You know the scenario: you’re at a fun party and you end up next to that guy. The one who can’t stop talking about himself, the one sermonizing on how great he is and why you should think he’s great, too. Do you:
- Give him your contact information because you definitely want to hang out again?
- Leave at the first opportunity?
For most folks, including myself, the answer is most definitely “2.” You’re going to want to get out. And get out fast. Who wants to get stuck talking to this guy?
Now, imagine if that person had asked for your business card before the conversation even began. Or even before you sat down to dinner. How happy would you be in that situation? I’m going to bet that you wouldn’t be very happy at all. In fact, you’d probably be pretty ticked off and hoping that you never hear from that guy again.
In the world of tech marketing, too many brands are acting like that annoying party guest. They’re focused on their own agenda — on the hard sell, on gathering contact information — and not on the needs or interests of the companies they hope will buy from them. In the end, instead of resulting in large quantities of quality leads that end up as sales, it results in lead forms filled out by Mickey Mouse, Bruce Wayne, and other fictional characters.
In fact, our research shows that a full 59% of lead forms are populated with false information. That’s a lot of Disney characters to have to wade through to find a quality lead.
Getting Rid of the Mouse
Luckily, as tech marketers, there are proven strategies that you can implement to help increase the quality of your sales leads and convert more prospects into customers.
When generating leads, you know you have two options: to buy them or to earn them. Hands down the best way is to earn them, but buying has its helpful place, too. New brands or even established brands who have a lesser known product, for instance, may rely on purchased leads until they become better established in the marketplace. But eventually, you’ll want to rebalance this approach so you’re earning most of your leads. Earned leads are regularly higher quality because they mean you’ve already provided value to the prospect in their purchasing journey and they are openly sharing their contact information.
But how exactly do you “earn” leads? To start, you need to provide potential clients with valuable content that teaches them about the technology you provide and engages them with your brand. Don’t just throw out speeds and feeds and basic product information — actively strive to produce content about the capabilities of your technology, discuss the business impact it can make WITHOUT talking about your brand as the only option. Tell them about how your product works with existing systems and educate them about the latest technological advances. Show them that you really, truly understand their needs — and you’ll be shifting the conversation from you to them.
The goal here of course, is to position your brand as a thought leader in the field and actually add value to the market conversation. This works especially well with social media, where a more open and honest interaction is expected. Make sure to fill your channels with interesting, engaging content that gets people talking and make yourself available via social to answer questions.
Additionally, you need to be thoughtful about your content gating strategy. In a recent LinkedIn survey, prospective clients were 81 percent less likely to consider a vendor that gates all of their content, and 15 percent said they immediately leave a site if the first piece of content is gated. It doesn’t matter how great your content is, if your prospective customer isn’t going to ever see it.
So What’s the Most Effective Approach to Gating Content?
Remember the first rule of thumb: gating needs to be earned and worth giving up your email. You need to first freely provide prospects with useful content. Our research shows that the best time to gate is after a client has read five articles. At this point, they are primed and have shown a continuing interest in your brand. The key is lots of ungated content that has promotion of the next available article embedded within each article and a smart nurturing strategy using ad technology to provide the anonymous user with the next great article after they leave your website.
The second technique to consider is soft gating. If you’ve ever read a SlideShare presentation, you’ve likely seen the “Click for More” information button that can be placed either mid-presentation or at the end. This soft gate can be skipped, keeping the power in the reader’s hands. When they like the content or have an active project, they raise their hand by personally selecting to give their information. This becomes a hot lead, as “hand-raisers” are the best prospects. They want you to contact them. The other great thing about soft gating is that the person can still see the valuable content. Even if they don’t give their email address, you have further embedded your brand’s opinions and value with another IT Committee member!
Finally, sometimes your content is so darn good, so valuable – think in-depth, exclusive research pieces and not a whitepaper or blog post — that you should gate it. Our resident Content Marketing Guru, Jason A Miller, likes to call these the “Big Rock” pieces of content. It’s the centerpiece of your content for the next quarter or two. And it can be gated. But, you’d also better slice and dice that Big Rock into little pieces of content that’s ungated too. That way, you have valuable ungated content that companies can access that also motivates them to want to download the full Big Rock content piece that is gated.
The outcome of this type of strategic gating plan is simple: more real contact information and more valuable leads for your sales team. Focusing on quality will save your company the time and expense of chasing down poor leads. Given the choice between quality vs. quantity, your sales team will choose quality every time.
And there couldn’t be a better time to take this approach! As the tech buying process gets longer and longer and involves increasingly more people, your need to be available whenever your customer might be looking for answers becomes increasingly critical. As our recent infographic shows, marketing and sales are becoming increasingly intertwined, and the moment to align your content and gating strategies with the goals of your sales team is now.