There was a time when the best B2B lead generation tactics were limited to direct mailers, cold calls, and even in-person sales rep visits. Though effective, it typically required great personal effort to generate a single lead and even more to convert that lead into a sale. The cost-effective lead generation tactics in digital marketing were reserved for direct consumers and were not considered a platform useful for generating B2B leads.
Now, however, some of the most forward-thinking businesses have harnessed the power of digital marketing–specifically content marketing–to cast a wider net and generate more high-quality leads with minimal effort. Instead of salesperson drop-bys, you can send automated emails. Instead of preparing and sending out vast quantities of direct mailers, you can focus on having the best B2B content in your niche, nurturing a good newsletter following, and ranking highly on Google for relevant search terms.
Consumers are not the only ones who have evolved to become web-centric. Businesses rely heavily on search engines and digital content as well. The people who either make or influence buying decisions within firms use the information they gather from search engines, blogs, ebooks, infographics, social media, and newsletter subscriptions. In fact, recent studies led by Content Marketing Institute show that 88% of B2B organizations have shifted to content marketing as a response to this change in behavior.
Content marketing is a strategy that involves consistently developing and distributing valuable and relevant content to capture the interest of a target audience, and consequently, convert them into paying customers. To engage in this marketing strategy for B2B lead generation, here are the most important things to keep in mind:
Track the results of your lead generation efforts.
In traditional advertising, it’s challenging to track where leads come from. Apart from the tedious task of asking each of your leads where they learned about your business, how do you really measure the results of an ad you placed in an industry-leading magazine? What about all those direct mailers you sent out? How many actually made it to the intended recipient? How many were opened? And how many reached out?
Thankfully, virtually everything is measurable online. On your website, you know how many people visited, what led them to your site, how many read through your content, and how many signed up because of it. For every newsletter you send out, you’ll know how many actually received it, how many opened it, and how many performed your intended action (asked for a quote, signed up for a service, etc.). Don’t take that capability for granted.
Always measure the results of each of your lead generation efforts. That’s the only way to determine what works really well and what can be scrapped. As you streamline your marketing campaign, you’ll enjoy continued improvement not just in the number of leads you generate but also in the cost to attain those results.
Synergize your sales and marketing teams.
In traditional B2B lead generation models, marketing teams were mostly responsible for building and sustaining a brand. For most, the end goal was to cultivate brand awareness so that potential customers are more accommodating when the sales team comes in.
Sales teams generally spend a whole lot of time generating leads. In some cases, they spend more time generating leads than closing them. If your marketing team is successful in launching and maintaining a good content marketing strategy, leads approach the sales teams, and not the other way around. That way, sales reps can devote their time entirely to closing deals.
The trick in getting this to work in a B2B standpoint is to get sales and marketing teams to work together. To launch a successful content marketing strategy, sales need to clearly describe the ideal target audience. Who are they? What do they like? What kind of language are they most responsive to? Marketing teams should consider all that when developing a content strategy. At the same time, sales teams need to work with marketing in order to provide consistent messaging throughout the sales funnel.
Establish your authority.
When starting out with content marketing, it’s easy to think that your ultimate goal should be to get the top results on search engines and boost your web traffic. Of course, that’s all very important. But, the most important goal to pursue is establishing your authority in your niche. When you’ve achieved that, SEO and web traffic will follow. So, too, will premium-quality leads.
Establishing your authority is, by no means, an easy task. You’ll need to determine what questions your target audience needs to be answered. Then, you’ll need to answer those questions and provide any other information that they might find useful. Doing this would give you the reputation of being an expert in your field.
Once your target audience knows that they can turn to you for your expertise, you’ll be established as the authority in your niche. That automatically earns you the trust of the decision makers of your target businesses. Once you get there, you’ve basically created an automated B2B lead generation system.
Pre-qualify your leads.
Land-and-expand is a common sales tactic. For B2C, this typically involves asking for the smallest commitment necessary to land a customer and then encouraging them to expand their commitment later on. In email marketing, for example, you don’t overwhelm potential subscribers with a bunch of questions before they sign up. You first ask for their email address, add them to your list, and find ways to ask for more information next time.
For B2B, that might not be the best tactic. What you want to do is pre-qualify your leads so that your sales teams are spending their precious time on those who are most likely to convert. To do this, you can ask simple questions like what their job title is or how many employees work at their company. These might not seem too significant but may go a long way in helping you distinguish genuine leads from those who are just curious.
Nurture prospects at each stage of the customer journey.
Closing B2B leads can be a long, drawn-out process. Business generally can’t make a buying decision in an instant. In many cases, it could take weeks, if not months to close a single lead. In the meantime, you need to make sure your business continues to be at the top of your buyer’s mind. Otherwise, you risk being forgotten altogether.
If content can be useful in drawing in B2B leads, it’ll also be effective in encouraging those leads to make a buying decision. The best thing about it is that you can automate specific content marketing procedures not only to save time but also to make sure your leads are nurtured using targeted messages.
With email marketing specifically, you can map out your entire buyers’ journey and set messages to send at each stage automatically. Plus, you can segment your subscribers in great detail so that each one gets messages that are most appealing to them. If you get this done right, you’ll have an automated system to churn out not only leads but sales as well.
Test and react quickly based on your data.
In today’s data-driven marketing world, another undertaking can help you streamline your content marketing efforts: A/B testing. Constantly endeavor to find the best ways to communicate with your target audience. What words pique their interests? What tone works best? What’s the most engaging design and layout? What offers are most appealing?
All these questions are incredibly important and can only be answered by testing. A/B testing in B2B content marketing involves pretty much the same process you’d go through for any other audience. But in most cases, the stakes are much higher so you can’t get into it haphazardly. For anything that you test, measure the results, and then use the same insights for all your campaigns moving forward.
Next to your actual content, the most critical part of content marketing is your data. It can’t be emphasized enough how important it is to measure your results continually. Then, make the necessary changes to boost your campaigns to optimum efficiency. One thing to note, though, is you need to react quickly. With a good enough tool, you can make changes as soon as you find the flaws. In many cases, a day’s difference could mean quite a considerable sum in sales.
A content marketing strategy limited to email has largely been recognized as one of the most effective and cost-efficient ways to boost B2B leads. But, launching a full-scale campaign involving web content, SEO, and social media has the potential to make your business unstoppable.
No matter the platform, a solid online presence can be all you need to have a constant inflow of B2B leads. The best thing about it is that leads funneled in from these channels are those that are more likely to convert into actual paying customers. In many cases, all your business needs is a powerful marketing tool to support you through your entire campaign.