Have you ever walked into a strategy meeting only to hear your boss say “Hey, you know what we could use right now? Fewer customers.”
Us either. Without an effective lead generation strategy, your business is doomed. Filling your sales funnel is business 101. But lead generation has moved past the need
for cold calling and generic email blasts to purchased lists.
In the age of targeted advertising and customized content, B2B businesses need to earn the attention of their prospects with strategy, knowledge and teamwork. Here’s what you should know before you launch B2B lead generation campaigns.
1. How do you define a lead?
Believe us when we say this: The definition of a lead usually differs not only from business to business, but also from person to person. You may have a picture perfect definition of a lead in your own head, but your boss might see something completely different. That’s why it’s important to decide as a sales, marketing and leadership team what a lead really is.
At its absolute core, a lead is when someone is interested enough in what you’re selling that they are willing to interact with you and provide their personal information. If you can get them to give you data about themselves that makes it easier for you to entice them to move through the sales funnel, that’s a lead. What that information is and how you get it will vary depending on your product, service and business model.
Do you make most of your sales through your product e-newsletter? Then getting someone’s email address may automatically make them a lead. Or do you do your best business with in-person sales meetings? In that case, a lead may require getting someone’s phone number or address in addition to email.
2. What’s your lead process?
Now that you know what information you’re looking for, take note of your process. How do people find you
and give you their data?
For this step of your strategy, you will need to meet with your sales team. Knowing your full sales cycle and how it relates to the sales funnel makes it much easier to put a step-by-step timeline on your lead generation process.
Ask your sales team about their process so everyone understands how leads find your company and move through the funnel. At what point do leads receive phone calls? How do they qualify for follow up calls or in-person meetings? When do you call them a customer or an evangelist?
Knowing this information can help you strengthen your definition of a lead, but it can also set timing expectations. For some organizations, generating one lead per week is a disaster. For others with long sales cycles, it’s a huge achievement.
3. How much does a lead cost?
Now that you know what a lead is to you and your lead generation process, think about the cost of lead generation. This can be hard to estimate, especially in the B2B sector where sale cycles tend to be much longer.
Calculating the cost related to obtaining a lead helps balance your marketing budget and calculate valuable numbers like ROI. If you truly aren’t sure where to start with the cost of your lead generation process, make an educated guess and start data tracking for at least a year to calculate a more exact number.
4. Will you need to create more content?
Begin any new lead generation campaign by looking at your content both online and offline that should aid you in your lead generation process. Can you use what you have as the supporting foundation of your lead generation efforts, or do you need to create new, more effective content?
It’s important to prioritize and strategize before you dive headfirst into content creation so that you don’t overwhelm yourself and/or burn out. Create the most effective content plan for your B2B lead generation campaign with these steps:
If you haven’t already, conduct a content audit to see what you already have handy. Look for past emails, digital ads, social media posts, podcasts, webinars, blogs, landing pages, webpages, existing forms etc. that have the potential for a second life. How does this content fit into the stages of the lead generation process you detailed above?
Revisit and update your personas. Know their preferences, goals and challenges inside and out to help you brainstorm content topics and mediums. You can also think through what each persona looks like at different stages of the sales funnel. Work with your sales team to get the most up-to-date info and insights on what your personas are asking the sales team for most often.
We recommend creating a spreadsheet organizing all your persona information and research, including their general attributes, goals, challenges, preferences and preferred content. Once it’s all in one spot, multiple team members can use it as a springboard for content and sales brainstorms.
Use your personas and current content as a basis for keyword research. Using tools like SEMRush
or Google Keyword Planner
, pull a list of organic keywords your personas are searching for. Use it to help brainstorm content ideas.
Look at your site analytics and organic traffic trends, too. What keywords are your personas searching for when they find you for the first time vs. when they’re ready to buy? And which personas are looking at your sales content? Use this to inform your content strategy. After all, a CEO who makes final decisions probably won’t see your awareness stage content.
Strategize gated vs ungated
Traditionally, there are two ways to use content to attract leads: gated and ungated.
Gated content is premium content locked to the user until they put their information into a form for you to collect. In 2010, this strategy could move mountains and write symphonies. In 2020, it’s a bit outdated. How many e-books are collecting dust in your files? How willing are you to give a company your email to read a white paper, only to have them send you sales emails you never wanted in the first place?
It’s risky to assume your content is so valuable that users will be banging down your doors to give you access to their inbox in exchange for it. Content must be equivalent to buried treasure to be gated, and even then you risk losing hundreds of potential downloads due to your form.
Formerly known as “lead magnets
,” most gated content pieces require tons of effort on your team’s part only to have them sit behind a form unaccessed by the masses. Consider all gated content a test. If it’s not performing the way you hoped, try ungating it and measure the difference.
Ungated content is content that is not hidden behind any form and does not require the user to input their information before they can access it. Because you are not directly collecting the prospect’s information with your content, ungated content requires a strategic retargeting path.
Tracking should be set up and implemented on your site
by a professional prior to launching your ungated content. That way, after the user interacts with it you can immediately start the retargeting process. Serve them powerful, interesting display ads, social media ads and any other form of content that lets you tail them like a private eye with a personal agenda. Use tracking, analytics and strategy to coax them into the next step in your lead generation process, whether that’s following your social media, giving you their email or filling out your site’s contact form.
The ungated content path is longer and costlier, making marketers recoil in fear. But the number of prospects it attracts is usually larger and the right strategic targeting methods can ultimately bring in more leads at the end of the day. Gated is quick and dirty, but many organizations find more value in keeping content ungated.
Take a seat, make a new pot of coffee and put on your thinking cap, because it’s time to generate content ideas! Take everything you’ve created so far and get to steppin’.
When all is said and done, you should have content planned for every bit of the funnel and a strategic path ready to go for any ungated content. During this process, remember that not all stages of the funnel are considered equal
. Your primary focus should be on awareness stage content, then consideration, then sales.
Awareness content generates new audiences and helps fill the top of the funnel
. More awareness means more traffic volume, impressions and new users that you can then move through the funnel with your retargeting and nurturing efforts. Sure, you aren’t necessarily selling with awareness content, but you’ll be hooking them early on and dishing out sales content later!
Another key thing to remember when generating new content ideas. Get the best use out of your content with the COPE principle
—Create Once Publish Everywhere. Instead of planning to write five different e-books, try writing one that you can use for the duration of a sales cycle and break down into individual blogs. Like an aggressive track coach, always make your content run the extra mile!
5. How will you align marketing and sales?
Before you unleash your lead generation campaign on the world, there’s one final, critical step: getting in sync with your sales team. Upping your lead generation game can throw a traditional sales team out of whack, which is why it’s critical to have alignment meetings to get everyone on the same page. Find the answers to questions like:
- How will your content support sales?
- What does a marketing qualified lead look like?
- When are marketing qualified leads passed off to sales?
- What does a sales qualified lead look like?
- How can sales support your content?
- How does this new campaign change your traditional lead generation efforts? What should everyone expect moving forward?
- How does marketing fit into the traditional sales cycle?
That last one is perhaps the most important. If traditionally the sales team would cold call 500 people, get 10 into the CRM, send those 10 company literature and then schedule a demo or meeting with one of them, how does marketing weave into that? With more effective lead generation, does sales have to cold call at all?
Pro-tip: While you’re settling into your new lead gen system, be sure to keep tabs on the expenses related to traditional sales efforts and your new lead generation tactics. Scale up or down until you find that sweet spot where your ideal number of quality leads are created at the lowest possible cost.
Pro-pro-tip: This will take a lot of your time. A good lead generation campaign with input from the whole team isn’t developed overnight! Create, test and track. Don’t pull the plug when you get discouraged. Push forward and see what magic you can create with a little strategy and a lot of willpower.
Go forth and generate
PHEW! That just about covers it. Modern lead generation is no joke, especially for companies that have never taken the time to up their lead game.
But effective generation is no longer a matter of cold calling everyone in your Rolodex or gating an e-book of 12 marketing tips behind a form. To get ahead of the competition, companies need to be one step ahead in their strategy, attracting customers by meeting them with the right content at the right time. Are you ready to evolve your process?
If you’re not sure where to start, you aren’t alone. Learn more about the services we offer to guide you through the process with solid strategy, effective content and proven results.