The sales cycle for a service business is different from other consumer businesses. Learn the difference so you can profit.

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The following excerpt is from Robert W. Bly’s book The Digital Marketing Handbook. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | IndieBound

You may think the web is better suited to merchants who sell physical products like books, CDs, home decor, furniture, clothing, toys, and the like. But a well-designed website and accompanying multichannel marketing campaign can also sell professional services such as copywriting, coaching, book cover design, plumbing, interior design, and dozens of others key services consumers are searching for.

What if you’re a plumber or contractor, or you want to offer job search coaching, resume writing, or tutoring to people only in your local area? Is a website, which can reach people globally, the best idea for you? The short answer is: absolutely. People use the web to find local businesses more than they use the Yellow Pages. According to search engine marketing company Hang Ten SEO:

  • 46 percent of all searches on Google are local.
  • 18 percent of local searches lead to a sale.
  • 50 percent of consumers who performed local searches on their smartphones visited a store within one day.
  • 34 percent of consumers who performed local searches on their computer or tablet visited a store within one day.
  • 50 percent of mobile searches are looking for a business name, address, phone number, or service information.

The bottom line is, it pays to have an effective website for your service business even when you serve clientele limited to your region, state, or town.

Whether you’re selling local or nationwide services, you need a website that will find and qualify prospects for you and weed out everyone else. It doesn’t matter if your site is getting thousands of hits a month if none of those hits turn into likely prospects for your services. With those kind of visitors, you’re getting traffic for nothing. So, let’s examine the ingredients that go into an effective service-selling website.

You need a sales funnel so that when potential clients come to your site, you can take them through the service-selling process: You can generate an inquiry, qualify the prospect, fulfill the lead, follow up, give a cost estimate or proposal, and close the sale.

In the service-selling funnel, you offer some free information to people who respond to your marketing. For instance, you send them an email that drives them to your website to download a free information kit on your services, a free special report, or both.

For the people on the email list you rented who did not respond, you can keep marketing to them; each time, more will reply.

For those prospects who do respond, you fulfill their request and deliver the information they asked for. These leads are then put into a follow-up email sequence that can include emails, phone calls, and other contacts. Liz Lorge of Leadpages writes, “You need a plan that includes a follow-up sequence so your leads don’t get cold. Integrate an email marketing automation tool with your landing page tool. With email automation, you can set rules that trigger entire multi-email campaigns when someone submits a landing page.”

Some prospects ask for an estimate, approve your proposal, and hire you. Others don’t buy your services. Put the nonbuyers into an email sequence or other follow-up marketing system and contact them periodically. About 5 to 10 percent or more of those who did not buy your original proposal will be converted to clients over the course of this follow-up campaign.

How much should you follow up with nonresponders? One approach is to continue to follow up until they tell you to stop. If you publish a monthly enewsletter and add all your prospects to the subscriber list, they will automatically hear from you at least once a month, creating a top-of-mind awareness that turns more of these leads into clients.

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