Testing Your B2B Marketing: Thought Leadership with Hunter Boyle

Testing and Optimization


Hunter Boyle
The next interview in the B2B Marketing thought leader interview series is with Hunter Boyle, Managing Editor for MarketingExperiments. Hunter’s passion for finding what works and what doesn’t work in optimizing marketing communications has equated to best practices to help marketers generate leads more effectively.

1. Tell us a little bit about how you got into B2B marketing and what you like most about it.

I got into marketing from the creative side, because my background includes writing, design and Web development. The first B2B publisher I worked for was a small company, so while writing my newsletter, I also wrote copy, launched several sites and online marketing projects, and got a crash course in direct mail, sales and integrated marketing. That mix continued throughout my time at the Industry Standard, my work on B2B publications for sales and marketing execs, in communications agencies and consulting projects, right through to today with the MECLABS Group. The ability to work in several different creative roles is still what I enjoy most about marketing.

2. As you speak to the value of optimizing Marketing communications, what are your top 3 tips to help B2B marketers generate more qualified leads through optimization?

  1. Use “friction” to your advantage. With lead generation, the form can often make or break your efforts. Setting the bar low may increase the volume of requests, but reduce their usefulness. Try testing form variations such as more fields, different information points or questions, breaking a longer form into two parts with an email capture upfront, etc., to find an optimal combination. We’ve achieved triple-digit conversion gains for partners by making this part of the process more effective.
  2. Stay relevant. Maintaining relevance from your channels (PPC, SEO, email, etc.) through to your landing pages and website and follow-ups is a must. Our research shows that consistency is a significant factor in the conversion process, so reinforce your messaging at every phase of the marketing and sales funnel. In other words, if your PPC ads promise or promote X, ensure that your landing page, sign-up form, follow-up emails and calls also focus on X.
  3. Segment and target your offers. Many marketers are still driving traffic to their site’s homepage, or one generic, catch-all landing page. Instead, try a testing approach based on different customer types. For instance, if your customer base includes independent professionals and small businesses, how can you tailor your outreach to each group based on their specific needs and issues? Break out your landing pages, traffic drivers and offers in new ways.

3. What do you think is the biggest opportunity marketers have in terms of landing page optimization to increase conversions?

Lately we’ve focused a lot on using value propositions effectively. For many sites and businesses, this is a more daunting task than testing copy, graphics, page layouts, etc. But optimizing your value proposition has a greater impact than most page tweaks because it answers the prospect’s biggest question – “Why should I buy from you?” Getting this right is a challenge, but the reward is huge and will have positive repercussions throughout your site and marketing communications.

4. In your opinion, what is the biggest oversight in effective lead management with respect to how marketing and sales teams work together?

Great question. In my experience with sales and marketing, the breakdown usually comes from a lack of communication. I know that sounds touchy-feely, but it’s legitimate. The goals of both departments are ultimately the same – increase revenue – but the collaboration is often out of whack. Our recent clinic on lead generation explored these issues, and one part that really stood out for me was establishing a universal definition of a lead. Having that common definition is one of the best ways to get sales and marketing on the same page. Nail that down and watch what happens to your sales funnel.

5. With the multitude of promotion channels today (ie: social, blogs, email), what is your advice for B2B marketers striving toward marketing ROI?

We all know analytics and metrics are vital to marketing. But they don’t tell you everything, including the things you’re not doing. Relying too much on what’s succeeded in the past, or even what’s working now, can hold us back from testing bold moves – and the potential gains and lessons that come from them. Don’t be afraid to fail. With email, SEM, social media, and other channels, test a few curveballs. Whether you end up with a strike, a double or a grand slam, you’ll come away with results and ideas you wouldn’t have gotten by just playing the numbers and sticking too closely to what you’ve always done. Breaking out of the comfort zone can be more difficult than it seems, so try rolling these wild cards into your testing strategy, no matter what the channel.

Wild Card: What question or topic would you like to address?

One of my favorite MarketingExperiments credos is: people don’t buy from websites; people buy from people. It’s so easy to lose sight of that – especially with the intense pressure to grow revenue in a down economy. We talk about clicks, users, visitors, consumers, prospects and customers, but on the other end of that data is a real person looking to solve a problem or fulfill a need. We need to connect with them in a more transparent, credible manner, regardless of the channel. The rise of social media has made the Web more interpersonal than ever, and in doing so, it’s raised the bar for marketers. I believe the key to success is respecting and engaging your audience and finding ways to interact with and learn from them. Survey them. Pick up the phone. Put yourself in their seat and take a hard look at what is and isn’t working with your marketing efforts. Take their feedback seriously and use it to improve.