Three Steps to Developing Effective Calls to Action

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This white paper reviews three steps to creating compelling BtoB messaging and calls to action for your audience segments, using effective content as a foundation.

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Three Steps to Developing Effective Calls to Action

  1. 1. Bulldog Solutions Three Steps to Developing Effective Calls to Action Craft Your Message to Engage Your Audience By Ahmed Taleb, Director of Strategic Planning, Bulldog Solutions www.bulldogsolutions.com Calls_to_Action 01/2009 © 2009 Bulldog Solutions, Inc.
  2. 2. Craft Your Message to Engage Your Audience Bulldog Solutions Craft Your Message to Engage Your Audience Three Steps to Developing Effective Calls to Action Executive Overview Competition for your prospects’ attention is growing. Creating powerful and compelling messaging has never been more important. Powerful messaging will create a bridge between a top-of-mind issue or topic and your company’s offering. Through calls to action, you can not only reach your audience—but also assuage their fears and anxieties with credible offerings that pair value (thought leadership content) with fulfillment (in the form of your offering). Bulldog Solutions’ approach to message development can help you steer your messaging strategy towards thought leadership content and away from the cookie-cutter sales pitch. Perhaps the greatest benefit of a formal message development process is the big-picture impact it can have on your marketing strategy. Adopting a structured message and content development practice will help your organization build consistently strong messaging and content. In this second of a four-part series on strategic planning, I will outline three steps to creating effective messaging that engages your prospects. These exercises build on the planning recommended in my previous white paper, “Defining Your Audience: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Buyer Personas,” and are designed as tools you can use to generate ideas among your internal stakeholders that are not only aligned with your audience, but also lead to natural conversations deeper in the sales process. Bulldog Solutions’ Strategic Planning Methodology www.bulldogsolutions.com Calls_to_Action 01/2009 2 © 2009 Bulldog Solutions, Inc.
  3. 3. Craft Your Message to Engage Your Audience Bulldog Solutions Craft Your Message to Engage Your Audience Three Steps to Developing Effective Calls to Action Table of Contents Executive Overview ........................................................................................................................................................... 2 You’ve Only Got One Chance to Make an Impact............................................................................................................ Step #1: Identify Hot Topics ............................................................................................................................................. 4 The Session ....................................................................................................................................................................... 4 Step #2: Map Your Message to Your Audience ............................................................................................................... 5 Step #3: Locate Content Gaps to Identify Weak Spots .................................................................................................. 6 Tools for the Content Gap Audit ....................................................................................................................................... 7 Message Development Is a Living Process ..................................................................................................................... 8 Free Your Marketing Program from the Black Box .......................................................................................................... 8 You’ve Only Got One Chance to Make an Impact Powerful and compelling messaging is the “bait” that engages your prospects. But writing sensationalist copy solely for the purpose of capturing attention will do little to entice your audience to interact with your brand further, and may even damage the relationship. Your audience needs a natural rationale to support an ongoing conversation or sales follow-up. The solution lies in creating messaging that serves several purposes. First and most obviously, effective messaging needs to capture a top-of-mind issue or topic and present it in such a way that it urges your audience to interact further. Key to the success of this approach is the mindset that you must communicate around topics that cause pain for your audience. The focus is on them, not on you. Second, it needs to offer a clear directive for your audience to take further action to interact with your brand, whether it’s as simple as a visit to a Web site, or as complex as participation in a detailed research study. This format of progressive disclosure will allow you to extend the conversation across many touchpoints, providing multiple opportunities to reinforce your message, learn more about your prospect, and ultimately lead to a one-to-one sales conversation where appropriate. Compelling content is an important foundation for the creation of powerful messaging. It’s the “bait” that draws your audience into a conversation with you; it powers the exchange of your information for their profile data. And that profile data drives even deeper, more relevant engagements. Our methodology advocates a three-step, systematic approach, which I will describe in this white paper: 1. Identify hot topics: Identify and prioritize the topics that will resonate immediately with your audience. 2. Map your message: Develop effective calls to action that align your messaging with your audience’s behavioral cues. . Locate content gaps: Identify and prioritize existing and required content to seed your program. www.bulldogsolutions.com Calls_to_Action 01/2009 © 2009 Bulldog Solutions, Inc.
  4. 4. Craft Your Message to Engage Your Audience Bulldog Solutions Craft Your Message to Engage Your Audience Three Steps to Developing Effective Calls to Action Step #1: Identify Hot Topics To get started, hold a creative brainstorming session made up of cross-functional participants. You want to avoid “group-think” and encourage a breadth of ideas—great topics sometimes come from the most unlikely sources. On that note, ensure that each participant has an equal voice regardless of title or role. Choose a team facilitator to create structure around the brainstorm by clearly articulating goals and guidelines for participation, and then to direct the exercise and ensure that the team stays on track. A best practice is to begin the exercise by defining a high-level goal and developing a problem statement to articulate it to the team. For example, “Identify three new broad topics that will be developed for Q1 marketing initiatives.” In addition, it’s often useful to direct your team to existing marketing vehicles or online properties that are representative of your industry to help inspire relevant ideas that are aligned with your vertical. Other potential sources of inspiration for your team may include industry and news periodicals, blogs, conferences/tradeshows, keynote speeches and peer discussions. The Session Once your team is aligned around the primary goal, you are ready to begin the brainstorm. Our approach at Bulldog Solutions is to capture initial, raw ideas through silent, independent generation of ideas. Participants are given 10-20 minutes to write down each unique idea on a recipe card or post-it note. It’s helpful to discourage communication among participants at this point with the understanding that there will be time for group discussion and cross-pollination of ideas later in the session. Place topics on the 2x2 and arrange according to urgency and relevance to the offering. Place topic here position on graph. Identifying topics in this quadrant is the primary focus of the excercise. Urgency of Topic These are our primary offerings. We can use topics in this quadrant as strong secondary offerings. Relevance to Client Offerings Step #1: Identify Hot Topics www.bulldogsolutions.com Calls_to_Action 01/2009 4 © 2009 Bulldog Solutions, Inc.
  5. 5. Craft Your Message to Engage Your Audience Bulldog Solutions Craft Your Message to Engage Your Audience Three Steps to Developing Effective Calls to Action Once participants have finished capturing their ideas, it’s time to rank them along two important attributes: a) importance to your audience, and b) relevance to your corporate offering. To support this activity, the facilitator creates a large 2x2 diagram labeled “Importance” along the vertical axis and “Relevance” along the horizontal axis. As each new idea is read aloud to the group, the facilitator takes the post-it note and places it on the 2x2 diagram in accordance with the group vote. The team ranks each idea and posts to the chart in a similar manner. During this process, team members should discuss and contribute additional thoughts and ideas to the overall exercise. Once all the ideas have been ranked and posted to the chart, clusters of ideas will begin to emerge. Pay special attention to the clusters that appear in the upper right quadrant of the 2x2. These topics represent your strongest content development opportunities. They are the ideas that matter most to your audience, and also map back to your corporate offering, supporting natural calls to action in the resulting campaign. Employing this “clustering” model, you’ll notice that each idea belongs to a broader theme. You can generate even more ideas when these themes become clear. (Words to the wise: While it’s important to provide a name or reference tag for each theme, try not to get bogged down by attempting to wordsmith each theme at this point. There will be plenty of opportunities to refine content at a later stage.) Step #2: Map Your Message to Your Audience After the exercise outlined above, you’ll have a prioritized set of topic ideas. Your primary hot topics are located in the top right quadrant. Your secondary hot topics are located in the bottom right quadrant. From this list, your marketing team can begin prioritizing the set of ideas that provide the greatest potential for future marketing programs. The next step is to map topic ideas back to your buyer personas. (See Part 1 of the Bulldog Solutions Strategic Marketing Series, “Defining Your Audience: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Buyer Personas” for my explanation of how to create buyer personas.) For each topic, identify a unique positioning statement that reflects its benefit for each buyer persona. For example, one hot topic may interest an “Executive” buyer for financial reasons, but the same topic may appeal to a “Technical” buyer because of its operational efficiency. These positioning statements will provide critical direction to your copywriters and content developers when it’s time to create the core messaging for your campaign. Armed with these unique positioning statements, your marketing communications staff has a critical tool it can use to create tight, relevant, compelling messaging for each of your buyer personas. Now your team is well positioned to validate the relevance of each message to your buyer audience using formal A/B testing practices. Based on the outcomes of testing, your team can determine which messaging combination will deliver the highest response rates for the campaign. www.bulldogsolutions.com Calls_to_Action 01/2009 5 © 2009 Bulldog Solutions, Inc.
  6. 6. Craft Your Message to Engage Your Audience Bulldog Solutions Craft Your Message to Engage Your Audience Three Steps to Developing Effective Calls to Action * Sample Industry Prospect Business or Segment Role Issue Ease of Deployment IT Manager Maintainability Manufacturing Quality Production Manager Throughput Step #2: Map Your Message to Your Audience Step #3: Locate Content Gaps to Identify Weak Spots Many marketers find that having a well-defined messaging strategy is only part of the process. A range of content is required to support multi-touch campaigns. Most organizations have little or no comprehensive view of exactly what kinds of content assets—Webinars, white papers, Web site copy, presentations, podcasts, rich media assets—they have at their disposal. Before engaging in resource-heavy content development projects, we recommend a content gap analysis to: • Determine which existing content can be leveraged in support of a campaign. • Identify critical “holes” where little or no content exists. • Prioritize the creation of new content. A successful content gap analysis will catalog all existing content that an organization has rights to use. This can include current company-owned assets that are already in use, assets from partners that are available for use, and future content that is already scheduled for creation. Most organizations have large “spheres of influence” that encompass professional associations, clients, executive relationships and arm’s-length advocates. These are all viable channels from which to mine content to repurpose in support of a marketing campaign. Remember that your audience will measure a white paper, article or blog posting that you provided on their intrinsic value, regardless of their source. www.bulldogsolutions.com Calls_to_Action 01/2009 6 © 2009 Bulldog Solutions, Inc.
  7. 7. Craft Your Message to Engage Your Audience Bulldog Solutions Craft Your Message to Engage Your Audience Three Steps to Developing Effective Calls to Action Step #3: Content Gap Analysis Tools for the Content Gap Audit The content audit can take place using the messaging matrix developed in the steps earlier in this white paper. It can be as simple as a spreadsheet that lists the content you can identify, mapped to your messages. It can be as complex as the creation of an internal database that catalogs content by message as well as other variables (the type of presenter, the mode of content, etc.) that can be used later for even deeper analysis. We recognize that many organizations need to keep it simple. The outcome is a visual identification of content holes (see chart above), which can then lead to the steps to fill them. The time saved from avoiding producing yet another piece of content around a message you already have plenty of content for, while ignoring an important but perhaps more difficult segment, is generally worth the time spent on the audit. www.bulldogsolutions.com Calls_to_Action 01/2009 7 © 2009 Bulldog Solutions, Inc.
  8. 8. Craft Your Message to Engage Your Audience Bulldog Solutions Craft Your Message to Engage Your Audience Three Steps to Developing Effective Calls to Action Message Development Is a Living Process After completing these three steps, your marketing team will have the tools it needs to create a marketing blueprint for a new campaign. Each topic that was selected from the initial brainstorm will have a set of clearly defined attributes, including: • Rank—Relative importance of the topic and degree to which it supports calls to action • Importance—Potential impact to key audience segments • Effort—Level of effort required to execute based on availability of supporting assets • Effectiveness—Results from message testing program With the help of these markers, you can make informed decisions on the expected success of the program prior to building and launching a campaign. This blueprint also serves to capture and document the process, reinforcing the value of this systematic approach to your team. It provides a record of the criteria you used to choose your campaign and leads to the adoption of a consistent message and content development strategy that can be cloned and propagated for more efficient processes elsewhere in the organization. Message development is a living process that requires revisiting, refining and repeating as frequently as is necessary to keep pace with your industry. For many of our clients, a quarterly message and content audit is adequate to maintain a fresh repository of campaign messaging from which to draw. As you develop and refine your message and content development practices, you’ll be better able to determine how frequently you should revisit the steps I outlined above. Free Your Marketing Program from the Black Box Adopting a structured message and content development practice will help your organization build consistently strong messaging and content that not only engages your audience, but also creates the foundation for natural calls to action that drive deeper sales engagements. The process I outlined above will also help you and your team create and prioritize important and relevant topical content using a simple and repeatable framework. With these outcomes in hand, you can then define the best positioning for each buyer persona, leading to much more effective messaging. In terms of your own organization, the process also generates “artifacts” that are useful for analyzing the effectiveness of different messaging options and the criteria you used to choose them. But perhaps most important, adopting a structured message development process creates a culture in which great messaging is continually being developed and evolved within a framework that drives everyone in the organization to succeed. Ahmed Taleb is 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 Calls_to_Action 01/2009 8 © 2009 Bulldog Solutions, Inc.

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