In a perfect business scenario, a small to medium sized business would have an internal marketing system that consists of the following: a dedicated in-house marketing director, a multi-channel marketing plan reviewed quarterly and refreshed annually, and an internal content factory that robustly produces valuable, insights-led content regularly.
The reality is that many businesses have a marketing strategy that is more linear and flat than it is robust and progressive, and the truth is that marketing is never linear. The typical marketing plan for the average business often times consists of the same formula: emails and newsletters, a company blog that may or may not be regularly updated, social media posting done haphazardly, maybe some pay-per-click (PPC) and paid social to drive traffic and leads, and some sort of public relations effort if there’s room in the budget. All of these are fine for the typical business, but when there’s a need to scale revenue growth and new business, then marketing has to become more dynamic than this typical scenario. And in the business-to-business (B2B) world, this could look a number of ways.
B2B marketing is usually a combination of demand generation and Account Based Marketing (ABM), both of which helps to fuel an organic pipeline of high quality leads that marketing can then hand off to the sales or business development team. Where there’s often a gap is the collaboration between marketing and sales and the funnel that’s created to fuel the B2B marketing system. Marketing creates the pipeline through a series of campaigns, strategies, and tactics, and as prospects and leads are nurtured and warmed, sales takes over for the conversion. The marketing funnel essentially moves customers from left to right through various conversion points towards acquisition, and the customer relationships are managed with a martech (marketing technology) stack that is equipped to track, monitor, and measure each interaction.
This idea of creating a dynamic marketing funnel may seem more suitable for larger enterprises or consumer-facing companies, but the reality is that it’s applicable for small businesses in any stage of growth.
When businesses need to scale lead generation, there’s a few tried and tested approaches that could lead to transformative growth.
- Great content is necessary. Leading with content is perhaps one of the core tenets in B2B marketing. Marketing wizard, Gary Vee, says that you should be creating 60 pieces of content daily, which seems nearly impossible to do, but not if you frame it properly. Content should educate, provide value, and share insights, all of which positions the company as an expert in the field. Think of content as giving your best advice for free. It adds credibility when prospects see that you’re vested in educating them on your products and services and general industry knowledge.
- Thought leadership is sorely underleveraged. If you’ve ever wondered how the media often goes to the same few companies in your market or industry for commentary, it’s because those companies have positioned their senior leaders and CEO as thought leaders. This is less about public relations and more about positioning key staff as experts, and doing so by authoring byline articles, leading webinars, securing speaking engagements, and filling your owned media channels with insightful content.
- An effective brand strategy strengthens your market positioning. It goes without saying that building your brand should be the underpinning of the entire marketing system. A great brand strengthens your competitiveness, creates a story for your business, and enhances your value proposition.
Once you’ve structured the three marketing foundations — content, thought leadership, and brand building — you’re essentially building an organic lead generation pipeline. Next is to focus on the more advanced strategies.
- It’s essential to court your prospects. Client acquisition and sales growth is all about relationships, and it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a courtship process with multiple touchpoints that ads value and gathers data on the prospects at each point. As you learn more about the prospect’s needs and pain points, you can start to personalize the marketing for them.
- The martech stack helps to automate relationship management. It’s less about the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and more about how you leverage the various marketing technologies to automate tasks at each point of engagement. For instance, when a contact interacts with an email, the automation should trigger a follow up response or action to include emails, retargeting ads, a sales call, a webinar or event invitation, or a number of other actions that the prospect can take.
- Scale awareness to accelerate the pipeline. One of marketing’s goals is to go wide and deep with brand awareness, which is the premise of demand generation. This obviously helps to accelerate the pipeline of leads, among other things, and can include a number of tactics, including PPC ads and targeted PR.
- Leverage Account Based Marketing for your most valuable prospects. ABM gets very personal through a programmatic approach to courting your hottest, most valuable prospects. The reason why you want to funnel your top prospects or key accounts into an ABM funnel is because you’re essentially treating each prospect as its own market. You can’t do this for every single lead or prospect as it’s not scalable, but when you have a shortlist of prospects, you can essentially put all your eggs in one basket to convert the account into a sale.
- Build for the customer experience. The customer journey should progressively adapt the marketing based on the data and metrics you already have on the customer or prospect. It shows that you understand the customer and can be responsive to their needs.
- Track and measure everything. It’s important to track every interaction and how the prospect or lead interacts. Our agency assigns lead scores based on certain key actions that are important to tracking engagement. We also use progressive profiling to continuously collect data on our prospects as they continue to interact with us. At any point, we can easily review our automation platform and CRM to see where each prospect is in the funnel. This is key to personalizing marketing and understanding where leads fall in your prioritization scale.
- Don’t be afraid to experiment. Our agency’s philosophy is that everything is an experiment and we allow the data to tell us otherwise. Technology is always changing, and that impacts the tools available to engage with your audience.
Overall, B2B marketing, and thus, lead generation, is 90% marketing and 10% sales, and not the other way around. It’s a typical misunderstanding that some industries are “boring” and not marketable because they lack the consumer-facing aspect, but you’ll quickly see otherwise if you put these 10 lead generation approaches into practice.
About Fabiola Fleuranvil
Fabiola Fleuranvil is CEO of Blueprint Creative Group, a strategic communications agency with a B2B practice area that helps companies map brand building to sales through demand generation, Account Based Marketing, and pipeline acceleration campaigns.