How To Create Sales-Ready Leads with Style
Marketers value all the insights that we gather and publish, yet this article is one of the invaluable ones. Experts we invited to this conversation offer their most interesting strategies for creating a high volume of sales-ready leads, share how they execute and measure demand generation campaigns, reveal their approaches to lead nurturing and how they plan, implement, document, test and measure content creation. And they said you couldn’t have it all. This article is our Holiday gift to you… Happy All Year! 🙂 We invite you to check the integrated demand generation process flow we’ve designed for you and download the presentation to learn about our LeadGen Journalism… and then enjoy the article.
The expert elves are:
- Miles Barry, Head of Marketing at MDSL, creator of world-leading expense and lifecycle management solutions.
- Alice Lankester, CMO at Friend2Friend, a company engaging fans with brands on social since 2007.
- Marcia Kadanoff, CMO at Bislr, pronounced “Biz-ler” – provider of the intelligent marketing OS for marketing automation, content management, and real-time analytics.
- Jim Van Meer, Creative Director, Global Industry Services at the American Petroleum Institute. API Global represents all of America’s oil and natural gas industry.
What are the most interesting strategies you have seen implemented by other marketers or applied in your own organization for creating a high volume of sales-ready leads?
Our company is focused on deploying engagement apps (digital experiences that invite consumers — and their friends — into a social relationship with a brand) on social platforms, primarily LinkedIn and Facebook. So the strategies we see work well involve a focus on deep social integration.
Creating leads through social requires that brands offer fans and followers decent incentives to ‘opt in’ — and that means offering something of real value in the experience. Such as: traditional contests/sweepstakes; voting on interesting content; offering personalized, engaging, and entertaining content and experiences based on the visitor’s social profile; inviting visitors to contribute brand-related shareable content; and offering access to unique and exclusive offers not found elsewhere. Further qualification can come through asking visitors to answer questions to refine their answers, and so contribute to a deeper level of insight into the visitor’s area of interest, but caution should be applied to make all experiences quick, simple and friction-free.
Finally, all these social experiences must be accompanied by social sharing mechanisms that encourage visitors to share their action, and invite connections in their own network to participate too. This helps amplify the reach of a deployment through earned media. Ideally, the sharing experiences should reflect positively on the participant — to further encourage the sharing — giving visitors something to ‘say’ that informs and/or entertains their personal network.
We are working with more and more organizations that sell software as service and/or mobile applications and need a way to monetize the installed base of trial customers. These are companies that do not need to build or buy a database of potential buyers – they already have a sizeable database. What they often lack is the ability to tie relevant trial behaviors – say that happen in the cloud or on the mobile device inside an application – to lead nurturing. Also social intelligence that tells them something about their customers in trial – outside the narrow confines of the trial experience at their company, so they have a better idea of the psychographics / interests of their customers.
Some of the most interesting strategies we are seeing are marketers who are asking the question – if I have 3-5 free trial accounts at a company email address… how can I leverage into a business-to-business sale without having to sell to each individual as a prosumer. The difference in the types of revenues you can command can be dramatic. Prosumers are willing to pay $4 – 19/month when buying for themselves at work. Business-to-business buyers – on the other hand – are willing to pay much more than this. This puts a new twist on the idea of “account based selling.” It’s not only for companies that sell on an enterprise model. A strategy where you roll up accounts and aggregate them at the account level can be a valuable augment for any and all customers that sell on a SaaS model.
Our website (currently under reconstruction, so don’t judge us by it) remains a primary source of new business enquiries, supported by an active SEO program against nominated keywords.
A central part of this rests on adding new content in order to drive return visits and boost our profile in the search engines. This takes the form of an active news release program and a growing blog readership, supported by our presence on Twitter and LinkedIn. As a pure B2B player, we have a presence on Facebook but do not actively promote it.
We drive additional sales leads through our webinar program, promoted primarily through direct email marketing, which has the twin benefits of attracting new prospects and providing new content for the website.
We put significant effort into tracking visitor traffic across our website and capturing details of visitors downloading or accessing content (such as past webinars), in order to provide prospects for the sales teams and future email marketing campaigns.
Our analyst program also plays a major part in our business development program.
Jim Van Meer:
The top strategy I employ in our marketing communications is striking an emotional nerve. My job is to get leads to stop, look, listen and buy. That’s accomplished by taking what is usually technical and mundane information and turning it into arresting copy and design. We are all, in one way or another, driven by our emotions. If I can get a person to invest their emotional self into the benefits of our product lines, I have acquired not only a customer, but an ally as well.
SocialAgenda Media: What qualitative and quantitative insights can you offer to advanced marketers in terms of executing demand generation campaigns, calculating ROI and measuring the impact of sophisticated nurturing sequences? What best practices are you planning to implement next year to enhance your lead nurturing programs?
First, know what your baseline programs are – those that generate the lion’s share of your opportunities, not leads. Work backwards from opportunities created, not leads.
Second, set up testing on top of these baseline opportunities. To hijack the immortal words of Alex Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross – always be testing – or ABT. Always be testing some new form of lead generation that looks promising and may deliver incremental value over the old. Again, you are going to want to measure the results in terms of the opportunities that are created, not the number of leads generated nor the cost-per-lead, metrics that are becoming increasingly irrelevant. Not all leads are equally likely to result in an opportunity – as your sales force defines it – and to stay aligned with sales you must look at your marketing activity through an opportunity lens.
This year, we are seeing a lot of interest among B2B marketers in Twitter lead cards and LinkedIn sponsored posts, both of which can deliver more opportunities at a lower cost-per-lead than Google Adwords. If I was sitting at Google, I’d be afraid, very afraid. B2B marketers spend more on lead generation than almost any other audience, with the possible exception of ecommerce buyers.
Third, make a resolution to make 2014 the year you link your marketing activities to actual revenue by putting in place programs to calculate ROI, cLTV, and Customer Satisfaction for each opportunity that ends up closing. To link this back to marketing activities, you need to make a decision on attribution models and our customers tell us that the boat has already sailed on this issue … in favor of position-based attribution models. With this kind of attribution, you give the first touch 40% credit for revenue, the last touch 40% and everything in between 20%. This works out well in practice – because you can answer commonsensical questions like:
- What marketing activity generated this opportunity in the first place?
- How many touches does it take to turn a lead into an opportunity?
- What did the very last touch before we were able to close the sale look like and who made it – was it sales or was it marketing?
Fourth and final, take a good hard look at your lead nurturing campaigns and ask yourself whether you’ve fallen into the trap of doing too much of the same old thing.
Lead nurturing campaigns are notoriously hard to measure. The right way to measure them is to pull together a ‘no touch’ control group that is statistically equivalent to the prospects you are nurturing. The problem is that most companies we work with – no matter how big – are unwilling to set up this kind of control group for fear that it will have a negative impact on revenue.
At the same time, we think many lead nurturing campaigns could benefit from less attention to the science side of marketing and more creativity. In particular, we think 2014 is the year that we’ll see B2B marketers executing more multi-channel campaigns, where they go beyond email to integrate Twitter, LinkedIn, and possibly Facebook in with their lead nurturing campaigns.
Oh yes. You asked about quantitative insight. Only about 40% of companies are taking advantage of lead scoring and we think this is too bad. Lead scoring ensures you prioritize leads that are a better fit for your company to sell to and/or are more ready to buy for more immediate handling by your sales team. If you are not utilizing lead scoring, you aren’t taking full advantage of what marketing automation products like Bislr bring to the party. We think the low incidence here is because many marketers don’t understand lead scoring and cannot explain lead scoring to their counterparts in sales. So what we’ve done with our lead scoring is to make it visual, more intuitive, and hopefully something that a marketing leader can feel comfortable going hands on with, say in a meeting with their sales leaders, to adjust how leads get scored in real time.
Build a good relationship with Sales, to be able to insist your sales team provide detailed feedback on qualified leads and follow-up. Self-evidently, if a major new contract can be tracked back to a prospect who first encountered our solution via a webinar, then the business case for investing further in the program is already made.
Invest in a professional CRM system and licenses for all users (sales and marketing). Ensure the cost of licenses does not preclude widespread use across the business. Ensure you have adequate internal resources to apply widespread tracking across all parts of the process, to provide comprehensive campaign reporting.
In another business, we once used a sophisticated internal tracking system, supported by a range of Freephone direct response telephone numbers, to track the response to individual press campaigns and (in some cases) advertisements. Doing so allowed us to direct specific products and messages in specific media to different segments of our target audience; it also allowed us to demonstrate we could reduce the cost of sale by over 100% by moving the campaign online.
Next year we will re-launch the website with more powerful visitor and page-tracking analytics, to allow us to start to use the same targeting methodology to direct specific pages to particular visitors, according to their current behavior and past history.
Jim Van Meer:
Because our lead generation is based on marketplace demand, we meet one-on-one with our customers on a regular basis, mainly through committees. Our business is a very personal business, so measuring ROI in a traditional sense is hard to accomplish. What we have found, though, is that by closely monitoring our social media platforms we can extrapolate ROI by using analytical data to make the person-to-person connection we strive for. Once we know how our social media is trending, we can further tweak our messaging and nurture our lead generation, so by the end of a campaign we can look back and evaluate our ROI on a realistic basis. We then take that info and incorporate it into our next campaign, so in essence we are sometimes doubling or tripling our original ROI.
Because we focus on social, the quantitative, and qualitative, measurements we look at are primarily related to engagement. Engagement at its best opens up the potential of a shared and “human” social experience between a brand and its consumers. When marketing on social, brands need to remember that platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn are not broadcasting services. They are about the social community and the conversation. They are about connecting people together. And for brands, they’re about forging connections between brands and those people. So measuring that engagement is critical.
The measurements we look at include: increases in ‘PTAT’ (Facebook’s engagement measure); increases in followers and group membership (LinkedIn); numbers of shares, comments, likes; and amount of content contributed. Today on Facebook, the average user has around 300 friends, adding up to over 140 billion total friend connections worldwide, and those users also have an increasing number of brands as friends too — on average 29 per Facebook user. So when someone shares an experience with his or her network, that amplifies brand reach significantly — making sharing on social a critical quantitative ROI measure.
Further, on Facebook and LinkedIn, those shares can be amplified by a brand using Sponsored Posts and Sponsored Updates, both of those media buys reliably show positive results, especially on mobile platforms where an increasing number of social visitors participate.
Marketers have realized content is the backbone for their entire marketing strategy whether it be SEO, social media, email marketing, webinars, etc. Content marketing has moved from buzz term to long-term strategy. For next year, how will your content strategy be planned, implemented, documented, tested and measured across your organization – in-house and among outsourced teams?
We realized some time ago that a static website (i.e. one on which the content does not change) is a dead website. A lot of our current and future effort will go into generating new content and seeking to make it relevant for our different target audiences. A key goal for next year will be to develop more video content, to drive increased engagement.
Marketers regularly cite challenges around producing enough engaging content. So our advice to clients when they are planning content strategy is to think about how social can help actually build and contribute brand-related content — content that maps back to a broader brand-aligned story.
Done right, engagement apps can create ways brands can invite their social fan base to create snackable, sharable content that is perfect for kicking off a content engagement relationship between brand and consumer, as well as for filling out the content calendar to keep the drumbeat going. Engagement apps provide a critical function, by helping insert a brand message into the news feed — where social conversations occur. They provide the mechanisms that encourage consumers to both create content themselves, and share that content among their own network.
Some ways that marketers can use social engagement apps to create this snackable social content include: challenging audiences to answer, and share, questions about the brand in return for prizes or glory; inviting social audiences to ‘vote’ on brand-related content, which could be as simple as a t-shirt design, or as important as a magazine cover photo; or asking social audiences to contribute photos, videos or stories on a brand-related theme, all of which can become sharable content in their own right.
Jim Van Meer:
Our content strategy is planned both internally and externally. We run lean and mean, so some of our content is generated in-house while some specific campaigns are generated by our agency. We bridge the gap between the two by creating branding guidelines that furnish not only the look and feel, but the tone and voice of our campaigns as well. While our research methodology may be limited by resources, we can always measure success by the sales results we see. Some of our product line content strategies are planned at the end of the year for next year’s campaign, then tweaked throughout the campaign, while others are done in a more “drive-by” style, where strategy is formed in a 10-minute hallway meeting and then implemented. It’s not that we don’t put thought and effort into our strategy; it’s just that we know our business so well we can hit the target quickly and effectively. We don’t rely on reams of analysis reports that no one really wants to wade through anyway. Many times it’s gut extinct that leads us to our content decisions. We know our markets, we know what they want, and we know what makes them react. We give them useful and pertinent content, and they reward us with increased sales, likes and interaction.
Content marketing is going in house rapidly – almost all forms – with the possible exception of video. As a former agency principal – of the fastest growing content marketing agency in SF – I can tell you that this is not a good thing. I don’t agree with one of my colleagues who said that this is “content marketing in the age of crap”. But I do think that a lot of the content marketing companies are doing is completely self-serving and does not deserve to see the light of day.
When you plan your content marketing, sketch out the day-in-the-life of your prototypical buyer (persona’s are great for this – BTW) and then ask yourself how your buyer will collect and collate the information they need to make an informed buying decision. If you do this, you will quickly find that there are holes in the content available to the buyer, holes that your company can fill uniquely. But notice. This perspective doesn’t start by building a list of content you’d like to create. It starts by figuring out the gaps in the content available to the buyer – content that answers their questions.
One new form of content marketing we expect to see a lot of next year: interactive infographics. Infographics are a great form of content because they are so visual and get a lot more sharing than your typical eBook – say. That said, so many companies are doing low-end infographics, it may be hard for your company to make a difference here. So consider doing one that collects information from the prospect and puts their data into context. The give:get ratio here is such that you are giving something to the prospect they value and therefore can get personal information back that you can leverage by building additional content and programs that matter.