What a “Boys Night Out” taught me about Inbound Marketing

Boys Night Out
I was once on a Boys Night Out, and my mate, (under the influence) walked up to a girl at the bar, and with underlying amorous intentions, started asking her all sorts of personal questions. She “looked daggers” at him (as we say up North). Abject failure on his part.. The point here is that there is a time and a place for things in a relationship, and he got his timing badly wrong by asking for way too much information “up-front”.

I went to register for a white paper from a very large, well-known global software company. Sadly – I counted 28 (twenty eight) separate pieces of information on the registration page!. It was the equivalent of them saying “Tell me your life story”, on this very first tentative encounter.

Both my mate, and the large software company have forgotten that in any relationship the dynamics build over time:Engagement CurveThe shape of the engagement curve above gives the clue really. We can’t expect people to provide their life story right at the start. By capturing information piece by piece over time (incrementally), we can ensure that we are aligned with the natural, underlying, human dynamics.  Remember, when someone registers on your web-site, they are actually doing a couple of things (at least):

Clock

Spending some of their valuable time. (Might seem trivial, but on the web, every second counts).

Person With Question Mark Thought Bubble

Taking a risk, because they don’t know whether their registration will just disappear into a black hole.

The key is to start small (softly softly), and ask for more over time:

Incremental Data Capture

Technology can help by automating this process. The first registration page should really ask for the bare minimum: forename, surname, email is usually enough on the first encounter. The other important thing is to try and support the persons own agenda. In a B2B web situation , this usually means giving them something of genuine value (e.g. white paper, hints and tips, etc.) right from the start.

Example Registration Page

This “Give-Get” orientation is important. People come to your web site, not to see how great you are, but because they have their own agenda, such as finding out more about a certain subject area, looking for things to help them justify a proposal to their boss, etc.

By embracing that agenda, and giving something of value, (and a quick Email acknowledgement), you are starting the online relationship off in the right way. Once email address is captured, you can keep those people in the loop, with different announcements, offerings, etc., and when relevant (either after a suitable time delay, or because they’ve acted on something), you can ask for more information.

You could ask them to refine their profile / specify their interests via tick-boxes, or any other information which helps them self-segment, i.e. they can be categorised in certain ways, which then controls which engagement strategy you adopt, and which communications you send them (ideally automatically).

These cycles of data capture are best enabled via a link in an email, which then takes them to a web form where they see their own profile, and add more information accordingly.

Emails to Encourage Engagement

In Summary

  1. Remember our Boys Night Out. Asking for someone’s life story on the first encounter is a sure fire way to make them walk. The same is true on the web
  2. Don’t copy the big organisations. Some of them are dreadful at engaging their customers
  3. Incremental Data Capture allows you to start small, then ask for more and more information over time, in line with the human dynamics
  4. When people sign up, they do it for their reasons. Give them something of genuine value as a tempter for them to sign up.

(Please do feel free to comment,  email me here , or have a look at our website here )

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Tegefs Law : Six Face to Face Networking Tips

Ok I admit it, there is no Professor TEGEF, it is  just a little memory jogger. These six simple rules , picked up from others, have helped me feel comfortable when face-to-face networking (with the ultimate long-term goal of generating leads).  If you find yourself in a similar situation, I hope there might be something in here for you. 

Two Ears One MouthT – Two Ears One Mouth : Use them in that proportion. You’ll want to get your own message heard, however, by listening more than talking,  you understand the other persons, objectives, ideas and passions. Then you’ll get a feeling for which themes to pursue, and how to “frame” your words so they make maximum sense to the other person.

Elevator ButtonsE – Elevator Pitch : The elevator pitch is not where you try to explain everything you do. It’s an opening gambit to generate interest. A conversation starter. Keep it short, and if the other person says “oh – how do you do that?” – it lets you fill in the blanks naturally. Let the other person do theirs first. You can then flex yours to make it more relevant to them. Be prepared to change our elevator pitch. Even now I occasionally get people looking at me like a dog that’s been shown a card trick after I answer the question “what do you do ?” 

BusinessCardG – Get THEIR Business Card : I think it’s possible to be obsessed about business cards as in this great scene from the film American Psycho. The most important thing by far is NOT to hand out your card, it is to get the OTHER persons. You then have the ability to follow up. If they don’t have one, write their email address on the back of one of yours.

EXITE – Exit Gracefully : It’s  very easy to get involved in a chat which eats up a load of time, and so try to allow just enough to establish rapport and if the conversaton is lasting too long, you owe it to yourself AND the other person to create space for more interactions with others – “.. Lord Charles it’s been great chatting but I’m going to give us both the chance to mingle a bit more, rest assured I will drop you an email”

Follow UpF – Follow Up : What is the point in networking unless you follow-up appropriately. It might just be a “Great to meet you”, or maybe the suggestion of a mutual coffee. I often do this even if there is no obvious opportunity, as I’m a strong believer in the secondary network (see next) 

SecondaryNetworkS – Secondary Network – Even if you have no obvious shared agenda with the other person, always bear in mind that you may be able to hook each other up with OTHER members of your mutual network. I think karma will ultimately reign. See more about the secondary network here.

Quick Summary:

T wo Ears One Mouth
E levator Pitch
G et their Card
E xit Gracefully
F ollow Up
S econdary Network

Its not what you know OR who you know

It’s who THEY know.

I think it’s interesting to reflect on the power of the secondary network. We naturally focus on the people we know (our Level-1 contacts), but let’s not ignore the Level-2’s

Network Levels

Network Levels

Here is a real example, with names changed to protect the innocent. I identified Hugo (via Linked-In) , who I thought would be an ideal customer. It transpired that Hugo was a Level-2, and that he and I both knew Ted. I emailed Ted, and, cutting a long story short, Ted put me in touch with Hugo who eventually became a valued customer. Had I tried to contact Hugo directly, I would have had no chance, as he is already maxed out with un-solicited approaches.

Networking Numbers

Networking Numbers

The “numbers” are interesting. British anthropologist Robin Dunbar, thinks the limit to the number of people with whom we can maintain stable social relationships is roughly 150. Lets (conservatively) estimate that we have, on average, 100 Level-1 contacts. That puts the number of Level-2’s at ten thousand  (100 x 100). If you are looking for people who buy oak furniture, turbo-charge fork-lifts, or make decisions on IT spend, the chances are there are some in that Level-2 community.

A couple of observations:

1) Online : By ensuring that your on-line content has the ability to be shared you effectively allow the people who read it, to advocate it to their Level-1’s (your Level-2’s), which can potentially exponentially increase your exposure.

2) Face to Face : When you next find yourself at a networking event, relax, even if the none of the other people attending look like prospects, some of them could well connect you to prospects. 

One of earliest references to “Not what you know…” was actually said by a Film Director, Mike Cross: “In Hollywood, it’s not what you know but who you know,” adding that the awards ceremony was the perfect place to make connections.

I’m a simple northern lad, so my equivalent of an awards ceremony is probably a breakfast networking event. At the last one I attended I chatted to a nice lady next to the coffee and biscuits. I will probably never be her ideal client, but it’s quite possible that I know someone who could be.