As we kicked off the book project, we felt solid about the content. We knew the story we wanted to tell and had a good grasp on the design portion. But, the website experience was unclear. What was the ideal content marketing website experience in this new conversational world?
For over a decade, B2B companies have been gating content behind forms in an effort to generate top of funnel leads. But today’s buyers expect everything, including how they consume content, to be easy and instantaneous.
We went on a mission to figure out the best content marketing website experience. For our website visitors, we wanted the book to be easy to discover and read. For our own demand generation purposes, we wanted to capture leads and engage readers in real-time sales conversations.
We set out to redefine how B2B companies do content marketing -- the conversational way. Here’s how it went.
First, we did our research:
A core pillar of any B2B content marketing strategy is publishing and gating long-form content (guides and ebooks) to generate top of funnel leads. We went to dozens of our favorite B2B websites to understand how they delivered guides and ebooks. Although each company had a slightly different path, they all followed the same playbook:
Promote: Market top content pieces throughout their site
Give a sneak peek: Show a cover page and summary to pique readers’ interest
Gate the content: Before you could view content, you were asked to fill out a form
Release the content: After submitting your information, you were redirected to a webpage, a PDF, sent an email, or all of the above
We took note of what we liked and didn’t like from these experiences.
Google-friendly content: SEO is the name of the game, so it’s critical that Google can crawl, index, and rank your page.
Ability to download a PDF: The PDF format looks nice, plus some readers will want the ability to download a PDF and forward it to a colleague.
Ability to request content via email: Some readers will want to be able to find the piece of content in their inbox later on.
Gate-to-read mentality: Most companies required that you provide your email address before you could access the content. Some companies immediately presented a gate and some presented it after you had read the first few pages. As readers, we didn’t like handing over our information without seeing the finished product. It also made us more likely to give a “fake” email address.
Hosted on different website domain: Some websites led you to completely different landing pages outside of their main site, which was a disjointed experience.
Non-conversational: There was no way to engage with a company via chat while reading their content. For us, this was paramount.
Our solution: Conversational Content Marketing
We drew out our dream content experience that would help us get our book in front of our readers, maximize engagement, and capture leads.
Our vision was an ungated book with an always-on Conversational Marketing component. Our vision was “Conversational Content Marketing"
We wanted our Conversational Content Marketing experience to include these core elements:
Ungated content: Show our readers the finished product from the get-go.
Google friendly: Allow Google to crawl, index, and rank our page.
Part of our main site: A seamless visitor experience & no off-brand URLs.
Conversational: Always-open messenger, inviting our readers to engage.
Lead Generating: Although we weren’t gating the book, we still wanted the ability to capture leads when appropriate. If readers want to download the PDF or receive an email with the book, we would ask them to provide their email address via the Qualified messenger.
Conversational Content Marketing: How We Built It
Now to the fun part … let’s get into the weeds of how we built our Conversational Content Marketing experience.
Step 1: Rethinking the Website Experience
First, we designed the website experience. We developed a webpage that would house the ungated book on the left-hand side of the page, and leave room for the Qualified messenger on the right-hand side of the page. That way a reader could scroll through the book and engage with our messenger at any time.
The Qualified messenger is 370 pixels wide. When building the page, we left a 370 pixel margin on the right-hand side, so that the messenger would always appear for our desktop viewers and never overlap with the book, even as they resized the page. The Qualified messenger was designed to be an integral part of the experience
We designed the book to be in 8.5" x 11" vertical PDF format, so that people could easily scroll through the book in a familiar experience, much like when they read on their Kindle. We also knew this vertical format would translate well onto mobile.
Once the design was finalized, we exported each page as a Scalable Vector Graphic (SVG). This format is high resolution and Google friendly, so it helps with SEO.
Step 2: Building the Chatbot Experience
Once the webpage was in good shape, we built our Chatbot experience. This is the content that would appear in the messenger the moment visitors arrived on the page. It would also serve as our vehicle for capturing leads.
We started with a personalized greeting, then invited readers to:
Download the PDF
Receive an email with the book
Chat with a human
Of course, the experience has different rules and branching that allow for readers to do any combination of these options.
Here’s a high-level view of what the Chatbot experience looks like:
We designed a webpage that would house the ungated book on the left-hand side and leave room for the Qualified messenger on the right-hand side
Things to note:
In an effort to maximize engagement and lead capture, the messenger is “always open” on this specific webpage.
We’ve configured voice and Slack alerts to notify our sales team when visitors are reading the book.
The “Download the PDF” and “Email me the Book” options invite visitors to enter their business email address, so we can capture real business leads.
When emails are captured, we create new leads in Salesforce with a “Lead Status: Content” Lead Type so that our sales team can follow up appropriately.
If visitors choose “Email me the book”, they are added as a prospect in Pardot with a custom field that notes their book request; when this field is populated, an Automation Rule is triggered that immediately emails them the book.
Pro tip: Not every visitor should have the option to talk to sales right away. Consider only inviting qualified leads to talk to sales. For us, people reading the Salesforce book match our ideal customer profile, so we included a sales offer.
Step 3: Configuring the Mobile Experience
Once the desktop experience was ready, it was time to think about mobile. We get a fair amount of mobile traffic, especially from our LinkedIn campaigns, so this was an important piece to nail.
We knew that we wanted our mobile readers to be able to easily scroll through the book. We didn't want our messenger to disrupt the reading experience, so went with a minimalist approach.
Things to note:
We built a stripped-down Chatbot experience for our mobile users.
A short message appears once the reader has scrolled 5% through the book, asking if they'd like us to email them a copy of the book.
The "Download the PDF" option didn’t apply for mobile users.
We skipped the “Chat with Sales” option as well, since we see higher conversions when we engage with desktop users.
Step 4: Cross-Promoting the Book On Our Site
In addition to including this book in our resource center, we also wanted to promote it via Conversational Marketing on relevant pages, like our Salesforce page since the book is hyper-relevant for that audience.
When visitors land on our Salesforce page, they see a prominent call to action promoting the book. Check it out.
Here's a behind-the-scenes look at how we built this experience.
Step 5: Defining Sales Rep Rules of Engagement
Last but definitely not least, we primed our sales team for the book rollout. We defined our “rules of engagement” for our Conversational Content Marketing experience:
Let our readers read: These visitors are here to learn. Give them time to digest the content. Simply put, don’t proactively chat with these visitors.
Prioritize lead capture: Our main goal with this book is lead generation. Allow visitors to engage with the messenger, which is designed to capture their email address in return for a PDF or emailed copy of the book.
Use softer greetings: If and when the reader provides an email address, it’s OK to engage. Let them know that you’re here to help, but don’t go for the hard sell unless they demonstrate strong buying signals.
We put targeted display ads into the market on Google and LinkedIn, and sat back and watched readers consume our content. Since launch, we’ve been pleased with the results. 23% of our book visitors convert into leads, as compared to the average B2B website conversion rate of 7% (Source: Marketing Sherpa).
We hope you’re feeling inspired for how you can do Conversational Content Marketing at your own company. This Conversational Content Marketing functionality is available right now for all Qualified customers. Ready to get started? Talk with our team right here on the site and we can kick things off!