How to boost B2B content downloads.

Like most marketers these days, I have opted into sites that provide regular access to articles, white papers, reports, surveys and Webcasts that, hopefully, will make me better at my job.

Many of these are marketing sites (Target Marketing, MarketingProfs, Marketing Sherpa, Ziff Davis eSeminars, DM News, BtoB, eMarketer and more). Then, because most of the clients I serve are technology companies, I try to keep up with that world as well (Information Week, Web Buyers Guide, IThound, CIO and IDG Connect, to name a few).

With all these emails swirling into my inbox every day, I’m exposed to invites to review hundreds of pieces of content every day — and so are your prospects. Will they take the time to read your marketing intro or abstract and download your content? Only if the headline catches their eye and their imagination.

To be effective, content headlines need to instantly communicate what the piece contains. If your headlines read more like these real-life examples, then you may be diminishing interest in what you have to offer:

  • “Unified Communications and Process Automation Combine to Maximize ROI”
  • “Managed data centre operating IT infrastructures successfully using innovative services”
  • “Cover Your Assets with Desktop Managed Services”
  • “Transforming Data Into Relevance and ROI”
  • “How Virtualization Changes IT Costs”
  • “Don’t let CRM push you over the edge: how to build your business case”

I’m sure the people who wrote these felt that they represented the content very nicely. And they may have. But these headlines are mushy. They provide no intrigue, no big promise, no revelations, no specifics. For example, “How Virtualization Changes IT Costs” doesn’t tell me if the change is positive or negative. Heck, for all I know “Virtualization” could be really expensive. Something like “5 Ways Virtualization Cuts IT Costs” is a clear, strong and instantly understood title.

As I stated in an earlier post — “Great B2B marketing demands you do your prospects’ thinking for them”— you don’t want your prospects to have to think, you want them to react to your message, or in this case, your content title.

Strong titles should instantly communicate a clear picture of what the content contains, as these examples do:

  • “Enterprise VoIP PBX: What to Know Before You Buy”
  • “4 Things Your Anti-Virus Should Do, but Doesn’t”
  • “20 Questions for Smart Business Decisions”
  • “How to Defend Your Network Against New Hacker Tactics”
  • “Top 5 IT Budget Killers: What You Need to Know”

With just a few active words, your content can move past sounding like another ho-hum white paper and become information your prospective customer sees as a “must read.” So I recommend you pay as much attention to your title as you do your content. It will make a difference.

How to handle new B2B leads.

CBR003592There’s hardly been a single marketing conference that did not have at least one session on getting marketing and sales to work better together. Everyone agrees that there have been huge gaps over the years between what sales wants and what marketing delivers. There’s way more intelligence about it today. But I must take my hat off to Ardath Albee of MarketingInteractions. She wrote a guest article for the BMI (Business Marketing Institute) that appeared in its August 18, 2009, Tuesday Marketing Notes. Entitled “The Payoff for B2B Content Marketing is Movement,” it is the all-time clearest and most accurate description of what should happen after a lead is obtained and why that I have ever read. Please, marketers, print it out, share it with everyone in marketing AND everyone in sales.

 Then, for more valuable detail about mapping content to buying stages, see an article by Russell Kern written for Target Marketing magazine called “Leverage the B-to-B Buy Cycle.” Follow what you learn and you’ll never have to attend another sales vs. marketing session again.

How white papers help make sales.

Savvy B2B Marketing is a blog I recommend for powerful, well-researched advice on a broad range of B2B marketing subjects. It’s a perfect complement to the tips and techniques I cover here. I encourage you to visit it now to see a new post on white papers by Stephanie Tilton. It tells the psychology of why leads generated by white papers and other “informational” offers are more likely to lead to closed sales.

The B2B lead offer “name game” is all about the numbers.

Providing valuable, targeted, FREE information to your prospects is still one of the most powerful ways to generate qualified leads. White papers, checklists, booklets, guides, self-assessments, how-tos — they all work. The content of what you send is important for several reasons:

 

  1. Your prospect must find some value in the information even if it is to just confirm what they think they already know.
  2. The quality of what they receive is a positive reflection on your company image.
  3. You can position your company as a reliable resource of information that can help them.

But, in addition to the content, the most important element is the title. Without a compelling title, response to your lead generation offer won’t be a strong as it could be. And in spite of how “old-fashioned” they sound, the use of numbers in the title still provides a strong image for what the prospect is going to get.

 

Here is how a few companies successfully used numbers in their lead offer titles:

 

DICE…………… “Accounting and Finance Recruiting: 2-Minute Checklist”

eFUNDS………. “10 Payment Processing Best Practices”

GEAC………….. “How Five Global Companies Turned a T&E Challenge into a Financial Win”

VeriSign……….. “Find out your Web Site’s 5 top security issues”

Golden Rule….. “3 Easy Steps to Finding Health Insurance That Fits Your Budget”

Proxima……….. “15-Minute Guide to Winning Presentations”

 

Numbers aren’t the only way to go, but they are a smart way to strengthen the titles of your informational offers and improve the response to your lead generation programs.

Click here if you’d like to see some of these informational offers.

Knowledge of human behavior is a marketer’s best asset.

Today a colleague forwarded an excellent article by Kaila Colbin — “Understanding Human Behavior,” published online on MediaPost. It discusses human behavior and states that, when dealing with people, the important question to ask is, “What will people do if given a certain stimulus?”

  

The example that comes to mind is that, if you raise taxes on a product or service, the first thing people will do is stop buying it. But then, moving my mind into the realm of marketing (where it dwells most of the time), I know that this question is also at the heart of successful direct marketing. For instance:

  • What will prospects do if you offer them a free white paper discussing best practices relating to a business process that affects their job?

Answer: They will request the white paper and you’ll gain a qualified lead — whether they want to find out how to improve their processes OR if they think they are doing everything right and just want to confirm it. This approach is likely to ensure marketing success when generating leads.

 

Why is this? It offers an immediate reward and carries no effort or obligation.

  • What will prospects do if you invite them to a Webinar to learn more about your product and how it can solve their operational problems?

Answer: They will sign up to attend only if they are already actively evaluating solutions to solve this problem; otherwise, they will ignore your message. Your response will be small.

 

Why is this? The offer does not deliver an immediate reward and requires a commitment of time (which, these days, is a precious thing).

Both of the above offers have value — just at different stages of the buying cycle. The key to making the right offer at the right time requires knowledge of human nature and the reward vs. the effort.

5 Big B2B Lead Generation Marketing Blunders

Working over the years — with hundreds of companies on thousands of B2B marketing campaigns — I continue to see marketers making these five big B2B lead generation blunders:

 

  1. Selling your product and not your offer (white paper, Webinar, etc.)
  2. Not including a strong, clear, prominent call to action
  3. Not getting to the point of the communication and the offer fast enough
  4. Using design elements that force prospects to work to read the message
  5. Giving prospects no clear reason to respond immediately

You thought business decision-makers were busy before. In these times of layoffs and reduced staff it’s a miracle your prospect has one free second to read your marketing. The easier you make it for them to get your message, the better your marketing will perform.

Great B2B marketing demands you do your prospects’ thinking for them.

It has been said, “Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in his shoes.” In my world of B2B direct marketing, this phrase evolves into: “Before you market to someone, step into his shoes.”

It’s always been essential to present the benefits of your product or service in addition to the features it provides. But in today’s “glad to still have a job” environment you need to realize what life is really like for your target customers now.

 

Picture this:

  • Over-the-top busy — stressed to the limit
  • Under pressure to reduce costs and be more productive
  • Challenged to accomplish more with fewer resources

 Marketing messages that tell this prospect about a product that “requires no special training” (or any other feature) is no longer enough. That’s because you are asking your prospect to stop and think about what a product requiring “no special training” will do for him or her.

Who’s got time to think? The job of your marketing must be to do their thinking for them.

 

  • TELL them how much faster workers can be doing what they were hired to do.
  • TELL them how much sooner the company can be cutting costs.
  • TELL them how you can free workers conducting training to focus on more direct revenue-generating tasks.
  • TELL them there will be no gaps in new employees being productive.
  • TELL them how your easy-to-use product can reduce the risk of costly errors.

When you spell out the benefits for your prospects, they don’t have to stop and do the mental gymnastics necessary to turn your product features into benefits. Your message gets communicated instantly, you get more marketing response, and you make more sales.

 

If you’re still unclear on the differences between a feature and a benefit, contact The Copy Works and find out.

Powerful lead generating alternatives to white papers

In the world of B2B lead generation, far be it from me to knock the value of White Papers. IT professionals looking for information on any technical issue search for and find just what they want to know in White Papers posted on content syndication sites including TechTarget, WebBuyers Guide, IDG Connect, Network World, TradePub — the options are too many to list.

Posting White Papers on those sites puts your insight right where it needs to be — where your prospects are looking for solutions.

White Papers also make great lead-generation offers. A letter, email, social media communication, or search engine marketing (SEM) ad offering a White Paper on a topic pertinent to your product or service does a great job of filling the pipeline with qualified leads.

But for those of you who are saying “Oh no, not another White Paper,” there are alternatives. Consider these two:

verisign-checklist-reduced

Self-Assessment Checklist

A one-page checklist that prospects can use to

measure their practices against best practices. The

topic, of course, relates to the product or service you

sell.

 

it-managers-survival-guide-cover-reduced

 

Guide

Rather than communicate the industry knowledge you want to share in a White Paper, turn it into a “how-to” guide. Include checklists and steps on issues related to the problem your product or service can solve and you’ll have a winner. Print this one out in a bound booklet and it becomes a great hand-out for trade shows.

 

So don’t reject the White Paper for lead generation. But do look to these other tools to deliver a fresh boost to your B2B lead generation marketing efforts.

 

Afterthoughts:

Whereas the above post covered some excellent tools for lead generation, Michele Linn at Savvy B2B Marketing does a beautiful job of covering ALL the major options that businesses have for providing content in “Need Content? 20 Formats to Consider.”

In the world of direct marketing, we call these “offers” that can be used to get prospects to interact with a company at the lead generation stage and throughout the nurturing process. It’s a very handy list. Thanks Michele.