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Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking at the 2015 MarketingProfs B2B Marketing Forum. Here’s a condensed transcript with my slides of my talk, plus a link to the whole presentation at the bottom.
Everyone here has had what I call a “diagnostic experience”. You’ve gone to the doctor, brought your car to the shop, gone to a golf or tennis pro, you’ve sought out the advice of a professional to try and help you understand your problem and give you advice on how to fix it.
You’ve gone there because you trust the person and they have answers, and some of the most effective advice you’ll probably ever get. Even if it’s bad news, “Sorry Tim, that transmission is going to cost $5000,” or “Hey Tim, your golf slice is really, really bad. It’s going to take a while for you to fix that.” You ultimately appreciate the advice, and, ultimately will try to act on it.
So I ask you this, with all the content that we’re putting out, why are we not putting out more what I call “diagnostic content,” content designed to help customers understand and solve their problems? I think that a lot of people think that it’s hard. I think there are some who think that customers don’t trust vendors, but I’ll challenge you, and show you today how you can actually create this content very cost-effectively. Not only cost-effectively, and use it not only to convert leads, but to gain the trust of your customers.
Defining Diagnostic Content:
The last kind of diagnostic content is really powerful because it’s designed to help me solve my problem. It’s both relevant and personal, and designed to get at something that’s in my self interest. It might say something like, “Tim, other staffs covering the Silicon Valley are out-performing your demand gen. Find out why.” Huh, I didn’t know that. I mean, I’m not sure if it’s true or not, but I’d like to find out. I would probably open that email, and if it were a reasonable offer I might actually sign up or call the person back. That’s the kind of stuff that’s in my self-interest, very relevant to me but also designed to solve a problem, and that’s key to diagnostic content.
I’m a bit of a Wordnik. If you dig into the definition of diagnostic, it comes from the word “diagnosis” which is from the Greek, which is “to understand fully”. That’s really important because that’s what you’re doing, you’re helping someone to understand their problem fully.
What’s really important is that customers can’t understand their problem fully. Why is that? Well, they’re in their own company, they don’t have the data that you probably have from the industry, or from your systems, or from best practices, so don’t sell yourself short. That bias I talked about against diagnostic content preventers is misplaced because you actually are the experts in whatever — cupcake manufacturing, paint manufacturing, SaaS advertising techniques. Whatever it happens to be, you know, because you have hundreds or thousands of customers, and you can take that knowledge and apply it to help this customer know fully what his or her problem is. That’s really key when it comes to diagnostic content, and creating content that’s really valuable.
Here’s something from my current company, we’re a cloud service. You don’t need to know the details, but a DDoS is a kind of attack where the bad guys flood a website to try and slow it down, or take it down. Everyone knows they’re bad, but nobody really knows how often they’re going to happen and when they do hit, how bad is it? How much does it cost me? In fact, we’re in the business and we didn’t exactly know. We knew they were bad, we couldn’t actually tell somebody it’s going to happen; twenty-seven percent of the time it’s going to cost you, whatever, $100,000 per … so we commissioned a study. We hired a survey group. They went out and they found 300 buyers like our customers, IT operations people and we just asked them, “Have you ever had one?” “What did it cost?” “How often do they occur?” … and so on.
They produced their report, but then we took the report, turned it into a calculator. Six simple questions that someone can answer, and out comes a risk report. It’s very simple, and now they know that on average, it costs $40,000 and it’s fairly likely to happen. Now, we made a mistake with this one because we actually gave them all the information without a form fill, they just answered the questions. We realized that that was very well viewed, but it didn’t convert, didn’t actually capture the lead. What we did was, this is a key piece, a key learning from us is, give them a taste. Give them a summary, if they want the full report, then they fill out the form.
This cost us $15,000 to make pretty and have work well on mobile devices. It’s so far gotten 15,000 views, 5,000 leads, so about $3 per qualified lead, and I’d say these people are pretty well qualified. If they take the time to fill out the report they want to know the answer, and then download the PDF version of it, they’re probably someone who is pretty ready to talk to your sales people.
This next example — you’ll see this theme of calculators with me — is from a couple of companies ago. We were studying the cost of a data breach. Anybody here shop, or used to shop at Target or Home Depot, or T.J. Maxx, any of the big box retailers that were struck by a data breach of your credit card numbers that were potentially stolen? We all know that it cost Target a lot of money. Their CEO lost his job, the CIO lost their job. For a mid-sized company, they didn’t really understand what it was going to cost them. They couldn’t afford to hire a forensic accountant to go back and diagnose what happened. We hired a researcher who was not very well-known at the time, who specialized in this. We had him go out and do confidential research with, at the time, eight companies which then grew to over 200 companies. After several years of doing this, we asked him to build us a model. He built us an Excel spreadsheet model that essentially laid out the risk of somebody having this happen to them. We then took it and built it into this calculator that you see here, a bit more extensive, 13 questions, and out comes a report similar to the last example.
I want to point out a key difference here. You see that yellow box? That is the customer’s answer, and then the high and the low. This is the customer able to see themselves compared to their competition, or compared to their peer group. It’s really important when you build these tools, if possible, to build in a benchmark because it converts better, and it’s definitely a trigger for action. If somebody is under-performing based on a peer group, it’s showing them their pain. Customers don’t often understand that they’re actually in pain. This cost us $25,000. I hadn’t worked with Symantec for several years. Last I left, it had 7,000 leads. My rough math says that by now, there should be between 25 and 30,000 leads because it’s still running. The beautiful thing about these by the way, is they’re very low maintenance; every year we just change the numbers. (Note: Looks like Symantec took it down a few months ago, perhaps because IBM now sponsors the study.)
These things can be labor intensive up front in terms of having a report done and building the tool, but if you actually look at it in hindsight, very, very effective. The other beautiful thing about these tools is we push these PDFs into sales force, and so when the sales guy is getting ready to make a phone call to this customer for the first time, he reads the report. He knows the industry, he knows how big the company is, he knows where they think they’re weak, he knows how to compare to the competition, so all of this information is great for your sales team. Also by the way, a little trick: if you build these tools, you can make your forms shorter. Think about that. What we did was, it was actually key to understanding the risks of knowing the industry, company size, country, if it had a certain job title employed in their company. You get all this information in the survey itself, that you can push transparently the sales force, without bothering your customers with long forms. Our forms are only four or five fields long because we had everything else we needed, and the sales guy had a great tool.
Okay, last one I’ll show you is a bit different. This is one I call ‘proactive’ vs ‘promoted’ diagnostic content. What do I mean by that? The previous two examples we’ve produced, and then we advertise to our customers via email and pay-per-click ads, “Hey, find out your risk”, and it worked really well. In this case, we actually ran a simulation for the customers without their even knowing it. We took the ones out that we couldn’t help, and they probably appreciated that we didn’t waste their time having an SDR call them up. The ones we could help, we sent them and email, you see it right here. It says, “We ran a test on your site, and your site can be faster and here are the details.” We showed them the speed across different regions. Now, this got a really good first response, click-throughs and people agreeing to have meetings.
I will say that this hasn’t converted as well into opportunities, and we realized our mistake about a month in after a couple of meetings. That is, that we tell them it can be faster but going back to self interest, we didn’t tell them how fast or slow they were compared to their competition or their peer group. There wasn’t any real reason to act. “How interesting Incapsula, we could be faster. Let me think about that, good to know.” We’re going back, and we’re actually doing benchmarking so we can send them a new report that says you are faster or slower than your peer group, your industry, the elected top 10,000, whatever it happens to be. We’re pretty confident we’re going to get better results.
I promised to tell you how you can do this yourself. Let me tell you somethings not to do, or to keep in mind when you’re building out these tools. As I just said, “better than blank” works better than just “better”. Comparing the customer to their peer group, to their competition, to last year, something else is much more powerful and it’s an incentive to act, so make sure you do it. Holding back information increases form fills. It sounds obvious now, but we’d forgotten that. Give them a summary. Don’t rip them off, but then if they want the full report, the full details, they want the benchmark, then have them fill out a form and you’ll know they’re even more qualified. By the way, for those folks who don’t fill out the form, you can always re-target them. We don’t let them off the hook, we re-target them and we do pull some of those people back. Many customers don’t know they’re in pain, so you’ve got to tell them.
A lot of people don’t know the risk of a data breach for example, so you’ve got to tell them the kind of pain they’re in. Lastly, as I said, this bias against calculators is overblown. Now, I can spot bogus calculators a mile away. Those that are designed to win, fake off or that are obviously slanted, hone to buy their products. If there’s nothing else in the marketplace. These days there are a lot of niches, there are a lot of gaps because there are so many analyst firms that have gone away or slimmed down. The press has less money, or no money to do this kind of research, and so if you do it in a trustworthy way, you can actually gain that trust and fill that void and become the expert. What you’ve got to do is make sure you’re very transparent about your methodology; lay it all out.
The first example I showed you, that DDoS calculator, the firm that did it for us, they said, “Tim, there’s a lot of math. Let me just send you a summary of what we did.” I said, “No, no, no. I want the full, two-page long description of the methodology, the significance if the statistics. Give me everything because there’s going to be that guy, or the woman that works for the guy, and she’s going to want to know we’re not one of those people, and so give them all the detail. Let them read through it, and if they decide that it’s not trustworthy enough to their mind, that’s fine. You’ll take everybody else that does believe it and they’ll become your customers, or at least your prospects.
The Whole Presentation: