I’ve always been a big reader.
When I was younger my nose was constantly nuzzled in young adult fiction books like the “Harry Potter” series and “Perks of Being a Wallflower.”
As I got older and discovered my passion for marketing, I found myself picking up different kinds of books—“Shoe Dog” by Phil Knight, “Behind the Cloud” by Marc Benioff, and most recently our very own “Conversational Marketing.” 😎
Sound like a familiar story?
Most of us marketers share a passion for reading and writing that stems from a childhood excitement of cracking open a new book and reading the whole thing before our parents told us it was lights out.
Today, that feeling translates into the excitement you get when the new book you ordered from Amazon arrives. But what if when your new book got delivered, there was a lock on it and you couldn’t open it until you exchanged your personal information with the mailman?
That’s the treatment most readers are getting when they go to view the content on B2B sites. By gating content with forms, you’re causing unnecessary friction and creating a barrier between your excited reader and your resources.
Demand Generation Relies Too Heavily on Forms
I get if you’re feeling uneasy about the thought of getting rid of your lead capture forms. They’ve worked for a long time. It’s a common practice for B2B marketers to gate content, and for years, they’ve been the agent behind lead generation and lead qualification efforts. It’s the reason why B2B marketers are spending $4.6 billion telling the world about their products and why 75 percent of B2B marketers are increasing their investment in content marketing.
Yet in reality, lead forms just aren’t as effective as they once were.
Today, 81 percent of tech buyers don’t fill out forms when they encounter gated content. You’ve put all this effort into creating a content marketing strategy, and when your most important prospects get to your site, they’re leaving after being greeted by an impersonal welcome. In fact, the average website conversion rate for B2B marketers is only 2 percent.
What’s worse, when a customer does fill out a form to engage with your content, 58 percent of companies aren’t following up.
At a certain point, B2B marketers accepted lead forms as the best practice to scale and qualify leads and began to ignore what really matters: the customer.
Replacing forms with conversations may seem like a novel idea, but think about how you interact with your friends, family, and co-workers on a day-to-day basis.
People today are always on. Socially, we’re communicating using Facebook and iMessage. At work, we’re in constant communication by way of platforms like Slack. Buyers are used to chat and 90 percent of them prefer to use messaging to talk to brands.
We’ve come to expect everything now, not later, and forcing customers to give personal information in exchange for an ebook isn’t effective (and pushes them toward competitor content).
So how do you convert leads without forms? We have a conversation with them, just like they talk to every other person in their life.
We’ve boiled this thinking down to something we call the Conversational Framework.
How to Convert Leads Using Conversations
The Conversational Framework is a new way to move people through your marketing and sales funnel.
This involves three key steps:
As a marketer or salesperson, you want to start a conversation with prospects when they’re at their highest intent. When a reader is browsing a content piece, real-time chat steps in and engages buyers by greeting them in a targeted way.
This reader came to your blog for a reason, so it’s important to acknowledge this and start a conversation that’s relatable and helpful. Once you know more about what they’re interested in, you can help guide your buyer to the right resource and build trust in the process.
The next step is to understand your customer. Subscribers to your newsletter or active readers of your blog are highly educated, so it’s important to use empathy statements when talking to these marketing and sales leaders and phrase questions that put the focus on them. Acknowledge their pain points and understand why they are on your blog or reading an ebook. We want to demonstrate that we see the buyer’s perspective and we’re here to help refine what they already understand.
Conversations that achieve both engagement and understanding often turn into a CQL (a conversation-qualified lead). This is someone who has expressed intent to buy during a 1:1 conversation with a chatbot or a human at your company.
Now that your prospect is a CQL and has had positive engagement with your team, buyers then turn to their network of friends to learn if they should purchase your product. It’s now time to recommend a helpful piece of content based on the information you have gathered through conversations with the buyer. At this stage, they don’t want to be oversold, they want honest and useful information that actually informs their purchasing decision.