Content Marketing for Outbound Prospecting

Got a really great topic today to talk about that comes out of some actual work we’ve been doing with a client, and as a lot of you know increasingly I am spending a lot of time working with, discussing, and figuring out sales and marketing integration. (And the topic of course, I got a little crazy with the title. I couldn’t figure out which verb to use, but let’s just call it connecting. I forgot an ‘n’ in there, didn’t I? Well, we’ll stick another one in just for fun, in case.)

We can’t even see it on there, but connecting, leveraging, integrating outbound prospecting with content marketing, and increasingly, I find that is a critical success factor with my clients who are trying to figure out how to both bridge the gap between sales and marketing and better leverage marketing to drive sales qualified leads, etc.

So this might get a little complicated. I will try to make it simple, and actually, it starts very simply, and that is, you’ve got your typical, inside sales guy, but, somebody with a hat here kind of thing, and they are on the phone. If you have either dedicated inside salespeople or perhaps your actual salespeople are making cold calls, there’s phone work to be done. You’ve got to reach out and try to get connected, and I have done a lot of stuff on prospecting and scripting, etc.

But in a typical week, or in a typical day, I should say, these folks on a prospecting side, are doing 80 plus calls per day. So a lot of activity. Typically, a success ratio of what they are getting is somewhere on the order of 2-3 first scheduled appointments. That’s pretty typical of the teams that I build, and 2-3% or slightly less than that, slightly more than that, is not really a bad number, but you also have to acknowledge that it’s pretty inefficient.

On the other side you’ve got marketing that’s trying to develop and nurture prospects, and struggling to drive traffic. Well, the aha!, if you will, was that, wait a minute, we’ve got actual people who are going about the business of reaching out and trying to interact with folks. How can we leverage these inside sales and these outbound prospecting folks into the marketing effort to drive opt-ins, which will then come full circle and feed the sales team again?

So a little bit of context. A typical prospecting campaign, one of the terms that I use is Pursuit Persistence Criteria. So when you make a cold call, and I have talked about this and written a lot about this, how many attempts are you going to make? One or two calls is not going to do it. On average, the teams we’re building are going through 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, we’ll make that 8, we’ll make that 1, possibly even 10, maybe this as well, but ultimately you’re going to make a number of what we call, refer to as “touches” attempts. What I say to folks, if you’re not willing to make 10 calls, don’t bother making one.

Most of the time we see the top appointment setting happen somewhere in this range of attempts. So that’s where you get your optimal, I think of it as, yield for appointments. Somewhere there. But bottom line is you’re going to set up your prospect and your cold calling campaign to be somewhere around 8-10 touches per target.

Well, I am already expending this effort, so now the question came down to, how do we coordinate that? How do we get more bang for the buck out of it? We’re making our calls anyway. So what else can we do? And this is where it kind of gets fun.

So what we did in simplest terms is we said, we’re making these cold calls anyway. What if as part of the selling process, (and sometimes we leave them voicemails and I am not going to get into that today, but you get that concept), what if within this process, we made sure that the salespeople also sent an email that was put together by marketing that specifically was intended to drive this prospect into the marketing database, into the marketing funnel, if you will, for an opt-in, get an opt-in.

I will draw over here this as our opt-in database. As most of you hopefully know, you really can’t just start flooding people with emails. Your marketing team can’t be sending emails, so even if you’ve got a great content strategy that you want to execute down here, they’ve got to be in your opt-in database.

So it really is almost a chicken and an egg kind of a conversation that says, how do I get people into my marketing database so that I can leverage this great content strategy and then hopefully nurture those leads back up to sales? Because the purpose of content marketing, the purpose of marketing is to drive what we like to call an SQL, Sales Qualified Lead, back up to sales as an inbound. So what I really want is not quite an inbound (that’s long-term), but as an expected or planned for call.

So how do I do this? But it’s really, how do I get from here to there? Because if you’re not in my opt-in database, I can’t access this wonderful content strategy. So this is the problem we’re trying to solve. So what we said is, you know what? Within the CRM, within Salesforce.com, we could create a templated email that sales sent out as part their calling campaign. They just did it at around their fourth call here.

So at around call number four, we decided number four actually, we said you’re going to send an email to the prospect. The email is going to go to their inbox, and we did a very specific email. I will tell you that the email had a couple of characteristics that were really important. One was, let’s call it, a strong and really what it was is a catchy subject.

In this case, I think we said something like, “please don’t send that cease and desist letter just yet.” In the body, it was very much a personal, and I’ll even say bordering on humorous, content. Most importantly (I am going to change colors for this one), what it had was a strong call to action, and by strong I don’t mean strong arming. I mean it actually contained a very compelling offer that we had built for the prospect that they could access through a link. (I will put the link right here.)

So the email got in their inbox. The goal was to create a strong call-to-action, be sort of funny and humorous, not annoying, etc. Come back around here. So what I wanted that link to do was to take the individuals to not our website for some basic content, but a very high-performing landing page.

Now, for those of you who are saying, “What’s a landing page? What the heck is this thing?” We use a piece of technology called LeadPages. I believe it’s LeadPages.net, if you want to check them out, and it’s a purpose-built landing page that allows for lots of testing, A/B testing, etc., and the ability to tweak and change colors, and very quickly iterate that so you’re not going to your web vendor and always trying to get changes made, etc.

So there’s a whole other classification of technologies. This stuff is happening in our CRM. (I am going to put a box around it.) This stuff is happening in our marketing automation platform. Well, a landing page is a whole different piece of technology that lives outside of both of these, not even on a website kind of thing.

So I will let you look into that, but the point is we want to use some very powerful technology to drive the conversion. The landing page is really kind of simple because what I am trying to do at a minimum is get your email. So I put you in my marketing database, etc. So the purpose of the landing page is to present the email opt-in, and this is important, in exchange for a strong and compelling offer.

Now, I will talk about this in a second, but when I talk about an offer, I want you to think about it in terms of a present. I will even do another colored bow on here to make it interesting, but the idea is that you’re going to come to this opt-in, and I am going to create an offer that is so interesting to you or compelling to you that you’re going to give me your email opt-in. Some folks call this a lead magnet. Some folks call it an ethical bribe, what have you, but the point is, I really want to drive the prospect to move into my marketing funnel so that I can further market to them, even if I don’t get my appointment.

Let’s talk about the offer. This is not a whitepaper. This is not a case study. I have got lots of content on my site. I am going to talk a lot about what are appropriate offers. In this particular case, and I won’t go into all the details. I will probably put together a case study. If you want more info, and if you want to be on my lead list, you want to click down here because I can send you some other documents.

But in this particular case, the offer was a how-to guide specifically for the prospect that gave them a series of, let’s call them, tips and tricks and hacks and things that they can go and implement that day in order to improve their world. It was not a pitch for our product. It was not a deal on our product. It was not anything about our product, but I will tell you, it did validate them as a prospect, as a qualified prospect.

So, don’t mean to be really confusing and hide things and make this sort of secret here, but more conversations to come on what a compelling offer is. But I can’t stress enough that this is really where the magic happens, and we basically went out and commissioned somebody. We spent money for a third party to create an offer that we knew would be attracted to these prospects, something that they would want, and essentially that we were giving them as a gift in exchange for the email. So pretty slick.

Kind of recapping the whole thing, we took the cold calling folks. We were doing outbound prospecting. As part of their regular calling process, we had them send an email through Salesforce. The email was designed to be catchy, sort of catch their eye and get them engaged, and they can chuckle a little bit, but really the goal of the email was to get them to click on the link because we said, “Hey, here’s something we built for you. It’s not a sales pitch. It doesn’t even have our logo on it, but we think you want it.” This is going to direct them to a landing page which says, “Hey, we want you to have this thing, but we’re going to require your email so we know it’s you, an email to your inbox,” etc., and then they are going to download it now on their database and what have you.

So let’s go through some of the things that happened. Well, I will let you do all the math, but you got these folks doing 80 calls a day with an average persistence of eight. So you can run the math on a weekly basis how many accounts you’re touching. I will tell you that the open rate on these emails, (I will have to do this in green because it’s really kind of cool), open rate, which is really awesome, was more than 40%. Well, that’s pretty slick in terms of people that are opening it. More interesting, the actual click through rate. How many people that opened it, clicked on the actual landing page link itself was varied quite a bit, but between 30% and 40%. So 30-40% of the people that actually opened that email went to the landing page, and here’s where it gets interesting.

About a third, actually I am going to do % and a dot, but a third of the folks went for the offer. So pretty compelling. If you basically say send out a 100 emails on a given week or day or what have you, and you’ve got 40 people opening those emails, actually looking at them, you’re going to get about 12 or 13 people who are going to actually click through to that, and that’s going to get your three or four folks per 100 contacts.

Not a bad acquisition rate on emails, especially when you consider that we also found that at least one of these folks we were able to nurture back all the way through to an expected call. So on a given 100 person campaign, a 100 contact campaign, where on average we’re going to get 2, 3, 4, 5 contacts, or 2, 3, 4, 5 conversations just by virtue of following this process, we’re going to pick up at least another meeting add.

So very powerful stuff, and when you can integrate an expense and a process you’re already using with something you want to use, and it’s going to pay future dividends. So if you have any questions, please do drop me a line. Click on the link to opt-in to my mailing list, and there will be more of these kind of documents and more of these kind of process things. I want to talk more about offers, and please feel free to email me with any questions you might have about how this works or how you can get more effectiveness out of your outbound prospecting efforts or your direct marketing, your content marketing efforts as well.

By Townsend Wardlaw

photo credit: kool_skatkat via photopin cc