Still looking for a marketing "silver bullet" to help your sales force to reach their revenue goal? Stop looking. It doesn't exist.
On the bright side, however, there is a smart way for the marketing department to assist their sales team. Marketing should be focused on building a powerful lead generation strategy that provides quality, warm leads to their salespeople. This is a smart, measurable and much-needed marketing activity.
As a veteran saleswoman, I am all too familiar with defining success in terms of "traditional" goals, such as # of calls per day, # of meetings set, # of proposals presented, and # of deals closed. The "hope" is that the more touches you make, the more likely you are to reach someone on the other end of the line that needs something you have to offer and wants to buy from you.
Legacy sales tactics like "spray and pray" or "dialing for dollars," or whatever you want to call them, are no longer producing the same results. The reason is because consumer behavior has changed.
Customers Decide Who They Will Buy From
Take a moment and think about your own behavior as a consumer. What's the first thing you do when shopping for anything? You visit Google or Amazon to conduct a search for what you need. With those results, you continue on to research a specific supplier's website and quickly surmise whether they are worthy of your business or if they get disqualified. Am I right?
I am in the process of purchasing a new home in another state. There are a variety of services that I will be in need of. I will have to enlist the help of numerous third parties to make my move go smoothly. A significant investment is being made, so I want to make sure I am working with people I can trust.
The third parties I have researched include: a realtor, mortgage broker, insurance broker, real estate attorney, and a moving company, to name a few. The internet is my first line of defense. I did not, nor do I want to be called by any salesperson until my research and due diligence is complete.
Like most people today, I subscribe to the old adage, "Don't call us, we'll call you."
The general public doesn't purchase property all too often over the course of their lifetime. This means that each one of the aforementioned professionals is vying for the opportunity to engage with a limited number of consumers seeking their products or services.
My example is quickly becoming the norm. Online research is becoming a big problem for business owners and sales forces alike. Below are some alarming statistics that show the rapidly decreasing need for sales involvement in a buyer's journey:
- 81% of shoppers conduct online research before buying. (Adweek)
- 82% of buyers viewed at least 5 pieces of content from the winning vendor (Forrester)
- 90% of B2B buyers say when they are ready to buy, they will find you. (Cascade Insights)
- By 2020, 80% of the buying process is expected to occur without any direct human-to-human interaction. (Forrester)
Who I select to engage with is completely within my control. I'm in charge of who gets to work with me, not the other way around. If a supplier's website provides valuable information for me and answers my questions, the more likely I am to trust them and then reach out to a sales rep to assist me with the final 10% of my journey.
Cold Calls And Referrals Alone Are A Risky Bet
Traditional sales teams that rely heavily on referrals and cold calls to generate leads are finding that it's getting tougher and tougher to connect with prospects.
With the cold call losing its effectiveness, many managers are unfortunately still relying heavily, if not solely, on referrals to drive business. This is a risky play betting on referrals alone.
Industries that have historically relied on traditional sales methods like cold calls and referrals need to pivot quickly before it's too late. Banks, wealth management firms, law firms, accountants and insurance companies are common examples. These businesses are behind the curve when it comes to adopting new processes, and their sales forces are struggling to meet their quotas.
Move Beyond Referrals And Cold Calls
Move your company beyond referrals and cold calls by leveraging content marketing for lead acquisition. Put your website to work by converting visitors into quality warm leads.
There are many ways to drive traffic to your website: paid search, search engine optimization (SEO), content syndication, sponsored emails, content marketing, and social media.
Traffic is useless, however, unless you have a way to convert site visitors into leads. The “Contact Us” form on your website is not sufficient enough.
Businesses need to develop a content strategy that includes gated content offers that provide serious value to your visitors. These offers should solve problems and answer questions that they may have. They will provide you with their contact information in exchange for your content. That visitor has now become a lead that can be nurtured into a customer.
Here Are 4 Easy Ways To Get Started With Lead Generation
1. Develop Personas
A "persona," in marketing speak, is a fictional representation of your ideal customer. The deeper your understanding of your personas, the better you're able to produce content that will provide value to them. This is critical to your marketing strategy and anything related to customer acquisition and retention.
Here's a sample persona chart:
Chart courtesy of HubSpot.
Writing articles for the sake of just putting something out there is a waste of time. You need to produce content around the topics that your audience is regularly searching for.
The process is pretty straightforward:
- Your target audience searches for something.
- You create content for which they are searching.
- You get organic traffic.
How do you know what your persona's are searching for? Perform keyword research. Keyword research will give you insight into particular words and topics people are searching for. Long tail keywords are the preferred variants. Click here to learn more about keyword research for your audience here.
Develop topics around the good performing keywords. Begin by writing short, easy-to-read articles, 600-800 words in length. Make them conversational in tone and avoid going deep.
Share these articles on social networks and pay to amplify their reach. Target similar personas on social platforms to increase the odds of having your article read by those you want to attract.
Produce a more in depth article every so often and then learn what kind of article your audience responds to.
Through continuous learning and feedback, your content quality will improve and you will grow your organic traffic and set the stage for lead conversion.
3. Build A Content Offer And Deliver It With Landing Pages
If you are going to build a content offer, it needs to provide real value. Content offers are the gateways to lead generation. Without them, site visitors have no way of getting converted into leads. They are also a critical tool for nurturing existing leads into a position that makes them more sales-ready.
Again, think about the persona you are trying to engage with and earn their business. What information can I provide that would be of real value to them?
Content offers are intended to be "gated" by a website form. This means the visitor cannot access these valuable content until they offer up their contact information.
A sample title for a gated piece of content for a wealth management or insurance firm might be:
10 Critical Things To Be Aware Of Before Purchasing A Whole Life Insurance Policy.
Anyone considering or even seriously in the market for insurance as an investment product will happily give their first and last name and email address in exchange for this offer.
Once the form is filled out, they are taken to a landing page where you thank them for their interest in your offer, notify them of something else they may be interested in, and possibly offer a free consultation or free trial of your product.
The offer must speak to a problem they're experiencing, give them some insider tips, options, and answer any questions they have prior to them moving to the next phase of their buyer's journey.
Content offers will vary depending on what stage of the buyer's journey your persona is in. This graphic shows the three stages of the buyer's journey along with content that is aligned with their needs at that phase.
HubSpot put together this great list of 20 Types of Lead Generation Content to Put Behind Your Landing Pages:
- Cheat sheets
- Emails series
- Email subscriptions
- Original Data and research
- Slideshare presentations
- Free apps
- White papers
4. Build A Call-To-Action (CTA) To Promote Your Offer
The final step in the lead generation process is to produce a Call-To-Action also known as a CTA. The CTA is a visual banner or button that is designed to catch the eye of your site visitor and alert them that you have something great to offer to them.
One-size-fits-all CTAs are fine when you're just starting out. They should stand out with creative design, colors and catchy verbiage.
Below is a sample graphic of a CTA for a FREE Ebook: The Essential Guide For Member Engagement.
If you want to generate quality leads, you need to incorporate a customer-centric, online strategy to attract and engage your target personas. Set a plan in motion to nurture leads and reduce the reliance of referrals and cold calling techniques. By implementing these 4 steps, you are well on your way to generating quality leads and quantifying your marketing ROI.
- Cold calling and referral selling is losing its effectiveness
- There is a decreasing need for sales involvement in a buyer's journey
- Make your website your top sales person
- Create Personas
- Develop Content that speaks directly to those personas and solves their problems
- Build a Content Offer that provides real value to your persona
- Deploy CTAs as conversion paths on your entire site and blog articles
- Provide your sales force with quality warm leads they can nurture into customers