GATED CONTENT – DISCRIMINATION OR EFFECTIVE LEAD ACQUISITION?

04 October 2017

The quality of business marketing materials is often measured by their popularity. But is the a large number of viewers or readers really the best campaign goal?

Content marketing is here to stay. More and more companies are investing in the production of engaging content and wonder what format it would be worth publishing. The choice of the format depends on both the material and the audience. Ebooks, white papers, slide shows, videos, webinars, and many other content formats bring depth to the company’s marketing materials and provide the user with information about the matter itself and about the problems that the company’s products and services solve. Versatile and knowledgeable content builds  brand image and position for the company and its products.

Content quality is often measured by their popularity, i.e. how often a document is viewed, read or downloaded. The ebook producer’s ego get wings when one’s own publication gets hundreds or even thousands of downloads. Often, the content produced by different teams is likewise compared by the number of downloads they receive. The one who wins is the one who reaches the broadest audience. But was that a real business goal?

Aiming for high quality leads (not anonymous uploaders)

Content marketing and production of leads meet when a user has to fill in a form to get content downloaded. In recent weeks I have had several debates about whether downloadable materials locked behind the form, or in our office language: “gating”. The truth is that gating can half the readership, which of course does not warm the content producer’s life. The other side of the coin is, however, that collecting contact information on the form increases the contact register and allows the lead redining. Personally, I consider 100 leads more precious than one thousand anonymous downloaders.

According to the Marketing Automation Trends for Success study, the increase in the number of leads (68%) and the improvement of lead refining (60%) are the main goals of the best marketers. As soon as the next list increases, sales increase. With the same companies, the most important measure is the conversions (58%) that arise when the contact moves from the sales line from step to next.

Don’t make downloading too laborious

To maximize form fills, it is worth minimizing the number of fields to fill. According to studies, 90% of the entry form fills the first required field, most often the e-mail address. The name field drops 15 % from the process, company name 11% more, and so on. Here again, “less is more” – commit first and ask more as the relationship develops. It is also worth bearing in mind the GDPR that comes into force in 2018 and request the visitor for the famous marketing permission.

Content is strategically distributed to the TOFU, MOFU and BOFU content. Top-of-Funnel content builds awareness and positions the business. The main task of TOFU content is to attract interest and are often visual in format, such as infographic or animation. MOFU and BOFU content provide valuable information about the subject. From the information they contain, the user is willing to “pay” by providing information about themselves. The thumb rule is that the more you move towards the sales the more content is gated behind a form because the user’s interest rate rises and the commitment increases. When the content is relevant to the recipient, requesting contact information is not considered distracting. Again, the keyword is relevant – the content quality and the correct targeting are crucial.

Summa Summarum, when the goal of marketing is cost-effective lead production, content downloads should be placed behind the form.

8 WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR INBOUND MARKETING PROCESS

16 August 2017

Is your inbound marketing process generating high quality leads? Is your marketing automation platform returning solid ROI? If your answer to these questions is no or not sure, you should read this blog post.

When I first started using a marketing automation platform years ago, I just jumped into writing blog posts and white papers. I had no clear marketing plan, no strategy, no personas, no buyer’s journeys. I was creating, publishing and promoting content for a buyer persona that did not necessarily exist.

I like new technology. I was blinded by the cool things it could do and how much easier the marketing automation platform made my work. It was so simple. Rather than using separate tools for blogging, emailing, promoting and monitoring, I had one integrated environment with uniform UI conventions. And there was just one contact database. But the forest was lost. All I could see was the beautiful waterfall.

The most important functionality of a marketing automation system is the ability to automatically trigger a large number of personalized messages. And still the most common use case seems to be an annual or bi-annual campaign-based email delivery. Something MailChimp could do almost for free. According to many studies and the interviews I have conducted, most companies use only a small part of their marketing automation platform’s capabilities.

This seems to be a challenge especially for subsidiaries of large global companies. They often get little advice or help from the head office on how to plan and design an inbound marketing program and how to run the marketing automation platform. The global inbound marketing team is busy and does not understand the local language, cultural and business differences. Local inbound marketing professionals are left to sort the way forward by themselves.

I used these sources for this blog post: My own experience running a marketing automation program and creating all content for www.etuma.com during the past three years; Talking with the leading B2B integrated marketing agency in the Nordics www.idbbn.fi; Talking to multiple large B2B companies that use marketing automation platforms; And reading multiple B2B marketing automation market studies, especially by B2Bmarketing.net.

If you think that your marketing automation program and platform is not returning the results you desire, here is a list of eight things you should do to remedy the situation. I know that inbound marketing professionals should have these things in good shape but I have learned during the information gathering process that this is not necessarily true.

1. Create a comprehensive inbound marketing scoreboard.
Companies often focus on lead statistics. That is not enough. The IM scoreboard needs to reflect how each email, landing page, and piece of content is performing. Make sure that your marketing targets are aligned with overall business goals, especially sales targets. At the end of every week you need to know what is working and what is not. You know exactly what to focus on the following week.

2. Conduct a contacts data audit.
It is impossible to run an efficient and effective content marketing program without rich and clean data. Do everything you can to make sure that the data you are working with is as clean as possible. Some marketing automation platforms like Hubspot have the contacts inside the system. Others like Eloqua are usually also integrated to a CRM platform. You, the IM professional, need to have the authority and right to cross organizational boundaries, establish a solid real-time integration, and create the necessary additional fields that MA requires in the CRM platform. Rich and good data is paramount!

3. Create an inbound marketing (and MA) learning and development program.
One of the biggest problems seems to be the lack of knowledge. You need to educate your own team by creating a holistic L&D program to ensure that your team (or your integrated marketing agency partner) has the required skills. You also need to spread the inbound marketing gospel. Keep the CFO in the loop. This will come handy when you need more resources.

4. Close the marketing and sales process gap.
Sales professionals are used to generating leads from their own sources: by word of mouth, trade shows or by other traditional means. Now, when new leads pop up in their CRM platform (hopefully automatically), salespeople get suspicious. I have heard many stories about salespeople ignoring leads generated by the marketing automation platform. Most, if not all CRM platforms, have a data field for indicating the lead status. Ensure that the salespeople use this field also for leads generated in the marketing automation platform. Educate salespeople about the importance of letting you know which leads are valuable. Sell them the idea that in the long term you will make their work easier because they do not have to generate their own leads and they can spend most of their time pushing prospects forward in the sales funnel.

5. Create (or review) buyer personas.
This is something you have probably done, but if not, please do it now. Without this, it is impossible to create high quality leads and push prospects forward along their buyer’s journey. B2B purchase decisions often require buy-in from not only the business owners, but also technical experts, procurement managers etc. You need to create a unique persona for all the people required in the purchase decision process because their information requirements are different.

6. Map each piece of content to one or more buyer personas.
It does not make sense to develop content (which is the most time consuming part of inbound marketing) without having the buyer persona in mind. Without the personas, your content might not be relevant.

7. Map each piece of content to a stage of the buyer’s journey.
At minimum this means that you have content for the four main journey stages:

On top of the funnel: to increase awareness
Middle of the funnel: for increasing the overall domain, technology, and solution understanding; and
Bottom of the funnel: for assessing which vendor and product best fits the buyer persona’s requirements.
Customers: increase satisfaction and loyalty so that customers can become your best marketing people.

8. Start by developing a few short automation loops and testing them.
It is difficult or even impossible to map a single buyer-persona-specific buyer’s journey. Personas often take their own paths to the purchase decision. It is easier to start with short automated loops.

For example, Email -> landing page with a call-to-action to download a white paper -> thank you email -> end. Develop a couple of loops like this and test them with different messages (but same premium content or event). Once you have learned what loops work, start stringing them together (thank you email with recommendation for next action).

Inbound marketing program will never be ready and there are no quick wins. According to B2Bmarketing.net it often takes two years or more before you see the first concrete results. Create a system and monitor it. Keep improving and optimizing. High quality leads will start emerging and leads will be pushed forward along the buyer’s journey. And do not forget the customers: you need to educate them on how to better use your product, and maybe they will buy more or at least re-subscribe. Loyal customers are the biggest contributors to your bottom line and your best brand ambassadors!

Matti Airas via ID BBN

6 GOOD REASONS NOT TO START WITH MARKETING AUTOMATION

15 December 2015

There are many reasons why companies would and should use a marketing automation platform. But there are also good reasons not to! Here are just 6 of them:

1. You don’t have an inbound strategy
Congratulations, this is probably THE best reason! You see, marketing automation is a lead nurturing tool. You use it to send relevant, contextual messages to different contacts in your database. But before you can do that, you have to create buyer personas and define where they are on their buyer’s journey so you can use the right content at the right time and place in order to attract, convert, close or delight.
But, if all of this is hieroglyphic to you, marketing automation won’t do you any good. A fool with a tool is still a fool, right? So find yourself an inbound specialist first and start from there.

2. You haven’t set clear goals
Goals are essential to your marketing automation. Platforms like HubSpot are built around your marketing goals to nurture your leads at just the right time with just the right content with context, helping you achieve your goals. But if you don’t have goals, there is little to achieve. If you don’t like KPI’s, marketing automation is not the right toy for you and you’re better off spending fortunes on ads nobody ever reads.

3. You don’t have the right team for it
Inbound marketing is the best way to align sales and marketing and to set common goals. And for once IT can talk about something other people actually understand (in a way). What a great opportunity to create a dream team! Unless you don’t have any players of course…
If you have invested in a marketing automation tool, and you do not know how to use it, the investment probably will not give you a return. Remember that software is only software, the success of investments always depends on the right people. So start looking for the right people before you look for the right software.

4. You just want an email tool
Ok, it’s a start. But why stop there if you can accomplish so much more than just sending emails to prospects. You can use your platform to send internal notifications, score leads, and even personalize the content on your website to each viewer. You can build targeted segments from your contact data, create workflows, and use branching logic and visualization so you can nurture leads efficiently down the funnel.
And what happens when your list runs low or the addresses erode? A full-funnel marketing platform can give you tools to grow your list in addition to sending information to it. Well, it’s all about ambition I guess.

5. You’re looking for a quick and easy solution
Well, that’s definitely a good reason because a full-grown platform takes time and effort to integrate. And you will need even more time to learn how to handle it. But once you have done that, you will catch up so fast it’ll blow your competition away! So yeah, it’s an investment. But think about all the time you have wasted on things that didn’t work… And you’re still reading so it can’t be that bad.

6. You don’t have the budget
If you don’t have money, your business isn’t doing too well and you probably need an inbound marketing plan to get more leads and convert them into customers. Talking about a catch 22!
But hey, what about all that money you spend on advertising and fairs and cold callings and ineffective marketing partners? Consider redirecting the money that you are already spending to something that is efficient, effective and measurable.

So there you are: 6 good reasons not to go out and buy any marketing automation software. Spend your money wisely instead and start looking for a real inbound marketing solution.

Do you want to learn more about Inbound Marketing and Marketing Automation? Contact us.

Peter Foubert

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