Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Call to Action Has Become a Call to Knowledge

As many have said, the B2B "sales cycle" is becoming a "buying cycle" where the prospect has control over the relationship. Although the graphic of the sales funnel will be with us forever, the days are numbered when Marketing and Sales can claim to be the ones moving prospects through the funnel. In the social media world, prospects move when they want to move.

  • If a prospect doesn't want to register for your white paper, he has options online; he will search the blogs and online trade pubs for product reviews.
  • Rather than schedule an hour on her calendar to attend your live webinar, she will fast-forward through the on-demand version at her own convenience; or even better, read the attendees' comments in five minutes.
  • And before the first sales meeting, the prospect has Googled all your executives, industry blogs, PR pieces, financial data, and the same for your competitors; that meeting is never your company's "first impression."
The traditional call to action is going out. "Call us today" is sounding hucksterish. And registration forms are hitting the wall in terms of effectiveness as prospects enter just enough information to get what they need.

It's time to shift our thinking from "call to action" with a "call to knowledge." (B2B marketing strategist Ardath Albee calls this the "takeaway.") As stated by our friends at Response Mine:

Put the right content in the right places so that prospects can self-select. By responding to relevant, compelling content, prospects qualify themselves.
By answering the call to knowledge, prospects move themselves through the funnel.

Specifically, the call to knowledge helps the prospect think--and is therefore essential to a content strategy in which thought leadership is a goal. It's a tip or technique with a built-in "it depends on your situation" clause. The reader is then in control to take it or leave it, or adapt the information for her own use, and move on to the next bit of content. The next step might be a more technical white paper, a case study suited to their vertical, or a detailed online demo.

Do your white papers need a registration page? Do they need to say "Call us today" after the company's boilerplate? It depends on your situation. But marketers are building trust by allowing their prospects to move--and think--at their own pace, guided by calls to knowledge.

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