Experts Weigh in on the Importance of Social Along the Customer Journey

On July 21, 2016, we hosted our second Hootsuite Social Breakfast of the year at the Ham Yard Hotel right by Piccadilly Circus in London. The “Customer Experience: Driving Success Through Social” seminar was standing-room only as delegates heard from two keynote speakers and a panel of experts.

Hosted by Susan Perry, Hootsuite’s director of global marketing, the event uncovered how the customer experience is about more than just customer service. It is the culmination of all experiences the customer has with a brand, starting with when they first discover the product or service. And at the root of this experience lies emotion and personalization.

Experts Weigh in on the Importance of Social Along the Customer Journey | Hootsuite Blog

The morning’s discussions focused on how brands can unlock business value from social media. There were four key points.

1. The age of the customer

With some excellent—and sometimes outrageous—real-life examples, Susan Perry set the scene for the morning’s discussion by stressing how “brands must strive to deliver an exceptional customer experience in every situation possible, no matter what that situation is.”

We are now undoubtedly in the “age of the customer” where a great customer experience is what sets brands apart and give them a competitive edge. “Eighty percent of companies expect to compete mostly on the basis of customer experience, versus 36 percent four years ago,” according to Gartner. This is more than adding value, it is about sparking an emotional connection with a brand. Today’s empowered buyers demand a quick, seamless, and transparent buying experience.

Thanks to the key digital transformation trends brought on by social media, the rise of mobile, and the expectation of real-time communications, the age of the customer is reshaping marketing and sales strategies. It means there is no go-to-market strategy anymore—it is now go-to-customer.

As Perry explained during her presentation: “Ninety of young adults are using social and, with the rise of mobile, they’re always connected.  This has caused the expectation of ‘real-time’ – suddenly people are expecting immediacy from brands, friends and their digital community. This cultural shift has created a new ‘Generation C’—the Generation Connected concept centers around everyone who is digitally connected. They’re not defined by age, income or education, but by their digitally connected lifestyle.  This group is really focused on transparency and demand immediacy – money is no longer a metric of success; instead the size and influence of their online presence is the new currency. Most interesting, they’re no longer trusting their friends and family for advice about products or services. They’re trusting their online community which includes not just like-minded people but experts in particular areas, and they can get their opinions straight away. This Generation C is actively shaping corporate culture and expectations.”

Experts Weigh in on the Importance of Social Along the Customer Journey | Hootsuite Blog

Consequently, people are not picking up the phone to call brands and ask questions, raise issues, or make complaints anymore. They are communicating on their terms and at their convenience, and they expect immediate responses and resolutions. This is nothing new in the world of social customer service. But many brands are failing their customers’ expectations.

Brenda O’Connell, director of business development for Twitter EMEA, explained it well: “Over the past two years, we’ve seen a 2.5-times increase in the volume of people Tweeting to brands and service accounts. What we are also seeing is that many brands do not respond to these Tweets. So many brands are still not engaged or not mature as far as social customer service is concerned.”

Experts Weigh in on the Importance of Social Along the Customer Journey | Hootsuite Blog

Brands can significantly enhance their ability to provide an excellent customer experience by trusting and empowering their employees with social media too. Having a social-savvy workforce is a key ingredient for businesses seeking to successfully master digital transformation.

2. The go-to-customer strategy

There are four pillars of good customer experience that brands need to adhere to if they hope to establish a coherent go-to-customer strategy:

  1. Strategy
  2. Process
  3. Technology
  4. People

With changing times and technologies, customers are becoming better educated about products and services that interest them through their own research. As customers become accustomed to serving themselves, they also have much higher demands for sales associates. Customer-facing employees must feel empowered to take on this challenge.

Likewise, organizations need to ensure that the right people are on the front line, with the training and motivation to succeed during these decisive moments. They can’t miss a thing in this fast-moving environment—whether it be an opportunity to delight customers or capture sales.

Fundamental to the go-to-customer approach is having the willingness and the ability to put the customer first.

To do this successfully, brands need to accept that they are not in control of the conversation. They cannot (and should not) dictate where, when, or how social engagements take place. By researching, analyzing, and segmenting their audience across the various social networks, they will be able to understand where their customers are active. “Know your customer” is a business adage that’s been around a very long time, but it has never been more apt than today.

Kellogg’s EMEA’s head of social media, Clare Kleinedler, explains: “Creating immersive experiences in the right platform is vital for brands—but you have to make sure you’ve got that balance of being in the space that they’re in without encroaching on their space.”

Experts Weigh in on the Importance of Social Along the Customer Journey | Hootsuite Blog

Effectively adopting this strategy relies on treating individuals within a target audience as a human being, not a number.

Justin Clark, Transport for Greater Manchester’s head of social media, articulated why: “I don’t like the word ‘customers.’ It’s people like you, people like me. They could be late for work, on the platform in the rain waiting for their tram to arrive—something we can all relate to. Have some sympathy and put yourself in their shoes. How would you feel? Talk to people the way you would like to be spoken to. And remember: they’re not customers, they’re people.”

Brands now have the ability to identify and influence new audiences on their terms in a non-intrusive manner, as Paolo Valenziano, head of digital for Bank of England, explains: “We are able to use social media to reach out to and engage with a younger demographic that we wouldn’t normally or traditionally reach via TV, PR, or other traditional communications channels.”

3. The power of emotion

The customer experience can take place over many weeks and across multiple channels—online and offline. Along the journey, a customer can go from frustration and dissatisfaction to delight and gratitude for having an issue resolved.

Emotions are powerful, and tapping into them can be a challenge, particularly when faceless text-based messages can easily be misconstrued. As such, visual content has been the vanguard of businesses seeking to add more value and context to the customer experience.

But the rise of GIFs on social has provided a fresh and emotive way for brands to communicate with their target audiences. GIFs provide context, tone, and meaning that words alone cannot possibly convey. And they do so in a couple of seconds. They’re easy for the customer to digest, understand, and react to.

4. Rapid personalized engagements

Respond quickly and authentically. This may be obvious to some, but some brands struggle with this concept. Compounding the challenge, only three percent of conversations about a brand on Twitter are tagged with the brand’s Twitter handle. It’s important for businesses monitor to brand mentions on social media—including unbranded mentions as well as common misspellings and abbreviations of company or product names.

Justin Clark, head of social media at Transport for Greater Manchester, sums up the process nicely: “In our customer care, social is impacting how we handle traditional comms—we are actively going out there to find customer issues, help resolve them and using the intelligence gained from social to improve future services.”

It is no surprise that the most effective engagements on social media are when a customer’s opinion (negative or otherwise) is identified by a brand and responded to despite the brand not being tagged or notified directly by the individual. This shows the customer that the brand cares about their experience and wants to help. More often than not, these types of interactions help convert a negative situation into a positive one.

Brenda O’Connell, director of business development for EMEA at Twitter, explains it well: “We see two steps in the customer relationship. The first and basic step is acknowledging your customers by responding to them when they reach out to you for support. Just by simply responding you can in many cases take potentially negative contacts and flip them into positive ones. The second and equally important step is answering questions, resolving issues, and delivering great quality end to end customer service consistently on Twitter. Brands who engaged in both of these steps and are great at customer service on Twitter see higher levels of customer satisfaction and increased sales opportunities”

Experts Weigh in on the Importance of Social Along the Customer Journey | Hootsuite Blog

Sean Smith, head of account management for EMEA at Brandwatch added: “One of the great things about Twitter is that you have a lot of specific information—what was tweeted, where from, who by and when. Response times have therefore become a huge metric in businesses. Bots and artificial intelligence tools can automatically respond to customer enquiries while also allowing tweaking and personalization, which reduces response times and frees up a lot of time to deal with more significant issues and complaints.  However, brands must balance social authenticity with speed of response through listening and reacting accordingly and in a personalized manner.”

Primark used GIFs to combine humor and user generated content to drive engagement for their Ultimate Christmas Jumper campaign.

It started with Primark making their own ultimate Christmas jumper, which included a built-in snow machine. Then, using How To videos, Primark encouraged people to customize their own jumpers, such as an edible jumper. On Christmas Jumper Day itself, they asked fans to share their own creations with Primark’s “Mystic Mother Christmas” (#mysticmotherchristmas) who would respond in real-time with a personalized psychic reading or a piece of fun shareable content.

The GIFs trended globally on Giphy and also trended on Facebook Messenger for a whole week. Influencers and celebrities also received the Mystic Mother Christmas psychic skills.  The end result was real-time personalized engagement that got everyone talking—from grannies to One Direction, everyone was wearing Primark’s festive jumpers: Primark received over four mentions per minute and 246 mentions per hour.

What this means for social brands

The opportunities for brands to deliver an exceptional customer experience are great. To actually succeed, brands need to always ask themselves: “What do my customers want?” And they must accept that any individual could change their mind at any moment.

Sean Smith, head of account management EMEA for Brandwatch, sums up the process: “Ultimately, you’ve got this huge amount of social information that you have to help brands to analyze, segment, and push to different areas of the business to act upon. Regarding customer service, when people complain to a brand through a social channel they are engaging with you so you have got to respond.”

Or, as Paolo Valenziano, head of digital at Bank of England, put it: “Using Twitter and not responding is like picking up the phone and not speaking.”

Different organizations may have their own definitions of what customer experience means, but the Harvard Business Review succinctly describes it as “the sum of all interactions a customer has with a company.” Brands must bear this in mind throughout the social journey of each and every individual person that is interacting with their brand on any level.

[<a href=”//storify.com/HootsuiteEMEA/hootsocialbreakfast-ham-yard-hotel-london-with-bra” target=”_blank”>View the story “#hootsocialbreakfast – Ham Yard Hotel London with @Brandwatch and @Hootsuite_UK – 21st July 2016” on Storify</a>]

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Hootsuite Social Media Management

4 Research-Backed Ways to Infuse Online Video in Your Marketing

Video is winning the content race. More often than not, we just can’t help ourselves from clicking play.

But is it all rainbows and butterflies for marketers using video? Maybe not …

Sure, YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world. And yes, people are spending the majority of their time on social media watching videos. You’re right that video can even help boost campaign conversion rates.

But no, that doesn’t mean that you should be creating videos simply because that’s the medium people crave.

Why?

Because video is just that … it’s a medium. An extremely powerful one, but it’s still a means to an end. And publishing videos here and there, on YouTube sometimes or your website other times, isn’t a strategy.

Video is a critical piece of a larger puzzle.

What you really need, and where video success really comes from, is infusing your video content with your broader marketing efforts in a way that delivers on a bigger scale. And most marketers aren’t doing this, according to Forrester’s latest research report, “Take This Four-Step Approach to Branded Video”.

“We’ve got to win on YouTube” is no way to approach decisions around video. Figuring out who the content is for, what they’re supposed to do or feel, and even when video’s the right choice should precede video planning and production.

Videos take time, effort … and budget. By all means, it can be time, money, and energy well spent. But to be most effective, it needs to be integrated into a stronger, more robust, overarching content strategy.

Customers Aren’t Longing for Your Long-Form Content

There’s a common misconception with video (that actually exists throughout a lot of marketing), that customers look forward to and appreciate long-form video content as something special and unique. But, according to Forrester, they’re wrong. In fact, there are four commonly believed myths about online video that most marketers believe but are actually not true.

Discover the 4 myths of online video in Forrester’s report here.

These four myths have led to bad habits in content marketing, according to Forrester. Many brands know they should be producing video, and so they do, but without any sort of systematic approach. Chris Gorell Barnes of the video agency Adjust Your Set explained that marketers tell him “I spend £300,000 on YouTube videos and I have zero engagement; what do I do?”.

How does it get to this point?

Well probably because there have been about 56,483,598 advancements in marketing technology and consumer behavior in the last ten years or so. So it’s hard to keep up! Not to mention build a cohesive strategy around all the changes as they come. And that’s why Forrester elected to research this topic and provide tangible recommendations.

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Forrester’s Four-Step Approach to Branded Online Video

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4 Steps to an Integrated Video Approach

Forrester took a deep look at what makes some brands more successful with video and how they approach it from a strategic perspective. They’ve summarized their research into four main objectives that any marketer (including you!) can use to maximize the likelihood of seeing positive ROI from video investment.

Take a look at these four objectives below:

branded online video forrester

Source: “Take This Four-Step Approach to Branded Video”, Forrester Research

Online Video is Different … so Treat it Differently

Throughout their research, Forrester also discovered that many marketers are using the same video production rules and guidelines that have been in place since the time rollerskates were the latest and greatest. (i.e. long before online video became so popular and broadcast television was the thing to glue your eyes to).

But 30-second broadcast spots are very different than content your consumers might watch on their mobile devices today, and that means that different approaches are needed. In “Take This Four-Step Approach to Branded Video”, Forrester explains four recommendations for rethinking conventional video best practices including:

  • Incorporating social motivation as a design element from the start and
  • Combining digital marketing and video production skills in your team.

Get the low down on how to whip your video efforts into shape and ensure they do more for you as an integrated component of your marketing and business activities at large. Download Forrester’s tactical guide on approaching online video.

branded online video report

The post 4 Research-Backed Ways to Infuse Online Video in Your Marketing appeared first on Vidyard.

The Video Marketing Blog – Vidyard

6 Ways You’re Failing at Twitter

Twitter can feel like one giant red button. Push it at the wrong moment and you can destroy your brand in seconds. You may think that as long as you aren’t logging on after a few glasses of wine and rage tweeting at your competitors, you stand a pretty good chance of success, right?

Wrong.

Twitter is such an intrinsically viral medium, if you make a mistake, your folly spreads like wildfire. Hashtags can be hijacked. Attempts at humor can backfire. Photos can be misunderstood. Whether you like it or not, Twitter for business requires a thoughtful, timely approach.

The golden rule of Twitter is simple: tweet others the way you would like to be tweeted. Would you like it if someone aggressively demanded you buy their product? No. How about if they tweeted the same content at you several times a day? That would be horrible. What about if a brand just outright begged you to follow them? Please stop, you’re embarrassing yourself.

Sometimes knowing what NOT to do can help guide you in a way that learning what to do cannot. Let’s examine some mistakes other brands have made and what you can learn from their social fails. If you see yourself in any of these Twitter horror stories, it may be time to reevaluate your social media strategy.

1. You create a Twitter hashtag and it backfires—badly

Hashtags can either start a conversation that reflect positively on your organization, or they can light a fire impossible to put out.

Do a Google search of “hashtag fails” and you’ll find brands who used a hashtag without realizing it was already a part of a raunchy campaign, and other businesses who inadvertently spelled something inappropriate by putting two or three innocent words together in a hashtag.

Pro-tip: When crafting an original hashtag you want to first make sure that your idea isn’t already being used for something else. Minimize hijacking by doing your research before you put something out into the world. You want a hashtag that directly relates back to your brand. People won’t remember or see the relevance if it is too general. If you want to reference an inside joke or campaign, make sure your community is in on it first.

2. You don’t respond to your Twitter @mentions and messages

One social media research study found that 42 percent of consumers expect a 60-minute response time on social media. In this digital age, some companies now have dedicated customer service reps to respond on Twitter to meet this demand. But many don’t.

In 2015, a study by Brandwatch discovered that only 11.2 percent of brands responded to customer service issues on Twitter within one hour. That quick of a turnaround is indeed a tall order, but it’s definitely a goal worth striving for if you can do it with a personal touch. American Airlines was criticized after using an upbeat automated message to respond to negative customer service complaints. Twitter users soon caught on and began feeding the bot, eliciting canned responses. This of course brought on a bit of negative press for the airline.

Pro-tip: Respond to customer questions and complaints on Twitter as quickly as possible. Keep it natural and organic, just as you would with a customer over the phone or in-person. Your responses should add value to your Twitter presence and overall reputation for courtesy as a brand. Check out how Con Edison delivered quick, personal responses to tweeters after Hurricane Sandy.

3. You shamelessly beg for Twitter followers

Repeated tweeting at celebrities and influencers in pursuit of acknowledgement is all too common among teenagers. As a mature brand, you should know better. Begging people to follow your company in exchange for a follow back sends the message that you are more interested in making your numbers than being a real human. If you have the words “follow us” anywhere in your summary, take it down right this minute. When your company pops up on the “who to follow” suggestion box and the first impression is “please follow us!” it’s a major turn off to prospective followers.

Pro-tip: Project the warm, friendly, interesting personality of your brand. If you’re a blank, desperate slate, people won’t be inspired to hear more of what you have to say.

4. You’re always selling something

If your Tweets and bio scream that you’re all about the hard sell, you’re going to put people off. Unwanted advertising is all around us, on billboards, in TV commercials, and on our favorite websites. When it enters the Twitter stream it’s just as irritating.

Yes, your goal is to sell your product, but what if you thought about it as informing people instead? How would that change your approach? You want your audience to feel an emotion when they see your Tweet. A message that says “buy our product now” will not get the tears/excitement/joy flowing.

Pro-tip: Enticing your followers with an interesting or amusing question is much more clickable than a demand for clicks. When Hootsuite wanted to spread the word about our new podcast, we didn’t just tweet out “download our podcast now!” We crafted a Tweet to catch our follower’s attention:

The reader is left wondering, roadkill? What does roadkill have to do with Hootsuite? Well, you’ll just have to click to find out.

5. You fail to add a personal touch

If you need inspiration for turning on the charm, search no further than favorite diner chain, Denny’s. The Denny’s Twitter account feels like a warm hug. By successfully carrying the conversations people have in their diners into their Tweets, Denny’s has gained 331,000 loyal followers. For example, Denny’s recently tweeted:

It’s a hilarious image, and one that brings to mind babies crawling around eating soft pancakes. What could be better? Now if your company sells home warranties, warming up your stream might be more of a challenge than fluffy pancakes. But it can be done. Capture the right sense of humor about whatever it is you’re selling and you’re in business.

Pro-tip: As Denny’s social media team explained in their Shorty Award entry essay, they won over fans by “capturing the fleeting, though important, everyday cultural discussions, whether it’s about the news or reality TV, in our Twitter voice. We speak about the world like a friend would, and because of that, our fans don’t look at us like a brand forcing their way into the Twitter game, but as a friendly presence that shares the space, adds to it, and learns from it.” This. This exactly.

6. You never include multimedia

Maybe you don’t have any interesting photos or videos to share. Maybe you found a great photo but you don’t have permission to use it. Maybe you’re just feeling lazy. Whatever it is that’s stopping you from adding multimedia to your posts needs to be addressed and overcome. Adding an eye-catching image, video, or GIF to your Tweets leads to higher Tweet engagement rates. In fact, people are three times more likely to engage with Tweets that contain videos and photos.

Pro-tip: Your header image should be 1500×500 pixels, your profile picture should be 400×400 pixels, and your Tweet images should be 876×438 pixels to show up properly in your Twitter timeline. You can also use Twitter’s new feature to post up to four photos at once. You can add additional text to your Tweet by creating a graphic with a text overlay.

It’s never too late to turn your Twitter frown upside down. Tweet like the whole world is watching (because they are). If you can dream it, you can tweet it. Luck is what happens when preparation meets your Twitter account. Good luck out there.

The post 6 Ways You’re Failing at Twitter appeared first on Hootsuite Social Media Management.

Hootsuite Social Media Management

Sync Your Data Across Platforms with MailChimp and Zapier

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If you run a small business, there’s a good chance your customer data is spread out across a number of different apps or web services. Without the proper resources, it can be difficult—not to mention time-consuming—to create automated workflows that sync data across all of those different platforms.

But Zapier can help. Zapier is a web automation tool that lets you easily move data between platforms without the help of an API expert. And the folks at Zapier have written an in-depth blog post covering some of the workflows (they call them “Zaps”) you can use to seamlessly integrate MailChimp with the other apps that help power your business. We’ve highlighted a few of our favorites below.

Facebook lead ads

Earlier this year, we blogged about growing your list with the help of Facebook lead ads and Zapier. If you’re not familiar, Facebook lead ads connect businesses with potential customers by making it easy to sign up for offers, newsletters, or quotes directly from any device. When someone clicks on your lead ad, the contact information they’ve already shared with Facebook is automatically populated into a form. This Zap will pull those leads from Facebook into your MailChimp list.

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Typeform

Typeform is a stylish way to connect with people through a reimagined online form. Get information in the form of polls, questionnaires, invites, and more, then pass that information on to your MailChimp list with this Zap.

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Stripe

Stripe checkouts are used by small businesses all over the world because they make payment processing easy and reliable. When a customer makes a purchase using Stripe, this Zap will pass their information to MailChimp so you can follow up with them about relevant products, upcoming sales, and promotions.

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Auto-post to LinkedIn

Are you already auto-posting or auto-tweeting your new MailChimp campaigns to Facebook and Twitter? Don’t forget about LinkedIn! Set up a Zap that automatically shares your new campaigns on LinkedIn the moment you send them.

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Excel connector

Excel spreadsheets are a popular tool for businesses because they can be used to store and organize a bunch of useful data. With this Zap, you can easily add or update MailChimp subscribers from new rows you’ve created in Excel.

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For additional details and more great tips, check out Zapier’s full blog post.

MailChimp Email Marketing BlogMailChimp Email Marketing Blog

Need Another Set of Eyes on Your Landing Page? [Free Pre-Publish Worksheet]

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Need another set of eyes on your landing page before you show it to the world? Image source.

It’s hard for us to critique our own work objectively.

A second set of eyes can reveal things you didn’t even realize were there: a vague unique value proposition, typos or just plain boring copy.

But maybe your co-workers are tied up and don’t have a sec to look over your work. And your boss has bigger fish to fry.

Well, you’re not entirely on your own, because we have an 11-page checklist for you to help you better evaluate your landing pages and catch common conversion killers. The worksheet will help you:

  • Ask the right questions when evaluating your landing pages.
  • Identify weaknesses and potential conversion leaks.
  • Make sure you have all five key elements of a high-converting landing page.

Want to gut check your landing pages before you hit publish?

This 11-page checklist will help you better evaluate your landing pages and catch common conversion killers.
By entering your email you’ll receive weekly Unbounce Blog updates and other resources to help you become a marketing genius.

Check out the video below to hear Princess (yes, her real name), Marketing Educator at Unbounce, break down the worksheet for you and explain how you can put it to use today.


Blog – Unbounce

Data-Driven CTAs for Each Stage of Your Sales Funnel

The topic of conversion optimization often revolves around the call to action, with recommendations for improving conversions pointing to variations in shape, size, color, placement on page, copy, etc.

That said, one factor that’s often neglected – with sometimes dire consequences – is the relevance of the call to action to the stage of the sales funnel, or what point your audience is at in the buyer’s journey.

When your call to action doesn’t match the intent of your audience, you’re going to see a sharp decline or limited lift in conversions for a given piece of content or landing page.

The Basics of the Call to Action

The call to action (CTA) is an instruction you give to your audience to provoke an immediate response and get them to take action.

That action can be a lot of things: a request to download an eBook, opt-in to an email list, sign up for a webinar, register for an event, purchase a product, take a live demo/product tour, read another article, share, comment, etc.

In some cases marketers will utilize multiple calls to action; however, best-practices state that it’s best to only use one call to action to eliminate the paradox of choice. This focuses the audience on that single action you want them to take, rather than split their attention.

Not all CTAs are created equal; it’s not enough to just slap a brightly colored “click here” button throughout your funnel. Not only are various elements crucial to the effectiveness of a call to action, but the performance of your CTAs will vary based on their placement throughout the buyer’s journey.

Here’s some generic CTAs turned better by focusing on benefits the visitor gets by clicking the CTA:

cta-copywriting
Image Source

A CTA can be placed virtually anywhere in and around your content, but your call to action can’t just be placed haphazardly in your sales funnel.

Crafting an Effective Call to Action

Creating an effective call to action starts with the little details. It’s easy to create a call to action, but it’s far harder to create a call to action that converts well.

Here are some of the most common components that play a part in getting a conversion lift during CTA creation and A/B testing.

The Design

In order for someone to click on a call to action, they first need to see it. Eye-catching designs are helpful, and this is one point where it’s OK to step outside of your brand’s style guide. You want colors that contrast with the rest of your content and that are large enough to stand out over everything else.

The copy

You can’t just tell someone to “click” or “submit.” Your copy should use power words and actionable verbs, often personalized (“you”, “your”, “my”) to have the most impact. Here’s a guide to writing CTAs.

The value proposition

Make sure your audience knows exactly what they’re getting when they click. Your call to action should be explicitly clear about what comes next, or about what they’re getting in exchange for taking an action.

conversion-xl-ctas

Placement in the funnel

A CTA is most effective when it’s wholly relevant to the content it’s placed in, as well as the user’s intent. As such, it’s best if it delivers the user to a dedicated landing page relevant to the stage of the buyer’s journey, rather than a random website page.

For example, a CTA to a Contact Us page won’t be as effective in gathering leads as a CTA that drives the reader to a landing page for a free download.

Likewise, you’d never create a call to action for a product demo (a bottom of the funnel CTA) at the bottom of a blog post when that blog post is providing top of the funnel content meant to drive awareness.

Hitting on all of these components is a critical part of a well-performing call to action. To simplify it, you can break any call to action down into two key concepts – Value and Relevance:

  • The copy of your CTA conveys value and relevance
  • The position of your CTA within the sales funnel reinforces relevance

Fitting your CTA to the Stages of the Sales Funnel

While most funnels will come in three stages, no two funnels are the same. The buyer’s journey changes depending on your audience, the product or service, the industry, etc.

Some funnels are very short (B2C online retailers for example) while others are much longer. For example, an enterprise level SaaS like Salesforce isn’t a quick purchase. There’s often a much longer period of awareness and evaluation before a purchase is made.

Let’s take a look at a typical funnel and the types of content and calls to action at each stage:

hubspot-awareness-evaluation-purchase

Top of the Funnel

The top of the funnel is the awareness stage. You’re not here to push or promote any specific product or service. Instead you’re offering a broad range of knowledge intended to educate your audience.

They’re looking for answers – sometimes specific, sometimes not so specific. Your job is to create content at this stage that captures their attention and provides them with answers.

At this early evaluation stage, marketers typically use long form blog content to grab referral and organic traffic and introduce a brand to the audience. Other types of content at this stage include:

  • eBooks and white papers
  • Reports
  • Infographics

Companies often put a great deal of their marketing efforts into producing a lot of top of the funnel content. And that’s a good idea – this type of content marketing can generate 3 times as many leads as traditional outbound marketing, but costs 62% less than traditional marketing efforts.

Blogs are often the most popular; 79% of companies with an active blog report a positive ROI.

At this stage, your call to action needs to focus the attention of the audience. They’re not yet a qualified lead or customer, and you don’t want to push promotional CTAs or you risk driving them away.

Instead use personalized calls to action that promote continued engagement. This can include:

  • A CTA to drive engagement – “Share this post with your network” or “Leave a comment below with your thoughts”
  • A CTA that gathers info – “Click to get your free eBook” or “Download your free local marketing checklist”

Check out this CTA that Hubspot places at the end of a blog post. It invites people to try out their new tool, with benefits-focused copy:

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Remember that the focus here should be on education and continued engagement, with the goal of moving visitors to the middle of the funnel (the evaluation phase).

Middle of the Funnel

The middle of your sales funnel is also known as the evaluation phase. At this point, your audience is aware of your knowledge and offerings. They’re committed to finding a solution, but they don’t quite know what that is yet. For now, they’re simply researching and trying to understand all of the options that are available for solving their problem.

Your goal here is to continue to educate them while also positioning your solutions as the ideal choice.

At this stage, it’s not uncommon to use email marketing, segmented by audience and intent, to build a relationship with the audience. Other types of content for the evaluation stage include:

  • Comparison white papers
  • Expert guides
  • Live interactions including webinars

Here’s an example of a white paper offer from Zendesk:

zendesk-build-manage-virtual-team

Calls to action in this phase are often extremely focused, with dedicated landing pages. HubSpot, for instance, increased subscribers by 128% in a 90 day period by using blog opt-in boxes on dedicated landing pages. Those CTAs can be made even more effective by narrowing the focus for your audience. As many as 16% of landing pages eliminate navigation to achieve this.

CTAs should focus on relevancy at this stage, highlighting the expert nature of educational information with a strong value proposition.

Here’s a CTA shown to Kissmetrics highlighting the free case study they’ll receive in exchange for an email address.

free-case-study-kissmetrics

Bottom of the Funnel

Just because you’ve moved your audience to the bottom of the funnel into the purchase phase doesn’t mean you’re going to close the lead. They’re certainly ready to buy, and you want to ensure that they buy from you – but it’s far from guaranteed.

Hopefully, at this point, you’ve mapped content and CTAs to effectively guide your audience through the lead nurturing process. According to HubSpot, nurtured leads produce on average a 20% lift in sales vs non-nurtured leads. Further research from Forrester has shown that companies that excel at lead nurturing can generate up to 50% more sales leads at 33% lower cost.

At this phase, you want to leverage content that persuades your audience to make a purchase. This can include:

  • Trial downloads
  • Demos
  • Infographics
  • Product literature or buyer guides
  • Further case studies

As a result, the most effective CTAs will be personalized based on relevancy and intent:

  • “Get your membership access now”
  • “Start your free trial today”
  • “Request your free evaluation now”

conversion-increase-cta-change
Image Source

Conclusion

Creating an effective call to action goes beyond design and copy. It has everything to do with aligning your offer and CTA with your sales funnel to ensure it’s relevant to the audience’s intent.

Don’t stop once your CTAs are mapped appropriately, though.

Setup follow-up content that moves the target back to the middle of the funnel with an appropriate CTA to keep them engaged. Maintain the marriage with the customer and turn them into a lead-generating brand ambassador, using CTAs to inspire them to spread the word.

Do you make CTA placement and creation part of your documented content marketing strategy? Share your approach to CTAs with me in the comments.

About the Author: Andrew Raso is the co-founder and director of Online Marketing Gurus, a fast-growing, award-winning search company working with brands including HelloMolly, Baku Swimwear, and Forcast. Follow him on Twitter at @andrewraso1 or on LinkedIn.

The Kissmetrics Marketing Blog

Progressive Profiling: A Cure for Poor Lead Quality and Form Friction

progressive-profiling-featured-img-650
You wouldn’t propose to a complete stranger, would you? So why ask prospects for a commitment without first getting to know them a little?

If your landing pages and web forms don’t bring in usable prospect data, how can you follow up with prospects and nurture them into qualified leads? How can you pass them to sales for further development?

The struggle is real. As much as 40 percent of B2B leads suffer from poor data quality, and bounce rates for lead generation pages average between 30 and 50 percent. The problem here is two-fold:

  • Prospects don’t take the time to complete web forms accurately
  • Prospects don’t complete web forms at all

In many cases, marketers either ask for all of their lead data up front or build a custom form for each content asset based on what buying stage they think will match prospects’ intent.

Neither approach is ideal.

On the one hand, you could scare prospects away by demanding too much information:

long-application
Yikes. Image source.

On the other hand, it’ll take a lot of extra work to a build custom form for each of your content assets.

How can this be avoided?

Progressive profiling is a lead acquisition technique that involves requesting one or two pieces of information at a time, starting with basic firmographics (e.g. company size, job title, industry) and leading into deeper, more targeted questions later in the relationship.

Done correctly, it can help you increase conversion rates and lead accuracy by lowering the psychological barrier to form submission — all while keeping forms simple for a better overall user experience.

Progressive profiling case study

Countless B2B organizations are already using progressive profiling to improve their conversion rates and the quality of their data profiles. The Eaton Corporation, a power management company based in Dublin, Ireland, used progressive profiling to improve engagement with a recent campaign aimed at IT professionals.

With the help of Oracle’s Marketing Cloud, they combined dynamic form fields with a personalized offer and brought in more than 5,000 new prospects… with 48 pieces of information for each. This surpassed their original goal by 276 percent.

So how exactly does progressive profiling work?

Instead of trying to build a complete lead intelligence profile from a single interaction or build a dozen different forms, you use marketing automation and dynamic web forms to request only the information you lack.

Here’s an example of how the process could work:

  1. A prospect visits your website and downloads a whitepaper.
    They submit their name, email address and company name through your web form.
  1. After receiving a few drip emails, the same person clicks a CTA to register for a webinar.

    A dynamic web form for now asks for their industry, company size and a custom question about their software needs. Dynamic web forms present unique fields to each prospect based on the information you already have (or don’t have) in your database.

  1. Not long after the webinar, the lead requests a video demo of your product.
    You now ask them to specify a budget range and implementation time frame.

You’ll need to set up rules for progressive profiling in your marketing automation platform. Most systems from leading vendors (Pardot, Eloqua, Marketo, HubSpot, Act-On) provide some kind of dynamic web form feature, although it’s not always labeled as such.

Here’s an example from Act-On — pay special attention to the “Visitor Form Rules” field:

progessive-profiling-img2

As you can see, Act-On uses “if + then” rules to make sure no lead capture forms appear redundant to the prospect; you only want to ask for the pieces of information you don’t have.

When should you use progressive profiling?

It may seem like a cure-all solution from the outset, but progressive profiling isn’t always the best choice.

Not every prospect or lead will interact with your content frequently enough to move through a multi-stage lead capture process. According to a study by Demand Gen Report, only 38 percent of buyers view more than four pieces of content from the vendor they ultimately choose.

Worst case scenario: a lead only completes one web form, and you only get their name and email address — hardly enough to constitute an MQL (marketing qualified lead). In light of this reality, marketers should consider when and why they should employ progressive profiling:

  • If the goal is to gradually convert casual site visitors into sales-ready leads with a series of escalating offers, it’s probably a safe bet.
  • But what about visitors who are already in the decision stage of their buying process? If they click a bottom-funnel CTA, do you want to squander the opportunity by only capturing basic info, such as that you might capture for a newsletter subscriber?

    Of course not. Even if your initial conversion rate rises, your final conversion rate (after a couple nurture emails, another offer, another form) will be the same, or even lower.

Here’s the short version: you shouldn’t apply progressive profiling to all of your content campaigns just because it seems intuitive.

Instead, take a hybrid approach:

  • Build more extensive web forms for bottom-of-the-funnel assets and offers, and use progressive profiling to make sure you don’t request the same information twice.
  • For your first-time visitors and blog subscribers, the barrier to entry should still be low, but if there’s an opportunity to capture a qualified lead from a single touch point, take it.

The challenge

The challenge of lead acquisition is similar to the challenge of the sale: you must convince people that your offer (product/service/content) is worth some kind of investment (money/time/information).

While progressive profiling doesn’t necessarily improve your value proposition, it does lower the psychological barrier to entry. By minimizing your “asks” and spacing them out over time, you can build incremental trust with prospects and leads, which adds up to higher conversion rates and more new customers.

Just remember to keep one thing in mind: while progressive profiling is a great technique, it won’t carry your inbound lead generation efforts on its own. As with any campaign, there are many moving parts and they all must work in concert. To get the most out of progressive profiling, make sure you invest at least as much energy into optimizing your awesome content and the landing pages that go with them.

Interested in learning more about landing page optimization?

Download this ebook and become an expert at designing landing pages that convert like crazy.
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