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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 ridiculous, 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. This brilliant salesperson who knows what matters most to your prospects and leads might still surprise you: onsite search. That is, the searches customers conduct directly on your site. What customers tell you in those searches will make the difference between successful enterprises and the also-rans.

Why does search matter so much?

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 more than 70 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?

Search is the first personalized experience on your website… or it would be if you’re listening to what your customers ask for. We’ve written a whole ebook on how you can use search data and machine learning to personalize the customer experience. And it all starts with data.

You’ve got the data — what do you do with it?

  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? Do you know what matters to them?
  2. Determine your content’s effectiveness at answering customer questions. When visitors go 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?

There are many companies who are using site search data to answer these questions and suggest appropriate next steps to close the sale. Still, others find their website search often isn’t much better than a “random webpage generator”. Many more might be monitoring site search data, but don’t know how to improve conversions by putting that data to work. 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 can start with simply improving your site search analytics in Google Analytics, Adobe Analytics, Coremetrics, and most other enterprise-grade analytics tools. But if you want to see your data automatically improve your site search for you, check out our technology solutions. And don’t miss out on your website search’s role as one of “The Six Personalization Truths Every B2B Marketer Needs to Know Right Now.”

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

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