30 Sep 2014

Feed Your Leads, Don’t Starve Your Business

September 30, 2014Content Marketing

Someone walks into your store, or they visit your website and fill out a form… what do you do with this lead? You pounce on them, move them away from the door and begin shoving your sales pitch down their throat; or you call them immediately and start sending emails like crazy. Yes, yes, ka-ching, ka-ching!

No, back off, slow down and think about what you’re doing.

Most people like to browse and taste test first before they get serious about buying a product or service. They like to create a process of discovery and do research at their own pace. As a business, your role should be to facilitate the discovery and research. Gently hand them a fork so they can poke around and explore who you are, what you have to offer, and why you’re the tastiest and best choice.

The fact is, you need to cook up some thoughtful and helpful content. Different types of content should be provided, as part of the lead nurture process, to help guide the leads through all the options available until ultimately they trust you and are convinced that your products or services are what they need and want. TechValidate provided this chart showing effectiveness of various forms of content:

TechValidate Survey (2013)

TechValidate Survey (2013)

The Appetizer: A Taste of Who You Are

the appetizer, general content

This first course is about educating and building a relationship with leads. Here’s where you provide general information about your company and your industry. Resist the urge to start selling and keep branding to a minimum. Leads need to feel that educating them is your priority. Right now they don’t know how hungry they are until they begin to consume some of your informational pieces such as these suggested below:

  • Whitepaper or POV: These are excellent for presenting industry research and data, and for conveying your point of view on trends and new developments. Thought leadership needs to shine through in this early phase and meaty documents such as these can certainly do the trick. Please keep in mind who your audience is when creating these documents so that they’re not too highly technical for their taste.
  • Blog Posts and Articles: Short pieces of content can be very timely and can show that you’re always monitoring the temperature of your industry to stay on top of it. Regular blog posts can be utilized to build trust as your leads will learn they can rely on your blog for consistent information.
  • Ebook: When written by someone on your staff, ebooks are great for showcasing your expertise. Remember, in this phase the book needs to be about general, helpful information and not all about your company.
  • Webinar: What better way to educate, introduce your staff and provide a platform for live question and answer sessions than a webinar? Nothing works better to show off your knowledge and personality and create an emotional attachment for your leads.
  • Free Guide: These pieces of content are both highly visual and informative; therefore, they can be leveraged to your advantage for helping to build a solid relationship between your leads and your company.
  • Video: During this first phase, entertaining videos work well break the ice. Generating laughter can only help to seal the deal that your business consists of real people who are caring and engaging.

The Main Course: What You Have to Offer

the main course, targeted contentNow that you’ve whet your leads’ appetites and they have a better understanding of what they hunger for, your content can get more specific in this course. You can begin to introduce your menu of items and leads can start to form a connection between what you have to offer and how they will satisfy their craving. More trust is being built up here so you can start to sell, but go easy. Here are some pieces of content that can be presented:

  • Newsletters: Provide an option to subscribe to your newsletter. These are perfect for showcasing content that you’ve produced, company news, product or service updates, and company community service.
  • Product or Service Webinar: In this course, you can go ahead and conduct a webinar that demonstrates what you offer and how these offerings can be used to solve problems, make situations better and possibly save money.
  • Infographics: Always popular and appetizing, these visual pieces can be lightly branded and can present product/service information, industry information, or just be fun and sharable.
  • Product or Service Specific Blog Posts: Feel free to share on your blog about new products or services. Be sure to give background information on why they were developed and how you feel they will benefit those that use them. Tread lightly on selling as opposed to just informing.
  • How-To or Demonstration Videos: Create videos that show your offerings in use. Remember that YouTube is its own search engine and how-to videos are highly searched for and consumed.
  • Case Studies: Have you had clients that shared the success they had with your products or services? Hopefully you collected the data around this success and have created case studies. These pieces tend to be text heavy but adding charts and graphs can really show the story of how what you have to offer has helped others.

The Dessert: Do They Really Want Some, Is Yours the Best Choice?

the dessert, user generated contentDecisions, decisions. Are they going to stick around and have dessert, or are they done with your experience? Keep the momentum going and demonstrate how yours is the best choice for them in order to solve their problem. Give your qualified leads the right content at this time to help them evaluate the options, narrow the field and reaffirm that they should work with you. Compare and contrast content is important here:

  • Testimonials: As a company, you should constantly be in touch with your clients and see how things are going. Ask them for a testimonial and for permission to share it on your site or in content. A survey from TechValidate showed that “67% of customers rated customer testimonials and case studies very effective for lead nurture.”
  • Free Trial: Sometimes the best way to find out if something will work for you is if you try it out. If your service is such that you can provide a free trial period, this could certainly sweeten the deal.
  • Comparisons: Being able to see the ingredients, details, features and benefits of one product as compared to another can be a real eye opener. When presented strategically, this can be very advantageous for your sales numbers.
  • Reviews: If you’re able to provide a platform for reviews, you should seriously consider it. Research has shown that information from Buyer to Buyer earns 92% trust, as soon in the chart below, while different forms of information from a business earns much less.
  • Pricing and Coupons: If prices haven’t been shared yet, now is the time. A well-written proposal that’s personalized and shows that you understand the lead’s pain points is a must. Coupons or deals are the age-old way to push someone over the edge to buy. If appropriate for your niche, coupons can keep them coming back for seconds.
Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising

Nielsen Global (2011)

Remember Your Social Media Channels

If you have a Facebook page, Twitter account, etc., make sure someone is monitoring them closely. These are prime real estate for leads to post questions and comments. Leaving these questions unanswered, and not responding to comments, whether good or bad, shows you don’t care. Why would anyone want to do business with a company that doesn’t care?

Creating all this content is challenging. But if you do it on a regular basis it gets easier, and you’ll find that you’re able to influence buyer behavior by providing it. Remember, if you don’t feed their curiosity, they will feast elsewhere.