Part 4: Optimizing Your Own Ladder of Marketing-Based Lead Generation
The Ladder of Marketing-based Lead Generation for Life science, Biotech and Med-device Companies
If you have been reading the recent issues of this newsletter, then you may have had the chance to work on your own lead-generating initiatives using some of the techniques we’ve been discussing. You may have even created your own lead generation tracking tool, perhaps by using the template that we provided in last month’s newsletter.
Before we discuss some ways to improve your own lead generating activities, let’s review the ladder of marketing-based lead generation for life science, biotech and med-device companies (see figure 1) and its six common uses.
Figure 1: The ladder of marketing-based lead generation is a way to organize ALL possible lead-generating touchpoints in your organization, from Personal Interactions at the bottom to Free Exposure at the top.
The lader is a scaffold that holds all your lead-generating touchpoints. Your ladder (ideally) rests on a strong foundation consisting of your positioning and your brand. The ladder has many rungs, organizing all of your marketing-based lead generating activities into categories: One-on-one touchpoints at the bottom of the ladder, through Paid Exposure and Content Marketing, up to Free Exposure. Each set of touchpoints has different attributes: the quality of leads generated, the speed of results, the reach, the cost and the type of effort required.
There are six common uses for the ladder of marketing-based lead generation:
- Measurement – monitoring your current status and tracking trends over time
- Planning – designing your future activities
- Comparison – auditing your competitors’ efforts
- Quality control – optimizing your current activities
- Goal setting –inspiring your efforts, and providing a goal to which you can aspire
- Education – teaching (and managing) internal stakeholders about your lead-generating portfolio.
Last month we explained how to create your own “ladder of lead generation” tracking tool. A sample template is available here. Figure 2 shows one sample page from this multi-page template.
Figure 2: A typical ladder of lead generation is shown. Tracking data in this way allows you to compare the relative effectiveness of your lead-generating activities.
Optimizing your ladder of marketing-based lead generation
Now that you are monitoring lead generating activities using a tracking tool, it is time to focus on improving your lead generating activities themselves.
There are many ways you can accomplish this; I’m going to cover four:
- Shore up your ladder’s foundation
- Examine the ladder overall
- Optimize your current touchpoints
- Focus on the future
To help draw your attention to your individual situation, I’ll be posing questions that you can apply to your own lead-generating activities. As you read these, answer them with your own specific circumstances in mind. (In other words: yes, there will be a quiz – but you can grade your own paper.)
A) Shore up your ladder’s foundation.
Without a solid foundation, your ladder won’t be effective. Here are three areas that many biotech and life science organizations often ignore in their lead generating efforts.
Is your positioning solid and unique?
Our experience shows that many biotech and life science organizations are deficient in defining and owning a unique, defensible position. A solid positioning meets four key criteria; your positioning must be clear, relevant, unique and sustainable. With a solid positioning in place, it’s important to examine all your touchpoints to confirm that your unique value is clearly stated. Do all the touchpoints on the different rungs of your ladder drive home the same message concerning your positioning and your unique value?
For more information on the importance of a solid foundation for your ladder of marketing-based lead generation, read here. If you don’t have a written positioning statement defining your target audience, your market, your unique benefit(s) and your proof points, then you may want to start here.
Having a clearly defined, unique position, and ensuring that all your touchpoints reinforce the messages that articulate your position, is the first step in creating a strong foundation for your lead-generating activities. Get in the habit of judging all your life science and biotech marketing initiatives by asking: Does this clearly communicate our unique value? Does this reinforce our positioning?
Is your brand consistent and appropriate?
As competition heats up, a strong brand is fundamental for communicating with your audiences. Many life science brands lose their consistency over time. The messages become less coherent, the colors “wander” and the brand image becomes compromised. There can be many reasons for this creeping “brand incoherence,” and in an alternate universe some of them might even be valid. But we don’t live in that universe.
Without going into great detail, a brand audit and a gap analysis can help you determine the consistency (how well your brand reinforces the desired messages) and the appropriateness (how well your brand articulates your desired positioning) of your brand. When was the last time you performed a brand audit? How coherent and consistent is your life science brand?
Are your messages relevant to your specific audiences?
Do you clearly understand your audiences’ motivations and behaviors? Have you asked your audience whether your messages are important (i.e., relevant), believable and compelling? Do your touchpoints target the appropriate segments of your audience? Do your touchpoints demonstrate clear relevance to your audiences?
Irrelevant, unbelievable and non-compelling messages are, unfortunately, all too common in the life sciences, particularly in the services sector. For example: “We have the best people working for us,” or “We believe in quality,” really do nothing to promote a dialog with your prospects. These messages don’t distinguish you from your competition, because every competitor will, if asked, claim that their quality is high and their people are outstanding, whether these claims are true or not.
The process of obtaining clear audience insight is crucial to successful biotech marketing and successful marketing-based lead generation. For more information on getting audience feedback, read here. How well do your messages resonate with your audiences?
B) Examine your overall lead-generating portfolio.
There are two simple questions you can ask about your ladder as a whole that will help you improve your lead generating activities.
Are rungs missing, or poorly supported?
Do you have gaps in your lead generating portfolio? With a strong foundation established, look for those areas where you focus your biotech marketing-based lead generation activities. Are you putting too much emphasis on one area, such as outbound solicitation or paid exposure? If your ladder has weak or missing rungs, then your lead-generating activities will be unbalanced, with over-reliance on some activities while ignoring others.
While every organization’s experience will be unique, our experience shows that many life science organizations are not actively utilizing content marketing to the fullest extent possible, and are missing the associated opportunities to drive inbound leads. What rungs on your ladder are thin or perhaps even missing?
Are your touchpoints educating, inspiring and reassuring?
There are three key types of support that marketing can provide to individuals as they move from one stage to another in the buying cycle: Education, Inspiration and Reassurance. Each type of support is linked to a different stage in the buying cycle. At the earliest stage prospects need unbiased education. As buyers progress through the buying cycle, they need inspiration to help them increase their perceptions of the positive consequences of their purchase. Once buyers begin to commit to making a purchase they need reassurance to reduce their perceptions of any negative consequences of the purchase (that is, to avoid “anticipatory” buyer’s remorse).
For each touchpoint, it is important to understand what stage of the buying cycle your audience will be in, if this can be identified. Knowing the stage in the buying cycle will help you determine whether each touchpoint should be focused on education, inspiration, reassurance or a mix of all three. For example, a touchpoint that supplies unbiased education (e.g., a whitepaper) will look and feel very different than a touchpoint whose primary focus is inspiration (e.g., a video with a customer testimonial extolling the virtues of a particular product or service).
So ask yourself: in what stage of the buying cycle is the audience for this particular touchpoint? Given this, should this touchpoint seek to educate, inspire or reassure them? This may not always be easy to determine, but clarifying whether your purpose is education, inspiration or reassurance – or some combination – will go a long way towards improving the effectiveness of your touchpoints.
As you examine your ladder, you should determine whether you have a mix of tactics that educate, inspire and reassure. Do your touchpoints address the entire spectrum of the buying cycle in an appropriate way?
C) Optimize your current touchpoints
How can you improve the touchpoints you already have? The short answer is: use the references provided by your favorite search engine. Choose any specific touchpoint (e.g., landing pages or email blasts or banner ads, etc.), perform a simple search and you’ll be rewarded with more information about improving that specific touchpoint than you can read and digest in an entire week. Past issues of this newsletter have covered some of these specific topics with a focus on the life science, biotech and med-device marketplaces, so you can also get some information from our archives.
My goal here is not to replace all that information, but to direct your attention to what that advice might not provide: specific implications for the life science, biotech and med-device sectors. The following techniques typically apply to more than one touchpoint. They also address specific issues that are commonly overlooked by life science, biotech and med-device companies.
Do you seek conversions at every step?
Does each touchpoint outline a clear next step for the prospect to take? Does it actively invite the prospect to take that step? This is sometimes referred to as a “Call to Action.”
No prospect will sign a contract just because they visited your website or walked past your tradeshow booth. Even though that may be your ultimate goal (“We need more sales!”) asking prospects who visit your website or tradeshow booth to sign a contract is pointless; fulfilling this request would require the prospect to cross a very wide chasm in a single step. To support your prospects in ultimately reaching your final goal, break the large step down into many smaller ones. These smaller steps are easier for the prospect to take, and the act of committing to taking a small step has been shown to actually increase their commitment to taking the next step. (For more on the social science behind the phenomena of commitment, read this newsletter.)
The smaller actions you are seeking to encourage occur when prospects increase their engagement by “taking one step closer” to your firm. These steps are sometimes known as “conversions.” As an example, you convert an unknown website visitor into a known prospect when they provide enough information (e.g., name and email address) to subscribe to your newsletter. Not surprisingly, more people will convert if you make it easy for them to do so, and even more will convert if you ask them to. Also not surprisingly, many biotech and life science organizations do not make it easy nor do they actually ask.
The entire series of conversions that you make available to your prospects should have many branches, as there are many paths that lead from the beginning of the process (an unknown prospect), to the end of the process (a closed sale). This web of conversions will begin before your prospects even identify themselves to you – one example is signing up for your web site’s RSS feed, which they can do anonymously. Eventually, you want them to identify themselves to you in some way. Then you should have an array of other possible conversions, including activities requiring little trust on their part – such as signing up for your newsletter – as well as larger forms of commitment, such as paying for a webinar.
For each touchpoint on each rung, ask yourself: What action (conversion) are we seeking from prospects? Is this conversion easy for the prospect to accomplish? Have we asked them to take a specific action (to make the conversion)?
Are you answering every question? (You shouldn’t!)
Remember that you have two primary goals for every marketing-based lead-generation touchpoint. The first is to reinforce your organization’s position. The second is to encourage your audience to “raise their hands and/or take a step forward.” To accomplish these two goals, it is not necessary to answer each and every question that the audience has. In fact, their questions can actually help your lead-generating effectiveness, because it is only when they have a question that they will seek clarification by raise their hands or taking a step forward.
The discipline of science places a high value on answering every question. This attitude can work against your bioscience marketing goals. Unless your sales are completely transactional with no reliance on a salesperson whatsoever, your marketing materials should not answer every possible question. What questions do your marketing touchpoints leave unanswered? Are they the right questions to leave unanswered?
Do you prefer A or B?
Within any particular touchpoint – email blasts or banner ads, for example – A-B testing, though simple in concept, can lead to significant improvements. A-B testing involves comparing the effectiveness of different content (messages, offers, graphics, etc.) in the same touchpoint. This is easy to do for many digitally based touchpoints. Tracking the results from two banner ads, two landing pages or two email blasts is very simple. Digital printing now makes this easy to do for paper-based touchpoints, such as direct mail. The key to success lies in making small changes and then measuring and comparing the results. Then repeat the process: make small changes, measure and then compare the results. Over time, this will allow you to hone in on those words, phrases, images and designs that your audiences find most compelling.
In performing A-B testing it is important to follow good experimental design principles. To increase your confidence in the results’ validity, keep as many aspects of the experiments the same as possible. This applies to your entire suite of other complementary bioscience marketing efforts. Running an A/B test on a banner ad with a call-to-action to visit your web site won’t be worth much if you send out a large email blast with a similar call-to-action only during the B portion of the test, but not the A portion.
How can you use A/B testing to improve your current touchpoints?
Can you broaden your presence on rungs you already use?
You can broaden the presence on the rungs you already use by incorporating incremental improvements to your current touchpoints. As examples, consider the following:
- add a podcast or video to your website
- use QR codes to track performance of your direct mail activities
- add social media touchpoints to your existing mix; for example, starting a blog in addition to your whitepapers
- expand your LinkedIn presence by starting a LinkedIn group devoted to a particular topic of expertise
- host a series of Webinars in addition to your blog
Are there other ways you can broaden your presence on rungs you already use?
D) Focus on the future by climbing the ladder.
Remember that higher rungs are also slower to yield results, so it is only once you have a clearly established portfolio of lead-generating activities that you should set your sights on higher rungs. Higher rungs bring more visibility and a clearer demonstration of your unique value. Here are three examples of expanding your presence on higher rungs:
- If you have been subscribing to and reading a particular set of trade publications, then you could add relevant comments to articles on the appropriate websites and become known as an insightful contributor. Then you could solicit the opportunity to write an article.
- You could attend a tradeshow one year, exhibit at the same show the following year, and speak from the podium the year after that.
- Expand your social media activities. Begin by listening, then engage through commenting and finally authoring relevant content.
- Begin your content-marketing activities by starting small, with a few blog posts or some tweets. Over time, expand your activities by adding a newsletter, or video posts on your blog.
How can you climb your ladder of lead generation?
The ladder of marketing-based lead generation is a powerful tool for organizing, tracking and planning your lead-generating activities. Once you are using a tracking tool, you can focus on improving your these activities by paying attention to four areas:
- Shore up your ladder’s foundation
- Examine the ladder overall
- Optimize your current touchpoints
- Focus on the future
Having completed these improvements, your lead-generating machine should be providing a steady stream of high-quality leads.
- To optimize your lead-generating activities, focus on these four key areas:
- Shore up your ladder’s foundation:
- Your positioning should be clear, relevant, unique and sustainable.
- Your brand should be consistent and appropriate.
- Your messages should be relevant to your specific audiences.
- Examine your ladder overall:
- All rungs on your ladder should be properly supported, with activity on all rungs.
- Your touchpoints should be focused on education, inspiration and reassurance, as appropriate.
- Optimize your current touchpoints:
- You should seek conversions at every step.
- You should leave some questions unanswered.
- You should refine your touchpoints through A/B testing.
- You should look for ways to broaden your presence on rungs you already occupy.
- Focus on the future:
- You should focus on climbing the ladder of lead generation over time.
[i] This idea was originally brought to our attention by Blair Enns.