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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