An understanding of how people buy is important to anyone who has anything to sell, but it is doubly important to marketing communication agencies for the reason that you are in the business of helping your clients sell. Through the development of ads, point-of-purchase material, and sales collateral you develop some of the sales tools that your clients use to help grow their business. Let’s take a look at one of the more common sales tools that you likely use for your own agency and maybe even create for your clients.
In addition to the other roles a website may serve in a company, it is almost always first and foremost a sales tool. Target clients first visit the websites of potential solutions providers at one of the earlier stages in the buying cycle – the point at which there is interest in solving a problem (or capitalizing on an opportunity) but at which there is not yet intent to act on that problem or opportunity. This is the tire-kicking stage where people gather information looking for the inspiration to help them form the intent to act. The role of your website is to give them that inspiration. In other words: to inspire your prospect to commit to solving his problem.
You have only a handful of methods available to you to inspire your prospects at this stage, the two most effective of which are Emotional Arousal and the combined Re-evaluation & Visioning.
Here are five tips on how you can use these methods to build a better website for your agency and your clients:
1. QUIT SELLING & START HELPING
Implied in the objective of inspiring your prospect to hire an agency is the desire that he hire yours. Your challenge is to forget about you and focus on the prospect and his needs. The odds are that at the first visit to your website he has not yet decided to hire any firm, so suggestions or pleas that he should hire yours are misplaced. It is here that the phrase, quit selling and start helping is most relevant. You are trying to inspire him to want to change: to fire his current agency and strive for something better, to reinvent his brand or be the company it could be. Talking about you, you, you will accomplish none of this. Short emotive testimonials and awe-inspiring examples of your best work are effective tools of Emotional Arousal. Words like Imagine, What If, and Someday are powerful words of re-evaluation & visioning. Get your prospect to imagine how good he and his brand could be with the help of a great agency. Don’t get into a lengthy discourse on your proprietary methodology. Don’t offer top ten reasons why the prospect should hire you. Don’t make commitments on price, turn-around time, or meeting or exceeding client expectations. This is not about you; it’s about your prospect. Beyond an initial description of what you do (your positioning statement) and the benefits of your services, resist the urge to promote your agency and simply seek to inspire change. When he commits to change and starts to move through the buying cycle he will be inclined to move with the firm that was the source of his inspiration.
2. TRANSCEND YOUR TOOLS
When agencies endeavor to position their own brands they often focus on their tools. Advertising, public relations, and design are all tools that an agency might use to deliver the benefits of their services to their clients, such as building brands, increasing sales, improving customer retention. If on your website you list your work by your tools, your prospect will infer that any tools not identified are tools which you do not have, or areas in which you do not compete. Conversely, if you list too many tools your claims of broad expertise will seem dubious. An agency that claims expertise in research, planning, media buying, advertising, direct marketing, public relations, promotions, etc., is merely listing the tools its people use to do what they do. (Usually while neglecting to say what it is that they do!) Ignore the tools and frame your expertise around the benefits of your services, (building brands, increasing share, etc.) then group your work by brand, not tools. The implication will be that you are not limited by your tools.
3. THE PROSPECT MAY DRIVE, BUT YOU NAVIGATE
There is a logic and order to the way all human beings buy. In simple terms, they form an interest, followed by intent to act, they then source and apply resources, they purchase, and ultimately they re-purchase. They may slip from one stage back to an earlier one, they may move through some stages quickly, almost imperceptibly, or they may get stuck somewhere for eternity, but the behavior of buying is linear. Your website should be just as linear. It should have a beginning, an end, and a clearly marked route from start to finish. Buyers will allow themselves to be led if it is in a manner consistent with their stage in the buying cycle. Lead your prospect from the first page to the last one, at which point ask him to contact you.
4. LEAVE THEM WANTING MORE
Don’t give it all away. Don’t show all of your work, and don’t list all of your clients. (Competitors’ websites were one of my best lead sources when I was in agency business development roles. I could not then and cannot today understand why an agency would list all of its clients on its website or anywhere else.) It doesn’t take a lot to inspire someone, so use what you think you will need to do the job and keep the rest in reserve. Resist the urge to overwhelm people with content. Remember your objective: inspiration, not saturation.
5. MAKE IT EASY TO CONNECT
While it is your goal to lead your prospect from the start of your website to the finish, some may become inspired before they reach the end and want to reach out to you in mid-journey. Put your contact info, or at the very least a link to it, on every page. Someone whom you have just inspired (emotionally aroused!) will resent having to fill out a Contact Us form and wait for someone to get back to him. He wants to talk to you right now! Tell him who to contact and how to do it so he can do it immediately. In selling, as in life, timing is everything.