This column is the 10th in an 11-part series on the Top Ten 2016 Marketing Trends. Check back for the remainder of the series and a deep dive into each of these trends.
Over the last couple of decades, consumers have flipped the buying process on its ear. Long gone are the days when your sales team was the sole source of research for prospective customers prior to making a purchase.
When it comes to high-involvement or high-impact purchases, 82 percent of consumers research that potential purchase online compared to just four percent that research offline only. And more than 30 percent use multiple devices -- such as a laptop and tablet, or laptop and phone.
Not only are most consumers visiting your website before making first contact with your brand, but most are visiting an average of five websites -- such as competitor, consumer review, and/or social media sites. They're engaging in an average of seven different types of touch points with brands investigated such as customer service, email, website, social media or online review sites. What's more, they dedicate an average of five different research sessions for a total research time of 45 minutes over 35 days on average.
So what does this trend mean for your sales and marketing strategy?
Unresponsive websites that don't perform well for phone and tablet users are now deal killers given how much research consumers do before they ever pick up the phone to talk with your team. Sixty-two percent of Internet time is now spent on mobile devices.
Online reputation management is increasingly important, as customer review sites are often among the websites prospects visit prior to contacting your brand. Some of the more common review sites are Trip Advisor, Yelp, Angie's List, and the Better Business Bureau, but the sites relevant in your business category can vary widely. Ensure you're dealing promptly and positively with any negative reviews, and deploy a proactive strategy to encourage happy customers to submit reviews.
You never know, when a prospect does reach out to your brand, where they are in the research and buying process, unless you ask. And the consequences of not asking can be dire. Let's say a prospect calls in and your sales associate dives straight into the benefits of your services without first inquiring about what the prospect already knows.
Imagine that the prospect has done extensive research into your brand and competitors, and has simply called with a question about pricing. The longer you talk about details irrelevant to the prospect, the more likely you are to derail the sale.
If you aren't following these best practices today, you could be losing an alarming amount of business and not even know it.
Lori Turner-Wilson can be reached at www.redrovercompany.com.