Natalie is Founder & President of Magnetude Consulting, a full-service marketing agency working with small and mid-sized B2B tech firms.
Getting leads should be easy for B2B companies, right? Turn on the money faucet, let the leads pour in, and watch sales turn them into closed deals. The reality? A lead doesn’t always equal a sale, and truly top-quality leads can be elusive.
There is an art and science behind getting quality leads that convert to clients or customers. In this article, I’ll pull back the curtain and help you understand some of the basic elements that come together to create an effective lead generation campaign.
B2B Marketing Considerations
B2B marketing is generally more complex than B2C. While B2C is usually transactional, with B2B, your message often needs to reach multiple decision makers, address different customer pain points and may have a longer sales cycle.
Before a prospect even enters the sales cycle, they follow a buyer’s journey, where demand generation and lead generation programs lead them down the funnel to sales.
Demand Generation vs. Lead Generation: What’s the Difference?
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Demand generation is a combination of efforts to build awareness throughout the buying journey. Delivering targeted marketing messages that drive interest in your product or service is just one part of demand generation. At this stage, potential customers are discovering their problems and are open to solutions. This is the prime time for you to engage with targets using different touchpoints and content that raises awareness about their problem and positions your company as a trusted advisor.
Lead generation, by contrast, focuses directly on converting your prospective audience into leads. This often involves gated content: high-value pieces like e-books or webinars hosted behind a form to collect contact details, for example. This content gains your audience’s attention and leads them further into the buyer’s journey.
Inbound lead generation pulls your audience in by offering this relevant content through organic web searches, social media, referrals and remarketing ads. There are many outbound lead generation methods as well, typically leveraging cold calls, emails and even knocking on doors (yes, it still happens!).
Connecting to Your Audience
In a 2020 Gartner report, B2B buyers report spending little time with sales reps. Only 17% of the total purchase journey is spent in such interactions, and 27% of the journey was researching independently online. Because of this, building your online presence is a key component of success.
Creating a buyer persona is the first step in understanding your audience. It allows you to effectively build content suited for your ideal customer profile (ICP). You may need to create multiple profiles considering factors like:
• Job level: Many companies have different levels of decision makers. The person that is the influencer may test and demo your offerings and then send it up the ladder for approval.
• Job function: Different business areas have different priorities. The messaging that works for an IT admin will likely be quite different from a finance officer.
• Industry or vertical: Different industries will have different needs and messaging requirements, and sharing news or using terms that relate to that industry adds credibility.
Personalizing your content to fit these segments is crucial to ensure your message resonates.
Lead Quality Over Lead Quantity
Improving the quality of leads is one of the most significant objectives of a lead generation strategy. A highly qualified and targeted lead will result in a higher ROI. Use BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, Timing) to help qualify a lead and turn a lead into a viable prospect.
• Budget: Does the lead have the budget for your product or service? Don’t let your valuable marketing dollars be spent on audiences that don’t have the budget for your offerings.
• Authority: Does the lead have the authority to purchase? Depending on your prospect, it could be one decision maker or a buying committee.
• Need: Does your product or service meet the needs of that lead? If your offerings are only suitable to SMBs, then enterprise leads may never prove to be fruitful.
• Timing: When does the lead need to have their pain point solved? Is there a current product or solution that may need to be displaced? Is there budgetary timing that needs to be targeted?
Often, marketing will create qualifying content to uncover BANT ahead of time. Converting leads into prospects builds a healthy sales pipeline and helps you measure ROI and effectiveness of different marketing programs and tactics.
How do you get started with lead generation?
It’s always best to start with goals. SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely) goals will help you set a clear and defined road map.
Look at any past programs and evaluate what worked and what didn’t. Get feedback from customers — what brought them in and why did they choose you? Additionally, don’t put all your eggs in one basket: piloting programs and A/B testing will help you determine where you should allocate your dollars. Finally, be sure to maintain lead generation activities to fill the funnel as customers come and go.
From there, consider these key questions internally to get the right fit. Any good strategy starts with a plan.
• What is your ICP? Who are the decision makers and influencers in the buyer’s journey?
• What are your target audience’s pain points?
• How can your content address those pain points while including your unique selling proposition?
• How will you qualify and process leads? What is your timing?
• How will you nurture leads with content for each phase of the buyer’s journey?
• What is a lead worth to you?
• How can you retain your current customers?
The Bottom Line
Any size business can engage in successful marketing and lead generation. As you can see, lead generation is not as simplistic as it seems, and done without forethought and planning, it can result in wasted time and money. Take the time to understand your audience and craft your approach thoughtfully, and you’ll be ready to test and scale.
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Author: Natalie Nathanson, Forbes Councils Member