To be frank, there are technologies available that don’t require us to use a form, yet still engage with prospects in meaningful ways – on their terms, which also meets our end goal which is ultimately an opportunity and sale.
Spaghetti soup of the buying journey
Back in 2018, Gartner mapped out a typical buying journey, showcasing that a prospect can enter anywhere and freely move in and out as they research, consider and talk to sales. The journey was not linear, but a spaghetti soup of craziness. (Out goes the window of the proverbial “funnel”).
77% of buyers agree that purchases have become very complex and difficult.
For any business that’s taken the time to map their buyer’s journey, they know the number of touches required by an account before they become an opportunity. And they know the different types of content that’s required to enable that: website visits, reports, analyst insights, case studies and so on.
So, if a buyer has found you (that’s a different subject), why prevent them from engaging and freely reading how amazing your products and services are?
It’s a good question. And rips up everything we’ve known about demand gen, lead gen and how we report.
A growing trend
Whilst Gartner has spent time explaining the buying journey, our systems haven’t quite caught up with that scenario and our strategies certainly haven’t changed. Most of the mid-market software we talk to are still thinking ‘lead gen’ in it’s most simple state: content, form, submission, email nurture… flowing a linear flow.
For the last 10 years, that’s what the systems we use have encouraged us to do. It’s all about capturing data (form data) and creating content to do that. The problem is the conversion rates are dropping. Forms are clunky, the quality of content dropped and the fear of being endlessly ‘nurtured’ has created a reluctance to hit submit.
But technologies exist to make this more seamless. These technologies enable the buyer to engage on their terms and connect when they’re ready. Intent, personalisation engines, account-based advertising, programmatic, tracking and chatbots enable us to engage with buyers in a much more relevant way without interrupting their flow with a form.
Where do you convert? And when?
Well here’s the debate. If you free up your valuable assets, engagement will skyrocket. If you gate it, you know exactly who is downloading it and you can call them.
But, if you make it freely available, they’ll come to you. Buyers self-serve so much. They don’t need an early invention by sales. In fact, it’s the last thing they want. So let them find out, empower them and they’ll come to you (right into the palm of your salesperson’s hand and they’ll be so much warmer and ready to buy).
You have to gate at the right time so it makes sense to the buyer – and this is when they’re ready to come to you. This has to be frictionless and make sense.
- Make use of well-crafted chatbots to accelerate conversions with sales
- Create high value, live ‘events’ such as webinars or seminars where registration makes sense
- Make it really easy to contact you
Ultimately, make it as easy as possible for people to explore, understand, discover and buy. Forget about capturing their contact details… you don’t need it (yet).
A big shift
This would be a major shift in strategy for most B2B technology firms. The concept of gated content is almost engrained in their psyche. The numbers and modelling play well with management… yet we all know the inherent issues of chasing ‘leads’, ‘conversions’ and spinning in the hamster wheel of content creation.
Yet, the benefits are obvious:
- An increase in brand awareness as content is freely available
- Engaged buyers and higher customer engagement
- Higher value content creation so content teams are focused on quality rather than quantity
- Higher qualified visitors that come to you
- Sales teams can focus on the right people with greater efficiency
- Faster sales cycles as prospects are more ‘ready to buy’
There are “watch-outs” too:
- Requires a shift in thinking from the business
- A dramatic shift in management reporting
- Investment in technology (and the strategy that drives it)
- Questions over the validity of an MQL
- Re-training and restructuring the team
- Budgetary implications as pushing content out differently requires a rethink