We have witnessed a huge growth in B2B SaaS startups in recent years, driven by a number of factors including easier access to finance, lower barriers to entry, and the lure of attractive business models once the ‘chasm has been crossed’ between early adopters and the early majority users.
Where once competition was defined by geographic boundaries or industry space, it is increasingly viewed as the breadth of applications vying for the attention of your target audience.
"...in an information-rich world, the wealth of information means a dearth of something else: a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes. What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention …." (Herbert Simon, 1971).
Difficulty Sourcing Leads
In this battle for attention, B2B companies are all after the same thing: prospects or leads they can add to their Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform to be successfully nurtured through their respective sales funnels. But for many, high quality leads are becoming harder to source due to a number of factors, including:
- Gatekeepers becoming increasingly adept at screening out unsolicited calls.
- The reduced efficacy of cold calling as desk phone use gets replaced by mobiles (it’s harder to obtain people’s mobile numbers).
- Weaker demand due to budget freezes for non-essential purchases.
- Decision makers with buying authority avoiding giving their contact details out.
- Buyers researching solutions online, avoiding personal engagement until they are close to a purchase decision (it can be difficult to ascertain where prospects are in terms of a purchase decision before engaging with them).
- The fragmentation of media making it harder to target prospects via traditional paid channels.
Finally, in terms of ‘buying lists’ (a long-favoured pursuit of B2B professionals) it is getting more difficult to buy a good list in a cost-effective manner. If this is a route you intend to explore, get a free sample of at least 100 prospects to test first. Routing these through your mail provider will give you some data on bounce rates/open rates etc. so you can assess the value in the list before spending money.
As most will quickly discover, generating leads through offering value to prospects will be a lot more effective than trying to pitch to a cold list of dubious quality.
So how do you offer value?
Implement A Lead Generation Campaign
Commencing a lead generation campaign represents the best means of creating awareness and gaining attention from your target audience. However, before you start, there are a number of building blocks to put in place first.
- Get a clear sense as to what a ‘typical buyer’ looks like, where they congregate online/offline and what urgent, expensive and pervasive pains they are trying to solve that relate to your proposition. Some companies create a number of ‘personas’ to help ensure features address primary customer needs. Knowing your customer (by segment) has never been more important.
- Consider demand generation techniques on a ‘horses for courses’ basis, as people working in different industries will have favoured sites or social media platforms and even adoption rates in terms of tech.
- Have a clear sense of the ‘lifetime value’ (LTV) of existing customers, so you know what your cost of customer acquisition (CAC) needs to be. This will help inform which paid media can be used and what a target ROI needs to look like.
- Ensure you have the basics in place before you commence your campaign, including:
- CRM tool (Zoho , OnePage CRM, Salesforce etc)
- Email marketing platform (Eloqua, Mailchimp, SensorPro)
- Well-designed landing pages (Unbounce)<
- Clarity re Key Performance Indicators
- Quality content for different stages of the funnel including whitepapers and case studies (ideally behind data capture form pages so you capture email addresses)
- Coordinate activities such that ‘paid campaigns’ support these other marketing initiatives as part of an integrated campaign:
- Pay Per Click
- Ad Retargeting
- Facebook Adverts/LinkedIn/Twitter Cards
- Don’t forget the ‘silent benefits of PR’ as described by US venture capitalist, Mark Suster:
“PR is an insanely valuable activity in early-stage companies. Very few investors understand this and even fewer startups. When you’re an early-stage business every dollar matters and because many startup teams these days are very product- and technology-centric they often miscalculate the importance of PR. I believe PR is often not tangibly measurable and for quant-oriented people this is hard to accept. The benefits of PR are exactly that: immeasurable. They are silent. They don’t show up in a calculation that says I spent $7,000 and I got X-thousands inches of press. It doesn’t work that way.” Mark Suster
Finally, as more and more focus shifts to digital marketing as a means to generate demand, the cost of testing the various techniques you can utilise continues to fall. Regardless of the techniques used, the resultant data generated must be managed properly. KPI’s need to be set and improvements sought over time, whether that’s in; improving click through rate’s (CTR’s) on landing pages, open rates on targeted emails or leads entering the funnel.
There are no excuses - test, measure, learn, try again.