It’s Easy For Prospects To Get Stuck In This Stage; Learn How To Move Them Along And Closer To Close
When we created the Cyclonic Buyer Journey™, it was with this Education Stage in mind. Just think back to the last time you were doing some proactive research on the web. How did that feel?
Article after article, videos, podcasts, opinions, best practices, e-books, infographics, self-proclaimed experts, small companies that look big, big companies that look small — it’s impossible to know what is going to be helpful and what is going to be hurtful.
Who has the answer? Who do you believe? What advice is relevant to your company, your industry and your services? What best practices are going to help you drive up numbers? You are trapped in a cyclone of information and content.
How did you get out of it? What triggered you to move on toward making a decision?
More than likely it was someone who had something different to say, something that resonated with you for some reason or content that connected and made you feel like they understood you or your challenges. They offered you something that no one else had.
This is how you want to think about your execution for prospects in the Education Stage.
The Secrets To Marketing To Prospects In The Education Stage
The big takeaway here is you have to cut through the clutter. We just described how inundated your prospects are with content coming at them in every direction.
Email, social, text, websites and chat — more and more channels are open to your prospects, and marketers are flooding these channels with educational content.
Your job? Come up with content that cuts through the clutter in both substance and format.
The first step is understanding your prospects. You have to understand their challenges, pains, concerns and issues. You have to understand how they buy and how many people from their organization are involved in the buyer process. Who do they have to sell up to? Who do they have to influence or persuade?
The more intimate you are with your prospects’ buyer journeys, the better your marketing tactics will perform during the Education Stage.
Once you’ve put yourself in your prospects’ shoes, then start thinking about thought leadership and creating a compelling story associated with your content. Why would someone want to read or watch it? What do you have to say to grab their attention, to shake them away from competing content and to hold their attention?
At Square 2 Marketing, we create remarkable differentiation strategies for our clients and translate them into stories. We then marry those stories with the questions our clients’ prospects have during their Education Stage.
Finally, we decide on format. If everyone is publishing e-books, we might go for an infographic or a video. If everyone is doing video, we might go for a podcast. Blogging still remains an important educational content tactic because you can leverage blog posts across the entire buyer journey.
What I mean by that is salespeople can use blog posts effectively in the sales process, delivering high-impact content in context to the conversations they’re having with prospects.
We might run a similar play with a pillar page, building it to rank on search to enhance a client’s website and to provide sales with more content to use during the sales process. Looking for ways to use content across tactics is key to a highly effective and efficient lead generation and revenue growth program.
Most Common Mistakes To Avoid In The Education Stage
One of the biggest mistakes is not creating any educational material that is unique. If you’re looking at what your competitors are doing, you’re making a mistake. Ignore what they’re doing. They’re not smarter than you.
Instead, do the exact opposite. If they’re talking about products, you shift and talk about client benefits and value. If they’re talking about client benefits, you should be talking about the values prospects should be looking for in a new partner.
One way to get ahead is to publish research that helps your prospects make smart purchasing decisions. Where is marketing going? What do you see in the future? What should they be thinking about in 2019 or 2020?
The next biggest mistake is publishing content that is not designed for people in the Education Stage. You see this a lot in sites with “talk to a rep,” “schedule a consultation” or “request a proposal” as offers. These are offers designed for people in the Evaluation Stage, not the Education Stage.
Finally, the last mistake is not understanding your prospects’ personas and not creating content in the format that works for their personalities. If you’re trying to attract engineers and you publish videos or infographics, they might not connect with that format as much as data sheets or research studies.
If you’re trying to attract marketing people and all you publish is research studies, you might be missing the opportunity to appeal to their creative side by using video, podcasts, presentations or animation.
A lot of this also comes down to testing. While you might have assumptions and opinions, data should carry a lot more weight. Who cares what you think when your data shows video converts twice as much as research? Use prospect data to make your case and ultimately make all of your decisions based on data, not who has the loudest voice in the meeting.
Tactics To Consider For The Education Stage
Some of the tactics that work in Education from the previous two articles include email marketing and lead nurturing campaigns. Your website, pillar pages and the experience on your site are all going to be critical. If you have educational content, how easy is it for visitors to find it and get it?
We talked about blogging and guest blogging, two excellent educational tactics covered during the Awareness article.
Lead scoring was also covered and is important here. If you do lead scoring correctly, you might gain insights into when prospects move into the Educational Stage based on their browsing and conversion history on your site. Make sure your scoring algorithm is set up properly to reflect this behavior profile.
Here’s a more detailed description of some of the new tactics:
- Content marketing: It’s probably not shocking to see a heavy dose of content marketing at this stage in the buyer journey. People in the Education Stage are hungry for it. Make sure it’s high quality, oriented to their issues and questions, and unique enough to stand out versus any competitive content.
- Podcasting: The first podcast was launched in 2009, and in the last few years podcasts have seen a major resurgence. Podcast-hosting sites like iTunes and Spotify have made it easy to share podcast content, and smartphone technology has made it easy for people to listen to podcasts when it’s convenient for them. Fast Company reports that iTunes alone is home to more than 500,000 active shows. If you want to see an example, click here to listen to Smash The Funnel – The Podcast. All 10 episodes from season 1 are now available.
- Video marketing: Video is the new shiny toy in the toy box for marketers, in part because it has never been easier to produce. People are in love with the homemade, authentic video format, so high-end, expensive video production is dying a slow death. Video is another asset that, if produced correctly, can help with both marketing and sales. Make sure you don’t script it too much. Also, be sure the sound is excellent and includes closed captions, because people often have their sound turned off.
- Infographics: Plenty of left-brain people are out there, and the infographic is designed to appeal directly to those who don’t want to wade through a ton of dense text. Bright images, big data, graphs and charts make this Education Stage tool highly effective. It’s easy to weave an infographic into a pillar page, making it the centerpiece for content, search, web and sales-related tactics.
- Chat for conversion, intent, education and questions: Perhaps even hotter than video is chat tech that provides the ability for people to skip the form, turning visitors into sales-qualified leads because they ask to talk to a rep right from your website. Conversational marketing is another fancy term for this. Chat tools are great for prospects in the Educational Stage because if they do have questions, they get instant answers. You can also use chat to learn visitor intent, which helps you craft messaging and content offers on your pages.
- Webinars: Events like webinars offer prospects a chance to self-select directly into an educational offer and then allow you to start lead nurturing campaigns based on that prospect’s behavior. Webinars are excellent educational offers. They require more of a commitment in both time and contact information shared, further signaling the marketing team that they are active in their educational cycle.
- Live events: Events have made a big comeback. In 2009 and 2010, the event industry was dead. But today, events are an excellent opportunity to talk with prospects, educate prospects and build the know, like and trust that is so important to make them feel safe with your company.
- Advocacy: It’s possible that this is a little early in the buyer journey. Looking for people (like your prospects) who have had a positive experience with you typically comes later in the buyer journey, such as during Evaluation, Decision and Rationalization. However, our businesses are so transparent today that it’s possible your prospects find reviews on your company during the Education Stage. You should be actively driving positive reviews and aware of any negative or neutral reviews.
Metrics To Measure During The Education Stage
The nature of content and its relationship to the Education Stage means you’ll want to look at a ton of metrics. I’ve prepared a partial list here, and because they are all generally straightforward, I’m not going to go into detail on each of them.
The key takeaway is that your educational content should be performing better month over month, and if it’s not, it’s likely an indicator that it should be retired and replaced with something else.
Here’s what you could be looking at to measure the effectiveness of your Education Stage marketing tactics:
- CTA button conversion rates (this month vs. last month)
- Landing page conversion rates (this month vs. last month)
- Blog subscribers (this month vs. last month)
- Webinar registrants (this month vs. last month)
- Webinar attendees (this month vs. last month)
- Conversion rate on registrants to attendees (this month vs. last month)
- Top five performing video assets (views, this month vs. last month)
- Video channel subscribers (this month vs. last month)
- Podcast subscribers (this month vs. last month)
- Podcast downloads (this month vs. last month)
- Top five performing offers (clicks this month vs. last month and leads generated this month vs. last month)
- Sales-qualified leads from educational assets (this month vs. last month)
- Sales opportunities from educational assets (this month vs. last month)
- New customers who viewed educational assets (this month vs. last month)
The best way to keep tabs on this in real time is to set up a handful of buyer-journey-specific dashboards and check in on the data weekly. In some cases, you might want to look at the data daily. For example, your campaign metrics for webinars should show increases every day leading up to the event. You’ll want to know how you’re tracking in real time so you can make adjustments as needed.
Technology To Make Execution In The Education Stage Easier
A lot of the technology designed for the Education Stage is focused on the production of educational content, which is fine as long as you don’t limit yourself to only this type of tech.
Here are the stage-specific software tools we’ve looked at, tested and recommend to clients building a rich tech stack around the Education Stage. Remember, these are all built on top of platform software like HubSpot, Marketo or Salesforce:
- Wistia: A video platform that gives you tools to easily create videos, launch them, share them and gain analytics on them.
- Vidyard: A similar video platform now embedded directly into the HubSpot platform. But if you need an enhanced feature set, you’ll need to buy it separately from HubSpot. Vidyard also give you a quick app on your laptop to create sales videos to enhance the communication inside the sales process.
- Atomic Reach: AI tool to help you determine whether your content is created correctly as well as whether it’s engaging your prospects and producing ROI.
- Powtoon: A production tool kit that allows non-designers to create and publish short animated videos to help tell your story.
- Uberflip: A content management platform that allows you to create better content experiences for every stage of the buyer journey.
- Ceros: A tool that allows you to build interactive content experiences without needed to know any coding.
By now, you should be able to see that you need all four areas to drive results. You need strategy, tactics, analytics and technology. If any one of these four pillars is missing, the entire program collapses on itself, resulting in weak results and poor ROI on any of the money spent.
By smashing the funnel and applying a new map (the Cyclonic Buyer Journey map), we’re encouraging people to start building more buyer-centric marketing and sales strategies, executing tactics more thoughtfully, tracking the performance of everything and using technology to automate and analyze your results.
The business outcomes? Month-over-month revenue growth and consistent, scalable, repeatable and predictable revenue generation machines. Give it a try, it works! That’s why we guarantee results for our clients.
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