We had a great event last Friday covering best practices around social lead generation including an engagement framework plus some ground rules as well as a deep walk through of Nearstream and how it can be used to surface buying intent via social media. Interested in trying Nearstream? Click here and either Sign Up or enter your current LoopFuse credentials and you’ll step through the process to set up your first social campaign. We’re still in beta release with it so any and all feedback is welcome and wanted!
Archive for the ‘Lead Generation’ Category
Organizations are employing a variety of digital sales and marketing tools, channels, content and practices to generate awareness and traffic to their web assets. The percentage of that traffic converted to contacts, prospects, leads and actual business is woeful. Why is that, and what can we do?
Marketing’s Expanding Complexity and Closer Role with Sales
Marketing has changed dramatically over the last 5 years, where prospects and customers need to be engaged on their terms with relevant content, engagement and respectful communication. Marketing’s role has also expanded and coexists more with sales than ever before, especially as 90% of all purchases are researched online and decision makers no longer want to talk to sales until they are 60-70% down the decision cycle.
The purchasing process has also changed significantly, and so must your ability to create and leverage your digital ‘assets’. Marketing must attract and move prospects much deeper into the funnel than ever before, intelligently monitoring and engaging them with easily accessible content and automating more self-service until they are ready to connect with sales or business development.
Missed Opportunity + Need for Funnel Management
The diagram below shows how a mix of digital and traditional marketing creates traffic to a company’s prime online asset, its ‘master’ website. Once the traffic has arrived (at the top of the sales and marketing funnel), today’s tools and techniques used to engage/capture/convert are limited and ineffective. The discipline of digital funnel management is foreign to most companies, but is essential to generate strong ROI from marketing investments. Generating 25%, 50% even 100+% more business from digital traffic is absolutely possible with intelligently placed content + innovative conversion tactics/tools (such as Loopfuse).
What Limitations with Today’s Online Conversion Strategies Do We Need to Overcome:
- Few attempt to engage visitors/prospects at all stages of the funnel. Engaging only at the bottom (ACTION step) of the funnel via a phone number and Contact Us form misses 80% of the opportunity to capture/nurture prospects until ready to close.
- Few automate the nurturing of prospects until they are qualified leads ready to be closed by sales, and most allow leads to slip through the net due to human mishandling.
- Few effectively enable access and distribution of marketing content at the right stage of the decision cycle.
- Most websites are ‘leaky’, losing prospects that would like to take a next step but are not ready to contact sales, and have no other available call to action or engagement step.
Create an “Engagement Zone”
One way to overcome these limitations is to create an “Engagement Zone’ that integrates content access, next steps, calls-to-action and marketing automation. This zone is so much more than a ‘Contact Us’ form as it should include all the possible options for connecting with your company, with the prime intention of allowing a visitor to select a next step or piece of content that would enable them to identify themselves to you. That is the lowest conversion stat of them all; 2-3% of websites earn the respect of a visitor so they identify themselves and become a contact. Execute this effectively and a greater % of those contacts will be genuine and not email@example.com.
Rather than try to explain in words what an engagement zone is, take a look at a couple of examples out in the real world. Click on the “Take Action Now” orange button at http://www.mikewittenstein.com/ and see an engagement zone appear. There are 7 menu options which provide ways for a visitor to take a next step and educate themselves more. Another example is at http://www.banyancapital.com where the zone is accessed via the ”Quick Info Access” green menu option. This one has 8 options for a visitor to engage. Tying marketing automation behind this type of engagement and capture solution ultimately creates more business out of the bottom of the funnel. It connects with visitors, prospects and leads no matter where they are in the funnel, as it can be designed to deliver content at the appropriate funnel stage. For example, you could have a menu option called “Competitive Benchmark” for someone evaluating your product(s) or service(s).
Once you have your engagement zone in place, take the next step which really can supercharge your contact and lead generation …. engage people from any digital location, placing links to your zone directly in content delivered via:
- Company Blog(s)
- Thought Leadership
- Feeder/Community Sites
- Online Ads/Adwords
- Emails/Texts/QR Codes (e.g. add links back to the zone from inside emails for next steps or additional content)
- Links in Current Website (e.g. for a PDF download link on a product page, point back to the zone)
- Links Inside Collateral
An important point to note here … by bringing a visitor/prospect/customer into your zone, they are able to see other engagement options and may well connect in additional ways, increasing the acceleration down your funnel.
The idea of an engagement zone makes sense in many ways, so consider designing one for your organization, and let me know the improvement in your capture and conversion stats!
Regards to all,
Recently I was on a call with a customer who had signed up for FreeView but was looking to upgrade to one of our paid packages. They had used our marketing automation system but had a few questions just before making the switch. As we discussed some of the setup to get a clean database after the testing phase, the subject of using lead capture to retain prospects was brought up.
One of the team members said “Oh we’ll just use Web2Lead and then import the data back in to OneView”. That is when I reminded them that OneView offered the ability to create lead capture forms and that would enable the use of many other features such as list segmentation, scoring, lead nurturing, and email campaigns without the extra steps of having to import CSV lists back from Salesforce.
They had temporarily lost sight of the purpose of marketing automation software. The idea is that OneView sits between your website and Salesforce, gathering data and helping you automate the process of capturing, nurturing, and qualifying leads before they are fed into your CRM where your sales team can take further action.
Once our conversation was over, the customers had realized exactly how they could leverage OneView to help with their marketing automation efforts and streamline their processes.
One of the largest and most frequent problems that plague the sales and marketing relationship is the quality and quantity of leads. Tomes have been dedicated to the subject and some very smart consultants make a lot of coin advising on it. Yet, the results are still very hit or miss. The problem is that people have been trying to solve the wrong problem.
The real issue isn’t what defines a “qualified” lead, but rather what defines a lead itself. Nearly everyone defines a lead as a person. It’s someone you’ve just met who you hope will mature into a customer. A lead can linger on in your database for months if not years. If this is how you define a lead, let me stop you right there to say you’ve got it wrong!
A lead isn’t a person. A lead is an expression of interest at a specific point in time. Think about what that means. We are all complex people and engage with brands every day. Our motivations for engaging at any point of time can shift and vary. It’s these motivations that drive what and why we buy. Remember, people buy things to solve problems. The same is true in our personal as in our professional lives. It’s key, therefore, for brands to hone in on what’s motivating the engagement and seize on the immediate, relevant pain.
Defining a lead in this manner addresses the sales and marketing relationship in two ways. First, it gets marketing thinking like sales. Injecting this notion of an “expression of interest” gets marketing focusing on the things important to the customer, and why they will buy as opposed to a raw count of bodies. Second, it brings standardization and repetition to the qualification process. Never confuse the inside sales team with highly paid, external sales professionals. Reducing their scope and funneling the outcomes will drive consistency and performance.
Step one in getting your lead generation process moving in the right direction; therefore, must begin with the right definition of a lead.
- A lead is NOT a person
- A lead IS an expression of interest in time
In my last blogpost titled “Why Free? Why Now?” I provided some background on the impetus and the reasoning behind LoopFuse’s move to provide a free marketing automation offering. It has been only three weeks since our launch of FreeView, but the response has already been overwhelming. One of the most interesting changes that comes with a move into a freemium model is the shape of the funnel. Over the past several years I’ve studied the funnels of dozens of companies and I’ve noticed that those companies based on freemium models (including opensource) show some very distinctive and interesting patterns.
The Mouth of the Funnel
The first distinctive feature of a freemium-based funnel is obviously that the funnel’s mouth becomes extremely large. Providing anything of significant value for free will attract a large number of people. The number of people attracted is directly related to the amount of value provided for free and inversely related to the “friction” in obtaining that value. For example, when Ben and Jerry’s offers a free ice-cream cone a line will form. But as the line grows the “friction” to obtain the free ice-cream becomes a disincentive for people who realize that waiting an hour in line for a $3 cone may not be worth the effort. However, if the free item were an iPhone instead of an ice-cream cone then the length of the line would naturally extend much farther as people weighed the value of their time against the inconvenience.
Freemium companies must not only ensure that their free offering provides significant value, but also that the “friction” required to obtain that value is minimized. For example what information must the prospect divulge about him/herself and/or his/her organization to access the free offering? What setup and configuration tasks must be completed? How aggressive is the push to migrate from the free offering to the paid upgrade? The value of the free offering minus the total friction required to obtain that value will directly drive the relative size of the earliest stages of the funnel. Of course, in order for people to consider a free offering they must be aware of it. While word-of-mouth is a key component of the freemium marketing strategy, there is still a very important role for traditional marketing to drive awareness.
Behavior-Driven Funnel Definition
The second distinctive feature of a freemium-based funnel is the segmentation of the funnel based on behavior. Traditionally the progression of a lead through the segments of the funnel has been based on external indicators such as registration, download of collateral, participation in webinars, product trial download, contacting sales for assistance, etc. However, due to the volume of leads being managed inside the funnel, a freemium model must provide a hyper-efficient means of measuring the progression of a lead towards purchase and must maintain a level of accuracy in that measurement to ensure that we are not overwhelming the sales team with unqualified leads. Therefore, the segments of the funnel may need to become more specialized based on data being collected directly from the usage statistics of the free offering. For example, in our own funnel, LoopFuse knows exactly how many users, leads, forms, lists, nurturing programs, reports, and campaigns are in use by every single FreeView user. These statistics are key criteria for the promotion of a lead inside of our own funnel segments. This type of integration is usually much easier with SaaS freemium models than with pure opensource models because the usage statistics are more readily available.
The Patient Sales Model
The third distinctive feature of a freemium-based funnel is the lack of momentum in the early stages of the funnel. In a former life I worked at an opensource company and we used to discuss the concept of the “patient sales model”. The concept was based on our observations that it often took YEARS before a free user was ready to purchase a premium upgrade. A user would download the software, become familiar with it’s capabilities and limitations, and it would become part of his/her default toolkit. At some point in the future he/she would pull out that software and would run into a limitation that could only be overcome by upgrading into a premium version. At this point the value proposition is clear to the purchaser, the friction of adoption is zero, and the prospect is usually ready to pay for the value they are receiving. However, there is no magic formula that will predict when this circumstance will present itself. Freemium models front-load the funnel with lots of users on the basis that eventually they will run into this situation. Also, traditional metrics such as days-to-close can become misleading in freemium models unless you start the clock at the point of opportunity creation rather than lead creation.
While the LoopFuse freemium offering (FreeView) is only a few weeks old, we can already see the momentum impact at the front of the funnel. We have already revised our internal funnel segmentation to better utilize the FreeView behavioral data to more accurately identify those prospects who are gaining the most value and are therefore more likely to pay. I am fascinated by the funnels of freemium and opensource companies and look forward to watching the evolution of our own funnel and the subtle patterns and idiosynchrasies we identify along the way. For a great in depth article on the “Fundamentals of a Volume Market Engine” I highly recommend reading Fred Holahan’s article on OpenSource Business Resource.
Without question, Laura Ramos of Forrester Research (blog) is an expert in the marketing automation space with a specific focus on the best practices in lead management. While I did not actually meet Laura in person until late 2009, I have certainly known that she is a thought leader in the industry. I have enjoyed getting to know her over the past few months and I think Laura has become more familiar with what Loopfuse has to offer B2B marketers, especially in the product releases that Loopfuse has made in late 2009.
As Laura and I recently discussed, one of the challenges to Lead Management Automation adoption is education in the marketplace. So I asked Laura if she would be willing to answer a handful of questions for me about the market and talk about what she sees happening in 2010. So I sat down with Laura a few weeks ago for a quick chat and today we are releasing the first part of our interview:
Part 1: “Defining the Market”
1. Dwyer: The term Marketing Automation is thrown around internally at companies and in the marketing media, how do you define Marketing Automation?
Ramos: As part of Forrester’s research team that serves the marketing professional, I agree that the term Marketing Automation is bandied about ambiguously. To help marketers use technology to improve marketing effectiveness and efficiency, Forrester writes about the Marketing Technology Backbone. It’s a term we have used since 2004, defined as, “A technology infrastructure that supports an integrated, quantitative approach to marketing strategy, development, delivery, and measurement — across the marketing mix.” This definition helps to keep marketers focused on the entire discipline of marketing and not just on technology for executing tactics and campaigns. It also includes two important words, integrated and quantitative, because I see B2B marketers worry too much about running programs and not enough time connecting the dots between marketing activity and bottomline business results.
Looking at the marketing technology landscape, Forrester sees marketing automation focus on six core applications: 1) campaign management; 2) customer analytics; 3) interaction management; 4) marketing resource management (MRM); 5) marketing asset management (MAM); and 6) lead management. Lead management plays a key role in the marketing automation space and in our view of what marketers need to put an effective marketing technology backbone in place.
2. Dwyer: From a B2B perspective, when a direct salesforce is involved, what is the difference between Marketing Automation and Lead Management Automation?
Ramos: In my research, I study and write about lead management automation specifically. My counterpart, Suresh Vittal, writes about marketing automation generally. In B2B marketing, where a direct salesforce or channel partners sit in the driver’s seat for winning new deals and retaining existing customers, technology that manages demand is an essential part of the marketing technology backbone. Wikipedia has a solid definition of lead management that I used to develop a working definition in my research. In short, lead management is the tooling and processes that help firms generate new business opportunities, manage volumes of business inquiries, improve potential buyers’ propensity to purchase, and increase alignment between marketing activity and sales results. Increasingly this process is becoming tech-centric, and lead management automation is the technology that helps marketers to manage this process. I would also point out, however, that technology alone is not sufficient and that automating ineffective, immature processes – especially those that lack a tight alignment between marketing and sales measured in the creation of more qualified opportunities and closed sales — will likely cause more problems than it solves.
3. Dwyer: Is Lead Management Automation (LMA) a term that is catching on in mainstream business?
Ramos: I would like to see it catch on more than it has. The 2009 recession, which appears to be experiencing a slow recovery in 2010, forced many firms to concentrate on demand generation as business investment was deferred, delayed, or shrank. The down economy benefited lead management solution providers as marketers invested in LMA technology to get sales pipelines pumping again. Despite this trend, lead management automation is still an emerging industry category. Today, LMA has yet to emerge as a separate, distinct category from Marketing Automation. Based on our estimates, I see market penetration growing from 5% to 10% over the next 18 to 24 months – but there are many marketers out there who have yet to explore the value that lead management automation can bring to their organizations. This can be both a blessing and a burden to firms like Loopfuse who look to grow their share in this emerging space.
Stay tuned for Part 2: “Market Momentum” coming soon