In our daily lives, we are immersed in constantly changing flows of information and data. Just think of our Facebook wall, the Youtube channels we subscribe to, the news that flows through our TV screen…. As Kevin Kelly well notes in his latest book, “we are constantly immersed in rivers of notifications and updates.”
Our attention-grabbing ability fails to keep pace with technological evolution, which gives us access to an unprecedented amount of information. Disseminated in a variety of channels, and always at hand thanks to the different devices, we access a mass of data in the form of videos, words, and images.
In this changed scenario, even our ability to discern what we are interested in, which areas that we want to deepen our understanding or what we want to buy, is put to the test. How to understand what is valuable or what is not?
According to the classic models of the purchasing process that analyze consumer behavior to determine the basis of the consumer decision journey, the most critical phase is the evaluation of alternatives. In this decisive moment, many variables come into play that each play a fundamental role: from evaluating what motivates a person to buy to how a person perceives a company (which is driven by marketing), to the information that the consumer himself seeks out.
So how can our company be sufficiently visible to people just when they are looking for what we could offer them? How can they focus their attention on us?
Where to find followers
A first response is to go where the consumer lives and informs himself. Today, this is online, and more specifically, in those digital platforms where people talk, exchange opinions, ideas, and content: social networks.
There are many types of social networks that vary in use, target, and also by geographical area. In general, we can distinguish between transversal, generalist platforms such as Facebook or Instagram, and platforms with a more vertical nature such as LinkedIn or Behance.
We have already talked about how fundamental it is to have a good social media strategy, but a company, be it B2C or B2B, does not live off likes and shares. So, once we have managed to have a constant follower base over time, what do we do with it?
Our followers will have to become leads because, as Kipp Bodnar, Chief Marketing Officer of HubSpot, says: “Leads are the metric that, as a marketer, we rely on. Because leads meaning money”.
Lead generation, or the art of intercepting interest
It’s one of the hot topics of the last few years; for the sake of clarity it’s necessary to establish some first basic distinctions that will help us better understand how to turn people who are vaguely interested in what we have to offer, into customers.
First of all, the concept of follower has slightly diverged from its original meaning to that of a fan and therefore of someone who has a great interest in something or someone. As the Cambridge Dictionary has brilliantly intuited, with regard to its use on social media, we can define the follower as “someone who chooses to see a particular person’s posts (= messages) on Twitter.”
The English dictionary explicitly references Twitter, as it was one of the first platforms to connect people who did not know each other in “real” life or, to borrow a term from the world of gaming, AFK (i.e. away from the keyboard).
How does the concept of follower fit into the consumer journey? At what point of our lead generation strategy should we position it? Is it a lead or a prospect?
A lead is defined as a “potential buyer of a given product or service.” The difference between a prospect and a lead may seem subtle, but it’s actually fundamental.
A prospect is an earlier stage in our relationship with the potential customer: it is a user who is potentially interested in the business + either because he has shown some interest in the company or because it falls within socio-demographic or behavioral profiles that we believe are the most likely to buy our goods or services.
A lead, on the other hand, is a person who has not only shown vague interest or who we believe is in the target range, he is someone who has shown real interest by leaving his contact details and authorizing us to start a conversation of a commercial nature with him.
It is therefore clear that our followers on social channels are closer to the status of prospect than that of lead. They like us, sometimes they share, they rarely comment, they almost never send us messages in chat.
The same goes for all the people who visit our site: they see our services but rarely contact us. We know little or nothing about them, except that there is some form of interest, often latent.
We must, therefore, find a way to intercept their attention and to do so we must know what really interests them. And here is the first phase of lead generation: the lead qualification, studying those who have already spontaneously expressed an interest in order to better understand how we could attract them to us.
To do this, we must put ourselves in their shoes and understand how we can help them, how we can solve their problem, how we can answer their questions, a question that will then guide them to an answer, that is, to ideally choose us. We can build a buyer persona, focusing not only on socio-demographic characteristics, but digging deeper into insights, the deep motivations that affect behaviors and choices.
We can do online research to understand which questions are associated with our business, what obscure areas exist, and what are the most critical phases in the purchase choice. Or we can analyze our social networks to understand which content has met the interest of our followers.
Having done this first preliminary phase of research and analysis, we will have more information on our followers and we will be ready to face the crucial part of lead generation: offering value.
People are immersed in an uninterrupted flow of information, there is only one thing that can distinguish our company from the competition: quality content that is relevant to our followers, something that makes them understand that we are the right company to turn to.
The role of content marketing
It was 1996 when Bill Gates, in an essay where he described the future of the internet, wrote the now famous statement “Content is the king,” meaning that the internet would become a content market.
From a marketing perspective, this phrase means that, beyond media planning, native advertising, and marketing influencer strategies, it is always quality content that wins in the end. That’s because people are looking for it: an authoritative source in their field, able to spread useful concepts in a clear and effective way.
Every company, B2C or B2B, must begin to consider itself as a “publisher” and produce content that can be offered to prospects in various ways, as well as to its followers on social channels. Doing so may seem difficult, so here is a series of suggestions and ideas on how to do content marketing even if you are an SME.
Content marketing ideas
- Create a corporate blog where you address your core business sector as well as related sectors or those that potentially fulfill the same need as your product or service. Take care in crafting your content, the web is full of generic information where the information is always the same; people know how to distinguish valuable content from a mere business contact page disguised as a blog article. Always end each article with a targeted call-to-action: you can refer to the page of a product or service connected with the topic you are dealing with, or enter a contact form where readers can opt-in to learn more or even subscribe to the newsletter to stay up to date on the latest publications. Let people share the article on their social profiles and comment directly on your blog: every comment received could be the beginning of a new business relationship. Articles should be written in a SEO perspective, in order to scale the positioning on Google, but without exaggeration: you are writing for people, not for the algorithm.
- Share your articles on your social channels, monitor the comments and always respond. Remember, this is an opportunity to demonstrate that you understand your followers’ point of view. You can also use sponsorships to show your article to the target audience potentially most interested in that topic. By installing a Facebook pixel on your website you can carry out retargeting activities and send specific messages to people who have already interacted with your website in a certain way, for example by visiting the page of a product or service.
- Create premium content with a vertical focus on topics that are under discussion or that have not yet fully entered into common use. You can create white papers, analysis reports, videos, webcasts, presentation slides, e-books, and infographics. You can offer a preview of the content and then invite viewers to leave their contacts to download the entire content and then be contacted for commercial purposes. All of this content can also be sent via newsletter to prospects. The email can be enriched by a contact form for requesting more information or to receive a demo of the product or service you offer.
- On Facebook you can create sponsorships to acquire leads. These are very simple contact forms, partly pre-filled with the user’s data, which leave great freedom in setting up the questions that interest you most. You can also insert questions and questionnaires; people like to interact and always have something to say, they just wait for the opportunity to do it.
Thanks to content marketing, you can offer real value to followers and prospects that will induce them to become leads and start to have a more interesting relationship with your brand.
Content marketing also helps us in the next phase, called lead nurturing. This phase, which can last a long time, is where we build a one-to-one relationship with the person, and where we will go on to messages, both content and commercial, that are customized to their specific needs.
The theme of personalization of marketing communications is one of the drivers that will characterize the market in coming years. It accepts the desire for uniqueness and closeness that people are beginning to express regarding their relationships with companies. Thanks to the enabling technology and the mass of data that we possess, it is now possible to build and send ad hoc messages to individual leads. An excellent example of this are Doxee’s personalized videos that are composed and edited in real-time based on the customer and his history with the company.
Doxee’s personalized video support and CCM software make it easy to capture and use your customers’ personal data to send the most effective campaigns through the email tool. Learn more about the Interactive Experience Doxee.