already doing all those things we just mentioned because they play a big part.  I’m going to assume that you are already building an audience for your company, that you already have people following your social media, or that you are already sending out regular email marketing with content that aims to make these potential customers know, like and trust you.  Because if you are not, then you are not actively leading someone through that evaluation phase that we just talked about.  You are hoping they will come to their own positive conclusion about your company and just become a customer which, inevitably, they won’t.
 
If your product solves a problem, you need to convince the people who have that problem that your product is the answer.  If you know that one of the big objections that your customers have is price, then you need to convince your potential customers that the price you charge is actually really good value for solving the problem that they have.  The messages and content that you put out to your potential customers needs to actively move them along your funnel and answer their questions.  And the only way that you can do this is to really understand your customers and (not just) what makes them buy, but what stops them as well.  And, I know, I talk about this a lot – it might seem like I answer every question by saying you need to talk to your customers more, but it’s true.  You need to make your customers your best friends and learn everything about them, because they genuinely have all the answers – especially about how to convert more customers.
 
So the first thing you need to do is look at the marketing messages and the content that you are putting out to the people who are already aware of you.  Is it just ‘noise’, or does it have a defined purpose?  Is it making them more familiar with you or your brand?  Is it making them like you?  Is it making them TRUST you?  Is it demonstrating how your company or product is going to solve their problem – and of course, you KNOW what their unique problem is because you have spent time really getting to know your customers – you’ve made them your best friends and know them inside out!  Is your marketing activity getting the people who are already in your funnel ready to take the next step?  And this is so important, because the sale is the conclusion of all this activity, it’s the last step you need someone to take and most of the time you have to put your hand out and help them over the line.  And they will only do that if they trust you enough at the point you reach out to actually take your hand.
 
Usually, when a potential customer says ‘no’ to buying your product, what they are really saying is ‘not yet’.  You haven’t convinced them yet; they have a specific question that hasn’t been answered; something else needs to happen that hasn’t happened yet.  Now, the longer you have your business – as long as you are engaging your customers and really getting to know them – then you will start to learn the different steps they took to becoming a customer.  At Vegan Business Tribe, Lisa and I have mapped out a typical person’s journey to signing up with us as a member – we’ve got it all on a flip chart from you first finding out about us to you signing up as a paid member of our community.  And on that journey, there are certain steps that you will have had to take, certain gates that you will have had to pass through before you sign up with us.  So all our marketing is focused on helping direct people through those gates.
 
It’s no coincidence that a lot of our new members mention they have been podcast listeners for a few months before joining us, because building up a sense of familiarity and trust is one of the first gates we need to lead you through on your journey to joining our community.  It’s one of the reasons we have the podcast, it’s like a try before you buy, it gives me the opportunity to live inside your head for a few months to get you all fired up about your business so that when you do take the next step you’re already raring to go! 
 
Each of your customers will have gone through a similar process, so it’s really important that you map out what ‘gates’ your own customers have to go through on their journey to becoming your customer, so that you can lead them to them.
 
And these will be completely unique to your business.  So if you offer a service then it might be that customers need to have sampled you and got to know you first, such as attended a live online event or had a chat with you 121 to answer some really specific questions.  If you sell a physical product, one of the gates the customer has to go through might be reading or watching reviews from other people who had the same problem, showing that your product solved that problem for them.  Your customers will have very specific questions that they need the answer to before they buy and you need to find out what they are – which is why I always say you should go take a stall at your local vegan market to find out what questions people ask when they are stood there in front of you evaluating your product. Because once you know what questions need answering and what gates or decision points your customers need to be led through, then you can change your marketing to the people in this last phase of their journey to lead them along that journey quicker.
 
And how do you know who those people are? How do you know who the people are who are in the last part of your marketing funnel, the people who are actively considering becoming your customer but haven’t yet?  Well, that’s why you should be using platforms like MailChimp to send out your email marketing, because they let you rank people on your mailing list by how much they interact with the emails you send them.  If you send out an email to your list with a link for people to find out more about a specific product or service, then if someone clicks on that link there’s a fair chance that they are thinking about buying.  So it’s really important that you have ways for people to self-identify that they are considering becoming a customer.  That might be by being a bit sneaky and watching who clicks on which links in your email marketing, then sending them a personalised follow-on directly relating to what they clicked on.  Or it might be linking your social media advertising to your website, so if someone goes to a certain page on your site – like a certain product page – but don’t actually continue on to buy that product, then they start to see a tailored advert which you have created knowing that you are talking to someone who is already evaluating your product.  And all this kind of stuff can be automated – either by yourself with a little bit of watching some tutorials on YouTube, or by someone who knows the systems and can set them up for you.
 
Identifying those people who are actively considering your product or service and bringing them into a different buying environment so that you can convert them into customers is really important.  And it doesn’t have to be through sneaky tech ways, you can simply let people self-identify as being interested.  For example, once you’ve built up a good mailing list or a social following and you can see you’ve got a deal of interaction, then invite people to a live event or seminar.  Use Calendly or Eventbrite for people to book on so that you get everyone’s details, and use something like Zoom to hold a 30-minute talk on a specific topic.  Anyone who books onto your event or talk, even if they don’t actually turn up, is self-declaring themselves to you as a potential customer, they are already in their evaluation stage and only a step or two away from becoming a customer – as long as they get the right answers to the questions they have.  End the event with an offer, or even run a short Q&A and if no-one turns up to the first one, then just hail it as a great success to your mailing list, use some clips you recorded to show how good it was and set the date for the second!  From experience, sometimes people need to see a few events go by and hear how great they were before they book on themselves.
 
But, the whole reason that we’re looking to single-out the people who are right at the point where they are considering your company or product is so that we can help them across the line.  And a lot of time, it’s only the smallest of nudges that someone needs to cross that line and become a customer.  How often have you received a special offer for a product that you were already thinking about purchasing and it tipped you over into buying it?  Have you ever received an offer to chat from a company you were already considering talking to, and that reach-out was the final thing you needed to engage with them?  Or have you ever seen a special offer that ends in a few days for a service you were thinking about signing-up for – and you signed-up so that you didn’t miss out on the deal?  These things don’t happen by accident.  It wasn’t that the company just happened to have a special offer on at the moment you were considering buying their product, it wasn’t that the business just happened to get in touch at the time you were thinking about getting in touch with them.  They had already identified that you were evaluating their product or service and used a specific tool to bring you over the line.
 
And you should develop these tools too, but the important part is that the customer already has to already be actively evaluating you for these tools to work.  You can offer everyone a 10% discount if they buy your product, or a first month free or an invite to book a ‘discovery call’ – just have the offer sat there on your website – and no-one will take it up.  If instead you offer it, exclusively, just to someone who you know is already seriously considering your product or business, then it can be the tool that just tips them over the line.
 
At some point, you need to ask for the sale.  You need to bring that customer journey to its destination.  And traditionally, that’s what we had a sales team for, those hard-nosed salespeople who can ask the awkward question that most people are not comfortable asking – but it doesn’t need to feel like you are closing a sale when asking someone to become a customer!  You are not selling second-hand cars!  You are solving people’s problems and if you have a vegan business then you are also moving the vegan cause forwards at the same time.  So asking for the sale these days might be running a promotion with a short window for people to claim the offer – tag the offer onto the end of your event, so if people sign-up in the next 24 hours after coming to your talk they will get your service for half price for the first month as a thank you.  Or it might be an invitation for someone to chat one-on-one with you once you have identified they are considering you, so that you can answer their very specific questions.  No matter how good your marketing has been at getting someone onto your mailing list, at getting someone to go through your sales funnel, if you don’t have that mechanism to prompt people to take the final step at the end of it – then it’s all for nothing.  And it might take some time to work out what that tool is, what you need to say to get people over the line.  You might need to run ten events before you work out the format or the follow-up offer that works.  Or it might be that you are selling something where people have a really long decision-making process.  I’ve had businesses where we knew the buying journey of a new customer was at least a year because of the amount of money they were spending, and our sales and marketing system took that into account, with that customer coming to multiple events over a year before they signed up.  I’ve also had businesses where the evaluation phase might have only lasted a couple of days and an automated offer to people who downloaded a specific PDF from our website resulted in an instant sale.
 
In your business, you will have so many ‘almost customers’, the people who would have been customers if only you’d been able to engage with them to answer a simple question or to give them the right offer just at the time they were evaluating you. So make this your mission to work out what’s needed to take your customer over the line, and don’t stop until you do.
 
OK, so let’s wrap up as we always like to do with a quick bullet-point round-up of what we’ve just covered on how to convert customers, how to get them to take that final step:
 
  1. A lot of people who do marketing don’t want to take accountability for the result of that marketing activity.  Historically, marketing did marketing and sales did sales and one would always blame the other for lack of new customers.  But as a marketeer or business owner, you need to take responsibility for the whole sale process – from someone first finding out about your company to them giving you their money.
  2. Every company has a marketing funnel, and if you want to know more about marketing funnels go check out episode 27 where I covered them in a lot of detail. Your marketing funnel has three sections: awareness, evaluation and then purchase, and your job is to lead people through each of those stages before they become a customer.
  3. Take a look at the marketing activity you are doing at the moment.  Is it just ‘noise’ or does it have a defined purpose?  Is it getting the people who are already in your funnel ready to take the next step?  Because most of the time you have to put your hand out and help potential customers over that final line.  And they will only cross that line if they trust you enough at the point you reach out to actually take your hand.
  4. Learn the different steps your customers take to become a customer.  Map out their customer journey so that you can understand what ‘gates’ they have to go through, what actions they have to take, meaning that your marketing can lead them to those gates quicker.
  5. Your customers will have very specific questions that they need the answer to before they buy.  You find out what those questions are by – you guessed it – asking them.  Make your customers your best friends and let them teach you how to convert them.
  6. Have strategies in place to allow you to identify which people are actively evaluating your product or service.  Use your MailChimp data to see who’s clicking on what links, or put on events that will allow people to self-declare they are interested in your product. Then bring these potential customers into a different buying environment.
  7. A lot of time, it’s only the smallest of nudges that someone needs to cross that line and become a customer. Is it an invite to chat one-on-one to answer their questions, or is it a money-off deal that expires in 24 hours? But remember these offers only work once someone is already in touching distance of becoming a customer – which is why it’s no coincidence when you receive an offer yourself from a company that you were just thinking of buying from!
  8. And then finally, test and test again.  Every business is different and your business’s customers will have a unique buying timeline that you need to understand.  So make it your mission to work out what’s needed to take your customer first up to the line, and then over it – and don’t stop until you do.
 
And that is it!  And again, if you really like this kind of in-depth marketing stuff, then do go check out the marketing course in the Academy section of the website.  It will walk you through every part of creating a marketing strategy for your business, from working out what your marketing messages are to things like creating marketing funnels that you might not have even known were a thing until today.
 
And if you do want to go beyond the podcast and come and meet myself and Lisa and the rest of the members at Vegan Business Tribe, then just click the join button on the homepage that will tell you everything about signing up with us as a member.  And if you do have a question that is holding you back or you are not sure about, then check out the FAQ or just use the ask a question form on the joining page. Or even just drop Lisa and I an email and if you have a vegan business, then we’re here to help you and support you!  Just go check out veganbusinesstribe.com
 
Just one final thing before I let you go.  If you’ve found today’s episode useful, then can I ask you to do two things.  First, could I ask you to make sure you’re subscribed, or if you’re listening on iTunes especially if you can leave us a five-star review.  Just a few words really helps us to get even more listeners. And second, if you are able to then I would be forever in your debt if you shared the podcast with your own network.  So maybe you are in your own vegan group on LinkedIn or on WhatsApp, if you can make sure they know about us then you are helping us get our message out to even more vegan business owners – or potential vegan business owners.
 
So thank you so much for your time today, Lisa and I we really appreciate you giving up your time to listen, I’m off to go finish playing around with my lights in our new studio and if you think you’d watch a video version of this podcast then do let me know, because we are slowly coming towards episode 100 and it would be interesting to know if people would watch a video version too – and I will see you on the next one!
 

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