How to Educate a New Breed of B2B Prospects to BUY

How to Educate a New Breed of B2B Prospects to BUYEach prospective customer has different needs as they progress through their buying journey. In the world of “BIG TICKET” purchases for items like houses or cars — or costly products like enterprise business software — buyers move through a natural cycle of educating themselves about the item before making a decision to buy.

Someone just becoming aware of your product or service may only be looking for some basic information, like a short video or an infographic. Contrast that with the needs of a CEO about to make an expensive company-wide software upgrade, who is looking for proven ROI data in a case study or detailed peer feedback in customer testimonials.

As marketers, we need to understand that at EACH stage of the buy cycle…

AWARENESS –> CONSIDERATION –> ACQUISITION –> RETENTION –> ADVOCACY

…your prospective customers are trying to educate themselves — through the content YOU offer them — until they feel comfortable enough to make a purchasing decision.

So, check your company’s site: Are you giving your prospects self-service access to educate themselves about your product or service? You should be.

At Cultivate Communications, we call this process of mapping content to prospects’ needs throughout the buying cycle “Growth Cycle Marketing.” This marketing process allows you to provide that extra nudge at every point in your developing relationship, ensuring that you remain “top of mind” when your customers are ready to buy.

More than 90% of B2B customers conduct some form of online research on a product or service before they engage with a sales person (Source: Salesforce, 2013). This means that most potential customers have initiated their buying process before they ever even talk to your company reps. In fact:

On average, the B2B customer has independently completed about 60% of the purchasing decision process by researching solutions ONLINE before ever calling a sales person (Source: CEB Marketing, 2011).

You read that right — a whopping 60%! Imagine how many touch points your sales team would have to make to get a person that far along in a purchase decision. That could take days, weeks, and maybe even months.

Marketing automation platforms automate the delivery of these touch points while listening for demographic and behavioral clues left by prospects as they engage with the content you offer on your website. Such clues could be clicking a specific link on a landing page or email, or filling out a form to download a piece of premium content (e.g., a case study). These are strong behavioral indicators of the type of content your prospects are interested in. This data is then used by marketing automation tools to move people into pre-set nurture campaigns that send triggered emails over time designed to further educate your target audience and get them to that 60% mark FOR YOU.

Desirable behaviors like visiting pricing pages or completing short forms to be able to download premium content allow marketing automation tools to apply scores to any leads entering your system. On the flip side, if a behavior is detected such as a competitor visiting your site or someone simply visiting your Employment page, a negative lead score can be applied for that lead interaction with your website.

When a certain score is reached based on a lead behavior over time, it gets pushed out to be worked by your sales team. By having your marketing and sales team agree on what constitutes a qualified lead, you can build lead-nurture and lead-scoring campaigns that will get your prospects 60% along in making their buying decision without ever engaging with your sales team. Get ready to convert your mysterious site visitors into ENGAGED PROSPECTS and BUYERS.

Game Changer, Force Multiplier, Your Secret Marketing Sauce… Call it what you want:  Marketing automation enables best-in-class companies to drive more qualified leads into the funnel that can be worked faster by sales teams. It’s no easy task, though. So if this is the year you plan to dive into marketing automation, talk to us about conducting a Readiness Assessment for your business, processes, and team.

Mike Kissel

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Are You Relying on Tech Tools to Do Your Marketing for You?

When you hear the phrase “marketing technology,” what tech tool first comes to mind?

The fact is, ALL of these include some form of marketing technology. And they all have one thing in common, critical to your success — or failure:

If you don’t pair them with a well-thought-out marketing strategy — including customer-focused, engaging content — all you’ve really got is robotic technology.

Too often, business owners and operators chase after the latest-greatest technological tool and end up with ineffective results simply because they had no strategy or poor content and messaging to empower the tool to work its magic. What they need to remember is:

“Technology is an enabler — not the thing to get you to the next level of modern marketing.”
Carlos Hidalgo

This is especially true when it comes to using automated marketing software from companies like Eloqa, Hubspot, Marketo, and Silverpop. Their software helps generate leads and nurture them through the buying process. (And remember: “Companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales-ready leads at 33% lower cost” [Forrester Research Report].) Each communication with a prospect is designed to (a) build value for the marketer and (b) establish credibility.

The content of your nurturing communications, then, is the key to establishing value — you can’t simply “wing it.” Every single email, eBook, direct mail piece, and ad has to be carefully orchestrated to move people from merely being SUSPECTS to being PROSPECTS — and, if you do it well — CUSTOMERS.

Today’s marketing tech tools are great, but they can’t drive revenue all by themselves. Quite simply, a compelling message really matters, so strategic planning is a MUST.

You’re better off spending hours locked in a conference room planning your campaigns with nothing more than a pencil and paper than you are jumping into the “marketing technology” waters only to discover you can’t swim.

Johnathan Crawford of Data Dog Marketing
PS: If you need help developing your own marketing strategy or messaging, give me a call (262-373-4000) or connect with me on LinkedIn. Our team of experts at Cultivate will not only throw you a life preserver, but we’ll provide swimming lessons so you can dive into the marketing technology waters with confidence.

Are you jumping into the “marketing technology” waters only to discover you can’t swim?

See all articles by Johnathan Crawford
Connect with Johnathan online: LinkedIn

Advanced Email Jujitsu with MailChimp

As an Email Service Provider (among other things) we spend a lot of time teaching our clients how to best leverage email as a communication channel that can deliver relevant content to an information hungry audience. We also employ an assortment of email technology ranging from enterprise level to web based platforms that allow us to do some pretty neat things.  For our customers that like to get “hands on” we almost always recommend MailChimp because it’s easy to use and has a powerful feature set, some of which I want to share with you here.

A/B Split Testing – Do you ever have trouble picking a subject line or figuring out what day/time is best to send to your particular audience?  A/B Split Testing a very powerful feature built right into MailChimp that provides a super easy way to test those variables.  Simply decide what type of test you’d like to run and determine the size of your sample groups. MailChimp will take care of the rest and let you know which test sample won—and then sends the winning campaign to the remainder of your list. People who A/B test their email campaigns get 11% better open rates and 17% more clicks.

Auto-responders – Triggered emails are a great tool for sending automatic emails based on some event (or as the name implies – a trigger) like a welcome email after someone joins your list or a special discount coupon delivered on a birthday, for example. That’s all well and good…but if you think outside of the box a bit you can really do some amazing things with this technology like drip marketing campaigns. A great example of this very concept is this 5 part educational email drip campaign from The Republic of Tea. Here are a few more practical ideas for using auto-responders.

Chimpadeedoo – This is one of my personal favorites and is a great tool for folks who are out of the office a lot or frequently at places where there’s no WiFi.  If your company attends tradeshows regularly then this feature is for you! Chimpadeedoo for iPad (and Chimpadeedee for PC) is a MailChimp app lets you collect email subscribers with out an internet connection and sync them with your MailChimp account later. Schecter Guitars recently used this app to rock the Uproar Festival Tour.

WavelengthWavelength is a new service that’s still being incubated, but looks to have great potential to anyone looking to grow their email list. Since buying email lists outright is a big no-no, this new service isn’t intended to sniff out new lists to send your email promotions to. Rather, it scans a massive amount of accumulated email data on the MailChimp platform and shows screenshots of other email campaigns that some of your subscribers read. The idea is to help you build relationships with like minded publishers that could lead to mutual benefits, like linking to each other for growing your lists organically.

I’ve only scratched the surface of MailChimp’s features, and I’d encourage you to check the rest out for yourself here.  Are you a MailChimp user? What sort of “outside the box” ideas have you come up with? Let’s share ideas in the comments section below, on Facebook or Twitter!

Mike