The Relationship Development System
In prior posts, I have talked a lot about how important relationships are to making money online and how our sales process needs to include a Relationship Development System. When a website visitor arrives at our website, blog or reads our article the first time, we are effectively strangers at the onset. When things are structured properly, this visitor undergoes a series of relationship development stages, as shown below.
Let’s look at a visitor’s online pre-sales relationship and how it develops over time until that first sale is consummated.
Our journey begins with the Awareness phase, where the visitor becomes aware of their need and your product or site as a possible solution or information source. This could involve one or more exposures to our product—through word-of-mouth, social media, search engine ads or results, radio, TV and the like. This is where your marketing reaches prospects and they go from unaware to an aware state.
For example, we become aware that analog TV signals are no longer available, which causes us to decide it is time to get a new high-definition TV set. We become aware of a need and something triggers us into bringing this TV need into the “foreground” in our life.
High-definition TVs have been around for many years, but for whatever reason they remained in the “background” for many of us—until recently. So, we begin noticing ads for HD TVs. We actively look around at them online and at stores, and we begin discussing them with our friends and family. This is awareness. These ads and devices have been around for many years, but suddenly we begin to actually take notice of them.
In the next phase, our marketing creates Interest in what we have to offer. Interest results when your marketing grabs the prospects’ attention and often is the direct result of an initial offer (e.g., a money magnet offer) that captures their attention. We must create interest, or we will never get the prospects to progress any further toward buying.
It is very tempting to try and “short-circuit” the process and jump straight to the close… FAIL! How many times our impatience comes back to bite us. Good things cannot be rushed – and a sale is a very good thing!
Continuing our HDTV example, our presentation of benefits and features, cool-looking pictures and demo videos trigger increased interest, because we realize we can now watch sports in high-definition, and then the seller really grabs our attention with a great price for a nice HD TV unit. You need to create the same level of incremental interest with your online marketing processes.
Interested prospects become open to learning more about what you have to say and offer. If your messages and product offerings resonate with the prospects, Desire begins to build in their mind. They are now evaluating various aspects of what you have to offer and they now have decided that they “want it” but aren’t yet ready to buy—they still have questions and concerns that you must address.
At this stage, they will likely be involved in various “self-talk” about where they’d put that new HDTV, how they are going to justify spending the money on it, and where that money will actually come from. It is very important not to disrupt this thought process.
In the next stage, we begin a Bonding process with the prospect. We begin to create strong associations in their minds that bond them to the product. For example, GoDaddy.com uses NASCAR racing and high-profile racers like Danica Patrick as one way of bonding with their target audience. Racing has absolutely nothing to do with domain names, but it has everything to do with bonding and credibility (and sex sells like nothing else through association).
You can bond with your prospects in a variety of ways: by entertaining or amusing them, by giving them free stuff they enjoy and get immediate value from, and by sharing stories they identify with, among other ways.
What you are really doing during the bonding phase is anchoring positive, motivating associations between you, your site and/or product within the prospect’s mind. This is incredibly powerful when done correctly, as it begins to create a “preference” for you and your product vs. the prospect’s alternatives.
Remember that metaphorical “Bridge of Trust” across the “Chasm of Doubt” we talked about earlier? In the next phase, your prospect will reach a critical state of Trust for you—at least enough to consider buying from you. Everything you have done up until now has either created trust, eroded trust, or had no impact on trust development at all.
Avoid any marketing that causes suspicion or detracts from your prospects’ trust in you. For example, have you ever received an email from a marketer where the email subject line says something designed to grab your attention and get you to open that email? So, you open it. Inside the email, the content has absolutely nothing to do with the subject line and there’s some vain attempt to bridge from that subject line to the actual email content.
How do you suppose this makes your prospects feel? When it happens to me, I feel tricked. Tricking your prospects is not a way to build a trusting relationship! In fact, it says you care more about getting your way (making that sale) more than you do about your prospective customer. This is not lost on most people.
Instead, our actions need to build trust and reinforce that we are trustworthy. Many aspects of our marketing can act together so that prospects begin to trust us.
Creating trust is a complex topic. Fortunately, there are many proven ways to develop trust and help your prospects across the Chasm of Doubt.
At some point, it is time to pitch the prospect. Now that they desire our product, have bonded with us and prefer our product, and trust us enough to do business with us – then we can close the sale.
So, you enable your prospect to engage with your online sales process as a buyer. We call this the Activation phase, because the prospects are now actively entering a buying mode. They decide to invest some of their time and actively pursue a solution.
Various triggers can activate your prospects. Before going deeper into activation, let me ask you something. What do suppose would happen if your prospects hadn’t bonded with you and didn’t yet trust you and you tried to force activation too soon?
Once they are activated into a buying motion, you’d just be yet another option for the prospect to choose from.
Moreover, if they trust someone else more than they trust you, they will probably make their purchase elsewhere.
They might actually look at and consider you as an alternative, but their fears and concerns about doing business with a stranger or someone less trustworthy could easily cause them to steer away once they are engaged in an active buying motion.
Have you ever bought something from Amazon.com without looking for a better price elsewhere? There’s usually a better price if you just look. But we don’t usually look, do we? It’s because we have bonded with Amazon.com as a brand and prefer to deal with a known quantity vs. going through the entire RDS process as a buyer with someone new. And Amazon.com does a great job making it better to stick with them, with customer reviews and even access to those cheaper 3rd party deals through Amazon!
We can trigger activation of prospects by making them an offer they simply cannot refuse. This offer is compelling enough to overcome “procrastination inertia.” Procrastination occurs when people avoid taking action on something they know they want to do or even should do, but continue to delay for various reasons.
They might say (in their minds or to their spouse): “I’m just not sure.” “It’s a lot of money.” “Maybe I’ll find a better one if I keep looking.” “I’m too busy right now” or “I’ll do it tomorrow.”
When you activate your prospects, you essentially light a fire under them to take action now. You give them multiple reasons to act now; e.g., discount pricing, time-limited extras/bonuses, special financing terms, limited quantities, and such.
This is a critical moment. At this point, the prospect is serious about buying from you, but very likely still has questions and possibly some objections. It is important they be able to find answers to the remaining, burning questions and get them answered completely.
Activation can create buying momentum that is sometimes sufficient to overcome our prospect’s procrastination inertia – and possibly even enough to get them to dismiss their remaining questions and tell themselves something like – “it comes with a money-back guarantee – what do I have to lose?”.
Activation causes them to begin actively going through your sales process. During activation, your prospects become “buyers”. They begin looking at their options and are about to make a purchase – from you.
The online selling process answers their questions, overcomes their objections, and motivates them to buy from us and to buy right now, before they change their mind, or the phone rings, or the dinner bell rings…
The prospects then decides to buy, and they press that magical button.
That single click represents their buying decision (Buy Now button, Add to Cart button, Join Now button).
Once the buyer completes the checkout process, the Sale is consummated and you now have a new customer.
The Relationship Development System (RDS) is a proven process that increases online sales conversion rates.
Why do you suppose long form sales pages are structured the way they are? Because they are designed to take the reader on a rapid RDS “journey” through the entire process. However, in reality it often takes several visits to a typical website and sales page before a buying decision is made – unless the RDS process has taken place beforehand (via email, a blog, a video or some combination of RDS actions).
Without a functioning RDS in place, the best you can probably expect in direct-selling of visitors to your site is perhaps 1% to 2%. With a high-performance RDS in place, your aggregate conversion rates could well reach 5% to 10% (or more when prospects are “referred” by someone they already trust). This is why an auto-responder follow-up system is so critical to every online business’ profitability.
Of course, developing and nurturing relationships takes time. Fortunately, this can all be automated so it is taking place 24/7. For the most part, it is a hands-free set of activities managed by the auto-responder, except for adding new offers and occasionally freshening (and testing and optimization).
Whatever combination of technologies you choose to use, follow the RDS steps more deliberately and you will make more sales. I might suggest an “RDS Audit” of your existing selling process – to identity and fill any holes or sticking points that may be present. Of course, you should always A/B split-test any change you make and measure the actual effects over time.
You will know when your RDS is working because the sales ticker will speed up and that “cha-ching” sound will happen more often – and your bank balance will go up more often than down (if you control your spending).
I hope you have an effective RDS in place for each of your products and sites. If not, what are you waiting for?