Marketing rebels are turning the rules upside down. The result? More qualified leads, higher revenue and a loyal customer base.
This article was first published on October 10, 2016 on MarketingInsiderGroup.com.
In April 2012, musician Amanda Palmer (of the Dresden Dolls) launched a Kickstarter to fund her next album. Kickstarter is a crowd funding platform where creators, artists and businesses can directly connect to patrons and investors and pledge to invest in future work. Amanda reached her goal of $125k in 7 hours. Thirty days later, her fans had pledged nearly $1.2M and she became the first musician ever to raise more than $1M on Kickstarter. Across the world, people were stunned. Amanda who? The Dresden Dolls? How does someone who is no one generate that kind of success?
CC Image courtesy of Nina Jean on Flickr
Amanda Palmer is one of the world’s savviest marketing rebels. From the beginning of her career, she understood that in order to win fans, she had to connect authentically with them. While many bands hang out for a short time after gigs to sign CDs, the Dresden Dolls signings were usually more than an hour and sometimes longer than the actual gigs because they spent so much time with each individual fan. They invited their fans to their house parties. The house party list became regional. There are valuable lessons for content marketers here: If you focus on building trust, learning about and connecting with your audience, customers will follow.
One of the most effective ways to build a trust-based relationship is to provide value that is meaningful to your customers. In addition to CD signings, the Dresden Dolls regularly made their music available to their fans through free downloads. And instead of worrying about pirating, they encouraged their fans to share their music with their friends.
How can you increase the perceived value of your content?
Lengthen Your Lead Form to Learn What Really Matters
SEER Interactive is another marketing rebel. Everyone knows that the best way to drastically improve your conversion is to reduce the number of fields in your lead capture form. That’s just common sense… or is it?
When SEER Interactive rolled out an 8-page Contact-Us form their YOY revenue grew 32%
Two years ago, SEER’s investment in building their brand (through blogging, speaking and referrals) was paying off so well that the sales team couldn’t keep up with the growing lead volume. By the way, SEER does not gate any of its content. These leads came specifically from the company’s Contact Us page. In this situation, most CEOs will staff up their sales team. SEER took a daring approach, and decided to lengthen the lead form instead. “So many people submitting lead forms just go through a spray and pray process,” says Wil Reynolds, SEER’s CEO. “They don’t put a lot of thought into what they want, or what their real problems are. When you ask people a lot of questions, it will get some people really frustrated and they’ll drop out of the process. Those aren’t the types of people we want to talk to. The longer lead form helps us prioritize motivated customers. Those that do complete the form are more motivated, and have thought through their problems. That also helps us to get to meaningful discussions more quickly. A company who says ‘I don’t have enough traffic and rankings’ doesn’t understand their real problem, and that also makes it very hard for them to judge whether or not the solution we propose will help them.”
Simply completing the form doesn’t guarantee a sales call. The prospect must show an appropriate level of engagement and motivation. Leads that don’t meet SEER’s criteria are given referrals to other respected agencies that SEER has a relationship with, which are likely to be a better fit.
The Historic Flaw – Where Do You Measure Success?
If you look closely at tests of gated vs. free content and shorter vs. longer lead forms, you’ll find that the decision-making metric is usually from the top half of the funnel, and quite often close to the very top. That’s dangerous. There’s a broad mix of everyone in the top of your funnel – and only a tiny fraction of those people are actually potential customers. If you’re still evaluating content success by how many people registered to download, or even how many MQLs were created, you’re probably making the wrong decisions about what’s effective. That means you’re leaving dollars on the table.
One key differentiator that SEER Interactive and Amanda Palmer have in common is where they measure success. For Amanda, it’s not how many people are on her mailing list, but how many people show up at the CD table to buy a CD and have a quick chat. For SEER, it’s not how many companies complete their form, but which ones appear to be a good fit for both businesses. Both Amanda Palmer and SEER Interactive seek to know their audience more fully, and through that establish a more authentic connection with them. They measure success based on the level of trust in their audience relationships, which you’ll only find in the bottom half of the funnel. Those are the metrics with a direct correlation to Revenue.
This Summer, Michael Brenner wrote a post on Free Content Marketing. In it, he asked “If we stopped using lead forms and nurture programs to generate quality leads, how will marketers measure their marketing ROI and performance?” It’s a scary question. As marketers, our job is made complex by a multi-step buying process, and the availability of trackable metrics. In addition, internal demand for marketers to publish content on persona-specific channels is growing. As segmentation gets more refined and we look deeper into the funnel, there is less data available for testing and validation.
I like Michael’s suggestion of using content subscribers as a measurement for performance. Over time, marketers have been pushed to find new ways of measuring engagement – and we’ve answered the call, with links, shares, likes, comments etc. Now I think it’s time for marketers to push content measurement to the next level again. Perhaps the future of measuring engagement has to rely not on a single metric, but a combination of them. Perhaps old measurements like time on page can be improved through eye tracking to validate how much content a user actually consumed. The key will be the ability to measure both engagement AS WELL AS who is engaging.
Now it’s your turn.
Do you dare to throw open the gates? To use your Contact Us form to really learn about your leads? How would your sales team respond, and how would you go about achieving alignment?
Please share your recommendations, frustrations, strategies and wisdom with all of us via comments below.
Trisha Merriam is VP of Demand Generation at SWOPtimize, focused on helping companies optimize their digital marketing strategy for higher volume and better quality leads. We are Your Partner in Awesome.