More and more companies are realizing that they can get better ROI from inbound marketing than traditional outbound strategies. In an age when most buyers prefer to do their own research before engaging your sales team, providing informative content is key. Content marketing is especially important in technical industries, where sales cycles are longer and engineers are often making purchase decisions. Yet many high tech companies still rely on an outbound marketing approach.
Marketers desire to add video content to their marketing mix to amplify their message, find new distribution channels and bring in new customers. This is the top use of marketing resources for 2107, according to a survey of marketeres (B2C and B2B) by Hubspot in 2016.
You've spent hours researching and crafting the perfect blog post. The information is sound and you have written it with your ideal buyer in mind. This stuff is gold, you think. Except... nobody is reading it.
Successful inboundmarketing programs focus on delivering content in the context of the buyer journey, working to create a remarkable experience from the first time prospects land on your site to the moment they choose you over your competitor.
HINT: IT ACTUALLY HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH YOUR WEBSITE
I know, surprising, right? Everyone thinks that conversion rates are all about the website, but when all our testing and experiments wrapped up, we learned that conversion rates have very little to do with website design. We found that content offers, marketing messaging and stories had more to do with conversion rates than the actual design of your site.
Don’t misinterpret what I’m saying. If you have a horribly designed website with landing pages that are awful, you’re going to have a very low or potentially non-existent conversion rate. What I'm saying is that today a lot of sites look similar and are well-designed. Landing pages have been scientifically engineered to eliminate friction and most pages we see deploy many of the best practices.
Although cultural generalizations can be overly reductive, Lewis, who speaks 10 languages, insists it can be done fairly. "Determining national characteristics is treading a minefield of inaccurate assessment and surprising exception. There is, however, such a thing as a national norm," he writes.
Scroll down to see Lewis' insights on negotiating with people around the world.
Jenna Goudreau contributed reporting.
Americans lay their cards on the table and resolve disagreements quickly with one or both sides making concessions.
Marketers get caught up in their own creativity and sometimes bury the lead, making it even more difficult for prospects to quickly know what you do and how you can help them. A cyber security company used the headline “Appearances Can Be Deceiving.” It's creative and it’s accurate, but can you tell me what they do? No!
Here's a better headline: “Your Job Might Be In Jeopardy If Hackers Are In Your Network Right Now.” This would likely encourage targeted prospects to read more, visit more pages on the site, and then convert from an anonymous visitor into a lead for this company.
2. You Have To Pass The 'Scratch Out, Drop In' Test
Your website has to be different than your competitors’ websites. If you can scratch out your name and put in the name of any competitor and what the site says would still be accurate, you have an issue. Your prospects are going from site to site looking for differences. Your site needs to be different. It has to look different, say different things and provide a different experience.
Good marketing is about standing out in the crowd. Make sure your website stands out and helps your company appear different than all of your competitors. Again, this is not about design; it's about messaging, stories and the experience.
3. Make Sure Your Story Is In The Right Order
Human beings process information in a very linear and systematic way. If your website presents information out of order, the people you want to convert on your site are going to feel uncomfortable and bounce off before converting.
You're remarkable, right? Of course you are because you’ve been following our advice and you know your business has to stand out. Make sure your visitors see how remarkable you are right on your home page.
Now that prospects know you understand their pain and you have remarkable solutions, it’s time to make them feel even safer. This is where you bring in the social proof. Only now are they ready to evaluate your case studies, success stories, logo library or testimonials. But if you present these too early, your prospects won’t mentally be ready to process this type of information out of order.
You can’t put all your offers on every page and expect that the more offers you use, the more leads you’ll get. Trust me, we did that and it didn’t work. We want you to avoid making the same mistakes we did. Less is more in this case. Prioritize your best offers at the right stage in the sales funnel and then use only those offers.
5. Always Answer Questions
Your prospects have questions and they’re coming to your website to get answers. Make sure your website is built, designed and written with this in mind. Each page should have a specific question in mind, answer that question and then offer even more information to help prospects with their individual buyer journeys.
If you don’t know what questions your prospects are asking, you need to find out. You can ask them directly, you can ask your sales reps or you can ask your customer support people. All these folks know exactly what prospects and customers ask at all stages of the sales funnel.
6. Make Sure It Works On All Devices
Search for the keyword "mobile searches" and you’ll see a variety of data points that all point to the same conclusion. People are doing searches on their phones. In some cases, 50% of the initial searches for content are done on mobile devices, and the initial experience prospects are having with your company is on the responsive version of your website.
This means your site has to not only be responsive, but it also needs to be designed deliberately and strategically to support that initial experience on a prospect’s phone. How many times have you visited a website on your phone only to have a mediocre experience? Probably too many times. The result is a less-than-stellar feeling about that company. Perhaps you never even try to connect with them again. This is what you want to avoid.
7. Watch Visitors' Behavior
As smart as we all think we are, we rarely nail anything right out of the gate, and your website is no different. No matter how much time and money you spend designing it you won’t actually know how users, visitors and prospects will respond to it until you launch it. That’s why we prefer an Agile, 30-day approach to website builds instead of the long and painful six-month website project. Get something up quickly, get data and then make adjustments over time based on visitor data.
Since conversions are our goal, you need to see how visitors are making their way through your site. For example, I see a lot of sites with the offer at the very bottom of a long scrolling page. That might make sense on paper, but when you see that visitors are not reading all the way down the page, you have an issue.
If you don’t get this user behavior data you’ll never know whether the issue is your page, your offer, your copy or your design. This could contribute to inaccurate decision-making based on bad assumptions. You should be able to limit this with the right application of tools and technology.
Tightly integrating messaging, search and content along with web and conversion strategy is at the core of what an inbound marketing engagement is all about. If you think about your website as more of an experience for your prospects and you include conversations about the above marketing elements, you’ll see a major lift in your lead generation in no time.
“Make your product easier to buy than your competition, or you will nd your customers buying from them, not you.” - Mark Cuban
40% (20 out of 50) of the fastest-growing B2B companies make their pricing public.
Of the 20 companies that make their pricing public, 14 use tiered pricing.
Of the 14 companies with tiered pricing, 6 have CTAs prompting enterprise customers to request quotes.
Why do companies treat selling to the enterprise di erently than selling to everyone else? ere are lots of factors, but it usually comes down to scale. Rolling out a product or service to a massive organization can be a seriously complex (and expensive) undertaking.
So while being able to make unassisted purchases on a B2B website is convenient for most, enterprise customers need to be able to talk through the ner details of your product/service with a real human before they buy.
“Our jobs as marketers are to understand how the customerwants to buy and help them do so.” - Bryan Eisenberg
B2B websites lead people down 1 of 2 paths: toward a product, or toward a salesperson.
The experience prospective customers have when they land on your website can be crucial to whether or not they end up converting. As Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield once commented:
“... even the best slogans, ads, landing pages, PR campaigns, etc., will fall down if they are not supported by the experience people have when they hit our site, when they sign up for an account, when they first begin using the product and when they
start using it day in, day out.”
In analyzing the websites of the 50 fastest-growing B2B companies, we found two distinct paths that companies typically try to send potential customers down. They either direct people to A) engage with the product or service in some way, or to B) engage with a salesperson or other company representative to learn more.
62% (31 out of 50) of websites have primary CTAs directing people to the product/service.
38% (19 out of 50) have primary CTAs directing people to talk to Sales.
Of course, many of the companies that have product-focused primary CTAs also have secondary CTAs for talking to Sales. And remember the 11 companies with live chat from the previous chapter? All 11 of those websites have product-focused CTAs.
e takeaway: It doesn’t have to be one way or the other. Within the 50 fastest-growing B2B companies in the U.S., both tactics are employed. You can encourage people to discover the value of your product through having them experience it for themselves, and you can provide them with an opportunity to talk to a real person if that’s what they want.
Regardless of the path you choose to send people down, make sure that their rst experience is (as Slack's CEO recommended) a positive one.
36% (18 out of 50) of the fastest-growing B2B companies o er free trials or freemium versions of their product.
A free trial or freemium version of a product can be a driving force behind a company’s growth. It’s a model that allows prospective customers to experience rst-hand how a product is going to perform, which reduces the need for canned sales pitches and aggressive tactics.
As Roger Lee of Battery Ventures once wrote:
“Instead of hiring a huge sales force and sending these people out to convince potential customers to buy your product -- the way Oracle, SAP, Microsoft, and even Salesforce.com built empires -- a freemium model is a perpetual motion machine through which your product sells itself.”
Of the 18 companies with some free component to their product ...
“ These days, people want to learn before they buy, be educated instead of pitched.” - Brian Clark
Live chat provides an additional channel of communication for customers and prospects.
Based on our research, 80% of the fastest- growing B2B companies maintain a blog. And just under half offer downloadable resources. So there’s no denying that, for many of these high-growth companies, content plays a significant role in how they communicate with customers and prospects.
But what about the people who engage with this content and then have questions?
Or the people who don’t want to wait for someone to email them after filling out a form? People who want to talk to a real person right now?
One solution that's emerging is 1:1 messaging, which allows prospects and customers to have 1:1 conversations with support reps, sales reps, and other employees via a "live chat" widget on a company's website.
22% (11 out of 50) of the fastest-growing B2B companies have a live chat widget on their website.
Of the 11 companies using live chat, 5 are also using gated content.
Of the 11 companies using live chat, 8 have it on their homepage. 3 have it appear after you navigate to a pricing or contact page.
Of the 11 companies using live chat, 3 show photos of the employees you're chatting with.
“Content builds relationships. Relationships are built on trust. Trust drives revenue.”
With the rise of inbound marketing and content marketing, content has become the cornerstone of many modern B2B marketing operations. Here’s how it typically works: Blogging drives top-of-the-funnel traffic to a company’s website.
From there, callsto-action (CTAs) encourage visitors to download content (e.g. ebooks, whitepapers, and templates) so they can learn more about a particular topic. This process can be repeated and scaled by marketing teams to include a wide variety of tactics at every stage of the funnel, but the end goal is always the same: to add value and build relationships that drive revenue for your business.
80% (40 out of 50) of the fastest-growing B2B companies maintain a blog and/or online publication.
44% (22 out of 50) of the fastest-growing B2B companies offer downloadable content, like ebooks or whitepapers.
28% (14 out of 50) of the fastest-growing B2B companies use gated content. 16% (8 out of 50) offer ungated content.
These differences in content accessibility highlight an important, ongoing conversation in sales and marketing: Should required forms and lead capture remain central to what we’re doing? Or are there other ways we can communicate with prospective customers once they’ve engaged with our content? For some companies, forms are being replaced or supplemented with 1:1 messaging, which allows sales and marketing teams to communicate with website visitors in real-time.
A quick review of what most people are doing on social media will make it clear why it’s not working. Social media is not simply a repository for auto-posting existing blog articles. If that’s what you’re doing, you might be underutilizing a very powerful tool.
To optimize social media and drive more visitors to your website, you’re going to have to work harder to engage your followers and get them involved in the conversation. This means asking questions, getting opinions and coming up with creative campaigns that take full advantage of the sharing potential built into social media platforms.
For example, instead of just posting blog articles, try posting conversation starters. Then follow up with supporting information to fuel the conversation and engage your audiences. Wrap up the mini-campaign with content that people can download. Now you’re not only driving up social media reach numbers and new visitors to your website, you’re also giving those visitors the opportunity to convert into leads right from LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
Another way to improve conversion rates is to place offers across your site more strategically. Your website needs to have a variety of different pages for different phases of your prospects’ buyer journeys. You need pages for awareness, pages for consideration and pages for decision-making, and you need offers that align with those pages.
If you put a Contact Us offer on an awareness page, the conversion rate is going to be very low, because the people on that page don’t want to talk to you yet. If you put a Request A Demo or Free Trial offer on an awareness page, they’re not going to convert, either. Why? Demos and free trials are usually bottom-of-the-funnel, decision-making offers, and putting them on the home page – or every page – is a big mistake.
Instead, take your website through a mapping exercise where you identify the role of each page in the buyer journey. Then add the right offers to the right pages. This exercise often reveals that your site is actually missing pages for different stages of the buyer journey. These pages have to get added if you want to give visitors the experience they need to convert from visitor to lead.
We tackled ways to increase the number of visitors to your site, now let’s tackle ways to drive leads. As I mentioned earlier, the key metric on leads is the conversion rate. Improve conversion rates and improve leads: It’s that simple.
The best place to start is by targeting high-traffic landing pages. Through a series of optimization exercises, you can double, or in some cases triple, the conversion rate on these already popular pages.
Of all the recommendations in this blog, this one is by far the fastest, easiest and most efficient way to improve lead generation, especially if your site already has decent visitor numbers. I’ve written a number of landing page optimization articles over the past couple of months, so instead of going over it again, here’s a link to a recent article on improving conversion rates on landing pages.
The on-site tactics discussed above are only half the equation. The other half is finding prospects who are online but on other sites. They’re not searching for you, but they are spending time online: visiting similar sites, communities and groups and reading blogs, emails and content from related providers – not competitors, but information sources that already exist. Remember, 90% of people get the information they need to make a purchase decision from online research. Your content has to be available and easy to access.
Driving new visitors to your website from other online properties is complicated. You have to take your target persona and create an online behavioral profile, identifying the blogs they read, the emails they subscribe to, the sites they visit, the groups they’re members of and the websites they frequent. Once you have that target list, you can start reaching out to those communities to help them with their mission.
Your goal is not to sell anything to community members, your goal is to help those community members with valuable educational content. Since you have created tons of new educational materials (you have these assets, right?), now you’re in a position to share these materials with community managers. Remember, the manager's job is to educate and provide value to members. So you now share the same goal.
Once you get a critical mass of off-site referral properties like this, you’ll see this visitor source increasing, with leads from these new visitors following.
In social media, timing is everything. You only want to send messages when someone is around to see them. And a larger audience means more opportunities for engagement and meaningful connections—all of which benefit your business.
So when are the best times to post on social? There is no definitive answer to that. But there are resources that can serve as a guide to help you find the optimal posting times.
The best time to post on Twitter
As a constant stream of information, getting your timing right on Twitter can seem like a fine art. With the half-life of a Tweet being 24 minutes—four times shorter than a Facebook post—your window of opportunity is tight. As Wiselytics explains, “For Facebook, a post reaches 75 percent of its potential engagement in five hours. A median Tweet reaches this 75 percent mark in less than three hours.”
This short timeframe means that the Tweets you do send out get in front of as many eyeballs as possible. How do you do this? Our previous post, 3 Tips On How To Find the Best Time to Tweet, gives some advice for finding the optimal time for your Twitter activity:
Location matters—”One useful strategy is to create a Twitter handle for each region, use a social media management tool to manage and monitor all of them in one place, and then create social media reports to track when you get the most engagement for each Twitter handle.
Use the right tool—There are numerous tools out there to help you find the best time to Tweet, such as Audiense (previously SocialBro) and Hootsuite’s AutoSchedule which “chooses a time based on when your Tweets have performed the best. You can AutoSchedule from both the dashboard and theHootlet extension.”
Make sure you engage on social media—”Knowing when the best time to tweet from your company’s Twitter handle starts with social media engagement.”
We’ve gathered data from a variety of sources so that you can use these tips as a starting point, rather than a blind trial and error. Here are the best times to Tweet, according to data gathered from a variety of organizations:
The Huffington Post: “For maximum retweets, post at 5 p.m., 12 p.m., and 6 p.m. Additionally, 12 p.m. and 6 p.m. also deliver higher click-through rates. The best days to Tweet for business-to-business organizations is Monday through Friday, for business-to-consumer it’s the weekends and Wednesdays.”
Hubspot: Between 12 p.m. and 3 p.m. from Monday to Friday, and between5 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Wednesdays.
Kissmetrics: Weekdays at 5 p.m., where the highest percentage of Retweets occur.
So while there are some overlaps, there is no one definitive answer to this question. But this information is a great place to start with your own strategic trial and error efforts. Start Tweeting at the above times, and pay attention to when your audience engages the most. This is the only way to find out when the best time to post to Twitter is—at least for your own business.
The best time to post to Facebook
As Facebook is often a smorgasbord of personal connections and brand interactions, it’s an interesting one to try and navigate from a timing point of view. Throw in Facebook’s algorithm, and this might feel like a more difficult task than it truly is. A whopping 75 percent of your Facebook post’s engagement will happen within the first five hours, which means that while it’s not a huge amount of time, you have more leverage than with a Tweet. But as Post Planner explains, your Facebook post “impressions hit their climax much sooner than engagement.” A full 75 percent of your post’s lifetime impressions are reached after just two and a half hours.
To make the most of this time, you want to ensure you’re paying attention to when your audience is most active. Just like Twitter, the best time to post on Facebook will obviously depend on your business. But here are some recommendations to get you started:
Quick Sprout: Thursdays and Fridays, either at 1 p.m. for the most shares, or 3 p.m. for the most clicks. As explained, “The less people want to be at work, the more they are on Facebook!”
Optimizely: Mondays through Thursdays between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Microsoft: Thursdays and Fridays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Hubspot: Thursdays and Fridays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
While there are some differences, there’s the consistent finding that Thursdays and Fridays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. are a good place to start when trying to find the best time to post to Facebook.
The best time to post on Instagram
Although its name originally suggested that you should be posting to Instagram, well, instantly, that simply isn’t the case these days. As Likes are the main measurement approach to Instagram posts, you might feel as if there is more pressure to get timing right with your content here. I can confess that I’m definitely somebody who has delayed putting up a picture because I felt it wasn’t during a ‘peak time’ and would get less Likes. (This way of thinking is broken down in a hilariously accurate Man Repeller post The Instagram Post-Time Debate, which I highly recommend reading.)
Think about a day in the life of your audience, and try to strategically post according to this. What time are people waking up and doing their first-thing-in-the-morning-Insta-scroll? Do they work full-time? Where do they live? Consider your audience’s down time such as between meetings, commuting, lunch, and before bed. All of these are things to think about when trying to match post time with your audience’s use time.
In addition to considering these factors, test out some of the following recommended times:
Hubspot: Anytime from Monday to Thursday except from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.
As Mavrck explained, “While posting volume is relatively low during those morning hours, users are still peeking at their feeds regularly on their smartphones. Therefore, they represent a sizable audience during a time when there’s less competition for attention.”
If no one can find you on Google, Yahoo or Bing – your business is invisible. If people are finding you for keywords you think are important, but your prospects aren't using those keywords – you’re invisible. If your website isn’t responsive and people are doing searches on their phones – you're invisible. Make sure your business isn’t invisible.
Getting Google and the other search engines to rank your website pages is complicated, and it takes time. It involves a variety of related tactics such as content marketing, social media marketing, website architecture, blogging and conversion rate optimization. All of these areas have to be tightly integrated, and you have to constantly track your ranking and organic visitor metrics to know what’s working and what’s not.
Do you know how many leads you received from organic visitors over the past 30 days? Do you know how many visitors came to your site from organic searches over the past 30 days? Do you know how these numbers compare to the previous month? You need to know this data cold. If you’re not tracking these metrics, you’re not improving. You won’t see a 10x improvement without this effort.
To improve visitors from search, look at increasing the number of blog articles you’re writing. If those blog articles have keywords, keyword phrases and questions tightly integrated into the blog strategy, those articles will improve your search results and impact visitor numbers. Also look at your website architecture. You can change URL naming conventions and impact results quickly. Change a services page to a page with a question in the URL: Google sees this as a more valuable page.
Finally, and this is a recent change to the Google algorithms, your pages have to convert. When someone finds your link and clicks on it, you have to make sure they convert on that landing page. This signals Google that the visitor found what he or she was looking for, and improves your ranking. Clearly, conversion is now a major component of search. Again, all the tactics need to be strategically connected.
Yes, I said it: a 10x improvement in leads. If you’re getting two leads a week, when your inbound marketing program is up and running you’ll be getting 20 leads a week.If you’re getting four leads a month, you’ll be getting 40. It’s a very attainable goal, and one we’ve delivered for countless clients over the past 14 years.
However, there are just as many CEOs, VPs of marketing and business owners who have attempted inbound marketing and not seen this kind of impact on their business. So clearly this isn’t as easy as it sounds. It’s not easy, but it isdoable.
These six tactics, if planned, implemented and optimized properly, will contribute to lifting your inbound leads by a factor of ten.
To make this as simple as possible (and to reiterate what we’ve been saying for years): Marketing is a mathematical calculation. If you want more leads, you have to move two numbers: website visitors and sitewide conversion rate. That’s it. So we’ll share three recommendations for increasing the number of visitors to your website and three recommendations for improving your conversion rate. Execute these properly and a 10x improvement in leads will be your reward.
Don’t leave offer creation to the business- or salespeople. Contact us, speak with a sales rep, free demo, free download or trial – these are horrible, generic bottom-of-the-funnel offers. You’re going to have to work much harder if you want more leads, especially if you want more sales-ready leads.
Thee horrible examples of offers are all about you. Contact you, speak with you, see your demo, try your software – what’s in it for the prospect? Your bottom-of-the-funnel offers have to deliver value to your prospect.
For example, if you’re a builder or construction company, offer to value-engineer plans for a current project with the promise to save money on the build. If you’re a software company, offer to evaluate the prospect’s current process and provide process improvements that include your software. If you’re an accounting company, offer six tax-saving tips for prospects after a quick review of the prospect's current situation.
In each of these scenarios, the offer is probably something you would happily do anyway, so why not offer it as a way to get sales-ready prospects to contact you today? Keep rolling out new and more creative offers until you get the bottom-of-the-funnel lead flow you need to hit your goals.
Here’s more good news. If you do all six of these tactics at the same time, you’re going to improve the chances of achieving that 10x improvement in leads. This is actually where a lot of practitioners go wrong – they only do a few of these tactics. They either underestimate the effort or under-budget the entire program, so corners get cut and results suffer.
Don’t make the same mistake. Whether you’re building a new inbound marketing program, working to optimize your existing effort or comparing inbound marketing agency proposals, make sure you see money, time or points allocated to all six of the tactics described above. If any of these is missing, it’s usually a pretty good indicator that the team isn’t as experienced with inbound as they need to be to deliver a 10x improvement in generating leads.