When preparing for a first meeting with new clients we typically ask about their current conversion rates on traffic-to-leads-to-sales. But what happens if they don’t have a track record?
We recently brought on a new client, a new division at a large company, that didn’t know if their actual conversion rates would be that useful. Their division had not invested in marketing previously and the program we were contemplating was a significant upgrade.
Our client provides an innovative, technology-based solution, where a handful of sales would provide adequate ROI for their marketing investment. They had provided their service to a few clients based on longstanding customer relationships and were now creating a group to take the solution to market.
We agreed that five new clients in the first year was an achievable goal. The client then asked if we should apply “normal” conversion rates to the analysis of their marketing and sales funnel to determine how many leads we would need. We cautioned there is no "normal" lead conversion rate in Inbound Marketing.
One marketing strategy for tackling a business with little track record is called Growth Hacking. This relatively recent phenomenon to the marketing world is designed to focus on growth while also dealing with ambiguity. According to Wikipedia, “Growth hacking is a marketing technique developed by technology startups which uses creativity, analytical thinking, and social metrics to sell products and gain exposure.” Executing this strategy doesn’t necessarily fall to any one person. A hacker should have a head for data, creativity, and curiosity and thus might require a composite of traditional marketing roles. Hacking starts with a reasonable hypothesis for unit volume and revenue based market research. Often, a pilot will be used to gather data in a controlled manner to guide to our initial assumptions and goal setting. By using techniques such as buyer personas, SEO, website analytics, content marketing, social media and A/B testing, we refine that initial outlook with data on traffic, leads and sales as we move forward to building lead flow.
The Internet reached 3 billion people last year, but we only need to address the needs of about 100 with our content to reach our goal of 5 customers. Well formulated “Ideal Customer Personas” are one key to the efficiency of this effort. The more detailed information we generate about our customers the better our editorial perspective, the better we'll be able to develop material that maximizes our lead conversion rates.
In developing these rich personas we explore questions such as: Who needs your solutions most? What do they have in common? What problems do they have? Why do they purchase? What "buying triggers" do they exhibit when we speak to them? What qualifies them to be a good vs. not so good customer? Where do they congregate? What pressures do they face, not only professionally but personally? How do they define success for the business and again, personally?
This level of detail and empathy will help us to create content, offers and calls to action that draw an audience of prospective customers into our world with the goal of eventually connecting them to the sales team. We create introductory material (i.e., blogs and white papers), preference-setting material (ROI calculators, case studies) and closing material (configuration tools, model RFPs) to then guide customers through each lifecycle stage to conversion.
Having made the case for Growth Hacking, in advance of the meeting we asked our client and her team to bring the following 5 things:
1. A list of 30-50 search terms defined as pertinent to the target audience. How would prospective customers search for your business? Some are obvious, and some require a little creativity to approach the question from a customer’s perspective. For example, one might search for "How to hang doors," not for "hinges". This is an exercise that will help tremendously for getting found in search engines.
2. A list of industry publications, subject matter experts, trade associations, and social media influencers.
3. A list of the most relevant job titles for the individuals who will be making purchasing decisions, along with any other material that can help us define and understand this important segment.
4. “Premium” content such as brochures, white papers, eBooks, articles, etc., that can be repurposed for Inbound Marketing. Also, newsletter articles or other corporate communications that can potentially be used for blog posts. Any intellectual property the business has the rights to use (i.e. from VAR’s or partners) and can be repurposed is fair game as well.
5. Events and “triggers” that stimulate potential customers. This helps us understand how to position and time our offers. Trade shows, conferences, panels etc all offer great opportunities to build content around. A new CMO? NYC Fashion Week? Year-end spending? There are many reasons people buy and the more we understand them, the better informed our marketing can be.
With these five materials in hand we can successfully “growth hack” the onboarding process. Set a process to help routinize this tricky phase and watch as the time it takes to start building content for your client drops dramatically.
Starting with a hypothesis and using technology-based marketing channels to drive growth establishes clear goals and performance indicators for your campaign. Then, over time and with a systematic approach, gather data to mine insights make informed decisions about apply your marketing budget. By doing so, you can strike a balance between doing too little of any one tactic, i.e., “keeping your powder dry” or too much, i.e., “driving the bus over a cliff” with a single line of tactical offense.
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