How to prepare a strategy of generating sale leads in B2B?

Generating leads is no novelty in B2B sale and marketing. However, the conditions in which companies compete for winning and retaining clients are new. How to prepare a lead generating strategy and what new challenges the sale and marketing departments face in a world where a client knows all about a brand before even meeting the seller?

In this article you will find:
• How to prepare a B2B lead generating strategy;
• What parameter to use in evaluating sales oriented marketing strategies;
• How to define and categorize leads in an organization;
• How to evaluate costs of lead acquisition.

Unlimited and permanent access to information has drastically transformed the way in which clients access information on products and decide to purchase them. Also business clients. However, as much as these phenomena are universal, the B2B decision making process is more complex.

One should depart from the question on what has actually happened and why an overhaul of the client acquisition strategy based on the digital, is currently the key task.

The clients are already online, the sellers are about to head there

Now take a moment to think about where you start the search for products or services for your company? You start from consulting your browser, obviously. Sometimes you do not even know such a product exists. You just type a question, sometimes a description of a problem, and start the search.

Your potential clients do exactly the same. They consult the Web to look for solutions to problems or for answers to questions concerning their company. When they do their tax return, they look for tax advantages. If they lose their phone, they ask if it can be tracked down etc. Of course, they also ask questions about specific products, but these are less common and usually concern big brands.

This is why cold calling does not work anymore. The clients are not waiting for someone to call them. Instead, they are the ones who initiate the buying process. If they are planning a purchase or an investment, they start with doing their own research in the Web. Whether they decision-makers in a company or buying something at home, the first source of information will always be the Web.

It is estimated that the B2B clients acquire 50-70% of their knowledge of a product before they meet the seller. Or, one could say, if they meet the seller at all. No matter how good your marketers are, if you are not online, the encounter might never happen. So what can be done to draw the clients who are doing their research to you? Start with understanding them.

Do not drop the analogue, if it works, but support it with digital performance

Digital marketing performance does not mean that you have to drop traditional tools, if they still work. Yet it is a god idea to integrate them with digital marketing methods, so that they become part of one process, the efficiency of which can be controlled.

Example:
When organizing a conference, the registration and post-conference follow-up should be digital. This will allow you to send the participating clients a digital newsletter, a survey, or materials concerning the meeting.

Generating leads is more listening, less speaking

Nobody likes to be invaded by obtrusive ads, which are distracting and unaesthetic. Yet there are far too many of these already. If you want the client to notice you, you have to become important to him. You need to offer something of value. But how to do it in the Internet? In this case, high quality content is what works best. And not just pretty brochures, but sharing knowledge valuable to potential clients.

But how to determine what kind of knowledge will be valuable? There are many ways to obtain an answer to this question – some are easy, some require a bit of preparation. Even if you use only the simple ones, you will gain leverage over most of your competitors. I am not kidding you, most companies that I have been observing never bothered to check what really matters to their clients, what are their problems, what they talk about, what they would like to know.

The first step towards understanding your clients is a low-cost one.

Hint

Use the Google KeywordPlanner tool and check if the topics concerning your company are frequently the subject of an online search and what is the competition in that domain.

You can find out many interesting things, such as that the words you use to describe your company or your offer are rarely used in the browsing process. For example, instead of typing: ”a telephone resistant to severe weather conditions”, the clients would rather use the words: “waterproof phone”. This will allow you to describe your services using a language that is understandable for clients and define the inquiries that might lead the clients to your site, if they find valuable answers.

Adele Ravella described one very efficient, yet effort requiring, method in her book Buyer Personas: How to Gain Insight into your Customer’s Expectations, Align your Marketing Strategies, and Win More Business. You can also find specialized agencies to help you with the process.

Why am I writing about this? Because the initial stage of a new lead generating strategy in a company should be identifying what the potential clients are interested in, and preparing content that will draw the client onto your site and to your offer.

In many B2B organizations marketing seems not to be in the center of the company’s business life. The sales department makes reports, the production explains why the results look the way they do, the service center has its own assessment rates, but the marketing? I know, I know, not everything can be measured and displayed on a spreadsheet, but it would be good to know if the marketing in your company, or you as a marketer, are really doing a good job.

In many small and medium-sized companies that I know the marketing department reports directly or indirectly to the head of the sales department. Sometimes their job title is changed to sales and marketing manager, but this does not automatically turn them into experienced marketers. I have had dozens of conversations, which showed me that these people did not quite understand what a marketing department should be doing and how should its work be assessed. Being a marketer myself, I might not be doing our community any favor, but I will try to give you a clue about how marketing can help a B2B company and what goals should be set for such a team.

Start from the end, start with the money

When setting goals for the marketing department, start with what is key – the sale goals. Obviously, the marketing department has also other tasks, but in this article we will focus on sale.

Defining tasks related to sale support does not mean that you can treat marketers as assistants of your sale agents. Otherwise you will not hold good marketing specialists in your company for too long. Sale support means that the marketers are responsible for a specific aspect of generating sale: acquiring, developing and qualifying leads – the sale opportunities. At the end there is the plan of the expected sale that is supposed to be generated by digital performance.

Example
A sale plan for the marketing department generated by digital performance was set at PLN 1 million a year. The average sale rate is, in this case, PLN 20, 000. In order to meet the objectives, 50 new clients should be acquired. If you have a CRM system, you can easily define how many potential clients in the sales funnel the sellers need to finalize 50 transactions. Let us assume that this number is twice as high, meaning 100. The same number of leads should be generated and accepted in the sale process.

The assessment rate of the sale department

The number of leads accepted by the sale department, can be the assessment rate of marketing performances in your company. Obviously, not all leads generated by the marketing will be qualified, meaning accepted by the sale.

Knowing that every second lead will be rejected by the sale department, one should assume that the marketing needs to generate 200 leads of an average order value of PLN 20,000.

It is very important for the sale and marketing departments to speak one language. Note that the marketers use two terms: prospecting funnel and sales funnel, and the sale opportunities, categorized as leads – potential clients, are ascribed to the first one. This is why it is a god idea to establish one definition and categories of leads depending on the specific criteria.

Every organization should create its own definition of leads, one that fits its needs. It should be a result of the cooperation of the marketing and sale departments. As a result the two teams will speak one language in the key phases of the sale process.

Here are examples of such definitions:

Definitions and an example of leads categories

Lead – potential client who has gravitated towards the company’s orbit and has submitted his contact details and the consent to be contacted
Qualified lead – a lead that has undergone extra verification based on criteria set by the company, e.g. a company with more than 1000 employees, energy industry, contact person is a manager in the IT department
Accepted lead – a lead who has been qualified by the marketing, and is subsequently handed over to the sale department and registered in the CRM as sale opportunity

For the marketers 200 clients means 200 people who have been identified, by which they mean: who have provided details on their industry, the size of their company, the role of the contact person in the decision-making process, and have confirmed that they are interested in the offer.

In order to generate such a number of leads, the site naturally needs to attract many more visitors. Hubspot, a company that specializes in creating IT tools for marketing and other specialists, estimates that a healthy conversion rate of a visitor to a lead is about 1%. This is, of course, an averaging, but if you do not have any historic data of your own, you need some starting point for further calculations.

Therefore, in order to have 200 leads qualified for the sale department, a site should have about 20,000 unique visitors from different companies per year. Since in a company interested in a certain solution there is always more than one person to visit the site of a potential contractor, it is a good idea to multiply this number by two or more. This way we can estimate the number of visitors – 40,000 unique users a year, to obtain a turnover of about PLN 1 million. As we can see, one website user represents on average PLN 25,00 of turnover.

This is where the roles switch. The marketer who has made such a calculation should be able to evaluate how much ought to be spent on obtaining site usage. If the usage is to be generated with a Google advertising campaign, he cannot spend more than PLN 25,00 on one click (cost per click). So how much can be spent on site usage?

How to calculate the cost of acquiring a lead?

This depends on another parameter, the Customer Lifetime Value, the total revenue brought by a client when using your service.

Example

Assuming that you are selling a product the client will be using for about five years, and the yearly fee is PLN 100,000, then the CLV will be about half a million.

Knowing the service cost, the sale cost, the production cost, and what margin one wishes to achieve in a particular category and segment, it is possible to define what part of the revenue should be spent on customer acquisition.

Once the lead acquisition cost and is calculated, along with the number of leads needed to obtain a certain sale rate with a certain conversion rate, it is possible to define the marketing budget for digital marketing performance.

I have tried to explain this thoroughly (despite many simplifications and generalizations) in order to demonstrate that defining a marketing budget is not a game of chance, but a concrete analytical process. What can be gained as a result of undergoing such a process is a mutual understanding of the expectations of sellers and marketers, as well as making them realize that they need to cooperate in order to acquire leads.

Marketing and sale agreement

Generating a lead alone does not guarantee success in sale. It is merely a beginning. But if marketers have done a good job, the sellers can at least assume that the clients are interested in the products and ready to talk.

This is why it is a good idea to introduce clear lead definitions and lead service standards. These rules should include:

  • Who receives leads and what are the basic quality standards;
  • What is the standard time to initialize the contact with a potential client.

Why is the time so important? A survey conducted by the Harvard Business Review demonstrates that the sellers who have contacted the lead within an hour from the registration were able to efficiently convert it to the next stage of the sale process seven times more often than the ones who waited an hour, and sixty times more often than the ones who waited more than twenty four hours. It might not always be possible to implement contacting a client within an hour, but twenty four hours is a must.

Conclusion

As we can see, the lead generating process requires making decisions more on data and numbers than on the intuition. Even in very traditional B2B brands a change is being made in the way information on potential purchases is collected. Clients are massively present in the Internet, which is why having a realistic plan of acquiring them through digital channels is no longer a trend – it is a necessity.

An important task for the marketing and sale departments is defining the expected work results. Marketers should generate valuable leads, sellers should convert them by reacting on time, educating and guiding them through the subsequent stages of the sale process.

Remember that introducing an online strategy of generating leads is not synonymous with dropping traditional events such as conferences. But these events such be as digitalized as possible, so as to integrate them with the entire client acquisition process. Do not ignore the Internet. No matter how good your marketers are, the clients will start their search online.

Supplement:

Marketing tools that help hear the client’s voice:
Google Keyword Planner – what key words and expressions are popular in your target group;
Brand 24 – monitoring of conversations in the Internet, namely in social media – great for analyzing trends and opinions on a product, a problem, or a company;
Market Samurai – simplifies comparing how our website is positioned comparing to the one of our competitors;
Buyer Personas – methodology of analyzing needs and purchasing processes of the B2B client;
Helpline reports and customer service – an invaluable source of information.

 

Digital and B2B Marketing practitioner. Helps B2B Companies to fully utilize the potential of digital sales and marketing tools. Previously Head of B2B Marketing team at Samsung Electronics Poland before holding several marketing and channel development roles in Microsoft Poland.

CEO and Head of Consulting at Grow Consulting.

Over 15 years of experience in building marketing and leads generation strategies in B2B market. Pioneer of Marketing Automation deployment in B2B space.Effie Award winner in B2B category. Blogger, contributor to professional media : Marketerplus, Brief, Marketing w Praktyce. Author of the book “ABC of B2B Marketing” first handbook for B2B Marketers in Poland.

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