You’re right—lead generation is getting harder.
It used to be a slam dunk for marketers. Need a bigger pipeline? Produce content, push it out, and watch the leads roll in.
Today, not so much.
Great content is table stakes.
Click-throughs mean a lot less than they used to.
Sales reps lose faith in marketing and return to cold outbound.
Worst of all…
…CEOs get impatient for results and won’t grant more budget until there is evidence of marketing traction.
It’s tough out there.
To say that marketers are frustrated by the declining performance and increasing cost per lead would be a massive understatement.
It’s all good for “brand building,” right?
But how long will that take? How much will it cost?
Probably more than your CEO and CFO are willing to give.
When leads drop off a cliff and everyone freaks out about skyrocketing costs and missed quotas, talking about brand building is a non-starter.
You know what’s coming…
…they’ll hire more outbound sales reps and cut marketing’s budget.
Marketing leaders must demonstrate that they can get short-term lead generation humming, or they’ll never earn the privilege (time and budget) of executing a long-term strategy.
If that strategy seems short-sighted, rest assured that it is possible to focus on both short-term demand capture and long-term brand building at the same time.
The ship can be turned quickly, but you must stop making this fundamental mistake.
Downloads and link clicks are not leads
John Carlton, author of The Entrepreneur's Guide to Getting Your Shit Together, says: “People are not sitting around desperately hoping for a marketer like you to come into their lives and sell them something.”
He goes on to explain that the missing link in both sales and marketing communications is the art of persuasion. The closest thing to a pitch is, “Here I am—how much do you want?”
Because email is a cheap medium of distribution today, B2B marketers have gotten lazy and relied way too heavily on salespeople to pick up the slack.
No wonder why lead generation in B2B has declined in effectiveness.
Buyers know the game, and whatever you have behind that form had better be of value if they have to put up with follow up from yippy BDRs.
In a recent SaaS Backwards podcast, Casey Carey, CMO of Kazoo HR, talked about what people are thinking when they download content.
“You think about this notion of, ‘Hey, you downloaded my essential guide to whatever’ and that somehow makes you automatically interested in buying what I have to sell. But in most cases, they just wanted to read your guide—they’re not interested in buying anything. Yet as marketers, we're throwing those leads to sales, and sales is sending me notes saying, ‘Why are you sending me crappy leads?’”
Sellers will lose faith in marketing your “leads” if they aren’t helping them get into a conversation with a qualified buyer that’s motivated to solve their problem.
They make assumptions about what their target market should be interested in, develop Ultimate Guides, and promote them via email to loosely targeted lists with copy that looks like it took less than an hour to write.
And then judge the success or failure based on open rates, click-through rates, website traffic And then they’ll send these “Marketing Qualified Leads” to sales and call it a day.
That’s not a lead.
Much of the content I see in blogs, white papers and webinars doesn’t speak directly to typical problems that you solve and provides no intelligence for sales about how they might get into an intelligent sales conversation.
Because most marketers have never had to pick up the phone and try to make a sale, it’s impossible to understand how difficult it is.
I’m not saying that’s what you need to do. And kudos to you if you have.
At a minimum, you need to sit in on sales calls and listen for the prospect’s “jobs to be done.” Better if you can interview them.
Until you understand their motivations, most of your communications will be mediocre at best.
How to find buyer intent with content
Because the process of making cold calls and going to networking events and conferences are way too inefficient for most salespeople to make their quota today, they must rely on marketing’s help to show them where to prospect.
When crafted well, content can provide valuable sales intelligence if the topic of your asset helps you identify typical pain points, triggers and gaps—right in the headline.
For a conversion to be considered a lead, there must be intent behind it. The prospect has to say, “Yes, I have that problem and I want to talk to you about solving it.”
Otherwise, it’s a suspect. That’s useful though.
It provides some intelligence that a salesperson needs to open doors to a conversation and develop relationships digitally.
The idea is not to capture their information so you can pass it to sales. There are plenty of resources to find that information today.
The goal is to identify potential problems within your target audience so that salespeople can prospect most efficiently and reach out intelligently.
That means good old-fashioned direct response that touches a nerve, gets the prospect to question her status quo, leading them down a path to a demo or to talk to sales.
In that way, it’s less important that we capture their information at the top of the funnel. For example, following up on a white paper download within five minutes is silly. There’s no intent there.
Don’t Reinvent the Wheel
If you’ve been developing content for some time, I bet there’s plenty of opportunities to repurpose and rewrite it so that it’s more like a direct response piece.
I see it all the time when reviewing client and prospect blogs, white papers and sales messages.
- The topics are too general, so prospects don’t read past the headline.
- Headlines don’t elicit emotion—and the reader’s response is “meh.”
- Content pushes for a demo or to talk to sales too early—a non sequitur.
- Content doesn’t tell you anything about typical problems that you solve so a salesperson can open the door intelligently to a conversation.
- The first sentence is an obvious statement that punishes the reader for reading past the headline and reads like a recipe website. (You know, where you have to scroll through pages and pages of crap just to get the ingredients and instructions).
And most website positioning has serious problems as well.
Hardly anyone talks about the customer’s “why.” They don’t use the same language their customers are using (too much jargon), they lead with proof points before ever explaining what they do, and they don’t understand the stage of market sophistication that their products are in.
Fixing Lead Gen in 90 Days or Sooner
There’s nothing wrong with educational and thought-leadership-based content—it should be part of your long-term strategy to create customers and bring them to you, ready to buy, with minimal competition.
But that probably won’t generate leads for sales in the short term—at least, not enough to move the needle significantly. And when the pressure mounts to generate more leads for sales, you may need to talk to a few customers, so you truly understand their point of view.
Then you can repurpose existing content to demonstrate that you “get” what’s holding them back.
Redesign your offers so that they help solve their problems.
And even if you’ve tried to address common pain points in the past, zero in on a smaller niche of buyers where you can demonstrate lookalike success.
The more it feels to them that you understand their problem, the more niche you can be, the higher your chance of success in winning a buyer’s attention.
So, let’s hush up those demanding sales folk.
The recipe for your success is contained in this Lead Generation Playbook, based on our recent experience and in-depth research into sales and marketing best practices. There’s no form fill, and no salesperson will call you—because that would be silly.
However, if you would like our help to streamline this process quickly, let’s do a complimentary evaluation of your content.
And if you want to accelerate your results even faster, let us shed some light on how your content can be repurposed quickly so it identifies intent and helps salespeople open more doors.