5 Lead Generation Best Practices to Increase the Impact & Value of Technical Content
Thanks to the internet, today’s prospects are discovering much more pre-purchase information than ever before through ebooks, white papers, overview videos, articles, case studies and more. However, their information gathering does not end with marketing content. There is also a world of technical content they are encountering that covers detailed specs, use cases, troubleshooting, learning curve, implementation, maintenance, add-ons, data syncs, API integrations, and the list goes on.
What’s more, many prospects are not coming across this technical content after engaging a sales rep (or pre-sales rep in some industries). Rather, they are finding it on their own through a variety of channels, such as Google, corporate websites, knowledge portals, customer communities, social media, and so on. For example:
- A study by the Acquity Group found that 94 percent of prospects do some form of online research.
- A Forrester study found that prospects are more than 70 percent along the buyer’s journey before they seriously engage a rep as part of a formal sales process.
- Research by Google’s Zero Moment of Truth found that the average prospect checks 10.4 sources of information before making a purchase decision.
Of course, not all of this content is technical content. As noted above, a significant portion is still marketing content, and there is no sign of a slow-down. Yet technical content is increasingly part of the mix, simply because prospects want to achieve what has always been the case, internet or no internet: make smarter and safer purchasing decisions. And for many prospects – especially those purchasing technology-driven products or services – technical content is essential to their information-gathering agenda. They do not just want to know what something is and why it is beneficial. They also need to know how it works, why it works, and what issues they are likely to face or opportunities they may be able to exploit after a purchase.
For companies that cater to these prospects – which these days is almost all of them, whether they sell smartphones to consumers or engineering software to corporations – this growing appetite for technical content is a good news, bad news proposition.
The good news is that it gives companies more ways to connect with prospects, communicate value, establish brand differentiation, generate sales, and develop customer communities.
But the bad news is that unless companies are approaching their technical content as legitimate lead generation assets, these potential gains cannot be fully realized. Instead of ushering prospects forward on the buyer’s journey, their various pieces of technical content may stall momentum, or end the relationship before it has a chance to take root.
Now, for the techpubs folks out there: do not worry, this does not mean that technical content should be crafted like marketing content. However, it does mean that there are lead generation best practices that have been used in the digital marketing world for several years, and can be adopted to help both prospects and companies get what they want: timely and relevant technical information for the former, and buyer’s journey onboarding and nurturing for the latter.
With this in mind, here are five lead generation program best practices from the digital marketing world that techpubs can adopt to increase the value and impact of technical content:
- Promote Technical Content
Technical content is an asset, and should be leveraged as such. This does not mean that it should be aggressively advertised. After all, “shove content down prospects’ throats” does not appear in any lead generation best practice playbook. Rather, it means that technical content should be put under the spotlight in newsletters, websites, social, email marketing, SEO and PPC.
- Make Technical Content Findable
Successful lead generation programs do an excellent job of making marketing content findable. Not just because this is a nice and friendly thing to do (which it is). But more pragmatically, it is because customers will not will not invest time hunting for content. If they cannot find what they want quickly and easily, they will assume that it does not exist. As such, companies should ensure that all of their technical content is just a few clicks, keystrokes or taps away, and prospects can get what they need through full-text and faceted search capabilities from any device.
- Make Technical Content Consistent
McKinsey & Company surveyed 27,000 consumers and found that consistency was the most important factor driving customer satisfaction and loyalty. Along the same lines, Gartner VP Jake Sorofman noted that “in the game of customer experience, I’d argue that consistency will always trump delight”. Effective lead generation programs align with this smart, proven insight by ensuring that content is consistent across channels and supports an omnichannel experience.
Similarly, all technical content should be created with a unified taxonomy, and multi-touchpoint publishing should be used to automatically update content so it is saying the same thing at the same time (this is especially important in regulated industries where compliance is key). This way, semantically-rich and consistent content can be delivered to prospects when they need it.
- Gate (Some) Technical Content
To say that a lead generation program should gate content (i.e. give content to prospects in exchange for their identifying information) is not accurate – because a lead generation program that does not gate content, frankly, is not a lead generation program in the first place. At most, it is a demand generation program that attempts to foster brand awareness and visibility of products/services. Most conventional (“interrupt”) marketing fits this definition.
However, all legitimate and effective lead generation programs gate content, and in some cases this approach may be valid for some technical content as well. Why some cases and not all? Because there may be situations where it makes more sense to make the information instantly available (i.e. non-gated). However, there are other situations where asking prospects to share their name and email address the right move. While some prospects may balk at this (since some prospects balk at ANY kind of gating), on balance it can be worthwhile because identifying leads is enormously valuable. The few prospects that disappear are offset by the many that go through the gate.
With this being said, companies that gate technical content – and their marketing content for that matter – should keep in mind that in the early/mid stages of the buyer’s journey, the gate should be as quick and easy to open as possible. That typically means that the most that prospects should be asked to share is their name and email address. Yes, gleaning additional data such as a prospect’s organization, industry, budget, buying intentions, and so on would be wonderful. However, until they are emotionally invested with a company – which typically will not happen until the buyer’s journey is well underway – prospects will not share anything more than the very basics. Indeed, some of the best content out there is locked forever behind gates that ask for too much, too soon.
- Track Technical Content
Lead generation programs track how prospects engage and interact with content, such as what they share, what they click, how long read/watch/listen, and so on. Since technical content is now a big part of the pre-sales research process, it should be part of this tracking and analysis framework, and sales reps should exploit the data accordingly to drive a truly consultative and personalized sales process. Similarly, companies should leverage this insight to see which pieces of technical content are most/least effective for different buyer personas and industries, and optimize their strategies and spending accordingly.
The Bottom Line
Technical content and marketing content are not the same thing, and nothing above is intended to suggest otherwise. However, on today’s business landscape, they increasingly share the same responsibility: informing, impressing and inspiring prospects to move forward on the buyer’s journey towards a satisfying purchase.
Viewing technical content as legitimate and valuable lead generation assets – and employing the best practices discussed above — can go a long way towards achieving these objectives. This is good news prospects who can make smarter and safer purchases. And it is even better news for companies that are competing for their elusive attention, and vying for their lucrative long-term loyalty.