The traditional sales funnel is dead, at least according to McKinsey & Company – a global management consulting firm. Replacing it is a circular sales cycle. It used to be that marketers could rely solely on direct mail and other marketing initiatives to “push” information to consumers. Since consumers’ information channels were limited, and research avenues were often hidden from the public, consumers relied on various marketing initiatives to make decisions about future purchases. Today, consumers can easily “pull” information to them online through social media websites and review-based sites like Yelp. This diminishes the power of focused marketing initiatives by companies. Consumers now rely on strong word-of-mouth over a corporation’s advertising campaign so if you want your small business to succeed, you’re going to have to change the way you reach your customer base.

Step 1: Use Branding and Information Marketing

It’s not that direct marketing doesn’t work; it’s that branding has just become more important than it used to be – especially now that people research brands on the Internet before making a purchase. If you have a brand, start doing more PR. If you don’t have a strong brand, create one. To do this, you can hire a PR firm or take to the social media networks to join the conversations your customers are already having about what you offer.  This gives you the opportunity to become a thought leader and in turn brand your business as a go-to company in your niche.

If you craft the right informational material, you can spread it all over the web and it will act as a point of reference for consumers. As long as your informational material is purely informational and relatable to the customer – not promotional – consumers will appreciate it and use it in their decision-making process.

Step 2: Use Offsite Analytics

Offsite analytical tools like Google trends, Compete, and Comscore will help you hunt down your potential customers and tell you what they’re really searching for. For example, if you have more document (i.e. PDF) searches that image searches being done for your company, it gives you a clue as to where people are finding you on the web.

Step 3: Use Onsite Analytics

Google Analytics is probably the best-known service available for analytics with good reason: it works. Analyze your site’s traffic patterns. What websites are they coming from? Do you get more referral traffic or do you get mostly Google organic traffic? Using onsite analytics will also tell you how long people stay on your site and even how long people stay on each page. You can even track visitor flow, which is how people move through your site. For example, if users come to your site and land on your “about us” page, but then leave immediately, there could be a problem with this page that you need to address to keep visitors flowing through your site.

If visitors soak up all of your content, see the sales page, and then click away from your site, then there’s something wrong with the sales page. It is crucial to your success that you remedy whatever is turning your customers away as quickly as possible. To do this, hire a designer to re-do the look of the page and make the call to action stronger, or work with a copywriter to make the text on the page more effective. Test the new looks and see which performs better.

Step 4: Use Social Media

Social media isn’t an end-point like most businesses think it is. Using social media means interacting with your prospect-base and existing customers. Listen to what they have to say. Often times, they will leave you feedback on your Facebook fan page, tweet you about something they like or dislike about your company, or write up a review on Google Places or Yelp when they have strong feelings about your company. It is equally as crucial that customers know where to find you. To do this, it is important that you link to your webpage from any e-mail correspondence, social media networks and listings. This will ensure that your customers are able to find you when they need you making their experience with your brand better overall.

Step 5: Make Your Site More User-Friendly

One of the best ways to facilitate the consumer decision journey is to optimize your website for usability. Don’t be afraid to link out to review sites with both good and bad reviews. Try not to delete every bad review you get – bad reviews are often rooted in real customer experience. Instead, if you are able, respond to the bad review and remedy any situation the review complained about right away. By showing this publically, customers will respect you more and appreciate you not trying to push them into a sale. Finally, making your navigation menu intuitive, and putting the most important content right on the homepage, will go a long way to improving your company’s image. When people get a good first impression about you, they tend to spread the word. Online, that can mean the difference between success and failure.

Written by Stacy Pruitt, a freelance writer and FX trader. Stacy has been researching currency trading strategies and trading robots. She enjoys writing about advanced trading strategies, tight spreads and forex indicators. Visit the link to learn more about Forex trading.