Reduce buyer risk to increase lead generation

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Tom Nightingale
Tom Nightingale

The CMO of transportation and logistics company Con-way, on refining lead gen for a 'stickier' brand

Q: You believe consumer-facing companies need to be more like business-to-business marketers when it comes to lead generation. Why?

A: Consumers have become every bit as knowledgeable as the professional purchasing agent of 10 to 15 years ago. They don't have to go into the local big box store to figure out what product to buy; they can have 15 choices competing for them with a click of BizRate. As a result, b-to-c marketers can no longer "spray and pray" to get consumers in the store, and let the retailers do the rest. Now consumers have to be pre-sold. It is really forcing b-to-c companies to go to market in a way that is more analogous to what b-to-b marketers have done in the past—they have to deliver more content-rich marketing more directly than ever before.

Q: You can now follow Con-way on LinkedIn. How does that fit into the equation?

A: We do see our thought leadership as a form of demand and lead generation. LinkedIn can become a potential factor in terms of being a thought leadership platform by creating groups where people go to exchange ideas in terms of transportation needs. We can use those groups to communicate our thought leadership on emerging issues.

Q: Will social media be important?

A: The web has changed everything relative to demand generation; it has opened up new channels and created a new imperative around moment of relevancy. I would characterize social media as nascent to the b-to-b commercial channel. We're about to unveil what will be the first commercially viable extension of social media into our market.

Q: Con-way has three different business units, including less-than-truckload and worldwide logistics services. How does your lead generation approach differ?

A: There are three elements to which buyers weigh risk: price risk, performance risk and psycho-social risk. With some of our businesses, those risks are relatively low because they can get in one day and out the other. In other aspects of our business where companies outsource their entire supply chain to us, that is a very high risk. So on those longer sales cycles, we tend to use higher-end collateral with really rich case studies from companies that are peers to the target company. We want to minimize price, performance and psycho-social risk.

Q: How else are you refining your lead generation tactics?

A: We all know the hardest thing to do is sell a new product to a new customer. Unless you have 100% share of wallet in your target market, the more you can do to penetrate that existing customer with newer products or greater share of existing product the better off you'll be. It makes your brand stickier — the more products a customer buys, the less likely they'll defect. It also lowers acquisition and retention costs. In the end, that is the fastest path to profitable growth. 

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