Have you ever thought twice about giving your contact information to a company for a white paper?
Your prospective buyer has. Especially when they’re just researching and not ready for your sales call.
Buyers have figured out this game and collectively decided that it’s not how they want to interact with potential suppliers.This lead-to-appointment model is still about you and your sales process, not the buyer’s process, which is why we’re getting higher bounce rates, unsubscribes, fewer downloads, and meager response rates to our outreach.
SaaS companies talk about building a superior customer experience only to throw it all out the window when it comes to prospecting.
Rethinking the MQL
I’ll be the first to admit that this strategy worked incredibly well--figure out what problems are keeping your target audience awake at night, develop content to help them solve that problem, and get it in front of them. And when they download it, call them, email them, connect with them on Linkedin, and hit them over the head until they tell you to buzz off.
It was exciting to abandon cold calls in favor of warm leads that were impressed with the quick, unsolicited response.
Some customers thought we were psychic!
Marketing was the hero of sales--generating more leads than salespeople knew what to do with.
We had to hire sales development representatives just to handle all MQL nurturing to ensure we weren’t missing any opportunities.
And the best part was that it was predictable:
Five percent of MQLs would be converted into sales conversations
30 percent of those would be qualified (SQL)
30 percent of those would close
Simply create more MQLs and sales would go up!
I got some big deals with this process--in 2015.
And I know it’s tough to change mindsets about a process that has worked so well for so long. But if you’ve tried to measure MQL conversion rates today, you’re probably seeing a weak correlation (if any) to actual sales conversations.
The fact is that our landing pages that once generated a plethora of inbound leads have now become a source of friction, annoyance and increased bounce rates. And, it doesn’t matter how little information you ask for in your forms.
The information you are providing is most likely available somewhere else that doesn’t require a landing page form (for example, your competitor’s website).
And are these decision-makers reading the information they downloaded?
I know I don’t--at least not thoroughly. So the odds of them remembering it when you call them is slim.
What Is The Buyer's Experience?
The biggest flaw in today’s buyer's experience is that we think it begins once someone becomes a customer.
But It actually starts long before that – as soon as someone discovers your content and continues every time they engage with it.
So the first step is to treat every interaction with your content as a customer–after all, they are now consumers of your content. And you want them to be able to find exactly what they’re looking for with the least amount of resistance possible.
That means removing any barriers for them to do that (i.e., landing pages) and thinking through those logical next pieces of content that you can refer them to based on the content topic they’re consuming.
But don’t worry, you can still gate “contact us” forms, demos and live webinar registrations and maybe an ROI calculator.
What do Buyers Want from Vendors?
When deciding what to gate and what not to, consider your own process for buying anything. If you’re doing research and interested in a white paper, are you ready to take a sales call?
No! If you were, you’d sign up for a demo, call their number and talk to sales or use the contact us form.
And it’s not that people don’t want to talk to salespeople--they do. When they’re ready. So it’s your job in marketing to give them enough content that helps them solve a problem so they want to reach out.
According to Scott Albro, founder, and CEO of Topo, the following are what consumers want when buying something:
- Simplicity: Buyers are up to 86% more likely to make a purchase if the experience is simple and direct.
- Relevance: Over 60% of buyers state “understanding the customer” as the main factor in making a purchase.
- Information: An overwhelming 95% of buyers prefer it when a brand provides educational content throughout the entire buying process.
- Low Risk: Over half of buyers surveyed are more likely to make a purchase if there is “reduced financial risk.”
- Control: Buyers prefer when the majority of the buying experience takes place before interacting with the vendor.
The bottom line is that inbound leads should be treated like they are already your customer.
How can you help them do their job better? What information do you have that could help them?
Make it as easy as possible for them to access your information. That way, your outreach will be centered around trying to help them solve a problem, not just providing interesting information or getting them into your sales pipeline.
What Do We Do Now?
Your buyer has become more informed and therefore your approach must become more personalized. Your lead generation strategy must center around treating everyone who interacts with your brand like a valued customer.
Get the buyer as close to the buying phase as quickly (and with as few barriers) as possible.
Take those lead magnets out from behind the landing page and make them available in one click with no form fill--especially when you’re emailing it to them (you should already be able to monitor their click behavior, so if you’re gating content offers out to your list, shame on you!)
Make sure you’ve thought about what other information you have that leads them down a path. Ultimately, you want them to take a demo or raise their hand.
Also, rethink the MQL conversion measurement--the number you’re generating doesn’t really matter anymore.The number that matters is qualified sales conversations--because if that’s going up, so will your sales unless you have a closing problem, but that’s a separate issue.
It is important to point out that even someone who does not buy from you still engages with your buyer’s experience. This includes all interactions they had with your brand including content, demos, and pitch meetings.
Yes, they may have decided to go with a competitor but that does not mean their experience with you is meaningless. There is no guarantee they will be satisfied with the choice they made. It’s entirely possible your competitor may have an inferior product but a superior buying experience.
If and when your prospect discovers this, they will remember the positive experience they had engaging with your brand. If they decide to come back, make note of where you left off and avoid covering the same information. Inquire about what they disliked about their original choice and explain why your product is different.
Additional Ways To Improve The Buyers Experience
- Do more than just send someone to a demo sign-up page. Include information that will help them regardless if they sign up or not
- Only gate items such as demos, contact requests, ROI calculators and webinars
- Make sure your buyer can find everything they need on your site
- Have your business development team conduct research with current customers regarding how to improve the process
- Be sure to leverage the power of the chat function to answer consumer FAQs
- Identify specific reasons you are targeting a company instead of just casting a wide net and hoping for the best
- Never send a landing page to an email address that is already in your database
Want to know why your content isn’t generating the leads you thought it would? Click here, and I’ll send you some quick thoughts--no sales pitch.