The focus of business-to-business marketing is increasingly set on lead generation. In fact, according to a recent survey of conducted by BtoB Magazine, roughly 7 in 10 B2B marketing professionals said they participate in some form of lead generation, and nearly half reported being "very" or "fully" involved in such efforts.
Accumulating prospective customers is a complex task. Just defining the term "lead" can be difficult for businesses. According to the survey, 76 percent of respondents agreed a lead is a prospect who has requested to be contacted, while 43 percent said it's defined by a request for a white paper. Thirty-five percent defined a lead as someone who attends a webinar and 30 percent stated it's a potential client who visits the company website.
Nikos Karvitas, senior marketing manager at Motorola Solutions, stated a lead is a someone "who has done their research" about a specific product or service the company offers.
Want to improve lead generation? Get to know prospects better
While the characteristics that define a lead may not be identical among businesses, it's clear that organizations must solidify their understanding of who their prospective clients are and standardize this definition across the organization to better target them and close sales. Here are five tips on improving lead recognition and nurturing.
- Understand what they bring the business: Encouraging a lead to become a buyer doesn't just provide the company with the sales revenue. It defines a crucial step in the relationship the prospect has with the brand and opens up the opportunity for the business to develop a long-lasting bond with him or her. As Econsultancy explained, knowing the value of each lead is crucial. It's a good idea to segment prospective customers based on their interests and future business needs. This will allow marketers to best decide how to use their resources because they'll have a clear idea of which prospects to prioritize.
- Define the phases of engagement and purchasing intent: Knowing when exactly an Internet user becomes a lead is crucial to optimizing websites, social media interactions and other marketing tactics for conversions. Getting this information requires a hefty amount of website analytics and other metrics. It's important to collect data pertaining to website traffic, page visits and prospect's Internet use habits. Additionally, it's important to note how these individuals interact with the brand's other marketing channels, like social media and live events. In addition to telling companies when exactly a prospect becomes a lead and then a client, doing this allows companies to better evaluate the effectiveness of each platform.
- Know what prospects respond to: Content marketing plays a central role in lead generation. According to BtoB's study, 60 percent of marketers surveyed said they provide content that informs buyers how their problems can be fixed using the business's offerings. A little more than half reported sharing media that highlights their products' or services' benefits and case studies, stories and anecdotes are used by 46 percent. Pam Ansley Evans, a former marketing executive at IBM, told the source businesses are increasingly using content marketing to satiate their audiences' demand for more targeted brand interactions.
Another heavily relied-upon lead generation tactic is product demos, with nearly half of survey respondents reporting they're very or extremely effective. B2B marketers also listed webinars, product trials and offers and incentives as other lead generation tools they use. It's a good idea to understand what types of outreach and media gets the best response, especially considering content marketing is such a strong lead generator.
- Keep track of the right numbers: As mentioned above, collecting information is key to understanding who the target audience is. Additionally, measuring the success of marketing campaigns on each channel is important to determining whether current lead generation strategies are working. The includes replies to email marketing messages, social media engagement – likes, shares and retweets, for example – and blog comments. It's important to clearly define ahead of time what the goals of each lead generation tactic are and consistently evaluating progress.
- Prioritize the long term: Keeping clients engaged in a brand can be challenging, but companies that focus on generation leads with the future in mind can reap the benefits of having loyal customers. When seeking out prospective clients, marketers should aim to form lasting bonds with clients. In addition to communicating how products or services can help clients achieve bigger-picture organizational goals, brands should follow up on every sale to nurture the customer relationship. In addition to preparing the company for future business, these efforts can benefit the brand in the form of references and positive word-of-mouth marketing.
Once organizations have a better understand of who their leads are, how they differ from each other and what they want, marketers can carry out more effective lead generation strategies.