By Malcolm Friedberg, Principal, Left Brain Marketing
I read the column on Seed Nurturing in DemandGen Report last week and was surprised by some of the recommendations it made.
Not only did the column’s suggestions seem to run counter to best practices, they seem to be diametrically opposed to what marketing automation is designed to do.
The article instructed BtoB marketers to, “Make valuable content freely available on social media sites.” It explained that, “By eliminating the need for registration in order to gain access to your whitepapers, eBooks, and other valuable content, you remove the initial barriers to building relationships with prospects. In doing so, you will strengthen your rapport, and these anonymous leads will likely surface as inbound leads once their interest level increases.”
While I understand that there is some limited value in making your content more accessible through social media in order to entice people to engage with you, what’s the point if you can’t leverage that content to generate leads (as in known individuals) that get passed to sales? The lack of valuable content is probably the single biggest roadblock companies face in creating a successful marketing automation program. A decent piece of content can cost several thousand dollars, and customized white papers or case studies can cost two or three times that amount. Most companies are lucky to have a couple of really good pieces. Why would you want to give these away without leveraging their value? All you should be asking for in exchange is a name and an email address.
The column told us that it’s so we can “strengthen your rapport.” I’m not sure what that means since rapport literally translates to “friendly relationships,” and that’s not what, in my opinion, BtoB marketers do at the early stage of a sales process. I’d argue the goal is to build brand awareness and begin to educate the prospect about your product, service and company. It also explains that “these anonymous leads (the ones you’ve given your valuable content to) will likely surface as inbound leads once their interest increases.”
Call me cynical, but I’m not comfortable betting my job on whether anonymous leads will “likely” surface from the social media world and appear on my front door. For starters, while I’m waiting for them to come back, my competition is sending timely and relevant emails (and possible sales calls) that highlight the benefits of their solution. Second, and arguably more important, how can I contribute to helping increase their “interest level” if I’m not even engaged with them? Am I supposed to leave the education process up to the devices of the prospect, or even worse, my competitor? The article later characterizes these prospects in a manner that causes even greater alarm, “The feeling of risk consumes BtoB buyers, causing them to behave during the decision-making process.” Given that, is the argument that I’m supposed to trust the “irrational” buyer that is “likely” to come back to me even though I’m not directly engaged with them? Wow. That must be some darn good content.
So, what’s the answer?
The answer is to use your valuable content as lead bait in the social media realm. Put a portion of your content into the right social forums as a way to entice the prospect to want more. If your content is good (e.g. educational), and you do an adequate job of exposing the value they’ll receive, prospects will be more than happy to provide you with their email. What none of us want (as BtoB buyers) is sales junk from companies whose products don’t interest us. Valuable content about products of interest are always welcome, and most of us are very willing to continue receiving information as long as it meets that standard.