Ask too few questions on a qualification form that “gates” your content and you can’t identify and track the best prospects. But probe too deeply about their employer, business function, budget or purchase schedule and they’ll abandon your site for a competitor’s.
The answer, of course, is progressive profiling. Don’t ask for their whole identity enchilada at once. Instead, ask for more and more detailed information about them over time in return for more detailed, in-depth or proprietary insights.
Progressive profiling isn’t new. But at the MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2014 in Las Vegas Byron O’Dell, Senior Director of Demand Management at IHS, described how the B2B information vendor used a unique approach to boost its click through rate by 1,112%.
Slow and Steady
As IHS developed not only primary but secondary personas for their most valuable prospects, they faced the challenge of identifying which persona best fit each prospect. IHS didn’t ask prospects for any personal information until the third week of a drip marketing campaign, said O’Dell. And by reducing the number of questions prospects had to answer from 15 to seven, it got “much higher completion rates.”
To get the most bang from each answer, one question contained a drop down list explicitly asking which persona the prospect fit into. To make answering even easier, IHS used a combination of the prospect’s IP address and a third-party marketing database to make an educated guess about details such as their company name and location.
Once the reader provided their company name and role, IHS added about 20 fields of additional information to its internal customer database, including phone number, annual sales of the prospect’s company, number of employees, etc. All that not only gave their salespeople much more background about the prospect, but let IHS customize follow-up messaging based on the prospect’s persona. (To hold down costs, this customization is done automatically, and doesn’t involve major changes to the content.)
What’s In It for the Prospect?
In return for more valuable content – essentially free samples of their research – IHS dove further into asking prospects about secondary personas. About 50 percent of the time, O’Dell says, they provided that information.
Note that this is a far cry from buying a third party database to do a “batch and blast” single email to everyone on a list, whether qualified or not. It instead uses information the prospect has provided (even just implicitly in the form of their IP address) and uses it to make it easier for the prospect to fill out the form to get the information they need.
O’Dell said he hasn’t seen any push-back from prospects over the “creep” factor of a Web site knowing where they’re coming from. Maybe that’s because HIS is using that knowledge not to push a sales pitch, but to provide content tailored to their needs.
Which is what persona-driven content marketing should be all about. Download the slides or watch the presentation here.
You can also check out my simple “progressive profile” content sequence for selling cloud services. If you have a product or service you’d like to see a sample sequence for, drop me a line or call at 508 725-7258.
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