How do you get a seat at the table when nobody’s officially invited you to pull up a chair?
That’s the challenge for today’s businesses and the marketers tasked with making them gloriously conspicuous by establishing brand presence, generating demand, and enticing leads to come hither. With the majority of buyers in full control of their own buying process, much of their research is done – and their minds made up – long before they invite you to take a seat.
In fact, if you’re lucky enough to be contacted or have your sales call accepted, you’ve already made the buyer’s short list of contenders. (Forrester reports that typical buyers are 70 to 90 percent of the way through the buying process before they ever agree to engage with a sales person.)
The net:net of the new normal is that marketers must change the way they approach lead generation; they must figure out how to be highly visible and valuable during that 70-plus percent of the buying process. Says Jay Hidalgo, principal of Demand Gen Coach, “The more marketers can get into the mindset of the buyer upfront, the better chance they have of introducing themselves closer to the beginning of the buying process.”
A primary target for honing this new approach is your website – arguably THE most important marketing tool for introducing your brand personality, demonstrating your expertise, showcasing your products and services, and proving your value. Don’t take my word for it; according to a B2B Technology Marketing study, 90% of marketers agree this is so.
With that in mind, here are four foundational strategies that will help your website get the mindshare it deserves and generate the leads you want.
1. Know Who They Are
Yes, I’m talking about personas. And yes, if you had a penny for every time you saw this topic, it might add up to real money. But it bears re-re-repeating because personas are still not being developed by an astonishing number of branded websites … even those that you’d think would know better.
Case in point, a well-known technology company (it shall remain nameless here) has 37 hyperlinks on the home page. Thirty-seven. I have no idea what they want me to do. It’s akin to what happens when I walk into Costco without a shopping list. I get so overwhelmed with the over-abundance of disparate options that I no longer know why I went there in the first place.
Takeaway: If you don’t know who your buyers are, you can’t possibly streamline their journey and deliver what they need.
So create personas. They’re the key that helps you hone in on and understand who your buyers are, and they’re the basis of everything else: your site design and navigation, your messaging, your content mix, your talk tracks, your nurturing strategies, everything.
Do it. Here’s a great post on how it’s done (and the images are cool).
2. Uncover What They’re Looking For
This isn’t about having the Vulcan Mind Meld with your prospects (though wouldn’t that be a handy little skill to have?). It’s about paying attention to collective behaviors to understand what your current and potential buyers want, which will ultimately help you attract the right kinds of visitors.
- Discover relevant keywords and phrases. Find out what business- and/or industry-specific words, terms, and phrases are being searched on. Free tools such as Google AdWords Keyword Planner, Google Trends, and Microsoft Advertising Intelligence are good places to start.
- Monitor your on-site search. Keeping regular tabs on what visitors are searching for while on your site opens a birthday box of ah-ha’s into your prospects’ wants, needs, pain points, and interests. This informs all kinds of things including your content marketing strategies, talk tracks, and persona refinement.
- Talk to your teams. Your customer support personnel and salespeople are a wellspring of information about what prospects and customers are looking for across all stages of the funnel. Ask them and reap the benefits of their frontline knowledge.
- Track visitor behavior. Tracking where your visitors come from, what pages they visit, and which types of content they interact with is fundamental to delivering the right information at the right time. At a minimum, you should be reviewing your website analytics (e.g., Google Analytics, WebTrends, etc.). For even more visitor intelligence – including who each visitor is and their unique history on your website – you can integrate your site analytics into Website Visitor Tracking technology.
3. Deliver the Content They Want
Here’s where a big chunk of rubber hits the road. Content is king … as long as it’s the right content at the right time. According to Jim Stengel, former global marketing officer for Procter & Gamble, “In a real lead generation website, every page has a distinct purpose.”
Content is the bedrock from which all other marketing strategies and tactics emerge. The premise is as old as the hills, but its heightened importance (particularly on such a global scale) is a new development, compliments of the digital world.
Quality content makes your website more powerful in every dimension because content is what everyone is seeking all the time. From case studies and eBooks, to videos and webinars, to forms and landing pages, by creating content that answers the specific questions your target customers are seeking during the 70-90 percent of their self-guided buyer’s journey, you exponentially increase your chances of closing the deal when they come a’knockin’.
4. Help Them Find You
If you want your website and all the great content you’ve created to get found, search engine optimization (SEO) is essential. In fact, it’s quintessential.
Consider this: 4 out of 5 buyers start their product research in a search engine. (Pew Research) This means today’s buyers not only do their own information-gathering well in advance of contacting you, most use search engines (primarily Google) to kickstart the process.
And here’s one more: Organic search drives the most traffic of all channels, responsible for nearly half (47%) of all visits compared to paid search, which drives only 6% of all visits. (Conductor)
To be sure, SEO is a deep well that requires dedication and diligence. But the upside is incredibly impressive and, in many cases, a game-changer for business.
There are plenty of tools, vendors, and consultants that can help you understand and implement SEO. If you’re an Act-On customer, you likely use the Act-On SEO Optimizer to keep your website search-friendly. If you’re new to it, you can get started here and here. Additionally, our eBook, SEO 101: The Basics and Beyond, is a beneficial reference.
A New Approach to Value
The evolving brand-consumer dynamic continues to turn marketing on its head, forcing marketers to rethink how to get in front of today’s new breed of buyers who actively search for – and rely on – specific and relevant information to narrow their purchase decision.
A winning approach to being both visible and valuable is to leverage the power of your website, effectively becoming part of the buyer’s research process. If you can do this, you’ll increase your site’s lead-gen magnetism. And when they’re ready to buy, they just might motion you over to take a seat at that coveted table.