The Secret Sauce of Lead Nurturing for B2B Demand Generation

January 20, 2011

Here are the key ingredients for creating lead nurture programs that work—and a benchmark for conversion rates.

Nurture programs are essential for companies with complex solutions and a relatively long sales cycle. You could say they’re what sets B2B apart from B2C.

As you probably know by heart, nurture programs are designed to engage with prospects over time, increasing their propensity for your solution once they’re ready to buy.

What you may not know (or may not have fully embraced) is that content is the most critical ingredient for nurture success. You should put as much effort into your content calendars as you do in building your target lists.

When mapping out an editorial calendar for a nurture campaign, create or include content that is:

  • Intrinsically high-value. You want prospects to immediately perceive a professional benefit to receiving information, not a hard sell. This also helps you establish thought leadership with your prospects.
  • Topical, but not sales focused. In order to build a long-term relationship, begin by focusing on thought leadership topics and interesting case studies.
  • A good mix of early stage and late stage content. For example, an early-stage prospect might be interested in an “industry trends whitepaper,” while a late-stage prospect will be more likely to download an “implementation guide.”

Whenever possible, build passive profiling into your online lead nurturing program, i.e., identify potential sales opportunities by tracking which content your prospects download. Not only will this clue you into their interests, it also indicates which stage of the buying cycle they’re in, enabling you to serve them more relevant content in the future.

Pinpointing an ultimate conversion rate is always tricky: Average sales cycle, lead source and relevancy/frequency of content play a key role.

But in my experience (and in alignment with SiriusDecisions findings), average conversion rates from Inquiry to MQL (marketing qualified lead) are 5-10% overall.

For an overview of realistic goals for lead nurturing, I highly recommend Eloqua’s Lead Nurturing Best Practices Toolkit.

Do you consider content the engine of your nurture campaigns, or are you unconvinced? I’d love to hear your experiences and viewpoints in the comments.


Why Microsites (Still) Matter for B2B Demand Generation

January 17, 2011


Consider this your cheat sheet for explaining how microsites serve an important role in the marketing mix—especially in initiatives that are demand generation-focused.

For both B2B buyers and B2B marketers, it comes down to three issues: relevance, access, and control.

Why Microsites Matter to B2B Buyers

Immediate access to relevant content: Whether they’re C-suite decision makers or rank-and-file influencers, B2B buyers don’t have time to deep-dive through corporate websites for content relevant to their pain points and position in the buying cycle. A microsite instantly aligns content to a visitor’s area of interest or persona.

Easy sharing: Rarely is a single person responsible for B2B purchases, so being able to share highly relevant content easily and quickly is a big plus. Sharing a single microsite URL and directing colleagues to one place (instead of collecting and sending bits and pieces) greatly streamlines the process.

Personal connection: Microsites that include a PURL (personal URL, e.g., http://www.sitename.com/jane) enable a completely tailored experience for each visitor. That could mean the B2B buyer not only receives content appropriate to their role, they may also have direct access to and information about their dedicated sales rep. A microsite could also include an area where information requested by the B2B buyer can be uploaded and archived.

Why Microsites Matter to B2B Marketers

You’ll capture more valuable leads with the microsite’s sharp hook than the corporate site’s wide net. (Naturally, you need to do testing and optimization to ensure this is done well.) A corporate website serves more successfully as the central repository for an organization’s traffic and complete content.

Pipeline profiling: Based on how B2B buyers interact with and consume content on the microsite, you can align them with business rules that will determine your next steps. Based on this pipeline profiling, you can decide whether to send them as leads to sales, or put them into a specific nurture program to receive additional content.

Control of content and production: Let’s face it, corporate websites often become battlegrounds for control; every department wants their content to take priority. Creating a microsite gives you control to do and choose what’s needed, so you can sidestep company politics and delays.

Now, the next time you hear, “Microsites are a dying breed. Corporate websites will reign supreme” (as I did recently from an esteemed analyst), come back to this post, see if their proposed alternatives address B2B demand generation needs, and let me know your views.

Of course, not every microsite is a good microsite. See 10 Best Practices for B2B Demand Generation Microsites for guidance.


What a Survey Can and Can’t Do for B2B Demand Generation

January 7, 2011

Question!

Set appropriate expectations and craft your surveys with care. Here are some top tips for doing both.

I’m a big fan of surveys. When prepared intelligently and applied to relevant programs, they can:

  • Offer a timely, reality-based steer on everything from product development to effective outreach.
  • Prevent us from relying on our own preferences and behavior as “evidence” for what our target audience would prefer or do
  • Dispel internal arguments regarding strategy and tactics
  • Help build a business case for programs and campaigns

Of course, at the data capture level, B2B market research surveys can provide in-depth information on:

  • Market structure
  • Market size and growth
  • Trends
  • Competitors
  • Key satisfaction drivers of  (for sales, channel, customers)
  • Customer requirements
  • Customer loyalty

What surveys won’t do for demand generation is:

  • Provide a timeless portrait of your market. The shelf life of your survey will vary with your industry, but I doubt any survey holds significantly true for more than a year.
  • Tell you exactly what you should do, and how. The direction offered by surveys form demand generation programs is more of a signpost than a map.

In my view, one of the dangers of a marketing survey today is that it’s too easy to set up. Services like Survey Monkey make it so simple to format, distribute and analyze large-scale surveys that marketers can easily fall into the trap of thinking little preparation or process is required. (Not you, though. You’d never do that…would you?)

Before you propose a survey to inform your next demand generation campaign, review these top tips:

  • Brainstorm questions with all stakeholders. This will help you improve acceptance and use of the results later on. It will also help ensure you don’t miss valuable opportunities for extracting info you may not have personally thought of, but is very important to a related department. Don’t forget your sales team in this one!
  • If you develop your survey with an agency, loop them into the thinking behind your questions.
  • It’s time, not length, that affects completion rates. Don’t worry if your survey is five questions or 25. If those 25 questions require simple multiple-choice answers, your respondents will still be able to complete the survey within the 5-10 minute timeframe generally considered ideal for marketing surveys.
  • Test, test, test. To clock completion time and ensure smooth operation, have a few trusted contacts in your target audience take the survey and report their experience. If you can only test the survey in-house, that’s better than nothing, but testing on targets will be much more accurate.
  • Consider an incentive to increase completion rates and enable personal data capture. If you offer an incentive, announce it in your survey introduction and feature it as an opt-in/out question at the end of your survey. Add fields to capture the respondent’s contact details if they opt in.

Above all, remember that a survey with thoughtful, engaging, non-leading questions will always help increase your completion rates.

Have you found surveys useful in your demand generation efforts? Please share your successes (and disappointments) in the comments.


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