Convert More Tire-Kickers: How lead score dramatically improves content marketing

My company recently implemented a marketing automation solution for a client to help them maximize returns on their content strategy. In fewer than 60 days, they told me a story about how a prospective client they’ve tried to convert for years suddenly became a client. How did this happen?

The model

As part of their marketing automation implementation, we created a lead scoring model. Lead scoring works this way:

  • Access. People (also called “users”) access your content.  They click on an email sent by the marketing automation system, fill out a form or take some other action by which they become known to the system. To be “known” means that the system identifies a user’s IP address or addresses and can track all digital behavior generated by that user.
  • Act. Users, over time, take other actions that indicate leaning in behavior. Those actions are scored based on a pre-defined matrix of points. For instance, downloading a white paper is 30 points. Registering for a webinar is 50 points. Visiting a web page is 5 points. Clicking on an email is 5 points. Watching a video is 20 points.
  • Contact. Once users achieve a certain threshold of points, as defined by you, sales people at your professional service company reach out to the users if they have not yet made contact.
  • Discuss. The sales people have deep insights into the interests of the users by the time they begin dialogue. They know what white papers, videos, webinars and web pages users have accessed.  This empowers sales people to have deeply meaningful conversations and assess a prospect’s readiness to go to next steps.  For those who are ready, a proposal usually quickly follows.
  • Close. In short order, these powerful conversations lead to a closed deal.

This model is almost exactly how our client converted their prospect.

How the client converted a longtime prospect

As part of our marketing automation engagement for this client, we helped them substantially upgrade their content strategy. A major part of this was the institution of an email newsletter.

But we did not just create an email newsletter and all the work that goes with that: building an opt-in list, defining an editorial calendar, creating content and building email templates. We also integrated the email newsletter into the lead scoring system. This allowed us to track how different users responded to the newsletter and how it served as a gateway to our client’s services.

After the first couple of broadcasts of the newsletter, I met with the sales leader at the firm and showed him the lead scores of individuals who had achieved the desired threshold. He immediately recognized the prospect that they had been trying to convert for years.

The prospect demonstrated quite a bit of leaning in behavior through the following activities.

  • Clicked on several newsletter articles.
  • Viewed specific pages on the website that contained the bios of key staff members.
  • Viewed specific pages about services related to the newsletter articles.
  • Engaged in three different sessions (website visits) in fewer than 30 days.
  • Viewed, on average, more than 15 pages per session.
  • Registered for a couple of high-value items.

The sales leader picked a member of his sales team, let’s call her Jane, to contact the prospect. He picked Jane because the prospect had clicked on and read Jane’s article and bio page.  Within a few days, Jane closed a deal.

Without lead scoring and digital footprint tracking, it is highly unlikely that this prospect would have become a client.  After all, for years the prospect had stood on the side lines quietly admiring and considering the company, but never taking any action.  I’ll bet your company has dozens of prospects who fit the same mold.

Lessons learned

Most professional service firms today use content as their primary go-to-market strategy. This can include email newsletters, webinars, videos, white papers, books, e-books and other forms of content. Some firms continue to use seminars and conferences where the seats are often filled because of electronic media, particularly email.

The primary way most professional service firms reach their market is still email.  Email newsletters, content offers and other email promotions are the most consistent and significant brand touch points for most service firms. Why? Most service firms cannot afford mass media which is not targeted enough toward their prospect base.

But most professional service firms, especially those with 50 or fewer employees, have not yet implemented marketing automation solutions and certainly do not have lead scoring in place.

So what does this tell us?

If you are relying on content and email as your primary means of growth and client acquisition, but you have not yet implemented lead scoring, you are flying blind. You are missing opportunities to close deals that are probably much closer to you than you realize. You just can’t see them.

The sales funnel

This is the average sales funnel that most prospects pass through as they become a client of a professional services firm:

  • Awareness. Prospects become aware of your brand and services.
  • Interest. Prospects engage in serious dialogue, requesting a proposal.
  • Evaluation. Prospects evaluate your proposal against their needs and competitive offerings.
  • Selection. Prospects accept your proposal and move to next steps.

The great challenge with client acquisition, in my experience, is moving through the first stage and into the end of the second stage — serious dialogue leading to a proposal. This is where lead scoring becomes absolutely crucial.

How will you know which prospects are seriously interested in your services if you do not know who they are? If you have effective lead scoring in place, you’ll know which prospects warrant your time from a sales perspective and what services they are considering. Talk about competitive advantage!

But is it creepy?

There are some people who feel that lead scoring and any type of tracking of digital behavior is creepy. They see it as an invasion of privacy. Yet these same people gleefully buy the latest book, movie or song recommended to them by Amazon or Apple and appreciate how closely the content matches their preferences.

Almost no one says: It’s so creepy that Amazon recommended the latest thriller because I bought the last seven thrillers they recommended.

Instead, we’ve come to accept that Amazon and Apple and every other online source out there knows who we are, knows what we want to buy and is actively searching out products to recommend to us. In truth, we’ve come to expect and even like it.

Why should we be any different in the professional services space? Why should we not recommend services that we know people want because their digital behavior tells us so? Is this creepy or is it good service?

Depending on how you answer this question, your growth curve could be rather steep or pretty flat. I don’t know about you, but when it comes to growth and client acquisition, I want every advantage possible.

About the author

Randy Shattuck is a senior marketing executive and founder of The Shattuck Group, a full-service marketing firm that specializes in growing professional services firms. You can reach him at randy@theshattuckgroup.com.

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