This post is part gripe and part tough love.
If you are new to Inbound Marketing this post will lay out the why and how. I’ll be creating an additional follow up posts to shed more detail on the elements in this article.
The single biggest issue I come across is B2B businesses ignoring 98%-99% of their users. What’s your visit to trial/visit to Demo ratio? Yeah, I know conversion rates can be all over the place, your business and propositions are unique, your traffic sources, etc. will all influence the visit to trial/demo ratio. So what is it?
If you’re in the double digits then congratz you are #winning. Stop reading and go back to printing money. If you are like most companies, I see you are most likely in the single digits.
James doesn’t have a clue about where the other 98% went?
Competitors? Emails? Out to lunch? Who knows? The point is if you only speak to clients when they are ready for a demo, then you are leaving a shed load of money on the table.
It would be like a car dealership locking their salespeople into a room and having a sign that read “ring bell for a test drive”, and the salesperson was only allowed to speak to clients once they ready for a test drive.
It’s a ridiculous idea so why do you do it?
A critical element that most companies overlook is not considering where in the purchase decision journey the prospect is.
There are loads of scholarly articles around the purchasing and decision-making stages; I won’t get into that. For this post, I’ll lump them into three key stages (awareness, consideration and close)
To help elaborate my point, I’m going to create a fictitious company called “BestOnlineAgent.com” I know it’s a bit shit, but this isn’t a post on branding! Best Online Agent (BOA) is an online estate agent looking to disrupt the UK and European estate agent market. They offer you the ability to sell your home online, without using traditional estate agents. You can join for free and use their platform, to advertise your home on the numerous listings site, there is a small fee, on completion of the sale they get a small 500GBP fee.
Does your prospect know they have an issue? How did they get to you? I’m going to skip over that because we are dealing with people who’ve found you and are navigating your site. Congrats you solve a problem and people have heard of you or can get to you! (let your SEO out of the cellar and give them a pat on the back!)
BOA get’s a fair amount of traffic, mostly from SEM and Facebook campaigns. Their visit to sign up ratio is about 1.5 percent.
This is a combination of (Research and Comparison)these people are on the site trying to decipher your marketing claims and understand what you do. They are also trying to figure out if you can solve their issue better than your competitor.
This consideration is particularly important if your solution is “expensive” or there are several stakeholders in the decision-making process.
Think about your behaviour. When was the last time you clicked off an Adwords ad and dropped $20K on your credit card for some software? Hopefully, there was some careful consideration.
In the case of BOA the initial price isn’t expensive, it’s 500 GBP if your house gets sold. Simples right? Maybe not for most of us your home is the most expensive asset. This isn’t like selling an old bike on eBay, this is something that one would want to venture into prudently.
As a prospective BOA client one might wonder:
- Does this actually work?
- Is anyone else doing this? If so how did it turn out?
- Am I going to be left negotiating potentially the biggest deal of my life on my own? Negotiations scare me!
- Will random people just come knock on my door and ask to see my place?
- I bet I’m going to have to deal with a call centre if I get stuck.
- what the hell is an online agent? and how much better could it be than the traditional route?
You had to do your homework, figure out the landscape, who are the other players and competitors in this space.
Audit Your Content
Have a look at your content, Do you have the right kind of content to engage with users who aren’t ready to Demo or trial?
- Pricing guides
- Case Studies
- Online Videos
- Live Chat
I’m not going to get into the types of content, or if your content is aligned with your prospects desired outcome, (that’s next level) I’ll get into that in another post.
Have you provided enough content to provide enough answers to their questions? Have you provided enough material so that secondary stakeholders questions or objections are addressed?
“Hierarchy of Pain”
Ok, so you need to make sure you have enough content to cover your bases. However, not all content is equal. I refer to this as the hierarchy of pain.
Some content is easier to consume, infographic vs. 50 min webinar. An infographic can take a min to look at; a webinar is a real pain, we’ve all been there, you have to make time for it, finding a quiet space in the office, wearing a headset, trying not to fall asleep. etc.
My point is there is a natural progression of content on your site. A “hierarchy of pain”. Let’s face it; we don’t read white papers or join webinars for fun. We’ll subject ourselves to 50 mins of a webinar because we feel it’s going to help us and we’re ready for that.
When auditing your content, you need to ensure your content is balanced. Is all of your content loaded around stuff that’s a super pain in the ass, “Register for our Webinar” or is it skewed toward the light end, “read this short blog post”?
BOA’s other calls to actions include, sign up for a newsletter, and free sign up! You might think well that isn’t bad, how do you beat a free sign up? A sign up although free is a commitment to try something. It isn’t zero effort, did you provide them with enough content to help them make progress? Do they know if this is right for them? If you haven’t is a newsletter sign up compelling to them? Put yourself in the client’s shoes, what are your anxieties about the solution? How could someone help you make progress? Does your client need education? BOA’s marketing dept decides this is the path and creates a webinar. Better than a newsletter but still kind of shit. Refer back to the previous section, a hierarchy of pain. Webinars are good for users who are further in the decision-making process. We need to lower the bar, get people who are less committed, who just want to learn more.
Strategy of Preeminence
There is a very crucial point about your content and your potential relationship with your clients. My colleague Diego has written a post on the “strategy of preeminence” that you need to read. The strategy of preeminence states that you want to be the trusted ally and source for your clients. To view your relationship with your client’s as a long-term relationship. In order to do this, we need to put their needs before ours. What do I mean by that? Have you ever created behaviour on your site which you know might not be right for your clients just to get them in?
Example: BOA could get on the phone with every lead an convince them that online is the best solution for their clients even though they know this client might be a bad fit for them? Are you filling your pipeline with people who will eventually churn, cancel, complain, as for additional features that you don’t support?
Gating Content/Lead Magnets
You’ve seen these, “Building Landing Pages that Convert!, Download our free guide and you learn…” You often see them because they work!
There are certain truths that you need to consider. One of the highest priorities of your site is to get the demo or trial. However, in the likely event that you don’t get a demo or trial, your second highest priority is to collect an email. You’ve just spent money on a click, or they found you organically. They are about to leave how do you engage with them? Ask them to follow you on twitter? Sign up for your newsletter? F*ck off, do I need another newsletter around [insert industry here]? No thanks.
This moment is your opportunity to ENGAGE with a prospect, not to Sell to them. If you’ve done your client interviews correctly, you’ve identified the Job to be Done, and you are intimately aware of your prospect’s pain and desired outcomes. This moment is your chance to help them with this pain. If you’re an Online Estate Agent, and a prospective client is on your site, you might put out a guide “4 tips to getting the price you want”. If you’re a working on AI and CRM, you might do a guide around “The future of AI and Sales”. The crucial element here is that this isn’t a sales brochure. This guide is your chance to show off, to show your thought leadership, and to show them you know your shit. They’ve just given you permission to speak with them. Don’t cock it up. I’ve even gone so far as to advise companies to say, our solution might not be right for you. This content is where you show prospects you’re up for getting to know each other, not just trying to swipe right.
BOA has done more client interviews and has identified the types of decision making process people go through when they are going to sell their home.
- Users begin researching neighbourhoods
- People are beginning to look for property values in their area.
- People begin researching estate agents in their area
- they read reviews
Armed with this knowledge BOA has created a content strategy that aims to get in front of the users at these various stages. They’ve created pages targeting the price of real estate in the most popular boroughs of London. They’ve created a series of blog posts around detailing various London neighbourhoods.
They’ve created a few guides that can be downloaded, one is titled “Online vs. Traditional Estate Agents which one is right for you?”
The biggest pushback is we don’t have the time, or we don’t have a resource to create content. What I advise you to do is to repurpose the content you already have. So if you’re blogging, you could take 3 or 4 blog post repurpose that into a guide. Or you could start from the other end, spend the time and effort to create a good e-book. An e-book repurposed could be turned into 4-5 guides. Those 4-5 guides could be repurposed and turned into 20-25 blog posts. Don’t get overwhelmed; you’re often sitting on lots of data that your prospects are interested in. Brainstorm some interesting guides; it isn’t hard.
Just a quick word on data capture. How much data should you collect from prospects? This is something you’re going to have to test. It really comes down to how compelling your offer is vs. the motivation of your prospect. I’ve seen people get away with having a credit card application size form.
It’s like dating, you’re just happy to get a number, you’re not going to ask for an address, etc. I tend to require minimal information and make additional information optional. I’ll ask for an email as required information, then I will visually separate the additional info by putting a bar, space and text. I might even write something like “Additional Information for our Sales team” Which screams if you touch these fields a salesperson will contact you. Those questions I may ask questions to help better qualify, any of these volunteered answers will be scored more aggressively.
What if I told you, you could use your content to measure your prospects sales readiness, so your sales team only reached out to the ones who were ready and receptive.
Some crazy Sherlock Holmes shit right? No, this is what we call implicit scoring. Remember our “Hierarchy of Pain”? What’s more interesting to you? Users who’ve read a few blog post, or someone who’s been using the enterprise pricing calculator, and attended a few webinars?
Now that you’ve covered your content bases, and created different levels of content, you can use that content to score intent based on what content they’re consuming and engaging with. I’ll do another post around scoring and getting more out of your content.
BOA has got their scoring down. They don’t engage or talk to anyone unless they have a score of +20. They use a combination of implicit and explicit scoring.
Explicit scoring: They’ll ask questions like when are you thinking about selling your home (to gauge readiness) if it’s 1-3 months they get a higher score +5, if they are 6 months or more out they may get a lower score +2. Another question may help them gauge if these people feel pain. ” What is your current situation: Currently working with an estate agent, exploring my options, looking to learn more etc. each of these could be scored based on their knowledge of prospect pain and behaviour.
Implicit scoring: BOA monitors every action on the site. They know that firstname.lastname@example.org has said he’s looking to move in 1-3 months. +5, He’s downloaded 2 guides, +4. He’s used the pricing calculator +4 and has watched a few of their videos “how to show your home” +4. Nopadon is at +17 I’m getting warmer.
You’ll need marketing automation to scale this efficiently. There are lots of players in this space, from the very expensive to the affordable. Have a look a drip.io, I’ve never personally used it, but it’s got a very reasonable starting pricing point.
Ok, you’ve got them to download something great, now what happens? You’ll need to continue to build that trust and relationship. You’ll need to think about what an appropriate nurture stream is, I like education. Don’t know where to start? Start by gathering up all the sales objections or misconceptions about the product that you’ve collected from user interviews. This method is a good way to overcome objections and misconceptions subtly. Again, this isn’t about closing the sales; it’s about nurturing them into a sales-ready state. If you aren’t controlling their education/information, they’ll certainly get their info from a competitor or somewhere else.
BOA has a long nurture strategy, and different streams based on what guides or resources you’ve downloaded. When you download their first guide “Online vs. Tradition Agents” you’ll get an email a week (if the prospects selected they were less than a month away, then the timing of the emails can be accelerated). The first email that you’ll get is how to stage your home, this is a useful guide that talks about how to photograph and decorate your home, the second half of the email talks about BOA’s team of lawyers who will help you negotiate the sale of your home. The second email is about how to show your home etc.) then the second half of the email spotlights Amy, one of BOA Account managers who will be with you all the entire way.
Do you see what’s happening here? They’ve found a way to help their prospects make progress, and getting in front of all those pesky misconceptions that people have about their offering.
How long does the nurture stream need to be? Again it’s up to you, you’ll need to test your scoring methodology to see if it’s accurate, but the answer is as long as it takes. Here’s a dirty little secret, getting leads is easy. However, 80% of those leads probably won’t become SQL’s. That’s ok because you aren’t actively trying to sell to them. They’ll stay in your marketing automation database until they begin to engage or unsubscribe.
Inbound isn’t rocket science. It’s straightforward, it requires a few minor tweaks to your content, to get it to work harder for you.
stop winging about your SEO, or paid conversion until you start doing more with the visits you’re currently getting.
Recognise that only a small percentage of users are going to be ready for a demo. Engage other users in the purchase journey other than “demo/sales” ready prospects
Engage with users who are still doing their research, what useful information can you provide them?
Think about what email you’re going to send them if you could wave a magic wand and have a perfectly educated lead on the other end of the phone, what would you want them to know?
Has 18+ years working as a Digital Marketer. He’s currently a Growth Hacker in Residence for the Venture Firm 500 Startups and an EIR for Citi Ventures.