B2B Lead Generation has Changed. Have you?

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B2B Lead generation has changed. It used to be that people placed ads, sent mailers and made calls to both inform prospective clients of their services and to generate new business. In the old days, that’s how prospective customers found out about potential new suppliers. Email marketing and the Internet then came along and changed the landscape and social media has gone even further. This proliferation of routes to market both assists and complicates choices for the busy business owner, salesperson and marketer.

Where do you put time and resource? What’s the best approach? There are lots of options and it’s hard to see the wood for the trees. The various choices are far too numerous to cover in this short blog so we’ll concentrate on a blend of what small to medium sized business should perhaps consider as part of their new business development strategy:

It’s about the Audience and the Message

Undertaking market and customer research and analysis is essential before jumping into a business development activity that may prove fruitless if you’re aiming at the wrong target. More time spent beforehand will be more likely to bear fruit in the long run.

Before talking about routes to market, we can’t ignore the ‘market’ aspect of that phrase as it’s your most important determinant of success. Who are you targeting? What sectors? What size of organisation? What is the job role that makes the buying decision for your products or services? Where will you find the contacts names and contact details? And how good is your data?

There are other aspects we need to consider. Is the market congested with lots of competitors? Is the market growing? How do you rank amongst those providing this type of product or service? Is there something happening in a particular market or segment that makes your kind of proposition more timely or relevant? A good current example of this is Auto-Enrolment in the Financial sector. It drives requirements for providers of the solutions and advice. If you can identify what’s hot and the challenges potential customer face in your field, you’ll be more likely to gain traction when you ultimately reach them via whatever method you select.

Routes to Market

Of course, you can opt for any number of methods to reach your target market. Most of our work is done in b2b marketing and some high volume methods like pure media advertising can have high wastage and work out expensive for small to medium sized businesses that have limited budgets. Testing different methods is important however in order to identify which provide better returns. Equally, you need to give any method you choose the time to work. In higher value sales environments, results are unlikely to come immediately. Therefore, if the cost of marketing over 12 months or more is £50,000 and it generates a contract worth £250,000 that’s a 5:1 ROI that can’t be sniffed at!

So, what do you do? Do you carry on doing what you’ve been doing for years? If you do, you may get the same results. If that’s sufficient, then continue what you’re doing but monitor effectiveness. If it isn’t enough, you need to look at other options. But before you do, work out what budget you can allow for any activity and evaluate the timeframe.

Try to avoid thinking short-term. Lead generation should be considered as a long term activity not a short-term fix. It may be that, for your products and services, the sale has a short gestation and customers make quick decisions. If that value is high, as we suggested above, lead times will probably be long and your sales pipeline may be smaller since there are fewer companies that can afford to use your services.

Whatever your business and business targets, it’s important to match the kind of marketing with the type of service, the value of sale and the audience. If the value of sale is very low and you’re in a high volume marketplace, reaching a wide audience at a low cost per head is essential. That may lead you to advertising (not my favorite when it comes to b2b marketing), email marketing and possibly PPC albeit you need to evaluate cost per click against value of sale and the likely number of genuine enquiries.

Businesses can no longer ignore social media as a part of a lead generation strategy, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook extend your reach and exposure amongst your followers and peers. This helps your messages reach your network and enables your blogs, thought pieces, articles, videos and the like to get to a wider audience as your contacts share and retweet the content. If the message resonates, this drives traffic to your website and social pages and enhances the chance of an enquiry. Whilst social media cannot be viewed a sales mechanism (and its dangerous to pump out lots of pure sales messages on social platforms), it increases awareness, solidifies credibility and encourages targets to reach out to you if they need your services. It is about conversation.

Therefore, social media and content marketing are increasingly important means to reach your prospective targets and we win a lot of business that way. We’ve been writing articles like this one for more that 3 years and have all manner of blogs on our site on subjects around lead generation, b2b telemarketing, appointment setting, social media lead generation and so on. We make sure that we gain exposure through posting these on Twitter, LinkedIn (company page and profile), Google +, Facebook and so on. We plan to increase our video content as it’s important for SEO amongst other things and use of YouTube is essential nowadays. The activity we put in translates to sales since we now receive regular enquiries and have converted excellent business with some top companies.  

Of course, we also use telemarketing. And that’s not solely due to the fact that it’s one of the core services we offer and we can do that at low cost. It’s also because it means we have control over our lead generation. Unlike many other methods of marketing, we don’t have to wait for customers to come to us. We control the target market, what we say and how often we make an approach. It also means we can go after companies with which we specifically want to do business. Hence, it’s a more targeted method than most IF you do your profiling in advance of calling. But remember even telemarketing has changed. In the old days, we didn’t have opt-outs in b2b calling yet today all data needs to be screened every 28 days against the CTPS register. It’s a legal requirement. Equally, prospective customers might have responded to a call touting services. Today, voicemail, IVR Routers and gatekeepers screen calls. And, who likes a pushy salesperson? Today’s calls must be more consultative especially when selling higher value services.. It isn’t about what you do. It’s about what you do for them. It isn’t about your services. It’s about their challenges. Decision-makers are time poor and the only way to engage is showing you understand their issues and how you can help solve them so they can get a better night’s sleep!

One of our clients recently sent out a video mailer to a targeted database of Independent Schools. The mailer was relatively expensive but, having validated the data to call in terms of contacts beforehand, we knew it would reach the right people and it generated positive results. Direct Marketing has, to some extent, gone out of fashion but with increasing clutter online, a clever direct approach can cut through.

What to do?

We could go on and on about lead generation and how it has changed. There are all manner of relatively new methods like native advertising, blogger outreach and retargeting that we haven’t mentioned. The point is that if you’re doing what you’ve always done, you probably will get less that you got before since your competitors and customers have moved on. So, now’s the time to evaluate your lead generation and marketing and determine whether it’s still fit for purpose.

If you’d like to know how GSA Business Development can help generate growth for your business through social media lead generation or telemarketing or you’d like to book one of our new business development and marketing strategy workshops, contact us now on 0845 658 8192 or use the form on this site.

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