Lead generation is critical to company growth, but it’s an intricate process to get right. Any chink in the chain from first contact with a prospect to the final sales pitch can disrupt your prospect’s engagement and sabotage your success. The buyer journey for B2B marketing in particular has many steps and is increasingly difficult to manage. Here’s our fundamental guide to establishing lead generation activity in B2B marketing strategies and some key considerations for driving success.
The difference between inbound and outbound marketing
The difference between inbound and outbound at its core is how they approach lead generation. Inbound marketing relies on creating strategic, targeted content that speaks to your prospects’ needs – informed by actively and thoroughly researching your audience.
The idea is that by giving their audience what they genuinely need, companies can spark organic interest. Inbound marketing aims to initiate tangible and consensual engagement, such as downloads or newsletter subscriptions, as opportunities to gain customer details. This gives them a warm lead straight into their CRM.
Throughout the communication process, inbound marketing strategies exploit cost-efficient digital techniques to build relationships and attract prospects with minimal personal interference. Inbound marketing Inbound campaigns are also highly measured and framed by SMART metrics, enabling you to track your progress, your leads, and your marketing success more effectively.
In comparison, outbound marketing techniques aim to push company messaging out, often through costly and broad-stroke methods. This inherently reaps fewer warm leads and therefore less ROI as it is untargeted, unsolicited, and unmonitored.
There are 3 core elements to an inbound marketing strategy or approach:
Attract – It all starts with establishing your company reputation and building trust with your audience through valuable conversations, and using this foundation to draw your most ideal audience in.
Engage – Once you’ve gained their trust you can engage your audience with content tailored to their needs, objectives, and challenges. This is a great opportunity to present your unique USPs and insights in a way that relates to your prospects and customers and encourages them to work with you.
Delight – The job isn’t done once your leads have converted. You now want to make your customers as happy as possible, providing great support, service, and solutions. At the end of this stage, you want your customers to be delighted with their purchase and primed for their own success.
The benefits of inbound marketing:
- Cost-effective lead generation with greater ROI
- Building digital presence, brand authority, and brand equity
- Defining a journey leads towards sales qualified leads
- Strategies can be continually tracked, evaluated and adapted based on performance
Following the buyer’s journey funnel
Inbound marketing is an excellent approach for all businesses. But it still requires tailoring for your market, your sector, and your offering. The marketing strategies that work for B2B technology businesses will be different to those in other sectors – especially B2C companies. The audience has different pain-points, challenges and goals compared to a B2C customer and therefore will respond to a different kind of message.
For example, a food product like Fanta may find success in selling excitement and fun through TV advertising. However, this wouldn’t be an effective tactic for a SaaS service whose main audience is corporate enterprises and investors. It’s likely this platform wouldn’t reach an appropriate audience and the messaging wouldn’t accurately reflect their offering, or their prospects’ needs. In short, this strategy wouldn’t get results.
Similarly, targeting someone in your audience with the wrong style of messaging can be detrimental. For example, talking to an expert who is already considering your product with high-level messages about your company isn’t going to effectively help them make a final decision. In fact, it may put them off altogether.
That’s why understanding your audience and their position in the customer journey is absolutely key to success in marketing.
What is the buyer’s journey for B2B marketing?
B2B customers may be influenced by different messaging and goals than B2C consumers, but their journeys are becoming increasingly similar. As more information becomes available online, consumers are less reliant on one-to-one sales meetings, instead taking to their own digital research and solution surfing.
In particular, the effectiveness of cold calling – once a primary form of lead generation – has significantly declined, and in a post-covid world people are much more receptive to digital meetings. These shifts in buyer behaviour mean the buyer cycle has also evolved.
Every potential customer or prospect can be placed in one of the following stages.
Audience: Audiences in this stage are realising a problem, challenge or need.
Messaging: Target with high-level, demand or challenge-focused material that resonates with your audience.
Audience: These are prospects starting to research and discover solutions.
Messaging: Start to promote your company USPs, in the context of the initial challenge and show your value.
Audience: Having done their initial research, decision stage prospects have only a few final questions and are close to a purchase.
Decision: Material can be more detailed and specific to the company. This is the best time to get in touch on a personal level.
Audience: This stage represents current customers and their post-purchase experiences.
Messaging: Communication should be more informed and personal to promote loyalty. Keep checking in to sustain, or improve, their happiness, and if you’re lucky, you can turn customers in this stage into Brand Ambassadors.
The exact behaviour and pain-points to target within these stages will vary based on your ideal customer profile, or multiple customer profiles. Nevertheless, using this model as a framework for your marketing and sales communication will ensure your audience feels understood, promoting better customer experiences that fuel engagement.
Turning lead generation into conversion
The most important step in establishing a healthy lead generation process that leads to conversion is to ensure your sales activity is working in coordination with your inbound marketing.
Marketing teams can utilise audience-specific content and engaging calls-to-action in order to get leads into the sales funnel. For example, a digital campaign for your new product that follows the buyer journey structure for a specific audience could generate 100 warm leads. This is what that process might look like:
- Post on social media identifying with your audience’s challenges
- Promote several industry-related thought leadership blogs, freely available on your website
- Release a short demo of your new product
- Publish a whitepaper that requires an email to download
- Your prospects details enter a CRM
But this is only half the battle. Now the details are in your CRM, it’s integral that your sales team takes over communication with said leads in continuation with the marketing activity that led them to give their details. If these leads receive no communication after giving their details, or delayed communication, they aren’t likely to progress their interest. Or if they receive inconsistent messaging to the campaign material they saw, they’ll lose trust in your business offering.
Sales therefore must be integrated with marketing – utilising the lead generation journey that the marketing team set up in a timely and cohesive way.
Here are some primary tips for creating an integrated strategy that ensures leads convert:
- Make sure your sales and marketing teams talk to one another
- Establish consistent company messaging handbooks that can be used by all teams
- Have a defined buyer journey for all marketing campaigns and audiences that the sales team has access to
- Create marketing strategies that consider and incorporate sales objectives
- Inform your sales team of marketing activity
- Use a CRM that can be integrated with your marketing tools
- Create automated workflows for sorting and responding to leads