Great B2B businesses are often credited with having strong sales capabilities. However, their digital lead generation strategies can also become a bottleneck that hinders their growth. B2B digital marketing strategies must be aligned with overall sales objectives or growth may slow or even stall.
According to Statista, only one third of B2B companies have a complete marketing plan in place, citing lack of resources and internal capabilities as the most obvious reasons they are not tapping into their full potential.
In the B2B world, there isn’t a one-size-fits all strategy. Best practices are the result of research, adoption of new tools and technologies, trial and error, and ultimately, a continuous process of fine-tuning your marketing framework.
Can quality meet quantity?
As with all organizations, different objectives may drive internal goals, even if the goal is shared. Take the pursuit of leads, for example. The marketing team is often tasked with trying to get as many leads as possible within their budget. While the sales team is more interested in leads that are convertible. The assumption that more leads equal increased sales might be misguided. While scaling a business, marketers can fall into the trap of obtaining as many leads as possible, losing sight of how they found the qualified leads in the first place. Your sales team will appreciate your efforts more if you focus on both quantity and quality. But this is a tall order! Your strategy should begin with a focus on quality to determine the right tactics to drive increased customer engagement and interest in your offering. Once you find the right formula, you can focus on scaling to increase the quantity of higher quality leads.
Your prospects will fall into two main categories, ready-to-buy and not-ready-to-buy. The right prospects will fall into the ready-to-buy category; there are leads in the market that are actually searching for you. Finding them and converting them effectively is the key to business success. However, if the world were limited to ready-to-buy customers, marketing wouldn’t have evolved to where it is today. Your business won’t realize its full potential if you can’t fully leverage the customers that fall into the not-ready-to-buy bucket.
Another common belief is that shifting focus to quality will negatively effect quantity. This will prove true if don’t do your homework. Generating leads is a process, not an outcome. Just like it takes time to convert a prospect into a customer, it also takes time and effort to convert traffic into a qualified lead. Generating 500 leads in a given month doesn’t mean they are all qualified and ready-to-buy, but they might buy in the future.
How you qualify and nurture them can be your recipe for success. Think about it like cashflow. If you sell a subscription service to customers, your cashflow is likely to be spread across months or years. You don't realize all your revenue in the same month you closed the sale. Similarly, your leads are also going to materialize over time. Trying to capitalize on all of them in the same sales cycle will do you more harm than good since they won't all be at the same stage of the customer buying journey. Shifting your mindset to nurturing will allow you to have a stream of qualified leads in part from your new leads but also from the existing leads that you are nurturing and qualifying over time.
Some businesses have even adopted a more indirect approach by building a fan base for a period of time with zero effort to convert right away. After engaging and boosting loyalty, they then start to transition to conversions. A good example is the podcast Agencies Drinking Beers by Proposify.
From quantity to quality
Capturing attention is not the end game anymore. There is more weight on how you keep your prospect's attention and establish an engaging journey. So how do you minimize friction to move your audience across your marketing funnel?
One tactic is to focus on content. Your leads are over 2X more likely to convert if they consume more of your content. Email marketing is great, but it is becoming less significant as you compete with others for your audience's attention. You need to offer content that your leads are genuinely interested in if you want to keep their attention. Netflix is renowned for their content binging strategy through which you are shown another episode or movie based on smart algorithms that are obviously doing a great job at keeping content consumption very high!
90% of B2B marketers used content marketing in 2017 but only half of them found their content marketing strategy to be successful (Statista). What’s the missing piece here?
The best content marketers understand the main drivers of why prospects consume content and more importantly, they know how to successfully convert prospects to customers. Since not all prospects are alike, personalization is one highly effective approach.
Content suggestion based on a user's preferences and interests isn't a new concept. Businesses like YouTube and Netflix have leveraged content personalization incredibly well. These companies are able to keep consumers engaged by using algorithms to suggest content they know their users will want to watch next. A B2B business is equally likely to benefit from personalization by engaging their prospects through a personalized experience, i.e. more relevant content. When someone lands on your blog, offering for other relevant content is going to boost your engagement. Your recommendation engine can start simple and get more sophisticated over time to drive better results. For example, you can incorporate recommendations based on demographic, customer persona or behavioral metrics.
The stages of a content journey
There are a lot of different types of content you can produce for potential customers. Identify the flow that will be most beneficial during your prospect's journey.
Landing content: This is where your audience lands when they first consume your content. In most cases, this is non-gated content that aims to educate and give value, such as a blog post. You are not trying to pitch anything here, just providing educational content or giving tips that can help solve problems.
Nurture content: After you provide value, your second stage is to create awareness about your product and service and increase to increase engagement with your business as you continue to help prospects solve problems. Many businesses use gated content to start gathering information and convert traffic to prospects. Examples include detailed data-driven reports.
Conversion content: At this point, your traffic might already be prospects in your CRM. You may or may not choose to contact them. Depending on your funnel strategy this stage is for explicitly pitching your product or service. It includes things like demos, free trials and try-before-you-buy types of pitches. Conversion content is extremely important, but don't forget to keep nurturing customers so they continue to use your product and discover new features.
Don't forget to measure to see if your strategy works
ROI is one of, if not the most important metric to calculate for business success, yet is not measured by half of B2B marketers. ROI analysis will tell you if your investment in content is paying off, or if you should dial up your investment in paid marketing, or try a different strategy altogether. It will give you direction. Here is how to calculate it.
ROI = (Gain from Investment - Cost of Investment) / Cost of Investment
Cost of investment to measure organic growth will include things like cost to produce and distribute your content. If you're measuring ROI from paid marketing, evaluate things like media spend. Your gain is the revenue you generate from the activities that you are trying to measure like CTR (click through rate). The attribution model you are using will have a direct impact on the ROI so ensure you are attributing your channels and sources accurately.
Report, analyze, and iterate
Most B2B lead journeys are multi-touch. How do you know what contributed to your sales and conversions? What had the biggest impact on your ROI? What had the least impact?
While an ROI seems like a relatively simple calculation, you do want to make sure you are attributing your actions accurately. One approach used by savvy marketer and digital marketing agencies, is paid credit which increased the accuracy of attribution to traffic and conversions. Paid credit is defined as "the sum of conversions that occurred from ads plus the assisted credit from all other conversion paths from that campaign or channel" by MarketingLand. This is not the same as assisted conversions which only count multiple visits as 1 visit and don’t factor the repetitiveness of visits. A customer who visited 4 times through Google search and 6 times through display ads, with a total of 10 touches will be given 60% paid credit for display ads vs. 50% on an assisted conversions model. Your decision making can significantly change how you count the interactions along the entire journey.
Once you’ve started focusing on quality and amped up your marketing strategy, you can create reports that help you and your team understand what had the biggest impact on your ROI. Try to connect your data to learn what contributed to sales and conversions, and what effort might be better spent elsewhere. Take your top-performing tactics and scale up!
We hope this article gave you some things to think about in optimizing your own strategy. Just like each customer's journey is unique, so is your path to business success. But using the best practices we described might make scaling smoother and faster!