Using Content to Nurture Leads

The difference between just publishing a blog and content marketing is less about what you create than it is about how you use what you create. In other words, it’s what happens after you click the Publish button that determines whether you’re really a content marketer. An example of this can be found in using your content marketing as part of your lead nurturing efforts.

The difference between just publishing a blog and content marketing is less about what you create than it is about how you use what you create. In other words, it’s what happens after you click the Publish button that determines whether you’re really a content marketer. An example of this can be found in using your content to nurture leads.

Helping smooth the path from discovery to purchase for prospects typically starts with great content, so I don’t want to underplay the importance of generating truly useful information for your audience. But making the leap from “free publisher” to effective content marketer depends on the rest of your plan.

Using Content to Nurture Leads

The first step of that plan must be promoting your content to get it in front of your audience. This is a topic worthy of lengthier discussion; for the moment, I’ll just say that email, social media, and just about any regular point of contact you have with clients and prospects should be part of your promotion efforts.

As you’re promoting your content, you must also be aware of when your content will be most useful to prospects. That is, at what point in their buying process will they find what you’ve written most valuable?

This means not only having a knowledge of what a typical prospect’s buying process looks like when he or she is buying your product or service, but also having content that addresses the questions and concerns that are raised at each step.

Once you have that matrix of content built, it’s time to integrate other tools into your content marketing program. Key among these will be email. Following up regularly over time is a key part of successful marketing of any kind. We all know that our first contact with a prospect isn’t necessarily going to be at a time when that prospect is ready to move forward toward a decision. A drip marketing campaign, as it’s sometimes called, is key to maintaining a presence without being intrusive. The goal is to stay recognized and useful until your solution is most relevant to the prospect.

Prospective Profiling

Prospective profiling is the next step you should consider. In a nutshell, prospective profiling is the use of tech tools to customize the calls to action and content on your website based on the past behavior of site visitors.

The goal is to make use of what you already know about a prospect to a) avoid annoying him or her with redundant questions, and b) to ensure that you continue to offer useful information. Few things are more annoying than returning to a website to be greeted by a pop-up window offering the same white paper you downloaded yesterday — and requiring you to fill in the same form fields to get it!

Prospective profiling allows you to offer the next logical piece of content (from the prospect’s perspective) while asking for more information about them and their needs. For example, if you already have their name, email and company, perhaps you now ask for their title, their budget, or their expected timeframe for making a decision.

You wouldn’t ask for all of these things at once — the drop-off in conversion would be too steep, particularly if you don’t have an established relationship with the prospect — but asked over time, the questions are less intrusive. And you still are able to build a much more complete picture.

Closing the CRM Loop

This all gives you the ability to feed data into a lead scoring system tied into your CRM tools. Unless you’re still working from spreadsheets, you’ll want to work closely with both your website developer and your CRM consultant to implement a strong progressive profiling program. With you driving the process from a marketing perspective, you’ll be able to build a system that uses your content to nurture leads consistently from first content through conversion.

7 Outrageous Lead Management Errors and How to Fix Them

In last month’s blog post we introduced the five core marketing processes essential to effective and efficient marketing operations. This month we will delve into the first, and most important of these processes, the lead management process.

Stop LightIn last month’s blog post, we introduced the five core marketing processes essential to effective and efficient marketing operations. This month we will delve into the first, and most important of these processes, the lead management process.

I believe it is the most important because, if poorly designed and executed, marketing cannot accurately determine how many quality leads it is passing to the sales channels, and how much influence its activities are having on revenue. What could be more important than that?

List of Ingredients for an Effective Lead Management Process

The lead management process outlines the steps for tracking and reporting on leads as they are created and move through a funnel. During this process leads become qualified or disqualified, and eventually pass on to a lead development team and finally onto sales or channel partners.

A typical lead management process includes the following six components:

  • Definition of a sales ready lead
  • Definition of the various lead statuses in the CRM defined funnel
  • Design of the lead processing, routing, and related notifications
  • Design of the lead scoring algorithm
  • Development and agreement on a service level agreement (SLA) between sales and marketing
  • Establishment of funnel metrics

In the process of adding more detail behind each of these, I will include examples of these 7 egregious errors in each, and how to avoid them.

  1. Failure to involve sales in defining a sales ready lead
  2. Failure to add lead status values for purchased list imports
  3. Inclusion of call dispositions as lead status values
  4. Failing to create and use a contact status field
  5. Failing to periodically review and refresh the lead scoring algorithm
  6. Failure to measure and enforce the sales and marketing SLA
  7. Funnel metrics that fail to account for unusual lead flow patterns

Definition of a Sales Ready Lead

Simply put, if you are in demand generation, your output is largely sales ready leads that have the potential to become opportunities for the sales channel. As such, you absolutely require an agreement between sales and marketing as to what constitutes a sales ready lead. And the error too many firms make is allowing marketing to decide what constitutes a sales ready lead all by themselves.

The result is that junk leads from events and the website are tossed over the fence to sales, who quickly recognize them for what they are, and learn to ignore leads from marketing.

It is very important to get sales people and sales management in the room with marketing and knock out a definition that both can live with. Marketing may not be able to get the B.A.N.T. criteria (budget, authority, need, time frame) without the help of lead development reps (LDRs). So what info can marketing solicit through forms, data appending, firmagraphics and observed behavioral data? What info does a LDR have to add? All of this info will inform the lead scoring algorithm discussed below.

Definition of Lead Statuses

Ah yes, you might think this one is easy, take the standard set of values including Inquiry, MQL, SAL, SQL, and Disqualified, and we’re done … right? Wrong. There are a couple of errors here that I see too often.

Millennial Mashup

Millennials to the left of me, marketers to my right — here I am. You’re stuck in the middle with me, discussing the posts of mine that made the biggest impression on you. Not surprisingly, the posts are about Millennials.

MillennialsMillennials to the left of me, marketers to my right — here I am. You’re stuck in the middle with me, discussing the posts of mine that made the biggest impression on you. Not surprisingly, the posts are about Millennials.

Marketers want and need to know about this influential group because, for one, Millennials are marketers now and are already making their marks on the profession. They’re an influential customer group, too, able to spend $1.4 trillion in a few years, according to Accenture.

Marketers who are trying to figure out if Millennials will spend the money with them read and reacted to these posts the most:

  • Why Don’t Millennials Use Cash? How to get that ROI: “As I paid a dinner check, my Millennial daughter affectionately quipped, ‘You old people and your cash!’ ”
  • Why Won’t Millennials Call Me? How marketers can convert Millennial consumers: “Maybe it all started with AOL Instant Messenger when they were teens. They created acronyms like PIR (parent in room), 9 or PAW (for parents are watching), and other secret shortcuts to secure their privacy.”
  • Why Millennials Don’t Consume Mass Media … And Why That’s OK. So where is the top of the funnel? “Every semester, I ask the students in my undergraduate classes: ‘Does anyone read the newspaper?’ No hands raised. ‘Does anyone watch the network news on TV?’ No hands raised. ‘Does anyone listen to the radio?’ Some who commute by car raised their hands.”
  • Your Best Marketing Investment: Recent Grads. Business strategy should involve Millennials, because: “Throughout my career as a marketer, mentor and teacher, I have learned that recent college grads are capable of creating remarkable work, if given the chance.”

Planning ROI? Turn the Funnel Upside-Down

Many marketers use a funnel to illustrate the progression from prospect to buyer because the narrowing graphic neatly shows the narrowing segments of the sales progression. Most construct the funnel by starting at the top and working their down chronologically through the sales cycle.  They apply projected percentages to each stage, funnel down to a number of buyers, calculate revenue based on average sale, and determine ROI based on promotion costs.

Many marketers use a funnel to illustrate the progression from prospect to buyer because the narrowing graphic neatly shows the narrowing segments of the sales progression. Most construct the funnel by starting at the top and working their down chronologically through the sales cycle. They apply projected percentages to each stage, funnel down to a number of buyers, calculate revenue based on average sale, and determine ROI based on promotion costs.

A different approach to using the funnel starts at the bottom. It has its roots in the tried and true direct response principles of Customer Lifetime Value (LTV) and Allowable Acquisition Cost (AAC). Because these two principles are the components that make up ROI (with LTV as the “R” and AAC as the “I”), the upside-down funnel becomes a useful tool for planning and creating ROI scenarios.

Start with the value of a customer. Set a target ROI and calculate your AAC. For this illustration, let’s assume that a buyer is worth $300 and we set our revenue target ROI at 3:1. This results in an AAC of $100.

See Equation No. 1 in the media player at right.

As you move to the lower portions of the upside down funnel, you apply assumptions about the conversion rates at each stage. For example, if you assume that 30 percent of all qualified leads will convert to buyers, then the Allowable Cost per Qualified Lead is $30.

See Equation No. 2 in the media player at right.

Similarly, you can calculate the Allowable Cost Per Lead, Per Response, and Per Impression all the way to the top of the upside down funnel. So if you estimate that two-thirds of your leads will be qualified, your Allowable Cost per Lead is $20, and so on.

When you reach the bottom of the upside-down funnel, it becomes particularly useful for media planning. You can determine the required response rates from each medium under consideration by:

  1. Dividing the cost of the media by the Allowable Lead Cost to determine the number of leads required from each medium
  2. Dividing the number of leads required by the circulation or number of impressions associated with the medium

For example, see Equation Nos. 3 and 4 in the media player at right.

Then, do a gut check. Is that response rate attainable? Don’t know? Test it. A carefully controlled small test will quantify your assumptions at each point of the upside-down funnel.

Following the Breadcrumbs to Guide People Through the Path to Purchase

 

Marketing is about service; it’s about helping a company identify and fulfill the needs, wants and desires of consumers. Throughout most of its history, marketing has focused on the needs of the marketer and the marketer’s company. We’ve been shareholder-centric, company-centric and product-centric. We’ve organized our companies to be engineering-driven, sales-driven or marketing-driven. In other words, we’ve been self-absorbed and focused on our needs and our offerings and what we want to accomplish. This inward focus must change. To execute effectively, brands most certainly need to maintain an inward focus on all of the activities above. However, they also need to create and hone their mobile marketing capabilities. That is, train their people, invest in technology and develop processes to achieve their goals in the new mobile reality. 

 

Move aside purchase funnel and make room for the path to purchase. Perhaps you’ve noticed the headlines of late: “Marketing is Changing,” “Mobile Advertising is More Effective Than Desktop Advertising,” “CIOs Now Report to the CMOs (Or Should),” “It Is About Being Mobile First,” and so on.

All of these headlines, and countless more, are referring to an inalienable truth today: social norms and people’s behaviors are changing, and as a consequence so is the practice of marketing.

Marketing is about service; it’s about helping a company identify and fulfill the needs, wants and desires of consumers. Throughout most of its history, marketing has focused on the needs of the marketer and the marketer’s company. We’ve been shareholder-centric, company-centric and product-centric. We’ve organized our companies to be engineering-driven, sales-driven or marketing-driven. In other words, we’ve been self-absorbed and focused on our needs and our offerings and what we want to accomplish. This inward focus must change.

To execute effectively, brands most certainly need to maintain an inward focus on all of the activities above. However, they also need to create and hone their mobile marketing capabilities. That is, train their people, invest in technology and develop processes to achieve their goals in the new mobile reality.

Since today’s consumer spends the majority of their time on or being influenced by mobile devices and mobile-enhanced media, they’ve begun to expect one-to-one personalized treatment. It’s imperative that marketers turn their primary focus away from themselves and towards people (a word rarely used to define consumers). Marketers must take their focus away from shuttling the “consumer” down the proverbial purchase funnel cattle shoot and direct it toward guiding and helping people along their individualized path to purchase.

Below is a side-by-side illustration of the purchase funnel, resting on the base of loyalty and advocacy, and the new path to purchase.

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The stages and steps along the purchase funnel and path to purchase are similar, but subtle differences exist. The purchase funnel is a linear view of the world through the marketer’s eyes and the marketer’s goals, while the path to purchase is a nonlinear view, with many branches. It’s a view of the world through an individual’s senses and how they go through their day, week, year or life satisfying their wants and desires.

These two views of the world, the purchase funnel and the path to purchase, aren’t at odds with each other. Rather, they’re simply a view of the world through different lenses.

To be clear, the path to purchase isn’t the purchase funnel laid on its side as it’s often portrayed. People don’t care about “brand awareness” like marketers do. People care about expressing their needs or responding to conscious and unconscious exposure. Marketers need to understand that value is created between the customer’s view and their own.

For marketers to be successful in the age of the mobile-led digital economy, it’s important to look at the world through both lenses, the purchase funnel and the path to purchase. They need to be able to step into the shoes of the people they serve (their customers) and will service (their prospects).

Putting yourself in people’s shoes isn’t easy nor is it comfortable, but it must be done. The first step is to build empathy and understanding. A helpful way to do this is to understand behavior, ideally by talking with and listening to your customers directly, as explained by Jonathan Stephen from JetBlue in a recent webinar I did with him.

Another way is to conduct primary research and review secondary research. For example, to help you understand the behavior of people along the path to purchase, I encourage you to read the xAd Mobile Path To Purchase research.

In 2012 and 2013, xAd conducted studies in the U.S. and the U.K. to evaluate mobile’s role along the path to purchase for the travel, auto, restaurant, retail, gas and convenience, banking and finance, and insurance industries.

What the studies showed, not surprisingly, was that mobile has an impact but its impact varies and its use differs along each step of a person’s journey along the path to purchase. The insights from the xAd studies and related industry efforts are valuable breadcrumbs to understanding people today, their behavior (especially when it comes to mobile) and for putting mobile at the heart of modern-day marketing strategies.

I know it’s hard and change is never easy, but as marketers we must continually relearn our trade and adapt to the changing conditions of the marketplace.