Lately, I’ve been talking and writing a lot about the idea of the corporate website as an integrated marketing and business development system. But, what does that actually mean? And, what should we expect from the technologies that comprise this system?
The premise of content marketing isn’t a new one. The idea of using thought leadership to demonstrate expertise and attract and engage prospective clients was really pioneered by the global consulting firm, McKinsey, back in the 1960s. So, while some industry pundits would have you believe otherwise, the thinking isn’t new. That said, I would argue that the collection of technologies that have emerged in the last few years to drive insight and learnings from the effort make the process much more potentially valuable to almost any professional services firm – large or small.
The technologies of which I speak are content management (“CMS”), customer relationship management (“CRM”) and marketing automation. Now, we’ve used some variant of most of these technologies for the better part of 5-6 years. But, it’s only been the last 18 months that I’ve been seriously diving into what these systems could be doing for us and our clients. I’ve found the process both invigorating (for what we can do) and surprising (for how few companies are really doing it).
What I’ve learned In most firms I talk to is that systems are sort of an after sight and aren’t at all doing what they could be:
- In many firms, even quite large ones, the corporate website is operating in near complete isolation from the systems that marketers and business development people actually use within their jobs. (Surprisingly, this is quite true in many business-to-business companies unless they have a business model that relies largely on e-commerce).
- At best, the website drips some basic information from a contact form into an email system or into a CRM. At worst, this information just drops into someone’s inbox somewhere.
- Generally speaking, CMS has been nothing more than a way to post and edit site pages without the need for a developer. Most of these systems are built by developers to serve their needs and don’t take much, if any, consideration for the people who actually use them on a daily basis. While technically rich, many platforms don’t properly manage content for search engine best practices and even fewer systems provide users with any useful information to perform their jobs better.
- CRM is largely misused – most firms simply haven’t thought through the client’s buying process and mapped that process to a proper activity flow within their CRM. CRM use within the firm is not uniform, not consistent, nor even agreed upon. In most instances, CRM is basically being used as a 21st Century rolodex.
What Should These Systems Be Doing For You?
I’ve opted to look at each one of these systems in isolation in order to highlight what they absolutely must be offering you and what they could be offering you. Then, I’m going to highlight how these systems could be working together as an integrated system to add more value to your firm.
Your CMS should:
- Be easy to use.
- Make it easy to edit, manage and post new content.
- Be a system you enjoy using.
- Give you the ability to easily manage the three critical search-facing elements on every page of your site (if you need more clarity on what I mean by this, download our website benchmarking handbook for further insight).
Your CMS could:
- Be providing you useful insight about the people actually consuming your content.
- Give you the ability to present related content on every page, where appropriate, and to select logical calls-to-action, on the fly, to shape the client’s buying process.
- Provide the insight needed to determine what types of content are most read, most shared and most engaging to your users and most valuable to your business.
- Offer both macro analytics (about site traffic and activity) and micro analytics (who the people actually are that are consuming your content).
Your CRM should:
- Have separate databases for leads and contacts — you need the ability to separate people you hardly know (or may not know at all) from people you’ve qualified as a good fit for your services.
- Give you the ability to designate where a prospect is in the buying process (of course, you have to document what the process looks like for your firm before this is possible).
Your CRM could:
- Be showing you how a lead first found you, what activities and behaviors they’ve demonstrated on your site, and be providing some relevant background information to inform the conversations of your business development personnel.
- Be demonstrating what marketing investments and what types of content are providing the most qualified leads, are driving to the best opportunities, and yielding closed business from your business development effort.
Email Marketing or Marketing Automation
Even though these two technologies are quite different from each other, I’ve lumped them together because they can be used to perform some similar tasks. For simplicity, we’re just going to consider email marketing software as a subset of marketing automation. Examples of email marketing software include Emma, Constant Contact, and Campaign Monitor. Examples of marketing automation software include HubSpot, Act-On, Marketo and Pardot.
Any email marketing or marketing automation system you use should:
- Tell you who receives, who opens, who reads, and who clicks your email marketing messages.
- Allow you to easily search, segment and organize your email lists based on demographics, past behaviors and custom fields you create.
- Have both the technology and experience necessary to increase the likelihood that your email messages clear organizational spam filters and get delivered to the inbox (with the explosion of spam, even when users opt-in to your lists, messages can still be blocked).
These technologies could:
- Be offering additional insight into who a site visitor could be before they even convert through a web form.
- Be integrating with data providers such as ZoomInfo or data.com to enable easy research on target prospects and list building right in a tool you regularly use.
- Helping you get a better sense of which leads might offer more potential for your firm by lead scoring site visitors based on activities and behaviors they demonstrate on your website.
- Assisting you to nurture potential clients by delivering relevant messages to them based on what they’ve done in the past and where they are in the buying process.
The Value of Integration
I think the easiest way to think about how these systems work best together is to just explain it through a short example. Imagine that you own a management consulting firm that specializes in working with financial services companies. This month, one of the firm’s principals wrote an article, “Implications of the Fiscal Cliff on Bank Balance Sheets.” With your integrated web system you’re able to kick-off the following stream of marketing and business development activities and events:
Publishing and Distributing Content
- After easily optimizing the article for search through your CMS, you publish the article to your website.
- Based on the tags you assigned the document, your CMS presents web visitors with a selection of similar articles, presentations and research previously published by this practice group.
- You assign a custom call-to-action to the content — inviting users to sign-up to receive similar content, like this article, where it’s most convenient, in their inbox.
- In your marketing automation platform, you draft a short “teaser” email to share this new content to subscribers of your content. You route this email to your master opt-in email database of leads and prospects.
- Because your marketing automation system is integrated with your CRM, you easily make this email available as a template to your entire business development team directly through your CRM.
- Your business development team, in turn, can easily send this email personally to other prospects they’re cultivating outside your master list.
- Additionally, you distribute the content via a short list of relevant LinkedIn groups and with a few tweets to your followers.
Attracting and Cultivating a Lead
- After two weeks, the article has received just over 75 page views and has yielded 1 conversion.
- Your CMS informs you that this converted lead found the article via a Google search for “fiscal cliff impact on community banks.” It also tells you that this user subsequently viewed 10 pages of your website in the last 24 hours.
- It reaches out to the public Internet to find additional information on the visitor including her employer, title and primary social media profiles.
- Your marketing automation platform recognizes this visitor as a hot lead based on the activities the user demonstrated while on your site. All of this information is delivered to your CRM along with a notice to business development that a new, hot lead could use attention.
- Your business development associate reaches out to the lead with a short email thanking her for signing up for your newsletter along with an invite for the prospect to share some of her most pressing business challenges.
- After exchanging a few conversational emails, your business development lead schedules a short introductory telephone meeting to introduce the firm and its expertise.
Closing and Measuring
- A few months later, an opportunity emerges within the prospect’s business and she contacts your firm for advice.
- With the opportunity closed in your CRM, your business development team can easily see the original source of the closed business and your marketing team can aggregate this information against its other marketing initiatives seamlessly closing the loop for both of the firm’s business functions.
I hope this article gives you a sense of what you could be doing with these technologies. Our January article, “The Business Value of Content Marketing” will dive into results from our October Survey with 40 professional services firms who operate content-driven marketing programs. For a sneak peak of the findings, watch our 30-minute December webinar in which we summarized the findings.