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Here’s a scenario for you: imagine you have an amazing salesperson who develops a deep connection with customers, beginning with their very first interaction. Even better, these prospects share their deepest concerns, telling your salesperson everything you’d want to know about how to help them — and how you can sell them what they need.

But you ignore everything this salesperson wants to share with you about what they’ve learned. You simply say, “Nah, I’m not interested in providing a better experience for these prospects. I’m not curious about their needs. I don’t care what they’ve told you.” That would be crazy, right? And yet, if you’re like most companies, you’re probably doing this every single day.

You may have guessed that your company’s best salesperson is, of course, your website. But how this brilliant salesperson knows what matters most to your prospects and leads might surprise you: website search. That is, the searches customers conduct directly on your site. And what customers tell you in those searches will make the difference between successful enterprises and the also-rans.

Here’s why:

It’s no secret that customers conduct the vast majority of their research online these days. In fact, data strongly suggests that most customers are anywhere from two-thirds to ninety percent along the way to a decision before they get in touch with your sales team. Your website is — or ought to be, anyway — a 24/7/365 salesperson always ready to help answer any question your prospects might have.

It’s clear that you know this. You and your competition (i.e., smart companies) invest heavily in content marketing to help answer those customer questions. You wouldn’t take that action if you weren’t trying to connect with customers and help them throughout their journey. That’s great. But what’s not great is how often customers struggle to find that content — and how difficult it is to know whether that content worked.

Your site search tells you three things you may have missed:

  • What matters to your customers.
  • How well you’re answering their questions.
  • Whether your content works — that is, whether your content moves customers closer to a purchase, or not.

Research shows that website visitors who search are between 43% and 600% (!) more likely to purchase than those who don’t. That makes sense. They’re motivated enough to actively seek the information that matters most to them. Why wouldn’t they buy? They’re asking for your help. The data’s there for you to use as you see fit. Are you listening?

How can you use this data? Well, here are just a few examples:

  1. Use search data to understand the questions your customers ask. What are the most common queries on your website search? What are potential customers looking for? What matters to them?
  2. Determine your content’s effectiveness at answering customer questions. When visitors to your site search, do they find the right answer? Do they click through to the right page, engage with your content, and connect with your calls-to-action? Do they return to the search results looking for a better answer? Or do they leave altogether, never to return?
  3. Track product marketing effectiveness. Are you seeing a rise in the frequency of searches for specific products? Do those changes mirror your marketing activities? Are you moving customers closer to contacting your sales team or the point of purchase?
  4. Match content to customer intent. Are you prepared to use this data to shape your content marketing and create more effective messaging? Can you tailor your search results to drive customers to the most appropriate content that meets their needs? How can you personalize the overall experience to improve connection and conversion?

Now, to be fair, many companies is understanding your site search data in a useful, actionable form that both answers these questions and points you towards appropriate next steps to close the sale. Others find their website search often isn’t much better than a “random webpage generator” (full disclosure, I work with a company called SoloSegment that solves these problems for a number of large enterprises). But putting those challenges aside, are you working to create a better experience for your best customers using search? Are you even looking at this data at all?

These are solvable problems. You can start small and build from there. And most important, your best salesperson exists to help your customers accomplish their goals.

Customers sell themselves. Data shows that most prospects are well on their way to a purchase decision long before they ever pick up a phone, send you an email, compose a tweet. Social selling makes for a fantastic buzzword — and, in truth, an even better reality. But without connection, there ain’t no selling.

Using search data to help you understand their needs, their concerns, their objections to your sale is hardly new. But there’s an even better source of data that often goes overlooked: website search. You don’t need fancy new software — though I wouldn’t mind if you looked at ours! You can start with simply improving your site search analytics in Google Analytics, Adobe Analytics, Coremetrics, and most other enterprise-grade analytics tools.

So here’s a question: why aren’t you listening to your best salesperson?


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About Tim Peter

Tim Peter helps companies put the web to work to grow their business. Since 1995, he has developed innovative e-commerce and digital marketing programs that have delivered billions of dollars in revenues. An expert in e-commerce and digital marketing strategy, Tim focuses on the growth of the social, local, mobile web and its impact on both consumer behavior and business results.

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