How to convert customers
People can know about your business, be on your mailing list and genuinely seem interested, but still haven’t become a customer. So where’s the blockage? If you can identify the people who are right at the end of your funnel then reaching out with the right offer at the right time may be all that is needed to nudge them over the line.
You can also hear this article as a podcast
Go back twenty years and most companies had separate marketing and sales departments. The marketing department’s job was to give the sales team the tools to make the sale. Marketing would produce the brochures, Sales made the sale. Marketing got the pens printed, Sales handed them out at trade shows. Marketing lined them up, Sales knocked them down. And Marketing would blame a lack of new customers on Sales not following up, Sales would blame Marketing for generating rubbish leads.
Now there isn’t the clear line between sales and marketing that there used to be. Technology has taken over the role of a salesperson in many situations and customers are comfortable completing the sale themselves, meaning that marketeers 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 still taking the actual sale, you need to make sure you have a process for leading people up to and over that final line.
Understanding your marketing funnel
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 see here). 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 are all the people who are aware of your company but not yet customers. 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 step. For example, few people go from seeing a Facebook ad to then signing up as a customer straight away. They need to go through a phase of becoming familiar with your company and product and need to build trust with you first. This is why the second part of your marketing funnel contains 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 that your product is the solution to their problem. Or they don’t know you well enough yet or might still be 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 move to the final third stage of your marketing funnel, which is to make a purchase or to become a customer. However, people don’t tend to just go through these three stages of your marketing funnel 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 then 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 then need a separate strategy to prompt them to become a customer.
But today we’re focusing on that very last stage: converting people to become a customer when they are already in your funnel. And, unfortunately, it rarely happens on its own! How many times have you been interested in a product or service, perhaps even had a genuine need for it, but never actually end up taking that last step and buying it? We do it 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, to take the final step and become a paying customer?
Moving people along your funnel
Well, doing everything we’ve just mentioned above plays a big part. You will struggle to get any customers if you are not already building an audience for your company. You need to be sending out regular marketing campaigns or producing content that aims to make your potential customers know, like and trust you. Because if not, then you are not actively leading someone through that evaluation phase: you are hoping someone will come to their own positive conclusion about your company and become a customer which, inevitably, they won’t without your help.
If your product solves a problem then 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 by answering their questions. The only way that you can do this is to really understand your customers – not just what makes them buy, but what stops them buying as well. And the only way to find this out is to make your customers your best friends – because they are the ones who have all the answers.
Take a look at the marketing messages and the content that you are putting out to the people who are already aware of you (for example, those already signed up to your mailing list or following you on social). Is it just ‘noise’ or does it have a defined purpose? Is it making someone 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 – the unique problem that you know they have because you have spent time really getting to know your customers. Ask yourself if your marketing activity is getting the people already in your funnel ready to take the next step? The sale is the conclusion of all this activity, it’s the last step you need someone to take and you will likely have to put your hand out and help them over the line. But they will take your hand if they trust you enough at the point you reach out them.
Learning your customer's journey
When a potential customer says ‘no’ to buying your product, often what they are really saying is ‘not yet’. You haven’t convinced them; they have a specific question that hasn’t been answered; something else needs to happen that hasn’t happened yet and you have to find out what that thing is. Your customers will have a typical journey that they take to becoming your customer. On that journey there are specific steps someone needs to take, certain gates that they have to pass through, before they spend money with you. It’s really important that you map out what these ‘gates’ are, what steps people have to take on their journey to becoming your customer. Because once you know them, your marketing can lead potential customers to them quicker.
For example, if you offer a service then you might have noticed that customers only sign up once they have sampled you in some way first, such as they have attended one of your online events of had a 1-2-1 chat with you. In this situation, your marketing shouldn’t be trying to sell your service, it should be trying to get as many people in your funnel as possible to your live event so that they can get to know you and pass through that gate. If you sell a physical product, one of the gates the customer may have to go through is seeing a review from someone else who had the same problem that they do, showing that your product was the answer to that problem. Once you know what questions need answering and what gates or decision points your customers need to be led through, then you can change what marketing you are sending to the people in this last phase of your funnel to lead them along their customer journey quicker.
When a potential customer says ‘no’ to buying your product, often what they are really saying is ‘not yet’. Something else needs to happen that hasn’t happened yet and you need to find out what that thing is.
Identifying those who are already interested in your product or service
But how do you know who those people are? How do you know who is in the last part of your marketing funnel? How do you identify the people who are actively considering becoming your customer but haven’t yet?
This is why platforms like MailChimp let you rank people on your mailing list by how much they interact with the emails and give you lots of detail about how they interacted too. Because if you send out an email to your list and someone clicks on a link about a specific product or service, then there’s a fair chance that they are thinking about buying it. So it’s really important that your company has ways to identify people who are considering becoming a customer. That might be by being a bit sneaky and watching who clicks on which links in your email marketing so that you can send them a personalised follow-on directly relating to what they clicked. Or it might be linking your social media advertising to your website, so if someone goes to a product page but doesn’t actually buy it, then the next time they log into their social media they see a tailored advert in their feed which you have created knowing that it is being seen by someone already evaluating that product.
It is really important that you identify the people who are actively considering your product or service so that you can bring them into a different buying environment to convert them into a customer. 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 can see you’ve starting to get some interaction, invite people to a live event or seminar. Use Calendly or Eventbrite so that you get everyone’s details and use a platform like Zoom to hold a 30-minute talk on a specific topic that is related to a problem you know those people have. Anyone who books onto your talk, even if they don’t actually turn up, is self-declaring themselves to you as a potential customer. They are indicating that they are already in their evaluation stage and only a potential step or two away from becoming a customer. So end the event with a low-pressure offer or even run a short Q&A to find out what questions they need answering before they take the next step.
The whole reason you need to single-out the people who are right at the point where they are considering your company or product is so that you can help them across the line. 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 already considering signing-up for – and you signed-up so that you didn’t miss out on the deal? These were not coincidences; the company had already identified that you were evaluating their product or service and used a specific tool to bring you over the line.
Asking for the sale
And you should develop these tools too. But remember: the important part is that the customer already has to be actively evaluating your product or service for these tools to work; they already have to be in your funnel. You can offer everyone a 10% discount if they buy your product as soon as they land on your website, or have an open invite so that anyone can book a ‘discovery call’, and no-one will take it up. If instead you offer these, exclusively, just to the people who you know are already seriously considering your product or business, then it can be the tool that 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. 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.
Asking for the sale these days might be running a promotion with a short window for people to claim the offer. 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 and getting someone to go through your sales funnel, if you don’t have that final mechanism to prompt people to take the last step then it’s all been for nothing.
It might take some time to work out what that mechanism is, what you need to do 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. Vegan Fried Chicken brand VFC even launched a campaign offering it’s product completely for free to anyone who wanted it to get people to try out being a customer. In your business, you will have had 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 the specific thing is that is needed to take your customer over the line, and don’t stop until you do.
A bullet point recap of what we’ve just covered in this article:
- Historically, the marketing department did marketing and the sales department did sales. 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.
- Every company has a marketing funnel containing three sections: awareness, evaluation and then purchase. Your job is to lead people through each of those stages before they will become a customer.
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?
Learn the different steps your customers have to take to become a customer. Map out their customer journey so that you can understand what ‘gates’ they have to go through so that your marketing can lead them to those gates quicker.
Your customers will have very specific questions that they need answering before they buy, so make your customers your best friends and let them teach you how to convert them.
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. This allows you to bring these potential customers into a different buying environment.
Often 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?
- Keep testing. Every business is different and your business’s customers will have a unique buying timeline that you need to understand. Make it your mission to work out what’s needed to take your customer up to the line and then over it – and don’t stop until you do.
Sign up to our mailing list...
Weeky guides, updates and interviews
Get our latest free guides and articles, as well as access to The Vegan Business Tribe Podcast.
Get special offers and invites to events
Be the first to hear about our special offers and receive invites to our events and seminars.
Be part of the Vegan Business Community
Sign-up as a full member to get full access to our community and support for your business.
Sign me up to your weekly email!
You have found your tribe...
If you have a vegan business (or just an idea for one!) then you have found your tribe. Get direct support, hundreds of hours of content and access to a community of hundreds of vegan business owners from around the world
Have a question about joining?