Why hot topics don't create hot leads – and what really makes a call to buy

Prospects can remain stuck in the sales funnel for months – even years – without buying. Whether it’s a rare lead that’s trickled down from initial awareness, or you’ve shortcut the cycle to get straight to a meeting, being in the room with your buyer can be a long way from closing the deal. Even being appointed to a client panel is no guarantee of new work, as professional services firms know all too well. The missing component? Urgency.

Calls to action come in many guises, but the one I see most commonly used in marketing is the looming external threat. From GDPR to MiFID II to Brexit, topical hooks are at the heart of thousands of B2B marketing campaigns. The story usually goes something like “X means you must act now to mitigate Y risk”.

Topicality is a useful component to campaigns. But building initiatives on topics alone won’t drive sales. Because while you may have made the case to act, you haven’t made the case to buy (and from you in particular).

Topic-driven campaigns consistently overlook two things that create a powerful call to buy:

#1 Specific buyer goals.

According to CEB research, the most effective way to win work is to identify new ways to help prospects make money, save money or mitigate risk, which they have yet to spot and that you are uniquely placed to act on. This requires deep understanding of specific buyer goals and challenges – their business critical priorities – and, sure, how these are effected by market change.

Topic-driven campaigns often stop at the hook and fail to make the connection to client organisations – believing it’s enough that the issue is current for the issue to be relevant. Why? They are too broad – you can’t tap into individual buyer needs when trying to appeal across sectors, geographies and service lines. And too homogenous – when every competitor has something to say about a hot topic, carving out a fresh, unique and valuable perspective is almost impossible.

#2 A compelling sales proposition.

Caught up in the ins and outs of an emerging market trend, building a case for what organisations are actually selling gets lost. But without it topic-driven campaigns add noise without direction – falling into the ‘that’s kind of interesting but I’m not sure why you’re telling me about it’ category that rarely leads to purposeful steps to purchase.

Brexit – the subject of millions of marketing pounds spent by professional services firms alone – is a perfect example. The rush to be the first to comment on every new development comes at the expense of a thoughtful articulation of the distinctiveness and value of your offering. This leads to generic ‘updates’ that offer little to clients and say nothing about why they should buy from you over the competition (who all share similarly ‘helpful’ Brexit alerts).

A more powerful and effective call to buy – and buy from you – looks different. “[Buyer], your top business goal is A. To achieve A you’re doing B, but if you tried C you would be more successful. [Company] has a unique formula for C – can I tell you more?” It creates buying urgency by tapping into buyers’ business critical goals to offer new, valuable and unique solutions. It uses topics to support, not substitute, audience knowledge and a strong sales proposition.

You can read more about building a sales proposition that creates a call to buy for you and only you in our previous blog.

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