In the first part of this two-part series, I described some of the key challenges facing those in tech tasked with generating B2B leads. This article outlines some ideas to consider to help generate leads for your business. Read Part One, 'Generating Leads In An Increasingly Difficult Environment'.
Nail The Product
Before you start, don’t ‘pass go’ unless your core offering is beautifully designed, easy to use, solves a real pain and offers significant value to a particular user group.
Today’s buyer is very sophisticated with high expectations as to the utility they require. Most undertake significant research online before engaging and will want the best solution for their needs. If your solution requires user training, or the need to read a training manual before starting, you need to talk to product development again. For the vast majority of applications the modern user simply does not have time to be trained on your solution (I am talking about general business/productivity apps here). This point is simply not negotiable.
Think Nest, Transferwise, Uber, Dropbox, Xero, and Workable.
Build A Personal Social Profile
Having an active LinkedIn and Twitter profile is vital for B2B lead generation. Take Twitter. Most people simply do not ‘get it’, using it largely as a broadcast mechanism, and bemoaning its inefficacy without realising how powerful it can be.
Build a personal Twitter account, follow those you can help and engage with them. Most Twitter users simply do not engage with business accounts (despite Twitter’s best efforts) but do engage with real people.
Publishing compelling content via LinkedIn Pulse can also get your name and offering in front of your target market (particularly when published in relevant LinkedIn groups). This content can be repurposed and republished elsewhere. Again the trick here is to engage and participate rather than just push content as a broadcaster. People buy from people, and personal accounts are a lot more effective than business accounts.
“Big companies understand the importance of brands. Today, in the Age of the Individual, you have to be your own brand”. (Tom Peters)
Test A Small Direct Mail Campaign
Personalised letters targeting a small segment can be very effective. I am not talking about an automatic printed label mass mail exercise here. Hand-written envelopes, plus tailored content that demonstrates a clear understanding of the prospect's pain, can be very well received. Follow up with an email a few days later to try and secure a call or meeting. Targeting prospects in London? Why not include a £10 Starbucks card? While it pushes the cost of acquisition (CAC) up slightly, it is likely to help ensure your follow up receives a positive reaction. And assuming your Lifetime Value (LTV) exceeds the associated costs by some margin it is a valuable technique to test.
Invest In Modern Low-Cost SaaS Tools
There are an increasing number of tools available that help source and manage leads through a sales funnel. These range from tools like Rapportive (a Chrome plug-in that sucks in details of people you are emailing including LinkedIn connections and Twitter handles) through to Mailtester (which is a great tool to use to guess someone’s email address). The range of CRM applications available for every budget continues to grow at pace, and newsletter applications like MailChimp and SensorPro offer a range of functionality as well as APIs into most CRM systems.
If you are driving traffic to a bespoke landing page, tools like Unbounce and CrazyEgg can help optimize conversions. Finally, a useful hack when assessing competitors is to take a look at their technology stack using Built With. The ‘analytics and tracking’ section is particularly interesting in terms of identifying what apps they are using to support their marketing efforts.
Be the ‘early adopter’ you want your targets to be.
Create Remarkable Content (Inbound Marketing)
Modern B2B marketing techniques rely heavily on the creation of remarkable content. The word remarkable is the key here. It is all too easy to produce low-brow content of little educational value (I hope the fact you are still reading at this point indicates some appreciation of remarkability). Remarkable content is content good enough that you want to share it.
The most effective content strategies start with a clear understanding of the customer and their needs (particularly the jobs they are looking to accomplish). It is designed to inform, amuse and educate, with the latter being particularly prevalent amongst B2B companies.
How do you know if your content is hitting the spot?
Measuring page views is a poor proxy. Depending on the platform used, the following represent better indicators: likes, comments left, click-throughs, retweet’s, time spent on page etc
Once the content has been published, the hard work starts as it is important to have a strategy in place to ‘get the message out’ using a range of channels (paid, owned and earned).
Think ‘Content Amplification’.
Capture Emails At Every Opportunity
Emails are the lifeblood of any B2B lead generation campaign. Not only do they enable you to push content directly to users, but you can schedule drip campaigns to help keep you ‘front of mind’. Email capture starts at the website with applications like Hello bars, scroll-triggered boxes and landing pages offering something of value (often white papers) in return for email addresses. The key to using these emails is to use them to provide value rather than to sell. You want to avoid a ‘one click unsubscribe’ scenario at all costs (where the newsletter recipients unsubscribes because it does not offer value).
Think Hubspot, Quicksprout and Moz.com.
Test A Referral Scheme
Assuming you have nailed the product as described above, and have evidence that your solution is offering real value i.e. you are gaining traction, have an improving cash flow and a Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 9 or 10, you should look to encourage existing users to promote to peers by incentivising them to share.
Again it is a case of considering what is likely to work well for your own industry. Applications like Friendbuy can help you set up and run the scheme at low cost. Referral schemes are particularly important with marketplaces, and it is important that the incentive is strong enough to ensure virality. Dropbox offering extra storage to both parties for additional users you signed up represents the classic best practice case study in this area.
Think Transferwise and Dropbox.
Engage With Influencers
Getting on the radar of ‘influencers’ helps amplify your message and brand. Identifying the key influencers in your space is a critical first step and the approach will vary from sector to sector. Some will be active on social media and follower count and engagement level on Twitter will give a sense as to their influence (the likes of Klout, PeerIndex and Kred help assess influence). Others will publish interesting blogs (you can use Feedly as an RSS manager to track new content), while more still will be prominent on LinkedIn.
Engaging with these influencers by amplifying their messages (RT tweets), commenting on their blog posts, or offering them high-quality guest posts will help get you on their radar. The next phase is to move the relationship offline - meeting them in person so you can get a clearer sense of their needs and how your solution meets them. If your budget allows, and the LTV of your offering is significant, exploring tools like InsightPool’s social engagement automation tool will help you target key influencers at scale via a sustained campaign.
Optimize Attendance At Industry Events
Attending industry events represent a great opportunity to build upon your online activity. However, it is not a case of simply showing up on the day as increasing numbers of events offer mixed results to exhibitors as the costs can quickly mount and it is very important to ensure you are being strategic when attending them. Leading US VC Mark Suster offers some good insight into some of the things you should think about before attending including pre-event planning and post-event networking.
Some events also provide ‘opt-in’ delegate lists which can be marketed to, and others offer speaking slots, as well as the opportunity to market to delegates via packs.
Think Event Plan.
Keep Abreast Of The Latest Developments
In an ever-changing landscape, increasing numbers of inside sales and fields sales staff seeking to generate demand are testing new avenues. They read compelling blog posts from the likes of Gerry Moran (Marketing Think) Hiten Shah (Hubspot), Neil Patel (QuickSprout) and even Rand Fishkin (Moz.com), outlining the latest techniques to use to generate inbound leads. As ever, the key lies in the execution. Those who marry a mix of different best of breed approaches, measuring, testing, learning and tweaking as they go, will prosper. Those not keeping up with the latest tricks will quickly get left behind.