How to Integrate AI Tech Into Each Step of the Customer Journey

The Customer Lifecycle. The Sales Funnel. The Buyer’s Journey. All of these phrases are similar expressions of the same thing. They’re used to describe the process that it takes for a visitor to become a customer.

The Customer Lifecycle. The Sales Funnel. The Buyer’s Journey. All of these phrases are similar expressions of the same thing. They’re used to describe the process that it takes for a visitor to become a customer.

While the models and names of stages may have changed through the years, many agree that it can be boiled down to four simple components:

Awareness > Consideration > Decision > Loyalty

The No. 1 goal for most businesses is to generate more conversions (which primarily consists of sales). This can be through their marketing efforts, sales tactics, brand communication, conversion rate optimization, and other methods. Of late, many companies have developed critical competencies in using AI to nudge customers towards sales, and have improved their numbers drastically as a result.

AI, machine learning, and big data technology can all work hand-in-hand to improve the customer experience and support an optimized customer journey, which leads to more conversions in several key ways.

Let’s talk about how you can start using AI tech in each stage of the funnel.

Awareness

Marketing strategies these days are often heavily focused on the top of the funnel to build brand awareness and attract new customers. For many businesses, recognition is nearly equivalent to the value of their brand. Elena Veselinova and Marija Gogova Samonikov explain in their book Building Brand Equity and Consumer Trust Through Radical Transparency Practices that brand impact is a continuous process that insures purchases, cash flow, revenue and share value. Brand communication and experience creates and builds a loyal base of customers that do not consider any other brand.

Creating a strong level of brand awareness takes time and strategy. Companies spend millions of dollars on marketing campaigns and advertising to increase their reach and recognition, but AI tech is able to take the guesswork out of these strategies by analyzing huge volumes of consumer data for more targeted campaigns. For example, predictive analytics software can collect, track, and analyze datasets from past customers to determine which strategies or tactics performed well. These datasets are turned into reports with insights to guide marketing efforts and place relevant content in front of the most interested eyes at the right times.

With AI-assisted marketing, advertising strategies can be backed with data to optimize ad placement. Machine learning systems can even identify the best influencers for brands to partner with in order to reach relevant audiences and grow brand familiarity.

Credit: Venturebeat.com

Consideration

The next step of the buyer’s journey is often overlooked by marketers because it can drag on for a long time, depending on the product and the customer’s needs. During the consideration phase, a customer is already familiar with a brand or product but are unsure of whether or not to actually purchase. Customers will typically research the product’s reviews, compare prices to competitors, and look for alternatives during this stage. Due to this, the number of potential customers tends to narrow down considerably as they move from this step to the decision phase.

Brands must work to combat each customer’s concerns and questions standing in the way of a purchase decision. One of the best ways to do this is by offering personalized content that is relevant to each person, making it easy for them to find the information they are seeking.

AI systems can be used to predict a customer’s needs based on consumer data and previous online behavior, and then encourage conversions with a tailored UX or even a completely customized landing page that displays content relevant to that customer.

For example, if a site visitor has viewed a certain product page and played a video demonstrating its features, these actions can trigger an AI system to target them with personalized content that prompts a conversion if they don’t proceed to buy immediately. This content could be something as simple as an email message with more information or a display ad with a special offer for the specific product.

Credit: Personyze.com

Then there are platforms that use conversational AI tech (such as chatbots and voice assistants) to power automated, text- or audio-based interactions between a business and its customers. These platforms can understand speech, decipher intent, differentiate between languages, and mimic human conversations with great accuracy. Increasingly, they are advanced enough to even understand individual context and personalize the conversation accordingly.

Based on data insights, AI tech can curate content that matches up with the issues that are most important to that person, whether it be product features, immediate delivery, long term savings, etc. Customers respond quite well to personalized offers — an Accenture study reported that 91% of consumers are more likely to purchase from a company that sent them targeted deals or recommendations.

Decision

Once a customer moves from consideration to action, AI tools can be used to support a positive sales experience and eliminate any bumps along the way. If a customer encounters an issue while browsing the site, or during checkout or payment, it could be an instant sales killer, if it isn’t handled immediately by something like live chat.

According to multiple studies, one of the most frustrating parts about online customer service is long wait times. By using AI-enabled chatbots, companies can instantly answer common questions and resolve issues or roadblocks affecting the progression of the buyer’s journey. And customers certainly appreciate these quick response times. AI systems can significantly increase conversions with effective personalization and swift customer service.

Credit: AIMultiple.com

Loyalty

The last step of the customer journey is possibly the most valuable. Over half of customers reportedly stay loyal to brands that “get them.” Returning customers also tend to spend more money than new ones, and an oft-reported stat says that on average 65% of businesses’ revenue comes from existing customers.

Businesses (and customers) can benefit greatly from loyalty programs that are backed with machine learning technology. Starbucks famously uses AI tech to analyze customer behavior, improve convenience, and identify which promotions would perform best based on that person’s drink or food preferences, location, and purchase frequency. Their loyalty program uses this data to send out thousands of offers each day for the products their customers are most likely to buy. Their customer loyalty program grew 16% YoY last year as a direct result of their Deep Brew AI engine.

Credit: Starbucks app

While a positive shopping experience and great products are certainly important factors in a customer’s decision to buy again, data-driven marketing campaigns that encourage loyalty can also help a company to grow their numbers of repeat sales. Again, AI-assisted personalization techniques can boost the chances of a customer coming back for more, especially if they receive targeted offers or shopping suggestions based on previous interactions.

Credit: Accenture.com

The Wrap

AI is proving to be the tool of the future for marketers. It allows marketing teams to use predictive insights and analytical data to encourage and assist every micro-decision taken by consumers. AI systems not only help customers move along the buyer’s journey, they can also provide a more meaningful experience along the way, leading to more conversions and brand loyalty down the road.

4 Tips for Targeted Customer Acquisition Marketing

Customer acquisition is the most expensive part of marketing, but no company can afford to abandon marketing for new customers. Acquisition marketing is essential, but brands must find a way to do it more effectively, and that starts with tighter, more data-driven targeting. 

Most marketing is blind. Brands put out messages and hope they are found by enough people who want to be customers that it justifies the spend. Even with targeted marketing, most campaigns are sent to broad audiences defined by a few key attributes, but not enough to eliminate the massive waste inherent in customer acquisition marketing.

Customer acquisition is the most expensive part of marketing. It can cost five times more than retention, and the costs keep rising. Still, no company can afford to abandon marketing for new customers. Even the best retention strategies bleed customers at an alarming rate; prospecting is the only way to offset that loss and grow.

Acquisition is essential, but brands must find a way to do it more effectively, and that starts with tighter, more data-driven targeting.

Data-Driven Acquisition Marketing

Customer modeling is the key to better targeting your prospecting. If you dig into your existing customers, you can identify commonalities and buying signals that allow you to direct marketing spend more effectively and reduce the overall cost to acquire new customers.

The hard part is knowing which attributes correlate most closely to the likelihood of a prospect becoming a customer.

Demographics Aren’t Enough

Demographics are a mainstay of target marketing, but in 2020 they’re not enough.

While demographics do have power in targeting your marketing, they don’t reflect buying signals in their own right. They can still be useful for targeting messaging and creative around more impactful modeling methods, but it’s important to look deeper.

Ideally, you want to build a target list around buying signals, then segment that by demographic information and target your creative to those segments. This means optimizing the creative and/or offer by doing things like matching people in the imagery to the demographics of that segment.

Demographics are also useful in building look-a-like audiences to target new customers based on the customers you already have. Even though demographic data does not directly indicate buying behavior, it can reveal insights when analyzed as part of the wider customer picture with data modeling tools.

4 Data Points for Better Customer Acquisition Marketing

With the above qualifiers in mind, which information actually does line up with more successful acquisition marketing? There are four key data points we like to use for omnichannel targeting.

1. Buying Behavior

When the goal is to understand what type of offer motivates what type of people to buy, purchasing behavior is one of the most important data points to consider.

When you identify that certain list segments respond to deep discounts, you can hold them out from general mailings and bring them back in when you have deep discounts to talk about.

When you can identify audiences with a propensity to buy around certain price points, build offers around those price points. If it’s above your product price, bundle a strong package deal that will lift response and increase your average order value. If your price is above the target, present it as an installment option with payments in the target zone.

This is exactly the kind of actionable information you can get from deep-dive data that is missing from demographic information. You’re not just targeting an age group, area, etc. You’re making a surgical strike at the behavior you want to influence.

2. Personal Life Triggers

Timing is everything. Once you’ve narrowed your target market by interest and buying signals, life triggers become a powerful way to spur new action.

Life triggers can be tied to events ranging from birthdays and graduations to buying a home, getting a new job, retirement, and other once-in-a-lifetime moments. By targeting marketing to a specific time in a prospect’s life when they are most likely to be interested in your offer, you stand a much better chance of making the conversion.

3. Shared Interests

One of the most important indicators of customer potential is evidence of interest in the product category or the industry it serves. While you may not be able to read prospect’s minds directly, there are many data points brands can use to pinpoint interest.

One way is to target audiences and lists built around interests that are relevant to your target customer, such as subscriber files for related media.

Perhaps a more exciting option: Social media provides new opportunities to leverage interest data points. Facebook, for example, allows you to build custom audiences including specific interests.

4. Searcher Intent

“Search data captured across e-commerce, pricing comparison, and product review sites are one of the strongest signals of intent and best sources for new customer acquisition,” says James Green, CEO of Magnetic, and he’s right. Harnessing this data in your customer models is one of the best ways to more tightly target your acquisition efforts and cut down on wasted prospecting spend.

This is why Google now uses searcher intent as the main factor in targeting its search algorithm. The intent is the most reliable indicator of what searchers actually want, and that makes it a powerful marketing tool.

In practice, this means identifying visitor paths, either on your website or across the web, and matching them with desired outcomes. What product pages are they looking at? Did they come from a related external website? Did you catch them on a specific search ad that is relevant to what they may want? All of this data can be used to build a better, more efficient plan for your acquisition marketing.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

All these data points are important for optimizing your acquisition marketing, but they’re not necessarily easily accessible. When you’re trying to do advanced customer lift modeling that includes things like buyer intent seen through visits to other websites, it really helps to have data scientists on your side. These experts can isolate those variables and build them into a view of the audience you’re trying to target.

These are essential tactics that businesses are using now, and more businesses will use them in the future. Make sure you get ahead of the curve by digging into the data points today.

3 Marketing Tactics for Credit Unions to Win Over Millennials

Credit unions offer a better deal for Millennials than any other financial institution, but to win them over, your marketing must embody and convey those advantages.

Credit unions are doing worse with Millennials than any other generation, as this banking target market has flocked to fintech-driven mobile finance experiences that prioritize faceless convenience over the advantages of credit unions. But this disconnect is not the way it has to be.

Credit unions offer a better deal for Millennials than any other financial institution, but to win them over, your marketing must embody and convey those advantages.

The disconnect is a customer experience issue, but it’s not one that can be fixed by just improving customer service. You need to help these potential customers see what your brand represents throughout the lead generation process. If you amplify personalized direct mail with targeted digital marketing, you create an optichannel marketing experience that shows younger audiences you are both relevant to their world and able to deliver the individualized, convenient banking experience they’re looking for.

To attract digitally savvy, convenience-centric banking customers, credit unions must be able to deliver marketing that accomplishes three things at once:

  1. Convey a better customer experience
  2. Embrace technology and convenience
  3. Make a personal connection

1. Convey a Better Credit Union Customer Experience

This is the first taste these Millennials will have of your brand, so it’s important to show why it’s worth their time to bank with you. How does this marketing experience convey the things that will give them a great experience as customers? Is it relevant to what they’re interested in? Is it convenient? Is it personal?

Beyond the marketing experience, what aspects of the customer experience does it actually show? Does it showcase the mobile tools your credit union provides? Does it show how you make it easier for them to access funds and perform transactions? What other benefits do you offer? Do you integrate with their favorite fintech, like Venmo?

It’s the time to show why you’re the credit union that can help them live their active, technology-empowered lives and achieve their financial dreams. Make it clear why your institution is the financial hub Millennials should be choosing as the foundation to reach their goals.

2. Embrace Technology and Convenience

Mobile should not just feature in your customer experience, it must be an integral part of your marketing as well. Today brands can target individuals through data you already have about them or by building custom audiences on digital platforms. These ads must be targeted to social and mobile marketplaces, as well, to ensure that Millennials see your messaging where they live when they’re ready to engage with it.

Reaching out to your audience through mobile channels is only the beginning. The creative you send and the offers it presents must showcase mobile-enablement as well. These customers live on their phones, and you need to show them your credit union lives there, too.

3. Make a Personal Connection

Targeting and personalization go hand-in-hand. The data available today — both your first-party data and information vendors can provide — is a powerful tool for making marketing that connects. This goes beyond demographics. With the right data, you can target younger adults at times when they may be more open to changing banks or pursuing other financial products like car loans and mortgages.

Figure out what demographics and life events you want to engage with this campaign and design a direct mail campaign that addresses them and serves as your marketing catalyst. Then target that defined segment with complimentary marketing across the digital world.

Millennial Marketing Tech for Credit Unions

Credit unions have always marketed less than other financial institutions, especially through mass-market channels. Instead, the traditional credit union relied on word of mouth and brand reputation supported by local direct mail to build personal connections with its community customer base.

Those are all good tactics and credit unions should keep using them, but they aren’t enough. Today, a single direct mail campaign may be seen, but it’s too easily forgotten in the tide of advertising Millennials see all day. Not to mention, while Millennials have been shown to appreciate direct mail, this is not the demographic you want thinking that your brand is “old-school” — digital marketing and engagement channels are essential for getting and holding Millennials’ attention.

Just like your credit union isn’t their father’s financial institution, today’s optichannel marketing isn’t the direct marketing of 1990. With the data and tools available today, it’s possible to make a personal connection that sets your brand up for success with each customer you reach. Doing that in a way that embodies the customer experience your credit union provides is the key to winning Millennial bank accounts today.

Taking Omnichannel Marketing Outbound in 2020!

While a strong omnichannel customer experience is important, it’s equally important to incorporate omnichannel marketing into your lead generation strategy. Content optimization, customer modeling, and profiling through a strategic optichannel plan will produce a strong customer acquisition system.

Omnichannel marketing is an important piece of any brand’s customer experience (CX) strategy, but too often it stops there. While a strong omnichannel CX is important, it’s equally important to incorporate omnichannel marketing into your lead generation strategy. Content optimization, customer modeling, and profiling through a strategic optichannel plan will produce a strong customer acquisition system.

Here are three ways to use the power of omnichannel marketing to enhance your outbound marketing and generate leads, acquire customers, and lay the foundation for strong customer relationships.

1. Omnichannel Content Optimization

The biggest difference between omnichannel CX and omnichannel marketing is that the CX mostly happens on your owned channels, and it mostly engages existing customers and lower-funnel prospects deciding to become customers.

But how do you get those prospects into the pipeline in the first place? Traditional mass marketing? That’s not the right way to introduce prospects to a highly targeted, personalized, omnichannel experience. Maybe Disney can pull that off, but most brands need to put more effort into building a strong foundation for the customer experience.

That’s where omnichannel marketing comes in. We recently dove into how four brands deliver great omnichannel customer experiences by anticipating individual customer needs and removing obstacles that would have a negative impact on customer experience. In omnichannel marketing, you take that same approach to outbound marketing content. That can be as simple as offering a discount or as complex as creating videos to counter known buying objections.

Great omnichannel marketing comes from understanding what your target audience wants and needs, and providing content that addresses those drives. At a minimum, you must develop ad content tailored to the specific segments you’re targeting. Blasting the same offer to all of your audience models is not omnichannel marketing.

For prospects who are already pretty far down the funnel, target them with ad content that makes it easy to see that you offer the things they want and will make them easy to get.

Not all prospect segments are going to be that far down the funnel, though. You may be using omnichannel marketing to drive awareness and get top-of-funnel prospects to sign up as leads and receive your newsletter. Here, educational content can be highly effective. If they’re new to the market, promote blog content that answers common newbie questions. If they’re experienced — but not looking to buy yet — promote high-value content that makes an impression and encourages them to come to you for answers (technology companies like Cisco and HubSpot do a wonderful job of this).

Keep in mind that a targeted audience offers new opportunities to optimize content. For example,  Google affinity audiences allow advertisers to loosely target visitors of competing websites. For these kinds of campaigns, you can talk specifically about the kinds of things those websites cover.

2. Turn Customer Data From a Microscope Into a Telescope

Every brand has customer data, but even though that data lets marketers examine their customers in small — even microscopic — detail, most have a hard time using it to do much more than send birthday emails and make fairly shallow product recommendations.

In order to use your data for true outbound omnichannel marketing, you need to turn that data around so it can be your telescope instead of a microscope. You can do this by examining the data to extrapolate traits from your existing customers that also should appear on likely customers — i.e., look-a-like modeling.

The process is two-fold data science. First, you identify the segments you want to model in your customer data and look for data points they have in common. These traits may indicate someone is likely to become your customer, but it’s not a single-factor analysis. Each segment may have demographic, psychographic, and behavioral variables you can synthesize to create models that will help find other likely customers.

Then you use those models to target both online and offline marketing. For example, Facebook has long offered look-a-like targeting to its audience. Google offers similar options across its whole online and mobile ad network. You can also use these models to identify mailing lists that include the right kind of audiences and target them with relevant marketing.

Omnichannel marketing is not just for direct response, either. It is highly effective at getting the right content in front of your target audience on social media. You can use these models to target content promotion on social networks and make sure the right stories from your accounts wind up in the feeds of the right people on each network.

3. Make Omnichannel Marketing Optichannel

As mentioned, omnichannel marketing takes everything you do to build your omnichannel customer experience and applies it to lead generation and customer acquisition. You can take this further to an optichannel strategy by constricting your outreach to just the channels where each customer prefers to engage with marketing. That may sound counterintuitive as part of an omnichannel strategy, but consumers and business audiences are both showing fatigue with being hounded by ads from every brand on every channel. There are benefits to actually limiting the channels you use for specific customers by selecting ones that can be effectively optimized.

If you can identify the preferred channel of a specific audience segment — or, ideally, individual prospects — and create a great experience for them on that channel, you stand a much better chance of laying the foundation for a great omnichannel customer relationship.

Omnichannel CX has been a breakthrough for many brands. Done well, the techniques it uses can provide your customers with the kind of experiences that keep them coming back — it’s like customer relationship magic. But if you can’t take those principles and apply them to your outbound marketing as well, you’re doing a disservice to brand growth. Use these tips to turn your CX strategy around and leverage the power of true omnichannel marketing.

12 Marketing Tips for Successful B2B Lead Qualification

B2B marketers understand the importance of qualifying a lead before it goes to a salesperson, but sometimes the lead qualification process can get tricky. Today, most established companies assign the qualification role to an SDR.

B2B marketers understand the importance of qualifying a lead before it goes to a salesperson, but sometimes the lead qualification process can get tricky. Today, most established companies assign the qualification role to an SDR, or sales development rep — a dedicated function that has one foot in sales and one in marketing.

But it’s all part of a fairly complicated process. To establish process effectively, follow these tips.

First, set your qualification criteria in concert with your sales counterparts. Think well beyond the simple score generated by your marketing automation system. Then, set up your process. As you plan, here are 12 key points to guide B2B marketers in improving their results:

Prepare Your Web Form

Direct your campaign inquiries to a web-based response form for their preliminary qualification, especially in a high-volume environment. Self-reporting on the web saves money for you and time for your prospect. Adding qualification questions to your form is going to reduce campaign response rates, but pays off in efficient lead-handling.

Start With Email

For outbound inquiry qualification, email is today’s preferred medium. Design your emails to link to a web-based qualification form. Make sure it’s mobile-friendly. Your emails and web forms should also offer several other response media options, including email, phone, and social media. Try adding a “call me now” feature.

Be Realistic About Tele-qualifying

Today’s businesspeople are rarely at their desks. Even if they are, they’re likely to let their calls go to voice mail as screener. Expect tele-qualification to require between eight and 12 attempts. Be sure to have a script ready when the phone call goes to voice mail.

Mix Your Marketing Channels

Set up an alternating qualification message series, by medium. If email doesn’t work, try the phone; or, if the phone doesn’t work, try postal mail. Include LinkedIn as part of the mix.

Prepare Your Talking Points

If you’re using the phone to qualify, make sure your script is more about prospects and their needs and less about your company and your products.

Set Your Maximum Number of Touches

Set them in advance, and base them on a reasonable number of contacts. For instance, if the prospect is unreachable after five phone calls and five emails, you may want to call it quits. But keep testing the cadence and frequency, for continuous improvement. The ROI on a customer relationship can be sizable enough to justify a long series of attempts.

Have a Nurturing Program in Place

Have the program in place as your Plan B. Some inquirers are in the earliest stages of research, and nowhere near ready to talk to a salesperson. But they may be eventually. If qualification outreach fails, move them to nurturing, which is a series of communications designed to keep the relationship going until the prospect is ready for the next step.

Determine When to Quit

If nurturing goes nowhere, put the name back in the marketing database for re-promotion and flag the record accordingly. If the prospect shows interest again, follow the process.

Adjust the Process to the Customer’s Situation

You can’t force customers to be ready, but you can — and must — be there when they become ready.

Manage Inquiries on a First-In-First-Out Basis

Do this so that no lead gets cold while waiting to go to sales.

Make Sure Your Qualifiers Concentrate on Qualifying

This might seem obvious, but especially on the phone, it can be tempting to move into a sales conversation. Their only job — a hugely important one — should be to qualify, and set appointments on behalf of a salesperson.

Customize Your Outbound Channel to the Incoming Medium

Respondents through digital channels expect fast — instant — response. So, use the tools needed to deliver; whether it’s autoresponders, chatbots, or 24-hour call centers.

 

A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

8 Ways to Increase Digital Ad Revenue by 50% or More

Companies need to take a serious look at their digital ad programs, make needed adjustments, and prepare sales teams for success. From fixing inventory and pricing to launching programmatic audience extension, here are eight tactics worth considering.

I recently received a fantastic email from a single title B2B publication that I work with: “As of today, we are on track for $452,380 in digital revenue alone. This is a 66% increase over last year’s digital revenues of $271,798!”

How did they do it?

We took a serious look at how the team was approaching digital ad sales, removed programs that weren’t working, reworked their products, delivered more value to their advertisers, and simplified the program. The publisher, editorial, and sales staff got behind the changes and their advertisers obviously responded positively.

Now they’re getting ready to launch some new digital products for next year.

With the fall sales season coming up quickly, now is also the time for you to take a serious look at your digital ad programs, make needed adjustments, and get your staff ready. Here are eight tactics that you should consider.

1. Simplify Your Digital Advertising Program

When I look at most publishers’ digital ad programs, they’re too complicated and have too many products. Ask your ad reps to give you a quick recap of your digital program. If they can’t quickly and easily do this, then you’ve got a problem.

A good rule of thumb is that if you’re not selling out any specific product 70% of the time, you should consider eliminating it. Use that inventory to bolster the value of other digital products. Or get rid of it altogether to reduce site clutter and the number of emails you send – and to improve the performance and value of your other products.

Simplification of your digital products is the best way to help your ad reps sell more and to deliver more value to advertisers, making them want to buy from you again and again.

2. Fix Your Inventory and Pricing

When your advertising program is simple, you can ensure that each product has enough inventory to provide excellent value to your advertiser. This is absolutely critical. If you don’t provide true value, you may sell an advertiser once, but you won’t sell them again.

And when you put enough value into each digital product, you can then adjust your rates accordingly. If you do it right, your base digital ad product should roughly sell for the same price as a full-page ad in your print magazine and deliver comparable value.

Adjusting inventory and pricing also allows you to control supply and demand. If you have too many products that aren’t selling out, there is no urgency on the part of the advertiser. But if you consolidate and simplify your products, you can charge more, deliver more value, and create urgency among advertisers to get access to your limited opportunities.

3. Get Rid of the Frequency Rate Card

Frequency rate cards are a legacy of the print-only era. They were designed to give advertisers a discount if they spent more money with you. But today, we sell print and digital (and more). All the frequency rate card does is silo print and disincentivize advertisers from buying digital.

Consider ditching the rate card and replace it with an overall spend discount. Have a base, 1x rate for everything print and digital. Then, give tiered discounts based upon total advertiser spend instead of just on the number of print ads they buy.

This incents advertisers to spend more money with you regardless of the medium.

4. Consider the Digital Sponsorship Model

I’ve covered the digital sponsorship model before, but it’s worth reiterating here. In the sponsorship model, you take all (or most) of your web and email inventory, package it together in a single price, and limit the number of sponsorships you sell.

You bring a ton of value to your advertisers, can charge a premium, and completely change the nature of discussions with advertisers and agencies. Instead of you competing for limited ad budgets, your advertisers compete for the limited sponsorship opportunities on your site.

It isn’t for everyone, but I’ve seen many publishers (especially in niche B2B markets) increase digital revenue by 50-200% after implementing this model.

5. Develop an Inbound Marketing / Lead Nurturing Business

Lead generation is something that most publishers already have in their arsenal. But very few publishers take it to the next level and develop a true inbound marketing/lead nurturing business. Yet this is where advertisers are moving their budgets.

In a lead nurturing business, the publisher leverages its content expertise to help the advertiser develop a very compelling lead magnet. They use their own website, email, and social channels to market the lead magnet, but also remarket to their audience on programmatic networks (LinkedIn, Facebook, Google, etc) to drive even more people to the lead magnet.

And you don’t stop after the initial registration. You then upsell people into requesting direct contact with the advertiser through an email drip sequence and other methods. This help turns “prospects” who access the lead magnet into qualified, sales-ready leads … a huge difference!

As a publisher, you either become the best inbound agency in your market or be prepared to watch other ad agencies or competitive publications take market share away from you.

6. Launch Programmatic Audience Extension

Your advertisers are already running programmatic advertising on Google/YouTube, Facebook/Instagram, LinkedIn, and other networks. They’re just not doing it with you. But with programmatic audience extension advertising, you can position yourself to recapture a good portion of this business.

The concept is relatively simple. Use your website visitors, social media followers, and email subscribers to create remarketing audiences on various programmatic networks. You then sell programmatic campaigns to your audience targeting your specific audience on those networks.

For advertisers, this is a much more targeted demographic than they could otherwise get. They also get the added benefit of leveraging your brand equity.

For publishers, this taps into new budgets and opens up new inventory that you don’t have on your own website. I have seen programmatic audience extension add hundreds of thousands of dollars of new revenue for publishers, often at 70% margins or higher.

7. Educate and Communicate with Your Advertisers

As I’ve written about previously, it’s critical that you align the advertiser’s objective, creative, and success metrics before, during, and after their campaign. Doing this on a regular basis helps set proper expectations and improve repeat business.

I often see advertisers who want clicks or leads but give the publisher a branding creative. They’re then upset when they don’t get enough clicks. Or the advertiser will say they want a branding objective but are still upset about not getting enough clicks.

As a publisher, you must align the client’s campaign objective, the tactics used in their creative, and the metrics they’ll use to evaluate the campaign. This happens at three critical points: when making the sale, when they deliver ad creative to you, and after the campaign.

Some publishers even do a webinar for their advertisers to help reinforce the importance of direct response versus branding campaigns and aligning campaign objective, creative, and success criteria.

8. Keep Digital in Front of Your Sellers Regularly

Finally, keep your digital products in front of your sellers on a regular basis. Every month dedicate a portion of one of your sales team meetings to review how well products are selling and inventory that is still open.

Talk openly about financial performance and key metrics. Discuss what’s working, what’s not, and what you’re hearing from your advertisers. This helps answer several questions:

  • Do my sellers need more training on certain aspects of our digital business?
  • Do I need to better educate my advertisers and their agencies?
  • Do I need to eliminate or modify our digital deliverables or pricing?
  • Do I need to restructure my sales team to better sell under-performing products?
  • How can I help my sellers better overcome advertiser objections?

Talking about digital sales openly and bluntly also keeps digital at the forefront of your sales team’s mind. It’s a level of accountability and keeps your digital products from accidentally “falling off the radar.”

I hope these ideas were useful. If you have any questions about them or how to implement them in your market, please feel free to contact me and let’s chat about your specific situation.

Prospect Experience Marketing: Find the Gold in Your Lead Generation Program

I recently caught up with Dan McDade, a longtime B2B practitioner in lead qualification and nurturing. I’ve been a fan of his for years. Here, we talk about prospect experience marketing.

I recently caught up with Dan McDade, a longtime B2B practitioner in lead qualification and nurturing. I’ve been a fan of his for years. Here, we talk about prospect experience marketing.

Prospect Experience Marketing
Dan McDade

Having sold his call center business to a colleague, and started a new venture, McDade offered me some fresh ways of thinking about how to treat top prospects. His new business is called Prospect Experience.

Ruth P. Stevens: You’ve been involved in the lead generation world for a long time. How has it changed?

Dan McDade: The big changes have been in the use of marketing technology. Certainly, technology lets us deliver more leads to sales, faster than ever before. But just as often, these are bad leads. Lead generation success rests on quality — not quantity, and not speed.

Stevens: What are the top challenges that still vex B2B marketers today?

McDade: Companies tend to market too broadly. Messaging is overly focused on features and functions, or what some people call bits and bytes. Narrowing down the target universe, creating a differentiating message and delivering that message with the right media at the right time are all critically important requirements that elude many, if not most, marketers today.

Stevens: What’s working in lead gen and lead development? Your advice, please!

McDade: It is all about balance. We used to say that multi-touch, multi-media and multi-cycle marketing multiplied results. That is now called the “cadence,” and it works. The secret is in mixing up the media. You can’t depend entirely on email. You need balance. Use phone calls, voicemails, emails, and even some direct mail to invite prospects into a dialogue.

In my opinion, too much of the prospecting is being handled by a black box. Not enough marketing is truly one-to-one. For every prospect universe, something like 30 to 40% of those prospects should not be included in marketing automation campaigns, at all. These prospects are just too important to risk with a one-to-many approach. Senior executives don’t want to be treated like a pinball, where they only get your attention after they have hit the right bumpers and scored enough points.

Stevens: I see. That’s a very interesting and important point. How do you suggest marketers identify those high-value prospects early, so they can pull them out of the automated campaigns and treat them differently?

McDade: At the beginning, you need to use your knowledge of the market, and some intuition, to segment the market into logical homogenous groups. Once market outreach begins, you segment and re-segment the targets based on variables like industry, firmographics, and sales history. Let me suggest this article to your readers for more detail.

Stevens: And how, specifically, to you recommend marketers treat these top prospects? Not via email, I gather!

McDade: Email can, in fact, be a part of the equation. But it must be personalized — for real. It can’t be what some folks call “personalization, at scale.” As I said, it is necessary to use cadences to mix up the media, tell the story, and convert the prospect. Using all of the tools available — phone, voicemail, email, direct mail, and social media — is critical to success. You need to be persistent, patient, and professional.

Stevens: You mentioned that you see the keys to success in what you call the Three M’s. What’s that?

McDade: When something is “off” on a program, the first place we look is by analyzing the market, message, and media. On the market, for example, if you start with a bad list, it is very difficult to recover.

The message breaks down into two components: value statements and differentiators.  It takes a lot of time and effort to get these right. And the work is never done. You are constantly testing against the control, or the original message, to fine-tune and improve your story.

Finally, the media issue can be as simple as two different sales development reps producing different results. We have had situations where the difference was just the luck of the draw. But more likely, it turns out that one rep is following instructions, with success, and the other refuses to follow the rules and is losing.

Stevens: What is your new company, Prospect Experience, all about?

McDade: The goal for Prospect Experience is to humanize the process of converting prospects to customers. Prospects today are called by pushy appointment setters, or being read tedious scripts by low-level telemarketers, or being barraged with email. Frankly, prospects are treated like dirt.

Maybe that is why less than half of the salespeople out there are making quota. With the right approach, marketers can convert more prospects to customers for less money than they are currently spending. I developed a process called the “12-Point Prospect-Experience Transformation” to help companies perfect their prospecting and enhance the prospect experience

Stevens: How can people get in touch with you to learn more?

McDade: I am happy to field emails or calls at dan.mcdade@prospect-experience.com, or 770-262-9021. I also encourage people to visit https://www.prospect-experience.com/insights to sign up for our blog.

A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

1 Big Pitfall to Successful Demand Generation Digital Transformation

As marketing leaders, we sometimes inadvertently lead our teams astray. When we delegate the outcomes we want, and simultaneously drive a sense of urgency, our teams may skip important steps in their drive to achieve the outcomes.

As marketing leaders, we sometimes inadvertently lead our teams astray. When we delegate the outcomes we want, and simultaneously drive a sense of urgency, our teams may skip important steps in their drive to achieve the outcomes. Here is a classic example we see all too frequently with clients.

The Scenario

We start with the desired outcomes, of course. In demand generation, this is usually marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) or sales-qualified leads (SQLs), bookings and revenue. If this desired outcome was somehow unexpected, then a sense of urgency invariably accompanies it. So, in turn, we light a fire under our teams to quickly get some leads in the door, generate MQLs and SQLs ASAP.

The Result and the 1 Big Pitfall

We need to generate leads and MQLs? Let’s create a campaign! Yay! Design it this week, build it next week, QA and launch the end of the week, and leads will start pouring in subsequent to that. Oh, dear. If only it were that easy. Going straight from “we need MQLs” to “let’s create a campaign” means going from Step 1 to Step 8 and skipping six important steps.

  1. Generate new MQLs and SQLs
  2. Create a campaign!

Here are the six intervening steps you will want to ensure your team takes if you are to have successful demand generation campaigns and succeed in your digital transformation.

Preventing the Pitfall

Step 2. What Buying Stage Transition Are We Targeting?

Once we understand the outcome desired in Step 1, we must determine what customer buying journey stage we are targeting. Are we moving people from unaware to aware, or from aware to consideration, etc. If you haven’t defined the customer buying journey, stop and define at least one.

Step 3. What Persona Are We Targeting?

Don’t have any defined personas? Stop and define at least one. Having a clear picture of who you are targeting is a critical step to successfully achieving your outcome. Now that you have the persona selected, the team gets to review what channels the persona prefers, and the content preferences. Step 2 and Step 3 are interchangeable. I.e., there will be occasions where you perceive your funnel conversion rate from one stage to another is low, and you make the buying journey stage decision first. There will be other times where you recognize your funnel volume is low on a particular persona, and you make the persona decision first and the buying journey stage decision second. Regardless, you need to take both steps.

Step 4. What Problem Does Your Persona Have at This Stage?

The next question to answer, now that you have selected the target persona, and the current buying journey stage, is what problem do the members of it have at this stage that can be solved with your content?

For example, if you are targeting the Aware stage, and want to move them to Consideration, what information or education will trigger the buyers to sit up, realize they have been ignoring a pain in their sides that is curable, or that they have an opportunity to do something they have not done before, and they need to finally take action? The ideal content you send is most likely NOT product-centric. It will be customer-centric and it will have the buyer‘s challenge or the opportunity as the primary theme. It will be very narrowly focused around that theme.

We are looking for the trigger that will move this persona one step forward in the buying journey. We are not trying to move them all of the way to “closed won” with a single piece of content, or a single campaign.

Step 5. What Message or Content Addresses That Challenge or Opportunity?

Okay, we have the target persona, the buying journey stage they are in, the trigger we feel will tip them forward into the next stage in the buying journey. So now the question is, what content do we have that directly addresses this issue? Ignore the medium it is in for now, as repackaging it may not be hard. Focus on which Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) can or have already produced in terms of educational pieces of content that will be most effective in engaging the targets and moving them forward.

Step 6. What Is the Appropriate Medium for the Information?

All too often, we have clients ask us: “What is the hottest medium to use these days — video, white papers, webinars, slide shares, infographics, what?”

This is totally the wrong question! The answer depends on the message itself, and the persona and, to some extent, the buying stage they are in.

For example, if your target persona is a technical influencer, and uses a smartphone frequently to read email on the commuter train in the morning, sending a white paper would be silly, but a 2-minute video could work great … depending on the message you are trying to send. And the medium may also depend on the channels we pick in Step 7. Because more and more campaigns are becoming multichannel, it is likely you will end up choosing multiple media for the message, to match the multiple channels you use to engage the targets.

Step 7. What Combination of Channels Will We Use to Communicate That Content?

Next, we have to determine which channels will work for this persona. It is a good idea to use more than one channel to convey the same message to the same individuals. The results will simply be better, and the level of effort is not significantly more.

Some firms erroneously believe that paid media ads are only for top-of-funnel, new-lead acquisition. This is not true.

For instance, you can upload a list of email addresses into Facebook, or LinkedIn, match them against their data to create your new target list, and then do nurturing campaigns through those channels very economically only to your existing leads.

Step 8: Put It All Together

Now you are finally ready for Step 8. Let’s design a campaign based on all of the decisions made in Steps 2-7.  Now the cynics among you will say, “Hey, steps 2-7 are really part of basic campaign design, how can people be skipping them?”

The Pitfall You Just Avoided

Well, many firms don’t have defined personas and buying journey maps and here is what happens:

Step 1. CMO: We need more MQLs, urgently

Step 8. Team: Let’s design a campaign

  • An Email campaign, right? Blast everyone who is not a customer in our database, right?
  • 4 touches, check
  • 2 weeks apart, check
  • What offers can we put in there, a case study, an infographic, a research report and the last email is the call to action — “request a demo.” Check
  • Great, code up that campaign, we can get this out in under two weeks. Yay.
  • Count all the MQLs.

Conclusion

So, the message is this. If you urgently discover you need more MQLs, update your resume, not your campaign calendar. If you want to be successful in digital transformation, become more customer-centric, and approach customer engagement from the buyer perspective:

Think about what information they need first. Secondly, determine what content contains that information and then lastly, what channels and campaigns can convey that information to the recipients. And understand that one campaign does not produce a meaningful flow of MQLs or SQLs. Nurturing is a process, it requires commitment and it must be sustained over a longer period of time

Lead Generation Metrics — The Basics and Beyond

Lead generation metrics should help you understand not only what parts of your digital marketing are working, but what parts are generating the highest quality leads.

There are basic lead generation metrics that you must to be tracking in order to evaluate the success of your lead gen efforts. You’ll likely have to go beyond the basics to mine truly valuable insights about your efforts.

Here’s a list, that’s by no means comprehensive, of my favorite basic and more advanced metrics.

First, the basics.

Impressions

How many people are seeing your ad, your content or whatever it is you’re using to attract that audience? This is, to use another term, your reach. Your tracking and evaluation here should be on a per-channel basis, with an eye toward finding the channels that you are able to grow most cost-effectively.

Clickthrough Rate

CTR is the number of people who interact with your content. Typically, that means they click the ad or the link in your social media post, etc. (You might also want to track other types of engagement, like subscriptions.) The critical element of this metric is breaking it down to individual ads or content, including individual issues of your newsletter campaign. You want to know what is resonating with your audience and what is driving them to take action.

Conversions

A conversion can be many different things, depending on the goal you have for your lead generation campaign. (e.g. marketing-qualified leads, sales-qualified leads, etc.) Whatever action you deem to be a conversion, it’s generally a “state change” along the buyer’s journey. That can be a move from a member of the target audience who’s never heard of you to a website visitor to a prospect to a MQL to an SQL and finally to becoming a client. Each of those state changes is a conversion that should be tracked separately.

Conversion Rate

This calculated metric is a function of conversions divided by impressions. It’s worth tracking on its own, of course, but should also be evaluated with some latitude. That is, as you expand your reach and your impressions rise, you may have a less tightly targeted audience. Of course, you’d like your conversion rate to always rise. But if it falls while the total number of conversions rise, that’s not necessarily a bad trade-off.

With these data points solidly represented in our dashboard, we can move on to additional (and increasingly useful) measurements.

Cost per Lead

What does it take to move a prospect through a stage in the funnel? How does the cost compare with other methods? (Direct mail, trade shows, etc.) How do costs compare across the various digital channels you’re using? These are the metrics that will guide your spend going forward.

Leads per Channel

Another calculated metric worth adding to your dashboard. Here, you compare how many leads a channel is generating against all other channels. It’s an analog to conversion rate in that a channel with more leads generated from a smaller audience (impressions) might be a channel worth exploring more deeply.

Time to Conversion

This metric typically takes some aggregating of data across platforms, as you’ll want to note when each state change occurs. It’s valuable to know how long it takes a typical prospect to proceed through each stage. It’s even more valuable to know this on a per-channel basis. And more valuable still to know average time-per-conversion for those prospects that become clients. You can then tailor your programs to pay more attention to those prospects who appear to be on that “golden path.”

Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)

CLV should be calculated across the board and broken down by channel. A channel with a slightly higher cost per lead but a 10-time increase in CLV is a great channel!

Conclusion

You may find the able list of metrics daunting to consider, especially if you’re not gathering and reviewing any of them now. If so, there’s no reason not to start small. As you become more comfortable with the data, you can expand your dashboard to include a broader range of data points and a broader possibility of action points.

Video Q&A: How Will AI Help Marketers Improve Retargeting & Conversion?

There’s a lot of loose talk around the potential for AI to change the nature of the marketing game, but beyond the buzz it can be hard to tell exactly how marketers will be using it to improve their businesses. In a series of video Q&A’s, marketing AI practitioner and Trust Insights co-founder Christopher Penn will explain how marketers can actually use AI.

Penn will be leading the keynote session on AI applications in marketing at the FUSE Digital Marketing Summit this November. Learn more about attending here.

Check out Penn’s previous videos:
Q: How Will AI Help Marketers Tap Their Data Wells?
Q: What Marketing Processes or Tasks Will AI Eliminate?

Q: How will AI help marketers with retargeting and sales conversion?

This is a really interesting question because one of the things that marketers struggle with is what causes a conversion. What factors, what measures, what metrics, what learners, what dimensions lead to conversion or contribute to conversion? A big part of this is the foundation of attribution analysis. What pieces of data have driven conversions in the past? And then, with things like retargeting, you’re trying to focus on predicting what things are likely to cause conversions in the future. The way AI and machine learning help with this is dealing with what are called “weak learners.”

A weak learner is any dimension or metric whose predictive power is just barely above random chance. It’s called a weak learner because it’s a weak signal. It’s not a signal that by itself is a very strong signal. So for example, the number of times someone has retweeted your tweets, right? For a fair number of businesses, that’s going to be a really weak learner. In fact, it may or may not even be statistically relevant. But at the very least that is probably going to be a weak learner.

There are also things like how many times someone has opened an email, the number of social channels someone follows you on, the pages they visited on a website, the amount of time they spent on a page.

When you think about all the data that we have access to as marketers and then we consider that most of these metrics are pretty weak, you get to start getting a sense of the scope of the problem.

We have all this data and none of it is the one answer that we’re looking for. The answer that says, “This is the thing we need to do more of.” It would be nice if it didn’t work that way. It would be nice to know you should always send email on Tuesdays, that’s going to cause all your conversions. Doesn’t happen.

So how does AI help with this? Through techniques that aggregate weak learners together and make them function as a stronger learner, we can get a sense of what combinations of dimensions and metrics matter most.

Hear Penn’s full answer to the question of how AI will enhance marketers’ ability to convert sales and retarget customers in the above video.

See Christopher Penn present the keynote session Using AI & Deep Learning to Generate Marketing Results at the FUSE Digital marketing Summit.