Archive for category Lead Generation
A quick overview of why web marketing is critical for promoting technology products, for both B2C and B2B products and across all industry sectors. 24 hours a day, some of your potential customers will be looking online for your type of product or service. If they don’t find you they’ll find a competitor. This is a presentation we gave to campus-based companies for the Ignite Technology Transfer Office at the National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG).
“Content” is the fuel of digital marketing. If you want to generate web traffic and generate sales leads online you need to provide information that your target customers will find interesting. In this post we look at why you need content, what kinds of content you need and how you can use it to promote your business and generate sales revenue.
Why do you need content?
So first things first. Why do you need content? Well, with digital marketing you are trying to bring people to a location on the web -usually your company website. The hope is that when your visitors arrive at your site they will take an action –subscribe or register for a service, purchase a product or submit some kind of sales enquiry.
You have four main options for driving people to your site – paid online advertising, search engine optimization, social media marketing and email marketing/outbound marketing. All of these forms of online promotion are more effective if you have good content, and some of them won’t work without good content. Let me explain why.
You can think of online marketing as fishing and content as your ‘online bait’. In most cases, basic information about your product or service – e.g. company brochures – will not be sufficient to bring in your target customers. When people are thinking about a purchase they need additional information before they begin to narrow down on a particular vendor. This additional content – case studies, white papers, buyers guides, RoI calculators – is your bait. The companies that provide the best content will attract the most customers online. Conversely, if you don’t have compelling content you will find it hard to drive traffic to your site.
When deciding what content you need you start by thinking about who you are fishing for – your target customers. In a previous blog article I discussed buyer personas as a way to understand and describe your target customers. In business-to-business (B2B) it is likely you will have to sell to more than one type of buyer. For most complex technology sales you typically have to sell to end users, someone in the finance department, a technical gatekeeper and the executive who actually makes the purchase decision.
Also, each of these buyer types will require different information at different stages of their evaluation process. People generally start with an initial “learn about this product category” step – this is the ‘Awareness’ stage. Then they move to a research phase before narrowing down the list of potential suppliers (“evaluation”) and finally making a purchase decision. As they move through these stages the kind of information they need changes from high-level, educational material to more detailed product and pricing information as well as third party validation such as testimonials and analyst reports.
Planning Your Content Creation
Once you know who you are ‘fishing’ for and what kind of ‘bait’ those buyers need at each stage of their buying process you can set out a plan for the creation and use of that content. Draw up a simple matrix with your target buyers on the left-hand side and the buyer process stages at the top and then in each ‘cell’ of the table write down a list of documents and content you think would be useful at each point. (We wrote a previous blog entry on the kinds of content you can use for generating leads online – Creating Content that Generates Awareness and Demand). You will end up with a wish-list of content you’d like to use for your online marketing and lead generation campaigns.
Now comes the hard bit – creating that content. As a first step, check to see what you already have available (aka your ‘content audit’). Most companies will have some case studies and other sales support materials and you may already have written white papers and marketing presentations. One great source of content is recent sales proposals – sales staff typically keep their best material for major client bids so see if you can reuse some of that material. List all the material you have and identify where it sits on your content matrix.
Next, identify the gaps – what content on your matrix needs to be created from scratch? List this content and identify how and when you will create it. In some ways this is pretty simple – either you will write it yourself, get some staff to write it, or hire a 3rd party copy writer. If you need to pay for it then get some quotes and prepare a budget.
Next, decide when you will create the content – your ‘content schedule’. We are all busy people and money is a scarce resource so it is unlikely that you can create all of the content you require right away. So pick the most important content – material that can be used at multiple stages of the buyer process – and get it prepared as soon as you can. You can then schedule other material later in the year. Our recommendation is to start with case studies – they are the most useful pieces of content throughout the buyer process.
How do you use this content to drive traffic and generate sales leads?
So you have analyzed your buyers, prepared your content matrix, audited your existing content and set out a clear schedule for new content production. What do you do next?
Well, the advice here is to make it easy for your target buyers to find your content. You have to promote it, distribute it and share it as much as you can, across as many channels as you can. We normally start by placing the content on your website and ‘landing pages’ (see our previous blog post). For example, set up a Google ad promoting your new white paper or research report. Next, mention it on your blog, tweet about it on Twitter and share it on Google+ and Facebook. For some content that is high value you will require user registration i.e. you will ask users for their contact details before they can access the information – this is known as “gating” the content. In other cases, such as infographics, you will share it across the web without requiring any registration.
You will achieve results in two ways. The people who register for your high value content represent early stage contacts who may become real sales leads. To make that happen you will establish a regular flow of communications with them where you offer additional content over time and encourage them to move toward a purchase. This process is known as ‘lead nurturing’.
A proportion of the people who interact with other content without registering for it will also eventually become sales leads, e.g. when they return to download higher value content or otherwise ‘raise their hands’ to your marketing team.
Content is the fuel for digital marketing and online lead generation. If you understand your buyers and how they purchase your kind of product you can create compelling information that will persuade them you are their best choice. Start now and prepare your content strategy.
As pointed out by Tom Sant, if you can’t establish that you deliver superior value then the customer will choose based on price. In a previous post, “Value Propositions – what you do, why it’s important, how you do it” I reviewed articles from the Harvard Business Review, Forrester Research and other sources that discussed how to prepare your value proposition. Since writing that post we have started to use Tom Sant’s NOSE framework. It’s a simple approach to help you develop a compelling proposition focused on your customers’ needs.
Can you describe the value you deliver to customers? Is it sufficiently different from what your competitors do? Can you persuade prospects that you are their best choice? Understanding how to communicate your value proposition is essential for generating leads and acquiring new customers. For online marketers, you have to communicate the value to a web visitor in a few seconds or they may leave your site. For B2B sales teams, you have to describe a convincing value proposition in your sales proposals or you won’t win the deal.
But a lot of companies find it difficult to communicate that value to customers. Typical problems include
- talking about your company and its capabilities rather than focusing on the customer;
- talking about features instead of the value provided by those features;
- using marketing waffle like ‘leading global provider of X’;
- highlighting benefits that your customers don’t care about.
The NOSE framework described by Tom Sant could help you avoid those problems. The NOSE acronym stands for
- Need – what is the customer’s need? The more specific you can be about the problem the more convincing you will be about the value you provide in solving the problem
- Outcomes – Clearly describe the results the client wants to see
- Solutions – recommend a specific solution
- Evidence – provide proof that you can deliver the solution on time and on budget – case studies, customer testimonials, resumes etc.
His approach aligns very well with the use of ‘Buyer Personas’ in B2B marketing. Personas are profiles you create of a typical customer type e.g. “Facility Manager”. You create personas by interviewing real individuals who hold those roles so you can develop a good understanding of their business needs and drivers. When using the NOSE approach, carrying out your buyer persona analysis will help you establish the Need and Outcomes.
Once you have determined the needs and desired outcomes you then describe a solution that will deliver those outcomes. You have to persuade your potential customers that you can meet their needs, that it is worth doing and that you can actually deliver what you promise. Providing evidence is an essential part of making your case. Show them examples of where you have successfully delivered a similar solution.
In summary, you need to communicate your value proposition if you want to win customers. Check out Tom Sant’s NOSE framework and see if it helps.
Time is money. I was asked by a client at a business-to-business technology firm last week how quickly you should respond to a web-generated sales enquiry? My answer is “as quickly as you can, definitely within 24 hours or less”. An MIT study, discussed below, shows that companies that respond fastest to web leads make more sales.
My answer was based on a 2007 study called “How much time do you have before web-generated leads go cold?” prepared by James Oldroyd of MIT (and previously at Kellogg University) and David Elkington of Insidesales.com. Prof. Oldroyd carried out a Lead Response Management survey while at Kellogg and a second survey while at MIT and he published an update on the research in March 2011 with the Harvard Business Review (see “The short life of online sales leads”). Then InsideSales delivered a joint webinar on the research with B2B Lead Blog in July 2011, “Research from Harvard, MIT Pinpoints Hard Lead Conversion Lessons with Easy Solutions”.
The first survey looked at the impact response times had on leads converting to sales. It also studied whether the day of week and time of day had an effect on the success of follow-up activities. The second survey looked in more detail at the best days and times of day. They found that the odds of contacting a lead if called in 5 minutes versus 30 minutes drop 100 times – “Immediacy of response far overshadows both time of day and day of week in its effect on contact and qualification ratios”. Why is that the case? InsidesSales.com suggested it is because:
- You know where they are – since the lead was just generated you can be pretty sure they are online and accessible by phone.
- People search on the web when they want something – a few days later they may not even remember they registered on your website. Responding immediately means you reach the lead at the highest point of interest.
- The “Wow” effect – by responding very quickly you can impress potential customers with your speed and responsiveness.
In the March 2011 HBR update to the lead response survey Professor Oldroyd and his researchers audited 2,241 US firms and found that the average response time was 42 hours – 37% responded to a web lead within an hour, 16% responded in 24 hours, 24% took more than 24 hours and 23% never responded.
Professor Oldroyd concluded that delays cost money – “firms that tried to contact potential customers within an hour of receiving a query were nearly seven times as likely to qualify the lead (which we defined as having a meaningful conversation with a key decision maker) as those that tried to contact the customer even an hour later—and more than 60 times as likely as companies that waited 24 hours or longer”.
The big standout from the July webinar – “for inquiries submitted on the web, 78% of sales go to the first company to respond”.
So the conclusion is that you should follow-up web leads and enquiries as quickly as possible. There are a few caveats though. First, the type of contact should determine the way you respond. For example, someone who submits an urgent request for quote should be followed up faster than someone who simply registers to download a white paper. Secondly, it depends on what you are selling – for example, if you make high-value complex technology products you may want to test the most appropriate mixture of phone and email follow-up. Phoning someone 2 minutes after they download a technical product specification may ‘creep them out’, whereas a confirmation email with links to other downloadable resources and a request to schedule a call could work better.
Over and above the appropriate follow-up timing and approach, you may need to implement new processes and possibly new technology to guarantee a consistent response. The reasons some companies do not respond quickly enough can include not having any way to track web leads, having no agreed rules for prioritizing or ’scoring’ them, no clear rules for routing leads to sales staff and no integration of the web leads to the company CRM. Fixing these issues requires a mixture of process redesign and possibly some new systems.
To learn more about how Business-to-Business (B2B) companies can generate leads on the web please read our white paper, “Generating demand for technology products” (registration required).