What You Can Learn About Prospects from the Content They Read – 4 Questions for Ardath Albee

One of the benefits of marketing automation is that it provides marketers with the ability to see how prospects interact with their marketing content. Lead scoring assigns points based on the prospects’ behavior in relation to specific content over time—in addition to points for demographic fit and recency. With so much riding on how well companies can engage prospects with content, I asked Ardath Albee to answer four questions about how we can develop content that helps us learn more about our prospects as we work to become more effective in helping them choose to buy our products. CD: You talk a lot about telling stories over time with content. Can you explain what that means for a B2B marketer?

AA: Telling stories only works if they’re focused on the buyer’s perspective. What makes this easier is that solving a business problem has a structure similar to a story. A story has the structure of beginning, middle and end. A buying process is often defined as awareness, consideration, purchase. Content must be designed to motivate movement across each step of the process—one piece leading to the next, from beginning (status quo) to end (purchase).

Here’s an example:

The prospect becomes aware of a problem. They likely create a workaround. It’s not ideal, but it’s what they’ve got and it works okay. That’s their status quo. In this situation, they don’t yet have a reason to pursue further change. Then you come along with content that discusses all the things they can’t do because they never truly solved the problem. They say, “Sounds nice, but I’m not sure I really need it.”

Your next communication provides content that shares the impact on other departments in the company because the problem is allowed to continue. The prospect had no idea of the true cost of the workaround. They decide to find out just what it might take to solve the problem and go in search of content that will help them learn more. You’re ready with content that answers their need, and on you go, telling the story the prospect needs to take next steps.

CD: Can you explain what this type of content helps marketers learn about prospects?

AA: There are a number of ways content can help marketers learn more about their leads. Here are a few:

  • Identify the prospect’s stage in the buying process. If content has been designed to tell a story from beginning, to middle, to the end of a buying process, then the content the prospect interacts with will identify where they are in the process. But don’t use the first content they view as a determinant. For example, if a prospect has been in a lead nurturing program for 4 months and they finally click through, wait and see what they access next. Do they go backwards to content that tells the beginning of the story? Or do they stick with the story the way you’re telling it?
  • Depth of Interest. Just accessing your content isn’t enough. Whether or not they spend enough time to actually read the content is an indicator of interest. Beyond that, if you’ve provided additional content on that topic—links to other articles available from that Web page, for example—do they click on those links and spend enough time to read that content, as well? If their first interactions with your company show them scanning, but their visits become longer in duration, that’s an indication of deepening interest.
  • Trigger Content. The beauty of marketing automation systems is that marketers can begin to see patterns of behavior over time that show them which content is viewed by prospects who have become customers as well as which content potentially motivated them to contact the company. Marketers can either create more content like that to speed the buying process, or they can re-order nurturing tracks to present a more compelling combination of content determined by their prospects’ expression of interest.

CD: In what ways can the content prospects read influence lead scoring?

AA: A great example is the trigger content I discussed above. If a pattern is discerned that shows prospects who engage with specific content right before contacting your company to ask for more information, then the score should be increased to reflect its importance in identifying qualified leads.

Another possibility is using progressive profiling based on the content prospects read. For example, if we use a “see also” automated response for the prospects who view specific content we can create the opportunity to learn more about them at the same time.

Let’s say the prospect reads a specific article and that activity triggers an automated email that says, we noticed you read X and we thought you might find this new white paper on X+1 interesting. The link takes the prospect to a landing page where they’re asked a couple of questions designed to elicit information needed for lead qualification. The answers are scored and added to their profiles, along with the score for downloading the white paper. This works best if the questions are related to the content’s topic in some way.

Based on how questions are asked during progressive profiling, marketers may discover that prospects are in a different stage of their buying process than their behavior indicated. The lead scoring model can be adjusted accordingly, as well as an adjustment to where content is used in the nurturing process.

CD: What one tip would you give marketers to ensure they create content that reveals insights about prospects?

AA: Learn how to create and use personas to drive the development of content mapped to their buying process. Okay, that’s really two tips. But they work hand in glove. Marketing automation makes segmenting your database easy. The more closely your content matches your prospect perspectives, the more you can learn from how they respond.

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"Ardath Albee"

Ardath Albee is a B2B Marketing Strategist and CEO of her firm, Marketing Interactions, Inc. She helps B2B companies with complex sales increase their marketing effectiveness by implementing eMarketing strategies driven by compelling content that produce more sales opportunities. Ardath is a frequent industry speaker and the author of the popular Marketing Interactions blog. Her book, eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale was recently released by McGraw-Hill. Please visit her Website and follow her on Twitter.