B2B lead generation: what you should be doing differently in 2017

B2B lead generation: what you should be doing differently in 2017

Around 60% of B2B marketers struggle to generate high-quality leads. To get your 2017 off to a winning start, here are three successful tactics you can try for yourself.

From lead generation machine to engagement architect

What are the B2B lead generation hot topics for 2017? According to Forrester, the future of B2B marketing lies in the “customer-obsessed organisation”, and the marketer needs to evolve from a “lead-generation machine” to a “customer engagement architect over the whole lifecycle”. That sounds pretty complicated, doesn’t it? But actually, all it means is that if you want to generate successful B2B leads, it’s essential to know (or get to know) your customer, and then tailor your marketing strategy accordingly.

How do you become the architect? Several tactics can contribute to a successful B2B lead generation strategy. These include reaching the right people (account-based marketing), ensuring good follow-up (lead nurturing) and reacting smartly and efficiently to changes in behaviour (real-time and predictive analytics).

Reach the right people even better with account-based marketing

Adjust your communication to fit your target group. A personalised approach ensures higher relevancy, a better click with your target group and, ultimately, a higher chance of success (lead generation). Employ research to identify your target group, and translate the findings to personas and customer journeys. So far, nothing new.

But how far do you go in identifying and categorising your target group? Do you focus on the position of your target group in the value chain (end-user, influencer or decision-maker), or do you look at where you can create value per account? It’s the last of these that provides the launchpad for account-based marketing.

“Fishing with spears instead of nets”

In account-based marketing you aim your sights at very specific target groups rather than everyone. So, it’s out with the scattergun approach. Account-based marketing is a useful strategy if you find yourself embroiled in a complex sales cycle, with diverse internal stakeholders, and looking for ways to involve your Sales department. After all, good cooperation between Marketing and Sales is the basis for successful B2B lead generation, and account-based marketing is suitable for use with both potential customers and for cross-selling and upselling existing customers. 

Feeling nervous? Don’t be! You don’t have to upend everything in 2017. Account-based marketing provides focus and provides an added extra to your current strategy. It stimulates you to think outside your ‘silo’ because it requires Marketing and Sales to work together closely.

The first thing to do is to go and sit with your Sales colleagues and identify your target group. Figure out who they are: from their characteristics, industry, use of applications and technologies, to their annual turnover. Create personas at organisational level and use these when developing your communications. Knowing what tools to use, such as event marketing and social media marketing, and when, increases the chance of successful B2B lead generation. 

B2B lead follow-up: only begin after the first request

What is B2B lead generation anyway? Is it a contact request submitted via your website? Or a completing a form to be able to download a document (initial request). Or is it someone Marketing has identified as being ‘relevant’ because of their demographics or clicks on your website (marketing qualified lead)? When a lead is followed up by Sales (sales qualified lead)? Or if it results in an actual sale (sales win)? B2B lead generation doesn’t stop at the first request. In fact, that’s where it starts. And a lead is only successful if it results in a deal.

A lead does not guarantee a sale: 75% of the leads on your website are only in the first phase of the purchase cycle.

Good follow-up in the sales funnel is essential for successful B2B lead generation. So how do you ensure you continually remain top-of-mind with your lead? The answer begins with close collaboration between Marketing and Sales.

So maybe I do need to rethink my marketing in 2017 after all? Definitely not. Instead, use a variety of old and new tactics, employed smartly, to ensure a good follow-up:

  • It starts with an email. Don’t just send a “thank you for your request” email; broaden it out. Make sure you know what your lead is interested in (you can find this out from the form on your website) and send various automated emails, with relevant content, in the immediate period after the initial contact.
  • Use re-targeting to remain top-of-mind with your lead. You don’t have to place a banner on every website. Make clever use of LinkedIn and test with a variety of content. This will help you learn more about what interests your lead.
  • Don’t leave everything to automated processes. Use social media to find out more about your lead and include this information in your follow-up. This information gives marketers a better insight into the target group. And looking from a Sales angle, you can include this information in your CRM. Have you had contact with your lead? Don’t forget to connect on LinkedIn.
  • And don’t forget human-to-human marketing. Use the tactics above to learn more about your lead and then take the personal approach: call or email them.  

Start small with one of these tactics. You’ll soon see that you get rapid results and that the quality of your B2B leads will improve.

Measure, know and predict B2B lead generation

A good lead generation strategy isn’t complete unless it includes analytics. Analytics help you understand past and present behaviour, and can help predict future behaviour. Analytics comes in many shapes and sizes, from web analytics, real-time data, spreadsheets, social analytics, A/B testing and attribution modelling, to predictive analytics. What’s the best way to use analytics to improve the quality of your B2B lead generation?

First, a few facts. What do B2B marketers mostly use now to understand behaviour? Recent research has found that most marketers use web analytics (91%), spreadsheets (80%) and social analytics (66%). But they would like to spend more time on predictive analytics (66%), business intelligence (44%) and attribution modelling (44%).

Good cooperation between historical data and predictive analytics is essential for optimal B2B lead generation.

There is an awful lot of data available around B2B lead generation. One smart way to use this data is to transform current patterns into prediction, what’s known as predictive analytics. The primary goal is to achieve greater efficiency over the entire marketing and sales line, from better quality leads, a greater chance of success (conversion), to an optimal return-on-investment per lead.

In practice, it turns out to be quite difficult to embrace these new tools to improve your B2B lead generation strategy. There are various reasons why, from a complex customer journey and internal stakeholder management, to not having the right knowledge or tools.

How do you ensure that you not only place your new, 2017 tactics on your roadmap, but actually use them as well? You don’t have rewrite your marketing strategy. Just ensure that you start working more smartly and efficiently. Make it easier to gain insight into historic behaviour, and try to predict future behaviour. 

Make your current web analytics environment smarter and more efficient. You can process a lot of data using spreadsheets, but it often takes a lot of time. Learn about real-time analytics. Make sure you include your most important B2B lead generation metrics in one dashboard, and involve Sales in this. Work together on a dashboard for the whole sales funnel (from initial request to qualified sales lead), so that you always have insight into your B2B lead generation. 

Go to work with predictive analytics. Again, do this with Sales: what do you want to predict and what result do you expect? Think about improving lead follow-up and scores, price optimisation or an analysis of which content works best at what moment. Link this to your company goals and decide what method you are going to use, which metrics are important and which tools you need. Think about CRM, social analytics or historic pricing. Collect the data, retrieve usable insights and start optimising. 

Getting started with B2B lead generation

The B2B world is complex and many factors influence successful B2B lead generation, from marketing communication methodologies and qualifying sales, to internal follow-up and processes.

I’ve described three tactics that are important to bear in mind in 2017: smarter targeting of the right leads, better follow-up over the whole sales funnel and collecting the right information based on behaviour. Where are you going to start?