What technology marketing firms and practitioners can do about content that doesn’t connect and convert.
Let’s talk about the “c” word. Conversions cause as much finger-pointing and debate in marketing as that troublesome acronym that starts with “R” and ends in “I.” Converting contacts, tradeshow participants and website visitors to leads, leads to prospects, and prospects to customers is an ongoing challenge for many B2B tech marketers.
To be fair, challenges with conversions and conversion rate optimization (CRO) come with the territory. The process is complex from start to finish, and nobody said that finding likely buyers and moving them through funnels would be easy. But that doesn’t mean you get a pass if you don’t get it right. Not so long ago, being adept at conversions was a source of competitive differentiation. But now, in the emerging age of revenue marketing, when most of a buyer’s journey is completed long before interaction with a salesperson, it’s essential to compete, period.
Here are five common areas that trip up B2B tech marketers.
Your Content Doesn’t Measure Up
Everything you do in marketing hinges upon your content – ad copy, videos, podcasts, flyers, emails, texts, websites, landing pages, tradeshow materials…. all of it. Marketers know this to be true, but many still lean too hard into platforms and templates, not the content itself.
For the record, I’m not saying that platforms don’t matter. They do. But if you’re still trying to figure out how to fill platforms with content instead of making content for your audience and using platforms for delivery, you’re way behind the eight ball.
You need a content strategy, and you need excellent writers that connect with your audience on your audience’s terms. They need to get your tech, your value proposition not just for your end users but for sales partners, and to be able to franchise your content and messaging throughout buyer journeys and customer lifecycles. Finding those people isn’t easy, but it pays off in droves — you can’t convert if you don’t connect first.
Thinking B2B Content Marketing is Only About Leads
Digital marketing allows you to directly tie certain marketing efforts to lead generation. This easily measured ROI – previously available only through tradeshow marketing (for the most part) – carried a lot of sway with c-suites when it first emerged. It still does, for that matter, and it’s not hard to see why.
But it’s not enough. It never really was because brand awareness and reputation drive long-term growth, but in any case content marketing strategies – and, more importantly, our audiences – have evolved far beyond simple lead-generation transactions. You need to provide content that’s:
- Engaging (accessible, informative and interesting)
- Helps your prospects and customers solve problems and grow their businesses
- Builds trust and credibility
When all these elements are in play, you begin to become top-of-mind when your prospects and customers think about their goals and needs, and they’re much more inclined to engage and convert. (It’s called “mindshare” for a reason!) And you get more leads from your traditional funnel strategies as a natural byproduct.
POWER TIP: If you’ve got a stubborn c-suite or “capital S” + “small m” sales and marketing leader, lean as heavily into revenue marketing as you can with your brand activities.
Not Enough Content, Period
Sometimes you’re just not generating enough content to move the needle. If you want to build trust – and get conversions – you need to demonstrate depth of knowledge and ongoing commitment. And some customers – particularly the larger ones you need when moving upmarket – will think your company is too small or not well-established if your digital assets (website, blogs, videos, etc.) are sparse.
Lack of Social Proof
Social proof is vital when nurturing potential customers. At some point, your buyer wants independent validation that your company is solid and your products deliver as promised. Let’s call it “conversion comfort.” Your prospects need to be comfortable moving to the next step in the journey, whether that means opening a discussion with your sales department or signing on the dotted line. You can help them reach this level by including three trust-building elements in your content mix:
- PR and media relations: You might be surprised to learn that, when it comes to endorsements, buyers value placement in articles and industry media over all other factors, save a direct personal endorsement from someone they trust.
- Research and awards: Use them if you’ve won awards or have independent research that validates your value. If you’re not applying for awards, start applying. They’re worth their weight in gold.
- Case studies and testimonials: Never underestimate the power of case studies and testimonials. Make sure they’re detailed, fully (and transparently) sourced and outcome-oriented.
You Don’t Care Enough (No, Really)
This tip is just for writers. I’ve been in the conversion game in one way or another – as a strategist, consultant and marketer – my entire adult life. The single best piece of conversion advice I ever encountered was when I was a young market analyst deploying my first survey. It came from Don A. Dillman in his book Mail and Telephone Surveys: The Total Design Method and led to an 86 percent response to my survey – far greater than I or anyone at the elite consultancy I was working with had thought possible.
I’ve since used the advice in countless settings – surveys, test marketing, securing investor participation, securing media coverage, getting support for events and associations – to great effect. In fact, there have been times when I’ve wondered why something wasn’t working, realized I needed to apply this exercise, and dramatically boosted responses and conversions.
If you’re familiar with Professor Dillman, you’re likely thinking I’m about to share a secret formula or code or methodology you can copy-and-paste your way through. Dillman, a senior scientist at Gallup, was the senior survey methodologist for the U.S Census Bureau and a fellow at the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Statistical Association, among a long list of other credentials in the world of research methodologies and statistics.
But contrary to what you’d expect, this particular piece of advice – and in my opinion his most valuable – is simple and delves deep into the world of the intangible: When you read your work back to yourself, you should feel the urge to respond.
At this moment, you’ve just fallen into one of two camps:
- You’re thinking, “You’ve got to be kidding,” and if we were in a room together, you’d tell me to pound sand.
- You’re thinking, “Okay, but that’s easier said than done.”
If you’re in Camp A, that’s cool. Just jump to another tip to find something that works for you.
If you’re in Camp B, you’re right. Simple isn’t always easy. But it’s well worth your time to develop this sensibility. And don’t tell the people in Camp A that I said this since they just moved on, but when you get this right, you’re gonna wreck them and anyone else who crosses your wake.
Other Content Conversion Killers to Watch for
The five areas we’ve discussed cover the spectrum in broad strokes. You need good content that resonates and hits all the right buttons. But there are some specific – and in some cases, technical – factors that can hinder conversions. Here are some to watch for:
You’re Pushing Features, Not Outcomes
At this point, we know we’re supposed to focus on benefits and outcomes. But it’s easy to fall into the trap of pushing features – especially when selling tech. Screen your work for it.
Your Targeting (or Messaging for Your Targets) is Off
Buyer personas exist for a reason. They help you target the right people for your products and services, and they help you craft your message for real people with real problems.
Not Enough Rich Content
People are visual creatures. You increase engagement when you enhance your written content with images, videos and other snippets.
This goes hand-in-hand with not having enough rich content. Your content needs to be appealing and approachable, not crammed and intimidating. Focus on line spacing, white space, breaking up big blocks of text with imagery, and so on. If that’s not a strong suit, have an artist lay out some templates you can follow.
Sometimes your content is great but your calls to action (CTAs) are lackluster – especially after you’ve said just about everything there is to say in the piece’s core content. Put your CTAs through the urgency test we discussed above – do you feel the urge to reply? If not, shelve it and come back the next day when you’re fresh.
Your A/B Testing is More Like A/a Testing
There’s a universe of “experts” out there that advocate A/B testing with subtle and iterative changes when your content is struggling. They’re wrong. You can reach the point of making minor tweaks to see how much ground you can gain to the right of the decimal point, but when you’re trying to make big leaps in conversions, you need to test big changes.
Your Content is Fragmented or Disjointed
Some organizations hire one group (or agency) for one audience or messaging component, another for the next, and so on. That’s courting disaster. Particularly at a time when competition is centered on delivering a unified (and hopefully superior) customer experience. You don’t want prospects and customers encountering different messaging from different departments, sales units and so on. Pick a good team that can handle your messaging from end to end. Your conversions will increase with sales partners and customers alike.
TIP: If you go the agency route (likely in current conditions), hire from your most difficult messaging challenges and up. If you’re selling tech, which many agencies struggle with, get an agency with heavy tech content marketing experience to develop your internal and external messaging. If they can handle your tech messaging, they can handle your regular messaging, too. If you have indirect sales channels, which adds another layer of complexity, get one with channel chops. They’ll be able to deliver your to- and through-partner marketing, tech marketing and regular messaging.
You Got Creative in the Wrong Places
When it comes to marketing, different is good. Sometimes it’s awesome, in fact, and can accelerate your brand development. But be careful with established norms for UX and interactivity. Users don’t want to have to decode how to navigate your website or other interactive content.
Expected Content is Missing
Sometimes a vital piece of content is missing. Earlier, we discussed the importance of social proof, for example. It’s hard to convert without it. But there sometimes are other pieces of content that, when missing, can drive potential customers away. Lack of pricing information for subscription services is a common example.
Your SEO Game is Off
Acronyms and other terminology often cross industries. That’s all well and good within the confines of your own sector when your target market is at the tradeshows and reading industry mags and websites. But search engines are another matter entirely. It’s easy to attract the wrong visitors to your site, which messes up all your metrics, including conversions. Have an SEO specialist (preferably from a content firm that understands relational context as well) help you navigate challenges like these. They can tell you which keywords and strings to include and avoid, and even lay out H-tag headers to help you thread the needle between attracting more good visitors and reducing the duds.
Start With the Obvious, Then Experiment
You may be looking back through this list, thinking, “That’s a lot to consider. Where do I begin?” There’s a good chance some items listed here rang true to your situation just walking through them. Listen to that internal voice and tackle them first. And if you’re personally close to the content, have someone you trust review the list and give you their assessment.
From there, get information from your web and data teams that can clue you into problem areas – where your audience drops off, which content leads to deeper dives or form fills and which doesn’t, and so on. Run a content gap assessment. In other words, figure out what works for you and your audience.
Beyond these immediate steps, work through your potential improvements starting broadly and narrowing them as you go. When you find areas that need improvement, turn them into production checklists for your content moving forward. Over time, you’ll develop systems and rhythms that automatically fill the right holes, hit the right notes and meet your audience’s needs. You’ll see it across all of your engagement statistics, including those all-important conversion metrics.