There is no denying the power of social media, SEO, and other inbound marketing programs to attract and engage prospects.
However, direct B2B lead generation still has it’s rightful place in the mix if aimed at the right people, with the right messages, and in the right way. With the addition of tightly-focused outbound campaigns, you can greatly enhance your marketing effectiveness and increase sales.
The following framework outlines a 7-step process that offers a practical way to create new leads and opportunities. It’s best to think of these steps as an on-going cycle of multiple activities that form a series of campaigns over time. The fact is, you need to repeatedly reach out if you want to create interest and engagement. If you connect with prospects during the buying cycle with a strong call-to-action, your odds significantly improve.
Key Success Factors for B2B Lead Generation
As with most marketing programs, B2B lead generation is a complex system with many moving parts. In order to make it work, you must flawlessly execute, or risk creating a bad impression and perhaps lost opportunity. Your chances of success will dramatically rise based on a combination of the following factors:
- How well your target audience is defined and the quality of your lists.
- How valuable and relevant your offering is to the people you are reaching out to.
- How well your messages resonate with those receiving it.
- How differentiated your company and offering appears to be.
- The number of “touch-points” over time, consistently reinforcing your value proposition.
- The timeliness and quality of your sales follow-up.
By using the following steps, you will increase conversion rates and also build a solid foundation for on-going activity. As with most things, the more thoughtful and creative you are, the better the results!
1. Create Strategy
- Define the objectives and key metrics of your campaign. Leverage your historic data and be realistic.
- Decide on the campaign duration and the number of distinct activities that will be part of it.
- Select the vehicles you will use (email, direct mail, webinars, events, telesales, etc.)
- If the campaign is complex enough, create a project plan and build an execution calendar defining the task owners, due dates and dependencies.
2. Define Target Audience
- Create “ideal prospect profiles” grouped by attributes such as geography, company size, industry challenges, etc. Clear market segmentation helps ensure you are talking with the right people. The shot-gun approach is far more time-consuming and ultimately more expensive.
- Identify the titles in the organization you believe are important to connect with – those who will benefit most from your offering.
- Define what problems your products or services will address for the people in those roles.
3. Build Account / Contact List
- Leverage your CRM and other data, or consider buying new lists based on one or more of the attributes defined in Step 2. You should end up with multiple key contacts for each account.
- Validate key contacts leveraging LinkedIn, web searches, or subscription services such as Data.com or ZoomInfo. This is great part-time work for a student or intern. You can rely on what you have, but it’s often outdated and this step will improve the quality of your list for follow-up initiatives.
- Merge any new data with your existing CRM records and ensure a field is tagged in CRM at the account, contact and campaign levels in order to isolate these records for reporting.
- If you are using an automation tool, ensure it’s synchronized with your CRM.
4. Create Theme / Messages
- Decide on the central theme of the campaign. What is the single most important idea you want to convey? What will the “feel and tone” of the campaign be?
- Create high-impact messages to support your theme for each functional target contact. For example, the message for a VP of Marketing will be different than a CFO’s. Focus on benefits, not features!
- As a backdrop to your thinking, consider the client pain-points, your competition and why the receiver should care. Your perspective should always be from their point of view.
- If possible, include a call-to-action and / or value offering (promotion, whitepaper, research report, etc.) Give people a reason to engage.
5. Develop Content
- Create your copy using the theme and key messages for each group of potential buyers and influencers. Your copy should be concise, differentiated and compelling.
- Decide on the appropriate graphics to create or buy, and ensure they effectively support your copy. As a rule, images have far more impact than words.
- Optimize your final layout to deliver a crisp and professional appearance. Make it stand out as you only have a few seconds to grab attention.
- Personalize and customize your content as much as possible. Talk to the recipient in their industry terms for a stronger connection.
- If you have the resources, consider A|B testing different variations of your content to find out what works best. If you go this route, early results monitoring will be important.
- Leverage unique landing pages for web-based content as this provides an easy way to isolate and measure the progress.
6. Execute Campaign
- If you are sending email to Canadian prospects, you must understand and comply with Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL). If you haven’t already, do the homework.
- Send a communication internally to make sure your sales and marketing teams are aware and prepared once the campaign starts to run.
- Deliver your communications as planned in Step 1. Consider the optimal timing to get the highest response. An event on Friday afternoon before a long weekend is bad timing!
- As responses start to build, update your CRM. Be sure to “score” or “weight” your responses so you can prioritize accordingly. Marketing automation tools such as SharpSpring provides strong capabilities for managing the lead nurturing process following initial contact. These companies are also great sources of marketing and content information.
- As leads and opportunities become qualified, pass them immediately to inside or direct sales for follow-up, and make sure this happens in a timely manner.
- Immediately unsubscribe contacts who request it and confirm back once you have.
7. Measure / Follow-up
- At regular checkpoints during the campaign, monitor the results to see how you are tracking.
- When the campaign ends, report the results achieved compared to the projected metrics. You may want to do this a week or two after completion as well in case late responses come in.
- Document and analyze the final results and review the insights and lessons learned. This is an important step for continuous improvement.
With the barrage of emails and advertising people receive daily, it’s extremely difficult to get noticed, never mind have someone engage. However, delivering the right messages, to the right people, the right way – will produce results. There is no “silver bullet” though and it takes commitment, investment, and a structured approach over time to be effective. If you are focused and patient, however, you will undoubtedly find more than enough new business to make it well-worth the effort. This process has worked extremely well for me and hopefully you found some of this helpful.
If you are so inclined, please share any ideas, thoughts or experiences you may have with this topic. Contact us if we can help with your B2B lead generation, or simply answer a question.