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When it comes to purchasing products as consumers, our buying behavior typically falls into two buckets:

1. Impulse purchases (e.g., that garment that caught your eye at the store)

2. Planned purchases (TVs, cars, cell phones, tablets, vacations, home renovations, etc.)

 The key difference between these two purchasing models is the length of the…

When it comes to purchasing products as consumers, our buying behavior typically falls into two buckets:

1. Impulse purchases (e.g., that garment that caught your eye at the store)

2. Planned purchases (TVs, cars, cell phones, tablets, vacations, home renovations, etc.)

 The key difference between these two purchasing models is the length of the sales cycle – and it’s an important distinction for business owners to know. Why?

The sales cycle for impulse purchases is obviously the shortest. While branding, marketing, merchandising and pricing come into play, it can be difficult to influence spur of the moment purchases. But when it comes to planned purchases, the sales cycle starts long before the customer steps foot in your store or visits your website because these consumers, increasingly, are querying the web to inform their buying decisions. In fact, according to HubSpot, 44 percent of online shoppers begin their branded product research by using a search engine.

How can small business owners reach these buyers and influence their purchasing decision earlier in this new, elongated sale cycle? Here are some strategies that can get you in front of the buyer during the pre-purchase homework stage.

Proactively Monitor Social Media to Get Your Foot in the Door Early

First, you want to monitor your own Facebook and Twitter feeds for questions directed to you as a seller.  It’s also important to get out there and find potential buyers based on online conversations they’re having about a product. How can you do this? Essentially it comes down to monitoring keywords and then chiming in when you see a relevant query.

For example, I recently issued a query on Twitter asking for recommendations for small business web hosting services and was surprised to receive multiple responses from people who weren’t my followers. By monitoring keywords, in this case “small business web hosting,” these savvy businesses were able to track conversations and chime in with information about their products or services. Use www.search.Twitter.com to set up keyword searches. You can even geo-target Tweets within a certain distance from your business. You can also use popular and freely available social media monitoring tools to automatically monitor Twitter, Facebook and other networks by keyword and organize these quickly for easy viewing.

Alternatively, set up Google Alerts to search online for keyword usage relating to your products and services, as well as your customers’ needs and challenges. Be specific about the words you use and keep refining them until you get the best results. Sit down with your sales team and get their input for keywords and pain points.

Become an Information Powerhouse

If you write a business blog, you know the importance of being the go-to source for information in your industry. Whether you are directly or indirectly promoting your products and services as a solution to customer needs or challenges or using your blog to educate your buyers – keep doing it! Even better, expand your content strategy to include white papers, case studies, webinars, infographics and e-books.

Your goal is to educate potential buyers and help inform their decisions early in the sales cycle.

Gear your content to the challenges and pain points your consumers have – this will drive your visibility in online searches and position you as a credible resource. For example, I could, as a customer, enter this phrase in a search engine: “tips for finding the right small business web hosting service.”  There’s a good chance that blogs or other content focused on this service will rank high in my search results, and help with my homework. That’s what you want to do for potential customers.

If you are stuck for topics, talk to  your sales team for insight into customers’ needs and consider converting some of their sales tools into marketing pieces or blogs and vice versa. Product comparisons, demos, and so on are useful tools for influencing buyers.

Lastly, once you’ve developed content, think of ways to get the most exposure for it. Add links to it from product landing pages, social media and e-newsletters.

For ideas on how to develop your online content strategy without too much stress, check out these blogs:

Good luck!

 

Read more http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/how-influence-your-customers%E2%80%99-pre-purchase-research

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