How to Gear Your Marketing Program to Today’s HR Tech Buyer | Episode 54

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The GrowthMode team is hearing from many marketing leaders who say they’re struggling to figure out why their programs aren’t driving better results. The reasons can sometimes be more obvious to us because we have the luxury of looking at it from an outside-in perspective. While your internal team is naturally heads-down working hard to produce work that meets a multitude of needs.

Listen to this episode to gain great insight on how to better align your approach to today’s HR tech buyer behaviors. Is your strategy on target? Find out now.

01:07 Gated content: How it impacts conversion rates
05:28 Slow lead pipeline: Creating content that’s more compelling and builds trust
09:45 Digital footprint: Why it needs to be robust to attract prospects
16:28 Converting leads: How to emphasize lead quality over quantity
17:29 Lead scoring: Identifying buying intent and why it can be challenging
19:57 Quality over quantity: Prioritizing quality builds a better pipeline
23:24 Rethinking your approach to drive better results

(00:00:01) – Hey, everybody, it’s Jenni from GrowthMode Marketing. You’re listening to Demand Gen Fix, the podcast where our team of GrowthModers and our guests discuss the ins and outs of demand generation, and why we believe it’s the key to long-term sustainable growth, especially in the HR tech industry.

(00:00:21) – Hello friends, Deana and Greg back here for another episode of The Demand Gen Fix. We often talk to marketing leaders who are struggling to figure out why their marketing efforts are not driving better results. Sometimes the reason is more obvious to our team looking in from the outside than it is to those on the inside busting their butts to move the needle, but you’ve got to fix this if you’re going to make headway in the crowded HR tech market. So, today we’re going to talk about four ways your HR tech marketing program may be missing the mark, and it’s all about some of the issues that we very commonly see. And we’ll talk about how you can determine if any of these are happening with your marketing programs

(00:01:07) – The thing we see a lot, and it’s the first thing that we always talk about and we always look for is gated content, right? Because gated content just affects your conversion rate; affects how many people are going to fill out a form because they know they’re going to get a barrage of emails and cold calls if they fill out that form to get your content.

(00:01:24) – Yeah, this is one I can’t believe we’re still talking about it, right? But there are still a lot of marketing teams out there that are using gated content as a way to collect leads. And I think the challenge with that, you hit it on the head, Greg, they don’t want the barrage of emails and cold calls. A lot of times these individuals, they aren’t in market to buy. They’re just interested in the content. And sometimes they doubt that the content will be good enough to make it worth the price of giving their contact information. We know people are resistant to talking to sales reps these days, and they’re trying to do as much research as they can up front, so they’re taking actions to avoid interacting with that sales rep. And a great example, I’ve had conversations with prospects where they’ve called me up and they’re like, okay, we need GrowthMode Marketing help because clearly our landing pages are ineffective and they need to be redesigned.

(00:02:23) – And as we talk through some of the challenges they’re seeing, what they will tell me is I’ve had 1,500 people land on my landing page, but we’ve had very few people actually fill out that form. Well, I gotta say, 99% of the time, probably greater than that. The problem is not the design of the landing page. The problem is you’ve got to form there and you’re asking them to provide that contact information, and they’re not ready to do that.

(00:02:53) – Yeah, it’s like they’re not far enough along in their process, right? Once they’ve done all their research, then they’ll be more likely to fill out a form, or even contact you directly.

(00:03:02) – Yep, you’ve got to think twice before gating content. Honestly, why put an obstacle in front of content that you want prospects to engage with? You can continue to market to target individuals via digital retargeting ads if the concern is, well, I want to capture their name so I can keep marketing to them. You can purchase email addresses, and there’s still list vendors out there. There’s scraping services. There are ways to get emails of contacts other than asking them directly for it. And you can track prospect engagement activities via marketing automation. So, if you already have their email address and they’ve previously engaged with your content because you sent them an email and they clicked on something, unless they’re turning off cookies on their computer, you can see what they’re interacting with on your website.

(00:03:54) – Yeah, if you think about it like you just said with the retargeting, if they’re going to your landing page, there’s some interest there, right? So, maybe you’re retargeting is doing more things to get them to trust you and believe what you’re saying, and answer their concerns, right, or with their pain points. So, you could still be getting in front of them, but they didn’t fill out the form. But you didn’t totally lose them.

(00:04:15) – Right, and that doesn’t mean, oh, let’s run some digital ads and we’ll put a form on that and we’ll capture them then because they didn’t fill out the first form. I think there’s a way to throw content out in front of them without requiring forms through doing retargeting because it takes so many touches now to get people on board with that.

(00:04:36) – So, Greg, what would you recommend for how to evaluate if this is an issue for an organization?

(00:04:43) – You’re looking at how many people are getting to the page, like you were saying before. I mean, people are even getting there, but then what’s the percentage of how many people are abandoning right away versus the amount of people who are filling out the form? And then you could look at it also is when the people do fill out the form you want to see, what was it? Is it the right type of lead? How far are they down the path? Maybe it’s something about the content on my landing page.

(00:05:06) – So, the second issue that we often see with companies are the lead pipeline is a trickle. And I think the reason for this is that a lot of times they’re like, prospects don’t feel compelled to make a change, even though we feel like we’ve got a strong message and they’ve a real case for them to make a change.

(00:05:28) – Yeah, it’s like there’s no sense of urgency on the prospects part. They’re not really ready, or they haven’t really decided to make a change. So, your message, it doesn’t really resonate with them yet.

(00:05:38) – Yeah, it’s like you as the HR tech company and as the sales rep think that they need this. They don’t think the same. And that’s a problem, right? Because if the lead pipeline is a trickle, how do you fix that? And I think one of the things to do is really look at your messaging and test different variations of your messaging to see what actually resonates with them. And you’ve got to play the long game. Building trust marketing is unfortunately not one of those things that overnight, it just starts working as soon as you put it into play. Sometimes the issue for organizations is they’ve got great messaging, but they’re not playing the long game, which is trying to build that brand awareness, credibility and trust with those prospects. They’re like, but we need leads now. So, what would be your advice, Greg, on how to evaluate if this one is an issue?

(00:06:35) – Like you said, you have to test some different options, right? Find out what’s the engagement level with these different pieces of content. Somebody that’s in a different stage, obviously something different is going to resonate with them than with somebody else. And then what percentage of people raise their hand when they have interest, and what’s the message that got them to make that move?

(00:06:55) – And I think both those pieces of advice are good, because when you’re looking at the engagement level with content, you may not be building a lead pipeline that’s moving today, but if the engagement level is high, then it may be an issue of you’ve got to give it more time and you’ve got to continue to put that message out in front of those people. If the issue is nobody’s raising their hand, they’re not engaging with your content, then I think it is a messaging issue, and you need to go out there and do the testing and variations of your message to see what resonates. And if you’re not doing this as a marketing team, you need to be. And that is going out and having actual conversations with your ideal customer profile to understand, are we capturing the right things when we’re building our message positioning? Do we understand their pain points, and are we positioning well to that? Because I think what happens in a lot of organizations is there’s so many touchpoints with prospects and clients that it feels, internally, we know the answer to this. We know what their problems are and we can articulate that. And sometimes you find when you go in and you talk to individuals in your ideal customer profile, they’re actually thinking about it, framing it up differently from a problem standpoint, then internally how your team interpreted it. So, it’s really important to have those conversations and have those conversations on a regular basis because as the market changes, as the native organizations change, and as your technology changes, your messaging is and should evolve with that.

(00:08:39) – Yeah, absolutely. I was just thinking the same thing as you started talking about that. Things change. Like, you created the messaging, or somebody created the messaging, right? But that could be three years ago, and things changed in three years. So, maybe the same thing isn’t going to work anymore, even though it’s only three years old.

(00:08:54) – And that’s the reality is what worked yesterday may not work today. It may be different tomorrow. And so you’ve got to look at message positioning as continually evolving. Now that doesn’t mean you’re going to drastically change it every six months unless the market dictates the need for that, right? But you do need to keep an ear to the ground and be listening to the right people to make sure that there’s an evolution with your messaging, if there needs to be.

(00:09:23) – The third issue we see a lot is clients will come and say, my company isn’t even making the shortlist. And it’s like, why isn’t anybody reaching out to us? And one of the thing is that could be the problem is that your digital content footprint isn’t large enough or is not really effective enough for the prospects to find you, and then learn about you, and then reach out to you. So, it’s fairly common, but a lot of people don’t realize it.

(00:09:45) – This is a big one, because the reality is that B2B prospects today make up to 80% of their purchase decision before they’re willing to engage with a company. And if you really step back and think about that, means they’re pretty much making their shortlist by the time they raise their hand and say, hey, I have an interest in your solution. They’re going out and they’re doing their own research and gathering as much information as they can before they have that conversation with your sales team.

(00:10:14) – And from the standpoint, if you think about it, they’ve made that short list. If you’re not in front of them well before that, then no, you’re not making a shortlist. And I think there’s different ways you can approach this, but at GrowthMode Marketing, we have a process that we’ve developed for our clients to really think about, how do you turn your digital footprint into your best sales tool to help get your prospects to that 80% of their decision process, so you do make the shortlist?

(00:10:47) – Yeah, you have to remember that they’re looking at content across all kinds of digital channels to do that research. They want to be self-sufficient and make decisions on their own, right, without having salespeople helping them. Because everybody thinks, right, the salesperson is going to push me, right? The salesperson, which is not always the case, but there’s three ways to get your content out there to help grow the business. One is, your website, your digital storefront, and then you have managed channels to help build your audience, and then third party channels that you can tap into existing relevant audiences that you want to get to.

(00:11:19) – Yeah, and we have past episodes that cover the whole what we call the distribution channel of getting content out there in your demand generation engine, where we go deeper into how do you need to think about this from a website standpoint? How do you need to think about it from the managed channels, and building out an audience that wants to continually follow and consume, and engage with your content? And how do you expand your reach and credibility by tapping into those third party channels where your ideal customer profile is already hanging out? So, if you’re interested in that, definitely check all of the topics that we’ve done with the The Demand Gen Fix podcast, and you’ll see a couple episodes that focus specifically on that. but going back to your company is not making the shortlist. How do you evaluate if this is the issue for your company, that basically your digital content look, print is too small or it’s ineffective?

(00:12:19) – The easiest way to do some research on this. Search your company and see what kinds of things come up. Obviously, you want to be up in the top couple of results, but at least you can start to see who else is popping up. Where am I coming up? What of my content is coming up? What volume is there? What’s the quality of my content versus my competitor’s content? Do you think that is going to attract your ideal customer profile? What’s coming up?

(00:12:43) – And if the question is no, for example, there are companies that certainly have a lot of content out on the web. They’re easy to find, but the content isn’t actually targeted to their ideal customer profile. And that’s a problem. So, it’s not just looking at how much content do we have there, but do we have the right content out there? Because the way that it should work when you’re building out that digital footprint is you’re going to start attracting more of your ideal customer profile because you’re putting really good, targeted, focused content out there for that particular audience. And they’re going to start to consume it, and follow along, and build that credibility and trust with your brand, and ultimately, that demand so that they are thinking, well before they’re in market, this is a company that I want to work with someday.

(00:13:36) – And so, I think it’s really important, and it’s one of the things that I do, one of the first things I do, when I’m talking to a new prospect that GrowthMode Marketing potentially may work with, as I do a Google search and just see, do you have a strong digital footprint? Is it good content that’s out there? Does it go beyond just your website and your company LinkedIn page? And sometimes the answer’s yes, but a lot of times, honestly, the answer is no, they don’t have that much out there. And there’s a big opportunity to really fix that knowing how prospects by today.

(00:14:08) – Yeah, like you said, is it really targeted to your ideal customer profile? We didn’t mention it yet, but also are you seeing something unique? Do you have a unique point of view in your content that makes you different? If the prospect sees five websites and they’re all saying the same thing, then does it really matter? You need to stand out as much as you need to be there. You could be there less times, but with a better message and make more impact, right? It’s not purely a numbers game, right?

(00:14:34) – That’s absolutely true, and it’s part of when we work with clients, there’s a whole process to building out your demand generation engine. And it starts with the strategy. And the premise behind your strategy is how do we hyper focus, and come up with that unique point of view in the market so that we can break through the clutter and not sound like everyone? Then it’s about creating really good content, but then you get to that distribution phase of, okay, we’ve got really good content, how do we get it out there? So all of those pieces work together and are all part of how you build out that digital footprint to become your best sales tool, or sometimes I say, your best sales rep to help get individuals to that 80%.

(00:15:15) – Not to get too far into the weeds, but also with this searching your own company. There are technical issues with the website that maybe don’t know about that could also be blocking your site from coming up. There’s indexing issues, and there’s quality score to your website, and there’s user experience, and all those things go into Google’s algorithms. If all that stuff isn’t set up, and you wouldn’t show up, even if you have great content. So yeah, you do need to make sure that those little in the weeds thing, somebody is taking care of that and looking after that stuff.

(00:15:43) – There’s a lot of things to look at when you’re trying to build up that presence online. So, the fourth issue that we often see marketing departments experience is that marketing leads aren’t turning into revenue. And typically this is because the leads that are being passed to sales, they’re looking at them and saying, okay, we’re building this pipeline, but the sales cycles are long and the closed rates are low. And we’re being told as a marketing team by the sales team and the executive leadership team, we need more leads. Problem is, our last podcast, we talked about a report that showed that pipelines were up value wise, but close rates were down.

(00:16:28) – So, more leads does not necessarily equate to more revenue because if you’re looking at it from a quantity versus a quality perspective, sometimes the focus gets put so much on quantity that it misses the quality.

(00:16:46) – It depends on how you set up your lead scoring and where you put the weight. You could be taking people that aren’t really ready to buy and passing them off as a lead. Of course they’re not. They’re not in market. They’re not ready to buy. They just happened to read 3 or 4 articles, which means maybe they’re thinking about buying it next year, and then you pass them off and they get to sales, and then they are like, why are these people bothering me? So, you end up turning them off, and then maybe you lose the sale that you would have gotten in a year.

(00:17:10) – Right, I think it’s one of those things like MQLs and SQLs, or marketing qualified leads, and sales qualified leads have been part of B2B marketing terminology for years now, and when marketing came out, marketing automation, it came with a lead scoring and it was this great way, for the first time as marketers, we could prioritize leads, but if you take a step back and look how people buy today and how lead scoring works, I think sometimes there’s this false sense of this is a really good lead because how the lead score builds up. Of course, the more they engage with your content, the more points they get. And if it’s set where if they hit a certain point threshold, they’re ready, pass them to sales. Well, if you’ve got someone that’s really highly engaged with your content, when it’s all top of funnel content; they’re educating themselves. They’re learning about things. They’re solving problems; looking at your content, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the buying intents there, but yet that score went up and they got passed over to sales. And that’s a lot of times where, okay, we’ve got a high quantity of leads, but they’re not converting as much as we think they should be. It’s probably because they’re not ready to buy, right? And so, I think there needs to be this look, hard look, at lead scoring practices to make sure that the way that your lead scoring is set up is not creating this false sense of this is a good lead who is ready to buy.

(00:18:43) – And instead you’ve got to take a step back and identify what activities demonstrate buying intent versus self educating. And so somebody who runs up their score because they’re engaging with a lot of top funnel content, maybe instead of handing that to sales, it makes more sense to do something like put them in specific campaigns, and to continue to nurture them, to continue to educate them and get them to a point where they start to demonstrate some buying intent, and defining, okay, what are the different types of actions prospects take, and what does indicate that there is a level of buying intent? A really clear example, if someone says, I want to see a demo. That is a level of buying intent. Doesn’t necessarily mean they are ready to buy today. No, there absolutely are prospects, out there who out of interest in the product, will see a demo when they don’t have the budget yet, but it certainly demonstrates more buying intent than somebody who just read your research report. And so, if you can classify the types of actions that people are taking, I think it gives a better picture of how do we ensure these are the right leads to be passing to sales. And you’ve got to look at it from the perspective of putting quality before quantity. When you are building a pipeline for the sales team.

(00:20:09) – How would you evaluate this was an issue?

(00:20:12) – I think there are a few things to look at. Like I said, one is defining what indicates buying intent for a lead before you pass it. I also think if you’re trying to decide is the problem, that our marketing leads aren’t turning into revenue quality issue, look at how long is your average sales cycle. What percent of leads fall out of the pipeline, or go dark, and what percent of leads turn into business? And if the sales cycles are really long and a vast majority of them fall out of the pipeline, or go dark before they turn into business, that’s a sign that you probably need to make some adjustments from a lead measurement perspective on what’s actually being passed to sales. And I know that can be a scary exercise because it’s like, how do you explain to your CEO and your sales leader, hey, I know we went from passing 100 leads per month, so 1,200 per year to the organization, we’re taking a step back and we’re re analyzing what gets passed. It’s probably going to be 20 leads a month now, right?

(00:21:23) – And from their perspective they’re like Holy crikey. You’re telling me we’re going from 1,200 leads a year to 240. Meanwhile, we got growth targets to hit as a business, and we’ve got quotas to hit this month, this quarter, this year, but we’re going to have less opportunities to do that. That’s a scary process, but the reality is, if you can show them the numbers, look how long the average sales cycle is and what percentage of leads are falling out of the pipeline, or going dark. You can start to narrow down and say, at the end of the day, we didn’t have 1,200 good leads and quite frankly, 1,200 graph leads versus 240 good leads. You’re going to get much farther as a business with 240 leads that had actual buying intent than 1,200 leads that had no buying intent because you can’t convince someone, who’s not in market to buy right now, to sign on the dotted line today to buy your expensive HR technology solution.

(00:22:28) – Even if you get the first three months free. I guess at the end of the day, right, if your marketing programs aren’t driving results you need, then you need to try something different. You need to do some homework and dig into things and figure out what is and isn’t working. It’s the definition of insanity. You’ve heard this a million times, right? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting something different. So, if you’re getting the same results and nothing is changing, or even results are probably going to get worse and worse over time, they’re not going to get better because you keep doing the same thing over and over again. So, you need to make some changes and dig into it.

(00:23:03) – Right, if you’re falling behind on revenue, doubling down on the marketing tactics that aren’t delivering the results isn’t going to get you there. And I say that it seems obvious, but we see it happen where organizations are like, our revenues down. You know what we’re gonna do ten times more investment in digital advertising.

(00:23:24) – It’s okay, but you’re not getting leads from it now, so how is spending more going to get you more leads, or doubling down on email campaigns when they’re not producing results? There’s probably something that’s more of a root cause of why you’re not getting the results, that you need to step back and take a look at. And at the end of the day, don’t ignore the red flags. High growth takes the right strategy, and if your programs aren’t driving results, it’s time to step back and rethink your marketing approach. And of course, if you need help doing this, GrowthMode Marketing is here for you. Just give us a shout.

(00:24:00) – Thanks for joining us on The Demand Gen Fix, a podcast for HR tech marketers brought to you by GrowthMode Marketing. I sure hope you enjoyed it. Don’t forget to subscribe for more perspectives on Demand Generation and B2B marketing strategies. Plus, give us a like, tell your friends. We’ll see you next time.

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