I was reading a blog post the other day that purported to give advice to B2B leaders about how to accomplish their goals. Like most content these days, it offered 3 simple steps. One of those steps included offering an e-book as a door opener to get registrations and start a business relationship with a prospect.
But then the post made this audacious claim. It said that the e-book does not need to be particularly well-written because most people won’t read it. I was shocked, but then again, I wasn’t. I’ve come to expect this these days.
A lot of people seem to believe that the only thing that matters for digital marketing is the content registration. This assumes that once someone gives you their contact information, their budgets will immediately follow. I don’t believe that to be true. It’s certainly not true for us or for our clients. In today’s competitive landscape, a content registration is just the beginning. I’d like to show you how to pull prospects into a business relationship.
The content registration is an open door, an invitation really to discover why someone should trust your company.
A Few Examples
Most people today, who are in a position to buy professional services, will go on a search once they know they need a specific type of service provider. Their search may include recommendations from colleagues, online searches and registrations for different kinds of content. But their aim is not to consume content or even to become more educated about a particular topic. Their aim is to achieve a business outcome. Here are some examples.
Let’s assume that a company needs to find an IT consulting firm to help them improve their technology environment. Their current systems have become unstable and limiting. The decision-maker, the director of IT, will probably ask a few colleagues or friends who they recommend. She’ll also probably do an internet search to see who is out there. But very soon, she’ll narrow that list down to a small handful of firms and start the due diligence process of vetting the providers.
Here’s another example. A small business has grown into a medium-sized business and the way they used to handle employee benefits just doesn’t work anymore. It’s become too complicated and they need more expertise than they have in-house. So the CFO forms a team to select a new provider. The team conducts research about companies who specialize in benefits consulting and packages. They also ask colleagues and friends from other companies and conduct an internet search. Pretty soon, they’ve narrowed the field to just a few players and start the vetting process.
Here’s yet another example. A fast-growth company has hit a plateau that they just can’t seem to get past. The CEO of the company believes that his top executives have run out of ideas about how to move their business forward. So he’s thinking about bringing in a business coach to help them re-ignite their growth. He asks a few colleagues at his CEO group who they recommend. He also conducts an internet search for coaching firms who specialize in his industry. He narrows the field to 3 firms and starts vetting them.
Here is a final example. A small pharmaceutical company has a new medicine that is ready for clinical trials. The product marketing executive at this company knows how to conduct the clinical trials. But she’s not entirely sure what to do with the data after that or the best way to commercialize the product and realize uptake. So she asks colleagues about who they recommend and also conducts an online search. She identifies a small number of pharmaceutical consulting firms and starts the vetting process.
The In-Bound Journey
All of these companies and decision-makers are on a journey. They have goals that they want to achieve. The service providers they are looking for will help them achieve their goals faster, with higher certainty and with lower risks.
In all four cases, the field is narrowed and the vetting process begins. What happens next? In our experience, the decision-makers will take two steps. First, they’ll look at the service provider’s website to learn a bit more about them. But more importantly, they’ll look for ideas and insights from the service providers. Today, ideas are provisioned by way of content marketing like webinars, blog-posts and e-books.
If they like the ideas presented and those ideas inspire confidence in them, then they’ll take the second step. They’ll reach out for a conversation and enter serious sales dialogue, moving toward a proposal. This is something we call the in-bound journey and it has four parts:
- Anonymous: where prospects surf websites without identifying themselves.
- Acknowledged: where they fill out content forms and identify themselves.
- Engaged: where they spend time with content and carefully consider ideas.
- Leaning-In: where they are predisposed to want to enter sales dialogue.
How Service Decisions Are Made
The goal of the service buyer is to discover a service provider that they can trust to help them achieve their goals. If you consider all four examples I outlined before, you’ll see how important trust is to the decision-makers. Let me show you what I’m talking about.
Let’s take this first example – a company looking for an IT consulting firm to help improve their environment. What’s on the line for the IT director as she makes this important decision? What risks will she take? If she picks the wrong service provider, her company’s technology environment may not improve, even after she’s spent the budget. She could get fired.
What about the CFO looking for a new benefits provider? What’s on the line for him? If he doesn’t pick the best benefits consulting firm, his employees could be negatively impacted. This could create a lot of headaches and water cooler talk that he’ll have to deal with. Employees might even leave.
What about for the CEO looking to re-ignite growth? What’s on the line for him? If he picks the best coaching firm, his company will take off again. His financial interests and the company that he’s poured his heart and soul into will thrive. But if he picks the wrong firm, maybe even less than the best firm, his company may continue to flounder. Executives might leave. His company might lose value and he may even have to sell to a competitor.
What about the pharmaceutical executive? What’s on the line for her? If her product can potentially save the lives of people with disease, but the product never makes it to market, or never earns the market share it could earn, everyone loses. The millions of dollars spent on R&D are gone. The growth potential of the company is diminished. Her career suffers as do the people with the disease who never get the medicine.
As you can see, there is a lot on the line for these decision-makers. So you can be absolutely sure that they will take seriously the decision about who they trust to guide them toward their next level. They will take their time and think through the options. They will go with the company, the people and the ideas that they trust.
The Quality Of The Idea Creates Trust
This is why a poorly written e-book or webinar or blog-post or anything else is so incredibly damaging. This is why, as a marketer, you can never buy into the idea that the content registration is the only thing that matters.
The content registration is just the beginning. It’s an open door, an invitation really to discover more about your company and why someone should trust you. But if the ideas you offer, if the counsel you provide, is not your absolute best, then don’t be surprised if people don’t walk through that door.
There is simply too much on the line for them to go with a service provider that they cannot trust, a company who doesn’t inspire confidence. But if you give them your best ideas, counsel based on your years of experience, they will know it. They will trust. They will move forward.
How To Do This
I’ve developed an e-book called Ten Things Service Websites Must Do To Drive Revenue. This book is designed to help people like you achieve the goal of inspiring confidence and trust with decision-makers. If you want to achieve far more than content registrations, if you want to stimulate leaning-in behavior, I know this e-book will be a huge help to you.