Generating pipeline in an eventless world | Turtl
Is the stream of event cancellations this year causing issues for your pipeline? Here are some tried and tested demand and lead gen strategies.
*Quick guide* No events? <br>No problem.
How to operate in a world without events and still hit your MQL and growth targets
*Context:* The show <br>must go on
You may have nailed your 2020 marketing strategy on paper. But there are some things you just can't plan for. Like an event-marketing-sized hole in your pipeline.
It's safe to say that the beginning of this brand new decade of ours isn't unfolding quite in the way the many "predictions for 2020" reports had us expecting. At the close of 2019, as budgets were committed and strategies signed off, no one imagined the outbreak of COVID-19 or its consequences, many of which remain to be seen. In this environment, with the cancellation of countless large scale conferences and tradeshows which many businesses depend on for pipeline, sales and marketing leaders face an abrupt and tough call to arms: What's plan b?
To every cloud, a silver lining (sometimes you have to really squint to see it). This is digital demand generation's time to shine. It's also a litmus test of how agile our functions really are after a decade of digital transformation initiatives. Business-as-usual doesn't apply to a lot of us right now, but that doesn't mean that the new tactics and strategies businesses affected by the event cancellations will have to adopt can't become part of your permanent armory even once the storm has passed.
In this quick guide of ours, those typically reliant on events will find ideas and inspiration for how to plug that gap in your 2020 pipeline using familiar and new digital tactics. And if you're feeling a little panicked, just remember that we're all in this together.
*Webinars:* Take your presentations online
Ideas for powering up your webinar strategy for lead-gen purposes
Webinars provide an opportunity for interaction with audiences in real-time that video doesn't, and is by far the closest stand-in for an onstage presentation
Take your talk online
If you were scheduled to speak at an event that has now been cancelled, one option for still connecting with the audience is to take your keynote, panel discussion, or presentation online in the form of a webinar. Consider teaming up with other speakers from the event to draw in more participants, and see if the event runners would be willing to promote the online session to would-be attendees.
Increase rate of webinars
With resources that would otherwise be spent preparing for or attending events now freed up, revisit your webinar agenda for 2020 and identify more opportunities to bring people into conversation with your experts and thought leaders. Host Q&As that can be produced quickly inhouse, co-host webinars with a partner to drive reach, or consider investing in opportunities to cohost with known publications or trade bodies in your industry. Webinars are cheaper than events, and you have the added bonus in many instances of being able to reuse the recording.
Webinars are used by 62% of B2B marketing departments, and, on average, 20 - 40% of registrants turn into qualified leads, according to Ready Talk.
Here's their nifty webinar ROI calculator that might help you run the numbers on how impactful yours are or what to aim for.
Five tips to level up your webinars for lead-gen
1. Plan every webinar around a buyer persona
Reverse engineer the subject matter and content of your webinar to match the needs and priorities of your target buyers. The persona should determine the topics, depth, and complexity of the subject explored in a given webinar.
2. Promote to highly targeted audiences
Choose the channel, messaging and audience parameters in line with the types of leads you're looking to generate when promoting each webinar. A scattergun approach might get more sign-ups, but sign-ups are not leads. You need the right people registering.
3. Use the principle of scarcity to nudge action
Create a sense of urgency around registering for the webinar or accessing the on-demand version by placing a limitation on spaces or the availability of the recording and making a point of this in your promotion.
4. Spend extra energy on the webinar title
Spend a little extra time nailing the webinar headline so that it becomes as irresistible to your target audience as possible. You can always A/B test two different titles in your early promotions to see which is most effective and then push ahead with the winner.
5. Be super clear about the webinar type
If people sign up for what they think is a masterclass, and it turns into a product demo, they'll be out that digital door in a heartbeat. Be really clear in your promotion, title, and registration page what the nature of the webinar is: Q&A, product demo, masterclass, panel discussion, tutorial, etc.
Bonus tip: Experiment with short and snappy video promos for use on social media featuring the webinar speakers. They can help to make the webinar feel more personal and drive signups. Don't sweat the quality – capture the videos quickly and easily on a smartphone.
*Chatbots:* Creating conversation on your website
Forget cold outreach. Engage your prospects in conversation on their terms, just like you would at an event.
What stronger indicator is there that a prospect is thinking about you than when they're actively reading your website? That's the time to start a conversation.
Your website is essentially your online trade stand. It's where people go when they want to learn more about you, your solutions, or the problems you can help them understand and solve. These are the people who in the offline world would be popping by your stand, ripe for conversation.
Connecting sales reps and prospects in real-time through chatbots
Clever chatbot technology can help you connect your business development reps with a prospect when they come by your website and are at their most open to your outreach. While they browse your product pages or customer stories, your rep can open a chatbox that pops up in the corner of the visitor's screen and offer them assistance, qualify their interest, nudge them towards a demo or whatever else might be helpful for them and your business.
Make your content marketing a two-way interaction
Even visitors who are engaging with non-product or service-related pages of your site, like blog posts, are more open to deeper interactions with your brand at that moment time. You can use an automated chatbot to, for instance, recommend further reading based on the user's reading history, ask questions relating to the subject matter of the content they're reading, or ask for their opinion. This makes their encounter with your brand far more memorable than instances of exclusively one-way comms.
Are you currently using chatbots?
*Digital collateral:* Personalize documents, not just emails
Level-up your personalization strategy to give your digital exchanges that one-to-one feel
Stand out in the online litter of mass comms and content by personalizing every document you send to a given account or individual, just like you would personalize your proposition at a tradeshow
The one-to-one meetings and interactions at events give sales reps the opportunity to quickly and easily tailor the way in which they present their solutions to fit the goals and pain points of the particular prospect they're talking to. This often helps to significantly shorten the sales cycle compared to other sources of pipeline. Giving your contacts a similarly considered view of your solutions in an online environment calls for a greater degree of personalization in digital comms than most are practicing today.
Individual customer stakeholders who perceived supplier content to be tailored to their specific needs were 40% more willing to buy from that supplier than stakeholders who didn’t.
Personalization at scale
The more relevant your content and communications are to the recipient, the more willing they'll be to part with their attention and actually read them. Personalization capabilities have evolved well beyond the now widespread practice of sending automated emails that address the recipient by name. With the right tools, like Turtl (shameless plug), you can equip teams with the ability to quickly and easily produce versions of key collateral like sales brochures, product guides, newsletters, and proposals that only contain the information relevant to their account, industry, priorities, or markets. You can even use automation to personalize collateral featured in your nurture programs, making it even easier to execute at scale. This degree of personalization makes prospects feel valued and in control. The hyper-relevance helps them more easily understand why you're worth their time and money.
Getting personalization right
Don't just personalize something for the sake of it. Make sure it ultimately benefits the reader in some way. This is typically further down the funnel, such as a sharply curated product guide presented as something created just for them. The most effective personalization is typically subtle or even the kind that goes entirely unnoticed by the recipient, but nonetheless creates a better experience for them.
*Video:* Build relationships through video
Personalized video can capture that personal touch of face-to-face interactions that builds relationships
In the absence of face-to-face time with prospects and customers, personalized videos can help build rapport and get your messages noticed.
As previously discussed, in the absence of events, adding a personal touch to your online comms can go a long way towards building the kind of experience you have face-to-face. An effective way of doing this is through personalized video, where you speak directly to the account or individual you're reaching out to. This approach shows the recipient that you're taking the time to reach out to them specifically, rather than resorting to mass comms, and reminds them that you are a living, breathing, human being with a personality – something that we easily forget when we're rummaging through our inboxes.
Make your follow-ups targeted and attention worthy
Personalized video can be particularly powerful as a follow-up tactic for high-value prospects who have attended a webinar, downloaded a research report, or similar, and can help you build your relationship with them and qualify them as leads. You could for instance:
- Send them a video where you offer to answer any questions they might have that relates back to the webinar or report
- Feature the webinar speakers or report author for a personal spot of commentary or analysis tailored to that particular person
- Request their personal feedback, which can help you to improve your other reports, webinars, etc, but also to discover what they were hoping to get out of the interaction in the first place, helping you to better understand their priorities.
No need for picture-perfect
Don't worry about the production values of these kinds of videos –every smartphone these days will be perfectly suitable to capture the quality you need. Don't overly script what you say, keep it authentic and friendly, just like you would in person.
How many videos does your company put out a month, on average?
- A few dozen
- A handful
- One or two
- We only produce a few a year
- No idea
*E-learning:* Share your knowledge
Turn your offline workshops and keynotes into online courses and guides
Your organization is home to a fountain of knowledge. Share it.
If you've been preparing a workshop only to have the event called off, your prep can still be of use. Even if you haven't, your company will be home to all sorts of experts with interesting things to teach your audience, and this is another excellent way of generating quality leads online. An e-course doesn't have to be an all-singing, all-dancing digital extravaganza. There are a number of ways, some significantly faster and cheaper than others, to pull one-off.
A simple way of executing an e-course for lead gen purposes is to offer a course through the trusty channel of email and promote signups on a landing page with targeted ads. Registrants will receive an email a day, or a week, for however long the course lasts featuring a lesson on the subject they've signed up for. See our own unforgettable content course for example. This requires little-to-no design or development resources and is ostensibly something you could try out over the next six weeks.
Live webinars give participants the opportunity to answer polls, ask questions and otherwise engage more deeply with a subject being taught than a video alone does. That said, if you don't have the resource to regularly run live masterclasses online, you can make recordings available on-demand and generate leads that way.
If you have enough educational material and experts to work with, you can create a lead-gen machine of an e-course hosted on its own microsite or subsection of your website. This is, needless to say, a heftier investment, but one that is likely to pay off in the long term, as a more premium user experience establishes greater trust in your proposition. Feature video tutorials, interactive quizzes, even a forum to start building an e-learning community.
Guides & handbooks
Good old content marketing can also help you turn expertise into MQLs if you create an asset worthy of data exchange, such as a detailed handbook or timely guide. Experts often don't have time to sit down and create these, but a lot can be achieved through interviews with a ghostwriter and an iterative approach. Especially when working in an agile digital format (like this one).
Do you currently offer any structured e-learning as part of your lead-gen?
- Yes, it's been very successful for us
- Yes, but the results could be better
- No, but we will this year
- No, no plans to do so this year
*Original research:* Uncover something new
The gold standard of demand-gen content is original research, which can be sliced, diced, and reused
Publishing original research online, independently or in partnership with a research body, is a powerful source of lead generation
Keep it focused
Original research can come in all shapes and sizes, but what matters most, beyond originality, is the relevance it bears to the priorities of your buyer persona. Prospects will gladly part with information about themselves in exchange for evidence on how to solve a problem they're facing or build an argument they're making. Ensure that your research speaks to the needs of your target audience and ties back to your offering to attract the types of people most likely to qualify as leads and opportunities.
61% of companies who do original research found that it has met all or the majority of their expectations
Mantis research, 2019
Sourcing your data
Experiments, surveys, and interviews are go-to sources of data for primary research. Consider the data your business is collecting, whether it can be analyzed and used publically, and if any of it is an interesting source of benchmarking or reveals any new, unexpected, or compelling behavioral trends. You could also approach a partner who's likely to have a complementary data source and explore whether combining the two would reveal something useful for you to co-publish. Another option is to aggregate and analyze data from public sources to reveal something new.
Using your data
A juicy gated research report will drive those leads, but don't forget to create a small army of other content assets using intriguing data points to drive people to the gated document. Think blog posts, videos, infographics, and social cards.
Three tips for making the most of your original research
1. Reverse engineer questions from ideal headlines and stories
Write your survey or interview questions with a compelling statement about the results in mind, so that each question helps you to build a compelling story. It's important to take the time to do this, or you risk ending up with a rather limp body of results that make it near impossible to build any interesting arguments.
2. Cut the data in multiple ways to feed targeted lead-gen assets
If you're running a survey and your data-set is large enough, you can split out results by the variances in demographics that make up your different buyer personas, like company size, job role, industry, and location. This allows you to create reports that focus more squarely on your personas and markets that are therefore more likely to capture leads.
3. Pair quantitative findings with commentary from thought leaders
One way you can add credibility to your research findings and broaden the reach of your research reports is by interviewing relevant experts and thought leaders about the results. This will help you develop your analysis and contextualize the findings in your report. Featured businesses and experts will be more inclined to share the report with their network, surfacing your work and your brand to a broader pool of potential leads.
You can generate even more leads from your research by using it as the basis for a webinar series. Invite customers, experts and partners to discuss the findings, with a Q&A for the live audience.