Two months ago, I became the Chief Marketing Officer of a Series A startup, LeanData. During this time of evaluation, I’ve been learning what we’ve done in the past and how successful those efforts have been.
In my previous role, I oversaw a sizable demand gen budget that included advertising, syndication, interactive content and marketing technology. When I took my new position, suddenly I was responsible for managing the entire Marketing budget — but the overall number was only marginally bigger.
There was no luxury of having teammates devoted to events, conferences, technology, content, design, press, and analysts. Startups have to be scrappy, that’s how they keep the lights on. So I’ve focused on putting in place the fundamentals to ensure great lead quality.
If I have less to work with, I need to be sure that every dollar counts and I’m not wasting it attracting people who don’t matter to my business.
1. Build content for lead nurturing (then use it for lead gen)
Over the years, I’ve seen and been a part of a ton of effort that’s been put into lead generation. Goals are tied to net new leads leading marketers to be obsessed with MQLs and funnel metrics.
A/B tests, only optimized for lead gen, inherently encourage the wrong behaviors, when metrics are tied to conversions rather than revenue. Marketing ends up flooding sales with poor quality leads, which reduces our credibility with them, and places distance in our relationship.
Instead, focus content generation efforts into lead nurturing, not just TOFU lead gen. What are the pieces of content your buyer would love to consume along their particular journey? They’ll each start from their own place and travel at their own rate. You have to make sure you have the content they need, at the time they want it.
As you develop pieces that your customers actually need, then you can utilize these pieces in your lead gen efforts.
2. Create helpful content that brings value to your customers
It is so cliché, and yet still, so often ignored. Marketers create self-serving content that doesn’t bring value to customers, and only sells their own product. They set up the problem, you agree and keep reading, and boom, product in your face. They, of course, are the only solution to all of your problems.
Create content that is helpful. Create content that brings value. If you create content that connects with your audience, you don’t have to ask them to read, share or comment — they will.
One of the early things I did as CMO was read everything LeanData had ever produced. Which content should I use to drive demand and which content should be retired?
To evaluate, I started each piece with the title. I looked at the imagery, copy and ads. Before reading further, I wrote out the questions I expected this piece to answer. Then I read on to see whether or not the piece brought me the value I expected to receive. I quickly removed three pieces from distribution because I didn’t think they were helpful or brought value to our audience.
3. Understand your buyer
This is also really cliché and so often fumbled. I’ve seen marketers do a little research, establish a sketch or outline of their buyer, and consider the project complete. Buyer Personas, level up. Check!
This isn’t a one-and-done process. You have to understand your buyer, create content that speaks to that buyer, then evaluate if it really works. Take your content to your buyer and see what they have to say. Perhaps that means a test drive with your client advocates to get their reactions. Or a small group of prospects who you know from your personal network. Whoever it is, ask the tough questions, dig deep to find flaws. Don’t just ask if it was good.
Are you certain the people you analyzed are truly your buyer? Look at your recent deals, both the ones you won and the ones you lost. Who were the true influencers of the deal?
Don’t miss people just because your standard reports only analyze just Leads or Contacts. Make sure you look out for “tertiary influencers” outside of your normal buyer personas who can block your deals.
Once you really know your buyer, have an established relationship where you can elicit helpful feedback, then it’s time to start over. As your business scales and you approach new markets, you’ll have to start this process over to understand your new buyers.
4. Be honest in your ads
No one ever sets out to be dishonest in an ad. Initial versions are normally direct but dull.
Over time, metrics-based optimizations typically drive you to conversions. Copy gets punchier. Design get flashier. It does drive conversion rates and volume, but in turn, if it doesn't remain targeted to your audience, it attracts clicks from non-buyers and wastes budget.
Tell people what they’re really going to get in your content. Let them know what they should expect, even in just a few short phrases, and fulfill that promise. If it is a gated strategy, do so from the landing page and registration, through the very last sentence or image of the content.
If you aren’t honest in your ads, you can drive more clicks, but you’ll end up damaging your credibility by using “bait and switch” tactics. If you are true to your helpful content, you will excite a smaller audience, but drive greater value in return. Your sales colleagues will be happier with a few great leads than many mediocre ones.
Now, one of my main goals is to focus on generating content that is valuable for LeanData’s customers as they undertake their journey in Account-Based Marketing. I hired a professional reporter and am excited for the dramatic increase in helpful and meaningful content that we will be producing.
Getting to know many of LeanData’s customers was a focus in my first few months at the company. I was thrown straight into the fray at the start, attending numerous out of town events during my first week. That trip in some ways allowed me to know our customers better than my new colleagues.
Now that I have settled back into the fun and hardworking atmosphere of our office, I am concentrated on creating honest and targeted content to support high-quality lead generation to provide air cover for the sales team throughout the entire buyer’s journey.