February 26, 2010

Book Review of Digital Body Language

By Stephen Laliberte

When I happened across the book Digital Body Language: Deciphering Customer Intentions in an Online World by Steven Woods, I ordered it without hesitation.

I have been watching the decline in print advertising revenues and experiencing the shift of B2B marketing dollars to e-media. To capitalize on this, B2B publishers need better tools and systems that will allow them to perform marketing services at a level many do not yet comprehend. Myself included. So a book that might point the way was most intriguing.

I have been seeing signals of this shift for over a year now. In March 2009, at the FOLIO Growth Summit, I heard IDG's CEO Bob Carrigan speak about IDGConnect. This is a lead scoring service that allowed IDG to increase the average lead CPM by a large percentage. See the related article at the Folio website.

At the American Business Media Spring conference, a Booze Allen study, "A Roadmap for Profitable Revenue Growth" showed that B2B publishers who offered strong custom media services that integrated microsites, web seminars, white papers, and integrated lead nurturing services saw the least amount of print advertising erosion.

In developing the IProduction Product Roadmap, I like to use what I call statistical listening. If I hear the same thing from a number of credible sources, the market may be nearing broad based adoption of that feature or service.

Digital Body Language presents the concept that the traditional sales process for complex B2B products is changing. On an increasing basis, prospects are identifying solutions using the internet and only contacting sales when they are ready to purchase. The book describes a rift between marketing departments and sales departments. Marketing produces leads that sales cannot close. The core of the problem is that the buying process does not align with the sales process.

Buying Process

  1. Awareness - General Market Education, Recognize Opportunity
  2. Discovery - Problem Defined, Evaluate Options
  3. Validation - Select Best Option, Negotiate and Purchase

Selling Process

  1. Target Prospects
  2. Qualify Prospects
  3. Explain Solution
  4. Submit Proposal
  5. Close
  6. Fulfill

Marketing is generating leads that are in the awareness phase and the sales group is treating them as though they are qualified prospects.

Buyers are now using a new e-media toolkit to gather much of the information that the salesperson used to dispense.

Buyer's Tool Kit

  1. Search
  2. Industry News Sites
  3. Industry Analysts
  4. Advertising
  5. Viral Messages
  6. Podcasts
  7. Web Seminars
  8. Tradeshows
  9. Blogs
  10. Vendor Sites

In looking at this list, there is great potential for B2B publishers. A good publisher will be offering most of these channels in their product mix. If proper audience development and conversion architecture are utilized, the publisher can record and access the readers' activity across all of these channels.

Based on this information a B2B publisher should be able to produce a lead with scoring to indicate where they are in the buying process. In this way they can deliver more qualified leads. Because this will save the sales department a great deal of time in not calling unqualified leads, there will be more time to service qualified leads. Sales should increase. The value of a qualified lead is much greater than an unqualified lead.

Digital Body Language suggests the following taxonomy for profiling a lead.

Buyer's Role

  1. Economic Buyer - reads stuff like product comparison, price comparison, ROI calculator, case studies, analyst reviews
  2. User Buyer - evaluates operational impact of a solution. Free trial, documentation, community signup, tips and tricks, advanced user blog.
  3. Technical Buyer - Feasibility, sophistication, - case studies, tradeshow

Interest Level

  1. Recency - what is the last date of interaction?
  2. Frequency - how often does the reader interact?
  3. Depth - how many pages does the prospect read?

Communication Preference

  1. Media Type - web page, email, podcast, video
  2. Style - rich media, text only, sales oriented, techno speak
  3. Frequency of marketing communication - when they are closer to buy, they want more communication - demand it. If this happens too early, they bolt

Buying Stage

  1. Awareness
  2. Discovery
  3. Validation

Achieving this will require a new type of content tagging. Most publishers are deeply involved in tagging content using editorial taxonomy tagging. To implement Digital Body Language, publishers will need to also tag content according to buying stage.

A publisher must also use an integrated platform where one system manages all registrations: site, e-newsletter, web seminar, white paper, microsite, video, virtual conference, and face-to-face event. The system also recognizes individual page views, email opens, and clicks.

A key point in the book is the idea that in a complex B2B selling cycle, 80% of the leads that are in the funnel are not ready to buy. Digital Body Language can help identify the 20% who are. The remaining 80% must be nurtured until they are ready. A needed feature in a lead generation program is the ability to place leads in a nurturing email series that can move them to the next step of the buying stage.

My main concern is how to make this simple. Marketing departments demand measurable results. Simple measurements are the most effective. Each layer of complexity makes the service harder to explain, understand, and measure.

All in all, Digital Body Language is worth reading.