This morning, reviewing dozens of marketing blogs, I was overwhelmed with post after post about social media. I became worried that marketers were forgetting the channels that got us where we are today.
That’s why I was delighted to see Bill Gadless of B2B Web Strategy pass along advice from Jim Logan in “Try adding a call to action to the end of your white papers.”
Business buyers who are purchasing products and services do not want to be “sold” by high-pressure messages. That’s why social media is working. It’s also why today’s most consistently effective lead generation messaging identifies a challenge that prospects may be facing and offers a free white paper, checklist, guide, case study or other content that allows them to learn about ways to meet their challenge. But as soft as this approach may appear, once a lead is generated, every additional contact made should be followed by a new offer and a new call to action.
The suggestion in Bill’s blog is that the call to action could involve inviting leads to pass the content along to an associate or colleague, asking them to register for a newsletter or other subscription or inviting the reader to contact the business for a discussion.
These are all good suggestions. But to apply these calls to action randomly is not a good strategy. The fact is, there are specific stages in the buying cycle of a complex sale and the call to action or offer made should match the prospect’s place in the cycle.
As covered in Russell Kern’s guide “Direct Marketing’s Five Biggest Hurdles (And How to Get Over Them),” there are four stages in the buying cycle: Interest, Consideration, Evaluation, and Purchase.
As you can see, Mr. Kern’s examples — taken straight from his guide — involve matching the correct content offer to the prospect’s stage in the buying cycle. This approach is critical to enhancing the relationship with prospects and moving them forward to a purchase. Making mismatched call-to-action offers leads to email opt-outs.
There’s one thing that social media cannot do well and that is to “predictably” fill the sales pipeline and then — in a controlled manner — nurture leads until they are ready to be handed off to sales. Adding a call to action to every contact is a proven and effective marketing nurturing approach and businesses selling complex products can rarely succeed without it.
NOTE: This post was originally published in 2010. But it’s very popular and is just as relevant in 2012.