Is a Free Consult Valuable?

July 6, 2014

B2B/non-ecommerce marketers and their potential customers have a problem.

The marketer is responsible for driving revenue, but often there’s a significant delay between when someone shows interest in a product/service and when a deal gets signed, which is why many marketers fall back to the performance metric of leads generated.

Potential customers need someone to pitch in but have minimal extra time because they’re so busy trying to cover the gap they’re looking to hire for.Read more…

Read more...

B2B/non-ecommerce marketers and their potential customers have a problem.

The marketer is responsible for driving revenue, but often there’s a significant delay between when someone shows interest in a product/service and when a deal gets signed, which is why many marketers fall back to the performance metric of leads generated.

Potential customers need someone to pitch in but have minimal extra time because they’re so busy trying to cover the gap they’re looking to hire for. They need to quickly evaluate many highly complex solutions, often without an objective point of reference to guide the process.

This blog post evaluates the “free consult” as a solution for helping marketers set up qualified conversations for their sales people and potential customers to quickly but effectively determine whether this is the right solution. While, yes, there are customers who know what they want, call the company number and place an order, in working with hundreds of lead-gen-driven sales processes, my take on the data is that more complex sales processes can’t be reduced to an e-commerce transaction and require a live conversations driven by both parties.

Marketers have several tools in their arsenal to facilitate this conversation — we’ll focus mainly on the free consult but want to set the landscape.

The marketer’s lead generation toolkit

1. List a phone number. While only ready buyers, people selling something or customers with an issue tend to call a listed number, it’s good form to make your people easily and quickly available.

2. Provide a contact form. Not everyone is a phone person, but there are folks who will get a conversation going via a contact form and then email leading up to a live conversation.

3. Have a social media presence you monitor. Yes, people will tweet at or LinkedIn message you. It’s one of my favorite ways of connecting with new people and companies.

4. Offer a free content resource such as white paper or webinar in exchange for contact info. #1-3 are communication methods for someone looking to buy. If you create valuable resources, people may genuinely just be looking for good information. How to uncover which of these leads are real buyers, or get them to the point where they are, is one of the great challenges of modern marketing. Nonetheless, this can be an incredibly powerful revenue generation methodology.

5. Newsletter subscription. Like #4 but less information has to be given by the prospect.

6. Offer a free trial. This is an incredibly powerful conversion tool for companies that offer a try-able product or service, but there will be a significant number of participants who are just researching.

7. Offer a free consult.

Many savvy people immediately become cautious when they see the words “free” and “consult” joined together. Nothing is free in this world. At a minimum, having a conversation costs us time, which is for many of us is our most precious resource. More importantly, if we’re reaching out to an expert for help, we’re likely to take that person’s advice. Thus, even though it may be “free” in the financial sense, there’s a lot at stake for a prospect entering a free consult.

The 7 golden rules of free consults

If a marketer/sales person/company cares about you, the prospect, they’ll do the following to ensure your free consult is valuable.

1. Ask what you’re looking for AND give you that as quickly as possible or say sorry I can’t offer that.

2. Ask you questions that diagnose your problem not just qualify you as a buyer.

3. Offer as complete a solution as quickly as possible. I believe strongly that ideas, concepts and theories are a public resource. I only want to be paid for helping you implement the thinking, not for making you aware of it.

4. Answer questions directly and transparently. There’s nothing worse than asking someone what something costs, how long it takes or who else uses it and getting a round-about answer.

5. Get to the point quickly.

6. Ask: “Is this what you were looking for, and how else can I be helpful?”

7. Always come from the perspective that it’s better to give extreme value regardless of compensation.

Personally, I’m extremely cautious about booking free consults. I try to do as much research only as possible first and use the consult as a way of answering questions that I’ve found to have less clear-cut answers. I also use the consult as a way of evaluating whether this is someone or a company I want to do business with. When I get the vibe this is someone who genuinely wants to be helpful, I keep going through their sales process. As soon as I feel like I’m being worked, I bail.

When it’s me giving the free consult, I work as hard as possible to do a good job with the 7 Golden Rules of Free Consults. Regardless of whether someone becomes a customer, I want them to feel that their time has been well spent and they’ve gotten real value.

If you want a free consult on your conversion optimization/online marketing program, reach out to me to set up a time for a free consult.

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3 winning A/B tests B2B software sites must try

June 24, 2014

As we’ve studied and delved deeper into conversion path optimization for B2B software and tools, we’ve noticed as an agency that there are a handful of areas always worth testing.

In this post I’ll discuss the art of testing into a more effective value statement, how to toy with guarantees and find one that’s appropriate, and what makes a badass signup form that mints money.

These aren’t sure to work for everyone, but they are A/BRead more…

Read more...

As we’ve studied and delved deeper into conversion path optimization for B2B software and tools, we’ve noticed as an agency that there are a handful of areas always worth testing.

In this post I’ll discuss the art of testing into a more effective value statement, how to toy with guarantees and find one that’s appropriate, and what makes a badass signup form that mints money.

These aren’t sure to work for everyone, but they are A/B test ideas that we’ve seen win nicely for B2B software companies, which just might make them worth trying.

1. Can we pack more value into a headline? Websites (and landing pages) often have a key value statement. If someone drops by and reads nothing more, at least they’ll read this. We’ve found it useful to ask: can the value statement communicate more benefit than it does now?

We ran a test to this end on CleverZebo.com and here’s what we learned.

There were three variants:

  • Hands-on marketers who deliver revenue. (Original)
  • Results-driven marketing that pays for itself. That’s clever. (Variant A)
  • Results-driven marketing that pays for itself. (Variant B)

When you consider the original headline on top, against the winning headline beneath it, there are a few considerations.

Clever Zebo homepage A/B test

Delivering revenue sounds good to a business owner, but getting results and paying for yourself — being ROI positive as a vendor — is much better.

“Hands-on” describes us as roll-up-your-sleeves marketers who take on real projects, but “Results-driven” goes deeper than that. It tells the business owner not to take our word for it that we’re doing lots of work, but instead to hold us accountable for results.

Flipping your value statement is always a strong A/B test, especially when you think through the benefits packed into it from the perspective of your customer.

2. Can we offer a powerful guarantee? Retailers tend to offer guarantees, whether it’s a price match or an assurance of quality. Why don’t B2B software companies do the same?

There are a few elements worth testing here:

  • Image / guarantee badge
  • Guarantee messaging
  • What happens if the guarantee is not met

If you don’t have a designer on hand who can whip up a killer badge for your guarantee A/B test, here is a good resource for decent badges that are free to use.

Our friends at Crazy Egg recently published a useful post on creative and rarely used guarantees that may be worth A/B testing.

Here’s a guarantee used by Musement.com, an international travel and tour booking site.

Guarantee for A/B testing

 

The strengths of this guarantee are that it re-emphasizes the benefits of working with them, it builds trust with the “lowest price” promise and it’s specific about what you can expect.

It would be worth investigating whether these promises can be neatly shoehorned into a beautiful badge, and whether conversions rise if the visitor is told what happens if the guarantee is not met.

3. Can we offer more & ask for less in our signup form? Your signup form is important for capturing data, but it’s also a sales opportunity. On the signup page, you’ve yet to close the deal. Instead, it’s a critical phase where you must continue to shine. Check out how Box.com addresses this problem.

Box signup form

They collect a lot of fields, but they also build confidence through the “risk free” badge and the assurance of security and encryption. They also remind you what you’re signing up for: a business account with 5 users, unlimited users and more. They confirm the price on this screen. This is clean and clear-cut.

Box teaches us to test selling alongside the signup process, but also to keep that sale professional, useful and relevant. There’s no marketing-speak. It’s just the benefits listed as fact.

The other testing opportunity this example recalls is an obvious one: can we collect fewer fields and still accommodate the visitor? In many cases, requiring fewer fields has proven to convert better. So what’s most essential?

I once introduced a 2-field signup form solution to a fast-growing B2B software company. That shrank the signup process down from 6 fields and was highly controversial, but when it finally went live, it improved conversion rate by close to 50%. The lesson there isn’t just that you should test simplifying your form, but that opinions don’t count the way A/B tests and data count.

So do you really need the visitor to create a password, or can you simply email an auto-generated password to make that visitor’s upfront investment easier?

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Infographic: optimizing the value of your professional email

June 23, 2014

Interested in optimizing how you manage and think about business email? The infographic in this guest blog post by Brad Patterson, Community Manager at Evercontact, explores several questions:

What size is the average professional address book?

Of all the people in that address book, what percentage do you think you’ve exchanged with in the past 6 months? 

Do you have phone numbers for all of your contacts?  At least 50%?Read more…

Read more...

Interested in optimizing how you manage and think about business email? The infographic in this guest blog post by Brad Patterson, Community Manager at Evercontact, explores several questions:

What size is the average professional address book?

Of all the people in that address book, what percentage do you think you’ve exchanged with in the past 6 months? 

Do you have phone numbers for all of your contacts?  At least 50%?  More or less?

How much of the email in your inbox was sent by a robot… and not a “real” human?

Could you optimize your contact management, sales pipeline and overall email productivity? We think so.

As a startup working within the contact management /email productivity sector since 2009, our team at Evercontact has heard each of these questions hundreds of times from our clients, and so we  decided to dig into our data the past few weeks to better understand how people use their address books and email in general.

Believe it or not, there are 1300 contacts in the average professional’s address book, but most professionals are not communicating with the large majority of their contacts; our data shows that over a 6-month period the average professional only communicates with 8% of their address book. Does that mean that you should be more regularly updating your contacts with what’s going on in your part of the world? Maybe a mailing list?  Some people do that, but if you haven’t had your address book opt-into those emails, it might not be the greatest tactic as it bypasses permission marketing.

On another level, all contacts are certainly not equally valuable to your efforts, so it’s good to have a CRM, or some way of following up more regularly with the higher-impact clients, partners and acquaintances.  Of course, it doesn’t have to be over email, as a quick exchange over the phone, a coffee, or on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and the like is a good way to keep your core community alive, and a CRM or other contact management software can certainly help you segment & prioritize your engagement accordingly.

Rapportive, the email plugin mentioned below allows you to see a photo of your contacts and also shows what they’re doing on social media which is a great way to expand interactions beyond just email.  It also allows you to see what those contacts are talking about on social media, so if you plan on giving them a call, it’s a nice way to prep for that call by seeing what’s currently going on for them.  Obviously, you’ll need their phone number if you’re going to call them, and our big data showed that only 43% of  contacts in the average professional’s address book have phone numbers.  That being said, you almost always have their number hidden in an email signature or on a business card, so it’s worth your time to set up Evercontact to automatically scan contact information in email signatures, and Fullcontact to grab that info off of business cards.

Another surprising find was that only 52% of the average professional’s inbox was “important” email (labelled “important” by Gmail’s priority inbox).  This shows that many of us receive quite a bit of newsletters, social notifications, and other “mass” email sent by robots, that really might not warrant the attention that it gets when it lands in our inbox.  A quick solution mentioned within the infographic is to “auto-filter” your email with Sanebox.  Yesware, another solution mentioned below provides insight on your emails (i.e. whether they’re being opened, whether the links are being clicked) which helps you to improve these interactions, and also to follow up  if your leads aren’t going through the pipeline as fast as desired.  Boomerang is also great for following up with emails that aren’t answered and you can even send an email at whatever time you’d like with their send later function.

Email is certainly here to stay, so we need to do our best in extracting all that rich data hiding in our inboxes. The services mentioned below are a great start to optimizing your email habits, contact management, all the while prioritizing what’s most important now.  Feel free to drop us any comments at @evercontact on Twitter.

Optimizing the Value of Your Professional Email

 

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