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According to Google’s latest report, “The Customer Journey to Online Purchase,” 47% of all revenue comes from purchases that took longer than one day to make. Moreover, the longer the sales cycle, the larger the value of the purchase. The report also indicated that longer sales cycles utilize more marketing channels, including social media.

Organizations use sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram to engage current and prospective customers. But Google’s report also shows that social media, while not a direct sales channel, can facilitate the kind of communication that leads to a purchase. Incorporating social media throughout a long sales cycle can make it your most effective marketing tool.

 

How to Leverage Social Media in a Long Buying Process

 

Initial Product Research

Car buyers do a lot of homework before visiting the dealer. They assess their needs and budget, compare different car models and shop around for the best deals. Meanwhile, social media is a key player in the pre-purchase process. By keeping prospects on your social media pages throughout this process, your chances of closing the sale go up dramatically.

If you’re one of those dealerships a car buyer is considering, don’t give them a reason to go elsewhere for their research. From choosing the right car to financing it, post lots of informative content about the process they’ll go through. Better yet, write it yourself and post it on your pages. Include interactive surveys, statistics, and visuals to further engage them. Engaging them early and often makes them less likely to walk away in the end.

A Multi-Step Process

Someone planning to attend college online may take several months to decide to enroll in a particular school or program. Along the way, he or she uses various platforms to communicate and gather information, including:

  • Blogs and content sites to research related topics
  • Search engines and banner ads to become aware of the school or program
  • Websites to do research and request more information
  • Email and phone calls to speak to admissions and financial aid counselors

Social media can provide additional support to all these channels. For example, use social media to publish blogs about online learning, from your site or elsewhere. Post regular reminders of upcoming information sessions and application deadlines. While different channels are more effective at certain stages of the sales cycle, social media can help in every stage.

Support and Communication

While most companies see the purchase as the end of the sales cycle, they shouldn’t if they want repeat business. When products malfunction and shipments don’t arrive on time, an active and customer focused social media platform may make the consumer’s experience better. In many cases, social media channels have replaced support lines as the go-to for customer support.

Visit any tech forum and you’ll see users asking and advising one another on how to fix bugs or install new programs. No support staff is necessary. Some customers create social media pages for the same purpose, but you can beat them and do it yourself. Set aside a section of your page specifically for customer service questions and feedback, and customers won’t have to go somewhere else to resolve their issues.

Because of the time and number of channels needed to engage potential buyers, long sales cycles can be difficult to maintain. But when social media is part of your marketing mix, your strategy becomes more efficient.

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See also: Are You Using Social Media in the Right Way?

 

 

Alicia Lawrence is a content coordinator for a tech company that helps create Mustang videos and blogs in her free time at MarCom Land. Her work has been published by the Association for Business Communication, Yahoo! Small Business, and Spin Sucks.