Tag Archives: Lead Generation

Lead Nurturing Tested: How slight script tweaks increased response by 31%

The following research was first published in the MECLABS Quarterly Research Digest, July 2014.

When it comes to selling, marketers and salespeople seem to have the subtle, yet overwhelming, desire to put the proverbial cart before the horse. It’s easy enough to see why: The sale is the goal. It is the macro-yes we are all searching for. If a lead is generated but fails to close, it’s good for nothing but taking up space in the email database.

Yet, as any married person can tell you, a fruitful relationship rarely starts by seeking the macro-yes first. “Will you marry me?” may be the ultimate “ask” you want to make, but the first “ask” is likely something tamer, such as, “Would you like to go out sometime?”

It is the same with marketing. Some “match made in heaven” leads are ready to close right away, but most leads require some nurturing before coming to a buying decision. What is the most effective way to nurture leads? Are there concrete principles we can rely on to improve our nurturing processes? These are questions that need answers.

Experiment: Which voice email script will generate the most responses?

Our Research Partner for this experiment is a well-known insurance provider. One aspect of its sales process is connecting with businesses over the phone to see if it can become the provider of the business’ employee coverage. When a phone call is not answered, the phone representatives use a voicemail script to ensure the company consistently puts itself in a position to have the call returned.

The company wanted us to test its voicemail script against a different script to see if we could produce a lift in callbacks. Those making the calls clearly favored the control, because they believed it produced the best response.

Here is the control script:

Hello, ___, my name is Lisa and I am calling with [insurance company]. We are currently the fifth-largest life insurance carrier in the nation offering competitive rates and solutions to help ease administration burdens. When we last spoke, you told me that you work with a broker for your price quotes for the group life benefits. I would like to get your broker contact information in order to be in consideration when they next do their evaluations for you.

Here is the treatment script:

Hello, ___, my name is Lisa and I am calling with [insurance company]. When we last spoke, you told me that you work with a broker for your price quotes for the group life benefits. Since we do not nationally advertise and may not have had the opportunity to work with your consultant, we would like to share our information with them. I would like to get your broker contact information in order to be in consideration when they next do their evaluations for you. 

As you can see, the changes in the script are not massive. In most cases, we simply juggled the order of the sentences. Did these changes have an impact? Yes, the treatment script produced a 31% increase in callbacks.

What was it about the treatment script that nurtured the lead more effectively than the control script? We have arrived at two lead nurturing key principles that should help clarify the situation.

Key Principle #1. Lead nurturing is a process, not an event. The necessary timing allows for the necessary forming — the forming of the final conclusion.

Only 36% of marketers nurture leads, according to a 2012 MarketingSherpa survey. That means when 64% of companies acquire a lead, they send it straight to Sales. If that’s what you are doing, you are treating lead nurturing as an event that, once completed, qualifies the lead for closing. This is not how lead nurturing works. It is a process that builds upon itself, always moving the lead toward fostering a conclusion about your product: I need to buy this product.

Why does lead nurturing matter? Is it really a big deal if we do not nurture leads? Figure 1.2 explains that, yes, it is a big deal. You may be sacrificing a potential 45% lift in overall return on investment if you fail to nurture leads.

Figure 1.2

Key Principle #2. The “final conclusion” is different from the macro-yes, for the conclusion must precede a macro-yes. In the nurturing process, the marketing team fosters a conclusion, and the sales team converts it to a “yes.”

When we talk about a “macro-yes,” we are dealing with the ultimate goal of the sales process: the sale. This is when actual money is exchanged for your product or service. This is not the same event as the final conclusion. The final conclusion is “I want/need this product.” A great deal of distance still separates the conclusion and the actual sale. That is the job of the sales team.

A marketer’s job is not done when a prospect hears about a product. Our job is not finished when a prospect shows interest in a product. It is not even done when they actively seek out more information about it. A marketer’s job is only done when prospects decide to buy the product. Marketers foster conclusions. Salespeople turn those conclusions into sales.

If you follow MECLABS, you may be familiar with the imagery of the inverted funnel. The idea is that the “funnel” is a misleading symbol for the sales process. Gravity is not your friend. If people “fall” anywhere, it is out of your funnel, not into it. Reaching the macro-yes is more like climbing a mountain than slipping through a funnel. Figure 1.3 gives you an approximation of where the final conclusion in the process is and illustrates that many micro-yes(s) must be achieved to reach that goal.

Figure 1.3

In the lead nurturing voicemail experiment, we pulled three specific levers to help the lead foster a conclusion.

Lever #1. We anchored the message to the context

We use context to navigate the world. Context is how we know whether a joke is appropriate or if a friend needs our condolences. Without context, we cannot make sense of the world, and it is the same with marketing. The first script from the experiment begins selling right away without any context for the call, which may have caused listeners to tune out or delete the message before ever reaching the context buried toward the end of the script. We moved the context (“Last time we spoke …”) to the beginning of the treatment script, which helped produce the 31% lift.

In Test Protocol 2083 in MECLABS Research Library, we helped an event management software company optimize an email that went to leads who had abandoned the shopping cart. The original nurture email provides little to no context for the message — it moves directly to selling:

You’re just one step away from getting FREE access to [company], our award-winning Event Registration and Management Software. Quickly make an event website, try our event marketing tools, build a registration form template or even generate custom name badges.

Our control introduced context to the mix before moving into selling:

I noticed that you started the process of getting free access to [company] but weren’t able to finish. Are you concerned about giving out your phone number? Are you worried about high pressure sales tactics or mandatory contracts? We believe our product sells itself, so we’re just here to provide you with whatever assistance you need in getting your event up and running — in whatever way works best for you. We promise NEVER to sell or misuse your information.

By providing the context for the email and adapting the tone to match that context, we produced a 349% increase in conversion.

Lever #2. We connected the value proposition to the prospect

Your primary value proposition is how you answer this question: If I am your ideal prospect, why should I buy from you rather than any of your competitors? However, based on context, your value proposition should have different variations and finding the correct one is essential to maximizing your conversion rate. Keep in mind the three main variations:

  • Prospect-level: If I am [PROSPECT A], why should I buy from you rather than any of your competitors?
  • Product-level: If I am [PROSPECT A], why should I buy this product rather than any other product?
  • Process-level: If I am [PROSPECT A], why should I choose this PPC ad over any other PPC ad?

In lead nurturing, it is crucial to connect your value proposition to the specific prospect. In the case of the voicemail experiment, that was the person answering the phone. Our research revealed these people had high anxiety when they felt they were being “sold,” and they also had no interest in learning about an insurance company. They simply wanted to pass us on to their insurance broker. When we made that action the main component of the voicemail, callbacks increased 31%.

In Test Protocol 1483 located in the MECLABS Research Library, we worked with a physician-only social network to improve one of its landing pages. The control page focused on the product-level value proposition of a single report.

Figure 2.1

Figure 2.2 — Control

When we redesigned the page to focus on the specific needs of the prospect we added in many other reports the prospect might be interested in reading. The result was a 197% increase in lead generation.


Figure 2.3 — Treatment

Lever #3. We aligned the argument to the “ask”

People’s minds arrange arguments into the form of a story. If you present an argument that deviates from traditional story form, you will likely confuse or bore your prospect.

The four components of the control voicemail looked like this:

  • Greeting
  • Build company value
  • Give a reason for the call
  • Make the “ask”

This is out of order. Logically, we expect an argument to follow this pattern:

  • Greeting
  • Reason for call
  • Build company value
  • Make the “ask”

This is exactly the pattern we followed with the treatment message which led to a 31% increase in callbacks.

Figure 3.2

Similarly, in an email experiment for the same physician-only social media site mentioned previously, we noticed the control email seemed to be out of step with where it was actually positioned in the sales story. The email attempts to build value and get the prospect to click on a “Get Started” button. However, it conflates its objective with the objective of the landing page. The objective of the email is simply to get a click.

In our treatment, we dialed back the ambition of the email by simply providing value and a soft call-to-action to “See How [Product] Works.” The result of matching the email’s argument to the appropriate “ask” was a 104% increase in lead generation.

Figure 3.3 and Figure 3.4

Improve Your Lead Nurturing with This Checklist

We have established that 64% of companies do not engage in any lead nurturing to speak of. We also determined that those who do engage often rely on unsound principles that can be remedied with simple tweaks.

To create lead nurturing materials that form a process, and are also optimized to foster a final conclusion, there are three levers you must pull. We have created this simple checklist to ensure your lead nurturing is on track.

Lever #1. Anchor the message to the context

□ Is the message clear to your prospects?

□ Have you justified the reason for the message?

Lever #2. Connect the value proposition to the prospect

□ Is the message relevant to the prospect?

□ Does the message appeal to your prospect?

Lever #3. Align the argument to the “ask”

□ Is there a clear and logical argument in your material?

□ Does the “ask” logically flow from your argument?


Related Resources

Learn how to join MECLABS in its search for finding what works in marketing by applying for a Research Partnership

Download a free excerpt of the 2012 Lead Generation Benchmark Report

Learn more about building up to the ultimate yes on the MarketingExperiments Blog using the inverted funnel

Discover the methodology MECLABS uses to conduct its experiments

Find more experiments from the MECLABS Laboratory in the MECLABS Research Catalog

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Top-of-Funnel Inefficiencies Are Draining Your Sales Pipeline Value and Revenue

Top-of-Funnel Inefficiencies Are Draining Your Sales Pipeline Value and Revenue

B2B marketing teams are increasingly being evaluated on their contributions to the sales pipeline or even revenue. Understandably, demand-generation marketers have as a result focused more on optimizing down-funnel efforts rather than first fixing more problematic top-funnel inefficiencies. Shifting focus to down-funnel efforts is based on false logic.

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Lead Gen: How conversion optimization for call centers is similar to (and different from) online conversion

While much of what we publish on MarketingExperiments focuses on digital marketing, our Lead Generation group works with many of our Research Partners on the development of nurture campaigns focused mainly on verbal phone conversations.

As a result of all the great work our Leads Group does on a daily basis, we also engage in phone- and conversation-based testing.

This website has expounded before on the many different ways our Conversion Sequence Heuristic can be applied to any aspect of a funnel, but I’d like to take some time to explain how it can be applied to verbal conversations with the customer. In many sales situations, conversations with the customer take place over the phone, but most of the concepts I want to discuss can be applied to any verbal sales pitch.

To remind everyone, the Conversion Heuristic is:


How it’s the same as digital marketing

Motivation online is always the part of the heuristic we have no real control over. Most people enter the funnel with a set level of motivation. There are some customers that will convert no matter how difficult or confusing the process is, and there are some who will never convert no matter how simple we make the funnel. While all of the above is true for telephone conversations, there are ways motivation can be subverted on the phone that do not exist on the world wide web.

How it’s different

Most notably, list source. Online we are driving visitors to our sites with PPC ads, banners and organic search results. In these situations, the customer has the opportunity to make a slightly informed decision about their interest in the product or value we are pushing their way.

On the phone, however, we are rather metaphorically stepping into their personal space. Unless you are using a list that was generated by choice on your site (and sometimes even if you aren’t), be sure to indicate how the customer’s phone number ended up on your call list. No matter how motivated your customer is to purchase your product, if they don’t know how you got their information, they might never convert. 

Closely related to list source is timing. Online the customer chooses when to shop, and they can easily walk away from the computer to make a sandwich, come back and complete the funnel process without you (the marketer) being any the wiser. On the phone, the customer generally must be engaged for the duration of the conversation. If not engaged, then they at least must be aware of the conversation.  Even the most highly motivated customer can fail to convert if the call comes at an inopportune time.

On the positive side, there are more opportunities to match motivation on the phone. For example, online there may only be one chance via a landing page to match motivation, and you have to guess at the motivation. However, the phone is the ultimate interactive tool. You can ask the customer what motivates them and then switch the nature of the conversation to ensure you’re doing as much as possible to match the motivation.


How it’s the same

Value is the first part of the heuristic that we can control online, and this is equally true during a phone conversation. Online, value is most commonly exchanged through written copy, although MECLABS recommends creating congruence on the page with a set of collaborative value elements.

How it’s different

On the phone, value is expressed throughout the conversation, and the actual value exchange of a call could make up more than 90% of the conversation. As a result, many of the elements of value (appeal, exclusivity, clarity and credibility) carry more weight individually than they would online.

Value on the phone is more linear than on a landing page. Online, the entirety of the value exchange exists all at once. On the phone, we are expressing the value over time and if we mention something early in the call that is important, it could be forgotten by the time we get to the “call-to-action.”  This is where the old saying “Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them and then tell them what you told them” can become important. Reiterating key value points can make an impact, especially when done directly before any kind of macro-yes question.


 How it’s the same:

Friction is still the psychological resistance in the sales process. Length and difficulty still remain, although, they relate more directly to calls (length of the call and the difficulty of the ask).

How it’s different:

The examples of friction can be very different from an online conversion process, and so the strategy to reduce friction must be very different. Here are some examples:

  • Asking qualifying questions
  • Requesting that the customer perform a task (i.e., Can you go to this website?)
  • Attempting to schedule an appointment
  • Requesting detailed information that might need to be looked up (i.e., when the doctor’s office asks for your insurance plan number)

When planning out a call guide, think through what you’re going to ask the customer to do and consider how difficult the requests might be or how much length it could add to the call.


 How it’s the same:

Anxiety is still the psychological concern in the sales process. And the ways to reduce anxiety are the same but must, of course, be adapted to the phone. For example, credibility indicators must be spoken, and proximity is about sentence structure instead of physical distance.

How it’s different:

Much like with friction, the examples of anxiety, and thus the reduction strategy, often need to be different. Some example anxieties that would be more prevalent in a phone call than online are:

  • Are you who you say you are?
  • Is my information safe with you?
  • How did you get my number?

Ambiguity is also more heavily weighted on calls than online. Being intentionally vague on a call can be compared to trying for curiosity clicks online. However, ambiguity is hypothesized to have better potential results on the phone. This has not yet been successfully tested.


How it’s the same:

It is exactly the same.

How it’s different:

So far, incentive has not been proven to display any differences when used on the phone.


This is not in the Conversion Sequence Heuristic, and it is only applicable to phone calls and other verbal conversations.

One of Flint McGlaughlin’s favorite adages is “People don’t buy from companies, from stores or from websites; people buy from people.” This is doubly true of any conversion attempted over the phone.

Online, the customer is able to imply the tone and inflection of any copy provided for them to read. We can attempt to influence their interpretation with punctuation, but they hear our words in their own heads, in their own voice. On the phone, the caller’s demeanor can have an impact on the probability of conversion.

When I used to work at a call center, they would actually put a mirror on our computer monitors so we could make sure we were smiling during the conversations. It really did make a difference.

Related Resources

Landing Page Optimization online certification course – Get an in-depth understanding of how to use the Conversion Sequence Heuristic to improve the probability of conversion

Call Center Optimization: How The Globe and Mail cut number of calls in half while increasing sales per hour

Call Center Optimization: How A Nonprofit Increased Donation Rate 29% With Call Center Testing

MarketingSherpa Lead Gen Summit Wrap-Up: Top 7 lead capture, qualification and nurturing takeaways

The post Lead Gen: How conversion optimization for call centers is similar to (and different from) online conversion appeared first on MarketingExperiments.

Why B2B Marketers Neglect Important Data Quality Issues

Why B2B Marketers Neglect Important Data Quality Issues

Lead quality is a big issue. According to a recent Ascend2 survey  (pdf), “Improving the quality of leads generated is a top priority for 77 percent marketing influencers, ahead of all other lead generation goals.”  The topic came up during a great conversation with David Lewis, CEO of DemandGen.

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4 Lessons About B2B Inbound Marketing from a Sunday Morning in the Coffee Shop

I was in Starbucks the other day, and in walks an older gentleman. I couldn’t help but notice that people kept focusing on him and chatting him up — in line, while waiting for a drink, etc.

I could overhear the conversations a bit, so I asked someone sitting near me, “Was that guy in the NFL or something?” He responded, “Yeah, that’s Rocky Rochester. He was defensive tackle for the New York Jets in Super Bowl III.”

He happens to sit by me, and we strike up a conversation. He notices I’m wearing a Hofstra shirt, and he says, “Hey, we used to practice there.” Then, when I notice his Super Bowl ring on his finger and mention it, he does something that simply shocks me.

He just hands it to me. So, I’m sitting there, holding a ring from Super Bowl III. The Super Bowl of Super Bowls. Broadway Joe. The Guarantee.

I share this story because inbound marketing was on the top of my mind in that coffee shop on Sunday morning — the team at our sister company, MarketingSherpa, was putting the finishing touches on the Quick Guide to Inbound Marketing for B2B  — and I realized this story was the perfect analogy for effective inbound marketing. Often, we get so focused on data and metrics, technology and automation that we overlook everyday human interactions like this.

However, normal human interactions are what we should be trying to emulate with our marketing, especially inbound marketing.

Lesson #1: B2B inbound marketing gets you recognized

The first lesson speaks to the power of inbound. Whatever you’re selling — marketing automation tools, hospital diagnostic equipment, construction software — your buyers have a list in their head. It’s the consideration list.

I need to buy a B2B product. I can’t consider every possible company. Who’s going to make that short list?

When you create an engaging inbound B2B program and build an audience, you’re like Rocky Rochester. No longer are you just another guy in a Starbucks. You’re someone everyone wants to talk to. And hear from.

And the value of that has a ripple effect through your marketing. When prospects are at a trade show scanning booths, name recognition makes them much more likely to engage. When they get a phone call or email from someone representing your company, they’re more likely to give it a small opening. And, when they’re making that all powerful consideration or RFP list, you’re more likely to be on it.

Lesson #2: Have a good story to tell

Recognition isn’t enough. Prospects must have the desire to actually want to engage with that brand.

Sure, it helps to have the biggest brand in the world in your industry. However, if customers know they will only be sold to when they engage with you, they’re much less likely to seek out your content or subscribe to your newsletter.

The reason everyone was engaging Rochester in that coffee shop is they knew he would have good stories to tell.

On the flip side, if everyone had recognized him as, say, a vacuum cleaner or insurance salesman, they likely would have had that moment of recognition as well. However, they also likely would have gone out of their way to avoid him, not engage him.

Lesson #3: Effective B2B inbound marketing is relevant

When we were talking, Rochester noticed my Hofstra shirt, and he mentioned how the Jets would practice at Hofstra.

It’s a minor detail. And it happens naturally in a human conversation.

But all of your inbound marketing should, as closely as possible, replicate these human interactions and seek to provide relevant, helpful content to your audience.

Do you give your audience different email newsletters to subscribe to based on their interests? Do you de-dupe email sends when you know someone has already taken advantage of the offer — for example, removing people who have already registered for a webinar from the invite?

What can you do to make your B2B inbound program more relevant to customers?

Lesson #4: Surprise and delight your audience

Once they know who you are, are interested in your story, and know it’s relevant…still, these are busy people with a million different concerns. Even if they’re reading your blog post, they’re probably skimming it and only half reading it. And, how likely are they to share it with their social network?

To stick out from the clutter, you really need to delight them.

When I noticed Rochester’s ring, I didn’t expect him to hand it to me. It was so far above and beyond my expectations that I didn’t even think to take a picture of the ring on my finger until the moment was well over, and I had left the Starbucks. D’oh!

How can you surprise and delight your prospects? How can you go above and beyond? Here’s a great example from the Quick Guide to Inbound Marketing for B2B with New Relic, a software analytics company.

The company had a photo booth at an event and turned the photos of visitors — along with their answer to the phrase “Data helps me ___” — into virtual picture billboards it shared on social media. A great inbound strategy — customers hearing from customers.

But, the New Relic team didn’t stop there. They decided to surprise and delight. They turned the virtual billboards into tiny physical billboards that they then mailed to the customers. What do you think happened when they received those billboards in the mail?

They were surprised and delighted, so they shared that story with their peers on social media. Just like I’m sharing my minor brush with Super Bowl history with you.

“It’s really important to connect on that personal level, because no matter how big the companies that you’re selling to may be, they’re still people. And any time you can find a way to engage that’s a little unexpected and fun, that makes a huge difference,” said Baxter Denney, VP of Growth Marketing at New Relic.

You can follow Daniel Burstein, Senior Director of Editorial Content, MarketingSherpa, on Twitter @DanielBurstein.

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B2B Inbound Marketing: Top tactics for social media, SEO, PPC and optimization

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Inbound Marketing for B2B: 10 tips to attract and engage your audience in a helpful (not salesy way)