By: Lilian Smith
Customers are increasingly demanding more from B2B organizations. They no longer want to be treated just as “leads” in your system. They want simple, fast, and intuitive solutions to their complex problems. And they have options. This is where an advanced lead generation strategy comes in.
The new generation of digitally savvy customers does a bulk of their product research online. In fact, today’s customer is usually 57 percent of the way through their decision-making process before they directly connect with a company for the first time. In most cases, they’ve already made somewhat of an assessment about your products based on your digital platform.
At the same time, the goal of lead generation has evolved to meet these changing customer habits. Now, lead generation is less about finding new customers than about making sure new customers find you. According to studies, 80 percent of B2B organizations say that customer’s expectations are higher because of what they experience as consumers. Successful businesses are improving their lead generation strategy by creating better digital experiences that help to build an ongoing relationship with customers. They are providing thoughtful, relevant interactions that answer complex customer needs –– without the customer having to speak to a sales representative directly.
Leaders who focus on better experiences –– and improved service –– over sales, reap the benefits. An Accenture study on B2B organizations found that 96 percent reported higher profitability and 97 percent reported increased market share from these efforts. In effect, with better experiences, and better lead generation strategy in place, your company can see substantial growth over the long-term.
If your business is digitally maturing and struggling to overcome the burden of an aging lead generation strategy, here are four steps to better lead generation.
Step 1: Identify Your Target Customers
At the beginning of the customer journey, customers may become aware of your product or service but not quite ready to purchase. Some may not even be viable buyers. Nurturing a relationship with those that are ready to move closer to the buying stage will help drive quality leads. In order to do that, recognize that names are not leads, but just names. Instead, find your target customers to nurture a lead.
Generating and identifying quality leads requires effective tactics and targeting methods. First, identify all characteristics of the target customers. Think of these as your ideal customers and reoccurring customers. This information can be gathered through existing contact forms, sign-ups for special offers, and newsletters.
Second, create customer personas based on those characteristics. You will likely have more than one persona to define. For example, in the manufacturing industry, engineers are often a target persona. They also have special needs –– they require information that is technical, addresses “fear of failure” concerns, and is validated by other engineers. And the buying phase often requires their sign-off.
A marketing automation tool that uses AI-powered account profiling and selection will help streamline this process. With predictive ideal customer profile models, you can rank your entire database in seconds, providing you with an eagle-eye view of which accounts are more likely to convert into revenue.
You want these names to have a meaningful interaction with your business. An engaged customer means they expect relevant communication from your business. Once an individual is interacting and fits your target criteria, you can start delivering them engaging content.
Step 2: Create Engaging Content
Once you have identified your target customers, the next step is to create quality, engaging content. Develop content that is useful to your audience. Creating content just for the sake of content, will not be as effective as having a thoughtful content strategy in place.
According to Accenture, “80 percent of frequent buyers report that they will have switched suppliers at least once within a 24-month period.” The reasoning for their shift in attention can be tied to a few factors. One of the primary reasons is that B2B organizations are not meeting customer needs. Customers are looking for more meaningful dialogue with organizations from the first touch, all the way through the buying process.
Think of content as the fuel for all your marketing campaigns. This may come in the form of blog posts, articles, case studies, and use video, audio, and images. Content that is custom for your key personas will perform better too.
Additionally, great content will impact your business in multiple ways. It will shape brand preference and influence future purchases. It generates social media shares and inbound links. It also has a lower resource cost than many other marketing tactics.
Overall, content marketing generates higher quality leads than the traditional outbound marketing model.
Step 3: Increase Traffic Across Channels
Next, you’ll want to drive traffic across your digital channels. Customers want a balance of technological convenience and relationship-driven engagement that shows your company understands their needs. Building an integrated, fluid, and engaging experience across all channels and at multiple touchpoints throughout the relationship will help increase traffic.
To do this you can use tactics like email and social media tools to bring potential leads to the landing page. Since customers interact across multiple digital devices and channels, your content, processes, and digital assets will perform best when they work on any of the devices or channels the customer uses. The right marketing automation tool will help you build marketing campaigns across channels in a personalized way, without support from IT.
Remember that leading B2B marketers deliver relevant content that is consistent to the given audience, across all channels. With consistent engagement across channels, you’ll increase your understanding of your audience and create more robust customer profiles.
Step 4: Convert Visitors to Leads
The last step in improving your lead generation is conversion. There are a few tactics you can put in place to capture leads. First, guide customers through the customer journey to reveal gated content that they will find useful. Second, let visitors fill out forms to access white papers or eBooks. Lastly, design landing pages carefully by using offers, forms, and calls to action.
Additionally, leveraging a marketing automation tool to distribute content and connect with customers will help you stay agile. This is particularly helpful for small marketing organizations.
With the right marketing tool, you create, automate and measure campaigns across channels, regardless of the size of your team. And added insight on customer behavior will allow you to quickly respond with targeted messages that guide customers through the buying cycle.
Sales and Marketing Partnership is Key
An improved lead generation strategy is only part of the broader picture. Improved integration between sales and marketing will help increase customer leads in many ways. Data monitoring and analytics are at the foundation of better lead generation –– this means data sharing between the sales and marketing teams is imperative.
B2B organizations that take advantage of customer data, analytics, and marketing automation tools to generate and manage leads will have greater success at garnering engagement and beating out the competition. And with a tool that provides revenue attribution, you can understand, prove, and optimize marketing’s impact across the business.
Learn more about digital innovation in the manufacturing industry.