Business , Columns

Rethinking the sales funnel

Use a four-step online strategy to capture new clients and re-engage pet owners who showed initial interest.

Rethinking the sales funnel
Even with a well-executed sales funnel, most prospects will fall out before reaching the bottom. Why? The timing just wasn’t right.

A sales funnel is the system you put in place that is tasked with turning local prospects into new clients. It is the foundation of any realistic and sustainable new-client acquisition strategy. This article will teach you how a successful sales funnel operates and will present tactics designed to increase your ability to attract new clients.

Building an effective sales funnel is all about a deep sensitivity to where your prospects are, how they act and the factors that influence them to decide. So, in order to build a successful sales funnel, you must first understand the modern buyer’s journey. This is essentially the way pet owners go about finding their veterinarian.

Any industry’s buyer’s journey changes over time, and we have seen a foundational change in the veterinary buyer’s journey over the past 10 years. Years ago, the majority of buyers’ journeys occurred by asking friends about their preferred choice, searching directories such as the Yellow Pages, or learning about new brands through local events or old-media advertising.

The journey now takes place almost exclusively online. The modern buyer’s journey usually looks something like this:

  • Search for nearby veterinarians (usually on Google).
  • Investigate veterinarians on their websites and review pages.
  • Compare options and choose a preferred veterinarian.

Your sales funnel’s job is to convert as many “sales” as possible, which is essentially creating new-client appointments. A successful strategy usually involves a tightly integrated system of targeted ads, content marketing and a special kind of website. The primary components of your funnel are:

  • Engagement (the open top).
  • Consideration (the middle section).
  • Conversion (the bottom spout).
  • Remarketing (re-engaging with prospects who exited before they reached the bottom).

Engagement

You need to engage someone who is on a buyer’s journey so that they enter your funnel and begin considering you as an option. This is typically done on Google, where most people initiate searches. There are three ways of accomplishing this engagement: local, organic and paid. Ultimately, Google tries to rank businesses based on the best and most relevant option for that particular search.

Google Local, commonly referred to as the “local pack,” is the newest change to the structure of the SERP, or search engine results page, and it receives approximately 50 percent of all clicks on the page. To do well here, you want to make sure you have fully optimized your Google My Business page, have a substantial amount of positive reviews on Google, have a well-optimized and engaging website, and have a healthy amount of authoritative inbound links.

Organic SEO (search engine optimization) is the traditional listing on Google that most people are familiar with, and this category of listing typically garners about 30 percent of total clicks on the page. A strong SEO strategy involves having a well-optimized website, a sound content strategy (promoted on social media), and healthy behavioral signals (one would be a lengthy average stay time for users on your site). Many more factors go into this, but I recommend mastering the basics first, as this is the low hanging fruit.

Paid advertising, also known as Google AdWords, appears at both the top and bottom of the page. This category typically gets about 30 percent of total clicks on the page. The substantial advantage to AdWords is that you control which page the search goes to based on the search being performing. So, let’s say that someone is searching for “spay my dog near me” and your ad shows up. When the pet owner clicks on the ad, you should have it set up to go to a specialized “squeeze page” that is specifically about spay/neuter services. Ideally, in order to boost conversion rates from paid ads, you want to make the buyer’s experience as contextually relevant as possible.

Consideration

When prospects get to your website, the conscious questions they ask are “Who are you, what do you do, and where do you do it?” This isn’t the real question they’re asking, though. Unconsciously, they are asking, “Can I trust you?”

It’s how well you answer this question that determines how effective your funnel’s middle is. In order to evoke trust, you need to show someone that your interests are aligned and that you are fully capable of handling whatever problem is thrown your way. This is why your website is so important now.

Your website needs to serve both of these functions. Your website’s design quality is a signal for how well you handle challenges in your business. And its message is your opportunity to connect with pet owners on a deeper, visceral level and convince them that your values align.

Conversion

Turning motivation into action is conversion. In order to perform well at this stage in your funnel, you must recognize a simple tenet of human behavior: We are hardwired to conserve energy. Essentially, the harder you make something, the less likely we are to do it. At all times, your website should seem temptingly easy to take a step forward. You want to make it seem almost easier for someone to act than to backtrack.

One easy way to do this is by having a fixed header on your website. A telephone number inside a fixed header will be visible at any point. I highly suggest finding a plugin or code that allows you to fix a call button on the mobile version of your website as well. In fact, my company has seen that a clear plurality — if not an outright majority — of sessions on most veterinary websites is through mobile devices.

Retargeting

Even with a well-executed sales funnel, most prospects will fall out before reaching the bottom. Why? The timing just wasn’t right. And so much in life is timing. Use retargeting to feed people back into your funnel when and where they fell out.

Through a tiny snippet of code on your website, you can effectively serve ads to online visitors across the web. When someone demonstrates interest in your service, you want to make sure they don’t forget about you. You should show up a couple of times a day for a couple weeks to gently remind them that they have a problem they need solved. And your advertisements should be sensitive to what they will likely find helpful.

Where to Go From Here

Start asking questions. How well-defined is your funnel? Is it just a loose amalgamation of disjointed strategies? Are the components effective? Are they measurable?

Sincerely asking these questions will serve you better than any article possibly could.

VetPartners member Robert Sanchez is the founder and CEO of the digital marketing firm Digital Empathy. Founded in 2001, VetPartners is a nonprofit association dedicated to helping the veterinary profession improve practice management standards and elevate the levels of service, expertise, responsibility and professionalism provided by veterinary consultants, advisers and specialists. Learn more at www.vetpartners.org.

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