In the last article I wrote about how to use awareness channels and I identified them as social media channels and any location, physical or virtual, that has a gathering or influx of people that come through. The big take away was that in those locations, the audience is not usually in a place to consider a purchase.
Unlike e-commerce or brick and mortar retail which plays largely on impulse purchasing (don’t act like you haven’t bought something on Wish), selling services requires more consideration; and while you may be willing to explore the idea from an awareness channel, it’s incredibly difficult to count on hitting the quantity of people you need to hit in a ready to purchase state to make the ad spend worth the effort.
Thus, the strategy for awareness channels differs from intent channels in that the buyer is not ready when they engage with your brand in an awareness channel, but in an intent channel, they are expressly ready for purchase.
Why Most Marketing Efforts Are Misaligned With The Channel They Are Using
It’s understandable to be misaligned among the different channels that you operate in. Mostly because not every internal marketing team has the segmentation to focus on their specific channel; and even as a marketer, it’s easy to muddy the channels and cross pollinate with strategies in one channel or the other that don’t fully take into account where the buyer is at when they hit your website.
You’d think that a smaller team would have the self-awareness to segment channels, but because they are so close to their own process and they are stretched thin for time they tend to blend it all together.
But make no mistake about it, unless you have driven traffic to your site of people with low intent, then they are there to consider a purchase.
So we have to make a decision as we strategize our use of channels. What is this channel for? And will people use it for that purpose?
Sad MQLs Cause Long Term Problems For Short Term Gains
Customer churn is notorious in marketing to the extent that many marketers are afraid to commit a client to an annual contract because the client has been so burned by failed attempts with other agencies that they are reluctant to commit to something they can’t get out of.
But churn wouldn’t be a problem if they were seeing more immediate results. This puts the marketing agency in what we call a real pickle.
On one hand, you know that long term success comes from building a stronger brand and more stable customer base. You also know that those things take time. More time than your quarterly contract is giving you. So instead, you are nearly forced to focus on the things that don’t actually produce results such as MQLs.
At best, an MQL (marketing qualified lead) is the contact information of a company that has downloaded an eBook. At worst, it’s just contact information. But the MQL has no expressed buyer intent. They just match the buyer persona. These are easier for marketers to deliver. They are quantifiable. It’s easier to deliver the lead and let the SDR (sales development rep) qualify the prospect as having intent than to keep that responsibility with marketing and have nothing to show for results.
I would say it’s even more tempting to deliver a busted lead to an SDR so that you can say you’re delivering leads than it is to hold onto the contact until they are closer to being conversation ready. At least at that point you can count it as a deliverable.
Maybe this is more your competition than you, but when sales teams are asked about leads, their most common frustration is lead quality. They find themselves having to intensily qualify their leads just to make sure they aren’t going to be wasting their time.
From Awareness To Intent
The key and the challenge is to get people to move from awareness to intent. If you’ve done your job in stirring the pot in your awareness channels and have convinced people that their problem is painful enough, they will naturally gravitate to your intent channels to engage in conversation with your company.
Here are clear ways to dominate with your intent channel strategy.
1. Show Up Where They Are Searching
When a person decides they want to do something about the problem you solve, how do you show up? If they know you through LinkedIn, is your company profile page filled with enough solution content so that they can investigate whether your solution is a good fit.
If they are searching in Google, are you showing up in ads and organically? Are you on review sites? Is it easy to get to your website?
Once they are on the website, does the header tell them instantly that they are in the right place? Does it tell them what you offer, how it will change their life, and how they can book with you?
Where do these people go to in the digital realm where they are intently looking to find solutions to their problems?
2. Provide The Education
Again, if you’ve built enough problem awareness in your awareness channels, now they are looking for solutions in your intent channels which are profile pages and websites.
Companies always want to keep expenses down so if they are going to invest their gross profits into a new service, then they have to be sure that it’s going to make them money, save them money, or make their life easier.
What gets them over the hump is always education. If people could solve their problem on their own, they would. So their mindset, before they decide to buy, is still asking “can we do this on our own?” Companies always want to keep expenses down so if they are going to invest their gross profits into a new service, then they have to be sure that it’s going to make them money, save them money, or make their life easier.
Keep this in mind as you develop educational materials. Decide whether your offer makes money, saves money, or makes life easier. Does it do all three? How can you answer these questions through your value proposition?
Educational content will need to be in multiple formats to take into consideration the learning styles of unknown site visitors. Some like reading. Some like listening. Some like watching. Putting both written and video content in your intent channels will help different learners to absorb the information they need to make a safe purchasing decision.
3. Determine The Action You Want Them To Take
When a person lands on an intent channel, such as the profile or the landing page, what action do you need them to take?
Your client deserves deeper consideration than a half baked CTA with a basic contact form. In fact, the whole landing page should be designed around the action you want them to take to the degree that you may even start there before you write anything else.
What do they need to do in order to do business with you?
For the vast majority of service companies getting on the schedule of a sales rep is the action they want. It’s an estimate, an appointment, a consultation, a call, a demo, etc. But think about why people would be willing to do that.
What problems will talking to a sales person solve? For the most part, people see talking to a sales person as the last resort. If they are willing to talk to a sales person then you know they have high buying intent. That’s a good thing. But how can we make this interaction more enticing?
The CTA has to indicate that they are going to be able to solve their problem if they click through and book the appointment. They have to be assured that it is the next logical step in the path to solving their problem.
In addition to this more direct “book now” call to action, you’ll also want transitional calls to action that can help people who aren’t conversation ready such as a call to watch a video, download a shareable PDF, or to use some kind of calculator or audit form.
Videos are really helpful for your visual and auditory learners who need more assurance that this is the solution to their problem. They may be searching multiple options and so the commitment to speak with a lot of different companies feels like a lot of work. A video that demos the service or product or gives an introduction to how you solve the problem and what it’s like working with you can really help you rise to the top of the list.
In addition to the video I like shareable PDFs formatted to look good on desktop or mobile. This means, a 9×16 landscape document with big enough text to be read on mobile but not so big that it’s giant on a monitor.
PDFs are great for their shareable nature. They are meant to be read so people will spend more time with them. They can be extra educational. There is more flexibility in the design so you can make it really pretty. Searchers that are investigating options for their company like PDFs because they can email it to their colleagues and leadership team and they can get the information they need without committing to a sales call.
The great debate on PDFs is whether to gate them with an email or not. My preference is to keep them ungated. Because people are especially cautious of getting sold to, entering your email for information that they could just as easily find on a blog or interior page of the website isn’t a very compelling reason to enter into the sales funnel, especially when they aren’t the final decision maker. It’s better to make the information accessible and easily shareable, then optimize the pdf with call to action language and hot buttons that link out to your booking calendar.
Calculators and audits/quizzes are also compelling. They do well with engagement but if you are using tactics to drive traffic to calculators and quizzes, it’s important to pause and consider if the person is there for the quiz or if they are there because they have intent to purchase. This is a similar quandary with driving traffic to ebook downloads. Are they there for business? Or are they there for the quiz or ebook? If they are not there for business just know that your conversion numbers will be skewed. You’ll have to amplify the amount of traffic you’re driving to the site and sustain that level of traffic for fewer booked appointments. Compare that to using the awareness channels to stimulate demand and brand awareness and allowing your intent channels to be very clearly about doing business.
4. Test Iterations
You will not get any of your intent channel marketing to work if you are not testing variations and iterations.
With SEO work, the testing happens naturally. You consistently produce new articles on your company blog with a range of titles and over time the popular titles start to perform. But it is a constant effort to iterate on a handful of topics that may be interesting to your target audience.
Likewise, with landing page design. You should be duplicating landing pages, creating new iterations, with new H1 headings and varying content based on keyword research and you should be testing different imagery and CTAs. This isn’t an A/B testing model. Think of it more like blog writing. You are just doing it with landing pages. Pumping out new landing pages on a weekly basis wouldn’t be too much. You want to get pages out with different keywords and hook points to see what captures the intent as fast as you can.
Overtime, you will be able to see what content is most attractive to your audience just by the performance. Is click through rate up or down? Is bounce rate up or down? Is session rate up or down? Are downloads up or down? Are video views up or down? Are bookings up or down? Is revenue up or down?
Keep pushing iterations until you find a leading performer, then push that landing page to the home page of your site or a prominent interior page.
The same process is true for your Google ads. Create many variations and see which performs the best. The nice thing is that Google is making that process a lot easier by allowing you to create many many variations within a single ad and they push the variations that get the most attention. That gives you the ability to give more attention to keyword research and optimizing your manual CPC strategy.
5. Drive Traffic
An intent channel is a lot like a tree falling in the forest. If no one is there to hear it, did it really make a sound? If you have no traffic to your intent channel do you really have a business?
Maybe that’s extreme. But it can feel that way when you are not getting enough leads. Sadly, this is as true for marketing agencies as it is for their clients. If you are not driving traffic to the place where people purchase you will not grow a business.
So, how do you drive high intent traffic? You may know how to drive clicks. But high intent clicks is the real challenge.
If you want to get stung by a bee, you have to wack at the hive.
It all goes back to the last article about what you do in your awareness channels. You generate demand by stirring the pot. If you want to get stung by a bee, you have to wack at the hive. Focus your branding effort on the big problem in the world that your company solves. Exploit that problem. Make it swell. Gather attention around your brand. That’s when people start to look for the magic ointment. Where will they find relief? That is with your brand.
Creating a symphony of ads that promote the problem followed through with subsequent ads to the same audience with a proposed solution are more likely to get high intent bookings that convert into net new revenue.