Anything related to marketing tips, strategies, best practices and more will go here.

White Papers

White papersWhite papers are extremely valuable assets to a company and should be constructed carefully. It’s imperative white papers include proper call to actions to appeal to the target audience. Additionally, white papers should be combined with marketing automation technology to maximize return on assets. In this article, we’ll provide suggestions on how marketing automation technology can enhance your marketing assets and provide tips and suggestions for writing great white papers.

A Study on White Papers:

Saavy B2B Marketing ran a study across 40 white papers. Results showed that only 30% of white papers had a call to action. Moreover, a recent study from InformationWeek found that 75.8% of white paper readers go to a search engine to look for more information once finished reading a white paper.

What is a white paper?

The term white paper stems from the white book, an official publication of a national government usually declaring government policy. A white paper typically argues a specific position or solution to a problem. Although white papers have roots in governmental policy, they’ve evolved into a common tool used to introduce technology and products. White papers are powerful marketing tools used to help key decision-makers and influencers justify implementing solutions.

How to outline a white paper

Building a framework for your white paper is easy. Outline your paper with the following four (skipping #3 is okay sometimes) sections to keep your readers engaged.

1) Abstract – Describe what the white paper is about in one paragraph. Do not state the conclusion here; simply tell the reader what the purpose of the paper is. Note that readers frequently scan only the abstract and conclusion of white papers, so provide material that leaves them wanting to read more and not skip ahead.

2) The Problem – Two to three paragraphs covering the problem and a little background. Be straightforward and succinct. Avoid obfuscated language and hidden assumptions.

3) Understanding the Product’s Design – Discuss how the product works in general. Do not describe how the product solves the problem; rather, orient the reader for them to understand the product’s application to the problem. Note, skip this section if you’re writing a white paper with your reader’s interests in mind, not your company’s products. If you’re looking for a more product/technology-centric pitch include this section before discussing how to solve the problem.

4) How to Solve the Problem – How the application of the solution solves the problem. Make sure to provide evidence of how the product solves the problem, and why it is the best solution available.

Ideas for white paper calls to action

What does the study in the blue box mentioned above mean to B2B marketers? First, it’s imperative to list a call to action. If you’re unsuccessful getting your readers to take the next action within a controlled environment (your company) they could wind up on the internet stumbling across your competition. Include the call to action inside your white paper as well as on your landing page.

After readers finish your white paper the suggested next step should be commensurate with where your readers are in the b2b buying process. Be sensitive to the stages your buyers are in. For example, if they’re in the beginning stages offer them educational material that’s less sales-ish. Furthermore, if your reader is the economic buyer there’s a good chance the prospect is well into the buying cycle and close to a purchase. For this reader, suggest a web page that highlights customer testimonials or invites them to work with you on building a complementary return on investment (ROI) analysis. Below are examples of call to action items:

  • Microsites
  • Blogs
  • Twitter IDs
  • Facebook website URLs
  • Specific web pages / resource pages
  • Books

Second, use marketing automation technology to help track your prospects as they continue interacting with other marketing assets such as more white papers, corporate website and email campaigns. Marketing automation, a feature of revenue generation software, is the glue that keeps tabs on how interested your prospects really are. Is the reader who’s downloading your white paper just looking for an education or is he really interested in your solutions and ready to speak with sales? Marketing automation will help “raise your readers (prospects) hand” as soon as they demonstrate they are “sales-ready”. Lead tracking, lead scoring and lead nurturing are three features within marketing automation that will help.

Once a reader completes a short web form to download the white paper, lead tracking will log every white paper download, web page visit, social media visit, email open and any other interaction with marketing’s assets thereafter and group these activities into a single view. The activity view is accessible through a CRM such as Salesforce.com. For a sales person, the click path and interaction with marketing’s assets is very useful to identify what the prospect is interested in and how serious they are. Armed with this information, a sales person is much more prepared prior to engaging with the prospect.

Lead scoring uses a point system to score prospects based on various demographics or interactions with marketing. For example, if the visitor read a product white paper add 10 points, if they work for a company with $50M or more in revenue add 20 points. Lead scoring establishes a scoring threshold and notifies sales whenever a visitor hits or surpasses the threshold, becoming a “hot” lead.

Finally, lead nurturing will send a series of scheduled emails based on your reader/visitor’s online behavior. For example, if the reader is an economic buyer who downloaded a white paper on the business value of your technology, you could trigger a lead nurturing campaign that sends the reader three follow up emails. The emails might include an invitation to a pre-recorded webinar on ROI analysis, a download for a ROI analysis calculator and a testimonial on another client’s ROI.

5 tips for writing successful white papers

1) Where possible, white papers should request information from the reader via a short web form. Whenever you provide something of value it’s fair to ask for value in exchange. In this case, what’s valuable is information about your reader, whom you hope to make your customer – standard quid pro quo. Marketing automation technology includes progressive profiling which reduces the number of fields users need to complete, which increases conversion/form completion rates. Progressive profiling replaces fields where information is already known with new fields allowing businesses to collect bits of information to piece together a prospect’s profile. It’s the ala carte vs. buffet version of web forms, which usually settles better in your prospect’s tummy. Additionally, marketing automation platforms include lead tracking technology which eliminates the need to ask for location, company and sometimes personal information if the reader (lead) is already in your database. Most demographics are automatically detected with marketing automation technology.

2) Accompany white papers with a landing page (content page). The page should contain a short write-up on the content of your white paper and contain a web form (with progressive profiling) for the reader to complete.

3) Content page should be SEO optimized for search engine results. If your white paper is accessible through a form embedded on your landing page always try to select the proper keyword for your material and optimize your page with those keywords. If users search the internet after reading your material you want your page to be among the results they see. This demonstrates thought leadership and uniqueness, which is important among a pool of competition on the internet.

4) Understand the disposition of your readers. The call to action as well as content should be relevant to the reader’s role. Typically, there are four types of white paper readers. Economic buyer, technical buyer, user and an influencer or coach. An economic buyer may want to see a ROI model or testimonials whereas a technical buyer may want to see technology specs or benchmarks. Each reader has a goal in mind and that goal is most likely specific to their role. If you’re using marketing automation technology, there’s a good chance the landing page for your white paper can be customized to the reader’s role. Make your landing pages as dynamic and personalized as possible.

5) Write white papers with a less formal style, little marketing-speak and lots of supporting evidence. Don’t be afraid to use an occasional analogy or two when writing your white paper. Most white papers use a very candid and pragmatic approach vs. sugar coating statements (sorry marketing). Avoid using generic marketing terms like “cost effective” or “low performance impact” and be specific with your statements to build credibility with your readers. When making statements in your white paper, look for opportunities to quote 3rd parties or statistics from other sources to gain credibility.

With an understanding of what a white paper is, how to structure a white paper, how and why to include a call to action and how marketing automation technology augments the value of your white papers you’ll be writing superstar collateral in no time. Saddle up marketing!

We welcome your feedback, comments and suggestions. What input do you have on creating great white papers?

To be alerted of future posts, please click on the RSS button.

Lead Nurturing Best Practices

Lead Nurturing Best PracticesLead nurturing is the process of building relationships with prospects over time while shaping their interest in your solution to a certain threshold, or lead score, until the lead is ready for sales. It’s similar to progressing from dating to marriage. First, there’s initial contact where one person expresses interest in another. If the person being courted is too aggressive in their response it could be a turn off to the interested party. Fortunately, there are dating and lead nurturing best practices to adhere to. Whether dating or trying to sell, it’s vital to deepen the relationship over time and know when to commit more.

According to Brian Carroll, author of Lead Generation for the Complex Sale, 95% of website visitors are not ready to speak to sales. They may be just researching your industry and your company. However, studies show sales-readiness of website visitors will increase over time. In fact, 70% of those visitors will eventually buy from someone – including your competition. Unfortunately, most companies don’t realize this outcome.

What problems does lead nurturing solve?

If your lead generation process is similar to most companies, once a contact fills out a web form two things occur. First, the contact is loaded into a CRM system, such as Salesforce.com. Second, a sales person qualifies the contact with a phone call or email. If the contact does not seem like a short term sale for the sales person the lead is ignored and deemed “unqualified”. No further interaction occurs between the company and the contact. Consequentially, lead generation processes become inefficient and “rusty” over time while sales people develop a stigma about the quality of marketing’s leads. Research supports this trend as 80% of all marketing leads are unused, which is a waste of 80% of marketing’s budget.

How will lead nurturing help you?

To maximize ROI on your marketing dollars, it is imperative that interested prospects remain in close communication with you and your company well beyond the initial point of contact. Instead of dropping unqualified leads into a black hole, companies should build a relationship with the lead through a series of scheduled communications. By doing so, companies shape the preference of their potential buyers and stand a better chance of winning a prospects business.

Forrester, CSO Insights and Brian Carroll summarized the benefits of lead nurturing:

  1. Decrease the percent of leads generated by marketing that are ignored by sales from 80% to approximately 25%.
  2. Raise win rates of leads generated by marketing 7% points higher and reduce “no decisions” by 6%.
  3. Have 9% more sales representatives make quota and decrease ramp up time for new reps by 10%.
  4. Increase efficiency as nurtured-prospects buy more, require less discounting and have shorter sales cycles than prospects that bought but were not nurtured.
  5. Generate 50% more sales-ready leads at 33% lower cost-per-lead.

Number 5 is very important. Lead nurturing allows marketers to maximize return on their most valued asset, a marketing database. Marketers spend lots of money collecting new leads to build up their database. Rely less on adding uninterested contacts with incomplete information to your database and focus on building a high quality database you can nurture. By eliminating dependencies on new contacts and leveraging existing leads, marketers lower cost per lead.

For the expert marketer, this is solid data. However, for beginners trying to understand why they should spend any time on lead nurturing here’s a simple summary. Lead nurturing will:

  • automate follow-up communication with leads too numerous to be handled through direct sales; and
  • cultivate and nurture contacts over time so those contacts remember your brand when the need arises.

Lead nurturing tips

Creating a lead nurturing plan is not difficult. Here are four tips for creating your plan:

1. Create content that tells a story, from start to finish.

2. Don’t focus nurturing content on your product; rather, focus content on what your product does for your prospect. Communicate your message using 3rd party content, case studies, white papers, eBooks, Podcasts, webinars and tradeshows invitations.

3. Select a time line and frequency for your nurturing program. Most programs last 12 months on average but vary based on sales cycles. Identify how long your typical sales cycle is and use that as the duration of your nurturing program. Most programs nurture their leads one time per month on average.

4. Keep lead nurturing simple. Experts suggest 80% of the benefit of lead nurturing is achieved by the first 20% of effort. Refrain from creating too many lead nurturing programs / tracks. To start, create only one program per industry relevant to your business. For example, if most of your customers are in the finance and telecom industry create two programs; one with content relevant to finance and the other with content relevant to telecom.

Sample lead nurturing program

Below is an example of a lead nurturing program with 12 nurturing events over 12 months.

Initial Contact –> Introductory phone call and follow-up “thank you” email
Month 1 –> 3rd party article on pertinent technology via email
Month 2 –> Industry relevant case study via email with follow-up call
Month 3 –> Newsletter with scheduled follow up task
Month 4 –> 3rd party article on pertinent technology via email
Month 5 –> Relevant white paper via email
Month 6 –> Targeted campaign via direct mail
Month 7 –> Relevant eBook via email with scheduled follow-up call
Month 8 –> Link to relevant Podcast via email with follow-up call
Month 9 –> Free report via email with follow-up call
Month 10 –> Invitation to webinar via email with follow-up call
Month 11 –> Call to invite to industry trade show and follow-up with registration link
Month 12 –> Prospect calls you and becomes a sales-ready lead

Executing lead nurturing best practices

Once your lead nurturing program is up and running, you’ll need to start prioritizing and capturing your leads. First, you have to define what a sales-ready lead is. A sales-ready lead is a contact that meets your ideal profile and/or demonstrates interest in your solution commensurate with buying signals. By using lead scoring, companies have the opportunity to measure the relative levels of sales-readiness of one lead versus another. Combining lead scoring with real-time lead tracking technology allows companies to notify their sales team of a hot lead at the exact moment a nurtured-contact interacts with marketing collateral. For example, if a contact is sent an email message with links to an article on your company’s website, you’ll be notified in real-time via email or desktop software when the contact clicks the link. This process creates a closed-loop email marketing system, which most email marketing programs do not have.

We suggest defining a sales-ready lead and your lead nurturing programs in a Service Level Agreement (SLA). SLAs are used to broker collaboration and agreement between sales and marketing. Remember, make sure you execute your lead nurturing plan and stick to it. To quote Thomas Edison, “Success is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration”.

A lead nurturing program similar to the one above can be fully automated and executed using revenue generation software from Lead Liaison.

We welcome your feedback, comments and suggestions. What lead nurturing best practices do you suggest?

To be alerted of future posts, please click on the RSS button.

Service Level Agreement

Service Level AgreementFacts support a widening gap between sales and marketing teams. Read our article on sales and marketing alignment to see what we mean. Businesses must focus sales and marketing teams on common criteria; in particular, revenue generation. The first step in brokering alignment of sales and marketing teams is to establish an agreement, a set of rules, defining how sales and marketing will interact with each other. Many businesses are creating a Service Level Agreement (SLA) between sales and marketing to serve this purpose.

“Sales and Marketing must collaborate on defining leads and marketing objectives. You can make a huge impact by focusing first, on creating an Ideal Customer Profile (company-wide, for each product, service or solution). Then, create the Universal Lead Definition of a ‘sales-ready lead.’ Finally, connect the marketing/sales process to customer’s buying process.” Read more here. – Brian Carroll” company, http://blog.startwithalead.com

What should a Service Level Agreement contain?

As Brian Carroll highlights, companies should agree to definitions of leads, ideal customers, and adapt to customer’s new buying habits. These are just a few examples of items that should be included in a Service Level Agreement. In addition, businesses should include:

  • Purpose of the Agreement
  • General definitions
  • Lead scoring model
  • Lead response process and timeline
  • Lead nurturing program
  • Metrics / goals
  • Sales and marketing responsibilities
  • Review period
  • Term
  • Acceptance

Complementary Service Level Agreement for sales and marketing

Lead Liaison’s revenue generation software provides the technology to deliver many of the components of a Service Level Agreement; however, it’s a best practice to first develop a guideline for your lead management in the form of an Agreement. We understand every business is different. Small business, large businesses, different products, different markets, etc; but, we can agree most businesses are similar in a few regards. They lack efficient lead management processes and have misaligned sales and marketing teams. As a result, the “framework” of any Service Level Agreement is similar.

We took an opportunity to create a Service Level Agreement template to get you started. We will be posting the template shortly. The template will be accessible via this post. Please check back shortly.

We welcome your feedback, comments and suggestions. What else should be included in a Service Level Agreement between sales and marketing?

To be alerted of future posts, please click on the RSS button.

Sales and Marketing Alignment

Sales and Marketing AlignmentThe CMO Council sited 38% of Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) say sales and marketing alignment and integration is a top priority. However, only 30% have a clear process or program to do something about it. With only 38% of CMOs making alignment a top priority, we can assume approximately 1 out of every 3 organizations recognize the issue but few take action. How about the other 2 out of 3? Are they not aware of the problems between sales and marketing? This article highlights common problems prohibiting sales and marketing collaboration, summarizes reasons one group thinks the other is the antagonist, and suggests solutions to narrow the divide between sales and marketing.

Unfortunately, inadequate solutions and uninformed executives have only perpetuated the problem. Sales and marketers have developed a terrible misconception of one another culminating in an environment filled with friction and dissonance. Brian Carroll, CEO of InTouch, attests that “communication breakdown affects nine out of ten companies”. Here’s another one of our favorite quotes from Brian:

“The unrealized potential [of sales and marketing alignment] can be likened to the batteries in a flashlight. If the batteries aren’t inserted in the right direction, or are otherwise out of proper contact, their power is unusable”. – Brian Carroll, http://blog.startwithalead.com

Do any of these examples typify your sales and marketing groups?

  • marketing complains sales never follows up on their leads
  • sales complains marketing never provides any leads, just contacts
  • marketing thinks they are the only people who are strategic thinkers
  • sales thinks they’re the only people worried about the quarter
  • sales wonders why they always have to generate all their own leads
  • marketing complains sales criticizes or ignores everything they generate
  • marketing thinks salespeople will say anything to get a deal
  • marketing wonders why sales isn’t cranking out deals from all their leads

Problems with sales and marketing alignment

C-level executives must recognize problems standing in the way of sales and marketing alignment. We took an opportunity to pull together five major problems impeding sales and marketing collaboration. Each problem is backed by data from industry experts.

80% of leads are typically lost, ignored or discarded (*1)

73% of companies have no process for revisiting leads (*2)

80% of marketers send unqualified leads on to sales (*3)

90% of marketing deliverables are not used by sales (*4)

90% of website visitors don’t identify themselves (*5)

30% of sales reps turnover each year, 7 months to ramp up (*6)

Solutions to sales and marketing alignment

There’s no single recipe for aligning sales and marketing; however, the first step is recognizing they’re not aligned (you already have a 38% chance). Here are some suggestions to align sales and marketing teams which will address the five major problems identified above.

1. Transform your sales cycle into an integrated revenue cycle. Create a new model (definition) for your sales pipeline to include sales, marketing, services and support. We discussed how businesses can split their sales pipeline into a marketing and sales pipeline respectively in this article. Once the sale is made, even more collaboration should occur between sales and marketing while pulling in support and services. We discuss extending your pipeline past the point of “customer” in this article. Working on a revenue cycle vs. a sales cycle allows sales and marketing teams to work together on a common goal; creating revenue, faster.

2. Define a Service Level Agreement (SLA) between marketing and sales. Include things like definitions/terminology, what makes a qualified lead, priority of lead sources, how leads are “recycled” into nurturing programs, where marketing collateral is stored and details of nurturing programs in your SLA.

3. Establish a closed loop reporting process for leads. Once marketing provides a lead to sales it’s crucial follow up is measured and tracked. Marketing automation uses lead distribution technology to disseminate leads based on pre-defined criteria. Automatic lead distribution reduces turnaround time and make sales happier when marketing responds quickly. Additionally, marketing automation technology can automatically schedule follow up actions. For example, scheduling tasks such as a phone call or email in a CRM system such as Salesforce.com. Advanced marketing automation schemes include the ability to ensure tasks are changed or closed; if not, the system will send an email to the marketer or management notifying them of the delay.

4. Foster a culture of respect and trust. To overcome common misconceptions, as highlighted above, foster an environment of collaboration, open communication, and mutual interest to develop respect and trust between marketing and sales.

5. Implement lead scoring. Lead scoring measures a lead’s interaction with marketing activities. It’s an automatic way for marketing to qualify leads for sales. When a lead is qualified by hitting or exceeding a certain scoring threshold, marketing can hand the lead off to sales. The hand-off occurs automatically and unobtrusively. Check out our lead scoring solutions guide for more information.

6. Implement lead tracking. For the 90%+ website visitors who don’t fill out a form, lead tracking captures the visitor’s information as well as their click pattern (digital behavior) as they traverse your site. This is invaluable information for sales. It helps sales better understand what their prospect is interested in. When sales communicates with the prospect they’ll know what they’re looking for resulting in a more efficient discussion. If lead tracking is not implemented sales loses out on more leads and marketing doesn’t get the proper return on their marketing investments.

7. Implement closed-loop email marketing. Typically, marketing will collect a bunch of leads from a trade show, send out an email blast, then hope for someone to call back. With closed-loop email marketing, any response to an email message is automatically signaled to sales or scored appropriately. The marketing system will “raise its hand” when prospects are interested. Closed-loop email marketing is built into most marketing automation solutions.

8. Implement lead nurturing. Don’t let 90% of your marketing collateral (major marketing investments) go to waste. Lead nurturing leverages closed-loop email marketing and enables marketers to setup customized nurturing schedules of 1, 3, 6, 9, 12, or any number of months to automate and personalize the process of staying in touch with your leads. With marketing collateral in hand, a nurturing program, and closed-loop email marketing you can automate periodic follow up. The nurturing system will automatically send email messages with attached collateral matching your prospects interest. Nurturing matures the prospects interest until they’re ready to buy. Lead nurturing also makes sure that the 80% of ignored leads are not ignored since marketers can drop them into a lead nurturing cycle right away. For the 73% of marketers that don’t plan to revisit/re-qualify leads, work with sales to establish a process wherein leads are “recycled” or added back into the nurturing program if the purchase period is farther out than the sales person is ready for.

9. Overlap payment metrics between sales and marketing. Sales people make most of their money off of bookings or revenue. Measure part of marketing’s success on similar sales metrics.

10. Bring in revenue generation software. Get your organization on a common tool set that provides lead generation, marketing automation and sales prospecting capabilities tied into your CRM system. Using a platform solution, not a single product, provides cost savings across the org while uniting your teams.

What happens when sales and marketing are aligned?

As evidenced by the data below, once sales and marketing are aligned the business will recognize considerable monetary as well as cultural gains. Your organization will begin to think as a team, as a single unit, instead of operating in individual silos with disparate agendas. Industry experts report the following benefits of aligning sales and marketing:

Businesses grow 5.4% faster (*7)

Reps close 38% more deals (*7)

Reps lose 36% less deals to the competition (*7)

Businesses have a better chance of retaining customers

We welcome your feedback, comments and suggestions. What do you feel the problems are between sales and marketing? What solutions do you have to achieve sales and marketing alignment?

To be alerted of future posts, please click on the RSS button.

Sources:

(*1, *2) “Gauging the Cost of What’s Lost” by the Business Performance Management Forum and CMO Council.

(*3) Marketing Sherpa’s 2011 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report.

(*4, *6) “The New Rules of Sales Enablement” by Jeff Ernst.

(*5) Marketing Sherpa.

(*7) Hugh Macfarlane, founder and CEO of MathMarketing, conducted an alignment benchmarking study by surveying 1,400 professionals in 84 countries around the world.