Avoid the Bermuda Triangle of Marketing Leads

05/06/2015 01:04 pm ET | Updated May 06, 2016

When it comes to marketing, understanding the buyer's journey is critical for success, but guiding the lead journey can be just as important. Often leads get stuck in the sales funnel or completely lost. This is an important consideration where big marketing data can help.

There is no shortage of smart, attention-grabbing marketing campaigns out there generating leads, but how can you maximize the likelihood that the leads will turn into actual sales? Just like in the Bermuda Triangle, leads are continuing to disappear under mysterious circumstances.

Last year, Tobias Lee and I co-authored "5 Ways for Marketing to Conquer the Data Deluge", about effectively managing marketing data with the specific goal of driving the overall business. Toby is the Chief Marketing Officer of the Tax & Accounting division of Thomson Reuters, and knows a thing or two about achieving business results with marketing data. This is especially valuable in today's world of increasingly sophisticated and selective customers navigating the complexities of the multi-channel selling environment. With the volume of information readily available at the click of a mouse, buyers are now proficient at independently researching solutions for their problems. The buying process has changed and marketers need new ways to cut through the noise to reach those buyers.


Tobias Lee - Chief Marketing Officer, Tax & Accounting of Thomson Reuters

Many businesses veer off course by assuming that a customer is ready to buy when they visit a website or download a piece of content. In reality, those customers are just embarking on their buying journey and need a guiding light to help them through the process.

The goal is to drive customers along with targeted content based on their stage in the sales cycle. Toby calls this the Bermuda Triangle of Leads. Navigating through it requires triangulating persona research, lead understanding, and marketing campaigns to bridge the gaps in communication. This provides prospects with relevant information right when they need it. By nurturing early-stage leads and continually staying in touch, you'll be at the forefront of their minds when they are ready to make a decision.

At Thomson Reuters, Toby had noticed prospects getting lost in the funnel, and set about to figure out why. His team discovered prospects stuck in two areas of the sales pipeline:

  • At the appointment scheduled phase, where prospects were interested, but not yet ready to move forward until they had more information.
  • At the needs analysis phase, when prospects had spoken with a sales representative and been scheduled for a demo, but were still hesitant.

Once Toby figured out where prospects were getting hung up, they tested a variety of content, including white papers, eBooks, and infographics, to see what resonated best would help them through the decision-making process.

At the appointment scheduled stage, Toby realized prospects needed more snackable content, to arm them with background product information when they talked with a sales rep.

At the needs analysis stage, Thomson Reuters discovered their prospects needed more examples of the specific product benefits. In response, they provided customer case studies explaining the value and the benefits of the product.

Based on the persona work and lead data analysis, Thomson Reuters learned that prospects needed to understand better who/what the Thomson Reuters Corporation was before they could even consider taking the next step. Once they trusted Thomson Reuters, the prospects funneled into the next phase in the sales cycle. At each phase Toby's team reinforced their brand story and addressed the current challenges faced by the prospects, rather simply describing specific products. As they uncovered the prospects' challenges and provided the content needed to overcome those challenges, Thomson Reuters stepped closer to turning the leads into opportunities.

The project resulted in 40 large opportunities moving through the sales life cycle in a matter of two months. It involved a ton of A:B testing, rapid content curation, and channel mix optimization along the way to make that happen.

"In our quest to learn why customers were not moving through the sales cycle, we realized we had been treating our marketing campaigns like opaque black boxes, using rear-view metrics to look only at the final output. Rather, we needed to understand the data and feedback along the way to help us optimize future communication." -- Tobias Lee

Rearview metrics convey performance after it's too late; when the campaign is over. This is important, but unfortunately will not drive success. Think about when you're driving -- what happens if you only look back instead of concentrating on what is ahead and all around you? You crash and burn! Balance indicators are needed to explain what has happened in the past, as well as what to expect in the future. This approach gives the agility to review, analyze and change your approach as you go; for stronger planning, better targeting, and greater effectiveness and efficiency.

By understanding the pressures and needs of the target buyer personas at each stage in the sales cycle, Toby's group has been better able to deliver content that connects. The project resulted in over 150 improvements to their process, communication, and implementation. Overall, the effort helped close over 52 deals that measured over $3M in revenue.

Marketing can never stand still, and the constant movement and growth in response to dynamic data are especially critical. Only companies that relentlessly challenge themselves to meet changing customer needs with new and different ways of doing things will survive in this new globally-competitive environment. Toby is planning his summer vacation right now, but he says it won't be to the Bermuda Triangle!

This post was co-authored with Tobias Lee, Chief Marketing Officer of the Tax & Accounting division of Thomson Reuters.