Led by the emerging breed of SaaS companies, a new blueprint for B2B lead generation has emerged over the past decade, significantly outperforming the old on volume, quality and cost per lead.
Best-in-class companies demonstrate 20-50% increase in number of leads, 30% lower cost per lead 2-3x conversion rate improvement and 50% growth rate increase (source).
Although the new B2B lead engine blueprint was born out of the high growth SaaS industry (Hubspot, Salesforce, Workday, Intuit…), more traditional B2B industries are rapidly following suit.
Making the engine perform optimally is however no easy task in the complex new tech and buying landscape and requires careful configuration and collaboration orchestrated by the marketing manager in charge.
In our work helping commercial leaders in B2B build -and improve their lead generation engine, we have found 6 essential elements of efficient demand -and lead generation in 2019.
6 Essentials for the new B2B lead engine:
- Strong focus on content marketing
- Give value before asking customers to give it
- Document your buyer personas and buyer journey touch-points
- Deliver tailored communication at the right time with marketing automation
- Inside sales to link marketing and outside sellers
- Outside sales feed leads back into lead nurturing journeys
1. The main idea
As lead generation and marketing increases in complexity, commercial leaders need to improve how they structure & systematize demand -and lead generation activities, including collaboration with sales
2. Supporting facts
Especially SaaS companies with a structured approach to demand generation through content marketing, marketing automation and sales/marketing collaboration, outperform the rest on lead generation, revenue growth and cost of sales
3. Key take-away
There are 6 essential components of the new B2B Lead Engine that commercial leaders need to get in place
Build your content marketing strategy & operational setup for consistent execution
In a recent study 78% of CMOs named “Content Marketing as the future of marketing”. Not surprising considering it has been found to generate 3x more leads at 62% less cost, compared to traditional marketing methods (source).
The content marketing space is blowing up with new possibilities to engage with company target audiences (video, audio, games, articles, value calculators…) because buyers prefer to engage with content rather than ads, and they want a lot of it.
However, although +90% of B2B companies say they engage in content marketing, only 40% of have a documented content marketing strategy (source), making it difficult to run efficiently and with continuous improvement. Many marketer mistakenly still see content marketing as a campaign tactics rather than part of their standard marketing operating model.
Because the B2B lead engine is about consistently generating profitable high quality leads, it is critical that the marketing leaders set up the right strategy, organisation and work structures to consistently product, distribute and engage around content.
TAKE ACTION: Develop your content marketing strategy (target audiences, themes, formats, channels…) and set up operating procedures that allows for consistent high quality content production & distribution
Give value before asking for it
At the heart of all sales and marketing activities in B2B, is the “Give-Get Exchange”; You give something to get something, with the deal and ongoing business as the ultimate exchange.
High growth B2B companies excel at using high value content on their website to facilitate this exchange (Hubspot is a great example). Research reports, tools, webinars etc. in exchange for contact information and permission to contact.
However, many marketing organisations still focus on leading with the product instead of leading towards it, with 88% of B2B buyers saying that content producers need to focus less on content around product specifics and more on the value that can be brought to the business (perhaps a legacy from the time when marketing was primarily engaged with product catalog production).
The new generation of marketers focus excessively on understanding what their customers find valuable and giving that to them, in exchange for their attention, data and permission to contact. Always asking themselves if what they’re giving is valuable enough to earn the right to what they’re asking for.
TAKE ACTION: Check if the content you are selling in exchange for customer information is valuable enough for the buyer to make the deal. And be careful not to over-estimate the value of your give, which companies often have a tendency to do. By giving additional value, you earn the right to ask for additional attention and information.
Document your buyer personas and buyer journey touch-points
In the new B2B lead engine, it is not enough to understand your customers and how they buy, you must be able to translate into documented characteristics and buyer journey touch-points.
71% of companies that exceed goals have documented buyer personas and 74% of companies that miss lead and revenue goals don’t have documented buyer personas.
If buyer characteristics and buyer journey insights are “hard-coded” into automated lead nurturing flows, companies are able to deliver personalized communication without heavy resource demands. This is not only highly effective but also highly scalable, making it an essential growth lever the new breed of B2B SaaS companies.
Effective marketing organisations use the buyer persona and journey insights to align content and communication to the specific situation, and have on average 73% higher average conversion rates compared to marketers without. The information they ask buyers for is 100% aligned with what they need to make the right sales and marketing decisions at the right time.
TAKE ACTION: Check if your buyer personas and buyer journeys are well enough defined to take advantage of “personalized mass communication”, so you can engage with the right buyers, in the right way at the right times, without the need for additional manual work processes.
Marketing automation platform for lead management
79% of top performing companies have been using marketing automation for 3 or more years and it is a prerequisite for new lead management. All new B2B lead engines are built on a strong automation platform (Hubspot, Pardot, Sharpspring etc.) which allows the company to hard-code buyer personas and journeys into automated workflows and track impact for rapid decision making.
More than a technology tool for enabling automation, the platform is rapidly becoming the standard working tool for a new generation of B2B marketers working with lead generation and lead management in a new way. It is where they set up experiments (e.g. A/B testing), for rapidly developing marketing activities and improving ROI.
Although adoption of marketing automation platforms in B2B is moving towards 100%, only 32% of companies fully utilize their marketing technology, leaving a lot of value on the table from their technology investment.
TAKE ACTION: Check if your marketing automation platform supports the type of lead engine you are building and develop a plan for expanding platform utilization.
Use Inside Sales to link marketing and outside sellers
As previously discussed in our article “B2B buying is going digital, so why is 70% of your sales force still road warriors?”, Inside sales is growing rapidly, 300% faster than outside sales.
New high growth companies are linking sales and marketing together through lead nurturing and inside sales, to activate buying process decisions, monitor and qualify if the lead is ready to be handed over to sales.
While the lead nurturing machine pulsates to activate potential buyers and gauge response, the inside sales machine is ready to capture interest demonstrated and help buyers forward in their decision making process.
A key benefit of inside sales working in close collaboration with marketing is speed. Research shows that companies responding to inbound leads within an hour are 7x more likely to convert leads to sales. This demonstrates the importance of close marketing/inside sales collaboration
TAKE ACTION: Check if your marketing, inside sales and outside sales functions are tightly enough aligned, to instantly qualify and nurture inbound leads towards an outside seller, to dramatically increase lead-to-sales conversion rates.
Use outside sellers to feed leads back into lead nurturing flows.
B2B organisations with aligned sales and marketing functions are able to realise 36% YoY revenue growth, vs. 7% revenue decline for the least aligned. A big reason why, is high growth companies’ ability to feed (a) leads not converted to deals back into the lead engine for additional nurturing and (b) deals closed back into the lead engine for customer development.
Many leads are left behind because the majority of leads captured and passed to sales will not buy within the first 3-12 months, but sales typically stop pursuing them after the first few calls. They are disqualified out because they are not ready to buy right now and never picked up again.
The new breed of high growth B2B companies ensure that leads passed on to sales are fed back into the right nurturing flows if not successfully closed and that deals won are nurtured after close to open up for new sales possibilities and catch customers when they are seeking to expand engagement.
TAKE ACTION: Check if your sales and marketing collaboration is strong and works both ways. Leads from marketing to sales and the other way around.