How many connections do your company’s employees have on LinkedIn? How many followers does your LinkedIn company page or Twitter feed have? It’s easy to get excited as these numbers build, but does it really matter?
Yes and no.
It matters because more connections and followers can result in an increased number of leads and ultimately boost revenues. However, the sad reality is there’s no guarantee that social media buzz will transform magically into qualified leads.
So how do you transform online followings and social activity into bottom-line results? You need to integrate your social media marketing initiatives into your lead generation process.
What are the most effective B2B lead generation tactics? How about social media, content marketing and search engine optimization?
These shiny new tactics have their place, but according to research depicted in the chart, they pale in comparison to some good old-fashioned tactics. Ranking in the first, second and third spots for B2B lead generation are inside sales, executive events and telemarketing.
We all love the sales funnel…at least in concept. Visually, it’s the perfect model: Our leads pour into the top of the funnel. As they move through the middle of the funnel, marketing and sales both qualify the leads. And buyers flow out the bottom.
Or do they?
With the increasing complexity of B2B purchases, sales cycles are becoming longer, and more decision makers and influencers are involved in the buying decision.
It’s time to stop playing a numbers game and just pouring leads into your sales funnel. Now’s the time to flip the traditional sales funnel on its head and create a new model. The image of a sales and marketing pyramid helps you understand that you need to be more responsive to buyers’ needs throughout the sales process. You must assist them as they climb the pyramid and reach the pinnacle—a decision to buy from you.
Where once sales were relatively linear—prospects came into your sales funnel and decided either to buy or not to buy—today’s buying patterns have changed. The buyer’s journey is more complex, more fluid and increasingly self-directed. Above all, we know that leads don’t naturally convert into sales. Left to make the journey on their own, buyers easily stray off course:
A sales pyramid presents a more accurate model of today’s sales process. It’s a reminder that buyers and vendors must climb several significant steps to reach the top of the pyramid. You need to help them because there is no natural gravitational force downward, drawing them to a decision to buy from you. Instead, leads and prospects need assistance up the pyramid.
As a result, you need a well-defined lead management process that reflects an understanding of each step to the pinnacle. That’s how you’ll be able to transform prospects into customers.
The process includes:
The days of just playing the numbers are past. Today’s marketing and sales teams need to work together to target their best leads with a series of carefully crafted messages and activities that help them climb the sales pyramid. Leads alone are not enough. It’s the ability to convert prospects into customers that raises ROI and increases the bottom line.
Sometimes it seems that for every technological advance, there is a counter-force at work. Take the telephone. It’s a strategic tool for B2B lead follow-up, telemarketing and telesales. But with the ascendancy of voicemail and its handy helper Caller ID, it has become increasingly difficult to get a live prospect on the line.
For the sales rep, the question becomes: How do I break through the voicemail barrier, beat the technological gatekeeper and deliver my message? To leave a message or not to leave a message? That is the question you must answer. Here are some B2B phone sales tips to help you.
It is possible to have too much of a good thing.
Scarfing up a whole box of chocolates at one time, for instance, might fall into that category. A more work-related example is when the phone starts to ring off the hook. It’s what you always dreamed of, so how could you possibly have too many phone calls? If you can’t keep up with answering them, however, you have too much of a good thing. Another frustrating situation is when leads pour in from your latest e-book, and you can’t respond rapidly enough to the interest you’ve generated.
When you can’t answer your calls or follow up on content downloads, it put the results of your marketing efforts at risk. That’s because you’re 21 times more likely to qualify a lead that you call within five minutes than let response time stretch to 30 minutes. Those statistics are stunning but true. They are based on actual data from six companies within the InsideSales.com system that had followed up on over 15,000 leads with 100,000 call attempts.
It follows that you need to set yourself up for success in response handling. To do so, you need to be capable of taking the following steps.
“More than 60 percent of companies plan to invest in technology for ABM to better align sales and marketing over the next twelve months.” — Sirius Decisions, 2015 State of Account Based Marketing
Account based marketing (ABM), a term coined by ITSMA in 2004, is not new. As shown by Sirius Decision’s research, however, it is gaining traction. Companies are voting with their wallets by investing in technology to support the strategy.
Account based marketing recognizes that large organizations have tremendous sales potential, and each should be treated as its own market. Instead of fishing for business with a net, this strategy is like fishing with a spear. There is no waste.
Vendors identify their targeted large accounts and focus on each holistically. With some Fortune 500 companies reaching revenues higher than the GDPs of some nations, there’s a strong rationale behind this approach.
“When you’re finished changing, you’re finished,” said Ben Franklin. And in a business world that seems to change more rapidly than ever, his words are still relevant.
What can you change today in your business that will help you with demand generation and ROI? Here are six ideas that can pay off. All you have to do is put them into action.
1. Clean Up Your Database
Sadly, there’s nothing glamorous or exciting about keeping your database clean. It’s a tedious job. Like cleaning your closet, it’s often a task that falls to the bottom of the priority list until there is absolutely nothing better to do.
But think about how you feel after cleaning your closet and ridding it of the clothes you no longer wear. Every day of the week, you save time because it’s easier to find what you need and get dressed. In the same way, when your database is not contaminated with bad data, you’ll increase efficiency.
The funeral for outbound marketing took place several years ago. Friends and relatives celebrated its life and moved on, letting inbound marketing fill the void. But now, what was old is new again. Outbound marketing is coming back to life. This begs the big question, “Why?”
Don’t get me wrong, I like lead scoring. It’s highly effective in increasing the efficiency of generating qualified leads. There is, however, a caveat. It does not do the whole job.
What does lead scoring do? You score leads based on their engagement level with your content as well as on the strength of demographic criteria that qualifies them. When you do so, you’re able to spot the hottest prospects, narrowing down the list, so you know who to call. In this way, it increases productivity.
Effective digital marketing and automation make outbound marketing more efficient. They do not eliminate the need for it. That’s because you need a two-way conversation to answer all the qualifying questions.
Some of your leads, for example, could be opening your emails, reading blog posts and downloading white papers. But how do you know if they can afford the product, service or solution you’re offering? You may have captured your leads’ titles, but every organization is different, so how do you know if they have the authority to buy? You can’t even start to guess who else is involved in the buying decision.
No one said that tech marketing was easy. After all, you’re trying to reach IT leaders — some of the busiest people on the earth. Not only that, other companies are hot on their trails too. Naturally, they’re seeking cover, doing everything they can to avoid vendors and stay focused on their never-ending to-do’s.
Given the challenges of reaching your target audience, you need to have your marketing and sales ducks in a row. Where are marketers going wrong?
“Procrastination makes easy things hard, hard things harder,” Mason Cooley, an American writer.
It’s September. We’re almost into the fourth quarter (Q4) and John, the Vice President of Sales, is in a mild panic. It’s not surprising. After all, time’s running out to meet his quota and sales are soft.
How did he get into this position?
When he arrived at work at the beginning of January, he was full of optimism for the New Year and ready to tackle the sales challenges. Ahead of him stretched twelve long months to make it all happen. Plenty of time to fill the pipeline, nurture leads and convert them into sales. Or so he thought.
It seems like this missing link is made of gold. What are these sales lead management teams doing that is multiplying the number of ready-to-buy prospects while cutting marketing costs?
But things didn’t work out that way.
Each month sales fell just a little short. And John thought he could tweak a few things to catch up. It didn’t work. Now, he’s about 5% down year to date. Making up those lost sales in the last quarter will require some heroics.
Does this sound familiar?
Too often glass-half-full leaders fail to take strong actions to get sales back on track until they’re up against the wall. Time, their friend at the beginning of the year, zips along and turns into their enemy. And, as Cooley noted so wisely, procrastination makes hard things become harder.