How to Drive Pipeline and Growth Through a Market Research Campaign

How to Drive Pipeline and Growth Through a Market Research Campaign

In an increasingly oversaturated world of low-quality, boilerplate content — rinse and repeat blogs, emails, and social posts — it’s harder than ever to stand out with your marketing messaging online. According to a PointVisible study, 91% of B2B marketers are using content marketing — and 47% are outsourcing the creation.

In 2011, your 400-word blogs may have been enough to stand out. But today’s differentiators include interactivity (think, video or actionable tool), data-backed insights and, well, something fresh.

What’s resonating throughout the full funnel right now is market research — conducting outreach and surveys that collect data, then turning said data into insights that appeal to your target personas and starting conversations from a strong foundation. It sounds intense — but market research doesn’t have to be done by a focus group. Sales and marketing leaders even at SMBs have the capacity to generate real prospect insights, turn that data into a “State of” thought leadership report, then leverage those new insights to drive prospect meetings — it’s the “holy grail,” a fully integrated campaign throughout your whole pipeline. It may seem like a lot of work — and it won’t happen overnight — but there’s no reason you can’t pull this off yourself….especially if we lay out the step-by-step guide to getting the job done.

Here’s our process for conducting market research campaigns that drive leads, opportunities and business — while setting marketers up for months of high-quality content. You can also download our 11-step template, part of our ever-increasing amount of resources in the Smark Toolbox.

Identify Your Core Persona

In thinking about your goals for this specific campaign, it’s crucial to have your persona well-defined and a high-level understanding of how they seek and derive value. Understand what information they would want to know — whether it’s about their prospects, their market or their competitors; it’s essential to the strategy that the information you gather is aligned with the needs of your ideal client persona (ICP).

Define Your Value Prop, Audience, and Questions

Now that you know your target audience, how are you going to connect with them throughout the campaign? You’ll want to have goals in mind of what you (read: they) want to learn and work from there to plan a statistically significant way to get that information. Not sure how many people you need, who you should target as a respondent or how to ask questions in a way that provides valid data? It might make sense for you to bring in a freelance/contract data analyst.

We recommend the main function or purpose be publishing a thought leadership report jam-packed with key takeaways, data points and perspectives from respondents. This is a unique, in-market value-add that (if you went niche and targeted enough) delivers significant prospect value.

Build Your Survey

There are several tools for collecting survey responses — some, like Typeform, feature increased interactivity. We use SurveyMonkey because most respondents are familiar with the tool and its UI, and it’s very flexible in the style in which you ask questions (some may be better served as single choice, multiple choice, rating on a scale of 1-5 or 1-10, and so on). Any tool that collects responses and allows you to report on percentages will suffice. How many questions should you ask? Well, it depends on the value-add. In general, the more value you’re delivering, the more willing prospects are to provide more information. You could generate useful data in as few as 8-10 questions if they’re well thought out, while we’ve seen surveys succeed that have 30+ questions.

Conduct Your Outreach

It’s time to build your outreach emails or strategy — here are a few recommendations to ensure you’re optimizing for success at this crucial step. Consider how narrow and specific your target respondent pool should be, and whether you want to use public channels (blogs, social media, third-party sites and so on) or keep it private and contained. With a well-defined audience and a private outreach plan, it’s likely your main channel will be email. We recommend a mix of marketing emails and sales touches spaced over the course of several weeks, with possible phone-call sales cover as well. Your promotional emails should be centered on the value proposition. Its unlikely prospects will do you a favor for the sake of it, so your messaging should be conveying “what’s in it for them” as a through line.

An effective response accelerator is financially incentivizing recipients — just be sure to consider seniority level of your target respondents when setting your budget (what CEO is changing his or her mind over $10 to Applebee’s?). A tactic that works for us is to use Amazon gift cards due to the myriad items you can put it toward, and share an article in one of the emails listing great things you can buy on Amazon.com for that amount or less. Another pro tip is to escalate at a certain point in the cadence — maybe your first batch was motivated by $25 or $50, but by excluding current submissions and doubling the offer, you can entice several more responses.

Finally, you will likely want to separate this from the regular marketing/sales outreach your prospects or target respondents receive, so as not to overwhelm them or drive unsubscribes. It may be beneficial to have a marketing partner or third party conduct the outreach on your behalf, allowing your planned marketing/sales outreaches to continue uninterrupted and giving the survey emails a different look and feel in the recipient’s inbox. At the very least, change the send name and send email address as a differentiator.

Report on What You’ve Learned

You’ve struck a chord with your outreach and have collected enough responses to move forward congratulations! The information gathering is over, now the processing begins. Say you haven’t, though, and the campaign has “failed” — here’s a pivot and a quicksilver lining: you’ve just amassed whatever number of data points about either your prospects (which you can map into your CRM and use to fuel hyper-targeted outreach) or their prospects (which gives you information your prospects want, but don’t have). Make those responses the basis of outreach, or start a webinar series deep-diving on their current condition and invite respondents to be featured guests.

But you’ve nailed this campaign going step-by-step, and are ready to move forward. Time to turn these findings into insights, aligned with what you were hoping to learn from the early stages (again, may be helpful to have a stats/data expert, even if just on a contract or freelance basis).
Break these findings into sections, get a writer and a designer involved, and develop a downloadable and printable PDF version of the report. Expert level is to create an interactive web version for prime user experience. You will likely want to incorporate and attribute any quotes, examples, visual reporting and so on that will enhance the data insights.

Leverage Your Insights

Time for a full-court press to get the most out of the work you’ve done so far! Promotional strategies will be different for every company, based on strengths, capabilities, bandwidth and budget — but here are 12 suggestions pulled from our market research template to consider when building your cross-channel plan.

  1. A conversion-optimized site landing page
  2. Promotional emails emphasizing the report’s value
  3. Sales templates or emails emphasizing the report’s value
  4. Social content pulling out key stats or insights from the report
  5. A video explaining why you did it, what’s included and what you learned (you can cut into GIFs for emails, too!)
  6. A blog series highlighting and adding context to the most important findings, broken down by section
  7. Landing pages segmented by industry or vertical, highlighting the most relevant information for that audience
  8. Sales outreach to respondents (wait a bit to not be overly aggressive) based on specific pain points or triggers
  9. A webinar or live event panel highlighting the specifics of a few respondents, and your overall market findings
  10. Put the full report text on a page and lightly gate it (work email only) to generate new contacts from web searches
  11. Look for people asking questions the report answers on forums or discussion boards, and share the information with a link
  12. Start a podcast or video interview series based on what you learned from the report, featuring respondents and/or your ideal prospects.

We’ve equipped you with everything you need to make this campaign happen: a template, a case study, this deep-dive blog. There’s also a webcast session on the same topic if you prefer to hear it from SmarkLabs CEO Brendan Flanigan.

Looking for a partner in execution? Drop us a line and we’ll set up a call to talk campaigns, strategy, collaboration and how you can hit your growth goals.

A Guide to Creating and Promoting Case Studies for Sales Leaders and Executives

A Guide to Creating and Promoting Case Studies for Sales Leaders and Executives

Case studies are among the most effective ways to demonstrate expertise in a field and prove that you can deliver real-world results. Having effective case studies boosts credibility during the consideration stage of the buyer’s journey, shares customer success stories that can speak to specific industries and verticals assisted or challenges solved and offers testimonials. Much like customer reviews, when prospects see positive testimonials they are much more likely to convert. In fact, Social Fresh cites that customer testimonials have the highest effectiveness rating for content marketing at 89%. So, how do you write a case study that connects with prospects to deliver these benefits?

We’ve developed a framework for writing a clear and powerful case study. It’s a template that’s part of our Smark Toolbox, full of marketing and sales tools geared toward driving growth. This blog explains the steps for creating a case study — and how to market it afterward. Let’s dive in. There’s a three-part framework for an effective case study: explain the challenge(s) your client faced, share the solution to those problems, and show the results demonstrating how the client solved those challenges.

Here’s a look at each:

The Challenge

Detail the challenge(s) your client faced. Why did they decide to work with you? What were their goals? Had they tried other “solutions” that fell short? This is where you set the narrative for the entire case study, so be sure to nail the struggles and pain points — verify this with the client. In our case study on our client CodeScience for example, we clearly showed their goal by stating “CodeScience came to SmarkLabs seeking a partner to help them craft a strategy to increase the company’s volume of qualified leads.” See the full case study here.

The Solution

Here, you’ll lay out how you and your client decided on the approach to solve the problem and heal the pain. Most businesses will want to show how they were consultative, while those with singular products or processes will explain the specific features that address the exact challenges you laid out previously.
Be sure to include the strategic steps your company took to eliminate the problem and why you chose them for this specific use case.

One hack is to start writing by saying, “Enter [your company].” This is a natural segue dividing the “before” stage of difficulty and the “after” stage where you improved conditions. The more you analyze and explain your thought process, the more you’re able to demonstrate your expertise, from field knowledge to thinking through specific pain points and adapting to client needs.

Consider the level of specificity that’s best suited for your business. Too vague and you’re not showcasing as much value; too specific and you’re in the weeds or sharing too much of the “secret sauce.” We err on the side of publicly sharing the thought, expertise and hard work we bring to the table — part of our value is rooted is in creating and delivering often-intensive campaigns (“easier said than done”). We share one part our solution in the CodeScience case study by saying “CodeScience is engaging prospects with more targeted outreach and segmented campaigns, utilizing messaging across channels from marketing, SDR and sales team for a unified buyer’s journey.” Part of our solution is laid out in a clear manner, allowing us to fully demonstrate our expertise and value. Read the rest of the solution we implemented here.

The Results

Arguably most important section, this lays out the key facts and figures from your solution and shows that partnership with your company was successful for the client. (If it wasn’t, don’t write it!) It’s essential to be able to report on and back up your big wins. If you’re not already, start keeping records of your impact on client KPIs, so that reporting isn’t a mix of sifting and guesswork — most clients appreciate quantitative insights, as well.

Be sure to lay the data out in a way that presents a story of growth and what it has meant for the client since the new processes were implemented. It is always a good idea to visually represent the data, as this is much more digestible for case study consumers. In CodeScience’s case study, we lay out the key facts that relate to the key performance indicators agreed upon, such as stating that “within the first three months of the partnership, CodeScience boosted its conversion rate by 66%.” See the conclusion of our case study here.

Testimonials

Testimonials are one of the most impactful credibility boosters for B2B buyers as demonstrated in the Social Fresh study in the beginning of this blog. Having key decision-makers at current companies (especially with similar titles/roles as prospects) verify your impact lends credibility. The quotes should be from a contact at the client and can either be submitted by them, or you can write them yourself and have the contact approve it. Name and job title should be included to provide validity. Testimonials are a key online review for your business; according to one study, 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

Call to Action

Conclude your case study with a call to action that invites readers to take the next step with your company — ideally, the messaging is contextual and based on the specific success shared in the story. This is a key opportunity to activate prospects who may be convinced by the information you shared to take the next step, or who would like to discuss in more detail.

The Case Study is “Complete.” What’s Next?

You may think that the case study is complete. But now that your story’s told, it’s essential to leverage it effectively. Here’s how to get the most out of it:

Update

Your “finished” case study should be continuously updated as challenges and results evolve over the course of the client relationship.

Test and Optimize

Make sure to analyze how people are receiving the case study and make changes as necessary. Neil Patel tells the story of posting a blog with 2,286 words and it not doing well, so he cut it down to just 615 words and increased the number of leads generated by 39%. We recommend (as you’ve learned if you made it this far) going shorter and simpler with the content. B2B buyers consume fewer long-form pieces, as demonstrated by a joint study between Fractl and BuzzStream showing white papers as the least favorite medium to consume content through.

Leverage and Promote

The case study can also be repurposed across channels and into different assets. Use cases might include:

  • Creating a video out of it (bonus points if you get your customer on camera)
  • Sharing it in marketing or sales emails, especially with a segmented audience it would really resonate with (similar company size or situation, industry, etc.)
  • Pulling quotes from it to be used on different pages of your site
  • Promoting it on social media
  • Turning it into a webinar featuring your customer(s)
  • Presenting one or more successes in a broadly targeted conference panel

Case studies are a great way to show your company can solve many different problems that businesses face. We recommend building an extensive case study library to showcase the problems you have solved for clients you have worked with, and to include that library link in your site navigation. If you could use a launchpad for writing an effective case study, check out our free Smark Toolbox’s case study template (the Toolbox has several other templates and tools, and we’ll be adding more free resources over time — worth getting access and using the pieces you like).

Want to talk about leveraging customer successes as part of a broader growth marketing strategy? Let’s schedule a no-obligation consultation to talk goals — and how to get there.

How to Use LinkedIn Sales Navigator to Reach More Ideal Prospects

How to Use LinkedIn Sales Navigator to Reach More Ideal Prospects

Prospecting can be a daunting task for any individual, but it is vital to the success of most B2B businesses. There are many options for prospecting, but the most popular platform is LinkedIn—and for good reason. LinkedIn boasts more than 500 million users from more than 200 different countries, making it an invaluable resource for finding professionals of all sorts.

The free version of LinkedIn can be used for prospecting to some degree of success, but LinkedIn Sales Navigator offers many more filters and tools that will allow you to further narrow your search and find your ideal client profile, greatly increasing your chances of conversion. You can segment from millions down to the most relevant leads for your business.

LinkedIn Sales Navigator does not have everything, however. Once you find the perfect prospect, chances are they do not have their contact information listed on their profile. This is where you have to get creative in order to build a rich contact database.

We have put together this quick guide to get the most out of prospecting with LinkedIn Sales Navigator and various contact building tools.

Prospecting With LinkedIn Sales Navigator

LinkedIn Sales Navigator is the best tool on the market when it comes to prospecting. Here is a replicable framework for using it to surface the best leads for your business, efficiently. Start with sales preferences to narrow your parameters, then deep dive into advanced filters for a hyper-focused approach.

Sales Preferences

This is the most basic—yet one of the most helpful—things you can do to find great prospects. Go to the Settings page on your Sales Navigator profile and you will see sales preferences in the middle of the page. Here, you can narrow down your ideal client profile based on geography, industry, company size, and function. These preferences will save and whenever you visit a prospect’s profile, LinkedIn will show lead recommendations at the top of the page based on the criteria you set.
LinkedIn Sales Navigator Settings

Advanced Search

This is the most potent prospecting tool on Sales Navigator by far. You can perform an advanced search on either leads or accounts, with the leads option having more fields to focus your search. There are over 20 filters that you can apply to your search, with the keywords, title, and company fields allowing you to perform a Boolean search (if you are not familiar with Boolean searches, see here for which operators are supported on LinkedIn).

Quick Tip: Make sure to press the “Save Search” button on the left side of the results page to be able to revisit your search later and have the option of tweaking some search criteria and saving it as a separate search.

Inside Hack: LinkedIn does impose what they call a “commercial use limit” to the number of profiles of both leads and accounts that you can visit in a certain time period, depending on what subscription model you purchase. Their website does not state a specific limit, but rather says that the limit is calculated “based on your search activity since the first of the calendar month.” If you prospect beyond their threshold, LinkedIn will put a limit on your search and Suggested Profile viewing experience until the first of the month when your limit resets. If you are in a tight spot and need to keep prospecting, there is a hack to help. You can perform a Boolean search on Google with LinkedIn’s website as part of the parameters, just insert “site:linkedin.com/in” at the beginning of your search and use the Boolean operators. It will return pages of prospects that you can click through to circumvent the commercial usage limit.

LinkedIn Google Boolean Screenshot

Prospect’s Page

There are many useful tools while on a prospect’s page as well. Look on the right side of the page to see the “People Also Viewed” section. This allows you to see prospects similar to yours that other users viewed — let other prospectors do the work for you!

Quick Tip: When on a prospect’s page that you are not ready to contact, make sure to use the tag feature on the top right of the page to allow you to filter based on the tag and quickly find them later.

As mentioned before, there is a “Lead Recommendations” bar at the top of the page based on the Sales Preferences you set up at the beginning that is great to find other prospects within the company.

Finally, you can mine prospects from employees at competing companies by viewing and searching their connections. Go to their profile, click the blue number of connections next to the “Send InMail” button, and click “See All Connections.” If they have not opted to protect their connections, you will be able to use filters (just like an advanced search).
Sales Navigator Prospect Page

Contact Building

You know who they are—now how can you contact them?
These are our top tools for surfacing contact information to build a database.
Dux Soup: Though this does not build your contacts, it is an invaluable tool to get the process started. This extension operates as a LinkedIn automation tool and will allow you to automatically scan a list you create in Sales Navigator and download it as a CSV. The CSV contains prospects’ name, title, company, and a link back to their profile so that you can visit it individually later.
Dux Soup LinkedIn Automation
Toofr: A great automated prospecting website for a relatively low monthly cost. Format the CSV from Dux Soup to match the template Toofr provides and upload the list. There are multiple options for finding contact information via Toofr, but we found the best option is guessing the top email. This option will return a CSV file with the top email for each prospect, along with a confidence score of low, medium, or high. Toofr can also test an email address that you may have found yourself — great for verifying deliverability on trade show lists or other contact files you may come across.
Toofr Email Finder
Data.com: Similar to Toofr, but without an option to upload a bulk file for an extensive list of prospects. The free version allows you to submit contact information from your existing database in exchange for credits to reveal the contact information of the prospects you are searching for. The contact information will occasionally have a direct line to the prospect but be cautious because it could be out of date.


Prospecting can be a time-consuming task if you are not equipped with the correct tools and best practices. Leveraging LinkedIn Sales Navigator in combination with the resources described will allow you to build a large contact database quickly with minimal effort.
Need help building your dream database…or developing the strategy that turns your prospects into opportunities? We’ll walk you through a marketing whiteboard session that provides a framework for sales and marketing success.

5 Steps to the Perfect Explainer Video Script

5 Steps to the Perfect Explainer Video Script

An explainer video is a powerful marketing tool, summing up the advantages of your product or service in a short, entertaining format. One of the most important steps of explainer video production (and arguably one of the trickiest) is to write a great script. According to Kissmetrics, “A well-written script is the key to a successful explainer video. It’s the foundation upon which everything else is built.”  While hiring outside help to write your video’s script for you is an option, if you are choosing to go at it alone, be sure and follow these 5 steps to writing the perfect explainer video script: (more…)

7 Tips To Create The Perfect Landing Page For Your Next Webinar

7 Tips To Create The Perfect Landing Page For Your Next Webinar

In today’s web-based world where business is conducted increasingly online and meetings are held either over-the-phone or behind a screen, it makes sense that companies who are looking to establish themselves as thought leaders in the industry would want to host webinars. Webinars are a great way to network with fellow professionals, all while increasing brand awareness for your company and developing your reputation as an industry expert – right from the comfort of your own office (or home).
(more…)