B2B marketing can be frustrating, even painful at times – even when you’re delivering plenty of leads, somehow it’s hard to shine as a lead generation professional. When leads convert into customers, sales take the credit; when they don’t, or if there aren’t enough of them, marketing often take the rap.
Proving the ROI of your marketing efforts can be tough as a result, no matter how many late nighters you pull, and despite your ROI actually being impressive, all things considered.
What you really need is a way to impress – to channel your efforts so strategically, to deliver results so consistently, that even sales will be singing your praises.
The main obstacles to your marketing strategy all boil down to a lack of intelligence. No, not like that, bear with me – I mean actual intel: on your leads themselves, their companies, their position within their companies, their relationship with other relevant leads, and so on.
Think about it. You could have all the skills and experience in the world, but if you don’t know exactly who you’re dealing with, how can you interact with them effectively? If you don’t have a profile of your ideal lead/customer, how can you accurately prospect for net-new leads? How do you target your content without knowing the personas you’re talking to? How much time will you end up wasting chasing an elusive lead before realizing they don’t actually have any buying power? And if you aren’t getting accurate feedback (whether from sales, your own team, or even yourself), you’ll never know what works and what doesn’t, so you could be pouring your best efforts into a black hole.
The same is true when it comes to the perennial marketer’s problem: closing the sales loop. You’ve identified a batch of great leads and then, despite the odds, your otherwise talented sales team manage to fumble them. And then the blame game begins: were the leads not as great as you thought, or did sales really waste a prime opportunity by not pitching correctly?
More often than not – assuming both sales and marketing teams are reasonably capable – the real reason is, you guessed it, a lack of accurate intelligence. The leads were indeed “hot”, but for one reason or another vital information about them never made its way to sales, scuppering their pitch.
The good news is there are solutions out there to all of these problems. You just need to know where to look.
Start with Account-Based Marketing – it helps
Before looking for technical solutions though, you need to focus your strategy. Account-based marketing (ABM) is a perfect place to start.
ABM isn’t some kind of revolutionary new strategy – in fact, many of its principles are surprisingly basic and intuitive. It’s an approach to marketing which helps realign your priorities in the hectic world of lead generation, adding a healthy dose of common sense marketing and a razor-sharp strategic focus to achieve your goals without fishing in the dark.
ABM views accounts (companies) as markets of one. That helps you focus on the basic yet crucial fact that the company is your customer whose problems you are ultimately looking to solve. Of course, in order to engage with that “customer” you need to locate the “decision makers” (leads) within the company who can actually influence the buying decision. Your solution needs to be able to translate into something which makes their jobs easier.
Think about it: As a B2B marketer, what’s the most basic information you should know about your leads before you decide to engage? Who they work for. Now take it a step further: if you can pinpoint a company (account) which looks like a good fit for your product/service, that’s certainly an good place to start looking for leads.
“ABM” alone won’t do your lead generation for you
It all sounds so simple, and in theory it is. But, as you will have gathered, a prerequisite to ABM is (yup): intelligence. And in practice, getting the right intelligence is a lot harder to do.
It’s not just a matter of finding out who your leads work for, or who the influencers are within a given account – though that in itself is a harder task than it might sound. Consider how often B2B professionals change jobs, get fired, get promoted, retire, or even switch roles within the same company.
Now consider this: what if the account you’re engaging with is actually a regional office or subsidiary of a larger parent company. Are you even talking to the right decision maker, or is the prime lead actually located in a totally different office altogether (maybe even under a different company name)?
The search for a “single source of truth”
What you need is a “single source of truth.” A way to gather, concentrate, translate and apply all relevant intelligence on your leads in one place.
Clearly, that’s not going to come from your data-frazzled CRM or marketing automation system, no matter how great they are. The sheer volume of data your marketing and sales teams are dealing with means that they’ll never have time to manually research and enrich all their leads. Instead, they’re forced to do the best they can with a large, unwieldy database, with a gradually increasing number of obsolete contacts dragging down your ROI.
It doesn’t help that any inbound marketing campaigns you run – even (maybe especially) the successful ones – will inevitably precipitate an influx of incomplete or false contacts, adding to the burden.
So the first stage is to cleanse the data you already have, separating the wheat from the chaff until all that’s left in your systems are what you actually want: actionable leads.
Any decent data enrichment provider will be able to do this to some degree or another – but never lose track of your ultimate objective: gathering as much of the most accurate intelligence possible. The more you know, the more effective you will be at converting leads. Cleansing your CRM or marketing automation system of false or incomplete contacts (either by deleting them or nominally completing them) is certainly a therapeutic exercise in itself, but don’t settle.
There are plenty of data vendors out there who can give you basic information like job title, contact details, etc. But few can provide a great deal more than that. Think beyond the basics, to the most useful facts your sales and marketing teams could possibly ask for.
Can they tell you precisely where your lead falls in the decision-making hierarchy? Can they tell you what his/her skills sets or specialties are? Will they enable you to see the bigger picture, like if their account is actually tied to a much bigger, parent account – the one you really should be focusing your efforts on? And, perhaps most crucially, what happens in a year’s time (or even the next quarter) when your database again begins to deteriorate, as leads change or lose their jobs? Would you need to pay for yet another stopgap solution?
Most “enrichment” solutions out there won’t be giving you the kind of real time, granular-level information you need. Instead, you’ll have to supplement what they deliver by scouring the never ending, constantly shifting social and open web.
Predicting the future
Now that your database is pure, just pore over your 50,000 contacts and learn each of their profiles off by heart.
Or you could look to predictive analytics.
Predictive analytics enables you to predict which leads are most likely to convert, allowing your marketing and sales reps to prioritize so well they won’t know what to do with themselves. SQLs will go directly to sales, while lesser-qualified leads can go back to marketing for further nurturing.
Ideally, a predictive model should eventually help you build an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) to direct your future sales and marketing campaigns.
However, traditional predictive analytics solutions have a major flaw: they operate as a “black box”, offering predictive models without drilling down into the hows and whys. While this may initially deliver good ROI (if the predictive platform is an accurate one), a black box approach hems you in in the long-term. Without valuable insights into what your model is getting right or wrong, it’s impossible to build an accurate Ideal Customer Profile for the future.
(Read more about the limitations of traditional predictive analytics solutions.)
There’s gold in them thar leads!
Having learned all there is to know about your ideal customers, their traits and behavior, the world is your oyster. Armed with all that intelligence you’ll be able to prospect effectively, striking gold every time. No more casting wide nets and drawing in all those junk inbound leads.
Eventually, your model will be able to identify specific traits which make leads more or less likely to buy. You’ll know your customers before you’ve even met them (in a non-creepy way).
So you can map out your entire demand landscape and conquer your white space with a degree of accuracy that will make you blush.
Then sit back and watch the leads roll in…
OK, that’s an exaggeration. It still takes hard work and skill to generate leads. But with this level of intelligence at your fingertips, you’ll be able to maximize every aspect of your marketing operations.
No wasted effort, no substandard leads, all the relevant information at your fingertips – and equally accessible to sales. Sales Qualified Leads will go direct to sales, while those which need further nurturing will get all the attention they need.
You’ll make it all look so easy.
Leadspace is the only end-to-end lead generation solution which offers all of this under one roof. If you’re interested in finding out more, check out our Basics of ABM Workbook.
Top picture courtesy of iStock
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