Entries Tagged as 'B2B Lead Generation'
In every recent research report I’ve seen about business-to-business marketing goals, “generating sales leads” is at or near the top of the list.
The best way to generate sales leads is by making strong “offers” or “calls-to-action”
Your prospects, just like you, are people that respond to things that interest them, or that can help them solve a problem, or make their lives and jobs easier, or increase their company’s profits. Yet, everyone is busy, and there’s a cacophony of marketing messages, advertisements, social media, emails—all competing for attention. So, what kinds of offers are working best today?
Start with educational offers
In the B2B marketplace educational offers such as how-to guides, buying guides, white papers, case-studies and invitations to events on the same subjects are the basic tools for eliciting responses from prospects.
Focus on quality, not just quantity
Consider making your offers self-qualifying. Who, other than a qualified prospect, would be interested in a white paper on your technology? Yet everyone—including many unqualified prospects—may want to take advantage of an offer for a free iPad.
Make offers for each stage of your prospects’ buying cycle
When determining what your lead generation offers will be, consider tailoring them to appeal to people at different stages of the buying cycle. This could mean offering a white paper or information kit for prospects who are early in their consideration process vs. a seminar invitation for the prospects who are the middle of their buying process vs. a free consultation or needs assessment for those who are closer to being ready to buy.
More offers = more leads
To maximize the number of responses and leads from your marketing communications, you should make multiple offers.
When you make multiple offers, you give a variety of prospects at all stages of the buying cycle the chance to select the offer appropriate to their needs and the stage of their buying decision process.
Here’s an example:
To request your free Energy-Efficient Lighting Selection Guide,
sign up for the free webinar on the latest in energy-efficient lighting
or schedule your free lighting analysis:
Call (800) 555-1212 or (212) 555-1212
Make it easy for people to respond to your marketing
Include the address of an appropriate web page (URL), an e-mail address, a toll-free phone number and a regular phone number (for your international callers).
Qualify your prospects while you are at it
When prospect respond, ask them questions that elicit the information you need to determine if the respondent fits your definition—agreed to by sales—of a qualified lead.
All your response channels need to ask the same qualifying questions. For example, the people who answer your incoming calls should be asking the same questions that are on your website’s response form.
Remember that lead qualification is not an interrogation. You don’t want to scare prospects away. Minimize the number of questions you ask and keep those questions short. Or consider using “progressive profiling” in your web forms to ask a couple of additional questions each time they respond.
Readers, what are you top tips regarding B2B offers?
Please add your comments by clicking on the word “Comments.” (Below the Share button)
This is one of a series of occasional interviews with top practitioners on topics of interest to B2B lead generation, marketing and new business development professionals.
Lead generation is a top objective of B2B marketers. Yet when it comes to messaging, offers, and the tactics for generating those leads, marketers are not always as specific as their agencies need them to be.
Peter Altschuler is the Creative Director at AcquireB2B, an agency that specializes in generating, nurturing, and qualifying leads – transforming them from people who are “just looking” into prospects who are “ready to buy.” As creative director, Peter turns business and sales objectives into provocative, compelling, and highly focused lead generation campaigns.
Mac: Clients give us all sorts of input, right?
Peter: “All sorts” is a good way to describe it.
But it’s rarely in the form of a brief that you and I rely on to understand what a client expects from any given project.
But we can take their input to create a brief – which I think is vital – just so that we’re all working from a common set of parameters and expectations.
And we do that a lot. But from the creative end, which is your focus, what do you consider the bare essentials that clients have to provide to be sure they get what they want?
And what they need.
There are ten basic elements and, though they seem pretty straightforward, each one should be, as Einstein said, as simple as possible but not simpler. In other words, as the term “brief” implies, the information should be reduced to its most concise… and precise… form without leaving out anything that’s vital to know.
I want you to give me an example, but first tell me the ten basic elements.
O.K. Number one is the product and, in B2B, that may be the physical item or the core service, or it may include installation, upgrades, maintenance, consulting, training, and warranties. So the product has to be described very specifically.
Two is the objective, and the objective is never to sell more stuff.
I thought it kinda is.
Ultimately, sure, but getting to that point requires intermediate steps. Like increasing or establishing awareness in a particular industry vertical, generating qualified leads from companies of a certain size or location, attracting more visitors to a product offer page, persuading existing customers to purchase a complementary product or add-on, or using a discount to attract more prospects who are ready to buy.
Each of those seems to have two parts.
They do because, otherwise, they’re too generic. They’re simpler than possible, to go back to Einstein. Without the second part, there’s not enough focus. It would be like an ad for Coke that says, “It’s refreshing,” but doesn’t have an image that indicates who finds it refreshing – a family at the beach, for instance; describes how it’s refreshing, like poured over ice or drunk through a straw; or suggests when it’s refreshing by showing a guy wiping his brow as he takes a gulp.
Number three is the audience, which makes the objective even more precise.
By clarifying exactly who you want to reach. If you’re selling office supplies in bulk, the office or purchasing manager is a better target than the head of finance, even if the message involves cost savings. That’s because the finance executive doesn’t buy supplies. He or she probably doesn’t even get them from the supply room. The executive’s assistant does that. But…
But if you’re introducing a new product like, I don’t know… digital paper that transfers what you write into text in a software application, then you probably want to target the end user. If the user wants it, they’ll ask the office or purchasing manager to stock it – an item the manager would never consider buying if there wasn’t a demand from employees.
Makes sense. But how to do reach those users?
You’re a step ahead. That’s number four. The media. Once you know the audience, you have to pick the best way to reach it. That could be email, postal direct mail, digital or print ads in specific publications, video (which could be part of an email campaign), or billboards.
Billboards? For B2B?
Sure. Like between a convention venue and the main hotel to attract attendees to a tradeshow booth. Spot TV can do the same thing. Or maybe Apple wants to persuade public transit commuters to read the Times or the Post on iPads and uses busboards and subway posters.
But there are nuances.
Aren’t there always?
Yeah. If the medium is email, what other medium matters?
Yes! It’s essential to know where the email will be read – on a phone, tablet, laptop, desktop – so that the creative can be modified appropriately. There was an interesting study released in August of 2015 that showed that desktop views of email increased and mobile views decreased in B2B categories. But in fashion, a B2C category, the opposite happened.
So the media have secondary considerations just like objectives and audience.
The fifth essential is the primary message. What’s the one thing, more than anything else, that you want the audience to receive? Or let me rephrase that. What’s the one very specific thing that you want the audience to “get.”
I did a campaign years ago for a company that used a knowledge base, which is like a database on 3-D multi-media steroids. A database can hold alphanumeric data in tables. A knowledge base can incorporate audio, video, graphics, as well as text and numbers and store it in an unstructured repository. Don’t look so worried. That’s as technical as this gets.
To get across the point that databases were limited, the first ad showed a picture of Bo Diddley’s trademark cigar box guitar, and underneath it was the headline “Databases don’t know diddley.”
Clever. I like that.
And it worked great. The first two sentences of the very short body copy established the difference between data and knowledge bases, and the inquiries poured in.
The client, to be honest, thought the appeal was too narrow. They wanted to make a big, blue sky statement about the future of information management, but we pointed to examples from earlier campaigns that fell flat, and that I had nothing to do with, by the way…
Of course. I assumed that.
… and that helped us talk them out of it. What’s kind of interesting is that item six, a unique selling proposition or USP, was incorporated into that primary message.
Their USP was that their technology could store and retrieve any type of information – this was a few years before Google – and no one else could claim that at the time. But, even if someone could, it wouldn’t matter if my client claimed it first.
I’m not sure I follow.
There’s a classic story about a beer brand that gave a tour to its agency’s creative team, and the copywriter was fascinated by the process they used to sterilize bottles using steam. The writer wanted to focus on that as a differentiator, but the brewery said that everyone sterilized their bottles the same way. Didn’t matter, the copywriter said, because the brand’s customers didn’t know that bottles were sterilized or that it was a common practice. So the agency promoted the beer as cleaner and healthier because the bottles were sterilized, and sales went up.
But couldn’t every other brand make the same claim?
Yes, but if they were the second or third or fourth, they’d look guilty of me-too-ism and might be perceived as copying from the now higher profile brand, instead of coming up with something better of their own.
From there, creatives need to know the benefits and then the corresponding features – items seven and eight. The benefits tend to be more important to the people who want a solution to a problem; the ones who want to know if it will be more efficient, cost-effective, durable, and so on.
Purchase initiators, short listers, recommenders, and decision makers would be in that group. For researchers, evaluators, and influencers – the people who want to know how it works, whether it will integrate with or replace other components, and so on – the features are probably more important.
For copy and art teams, though, both are important if they’re creating materials for all of those different individuals. The need to know what to say and what to show based on who’s expected to read, watch, or listen to the information.
Yeah, that’s the current catchall name for what used to be called collateral or sales aids or marketing literature, depending on your generation, and it’s all been used in B2B marketing and sales for more than a hundred years. It’s only since the Internet put buyers in charge of obtaining all that information, instead of having marketing and sales departments dole it out, that it’s now seen as something new. The media and formats are new, but the relevance and variety of the information – content – hasn’t changed much.
OK. Is there anything else? I think we’re only up to number eight.
Nine is competitive information. We need to know what other vendors are saying and doing to be sure that we don’t wind up with me-too-ism, that we don’t just do a better job of saying and doing the same thing as the other guys, and that we understand what the competition thinks is important to the market so that we can find an area they’re ignoring or aren’t tapping into very well. If we know all that, we can create something that stands apart and endures for as long as the market stays stable.
What do you mean by “stable”?
These days, new products and services appear much faster than they used to. They could be disruptive entrants that offer something entirely new or improvements to existing offerings or more aggressive pricing of those offerings. Or even new regulations from government that affect how a product can be used or if it can still be used at all. Government isn’t a competitor, but it can have a pretty big impact.
So the creative strategy should incorporate a plan B and, probably, C and D to anticipate potential what-if situations and be ready with an alternate approach that can be launched in close to real time.
Like real time marketing in B2C – the kind that responds to things like a blackout during the Super Bowl using Twitter.
That’s a great example, though B2B may not need to respond quite that fast. But B2B does use marketing automation to respond immediately in other ways like sending instant replies to website inquiries or email responses. And that kind of responsiveness itself can be a competitive advantage or part of a company’s brand USP.
And we’ve done that kind of thing for clients for years now. It’s a great way to motivate companies to create repositories of messages, offers, and content that can be distributed as soon as a response or inquiry is submitted.
Just as long as everything is coordinated in terms of style which, conveniently, is the tenth and final item on my list. If we don’t understand the look and sound and feel that conveys the brand’s or product’s character, we risk confusing the audience.
It’s hard to think of a B2B example that everyone’s familiar with, so I’ll cheat a little and use two B2C firms – T-Mobile and Apple. T-Mobile blares at you with bright magenta color schemes, attacks on competitors’ pricing and contracts, and outrageous and often profane statements from its CEO. Apple relies on visual minimalism using an abundance of white space, it acts as if it has no competition, and its public statements are either well-planned in advance or, under Tim Cook, very measured when the company has to respond to situations like the bending iPhone 6 Plus.
If we created an Apple campaign full of multi-colored backgrounds crammed with products and long blocks of text, the reactions from each Apple user on the planet would be massive. And if we did a T-Mobile campaign that veered toward Apple’s style, well… people might think that the CEO was sacked or that the company was sold to Cupertino.
Or the account was given to another agency.
Peter, thanks so much for taking the time to elaborate on the ten essential elements of a productive marketing brief.
It was my pleasure.
Readers, join the conversation!
Please add your comments by clicking on the word “comments” in the line below the Share button.
A lead is a lead. Or is it?
Here’s a first draft of a glossary I gave one of my clients to help them get started writing theirs. Perhaps it can be a starting place for yours too.
A person at company or contact name on a database
A company, division, department or facility that has purchased from our company.
A listing of contacts at specific companies and facilities which is available for ongoing use. Also often called the Sales & Marketing Database or Customer & Prospect Database.
A contact who makes or approves the final decision to buy.
A contact who recommends or influences the buying decision. Also called Recommender.
A contact who has responded to our company’s marketing (Website, direct marketing, exhibits, advertising, etc.). Also called Responder or Prospect.
A response to our company’s marketing (website, direct marketing, exhibits, advertising, etc.). Also called Response.
A broad term used to describe everything from lists to inquiries to tradeshow leads to sales ready opportunities. To avoid confusion, this term shouldn’t be used.
A list of contacts at specific companies and facilities, as in a rented list. Also called “Database” if available for ongoing use.
Marketing Qualified Lead:
An inquirer, responder or prospect at a particular company and facility who has been “qualified” as meeting the minimum definition of what represents a sales-ready opportunity.
A contact who has responded to our company’s marketing (website, direct marketing, exhibits, advertising, etc.) or has been contacted and determined to have some potentional, but has not yet been qualified as being sales-ready. Also called Inquirer or Responder.
A contact who recommends or influences the buying decision. Also called Influencer.
A contact who has responded to our company’s marketing (website, direct marketing, exhibits, advertising, etc.). Also called Inquirer or prospect.
A response to our company’s marketing (website, direct marketing, exhibits, advertising, etc.). Also called Inquiry.
Sales Accepted Lead:
A Marketing Qualified Lead that has been accepted by sales.
The contact who specifies our company’s products or services.
A contact who appears to be similar to our company’s Prospects, Marketing Qualified Leads, Sales Accepted Leads and Customers, but who has not specifically expressed interest or determined to be a Prospect.
Do you have terms and definitions to add to a BtoB sales lead glossary?
Please share them by clicking on the word “Comments” in the line below the Share button.
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This is the latest in our ongoing series of tips from some of the experts who provide our sales lead management consulting and training services and our marketing automation and lead-generation agency services.
Meet Meryl Evans, one of our email copywriting experts.
Meryl is a professional writer and editor who specializes in online B2B lead generation and lead nurturing. She helps our clients build and maintain relationships with their prospects and customers through email, newsletters, landing pages, blogs and more.
Here are Meryl’s top email copywriting tips:
- Write emails with the prospect or customer in mind, not the company. Remember that even in B2B, people make the buying decisions.
- Use paragraph breaks every three or four sentences. Many emails still have long paragraphs, which are hard to read. Faced with a long block of text, many people are daunted and move on.
- Use multiple sub-headings, and numbered and bulleted lists (like this one) whenever possible. People skim and scan when reading online.
- Limit calls to action to one or (at the most) two items. Any more than that and people get confused about what you want them to do. Confused people do nothing.
- Add a response link to the beginning of each email for those ready to take action before reading the rest of the message. Don’t make people who are ready to respond search for your link. Repeat the link further down for those who take longer to decide.
Professionally written lead generation and lead nurturing emails get higher open rates, and more responses. Consider putting our email copywriters to work. Click here to learn more.
Readers, what are you top tips regarding B2B email copywriting?
Please add your comments by clicking on the word “Comments” in the line below the Share button.
The growth of the Internet has changed B2B buyer activity.
Buyers don’t wait for a sales person to call them anymore. They get most of their education on the web. As B2B buyers increasingly use online channels to do their research, Marketing meets prospects earlier than ever in the buying process – often long before the prospects are ready to engage with Sales. This is one reason that, on average, only 25% of new leads are sales ready.
So you need a way to determine which leads are ready for Sales, and which need to be nurtured.
I was thinking about all the lead qualification criteria I’ve seen used in B2B lead generation programs and decided to list them by category. Here’s what I came up with:
- Firmographics (industry, company size, location)
- Demographics (contact’s title, job function)
- Contactability (phone number, email address)
- Action taken (attended webinar, downloaded whitepaper, requested pricing, spent time on certain Web pages)
- Frequency, quality, quantity, recency of actions taken
- Social media engagement (commenting on blog posts, joining social network discussions, retweeting)
- Need for your product or service (application or problem needing to be solved)
- Buying Stage (awareness, consideration, decision)
- Fit (your products or services meet or exceed their technical, performance, reliability requirements)
- Competition (what other competitors are involved? can you win against them?)
- Contact’s role in the purchase decision process (recommender, influencer, decision maker)
- Timing (purchase decision timing, implementation timing – how soon?)
- Availability of funding for the purchase (has budget, can get budget)
- Size of the opportunity (quantity needed, revenue potential).
In a survey conducted by Sirius Decisions, they found that companies who give fewer (better qualified) leads to Sales actually sell more. That means that if Marketing does a better job of qualifying leads, Sales can close more profitable deals, resulting in increased revenues.
Using the criteria I’ve listed above, plus the information in The Definitive Guide to Lead Scoring published by my friends at Marketo, you’ll be able to design a process that ensures Sales only gets sales-ready leads.
Lead scoring seems to be on everybody’s mind. My friends over at SilverPop have also focused on Lead Scoring with this blog post: Five Prospect Behaviors You Should Be Incorporating into Your Lead Scoring Process.
It’s obvious that lead qualification is growing in importance as Sales and Marketing productivity becomes more of an issue.
Do you have anything to add regarding lead qualification or lead scoring?
There’s a new marketing term that I’m hearing more and more often – “the Content Chasm”.
It refers to the ascendance of content marketing (especially in B-to-B), and the differential between the current inventory of quality content that most B-to-B companies have, and the amount they need to have to market effectively.
I’m expanding the meaning of the Content Chasm to address two other major trends in B-to-B marketing:
- The difference between the ROI of marketing automation fueled by generic content, and what that same technology can accomplish when fueled by segmented and targeted messaging;
- The discrepancy between the formats most marketers use (primarily text and PDFs) for their messaging, and the way most prospects want to consume information (multimedia).
Changing buyer behaviors require B2B marketers to communicate with prospects and customers in new ways.
How? By delivering content that is personalized to the prospective buyers’ roles, where they are in their buying process and their personal preferences for consumption.
Buying marketing automation and then only using it for batch-and-blast emails is a waste of time and money.
Segmented, well-targeted and relevant communications get much better results.
The real benefit of marketing automation is exactly that: the ability to deliver the right message, with the right offer, to the right prospect, in the right format, at the right time.
Content + Automation = True 1 to 1 Marketing
In other words, true one-to-one marketing to many – something that we couldn’t do to any scale before marketing automation came along. This has made marketing automation a mission-critical system for B-to-B marketers, but too many marketing leaders head down the automation path without fully realizing what they’re getting into.
I’ve written before about the need for having processes in place to support and extend the effectiveness of marketing automation. It’s a topic that’s near and dear to my heart, so I’ll be revisiting it. The Content Chasm represents another major issue affecting the success of marketing automation, and of B-to-B lead generation and lead nurturing. I’ll also be diving deeper into it (pun intended) in future posts.
So tell me, what are your experiences with, or opinions about, the Content Chasm?