When your growth and success depends on building relationships and closing deals with other businesses rather than individual consumers, it's easy to struggle with our increasingly-connected and personal digital marketplace.
It's easy enough to generate leads at random, but managing to ensure that all or even most of those leads are qualified and worth pursuing? That's a much tougher goal.
Luckily, there are a few tried-and-true B2B lead generation strategies that you can rely on.
Email Remains a B2B Digital Marketing Powerhouse
New trends like interactive content are taking the marketing world by storm, and for good reason—consumer behavior is always changing, and Inbound Marketing requires changing right along with them to meet your prospects where they already are. What's new and shiny, though, sometimes can't compete with the stalwart old workhorse you may have forgotten about.
Marketers like to declare "email is dead," but nothing could be further from the truth. Email marketing is hands-down the digital marketing tool with the highest ROI. The Data & Marketing Association found that for every dollar you invest in email, you'll receive an average of $38 in return. That's a return-on-investment of nearly 3800%!
Permission-based email marketing (where prospects specifically sign up for or ask to receive them) not only results in more active engagement, it also allows for a much greater amount of personalization to help build the mix of relevance, authority, and personal connection that B2B buyers are searching for.
Monthly newsletters can provide relevant and informational content for your contacts without any pressure to buy right away, keeping you top of mind while they deliberate. You can also utilize marketing automation to test out a "drip campaign"—a series of prewritten emails that send after one of your leads takes a specific action, like filling out a form or downloading a piece of content off your website. Lead-nurturing tactics like this weed out the unqualified leads while gently nurturing along your ideal clients.
If you're not receiving immediate responses, don't give up! The average prospect will require 6 to 8 "touches," or times the prospect interacts with you or your marketing efforts, before they are "sales ready."
Encourage Word-of-Mouth Referrals by Offering Incentives
Some things truly never change. 92% of B2B buyers trust word-of-mouth referrals from their friends or family members more than search results they find online. Business owners that utilize referrals reported closing business faster than before they had rolled out the program.
Even without an official program, you can still make the most of potential referral sources! The key is targeting and incentive.
Do your research before you reach out. Just because a current client suggests someone they know, that doesn't mean that their referral will actually end up as a Sales Qualified Lead. They may not work for you for any number of reasons—their business isn't a good fit with yours, budgets don't match, or they're just not in a position to close a deal at this time. Use those Buyer Personas you developed to identify key qualifying details you'd like to target, and reach out to those who match.
Ensure the incentive provides enough value to be worth providing a good referral. A poor incentive will lead to equally poor referrals or none at all, so be sure you provide something that makes it worth their time. What a good incentive looks like will be different for differently-sized businesses or various industries, but we have a few ideas for incentives that can help you bring in a few new referrals from current clients:
- Discounts on ongoing services
- A certain percentage off the next contract they sign with you
- Extra products or services at a lesser or no charge
- The ability to beta-test newer products or services before others in the industry get a hold of them
- Speaking opportunities at industry events
Don't spring a request for referrals too early in your relationship. Building trust takes time, and if you push for referrals from a client who hasn't really been working with you long enough to feel safe in referring others to you, you'll not only lose out on qualified word-of-mouth leads... you might lose out on that current client who suddenly finds you far too pushy and demanding, too.
Identify ideal prospects, offer incentives that are worth the information exchange, and don't ask anyone until you're sure you've built a solid relationship with them.
Let's Talk About Live Chat and Marketing Automation
Live chat and "chatbots" (artificially-intelligent messaging programs that engage with visitors to your website) have become a huge trend both in B2C and in B2B marketing, but we've found that B2B companies have been a little slower to jump on board.
It's worth the investment to get your own Live Chat program up and running!
With chat programs, you have a couple of options. It's easy to set up a chatbot to provide prewritten answers to a series of "frequently asked questions," giving your prospects instant responses without having to dig around your site. You can also choose a "live chat" option, where your chat program could allow a prospect visiting your website to notify designated staff at your business that they have a question that needs answered. This creates a seamless and nearly instant customer service interaction.
You can also put together a meld of the two, with basic questions receiving automatic answers and more complex queries going to a live customer service representative or someone at your business.
Additionally, marketing automation is an essential part of the B2B marketing toolkit. Marketing automation platforms like HubSpot allow you to schedule out, or "automate", the repetitive marketing tasks that would otherwise eat up parts of your workday that could be used for more productive things.
Marketing automation is what gives you the ability to write an ebook, blog post, and email combo when you have a sudden spark of inspiration at midnight (not that that's ever happened to me...) and schedule the blog to post and emails to send out at 9:30 AM the following Tuesday, when people are most likely to check their email inboxes and see that delightful new content.
Marketing automation takes some investment in time and resources to get right, but when executed properly, it keeps you top of mind with prospects who have already initiated contact or expressed specific interest in your business. Thomson Reuters once reported that their revenue increased by 172% after they began utilizing marketing automation.
B2B Lead Generation Works Best When It Builds Relationships
B2B buyers just need more time for research, and their purchases tend to involve a greater financial investment in the long run. This makes personal connections and the sense that a business isn't trying to strong-arm a sale more important than ever. When you're working towards generating more qualified leads, you need to base your marketing strategy around the behavior and needs of your ideal B2B Buyer Persona.
The tactics listed above will help you generate leads, but without a plan to follow through, you could find yourself with lots of leads that you still aren't able to nurture into current clients. To find out how to take your business from struggling to find leads to growth and success, give us a call at (864) 288-6162 or just click the banner below.