For much of the past decade, success for B2B marketers has been defined as getting buyers to respond to offers by clicking on, opening or downloading an asset. While these actions are still often used as a sign of initial interest from an individual buyer or an account, marketers are increasingly shifting their focus and efforts to new tactics and tools that can determine engagement beyond impressions or form fills.
B2B brands such as Lenovo, Paycor and Concord are among the leaders who are using new content formats and platforms designed to track engagement at deeper levels, as well as tools which can help identify buyer interest and engagement from sources outside of a company's own website or content offerings.
Industry experts point out that this deeper focus on engagement — rather than activity — is being driven by changing buyer behavior, as well as the realization that traditional metrics don’t tell an accurate story.
“True buyer engagement is measured in terms of the quality of interaction with a person," said Matt Zilli, Chief Customer Officer at Marketo. "Did they receive value from the email? Did they dive deeply into a piece of content? Did they receive the information they wanted from a salesperson? That’s because these are the things most buyers demand today before they consider engaging with a brand.”
“This notion of ‘I’m going to put up a gated white paper, get leads, nurture them and send them to sales’ worked really well for many people and we got really focused on volume metrics," said Aaron Dun, SVP of Marketing at SnapApp. "Planning for 2018, we need to shift our focus to quality and less on volume.”
One example of a company that has used interactive content to drive real-time feedback from clients is Paycor, a multi-service solution for payroll and HR. When the Department of Labor came out with a new rule about how companies calculate overtime, Paycor used SnapApp to create an assessment that allowed HR professionals to calculate and understand the impact this new rule would have on their business.
Infusing the assessment with questions that were relevant to their sales organization, Paycor was able to quickly and efficiently qualify leads from the thousands of people who took the assessment.
The interactive campaign received over 3,700 responses in the first 90 days. Those responses led to 226 first time appointments, many of which converted into revenue.
"The success of Paycor's campaign is a clear indication that today’s prospects have raised the bar on how they want to engage with companies," said Dun. "It is no longer enough to simply create 'The Ultimate Guide to X’ E-book, put that PDF behind a lead gate and then hope that qualified leads will simply roll in.”
Dun added that the benefit of interactive content like assessments is that it allows marketers to get real-time feedback from their prospects, which can be used to change the content delivered or sent directly to a sales team to use as follow up. The metrics for interactive content can also be baked into lead scoring initiatives and provide deeper insights on factors such as:
The length of time a prospect spends on a particular piece of content;
How deeply they experienced and engaged with that content; and
Interactions within one piece of content, such as replays, form fills and clicks.
“Marketers today must instead deliver personalized, engaging experiences for prospects that offer a mutual value exchange where the prospect receives something of tangible value in return for the information they provide,” Dun added.
Because expectations of B2B buyers are also being influenced by their experiences with consumer brands, more B2B organizations are raising the bar on the content to provide more of a media-like experience.
To address this, Concord, a leading cloud-based contract lifecycle management platform, is investing heavily in channels like video and direct mail.
Travis Bickham, VP of Marketing at Concord, said the company is focusing more on building personalized campaigns and engagement models, but realized the key to successfully implementing a personalized campaign requires “taking the time to understand their needs and pairing that with very modern scoring to understand who you should be talking to, then delivering something of high value.”
In his previous role, Bickham worked on a highly targeted and inventive direct mail campaign, which he said cost about 20x the normal cost of acquiring a lead digitally, but resulted in 100% response rate and 50% meeting set rate.
Using data from Engagio, the company found the prospects that engaged with their recent content related to Fortune 500 companies, then sent them a drone with both the company’s logo and the prospect’s logo. They included a personal letter from an executive that pointed to specific research relevant to their prospect to show their understanding of the prospect's needs, and said “let’s take flight together” to show their commitment to a partnership. The drones were sent to multiple executives in each company, so the personalized letters encouraged them to get together for a drone race and talk about it.
“The idea is to take that investment, both time and money, and hit fewer prospects. But hit the right ones, with the right message… versus taking that budget and trying to reach out to 50,000 people online,” Bickham said.
As B2B marketers look to find more compelling and media-like experiences to engage their prospects, video is gaining more attention and budget dollars. However, many marketers have realized that simply tracking the number of views on a video does not paint an accurate picture of the value that video is providing.
How long are prospects staying engaged in a video?
At what point are they dropping off?
Are there parts of the video they’re skipping?
What parts of the video are prospects replaying?
Tyler Lessard, CMO of Vidyard, said marketers are looking for “more sophisticated and representative metrics to not only understand if something worked or not but to understand more about the individual buyers [they’re] talking to.”
Act-On tracked engagement in different types of content to determine the key indicators a prospect is likely to buy. They discovered that prospects who engaged in certain types of videos were more likely to become a buyer.
Using this data obtained through Vidyard, Act-On created a locked product tour page with a 10-minute video demo and several downloadable resources. This page generates real-time insights into who is watching the demos and watching the longest, enabling the sales team to automatically score these leads.
The sales team was also able to determine which features are of most interest to that particular prospect. This allows Act-On to route leads to different sales reps who are equipped with the knowledge and resources to serve that customer’s specific needs.
With these insights, the customer experience can be tailored to serve each customer more content and resources based on their exact interests on a personal level.
New Insights On Buying Intent
For many marketers, monitoring how prospects are interacting and engaging with your content is step one. However, the reality is what customers do on your site is merely a fraction of the activity related to their buying journey.
In addition to monitoring engagement on their own sites, leading companies like Lenovo are using third-party data to understand buyer engagement and intent even better.
Working with intent data providers like Bombora to identify a subset of companies actively researching a particular topic, product or service, Lenovo paired the data with its own first-party data and ABM software, creates an opportunity for extremely customized campaigns, content and nurture sequences.
Mike Ballard, Senior Manager of Digital Marketing at Lenovo said: “when someone shows enough interest in a certain category or topic, we fire off a digital campaign to that individual or account.”
For example, if Lenovo receives inbound data that a company is interested in rugged laptops, they can modify the nurture stream for individuals at that company. This could be through ads served, a blog post, E-book or video to send that individual information on rugged laptops. They have seen a material increase in audience engagement since they began personalizing their customer nurture streams based on company and personal data.
“We saw a 22% increase in click-through rates for online banners and a 32% increase in email click-through rates,” said Ballard.
Lenovo is also using this data to equip their sales teams. “When [our salespeople] make contact with their customers, they have insight into what's most important to them at that point in time.”
Ballard added that his team is using these insights to guide the direction of the content the company is creating, as well as equip their sales teams with deeper insights into their prospects and leads.