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  • Bulldog Solutions Conversion Mapping: Building a Call-to-Action Architecture that Speeds Your Sales Pipeline By Ahmed Taleb, Senior Director of Strategic Planning, Bulldog Solutions www.bulldogsolutions.com Conversion_Mapping v1 (05/2009) © 2009 Bulldog Solutions, Inc.
  • Bulldog Solutions Conversion Mapping: Building a Call-to-Action Architecture that Speeds Your Sales Pipeline Executive Overview Potential buyers of your services have a broad set of concerns that must be satisfied before they begin the buying process. If you’re simply serving up content about features and benefits, you’re ignoring their preferences and illustrating to them your lack of insight into their buying process. Successful BtoB marketing organizations must understand the buying behavior of specific decision makers and build an effective call-to-action architecture that matches prospects’ buying behavior with specific value offerings designed to satisfy their objections and help move them through the sales pipeline. This architecture is a critical part of conversion planning and sales readiness: It sets your sales team up for success by identifying and engaging prospects who are ready to buy. In this final of a four-part series on strategic planning, I will outline a strategy designed to help you create a call-to-action architecture that: • Engages your prospects through a fair exchange of information and captures their permission for future marketing efforts • Anticipates your buyers’ needs by aligning relevant information with the stages of their buying cycle and satisfying their objections • Creates specific conversion points that lead to sales engagement These exercises build on the strategic planning framework outlined in my previous white papers about how to create buyer personas, how to develop effective calls to action, and how to maximize your marketing calendar. All three are available on the Bulldog Solutions resource library at www.bulldogsolutions.com/resource-library. Bulldog Solutions’ Strategic Planning Methodology www.bulldogsolutions.com Conversion_Mapping v1 (05/2009) 2 © 2009 Bulldog Solutions, Inc.
  • Bulldog Solutions Conversion Mapping: Building a Call-to-Action Architecture that Speeds Your Sales Pipeline Table of Contents Executive Overview ........................................................................................................................................................... 2 It’s About the Buyer........................................................................................................................................................... 3 Review and Categorize Your Call to Action ...................................................................................................................... 4 The Hand Raise: Capture Attention and Gain Permission ......................................................................................4 Anticipate Their Needs: Overcome Objections ........................................................................................................5 Reading the Signs: Nurture and Convert .................................................................................................................6 Building the Call-to-Action Architecture ...........................................................................................................................6 Progressive Disclosure: The IT Burden ............................................................................................................................ 8 One Size Doesn’t Fit All: The High-Value CTA .................................................................................................................. 9 Conclusion .......................................................................................................................................................................10 It’s About the Buyer Most BtoB sales and marketing organizations have defined sales practices and discrete metrics to support each stage of the sales pipeline. However, a typical buyer has no visibility into these stages and, regardless, doesn’t consider them important to their buying process. Simply put, BtoB decision makers have a set of objections they need to overcome before they’re ready to make a purchase decision. But marketers often fail to address those objections. A classic example is listing the features and benefits aligned with a product or service offering as a basis for all content about the product. Buyers, however, have a more sophisticated and broad set of concerns that must be satisfied in order for their product investigations to begin. After that, features and benefits will become relevant. By simply serving up feature content at all stages, marketers are ignoring buyers’ needs and illustrating to them a lack of insight into their buying process. Successful BtoB marketing organizations, on the other hand, go to great lengths to understand the buying behaviors of specific decision makers within their target market, and to build a truly effective call-to-action architecture that marries buying behavior with specific value offerings that are designed to satisfy objections and help move prospects through the sales pipeline. This white paper outlines some critical exercises that will lead to an effective call-to-action architecture. These exercises build on the strategic planning framework outlined in my previous white papers, “Defining Your Audience: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Buyer Personas,” “Three Steps to Developing Effective Calls to Action,” and “Promotion Planning: Maximize Your Marketing Plan by Making Every Channel Count.” All three are available for free on the Bulldog Solutions resource library at www.bulldogsolutions.com/resource-library. www.bulldogsolutions.com Conversion_Mapping v1 (05/2009) 3 © 2009 Bulldog Solutions, Inc.
  • Bulldog Solutions Conversion Mapping: Building a Call-to-Action Architecture that Speeds Your Sales Pipeline Review and Categorize Your Call to Action Most calls to action fall into one of three categories. They are designed to: 1. Gain permission 2. Overcome objections 3. Support decisions Each of these types of calls to action has a specific application and should be positioned within your marketing program to deliver maximum benefit. As mentioned above, most marketers fail to create a broad enough set of calls to action within their toolkit to allow them to target specific buyer behaviors. The Hand Raise: Capture Attention and Gain Permission The first, and arguably most important, set of calls to action includes those that are designed to elicit a “hand raise” from your prospects. Before you can market to these individuals on an ongoing basis, you must: • Engage them with compelling content • Secure their permission • Capture enough information about them to personalize communications going forward Referring back to my white paper on message development, compelling content is the key to unlocking and entering into a conversation with prospects. The degree to which this content is both timely and relevant to your offering will directly impact the strength and effectiveness of this call to action. This content might be a white paper, Webinar, rich media experience, podcast or even an in-person briefing. (“Three Steps to Developing Effective Calls to Action” is available on the Bulldog Solutions resource library at www.bulldogsolutions.com/ resource-library.) Call-to-Action Mapping Once you have a prospect’s attention with content that’s relevant to him or her, the next—and often overlooked— step is to ask for some personal information in exchange for providing value in the form of that content. However, there are many pitfalls associated with this “ask.” Inquiry CTA MQL CTA SAL CTA SQL CTA Convert Gain Permission Overcome Objections Support Decisions Attract prospects Provide information to help Final call-to-action to into your database prospects overcome convert opportunities objections • Registration • Find out why • Opt-in • Learn more • Read testimonials • Sign-up • Download • See our client • Read more success stories Mapping Your Calls to Action www.bulldogsolutions.com Conversion_Mapping v1 (05/2009) 4 © 2009 Bulldog Solutions, Inc.
  • Bulldog Solutions Conversion Mapping: Building a Call-to-Action Architecture that Speeds Your Sales Pipeline Pitfall #1: The first and most common pitfall is to ignore the correlation between the perceived value of the content and the degree of information requested. In most cases this pitfall is manifested in an overly complex registration process for a low-value asset. If you’re asking 20 registration questions in exchange for a two-page case study, you’re not giving as good as you get, and you won’t be successful. In the same way “the punishment must fit the crime,” your request for information must fit the information you’re giving in exchange. Pitfall #2: Another common, related mistake is to collect prospect information you won’t use. More is not better. Not only does the act of collecting more information encourage abandonment of your registration process, it has other, less obvious costs. Collecting and storing data generates real hard costs for your IT team as they scale their support and management of an ever-growing asset. These costs can often include significant resource requirements for cleansing and maintaining data accuracy as well as generating and configuring queries to drive marketing initiatives. This is a garbage-in/garbage-out environment. To drive the most actionable marketing outcomes, you need a simple, clean data environment. So think through the information you’re asking for, and if you don’t need it, don’t collect it. An example of this would be asking for a full address (including street name) if there’s little chance you’d ever do a printed mailing. If your main concern is geography, just city, state and zip might be enough—or better yet, if resources allow, collect zip and append city and state information from that. The bottom line: Don’t forget the golden rule of user experience. Set clear expectations up front and communicate clearly to build trust with your prospect. Anticipate Their Needs: Overcome Objections Once you’ve gained permission to market to a prospect, your next effort will be to understand key objections and anticipate how to satisfy your prospect’s need for information to overcome those objections. By far the largest number of interactions you’ll have with your prospects fall into this category, so it’s important to adopt a framework that will increase your chances of getting it right. Aligning these needs with the stages of the buying cycle is the first place to start. The objective is to identify the specific objections that occur within your prospects’ buying process, and use this as a template to get answers to the following questions: • Which key objections are the most important to your prospects? Budget? A required shift in paradigm? Having the right skill sets in-house? • In what order are these objections typically encountered? • What types of information are needed to satisfy these objections? Peer validations? Third-party research? Reporting on specific metrics? • What level of urgency is associated with gathering this information? The more accurately you can identify these needs, the greater the insight you’ll have in providing relevant content that will help your organization make the “short list.” For example, suppose a director-level prospect has been tasked with defining the cost and scope of implementing a large IT storage solution. It’s safe to assume that before this director might begin to explore the technical specifications of a particular solution, he or she must make higher level decisions first. There may be an initial set of investigations into hosted versus on-premise solutions to determine the impact on the organization. In the same way, this director may investigate the long-term economics surrounding each of these options before even discovering your organization or evaluating your offering. In other words, there may have been several key decisions this prospect has made well in advance of becoming interested in reading about the features of your product offering. In this same scenario, a well-prepared marketer targeting this decision maker would have a www.bulldogsolutions.com Conversion_Mapping v1 (05/2009) 5 © 2009 Bulldog Solutions, Inc.
  • Bulldog Solutions Conversion Mapping: Building a Call-to-Action Architecture that Speeds Your Sales Pipeline series of content assets designed to educate director-level prospects around the benefits of hosted versus on-premise technologies and/or the long-term economics of this solution. Now, if this same director is fulfilling a role as a technical adviser to the key economic buyer, you may also make the assumption that this director will need to present a business case to validate and support his or her recommendations. If this is the case, a strong approach is to format content in a way that is easily repurposed by the prospect. This may mean a printable media format (like a PDF) or a standalone PowerPoint presentation to allow your prospects to integrate your content into their business case more easily. Create these assets for them and you make it that much easier for them to make a case for you. The key to this entire exercise lies in understanding the intricacies of your prospect’s buying cycle and mapping specific content to the stages of that buying cycle. In this way, prospects that enter your marketing world are being met with content that helps qualify you before your prospect disqualifies you. Reading the Signs: Nurture and Convert Once you’re in the process of marketing to these prospects, how do you know when they’re ready to engage in a sales conversation? The answer lies in their behavior, or more specifically, the business rules you establish to track their interactions with your organization and their buying intent. What you’re attempting to do in an online scenario is to build a set of “triggers” that will alert your sales team when a particular set of desirable conditions is met. For example, suppose you have defined a key prospect’s buying cycle as having four steps, with the last of these steps involving research around implementation timelines. In addition, suppose you have three online assets built to provide information around implementation timelines: let’s say, some generic site content, a client case study and a downloadable “implementation timeline worksheet.” While each of these assets may address similar objections, a strong assumption can be made that prospects who choose to download the worksheet may be deeper in their buying process, and may respond well to a direct sales discussion. On the other hand, prospects who have merely visited the relevant section of your Web site are not yet ready to talk in detail, but they are still worth watching. In this example, you will have created a specific call to action (in the form of the worksheet) that acts as a trigger to identify the right time for your sales team to engage. Of course, speculation is far from reality, so it’s important to ensure that you have a strong feedback mechanism in place to capture outcomes from your sales engagements and use these to refine your conversion call to action in an ongoing way. You’ll want to map sales conversations and closed deals back to these calls to action to see which ones are effective. Building the Call-to-Action Architecture In any marketing program, there are multiple conversion points within the buying process. When defining conversion points, it’s important to begin with the simplest, most direct channels to Sales and expand outward from there. For most organizations, the primary conversion point is a sales conversation with a certain degree of qualification already in place. While this is typically the main focus of marketing programs, there may be other significant opportunities to identify milestones within the buying process that can become levers to encourage buying behavior. Building a pragmatic and effective call-to-action architecture must begin with your audience. A well-defined segmentation framework will provide all the necessary inputs to help drive insights into the buying process and ensure that the outcomes are relevant to your prospects. Direct input from your sales team is critical to this exercise—do not leave that resource untapped. Successful BtoB marketing teams validate their assumptions with the sales team to gather and incorporate real-time feedback into the framework. www.bulldogsolutions.com Conversion_Mapping v1 (05/2009) 6 © 2009 Bulldog Solutions, Inc.
  • Bulldog Solutions Conversion Mapping: Building a Call-to-Action Architecture that Speeds Your Sales Pipeline Once you have identified your key buyers, it’s important to isolate a single buyer type for each exercise to make sure that your message stays focused and that the specific objections of each buyer are reflected. The exercise begins by capturing the individual sales objections that are typically encountered during a sales engagement. Once you have a complete list of typical sales objections, the next task is to prioritize them according to their relative importance to your audience and the sequence in which they typically occur. This will give you a definitive picture of the hurdles that must be overcome during your prospects’ journey towards a buying decision. The resulting map should outline three to five discrete stages of a buying process that are the most important, and time-sequenced events that typically occur. Before you can begin to craft effective calls to action to help gain permission, overcome objections and support decisions, you need to determine what value offerings exist to overcome these objections. Here’s where a content inventory, or audit, makes the most sense. Look deep within your organization to capture all assets that have a definitive connection to any of the previously identified objections and catalog these for future reference. Any content that is already in hand will prove to be the shortest path to execution, but it will not preclude the creation of new content to specifically target stages within the buying cycle. I cover details of the content audit in my white paper, “Three Steps to Developing Effective Calls to Action,” available on the Bulldog Solutions resource library at www.bulldogsolutions.com/resource-library. Once you have identified clear stages of the buying process and mapped those stages with specific value offerings, the last step is to craft your calls to action. Typically, this task will begin with a permission-based outreach. The “ask” is to invite the prospect to register in order to gain access to the value offering (in the example in the chart on the next page, a case study). The objective of each successive stage is predicated on the assumption that any prospects that have taken the “bait” have some degree of interest in the case study. Incidentally, you may use a different tactic for audiences that are “known” or segments within your database that have been tagged for targeted re-engagement. As you continue to communicate with each prospect, you successively tee up a new “care-about” and provide an invitation to consume the associated value offering. Again, the outreach activity is a predictive exercise designed to anticipate the main objections in the prospect’s buying cycle. The extent to which prospects engage is a determinant of your accuracy at building business assumptions. You’re unlikely to get it 100% right the first time, and that’s fine. You’ll want to have those feedback loops so you can adjust and refine. Bring your highest levels of honesty and scrutiny to bear on the “fair exchange of information for value.” Your prospects are inundated with marketing communications. Truthful, valuable communications always rise to the top. The ultimate conversion point of these call-to-action strategies can take many forms. In the case illustrated on the next page, the desired outcome was a direct sales engagement either in the form of a phone call or a meeting. The conversion call to action can be positioned as a persistent call across all touchpoints, or as a unique value offering. Approaches vary, but more successful approaches reserve a legitimate, higher value touchpoint as the final call. For example, a general opportunity to “speak with a representative” or “contact us!” has much less value than an opportunity to “discuss how your organization compares to your industry peers”— provided, of course, that you set expectations and deliver. www.bulldogsolutions.com Conversion_Mapping v1 (05/2009) 7 © 2009 Bulldog Solutions, Inc.
  • Bulldog Solutions Conversion Mapping: Building a Call-to-Action Architecture that Speeds Your Sales Pipeline Nurture 1X3: Economic Buyer Campaign Name: Company XYZ Internal Database: XXXXK records, X% exp. conversion Vertical: K-12 Education Outreach External Database: XXXXK records, X% exp. conversion Geography: North America Description: First Touch > Hand Raise External Database: XXXXK records, X% exp. conversion Conversion Target: Conversation External Database: XXXXK records, X% exp. conversion Conversion Goal: X% conversion Buyer Stage Get Their Attention Reinforce Message Last Chance Trigger • First touch • Week 1 send • Week 2 send Intent • We understand your • Show and quantify the • Recognize time pressures budget pains economic cost • Offer one more attempt to • There is budget relief • Reinforce the importance provide guidance available of addressing this issue to recoup the loss Value Add • Client case study • Video • Share best practices from testimonial your peers • “Return on Retention” • Develop and launch calculator content Call to Action • Contact us: Reply to this • Contact us: Reply to this • Please reply to this e-mail to find out how you e-mail to find out how you e-mail and let me know can take advantage of this can take advantage of this your availability for a call funding now funding now to discuss how you can • Visit Landing Page URL take advantage of this funding now Example of a Call-to-Action Architecture for “Economic Buyer” Persona Progressive Disclosure: The IT Burden If you adopt an approach in which you leverage “progressive disclosure” to offer value in exchange for increasingly deeper prospect information, there are important implications to your IT organization. The real connection you’re trying to create is to map measurable interactions with your online assets and your model of buyer behavior. There are technologies at work here. Adopting a “progressive disclosure” approach often creates greater complexity for your IT team, because you will undoubtedly need a wider set of data collection tools. If you consider a simple registration process, there may be the need to spread your information capture across multiple calls to action, creating an environment where two or three registration forms may need to be deployed in order to capture the same information as a single, more lengthy document. Extend this thinking across all your online assets and the implications can easily scale a reasonable program into a major undertaking. www.bulldogsolutions.com Conversion_Mapping v1 (05/2009) 8 © 2009 Bulldog Solutions, Inc.
  • Bulldog Solutions Conversion Mapping: Building a Call-to-Action Architecture that Speeds Your Sales Pipeline Without the appropriate sets of digital tools in place, it’s difficult to capture and identify relevant triggers and use them to drive action in a scalable way. There are many different tools available to support these types of insights, but in practice, most organizations leverage a combination of marketing automation and customer relationship management technologies. Whichever technologies you choose, be sure to involve your IT teams early to ensure that there’s a balance between progressive disclosure and the increased IT complexity that results. One Size Doesn’t Fit All: The High-Value CTA For hard-to-reach or executive-level stakeholders, traditional calls to action such as subscribing to a newsletter or downloading a white paper simply aren’t effective. Often these high-level prospects are too time-pressured to respond to anything less than a high-value offer. For these targets, we recommend creating a stand-alone call-to-action program that brings a broader value offering together with consultative selling: the high-value call to action. High-value calls to action can take many forms, but inherently they all strive to achieve the same end result. If executed correctly, they provide a much shorter path to a direct, executive-to-executive conversation. This falls in the category of a call to action that is designed to gain permission—but it does so on a much more involved level than a lower value offering. The key to making these CTAs work is to identify the right types of offerings. Remember, it’s a “give/get.” The high-value call to action gets extremely useful information from prospects, but must deliver equally useful information back to them. Bulldog Solutions Demand Management Assessment Survey Background Information B1 Which of the following is the type of demand that you are trying to crate most frequently? New Concept1: Product/service you are selling has no budgetary line item in the target organization New Paradigm1: Product/service you are selling promises to optimize a current process or solve a known issue more effectively Established Market1: Product/service is generally accepted to be necessary and is among a group of best-of-breed providers/competitors B2 How complex are your products/services? What is the average sales cycle for your products/services? What is the average order size for your products/services? B3 How much of your revenue is generated by each of the following sales channels? Direct sales Distributors Online / eCommerce OEMs VARs Retail Other Example of a High-Value B4 How much of your revenue is generated from the following regions Americas Call to Action: A Survey EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa) APAC (Asia-Pacific, including Australia) in Exchange for a Custom B5 How many full-time employees are in the Marketing organization? B6 What percent of revenue is spent on marketing? Analysis of Strengths and What percent of your revenue is spent of marketing overall? Weaknesses What percent of your revenue is spent on demand generation? B7 How healthy is your database? How large is your database of marketable contacts? How is your database of marketable contacts changing over time? www.bulldogsolutions.com Conversion_Mapping v1 (05/2009) 9 © 2009 Bulldog Solutions, Inc.
  • Bulldog Solutions Conversion Mapping: Building a Call-to-Action Architecture that Speeds Your Sales Pipeline For example, a typical senior or C-level executive may have a strong understanding of their business, but might lack perspective on how their business ranks in certain areas according to an industry-wide set of best practices. A tool that provides an assessment and shows their position against benchmarks from their industry vertical would be a highly valued resource, and therefore a strong marketing tool. At Bulldog Solutions, we offer such a tool to prospects who are concerned about their progress in, among other areas, implementation of a marketing automation platform. Because marketing automation can be complex, executives might be concerned about whether they are getting maximum ROI from their marketing automation platform, but not quite sure how to go about measuring how effective they’ve been and determining areas for improvement. The assessment survey (shown on the previous page) gives them insight specific to their situation, and in turn, lets us know if there are key areas in which we can help. They do invest some time in the initial survey—again, I’d think back to the garbage in/garbage out realities. The more accurate their answers, the better the insight they receive in return. Other examples of high-value calls to action might be access to an exclusive case study with in-depth analysis of how a company in the executive’s vertical met a specific challenge; or exclusive, even customized briefings from industry analysts or other thought leaders. Conclusion The call-to-action architecture is a critical part of conversion planning and sales readiness: It sets your sales team up for success by identifying and engaging prospects who are ready to buy. Building an effective call-to-action strategy to support conversion of your prospects into sales accepted leads means creating and implementing a consistent call-to-action framework to gain permission, overcome objections and support buying decisions. Ahmed Taleb is Senior Director of Strategic Planning at Bulldog Solutions, the lead-generation optimization and management company. Visit www.bulldogsolutions.com or e-mail info@bulldogsolutions.com to learn more. www.bulldogsolutions.com Conversion_Mapping v1 (05/2009) 10 © 2009 Bulldog Solutions, Inc.