Smart B2B marketing calls to action for 2012.

This morning, reviewing dozens of marketing blogs, I was overwhelmed with post after post about social media. I became worried that marketers were forgetting the channels that got us where we are today.

That’s why I was delighted to see Bill Gadless of B2B Web Strategy pass along advice from Jim Logan in “Try adding a call to action to the end of your white papers.”

Business buyers who are purchasing products and services do not want to be “sold” by high-pressure messages. That’s why social media is working. It’s also why today’s most consistently effective lead generation messaging identifies a challenge that prospects may be facing and offers a free white paper, checklist, guide, case study or other content that allows them to learn about ways to meet their challenge. But as soft as this approach may appear, once a lead is generated, every additional contact made should be followed by a new offer and a new call to action.

The suggestion in Bill’s blog is that the call to action could involve inviting leads to pass the content along to an associate or colleague, asking them to register for a newsletter or other subscription or inviting the reader to contact the business for a discussion.

These are all good suggestions. But to apply these calls to action randomly is not a good strategy. The fact is, there are specific stages in the buying cycle of a complex sale and the call to action or offer made should match the prospect’s place in the cycle.

Offers by Stage Chart 3As covered in Russell Kern’s guide “Direct Marketing’s Five Biggest Hurdles (And How to Get Over Them),” there are four stages in the buying cycle: Interest, Consideration, Evaluation, and Purchase.

As you can see, Mr. Kern’s examples — taken straight from his guide — involve matching the correct content offer to the prospect’s stage in the buying cycle. This approach is critical to enhancing the relationship with prospects and moving them forward to a purchase. Making mismatched call-to-action offers leads to email opt-outs.

There’s one thing that social media cannot do well and that is to “predictably” fill the sales pipeline and then — in a controlled manner — nurture leads until they are ready to be handed off to sales. Adding a call to action to every contact is a proven and effective marketing nurturing approach and businesses selling complex products can rarely succeed without it.

NOTE: This post was originally published in 2010. But it’s very popular and is just as relevant in 2012.


7 replies
  1. Dale Underwood
    Dale Underwood says:

    I’m a big fan of Jim Logan and his B2BRevenueNow program.

    As for your recommendation for strong calls to action I agree 100% but I think the Buying Cycle table is a bit dated. Potential customers can easily research solutions now so one of the early criteria is Budget Fit. Why would a prospect spend time researching or demoing a solution unless they know they can afford it?

    Having been a B2B Sales person for 15 years it was hard for me to accept that serious prospects _need_ budgetary pricing during the interest phase to focus their research.

    On the flip side, B2B companies are reluctant to provide budgetary pricing and thus you have a gap…and opportunity to use the need for budgetary pricing as a call to action. Simply having a “Self-Service Pricing” button close to your products/services can triple your conversion rates.

    Dale – EchoQuote

  2. Susan Fantle
    Susan Fantle says:

    Thank you for your comment Dale. I don’t disagree that pricing is important. But the term “research” does not always mean prospects are looking at specific solutions. Sometimes it involves looking at how the industry as a whole is dealing with a problem. They may be researching trends and how those trends might apply to their own situation. Sometimes they are trying to decide if they want to outsource a solution or build it in-house. In all these scenarios, specific pricing is not a primary issue. I agree that once a prospect has decided to move forward and evaluate solutions, it is of big importance. In the process of doing the research — and being offered case studies, success stories or client lists — seeing that a product is used by like-sized companies or in similar industries provides a broad indication that the solution is affordable.

  3. Christopher Ryan
    Christopher Ryan says:

    Good article Susan. I especially agree with Russell Kern about the need to offer the right content and offer to the prospect at the appropriate stage in the buying process. This will make for a much smoother sales engagement and higher close rates.

  4. Mac McIntosh
    Mac McIntosh says:

    I’m honestly amazed at how many B-to-B marketers neglect to include offers or calls-to-action in their marketing communications. I believe that is a HUGE mistake.

    To add to Russell Kern’s list:

    Interest stage: Consider offering information kits, ideally named to be more appealing. For example, “Decision maker Kit”, or “Ten things Executives need to know about Widgets.”

    Consideration stage: Webinars or webcasts are often very effective calls-to-action at the consideration stage, as are self-evaluation checklists or worksheets.

    Evaluation stage: Phone consultations and onsite assessments are appropriate and productive offers to make at the evaluation stage.

    I have written a couple of things on the subject of offers (calls-to-action) that you might find interesting:

    Get in your prospect’s comfort zone: The right offer at the right time

    B2B Lead Generation Checklist: 22 Success Tips


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