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Brian Carroll

6 Ideas to Create More Relevant Lead Nurturing Emails

September 29th, 2014

I’m writing this post while attending the ExactTarget Connections 2014 event. I’ve learned a lot from listening to the sessions and speakers here.

As I listened to attendees and speakers, I frequently heard the same keywords, such as:

  • Personalizationexacttarget
  • Segmentation
  • Customer focus
  • Data
  • Connection
  • Authenticity

But something I wanted to hear more about was relevance.

People aren’t trying to open and click your emails. They’re looking for reasons to delete them.

A recent MarketingSherpa survey of email recipients found that 58% of those who stop reading, disengage or unsubscribe later cite “lack of relevance” as a key factor. This is hugely important because most marketers rely on email as their No. 1 lead-nurturing tactic.

For example, I receive emails often from companies that claim to “know” me — in some cases I’m their customer — but their emails certainly don’t show it. Their creative and graphics-laden emails don’t speak to my concerns or motivations at all, and each non-relevant message I receive is basically programming me to ignore or delete future messages from them. I’m sure that’s not their intent, but these companies are missing the key idea of relevance.

So, how do we better align align our email and nurturing messages with what is relevant to our audience?

 

Idea #1: Build relevant messages based on problems that matter to your customer

It is critical to know what customers want in order to serve them better. Do you know what motivates and matters to your customers? If not, ask them. We can spend more time guessing wrong, or we can just ask our future customers what matters to them. You can do this in person, via phone, events and more.

Read more on how to put your customers first in lead generation.

 

Idea #2: Understand where your prospect is in the buying cycle

Be sure to provide different kinds of information to your prospect based on what point they are in the buying process.

If you have a complex sale, the best way I know how to do this is by combining a human touch with your sales pitch to build relationships with your lead-nurturing message. Also, you can tell a lot based on the content people are engaging. If they are at an early stage lead and they are just starting to get familiar with the business issues you solve, don’t send them the same copy that you would send someone who is on the verge of making a decision.

Read more on Email Marketing: 3 lead nurture paths you should automate.

 

Idea #3: Create message based on industry vertical or company size (Hint: Segmentation)

Industry information will most likely tell what pains your prospects are experiencing. At the same time, company size will give you a hint as to the resources they have available to tackle these challenges. Be sure to add this information to your marketing data often so that you can easily define your target segments based on these indicators.

 

Idea #4: Map content and message based on role or job function personas

Effective lead nurturing starts with listening to customers to truly understand them, and then it requires identifying the personas of your audience.

What’s their job function? What part to they play in the buying process (influencer, decision maker, information gather)?

For example, based on my experience, a decision maker is heavily involved at the very start and the very end of the B2B buying process but leaves the middle of the process up to the influencers.

You’ll need to investigate who gets involved at which point in the buying process so that you can segment your messaging. What content do they need? What are the problems their facing?

Read more about effective content marketing here: Content Marketing: 4 stages to mapping your content strategy.

 

Idea #5: Leverage trigger events to your advantage

Do you know why favorable trigger events matter? Trigger events are a great way to change the physics of the buying process and yet another way that we marketers can go beyond the lead.

Trigger events matter for two key reasons. First, they may indicate that the status quo in an organization is changing, and secondly, they can contribute to the development of timely and relevant sales and marketing messaging.

Read more on The Physics of Trigger Events for Lead Generation to get a look at a trigger event mind map. It will show you some of the possible trigger events you can track.

 

Idea #6: Test your messaging

This is the hardest part to get right.

Each audience responds differently to different styles. That’s why you should test, test, test.

Try different subject lines (this is my favorite relevancy booster — I find that the less marketing hype used, the better). Try different message copy and calls to action.

The response to your A/B tests will help you understand which style is most relevant and effective with your audience. Try different mediums (don’t only rely on email nurturing).

Developing lead-nurturing tracks is extremely useful because you can leverage what you’ve learned to reuse that content again and again.

Read how to create more effective content marketing that your audience will actually be interested in reading here: Content Marketing: Consulting firm nets 388% more leads with 4-step strategy.

 

Photo Attribution: Exact Target Blog

 

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Lead Nurturing: 5 tips for creating relevant content [More from the blogs]

Digital Marketing: Be relevant, data-driven and precise [More from the blogs]

New Chart: Top tactics organizations use to improve email relevancy [MarketingSherpa chart]

Email Relevance: 8 tactics for leveraging timing, segmentation and content [MarketingSherpa how-to article]

Lead Nurturing , , , , , ,

Brian Carroll

5 Ways to Deal with Change for Successful Marketing

September 22nd, 2014
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As marketers, we deal with a lot of change. The B2B marketing world is exploding with touch points, channels and marketing technology, just to name a few blasts of change.

We need to navigate toward creating more content, generating more leads and achieving more results. Even our customer buying process has changed. Our customers are moving deeper into their buying process before they need to directly engage with us or our sales team. But consumers aren’t the only ones who have changed; companies have changed too.

According to Adobe’s Digital Road­block report, published earlier this year, “64% of marketers expect their role to change over the next year, and over 81% expect changes over the next three years.” Also, marketers cite a lack of training in new marketing skills and an inability for their organizations to adapt as key roadblocks to becoming the marketers they aspire to be.

A new study from Econsultancy finds that the majority senior marketers believe the most important soft skill to develop is the “ability to embrace change.”

I get to talk to lots of marketers in my role at MECLABS, and it’s clear to me that most of the leaders and marketers I speak with want to embrace change and adapt. But how do we do it?

Remember that attitude is everything

Change management starts with you. If you change how you think, you will change how you feel and what actions you take. Consider this statement from Charles Swindoll: “Life is 10% of what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it.” Be the change you want to make in your company.

Develop a clear vision with a shared purpose

There’s an old proverb that says, “Without vision, my people perish.” Your company needs you and your marketing leadership more than ever. Work to define a picture of yourself, your team and your organization. How will you serve customers? Focus on what you can do to navigate changes. What are the new roles that you’ll need to play to help your organization adapt?

Here’s a helpful post from HBR.com on how to develop a shared purpose.

Build your blueprint and plan to change

I’ve watched too many companies make half-hearted plans. I’ve then watched these same companies make so many knee-jerk shifts in their plans that they accomplish little and their people become cynical and emotionally disengaged.

You can prevent “change fatigue.” If you’re going to plan, dig in and make it count. This means that you’ll need to invest more time in upfront planning for what’s coming and getting your team ready, but it will be worth it.

For example, if you’re going to invest in technology, you need to clearly map the processes within that technology.

What are the essential processes that the marketing organization handles today? What should change in order make the marketing team more efficient and drive higher performance?

Set clear and realistic milestones

How will you know you are heading in the right direction, and how will you prove that to the rest of the team?

Change management almost always take longer than we think. When you’re managing change, be realistic about how much time it will take and what you’ll accomplish.

I’ve talked to leaders in companies who’ve made changes they thought would take six months, only to find they’ve invested two years, and they’re still not done. How long it will take depends on what you’re doing — changing a company culture takes longer than implementing CRM or marketing automation software.

It’s the leaders who set realistic milestones that get their teams commitment and buy-in to what’s required to drive the results.

Invest in yourself, and invest in training and educating your team

Training can be a catalyst for transformation. What have you done to improve your skills and grow? Think about the training and education your team will need to develop the skills and manage the changes you need to make.

Many companies don’t invest in training their team, and if they do, they’re not investing enough in the development of their team’s skills. Start now, and make training and educating yourself and your team a priority.

Education needs to go beyond the marketing team to the executive team and the rest of the company. Help them understand the changes that need to take place and the impact they’ll have on the company.

Get comfortable accepting that change will happen

This requires simply accepting what is. We are deluded if we think that everything is going to be the same tomorrow as it is today — change can happen in a split second.

If you know change is coming, consider it a privilege. Too many people don’t have that luxury. Help your team be prepared that changing is here, it’s coming and it’s inevitable. Accept that if change management were easy, everyone would be doing it.

I’d love to hear what’s worked for you when managing change or some of the ways you’ve supported your company making changes. Post your experiences in the comments section below.

Photo attribution: Francesco Corallo

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Leading Change: Why transformation efforts fail [from the Harvard Business Review]

The Difference Between Change and Transformation [from CIOInsight.com]

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Red Bull Media House’s Advice for Successful Content Marketing [More from the blogs]

Customer Relationship Management: Bring finance into the CRM world [More from the blogs]

Marketing Strategy , , ,

Brian Carroll

The Most Important B2B Marketing Metrics for CEOs

September 15th, 2014

CEOs expect their marketing leaders to provide metrics and be accountable in meeting their numbers, just like their expectations for sales leaders. Oftentimes, CEOs’ marketing leaders only have various activity KPIs and some squishy metrics, such as brand recognition.

Marketing Metrics for CEOs

At the same time, most CEOs agree that they aren’t receiving enough activity from Marketing into the sales funnel. Thus, their marketers are constantly reminded that more leads are needed, as fast as possible.

When the revenue doesn’t immediately materialize, CEOs will lament, “Why can’t I see ROI from marketing?”

As marketers, I believe the key is to look at why we are measuring our marketing in the first place.

We need to be able to answer the big picture questions, like the following:

  1. What effect are our marketing investments having on sales productivity? On the pipeline? On revenue?
  2. What can Marketing do to lower the combined expense-to-revenue ratio of sales and marketing activities?
  3. How much am I putting in and what am I getting out? The difference between these two numbers is often expressed as a percentage.
  4. How much revenue can be directly attributed to leads coming from Marketing (i.e., the lead generation program in a specific time period)?
  5. What is the total cost of your lead generation program during a specific time period?
    • Marketing team total compensation
    • Vendors and outsourcers
    • Costs and materials

I’d love to get your input on what you believe are the most important B2B marketing metrics for CEOs. Please leave a comment below to share your insights.

Photo attribution: thinkpanama

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Lead Generation: How using science increased teleprospecting sales handoffs 304% [More from the blogs]

Lead Management: 4 principles to follow [More from the blogs]

B2B Marketing: How accounts payable company’s new process increased Marketing’s contribution to revenue 1,300% [MarketingSherpa B2B Marketing case study]

ROI Measurement , , , ,

Brian Carroll

Stop Cold Calling and Start Lead Nurturing

September 8th, 2014

Earlier this week, I had a call with a CEO of a small technology company who was wondering how to optimize his lead generation.

He called me after two salespeople quit, and he said, “I’m about to give up on cold calling and start doing inbound marketing. I think cold calling is dead … what do you think I should do?”

I thought to myself, “It’s no wonder his sales team quit.”

There’s an old adage that says 90% of salespeople hate cold calling, and the other 10% are lying. No one really likes the idea of making or receiving cold calls.

If you’re randomly calling, emailing or direct mailing your customers and think it’s just a numbers game, then you need to stop. This type of interruption marketing no longer works.

He then asked, “What can I do instead?”

I gave him the following advice: Stop cold calling and start nurturing.

Cold calls vs. nurturing calls

Look up the definition of “nurture.”

Here’s what a quick search of the Web will tell you:

Nurture: To foster, help develop or help grow; the act of nourishing or nursing; tender care; education; training; that which nourishes; food; diet; sustenance; the environmental influences that contribute to the development of an individual

Your lead-nurturing program is all about having consistent and relevant communication with viable prospects (those that fit with your product or service), regardless of their timing to buy. Think of your phone as an extension of this program. You shouldn’t try to use pressure tactics in the first phone call; it’s about building long, meaningful and trust-filled relationships with the right people.

Be useful and help your prospects

 

Think about it: when’s the last time you received a cold call that you actually benefited from? Your customers feel the same way. Every time you pick up the phone — whether it be the first call or the 50th call — it’s important to create value by providing your prospects useful information in digestible, bite-size chunks.

John Jantsch writes in this post on Ductape Marketing Blog, “You don’t have to be a pest when you call people. In fact, don’t sell. Just be useful. Even useful voice message follow ups will let people know you are human and aren’t going to hard-sell anything. Reaching out via the telephone in a useful manner will help build trust for your other lead generation initiatives.”

Be relevant and uber-informed

When you’re making a call, the worst thing you can do is to contact someone without knowing anything about them. You must have a sound, working knowledge of each potential customer, the company and, most importantly, the issues they face and how your product can help solve them.

This personal interest goes a long way in establishing meaningful dialogue.

Begin by asking your sales team:

  • What questions do your customers ask most often?
  • What do they care about?
  • What issues are they facing?

Find content — such as articles, blogs and white papers — that addresses these issues. Pass this content by your sales team, and ask them whether their customers would value it. As much as you can, repurpose content. For instance, white papers can be transformed into articles and articles into blog posts.

Marketing automation technology can also help you know what content people are engaging with on your website, emails and webinars, and you can leverage this information through lead scoring to help you prioritize when someone might be ready for a call.

Build trust with each interaction

“Tell-and-sell” is a thing of the past. Become a trusted advisor by adding value with each interaction and sharing relevant information.

By providing valuable education and information to prospects up front, you become a trusted advisor. Share information that sticks with them. Give them educational content that helps them grow as an individual or a company. Salespeople who become trusted advisors and understand the needs of economic buyers are 69% more likely to come away with a sale.

Here’s a nurturing litmus test: Can prospects benefit from the information you provide, regardless of whether they buy from you?

The goal of lead nurturing is to maintain a relevant and consistent dialog with viable future customers, no matter where they are in the buying pipeline. It’s about relationships. If you follow these ideas, you’ll start thinking about how you and your salespeople can be a relevant resource. When you do that, you don’t have to sell to people. They will come to you first when they are ready.

Photo attribution: Poetic Home

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Lead Nurturing: Build trust, win more deals by helping prospects – not selling them [More from the blogs]

Creating Customer-centric Messaging for Optimal Lead Generation [MarketingSherpa webinar archive]

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Competitive Marketing: How do you grab customers’ attention?[More from the blogs]

Cold Calling , , , ,

Brian Carroll

Why Servant Marketing Matters

August 18th, 2014

As I talk to marketing and sales leaders, I hear this reoccurring theme: “I want to do something that really matters; I want to feel what I’m doing is really making a real difference.”

I feel the same way, but I’ve painfully learned that it’s futile to make changes outside before we make changes inside. This requires a different kind of thinking to drive a different way of marketing.

In our rush to obtain leads, drive opportunities and close sales to move the sales needle, it’s too easy to forget that we need to address the needs, wants, hopes and aspirations of our customers.

The problem with today’s customers

Today’s customers are weary of pitches, hype, buzzwords, corporate speak and manipulative messages, and as a result, they ignore them.

This is especially true for companies that have a complex sale where B2B buyers face daunting decisions that involve huge risks, and sellers struggle to articulate their value propositions and differentiate themselves from competitors.

Customers aren’t saying, “We need solutions.” Instead, they’re saying, “We need to solve a problem.”

So what would happen if we focused on helping them do just that?

Serve first and market second

With this in mind, I’ve been reflecting on servant leadership for the past year. Robert Greenleaf’s work on servant leadership states this: “Serve first and lead second.”servant-marketing

I believe this idea can also be applied to sales and marketing. Let’s call it servant marketing, which can be defined as “serve first and market second.”

Servant marketing works like this: How we sell and market informs customers of how we’re going to serve them. It’s not what we say; it’s what we actually do that matters.

I’d like your input to help me define this better. I think servant marketing is built on the following ideas:

  • Empathize with your customers and walk in their shoes to understand their problems
  • Think like your customers when they set out to solve a problem and understand each step they take to solve that problem
  • Learn how you can help make your customers lives better
  • Provide your customers what they want
  • Help customers identify and solve problems
  • Give customers content and expertise that helps them gain clarity
  • Empower employees who touch your customers with the resources, training and tools to really help them

Our customers are more sophisticated than ever and have access to more information and more options. There’s no room for game-playing or guessing. We have to know what they want and give that to them. If we can give them what they want, we can create a competitive advantage that will reap higher margins and profits.

I realize this may seem altruistic, but it’s not. It has an economic benefit. One company that I’m hoping to interview for a future blog post practices servant marketing and generates 200% more revenue per customer than their competitors.

I’m looking for more companies that practice servant marketing.

Do you know of any? Let me know in the comments section below. Please feel free share your thoughts on servant marketing.

Image Attribution: Adam Verspaget

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Marketing Research Chart: Question your assumptions for true customer-centric marketing [MarketingSherpa Research Chart of the Week]

Marketing Strategy , , , ,

Brian Carroll

How to Put the Customer First in Lead Generation

August 11th, 2014

Putting customers first in lead generation.

As marketers, we have more ways to observe our customers’ behavior and can leverage tools like marketing automation, Web analytics and CRM systems to help us manage all this complexity.

Complexity found in things like Marketing-qualified leads (MQLs), Sales-qualified leads (SQLs), opportunities, lead engagement scores and other KPIs are helpful to see trends and measure what we deem important to us, but something is often missing.empathy

That missing piece is customer empathy.

Unfortunately, empathy is often ignored or lost when we start to become overly clever and complex with lead generation.

We can get so caught up in our systems, tools and investments that we lose sight of empathy.

To build that empathy, I recommend:

Push the acronyms aside and actually talk to your customers

Sadly, I’ve found that marketers don’t talk directly with the very people they are reaching out to with lead generation messages. All too often, customer service agents and sales reps are the only ones talking to customers live and/or in real life.

Here’s some ways to fix that:

  • Pick up the phone
  • Survey customers on your email list
  • Get out in the field with your sales team and meet customers face to face

It is critical to know what customers want in order to serve them better.

Businesses often take understanding the customer for granted when this is one thing that should be always valued. For ideas on the questions to ask your customers, read this post from the B2B Lead Roundable Blog: “8 Questions to Steer Your Marketing Priorities.”

Use those conversations to understand what customers care about

Instead of worrying about being interesting, you need to first be interested in your customer. Your goal is to understand your customer’s motivation (what they want) and make sure that’s aligned with what you can deliver.

It is most effective to actively listen with empathy to consciously try to understand and see the world from the other person’s perspective.

Avoid “hearing” through a filter formed by your own worldview as a marketer, and do not impose your preconceived ideas on what you hear, because doing so will inhibit your efforts to put yourself in your customers’ shoes.

Use that understanding to anticipate what they want next from your organization

You need to move from company logic to customer logic.

Customers want to work with people and companies that can step in their shoes and understand the results they are trying to achieve. But before you can do this, you must first actively listen to them and understand their situation and concerns.

At its core, lead generation is really about relationships.

I’m wondering what would happen if we stopped treating people as leads (dehumanizing) and instead treated them as human beings or future customers. What would happen if we put ourselves in our future customers’ shoes and looked at our messages from their perspective and trying to feel what they are feeling when they hear from us?

If you want to improve your influence and empathetic connection with people, watch this RSA short:

In this 3-minute animated video, Dr. Brené Brown reminds us that we can only create a genuine empathetic connection if we are brave enough to really get in touch with our own fragilities.

Image Attribution: Crystal Coleman

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Customer-centric Marketing: Learning from customers helps increase lead quality 130%, Sales-accepted leads 40% [Case study]

Customer-centric Marketing: 7 triggers to engage customers and build loyalty [More from the blogs]

Creating Customer-centric Messaging for Optimal Lead Generation [Webinar replay]

Lead Generation , , , , ,

Brian Carroll

Why Empathetic Marketing Matters and 7 Steps to Achieve It

March 3rd, 2014

I am at the earliest stages of developing a sequel to Lead Generation for the Complex Sale. It’s been a decade since the first draft and I’ve been contemplating how much business has changed since then.

Today’s sales and marketing environment is a paradox: There have never been more opportunities to reach customers; yet reaching them has never been more challenging.

We have more marketing channels than ever. We’ve moved from traditional advertising to social media, content marketing and beyond. But, I can’t help but wonder, as we have more ways to talk to our customers, are they really listening? Or are they shutting us out as we hurl more pitches at them from different angles?

I believe you can’t really answer that question unless you know precisely what your customers want. This requires letting go of our own assumptions of what we think they want and putting ourselves in their place.

This requires empathy, which according to Miriam-Webster, “is the ability to share someone else’s feeling.” To feel what they feel and think what they think.

Unfortunately, too many in corporate America believe sociopathic behavior – being laser-focused on getting what you want at the expense of everyone else – accelerates businesses and careers to success.

That’s so “Wolf of Wall Street.” What worked two decades ago won’t work today. Sociopathic behavior may be why too many businesses are struggling.

I believe to succeed in the new millennium, we must embrace empathy on every level with every customer – both internal and external. Our customers are more sophisticated than ever and have access to more information and more options. There’s no room for game-playing or guessing. We have to know what they want and give that to them.

Here’s an overview of what I believe can help achieve this. I plan on expanding on these points in future B2B Lead Roundtable Blog posts:

1. Put the customer first. Instead of worrying about being interesting, we need to first be interested. Understand the customer’s motivation (what they want) and make sure that’s aligned with what we can deliver.

2. Listen and seek to understand. Do we know why our customers say “yes”? Why are they buying from us? What are the steps they need take to say “yes”? What difference have we made for our customers because they bought our product or service?

3. Stop marketing, start conversing. Focus on developing conversations, not campaigns. Don’t err on the side of pushing our agenda rather than extending an invitation to converse. To the customer, it feels like “somebody wants something from me” rather than “maybe they can help me get what I want.” We need to demonstrate that we’re interested in their world and their motivations. Invite, listen, engage and recommend.

4. Help. The best marketing and sales doesn’t feel like marketing and sales at all. It feels like helping because it is. Our lead nurturing needs to be built on this concept.

5. Give them content they’ll want to share. This organically emerges from the first four points of placing the customer first, understanding them, conversing with them and helping them.

6. Remember that proximity is influence. Empower those closest to our customer – the sales team, inside sales team, sales engineers and customer service people – to be able to achieve the points above.

7. Practice empathy personally to set an example. Our customers are everyone we serve – including our staff and our coworkers. Show them how it’s done by practicing empathy yourself.

This introduces another paradox: We’ve never been more advanced with ways to connect with prospects, but we’re still not communicating effectively with them. A good start to doing that effectively begins with empathy.

What are your thoughts? Do you think empathetic marketing is achievable for your organization, why or why not?

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Content Marketing, Lead Generation, Lead Nurturing, Marketing Strategy, Thought Leadership , , , ,

Brian Carroll

3 Important Lessons for Lead Gen and Life

December 16th, 2013

This year, more than ever, has been humbling for me.

People look to me as an expert at lead generation because I wrote a book and speak about it. But it seems the more I learn, the less I think I know.

I probably am more acutely aware of this because I work for MECLABS, an organization that is laser-focused on learning and teaching others – including many global organizations – about how to continuously improve marketing.

Consequently, I’m constantly learning and constantly discovering how much more I have to learn. Read on for three important lessons instilled in me this year.

Use your knowledge resources

I have to confess: I began 2013 feeling behind. I’m charged with helping MECLABS attain Research Partnerships. This is more complex than standard lead generation – we’re not trying to sell. Instead, we’re trying to identify organizations that can fit our specific research model. We end up turning away prospects far more than we accept.

Frankly, back in January, I wanted to have more momentum in this process, but I felt like I had far too much to accomplish and far too little time to accomplish it. So, in that situation, who has time to review case studies and reports?

Who has time to strategize?

Reflecting on it 12 months later, I realize that smart, effective people do, because that’s when they discover the solutions to help them accomplish their goals.

Practice what you preach

I finally allowed myself the time to examine our organization’s vast knowledge of online testing to determine how this knowledge could be applied to conversations over the phone.

You see, much of our process for accepting Research Partner applications transpires via the phone channel. In this process, our first goal is to make sure our prospects are delighted that we contacted them; our second is to identify a potential Research Partner.

Of course, the steps to test online cannot be simply layered over the phone conversations. The human touch is different than the virtual one.

However, we successfully applied the patented Conversion Heuristic, created by MarketingExperiments, a division of MECLABS, that has typically been used as a systematic framework to analyze a conversion process.

Learn more about our experience with that here: “Lead Generation: How using science increased teleprospecting sales handoffs 304%.”

Through these efforts, we are now doing significantly more teleprospecting in less time. Here’s just one example: We wanted to learn how to structure a voicemail to attract the highest rate of callbacks.

We discovered that immediately mentioning a free Benchmark Report, as opposed to waiting until the next sentence, increased call backs by 182% – that’s nearly double! Consider the increased productivity: those are 182% fewer people our analysts have to call back.

If I had practiced what MECLABS preached earlier in the year, I could have been up to speed much more quickly in achieving my goals.

Simplicity is the true sign of expertise

As I continually learn new methods to improve my own lead generation, I understand the process better. In fact, a few years ago, I wrote this e-book: Eight Critical Success Factors for Lead Generation. If I wrote this book today, I would boil it down to just three:

  • Engaging the right people in the right companies
  • With the right message
  • And nurturing that conversation until the right time

A true measure of expertise, I realize, is the ability to make the seemingly complex so simple that anyone can understand it.

Einstein was right when he proclaimed that if you can’t explain something simply, you don’t know it well enough. Once again, I now realize how much I didn’t know a year ago, how much I know today, and how much more – really, so much more – I still need to learn.

What lead gen and life lessons did you learn in 2013? I’d love to hear about them. Let me know in the comments below.

Related Resources

Lead Management: 4 principles to follow

B2B Marketing: What an 11% drop in conversion taught a live audience about lead gen

Lead Nurturing: How a social business strategy can help you move from selling to helping your prospects

Thought Leadership, Uncategorized , , ,

Brian Carroll

Lead Generation: How using science increased teleprospecting sales handoffs 304%

September 23rd, 2013

I have a confession to make.

There’s something I wish I would have known when I wrote my best-seller, Lead Generation for the Complex Sale.

It’s this:

This is a patented Conversion Heuristic created by MarketingExperiments, a division of MECLABS, that’s typically been used as a systematic framework to analyze a conversion process.

So, I wanted to see if this heuristic could be applied to lead generation through teleprospecting.

After all, we’re trying to convert people, convince them to say “yes” to whatever we’re selling, but we’re doing it in the real world, not the virtual one.

Anyone who has worked in inside sales knows that sales professionals are always informally testing to learn what works and what doesn’t.

The heuristic just applies scientific principles to that testing process.

It’s no wonder it was easy for us to find a client who allowed us to make a guinea pig of their teleprospecting program, and they’re glad they did because we increased sales handoffs by 304%.

Below is an outline of how we made it happen.

Here’s the problem we were solving for:

What messaging creates increased lead conversion and maximizes return on energy?

Simply stated …

How can we get the most sales handoffs with the least effort?

You see, salespeople are always struggling with having enough time to sell. You can only put your energy in so many places.

Test #1. We adjusted the call guide from being product-focused to customer-focused

The heuristic begins with motivation (or 4m) as the most heavily weighted element impacting the likelihood of a conversion.

Therefore, we hypothesized the more our call guide could match a prospect’s motivation for being interested in our services, the more likely they would move forward in the sales cycle.

Instead of launching a call by talking about the product and how it can help – in this case, it was professional services – we began by asking prospects about what motivated their engagement.

As an incentive, we also offered content addressing that motivation.

The result: After pulling a baseline of activities from the previous month using the same manpower and then comparing the outcomes, we concluded that we spoke directly with decision makers 46.3% more often.

But, here’s a little conundrum

While we were speaking with more decision makers, our sales handoffs didn’t have an equally marked increase.

Our hypothesis for the lack of equal increase: we were engaging candidates earlier, but they just weren’t ready to buy.

Test #2. We radically redesigned our approach

We developed a completely new call guide focusing on two objectives:

  1. Delight the prospect by focusing completely on their needs. This was the priority because by doing so, they’ll eventually turn into a sales-ready lead.
  2. Uncover a sales-ready lead.

We achieved these by also focusing on three areas that subconsciously motivated prospects to say, “Yes, I want to move forward.” Essentially, we were working toward building the ultimate yes with our prospects.

The three areas we focused on were:

Urgency: Give prospects a good reason to talk to us immediately.

In their mind, the prospect asks, “Who are you and why should I talk to you?” and we answered by:

  • Reviewing our client’s customer relationship management system to see how prospects most recently engaged.
  • Building our conversation around that knowledge.

Relevancy: In their mind, the prospect is asking, “Are you relevant to me and my company?”

We made it clear how the client’s brand is relevant by focusing on the prospects’ needs based on:

  • How they most recently engaged with the organization.
  • Only focusing on prospects who were the best fit for the client and disregarding the rest.

Importance: In their mind, the prospect asks, “Why should I talk you to you now?”

We increased their motivation to engage by offering an even more compelling incentive that matched or exceeded their motivation – in this case, it was a report worth hundreds of dollars.

Urgency, relevancy and importance were reinforced by both direct contact and follow-up emails.

The result: We increased decision-maker contacts and helped build a pipeline for future sales. But while sales handoffs increased, we wanted to see even more of a lift.

Test #3. We changed the call guides and added compelling follow-up emails to intensify urgency

We keenly focused on discovering our prospects’ most pressing challenges and responded to them.

An important difference between using the heuristic for landing page optimization and teleprospecting is with telesprospecting, you can immediately adjust the message in real time to match prospect motivations.

This test took full advantage of that opportunity.

When prospects talked about specific issues – issues that may not have been the focus of our initial conversation – we shifted our conversation to match their motivation.

We also added an email to follow-up voicemails.

The email heightened urgency and relevancy by giving prospects multiple incentives.

This was usually in the form of reports worth hundreds of dollars – but if they wanted to get the incentive, they had to call us back and let us know their issues so we could match the report to their needs.

This gave us an opportunity to learn more about their organization and identify how to increase their motivation.

The result: We increased sales handoffs by 138% and made the compounded sales handoff increase across all three tests by 304%.

Was the heuristic applicable to teleprospecting?

For me, these tests confirm my curiosity that the Conversion Heuristic would work both online and offline to improve lead generation.

It sets the foundation for creating a repeatable, scalable telesprospecting process to will help you achieve the highest ROI.

Rest assured, this is just the beginning of our discussion about the value of the Conversion Heuristic, we’ll be writing more blog posts on this subject to help you apply it to your organization.

In the meantime, feel free to join the conversation about lead generation in the comments, or if you want to learn more, check out some of the resources also below.

Related Resources:

Lead Gen: A proposed replacement for BANT

Landing page Optimization online course

Customer Connection: Does your entire marketing process connect to your customers’ motivations?

Landing Page Optimization: Addressing customer anxiety

Landing Page Optimization: Test ideas for B2B lead capture page

Lead Generation , , , ,

Brian Carroll

Marketing Optimization: 3 steps to gain C-suite buy-in

June 24th, 2013

A few months ago in my blog post, “How Dissatisfied CEOs Push Marketers into the Future,” I responded to an article reporting that one in five CEOs believe marketers:

  • Provide a return on investment
  • Have “solid influence” within their organizations
  • Are candidates for senior management

These marketers have the respect of the C-suite because they connect their efforts to what their leadership wants most:

  • More leads
  • More sales
  • Shortened time to revenue
  • Reduced marketing-to-sales expense

I enjoyed meeting hundreds of marketers like this at MarketingSherpa and MarketingExperiments Optimization Summit 2013, held in Boston last month. I’ve never seen a group more passionate about making a positive, measurable impact on their organization.

It felt good that we could help them through the inspiration of speakers who shared their real-world optimization success, as well as through our training and certification programs that gave them what they needed to know to:

  • Create an optimization project plan and testing strategy
  • Optimize Web assets for more conversions, leads and sales
  • Communicate clear, consistent value across all marketing channels
  • Test their way into durable, long-term success

But this year, regardless of the obvious benefits of optimization, an overwhelming number of marketers had a common question:

“How do I get buy-in from the C-suite to expand optimization?”

I believe when leadership can connect to what Marketing is doing to drive revenue, buy-in isn’t a problem. So, I offered these steps to help marketers achieve C-suite support:

Step #1: Know your leadership’s objectives

Step #2: Identify how testing can help achieve key objectives

Step #3: Choose tests that will:

  • Make the greatest impact within the next 90 days
  • Produce results that will give you clear insight on how to improve your marketing efforts. As Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director, MECLABS, has said, “The goal isn’t to get a lift – it’s to get a learning.”

A small, successful test can be all the proof your leadership needs to expand your budget to include testing and optimization. One of my favorite examples of small optimization tests is changing the copy of a call-to-action button or where it appears on the page.

Think that’s too small? Think again.

This type of test resulted in a 90% increase in traffic for one marketer.

So, if you need a few more ideas on what to test, check out this video from Optimization Summit 2012 – 30 Ideas in 30 Minutes: Rapid-fire tips and techniques to help you solve your most challenging problems.

If the feedback we received from participants is any indication, Optimization Summit 2013 was our best ever. But optimization isn’t just a one-time event. It’s an ongoing process of discovery, and I promise marketers who embrace it will:

  • Drive the highest returns from their time and resources
  • Firmly establish themselves among the 20% of marketers that CEOs adore

Flint sums it up best:

“There’s no such thing as expert marketers, only experienced marketers and expert testers.”

Related Resources:

Lead Gen Summit 2013, Sept. 30 – Oct. 3 in San Francisco

Testing: A discussion about SAP’s 27% lift in incremental sales leads

Optimization Summit 2013 Wrap-up: Top 5 takeaways for testing websites, pay-per-click ads and email

Optimization: A discussion about an e-commerce company’s 500% sales increase

Analytics and Testing: 3 tips to optimize your testing efforts

Marketing Strategy , , ,