By Dave Green, CEO, PipeAlign
Lots of companies use email, web links, and registration for content to generate demand and nurture leads. The problem is that most companies use such these campaigns once. They engage in a monologue instead of a learning exchange. But what about a continuously running automated “dialogue” with customers and prospects? Enter Digital Dialogue, an emerging and powerful new approach to lead nurturing.
Digital Dialogue engages customers and prospects in a scalable, low-cost, automated information exchange, primarily over the Internet. Companies that sell complex solutions can use that exchange to educate and qualify potential business buyers before those buyers talk to a live representative. This education and qualification process can last for months across numerous, inter-connected exchanges.
Digital Dialogue is necessary for inquiry nurturing because most prospects don’t want to talk to sales people early in an investigation of a complex product or service. It’s similar to a customer that walks onto a car lot and wants only to kick the tires, look at various models and read the prices and gas mileage information. That customer doesn’t want to be pressured. Car dealers dismiss such prospects as “tire kickers.” (Maybe that’s one of the reasons they need a bail out). Every industry that sells complex products or services has far more tire kickers than buyers. The bigger the price tag and the more complex the solution, the longer prospective buyers stay in a tire-kicking mode.
Marketers who give these inquiries to sales channels experience low follow-up rates and very few converted sales. Using a well-trained, highly professional tele-qualification team as a proxy for a sales person will help. But the yields are still low because most of the prospects are just not ready to talk. And such phone conversations, while not as costly as those by sales people, are still expensive.
Fortunately, Digital Dialogue is providing a powerful answer to this long-standing problem and promises to transform the go-to-market process for companies that sell complex solutions that require a considered selection process.
It’s simple enough, of course, to use email and the web to set up nurturing tracks. The problem is that the same prospect will show up as an inquiry multiple times over a few months. Others from the same location or the same organization will too. Some prospects will look at multiple products and services. Then there are permissions and preferences and your solicitation history to take into consideration.
To address this challenge, marketers need to set up a centralized, high-velocity system across the enterprise. Every market interaction from all customer-facing operations should pass through this system each day. Apart from economic considerations, BtoB companies should design a scalable Digital Dialogue capability around organizational buying behavior and relevant communications. Here’s a suggested operational roadmap to execute a Digital Dialogue:
- Content Readiness: If you want to begin to replicate a conversation with customers and prospects, you’ll need to organize your content around communities of interest (e.g., executive versus technical) and organizational buying behavior (i.e., how much does the individual know about your product or service and your company?). The key is relevance: what matters to each individual at a particular point in time?
- Marketing Data: Getting the most appropriate content to each prospective buyer also requires a new level of rigor around marketing information. You’ll need to establish information standards for lead qualification, pipeline metrics, and data transport to improve the yield from campaigns and the accuracy of metrics so that you capture useful information consistently across the enterprise. You’ll also need to clean, enhance and consolidate the data so that you “remember” what each individual has “told” you previously. Finally, you’ll need to organize the data model in your marketing database so that, among other things, you can track the area and depth of interest for any of your products and services.
- Automated Systems: The aforementioned information standards will allow for a new level of automation in two key areas: data hygiene and a rules engine that looks at all the contacts in your marketing database and determines the next, best step in the conversation. The goal should be at least a twenty-four hour response cycle across the enterprise.
Companies that have set up such a Digital Dialogue system quickly discover they can increase the conversion ratio of inquiries to sales, shorten the timeline to a decision, and improve the all-important sales and marketing expense-to-revenue ratio.
For more information about implementing Digital Dialogue, go to www.PipeAlign.com and download our whitepaper, “A Practical Guide to Digital Dialogue” or go to Amazon to order our book, The B2B Refinery®.
Dave Green is the president of PipeAlign, LLC and the co-author of The B2B Refinery® and numerous whitepapers on demand generation and lead management. PipeAlign and its service provider partners help business-to-business companies improve sales and marketing efficiency through scalable demand generation and lead management practices and operations. Dave can be reached at Dave_Green@PipeAlign.com or (877) 575-5515.