Over the past few years, the way people buy things has changed. If you are like most consumers (>74%, according to Searchmetrics), you turned to the internet – most notably Google – to gather necessary information to support your purchase.
While there are exceptions to every rule, this trend isn’t happening in a vacuum. In fact, according to a 2013 Forrester Research study, more than 70% of purchase decisions are made prior to contacting a vendor for sales support. Shoppers are far into their journey before calling a vendor, and it leaves a lot of your added value in limbo if you aren’t the initial source of information for your clients.
What happens to businesses that aren’t “the source” of information for their clients? They are putting themselves in a position of risk by allowing a large majority of the sale to happen without their involvement. Integrators that want to stay highly relevant to clients and prospects during the sales cycle need to not only be found online, but act as a trusted advisor in the virtual world. But what should a business to do if it wants to be found, seen, and heard more frequently online?
The first key is to understand how search works, and how successful companies are being found online. Here are four key things you need to know:
- Consistent New Content. Websites that rank highly all have one thing in common: they are adding new content all the time (most often in the form of news, blogs, and other dynamic content that serves as utility for potential visitors). Static websites have almost no chance of ranking high because so many newer, more relevant pieces of content will supersede them in search. With less than 20% of people ever going past the third search result, the pressure to rank high for the right keywords is tremendous, or your efforts are going to be futile.
- Social Activity. Some management and ownership teams may feel that social media is a big waste of time; depending on how social is approached, this may be true. When it comes to search, seven out of the eight highest factors in how a site is ranked involve how highly recommended the site is via social channels. Sites with highly shared content on social networks rank highest.
- Leveraging Outbound Channels. Many integration companies have e-mail lists with thousands of names, but they don’t use them well (or at all). While e-mail marketing doesn’t directly drive search, it does drive clients and prospects to your content, which drives search and social if the content is useful for the buyer during the education process
- Building a Sharing Culture. Integrators can leverage content to drive social selling. Find articles that relate to conversations and prior engagements that took place with clients, and use them to spur interest in something new. For instance, finding an article that validates telepresence as a driver of productivity and sharing it with the client is a great way to add a touch point and remind the client about a valuable product and service.
Search and social may seem like a lot to take on, but it is most certainly manageable and definitely necessary.
We have entered an era where people want to do their own research and then buy. For most businesses, this means doing things differently to align with the new buyer’s journey. How is your company handling the transition toward online purchasing consideration?
This article was originally written and published on NSCA and can be found here.