How to prepare a sales lead generation strategy in B2B?
Generating leads is hardly a new topic in B2B sales and marketing. What is new, however, are the circumstances of companies struggling to acquire and retain customers. How do you prepare a lead generation strategy, and what are the new tasks of marketing and sales departments in a world where the customer knows almost everything about the brand even before meeting the salesperson?
From the article you will learn, among other things:
- how to prepare a lead generation strategy in B2B,
- what indicator to choose to evaluate sales-oriented marketing efforts,
- how to define and categorize leads in an organization,
- how to determine the cost of acquiring a lead.
Unlimited and continuous access to information has dramatically changed the way customers derive information about products and decide whether to buy them. This includes business customers. Although the social phenomena described are universal, in B2B the decision-making process is more complex.
To begin with, it's worth considering what has actually happened and why rebuilding your customer acquisition strategy based on so-called digital is your most important task at this point.
Customers are already online, salespeople are just getting there
Now think for a moment, where do you start searching for products or services for your business? In a search engine, of course. Sometimes you don't even know if such a product exists. You simply type in a question, sometimes a description of a problem, and search.
Identically, your potential customers behave. They look online for solutions to problems or answers to questions about their business. When doing their taxes, they ask what is deductible. If they have lost their phone, they ask if it can be remotely traced, etc. Of course, there are also questions about specific products, but they are fewer and usually about well-known brands.
Cold calling has stopped working for this very reason. Customers don't wait for someone to call them. They are the ones who initiate the buying process. If they are planning some kind of purchase or investment, they start by doing some preliminary research online. Whether they are decision makers in a company or buying something for their home, the first source of information will be the web.
It is estimated that between 50 and 70% of product knowledge is gained by B2B customers on their own before even meeting with a salesperson . We might add - as long as that meeting happens. No matter how good your salespeople are, if your company is not online, the meeting may not happen at all. So what can you do to make sure that the customers making the discernment come to you? Start by understanding them.
Don't give up on analog if it works, but support it with digital activities
Digital marketing activities don't mean you should abandon traditional tools if they still work. Instead, it's worth integrating them with digital marketing so that they are part of one process whose effectiveness you can control.
In the case of a conference, it's a good idea to have registration and post-conference follow up already done digitally. This way you will be able to send participating customers a digital newsletter, survey, or materials from the meeting.
Generating leads means more listening and less talking
No one likes to be inundated with pushy ads that distract and disrupt the sense of aesthetics. However, there are too many such messages. If you want the customer to notice you, you have to become relevant to him. You need to offer him something that has value for him. Just how do you do that on the Internet? Quality content works best in this case. It's not about pretty product brochures. It's about sharing knowledge that will be valuable to potential customers.
Just how to know what kind of knowledge will be valuable? There are many ways to get the answer to this question, some are simple, others require a bit of preparation. Even if you use only these simple methods , you will achieve an advantage over most of your competitors. I'm not kidding, most of the companies I observe have never checked what is really important to their customers, what problems they have, what they discuss, what they would like to learn.
The first step in understanding your customers can be done without much cost.
Use Google's Keyword Planner tool Google (https://adwords.google.com/KeywordPlanner) and see if the topics that apply to your business are frequently searched for and what the competition is in this area.
You can learn a lot of interesting things from it, such as that the words with which you describe your company or offer are very rarely used in search. E.g. instead of "phone resistant to harsh weather conditions" potential customers will use the word "waterproof phone". This allows you to describe your services using language that customers can understand, and identify those queries that are likely to lead customers to your site if they find valuable answers.
A very effective but challenging method is described by Adele Ravella in her book Buyer Personas: How to Gain Insight into your Customer's Expectations, Align your Marketing Strategies, and Win More Business. There are also specialized agencies that are willing to help with such a process.
Why am I writing about this? Because the first step in a company's new lead generation strategy should be to identify what interests potential customers, and to prepare content that will drive customers to your site and ultimately interest them in your offer .
In many B2B organizations, marketing functions as if on the sidelines of the company's business life. Sales reports, production explains its results, service also has its metrics it is accountable for, and marketing? I know, I know, not everything can be measured and put into a table, but it would be good to know if marketing in your company or you as a marketer are doing a good job.
In many small and medium-sized companies that I know, the marketing department directly or indirectly reports to the sales director. Sometimes they change their title to sales and marketing directors which, after all, does not make them experienced marketers. I've had dozens of conversations from which it became clear that such people don't quite know what the marketing department should do and how they should evaluate its work. As a marketer, I'll crack the whip on my own back, but I'll try to give some hints on how marketing can help a B2B company and what goals are worth setting for this team.
Start with the end in other words, the money
When setting goals for the marketing department, start with what is most important, i.e. sales goals. Of course, the marketing department has other goals as well, but for the purpose of this article I will focus on sales support.
Setting sales support tasks doesn't mean you can treat marketers like assistants to your salespeople. That way, you will never keep really good marketing professionals for very long. Sales support means that marketers are responsible for a very specific section of generating sales, that is, acquiring, developing and qualifying leads - sales opportunities. At the end is a plan for the sales to be generated by digital activities.
The plan for sales of the marketing department generated on digital activities was set at 1 million zlotys per year. The average value of sales, in this case, is 20 thousand zlotys. To meet the plan, you need to acquire 50 new customers. If you have a CRM system, you can easily determine how many potential customers in the sales funnel salespeople need to have in order to close 50 deals. Let's assume the number is twice that, or 100. That's how many leads should, be generated and accepted into the sales process.
Marketing department evaluation indicator
It is the number of leads accepted by the sales department that can be a factor in evaluating your company's marketing efforts. Of course, not all leads generated by marketing will be qualified, that is, accepted by sales.
Assuming that every second lead will be rejected by the sales department, assume that marketing must generate 200 leads per year with an average sales value of 20K.
It is very important that sales and marketing speak the same language. Note that salespeople operate with two terms so-called prospecting funnel and sales funnel, and sales opportunities categorized as leads - potential customers, are assigned to the former. Therefore, it is worth establishing a common definition and division of leads by specific criteria.
Each organization should create its own definition of leads tailored to its needs. It should be the result of the work of the marketing and sales departments. This will ensure that both teams speak the same language during the key phases of the pre-sales proses.
Below I give an example of such definitions:
Definitions and sample breakdown of leads
- Lead – a potential customer who has been within the scope of influence and their contact information and consent to contact has been obtained.
- Qualified lead– a lead additionally verified based on criteria set by the organization, e.g. a company with more than 1,000 employees, in the energy industry, the contact person is a manager in the IT department.
- Lead accepted – a lead that, after qualification by the marketing department, was picked up by the sales department and registered in the CRM as a sales opportunity (opportunity).
For marketers, 200 customers means 200 people who have been identified, i.e. those from whom it was possible to obtain data, e.g. about the industry, the size of the company, the role of the contact person in the decision-making process and confirm interest in the offer.
In order for such a number of leads to be generated, it is natural to attract many more visitors to the site. Hubspot, a company that develops IT tools for marketers, among others, estimates that a "healthy" visitor-to-lead conversion rate is about 1%. This is an averaging, of course, but if you don't have your own historical data, this is some starting point for further calculations.
So in order to deliver 200 sales-qualified leads, the site should receive about 20,000 unique visitors per year from various companies. Since usually a few people in an organization interested in a solution visit supplier sites, it makes sense to multiply this number by at least two. In this way it was possible to estimate the number of visitors - 40 thousand unique users per year to generate a turnover of 1 million zlotys. Now you can see that statistically, one unique user on the site brings in an average of 25 zlotys in revenue.
This is where the roles reverse. A marketer who makes this calculation will be able to estimate how much he should spend on getting traffic to the site. If he intends to generate this traffic with a Google ad campaign, this means that he cannot spend more than 25 zloty per click (cost per click). So how much can you spend to get traffic to your site?
How do you determine the cost of acquiring a lead?
That depends on the next parameter, Customer Lifetime Value, which is the total revenue a customer brings in a given time of using your service.
Assuming that you sell a product that is used by a customer for about five years, and the annual fee is 100K, the uplifting CLV will be about half a million.
Knowing what the cost of service, the cost of sales, the cost of production, and what margin you want to make in the category and segment, you can determine what portion of revenue you are able to spend on customer acquisition.
If you determine the cost of lead acquisition and the number of leads you need to generate the targeted sales at a certain conversion rate, you will know approximately the marketing budget for performance digital marketing activities.
I've devoted quite a bit of space to this element (despite many simplifications and approximations) to point out that determining a marketing budget is not a game of chance, but a fairly concrete analytical process. The upside of going through such a process is to understand each other's expectations of salespeople and marketers, and to demonstrate that the process of generating leads requires both teams to work together.
Marketing and sales agreement
Lead generation alone does not guarantee sales success. It is the beginning of it. However, if marketers have done a good job, salespeople have a minimum of confidence that customers are interested in the product and are open to conversation.
Therefore, it is worthwhile to introduce clear definitions of a lead and standards for handling it. I described the definitions earlier. Lead handling rules, should specify:
- who receives leads, what are the minimum requirements for their quality,
- what is the mandatory time for the first contact with a potential customer.
Why is contact time so important? A study by Harvard Business Review found that salespeople who contacted a lead within an hour of the request were seven times more likely to successfully convert the lead to the next stage of the sales process than those who contacted after an hour and as much as 60 times more likely to be contacted after 24 hours. You won't always be able to bring in a contact within an hour, but 24 hours is an absolute must.
Jak widać, proces generowania leadów wymaga oparcia się w większym stopniu o dane i liczby niż o intuicję. Nawet w bardzo tradycyjnych branżach B2B następuje zmiana w sposobie pozyskiwania informacji o potencjalnych zakupach. Klienci masowo korzystają z internetu, dlatego posiadanie realnego planu pozyskiwania klientów przez kanały cyfrowe to już nie moda – to konieczność.
An important task for marketing and sales departments is to define the expected results of their work. Marketers are supposed to generate valuable leads, salespeople are supposed to convert them through proper response time, education and guiding them through the steps of the sales process.
Remember that introducing a digital lead generation strategy, does not mean abandoning traditional activities such as conferences. However, you need to digitize these activities as much as possible so that they are integrated into the entire customer acquisition process. Don't ignore the Internet. No matter how good your salespeople are, customers will look for information online first.
Tools to help listen to the voice of the customer:
- Google Keyword Planner - what keywords and phrases are popular with your target audience
- Brand 24 - monitoring statements on the Internet, including social media - great for analyzing trends and opinions about a product, problem, company
- Market Samurai - making it easier to compare our site with competitors for positioning
- Buyer Personas - Methodology for analyzing needs and buying processes on the B2B customer side
- Hotline and call center reports - an invaluable source of information.